Politic - All this for himself and his party to remain in power?

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The author makes an analysis on the alliance between the PTr and the MMM. Mauritians should break the mould and vote intelligently by combatting dictatorial and totalitarian schemes.

During the 2000 general elections, Navin Ramgoolam promised to remove Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ) as president. With reason, he never agreed to the power-sharing deal, commonly referred to as the MedPoint deal, between SAJ and Paul Bérenger whereby SAJ served the first three years as PM, with Bérenger PM for the remaining two years when SAJ became president following the planned resignation of president Karl Offman in 2003. Once Ramgoolam came to power, at the first opportunity, in a u-turn he renewed SAJ’s presidency in 2008 for a further 5 years, not because this was for the benefit of the people but for his own benefit.

He worked out that SAJ may become a serious political contender outside rather than inside the State House. But Ramgoolam packaged his decision as if it were for the benefit of Mauritians and started to praise SAJ for all the good work he did for the country, namely during the years of the so-called ‘‘economic miracle’’ when the country experienced an unprecedented economic boom. However, Ramgoolam was unable to show how the renewal of SAJ’s presidency ‘‘benefited’’ Mauritians other than his own and that of his party, the Parti Travailliste (PTr), in remaining in power.

Shortly after the renewal of SAJ’s presidency, a by-election was held in No.8, but Ramgoolam did not field any PTr candidate. Why did the PTr candidate, with Ramgoolam’s blessing, challenge the election of Ashok Jugnauth at the 2005 elections in the first place and obtain judgment against him for electoral corruption? At the 2008 by-election, Ramgoolam’s agents as well as Somduth Dulthumun, president of the Hindu organisation MSDTF, worked for the election of MSM candidate Pravind Jugnauth, who was elected and found his way to Parliament. Did Ramgoolam do this for the people or for his own interests?

In reality, the plan was to keep MSM happy so the PTr could remain in power for longer. It transpired that PTr soon formed an alliance with the MSM with a promise to offer Pravind Jugnauth the post of Finance minister if elected at the 2010 general elections, which explains the side-lining of Rama Sithanen. He did all this for who? The country or himself and his party to remain in power? The PTr/MSM/ PMSD alliance came to power in 2010 with Pravind Jugnauth as Finance minister and SAJ still President. But the government purchase of the Med-Point clinic was denounced by Paul Bérenger. After an investigation by ICAC, Pravind Jugnauth was charged by ICAC for conflict of interests. Pravind Jugnauth maintains that PM Ramgoolam was aware of the deal which was allegedly even discussed in Cabinet. But only the courts would shed light on all that, bearing in mind that Ramgoolam himself never gave evidence before ICAC. In August 2011, the MSM MPs decided to leave Ramgoolam’s government and crossed to the opposition. SAJ also resigned as president in March 2012, rejoining the MSM which ended up forming an alliance with Bérenger’s MMM, in what was referred to as the Remake 2000, to remove who they saw as a ‘‘corrupt’’ Ramgoolam government.

Officers from the Electoral Commission holding a ballot box during the general elections of 2005.

There is no doubt that Ramgoolam’s government was seriously weakened when it lost the MSM. His decisions to renew the presidential mandate of SAJ and not to field a PTr candidate in the No.8 by-election in 2008 to allow in Pravind Jugnauth with his subsequent alliance with the MSM, all backfired.

Ramgoolam used the ‘‘civil disobedience’’ of Rezistans ek Alternativ? Ramgoolam knew that the MMM/MSM (now defunct Remake 2000) was a formidable opposition and that he might well lose the 2015 general elections, having already enjoyed 14 years in power. He saw an opportunity in the fact that the candidates of Rezistans ek Alternativ, whose mouthpiece is Ashok Subron, resorted to ‘‘civil disobedience’’ by refusing to declare their communities upon registration as candidates at the 2005 (and 2010) general elections in the certainty that their candidacies would be rejected in order to afford them the opportunity to take the government to court.

The Constitution requires candidates to select one of the three religious/ethnic categories (Hindu, Muslim and Sino-Mauritian) by way of life or General Population where way of life does not apply, but nevertheless regarded as a fourth community, which is the backbone of the BLS minority protection system to ensure that Parliament reflects the diversity of the population. The full bench of the Supreme Court of Mauritius upheld the Constitution, to the disappointment of R&A. Even their application to the Privy Council was thrown out and they have subsequently lodged a separate case in the Mauritian Supreme Court directly challenging the BLS.

