Merry back-to-normal

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Now that the last needles of the Christmas tree have been swept, our resolutions for this year shelved and the nation is coming out of its slumber, let me wish you a merry back-to-normal. We look forward to a year of healthy debate which will hopefully contribute to the change we would like to see. 

We started the year with the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) newsletter putting back on the front burner the provisional charge practice which he defines as being "probably unique in Mauritius" and which, according to him, the legal profession fears, is "being used as a cover for arbitrary arrests and detentions". 

It is important to highlight that it is this same provisional charge practice – which is not in the law – which Ramgoolam's police used yesterday to arbitrarily arrest and intimidate those who were not in his good books. While we were shouting at the top of our voices back then that the provisional charge should be done away with and that the abuse by the police had to stop, neither Navin Ramgoolam nor his government found our protests audible. Today, Jugnauth'spolice – a commissioner of police later, with the CCID under the same good guy now freshly decorated with the highest honours – is terrorising members of the opposition. 

One must concede, however, that Jugnauth's police has surpassed his predecessor's and elevated the abuse of the provisional charge to a fine art: To the arbitrary arrests were added the terribly traumatising and utterly humiliating house raids and a series of targeted leaks to make sure the person is guilty as charged even before a court of law has started looking into their case. The police are prompt to seek – and surprisingly obtain – a search warrant, raid homes, arrest and detain political opponents using provisional charges. 

But we are not gloating, though. No citizen should gloat when another citizen's rights have been abused in a democracy or when institutions are being manipulated, not even if they target their worst enemy.  

That the DPP raised the issue in his newsletter – whether the timing is perceived as opportune or not – has the merit of contributing to the debate. However, debate about justice is not restricted to expressing an opinion about one aspect of the law. It is about those who are in a position of power selflessly and objectively doing the right thing for the country and therefore for everyone. When the time comes – as it soon will with the forthcoming MedPoint court case – Satyajit Boolellwill have the opportunity to combine the effort of expressing his opinion with the courage of standing up in defence of the institution he heads, and therefore the interest of justice. 

Justice is a whole and there are lessons to be drawn. By defending the cause of justice, those in power make sure that they themselves are never arbitrarily exposed to abuse of power. I hope that Ramgoolam has had time to learn the one valuable lesson which I hope all those in positions of power today will one day learn: that a system which serves justice rather than politicians is a system which serves everyone, particularly politicians.

Something for us to reflect upon as we resume our normal activities in 2016.

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