Air Monarchy

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We thought we had hit rock bottom as far as bad governance and institutional decay are concerned. We thought things couldn’t be worse as political interventionism has gangrened every aspect of public life. With the dismissal of Megh Pillay from the cockpit of Air Mauritius (AM) this week, the country has sunk to new lows and a new standard in governance has been set.

In instances like these, we should rise above the glorification of some personalities and the demonisation of others and rather look at the bigger picture – that of governance and what it represents for the reputation of our country.

AM is the largest state-controlled company in the country. It operates in a highly competitive and increasingly difficult market.  Yet, this company is left to the whims and fancies of politicians and their cronies who are running it as if it were their own kingdom. The cronies take decisions to suit their narrow agenda and protect their own friends and relatives. And we sit and watch as we foot the bill for their dithering, cluelessness and breathtaking acts of petty politics.

But what is even more shocking than sacking a CEO to blatantly protect a crony accused of serious charges, who manifestly does not want to take the opportunity of facing a disciplinary committee to clear his name; what is even more outrageous than the deafening silence of those sitting on the board of AM with the clear mandate to protect the shareholders’ and our interests is the sudden realisation of how powerful the mafia evolving around power is. It is like an invisible hand holding a screwdriver and perniciously unscrewing all the foundations on which this country has built its reputation. It is like a cancer eating us from within. When we take stock of the damage caused, it will be too late.

What is equally worrying is that while the country’s topmost public sector company – an organisation which falls under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office – is treated in such a cavalier manner, and while the turbulence immediately caused the AM shares on the stock exchange to come crashing down, the prime minister publicly admits ‘Ki mo pou kone ladan? Mo pankor konn nanye mwa’ (What do I know about this? I still know nothing)!

Pushed to make a statement a couple of days later, using an obnoxious, defiant tone, he came up with the following, “I have no comment to make and no opinion to offer and I don’t know whether the board has messed up or not or whether holding the board meeting was illegal or not.” So, there!

Less than two years ago, he promised us the moon and sweetly asked us for a vote. He said he was fine, thank you, and how dare we mention his age or the state of his health. Today, he is virtually asking us to go to hell. Is he really cut off from the reality of the country today and genuinely knows nothing and has no opinion about a scandal of this proportion? If we believe him, he has been reduced to a figurehead. He was used by those in government to get to power and has since been sidelined, all his prerogatives usurped and has been left totally isolated, waiting to be disposed of. A King Lear, in a way. “It is up to you to judge,” he said about a possible conflict between him and his son. “Look around you and draw your own conclusions.”

I have, unfortunately, drawn mine. I, unfortunately, think what we are going through is not a power shift; it is a coup. And I have measured my words.

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