Spare the rod…

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First, let’s congratulate Nando Bodha for the celerity with which he rolled up his sleeves right in the middle of the festivities when everyone else was partying and revelling to attend to the issue of speed cameras. The revamping of the system of speeding fines is something both alliances campaigned on and it is refreshing to see action being taken as soon as the government took office.

The act of having all speed cameras turned off for two months (TWO MONTHS!) must have been thought through and discussed with colleagues and advisers. After all, Bodha is not a knee-jerk reaction person. So switching off the speed cameras must have some logic behind it. But we just don’t get it! What is the logic behind unleashing these lunatics back on our roads? Perhaps it is a question of Mauritius wanting to live up to the rough reputation it has earned in certain parts of the world. In Sweden, for instance, the Foreign Ministry, in its official travel recommendations which tourists are encouraged to read before booking a trip, pinpoints the traffic situation as the main safety hazard on the island.

Statistics clearly show that speed cameras – although they may not have taught us to be disciplined and courteous drivers – have indeed forced us to drive more carefully on certain roads and have undeniably reduced the number of fatalities on our roads. (See our cover story in this week’s edition of Weekly). And let’s not stop at a short-sighted view of numbers. We have to look at the increase in the number of cars and the trend over the last couple of years. And that trend is clear: we have driven more slowly and we have killed fewer people. That has not been done by appealing to the humane and generous nature of Mauritians but by hitting us where it hurts – in our pockets and through harsh penalties leading to the suspension of the licences of repeated offenders.

The Mauritian is a ‘tracer’ by nature. We learn that as we master how to talk and walk, so  a certain degree of repression is needed for us to toe the line. Making our roads free-for-all is rather ill-advised. In fact, even if the penalties do not apply, keeping the cameras on would have given us an excellent idea of the type of drivers and persons we are and would have answered the question of how we behave when left to our own devices.

One dares hope that this issue is settled as soon as possible and that other campaign issues are put into place with the same celerity. We have in mind a Freedom of Information Act, an absolute necessity for a population weary of opacity and the plundering of public funds and apprehensive of more of the same; a proper Declaration of Assets Act encompassing all public officers in decision-making and influence-peddling positions to dampen the appetite of the greedy for the plundering spree some go on as soon as they take office; putting an end to opacity by making public all the contracts of political picks, including a list of advisers and their qualifications.

The nominations of unqualified and incompetent people has drained some key ministries and parastatals of some of their prestige and allowed manyunderachieving parasites to shamelessly live off the state in a way their limited competence would never allow them to. We would like to see a clear signal that this government genuinely intends to put an end to that. 

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