PM Ramgoolam has neither denounced the civil disobedience of the R&A candidates, nor praised the judgment of the full bench. His government tried to find a way to delay the conclusion of the R&A case by arguing that the Constitution would be amended along the lines of R&A. Ramgoolam gave ‘‘credence’’ to an opinion (as interpreted by Ashok Subron) issued by the UN Human Rights Committee (opinion which is not binding on our judicial system) alleging that the requirement of community declaration by candidates infringed their political rights when the UNHRC opinion was that it is the use of the 1972 outdated census to decide on Best Losers (under the BLS system) which infringes candidates political rights under the UN Covenant.

Also, basing himself on the erroneous figures of Rama Sithanen, who he previously snubbed in favour of Pravind Jugnauth but is now singing his praises, Ramgoolam pledged to remove community recognition, hence minority protection based on the BLS, from the Constitution in the knowledge that he would need the support of the MMM opposition since his government does not have the requisite ¾ majority. This ploy appealed to Bérenger, who sees this as an opportunity to enter government, having been in opposition for too many decades. Ramgoolam, who is regarded as a Hindu PM has no problem with the destruction of the BLS since the FPTP system tends to return a disproportionate majority of Hindu MPs, the Hindu community being the largest community. Hence, he targeted minorities.

Seeing what he considers as a golden opportunity to accede to power, Bérenger alienated his MSM partner and set in motion the mechanism to forge an alliance with Ramgoolam’s PTr through an ‘‘on / off’’ system over several months to make his followers believe that he was doing serious politics when, in reality, he abdicated his constitutional role as Leader of the Opposition, which caused people to demand his resignation and barrister José Moirt to write to the president, supposedly the guardian of the Constitution, to replace him with another leader of the opposition.

Ramgoolam’s sudden professed ‘‘chemistry’’ with Bérenger and his proposed 30/30 share of tickets between the PTr and the MMM backfired by alienating his partner Xavier-Luc Duval, leader of the PMSD, who resigned from government and joined the opposition bench. The PTr and the MMM opposition voted for the mini Constitutional amendment to give candidates at the next elections the ‘‘choice’’ not to declare their communities, to the detriment of minorities and at the risk of infringing the constitution as BLS nominations would have to be based on previous election results as ‘‘worked out’’ by Sithanen if candidates do not declare their communities.

This mini constitutional amendment was a prelude to further major constitutional amendments with the view to share power between Ramgoolam and Bérenger whereby, broadly, Ramgoolam would be elected president for seven years (up to 2022) with Executive powers and Bérenger would be PM for 5 years, although the details are not yet known. Even France reduced the presidential septennat to a quinquennat. Ramgoolam is of opinion he knows best when the indications are that he is after some form of absolute power and is confident he would be elected president as if he would be the only candidate. But both Ramgoolam and Bérenger are selling the propaganda that this shameful scheme of theirs is all for the benefit of the people.

The removal of the BLS minority protection system from the Constitution has nothing to do with what Ashok Subron and Ramgoolam argue as the removal of‘‘communalisme’ (meaning ‘‘communautarisme’’ institutionalisé), since it is a requirement of the UN Charter to recognise and protect minorities. It is all a fabrication to put dust in people’s eyes so Ramgoolam and Bérenger may concoct a scheme to share power through major constitutional reform. The odds are that this will backfire too…

Bérenger insisted for the ‘‘agreement’’ to be in writing both to mislead his followers and to corner Ramgoolam, especially after Somduth Dulthumun of the Hindu organisation MSDTF is exacting 37/23 share of tickets in favour of Ramgoolam, when Bérenger very well knows that such political agreement is not legally binding and not worth the paper it is written on. Ramgoolam is leading a very weak government which survived thanks to Bérenger who is not doing his job. Ramgoolam’s options are very limited, with Bérenger exploiting the situation arguing that the original document was ‘‘négatif’’ to extract concessions which he apparently obtained, but yet to be included in detail in a final duly signed worthless document.

Bérenger is now making out that the ‘‘agreement’’ is a ‘‘model for the whole world’’. This is exactly the language dictators and warmongers tend to use regularly. Afghanistan and Iraq were depicted as a threat to the world to justify the bombing campaign against them. Perhaps both Ramgoolam and Bérenger would tell Mauritians which world they are referring to and which will ‘‘learn’’ from them. It is up to Mauritians to counter the grave threat Ramgoolam and Bérenger represent to the country as other opposition parties are regrouping to counter this threat. Anil Gayan rightly describes the PTr/MMM ‘‘alliance’’ as ‘‘dictature’’, ‘‘totalitarisme’’, ‘‘anti démocratique’’, ‘‘coup d’État contre le people’’. Mauritians should break the mould and vote intelligently by combatting dictatorial and totalitarian schemes, corruption, by safeguarding their way of life and their freedom, and reject surveillance through spy cameras and biometric ID cards, to which Bérenger is an accomplice.

M. Rafic SOORMALLY

London

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