A brave new Republic

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This opinion piece by Penny Hack was published in Weekly No. 308 of 26 July 2018.

Modern totalitarianism creeps up on you step by step, aggressive in its advance yet pleasurable to taste, at least until you fall into a pit of chains.

The tyranny of the state is facilitated in many ways and with many tools, such as technology, propaganda and mass brain washing, systems of conditioning through defunct education, drugs, pleasurable diversions, hedonism, sexual promiscuity and pornography. There are no physical restraints and everyone feels free, in a servitude without tears, since “none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”, Goethe. So we slowly fall asleep, and let ourselves become feeble and incapable of resistance to any repression.

These tools then serve to blind us from the symptoms. The rising cults of personality, mass surveillance, blatant priority of the collective over the individual, control and power in the hands of an oligarchy, and a centralised power structure, hence facilitating repression of those unwilling to kneel down before the dogma and dictates of compliance.

As this cancer advances, under the guise of some collective good, it extends its administrative functions into all realms of society seeking more and more centralisation of power and control. It gradually politicises all economic, cultural and social life. It is thus that you know we are truly on the path to totalitarianism. Leading ourselves to hubris, and a pathological inhuman existence.

Are we so naive as to believe that the report against Mauritius Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group has simply coincided with alleged criticism from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), just when the government is about to debate and vote a finance bill full of draconian measures? The Mauritius financial sector has been facing similar attacks for the last two decades and has held steadfast until recently with the demise of the Mauritius-India treaty. Thereafter, it has consistently been on the back foot.

Under the apparent guise of the greater global good to stop tax evasion, terrorism, and money laundering, Mauritius through persistent external pressure has piecemeal signed away its sovereignty. By extension, Government and the Executive have abdicated the right to legislate and govern independently. The social and constitutional contract with the people has been broken in abuse of the principle that “Mauritius shall be a sovereign democratic state”. International organisations now dictate to the Executive and they by agency dictate to the people, effectively breaking any possibility for transition of a true democratic and sovereign power.

There was the adoption of US Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the signature the multilateral BEPS Convention with the OECD, a New Data Protection Act in line with international norms, various other amendments and new laws passed allegedly to combat tax evasion, terrorism, crime and money laundering pertaining to the financial sector. It is to be noted that laws being what they are, will not be limited to the financial services but apply to all citizens of Mauritius and all foreigners on Mauritian soil. The MRA has already advised that it will be exchanging information as from September through a common transmission system developed and managed by the OECD. From a geopolitical point of view, we stand crushed from the north and squashed between the east and west. This begs many questions. Why is the Mauritius financial sector being subdued? What is the threat it represents and to whom? What do we have that is so precious or important to attract so much attention? What is this external agenda at play? Could it be that we are in the middle of a regional power and control game, involving competing hegemonies?

The amendments in the finance bill 2018 will give more powers to the Financial Intelligence Unit, and also generally extend supervision in more sectors of government such as the registration of all businesses, imports and exports, civil status, co-operatives, and immigration, with the obligatory legal assistance of the attorney general’s or solicitor general’s office as well as access to private lawyers. This effectively extends administrative power to “economic, cultural, and social life” with the extraordinary help of the powerful and legal arm of the Executive.

The amendments increase the Bank of Mauritius’ powers to impose even more severe sanctions and push for the creation of a registry to hold customer data from banks. All banks are obligated to submit customer information under pain of sanction. All banking transactions will be fully subject to FIMLA and PTA legislations, which implies internal strict policing and stricter regulatory control via new technology for “risk assessment purposes”. Decisions or regulation are now made with regards to the United Nations Security Council. New enhanced reporting obligations risk assessment, policies and procedures for customer due diligence record keeping should be made under pain of sanction from a national committee under Executive control which has the role of general surveillance and gathering information and making recommendations to the Executive.

This is all part of a new oppressive ideology and social theory justified by the global war on terrorism and money laundering, where the new moral virtue is to be found in suspicion, surveillance, self-policing, reporting and adherence to the general rule of compliance under pain of sanction.

Inevitably, our past democratic inheritance, traditions and customs as enshrined since independence are under threat. The brave new laws have as a basis a false rationale and constitute a direct assault on democracy with the only purpose of deconstruction. Welcome to the new world order and have a nice day.

For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, Weekly magazine (Price: Rs 25) or subscribe to Weekly for Rs110 a month. (Free delivery to your doorstep). Email us on: [email protected]

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