Open letter to all members of Parliament: urgency for critical reforms to sanitize our democracy & its institutions

Avec le soutien de
The author appeals for fundamental changes regarding the
President’s Emoluments and Pensions Act amongst others.

Dear Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable MLAs

There are some outrageous aberrations concerning certain laws pertaining to some institutions and office holders in our dear Republic. One that seems to have been inspired and designed from the outset more out of political and ethno-political considerations than true republican values. Allow me, as a concerned lay citizen, to bring these to your utmost attention so that you can in a bipartisan spirit endeavour to bring urgent remedial action.

I also believe that the Prime Minister (PM) can use the recent crisis as an opportunity to make history and add volume to his leadership and revive the dwindling trust in our institutions if he can be bold enough to press for the following reforms in the highest interests of the nation and our democracy:

(1) Amendment for the abolition of the post of Vice President and make provision for the Chief Justice to act as interim in the temporary absence of the President

(2) Amendment to the Constitution & relevant Act ( The President’s Emoluments & Pension Act) so that any departing/retiring President/ Vice President are entitled to relevant State pensions and other benefits provided they have put in at least 10 years (total of 120 months) effectively in office. No pensions and other benefits are to be paid should the incumbent be removed from Office through a motion of destitution by a single majority vote of members in Parliament or if they have not completed 120 months effectively in office.

(3) Amendment for abolition of any tax/exemption/ relief and unconditional immunity to President/Vice President and other officials whether when in service or after retirement. The waiving of this tax exemption/relief should be effective the date of proclamation of the amendment to the relevant law and applicable to all past, present and future such officials/citizens. Equality for all before the law is a cardinal value of any true Republic!

(4) Amendment so that the pensions and other benefits/ privileges to which a President/Vice President is entitled are not automatically transferable to the legal spouse and definitely not transferable if the latter is earning a total regular income in excess of Rs 75,000 monthly.

(5) Amendment so that all Members of Parliament (MP) are entitled to any State pension and other State benefits only if they have completed two mandates or at least 10 years in office. Whichever is the greater between the two terms of duration.

(6) Amendment so that no Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and public officials are entitled to more than one State pension at any one time they are still serving in any public office, whether as MLA or otherwise.

(7) Revisit the whole policy of granting duty free or duty relief to MLAs, Ministers and another préposés on the State payroll in view to eliminate abuses and perception of discrimination vis à vis other citizens of the Republic.

(8) Set up a full-fledged and independent commission of enquiry with a Commonwealth judge as Chairman to investigate the whole Sobrinho saga and allow for those shouting scandals/fraud to come out & depone fearlessly rather than sniping from the comfort of press conferences daily. Not doing that or playing down on the popular call for transparency on that saga would add to mistrust in the leadership of the PM & his government.

(9) Complete and table the Electoral Reform Bill together with the law on funding of political parties as a matter of priority. The Bill should also include compulsory registration of all political parties with the relevant institution/s as legal entities. As is the case for all other associations in the Republic of Mauritius!

(9) Update the law on declaration of assets & interests to make it more transparent and accessible to the general public. The updated Act should also aim to apply to all MLAs, high ranking officers in the public, quasi-public and State-controlled entities through majority shareholding. There should be provision in the law for other préposés of institutions of our key democratic setup (unions, NGOs, press/media etc) to make similar disclosures on voluntary basis.

(10) Introduce the Freedom of Information & Right to Information Acts alongside the Media Ombudsperson (Robertson Report).

(11) Set up a Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Ethics (LASCPPE). That should encompass all parliamentarians but also include a subcommittee that would apply to high ranking officials and directors/ officers in public & quasi bodies and State-controlled entities. That committee and its subcommittee should also investigate any benefits/ favours received or sought in kind or money and not disclosed by the MP in the Legislative Assembly’s Disclosure of Privileges and Interests Book. A similar Disclosure Book should form part of any public, quasi public and government controlled entities’ Good Corporate Governance & Ethics Committee (GCGEC) at board level. The latter institutions should forward a twice yearly report of their GCGEC’s Disclosure Book to the LASCPPE mentioned above. The Disclosure of Privileges and Interests Book should be available for perusal by any MLA or member of the public upon written request made through the office of the Speaker.

(12) To pass an anti/corruption Bill akin to the Indian Lokpal Act of 2013.

(13) To come up with a thorough well-balanced master plan for the next 50 years concerning the diligent stewardship of our natural environment/resources, business, residential & leisure infrastructures, cultural & other patrimonies etc… while pursuing all legitimate socio-economic goals in a sustainable manner.

(14) Amendment to the employment laws in order to further protect and secure workers at the middle and lowest rungs of the ladder from the growing pervasiveness of precariousness entailed by contracts of determinate duration.

(15) Amendment regarding appointment of the Attorney General (and even for the post of Speaker of the House). This would enact that should there be more than three duly elected MLAs with qualified legal qualifications/ background within the ruling government rank, at any time, no non-elected person should be ‘parachuted’ to such office/s.

(16) The Setting Up of an Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, akin to the one in Canada, to promote healthily all recognized languages in our land. But foremost, to ensure that the two main foreign international languages, English and French are given a level-playing field and balanced exposure in schools, public and media so that our citizens (of all ancestral cultures) do not lose the historical asset of bilingualism whose real mastery (written and spoken) should provide greater opportunity for intellectual/literary creativity and democratic empowerment in the public sphere and beyond.

Of course, there may be more that all of you can choose to do as true and paid patriots and representatives of the people to sanitize and revitalize our democracy. However, getting the above reforms underway will certainly be love labour’s won and no waste of resources. It will certainly put all our highly paid MLAs (from all sides of the House) on the war footing in the highest interest of the nation and our democracy. Rather than being in quasi hibernation for unacceptable length of their contractual mandate with lepep due to Parliament being closed for extended duration every year…. Under almost all regimes.

With warm regards!

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