With parliament reconvening in a few weeks, Weekly speaks to Mouvement Militant Mauricien MP Aadil Ameer Meea about the main issues likely to be tackled by the opposition. He also offers his opinion on other parties in the opposition and the government’s performance in general.
You have just turned 40. Seven years down the road, what are your greatest achievements and what are the lowest watermarks in your career?
I have been an opposition MP for two mandates now, and the opposition is as important as government in a democracy. During these two mandates, my party and I have tackled so many national issues, so many scandals and we have defended the country’s interest. On a personal level, I have gained enormous experience in parliament. For me, the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) is and remains the best university.
When you joined the MMM, it was a thriving party with about 20 members of parliament. Today, you have six members. What has happened to the MMM to be decimated to this point?
We all know what happened during the last election.
Yes, you lost the election, but your members did not need to run away, did they?
People have made their choices but after merely one year, all these people who left the MMM, are in total disarray. Some want to come back and others want to join the government. The rest are sitting on the fence or don’t know where they are.
The Mouvement Patriotique has done well until now, though, hasn’t it?
Really? What has been the Mouvement Patriotique’s actions as an opposition party since they left the MMM? What opposition have they been? What PQs did they ask? Each and every time there was a bill, they voted with the government. Is that what we call an opposition? Come on, we must be serious.
The MMM too, at some point, seemed to be so accommodating in its questions to the government that people started talking about a rapprochement with the ‘Mouvement Socialiste Militant’ (MSM). How is the situation now?
Look, there has never been any rapprochement with the MSM. We don’t have any plans or hidden agenda to join the government, especially not THIS government.
What if more members left the MMM and Paul Bérenger lost his seat as the leader of the opposition? Does that not worry you?
Not at all. Paul Bérenger himself said he is not attached to the post of leader of the opposition.
Won’t that weaken the MMM even more?
You know, the strength of the MMM is not measured by the number of MPs we have in the national assembly. We know our strength outside parliament and, in parliament, though we are six members, everybody can see how we have been shaking this government week after week on several issues. When parliament resumes again, we will continue to do the same. We have so many questions lined up that there will perhaps not be time to put all of them to our colleagues in government.
What will be the first issue that you will tackle with the government as things stand?
Thehe are so many hot potatoes! To start with: Heritage City...
Heritage City is out. Why are you going to waste questions on that?
No, the public has to know how much the nightmare has cost in public funds! Then there is Omega Ark, which for me is a MedPoint No.2...
How is it a MedPoint No.2?
In terms of lack of transparency and the opacity of this project. First, it was said that Apollo Bramwell would fetch around Rs2 billion, then suddenly this came down to Rs400 million and then the deal became a management contract instead of a buyout and then the client vanished. There are so many answers we need about this. Then there is also the issue of the oil refinery in Albion.
What's wrong with that?
What's wrong with it that there was no tender! A company was incorporated one week before the budget and, according to my information, they have a contract in preparation. The contract will be very similar to the one of Betamax. Apparently, it will be a movable refinery like a ship. If there are any issues or conflicts, they can move the ship to international waters, to another jurisdiction for arbitration! Who is going to manage the refinery? Who is behind the refinery? Are they close to the MSM? There are so many questions that have to be raised and answered in parliament.
Shouldn't you instead be looking at the cost and whether it makes sense for the country?
To know whether it is cheaper, there has to be a tender! And, even if it's cheaper, why give it away to a friend or family member? This government boasts about good governance but it does exactly the contrary in every project. Whether it is Heritage City, the buying out of the National Insurance Company by SICOM, the Apollo Bramwell saga or this refinery, there is a total opacity! This is contrary to the code of good governance.
What is the situation now with the handing over of power to Pravind Jugnauth? The MMM seems to be sitting on the fence, saying legally there is nothing you can do and almost saying that's OK. Is it OK?
We are not sitting on the fence! We did say it is political fraud for the prime minister to give away his post to his son.
Didn’t the same thing happen in the case of David Cameron and Theresa May in the UK?
(Shakes his head) No, no, I am sorry! If you take the example of the UK or Westminster, you should go all the way. Had Theresa May been involved in a case of conflict of interest or corruption, would she have become prime minister of Great Britain? I think that with the case of MedPoint not yet over, it’s a very great risk that we are taking in terms of reputation. Imagine if Pravind Jugnauth is prime minister and his case goes to the Privy Council. If he loses, we will be the laughing stock around the world. We stand by what Paul Bérenger said in his press conference: if the prime minister wants to go, he is welcome to do so quickly but he needs to dissolve parliament and call a general election.
