Picture this: you and I are in the middle of playing a football game. Halfway through the game, I decide to change the rules. I don’t exactly sack the guy with the whistle but rather appoint a super referee over his head.
You don’t particularly think this is fair but I don’t give a damn. You are playing on my turf so I call the shots. Your coaches make a bit of noise, huff and puff and then look to the audience. The latter’s verdict is obvious. It is my turf, my supporters and they are in large numbers. So without hesitation, they agree with the change of the rules of the game halfway through and even cheer out loud the appointment of my super referee. The rest of the audience just want a good game. They grumble impotently, shouting “dominere!” to try and make a point and then go back to their more urgent business. Some carry on fighting over some worn-out T-shirts of different colours and others – dreading having to go back to their desert for another long period – look to my supporters with the hope of being beckoned to join them.
Outside, television viewers take the opportunity of the time afforded to them by our discussions to go to the nearest pub or gambling house. Whatever is going on in the stadium is none of their concern. These are things to sort out between the players.
So I leave you with two options: Either you carry on playing and you lose. Or you quit the game and you lose. Great choice, isn’t it?
Yet, this is the situation in which the insurance amendment bill presented by government was read and approved in one single day. Professionals did not have time to give their views. The government MPs voted for it. The opposition – or what is left of it – abstained and the bill was carried through, without any surprise.
What the bill basically means is that the supervisory powers that the commercial courts have under the Insolvency Act have been given to the minister of good governance, through the special administrator! That is the separation of powers among the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – constitutional safeguards upon which the entire edifice of our democracy rests – have been weakened tremendously. And, since this new Act will apply to the BAI saga – a case already in court – what this effectively means is that the government is changing the rules in the middle of the game and hogging more powers, strengthening the already strong perception that the BAI saga is not just about justice.
The government has an absolute majority. That is the wish of the people of this country. It is facing a disjointed and anaemic opposition with some clambering over one another to jump on the gravy train and are doing such a fantastic job of undermining each other that they need no outside help to press the auto-destruct button. To the absence of a robust and bold parliamentary and extra parliamentary opposition, add a docile citizenry and you will see how the checks and balances necessary for any democracy to operate become inefficient if not inexistent, creating the ideal circumstances in which dictatorships thrive.
As much as we have supported every action which will bring about justice and nail the culprits, we will not condone politicians who have already created the perception that they have substituted themselves for the investigative units, the police, the DPP and even the judiciary, sidelining our courts in the controversies which have convulsed the country recently. It is a totally unfair game in which whatever victory there is, I fear, may be short-lived.