The odds on President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim walking out of office on her own initiative are next to nil. Though she has never been in politics, she is more politically wily than most politicians and therefore capable of trying everything to wriggle her way out of the huge scandal which has engulfed the State House.
In this debate, we have to remain lucid. This is not about the person. It is not about her gender, as the selective feminists would have us believe. And, I beg of you, let’s not make it about her religion either, whatever we do. That would be beneath us. Although Gurib-Fakim was chosen as president of the republic due to her religion, Mauritians of all faiths opened their arms wide to her and had high expectations of her. Until she started messing up big time and accumulating gaffes one after the other in an unprecedented way. Today, the entire opposition and countless numbers of citizens want her out. And there are at least 10 good reasons why she must go.
1. In the 22 months that Gurib-Fakim has been president, she has achieved few things she will be remembered for. Her short legacy is that of a pliable president whose energy is focused almost entirely on pleasing the government. One can recall the speed with which she sent out invitations for the appointment of the current prime minister before the post had become vacant as the holder of the office had not yet resigned!
2. Unlike previous presidents who rose above the political fray, Gurib-Fakim was happy to brag about her relationship with the government in place. “… The party that was presenting me was a very small party… it was like a battle between David and Goliath…We (my emphasis) had against us two major parties and we saw that we had won with a landslide.”* Let that sink in.
3. Gurib-Fakim first started degrading her position by indiscriminately accepting invitations to go abroad. She admitted that she insisted that the organisations inviting her paid for her tickets and accommodation. From L’Oréal to Lovely Professional University, any organisation prepared to pay for a few first class tickets and hotel rooms can have our president as guest of honour and, indirectly, the support of our country.
4. Having all her expenses paid for by her hosts, we are not sure whether that stopped our president from collecting her full per diem and enriching herself at the expense of the poor taxpayers toiling to make ends meet.
5. Too busy globetrotting; she has been detached from the needs and concerns of the people.
6. She was discredited beyond hope when she used her office and her private secretary, a senior officer paid from public funds, to drive and coordinate the Álvaro Sobrinho project, going to the extent of organising dinners, in the State House, at our expense, for Sobrinho to meet the right people.
7. She either failed to conduct a due diligence, which might have revealed that, notwithstanding the absence of a criminal record, Sobrinho was not a fit and proper person to associate with – let alone act as project coordinator for – or she recklessly aided and abetted a disreputable man to hide his unexplained wealth in our country. She is guilty of at least one of these two offences. I don’t know which one and can’t decide which is worse. At any rate, her persistent silence and shunning of the very press that she extensively used to build her image is not a sign of transparency.
8. Her office helped a disreputable character and his associates benefit from our VIP lounge 31 times and emails disclosed to the press reveal that she has assisted in having him obtain licences in record time.
9. She initially accepted to be vice-chair and trustee of the Planet Earth Institute while holding the highest position in the state, thus using her office to give credence to an organisation built on funds whose source no one is sure of – least of all her.
10. The president has immunity and, for as long as she is in office, no proper enquiry can be conducted and our sector will be tarnished forever. Only a commission of enquiry presided over by a sitting judge can shed light on what has been going on at the highest level of the state.
As head of state, a president binds the state in whatever s/he does. A president’s actions and/or omissions can thus bring the state into disrepute. The president has disqualified herself from the post she is holding. This country needs its dignity and reputation back. She has to go.
* From an interview in CNBC Africa, quoted in Sheila Bunwaree’s opinion piece in l’express.
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