Privileges of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim: Where’s the logic?

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Despite her resignation, ex-president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will have a salary of Rs 244,000, an office, and so on. [© Beekash Roopun]

Should we reconsider our laws governing the President’s privileges? The author argues that, like everyone else, the person who holds this position needs to have his or her pensions. However, it should not be exaggerated.

While the majority of our countrymen areexperiencing troubles of all sorts to live a decent life, our ex-President will be basking in the sunshine of amenities – sitting, eating and drinking, as we say – for a lifetime. Where’s the logic? Shouldn’t this glaring contradiction be corrected?

Apparently, she’ll get about Rs 244,000 monthly as tax-free pension plus an office, a secretariat, a chauffeur-driven car and a garde du corps. It’s an aberration to see someone leaving in ignominy and yet obtaining privileges in a princely way.

It’s time to reconsider our laws governing the President’s privileges. Like everyone else, he or she needs to have his or her pensions, but it mustn’t be exaggerated. We can’t negotiate the next 50 years of our Independence with outdated laws. These may have served their purpose in the past, but they’re nonsensical in the present context.

The ex-President indulged in gross misconduct, defied the Prime Minister openly, publicly challenged his authority, went against the Constitution to stay in power, projected a negative image of herself internationally as a result of the Platinum Card scandal (...). Yet, she’ll enjoy, on her forced departure, a series of mind-boggling benefits. What an irony!

It’ll be a bad example for our youth. Every day, we’re asking them to make efforts to succeed in their careers or in life. We believe in hard work. And here’s someone who served as President for only a few years, and wasn’t as good as expected, going away with a fortune.

It’s wrong. It’s ridiculous. The system demands to be reformed. You can’t ask people to tighten their belts because the economic situation isn’t brilliant and then allow the ex-President to live with a tremendous sum for the rest of her life. It’s unacceptable.

The ex-President’s privileges aren’t well perceived by the public. People feel it like an injustice. Or like something profoundly unfair. We still have in Mauritius people who do not have electricity at their place or who live in huts, unsure where the next day’s meal will come from. I think we can understand their bitterness.

“She was legally ill-advised. Still, she’ll enjoy a (very) large sum every month as well as the perks. You find this sensible? ‘Bef travay souval manzé?’ How long will we go on with this kind of policy?”

The more they work, the less they get. The less the ex-President works, the more she gets for herself, her family and her generations. It’s revolting. Where’s social justice? Where’s equity? How do you want Mauritius to be a happy nation?

A widespread debate

She faulted. Like it or not, she did. She tried to destabilize the government. She placed the country on the brink of a coup d’État. She got caught up in appalling controversies (the Sobrinho affair, the Platinum affair and her excessive travels overseas). She tried to outsmart the Prime Minister by setting up a Commission of Inquiry on her own volition, thus sparking off a crisis.

One moment you find her in a fighting mood and the next moment she is as meek as a lamb. One moment she decides she’ll leave her post, the next moment she changes her mind. She was good at showmanship but failed to realise that she was making a poor show of herself.

She was legally illadvised. Still, she’ll enjoy a (very) large sum every month as well as the perks. You find this sensible? Bef travay souval manzé? How long will we go on with this kind of policy?

People are wondering if the ex-President really deserves, given the circumstances, all that money and all those facilities. I think it’s a good opportunity to have a widespread and dispassionate debate about the issue. Let’s see what specialists from various fields have to say. Let’s also hear what the people in the streets have to tell us. Should we continue with a rotten situation or bring the necessary changes so that our next Presidents are not treated like demi-Gods even if they don’t do their work well enough? It would be eye-opening and may encourage the government to take the necessary measures to correct a situation that is very much an insult to the nation.

“Unbelievably naive”

Let’s modernize our laws. We must dare. We have to be radical if we want to keep up with a changing society. People see the ex-President much more as a «profiteuse» than anything else. She was far from an exemplary President. She didn’t strike the imagination of the nation in her role as President.

She proved to be unbelievably naive on a few occasions. Thus, she got herself and the whole country in a terrible mess. Yet she leaves as quietly as possible with the kind of money that many of us will never see in our life.

The irony is that her woes aren’t over yet. She still has answers to provide to a good number of questions. Her explanation about the use of the Platinum Card by inadvertence doesn’t carry weight. Yet, her future is assured. It’s like reading or watching a tragicomedy full of absurdity. I liken her to an actress who gives a poor performance in a movie and still leaves the stage with an Oscar or a Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

In what era are we living? Many people are saying that money should go to those who work, not to those who sit around doing nothing much.

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