The coming out of the VICAC

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“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it,” said Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman I hasten to say I am no fan of otherwise. And it is this perpetual fear of losing power by a bunch of politicians who never expected to have it in the first place that has resulted in the hijacking of our institutions, making us look increasingly like a banana republic.

As the Conflict of Interest case against the sitting prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, is now imminent (a first in the history of the world?), panic must be at its peak.

So, our Very Independent Commission against Corruption (VICAC) suddenly woke up from its slumber, and took out the heavy artillery. Remember that all the sensitive cases involving politicians and their cronies were entrusted to this VICAC, though none of us believed that justice would necessarily be obtained. And there was no disappointment at that level. The former attorney general, Ravi Yerrigadoo, is still walking free in spite of all the documentary evidence against him published by our sister publication, l’express. The cases against Vijaya Sumputh, after the findings of a fact-finding committee, and that against Youshreen Choomka, were also entrusted to the safe hands of the VICAC and are ‘being looked into’.  And the Lam Shang Leen Commission was so damning for several MSM members that their cases have followed the same route of being ‘looked into’.

In fact, the VICAC has been so busy looking at all these cases without seeing anything that we were really under the impression that their eyelids would never be lifted off the dossiers. Then suddenly, in November 2018, according to documents published by l’express, our sleeping bulldog woke up from its slumber with eyes having been widely opened! This time, the very independent people there decided that there was no need for any pretence any more. Might as well come out in the open and shoulder its role! So instead of at least pretending to investigate and push for prosecution, the VICAC has suddenly decided to… act as the prime minister’s defence lawyer in the MedPoint case! 

So it shamelessly wrote to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to attempt to file a submission to help Pravind Jugnauth’s lawyer in his task, thus opposing the DPP! Just imagine an institution extorting indecent amounts of money from us to prosecute corrupt people suddenly turning into a defence lawyer for those who had been originally accused of corruption….by themselves! And, to top it all, hiring a Queen’s Counsel with our hard-earned money in order to assist it in a task contrary to the letter and spirit of its own creation!

The most worrying thing about this is that when institutions start switching roles according to their whims and fancies to satisfy the interests of their masters – as civil servants did in the Sun Trust case – they make a total mockery of our judicial system. More worryingly, as a matter of policy, what exactly does the VICAC gain by drastically trying to limit the scope of ‘conflict of interest’ under the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA)? Is it supposed to fight corruption or promote it? 

It’s a sad day for us as we have exposed to the world that we are a democracy in name only and that our institutions are subordinated to the narrow interests of our political leadership, in the present case, a single family. As a people, we are helpless and corrupted by ‘the fear of the scourge of power’.  

Aung San Suu Kyi is also quoted as making the following appeal: “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” That’s our appeal to the Privy Council.  

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