If there was a general election tomorrow, who would you go into a coalition with? Don’t tell me that you would go it alone because we know that no party will go it alone.
Well, we have been alone before. The MMM has several times been alone in a general election, the last one being in 2010. We received 44% of the votes. We were alone against the Labour Party, Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD) and MSM. We had the guts…
It was not exactly out of choice that you went alone, was it? The other parties played a dirty trick on you, didn’t’ they?
(Laughs dismissively) Take it as you like but we did it and we can do it again. In the MMM, we believe in what we think. People know the difference between the MMM and the PMSD. The PMSD are saying that there are the biggest party in Mauritius, that they have so many youngsters, so many likes, so many views. Why do they have to mont dadak (piggyback) on either the Labour Party or the MSM? If they are so strong, why don’t they field 60 candidates and bid for prime ministership?
That’s what you are going to do at the next election?
I don’t know. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. We will see.
What will you see? Who are you leaving the door open for? The MSM or the Labour Party?
We are not keeping the door open for anyone. We said that we are going to a general election alone. We have done it so many times. But, things can change according to situations. I won’t lie to you.
If things change, in what way will they change?
(Laughs) I don’t have a crystal ball.
What about the rumour that come what may, the MMM will find itself in coalition with the MSM?
You said it! It’s a rumour.
How credible is it, according to you?
I won’t linger on it. We will do what is in the interest of the country.
The best interest of the country is every party facing the electorate alone so that we know their strength.
That is my first choice. That is our first choice. That is what we want to do. I gave you the example of the PMSD. Do we see the PMSD going into the election alone?
Why do you have a fixation with the PMSD? Is that the only party that you’re never going into a coalition with?
I don’t have any fixation with the PMSD. But, they are punching above their weight.
Every time I talk to a member of the MMM, they are always targeting their criticism at the PMSD. It has become an obsession, hasn’t it?
No, I have criticised the MP, the MSM and the PMSD.
How about the Muvman Liberater?
The Muvman Liberater is just a hyphen in history. By the next election, there will be neither Muvman nor any Liberater. They will vanish and I don’t where they will go. As for Ivan Collendavelloo and his arrogance and obsession about increasing the price of water, I don’t know here he will hide. Remember the hypocrisy when the Lepep government said ‘we don’t need the light rail system; we need water.” Now they are going for the light rail system and people are still suffering from lack of water. In my constituency, things are dramatic.
OK, now tell me something positive that this government has done.
The problem with this government is that there is a lack of leadership. Today the power is being exercised by Anerood Jugnauth and Pravind Jugnauth. Anerood Jugnauth said he was leaving, then he changes his mind and says that only God knows and that even he himself does not know. This situation is causing enormous political instability, which has a direct effect on our economy. If you look at all the economic indicators, our growth rate, our foreign direct investment (FDI), our public debt and so on, all are in the red. Today, it’s a real shame the way the government is criticising the private sector for not investing.
But they aren’t investing, are they?
Well, I have met people from the private sector who are very worried about borrowing and investing billions when there is no clear visibility on where this country is heading. How do you want the private sector to invest in the economy when we have a government like this? Take the case of the British American Investment (BAI), what signal did we send to foreign investors? That you can come and do business in Mauritius but any time the government can and nationalise all your companies?
What if there were a change of leadership? Would the country be better off with Pravind Jugnauth as prime minister?
He does not have a legitimate mandate. So, from the start, he will not command respect. Secondly, the fact that he has a Damocles sword over his head also won’t help. Thirdly, we are also watching closely the match between him and Roshi Bhadain. We don’t know the outcome. We are hearing here and there that Bhadain will resign and he will not work with Pravind Jugnauth. When you add up all this, I don’t think that we will be in a better situation. The problem is not only the leadership but also the team. I am not being harsh but, since independence, this is the weakest government that we’ve had in power, in terms of experience and competence. Don’t forget that all the economic indicators have gone down while the price of the barrel of petrol is at its lowest. If it suddenly goes up, we are in deep trouble. We are already starting to feel the effect of the Brexit. Maybe the government does not realise how fragile our textile industry is and, if this continues, unfortunately, there will be more job losses in the textile sector. As for the effect of the loss of our treaty with India, we will start feeling its impact as from 2017. I hope this government is still in power to explain to the people that it was a great feat!