A test in indecency

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If you are lost and confused in the middle of the talk about the Betamax case in the light of the verdict released by the Supreme Court on Friday, please join the club. With the cheap politics, the MBC and some youth we had put our money on, there is ample opportunity for a real muddle.

The legal side of it is itself rather complex but the gist of it is whether chartering a ship is technically ‘incidental to the purchase of goods’ or not. The Supreme Court decided it was not and that the contract should therefore have been awarded under the Public Procurement Act. (Please see our cover story in Weekly for more details)

Naturally, Betamax lawyers have a different opinion and are heading for the Privy Council. All this is very healthy and the Privy Council’s ruling will feed into the hot debate currently going on, not only nationally but internationally as well, dividing law practitioners, even judges, about whether a court should have the right to set aside an award given by an international arbitration tribunal  on the grounds of ‘domestic public policy’. In some jurisdictions, the court can only quash an arbitral award as a matter of international public policy – not on domestic policy as the Mauritian Supreme Court did in this case. 

On a broader level, any judicial intervention in arbitral affairs is and has always been a matter of great public debate as parties and their advisers would be loath to refer a dispute to arbitration if the courts, in any particular country, will still have the final say any way – a point which has raised concern in the corporate world and in financial services centres. This is particularly pertinent considering our ambition to become an arbitration centre.

The MBC cameras zoomed in on the new recruits sitting behind the attorney general and drinking in his words:  young men and women who had once given us hope. They had all promised ‘to do politics differently’.”

The Supreme Court decision may also unfortunately open Pandora’s Box about a number of contracts that might have been awarded using the same legal view in relation to exemption from the provisions of the Procurement Act. The Central Electricity Board, for example, has reportedly awarded a number of contracts in this way and even created companies through which huge contracts are channelled without worrying about the CPB. And contracts concerning Safe City, Côte d’Or and some Independent Power Producers too have naturally crept into the debate.

But the real problem is not the legal side but the political one. First, there is the police’s eagerness to immediately turn the politicians’ wishes into commands, in spite of the DPP’s clear communiqué that “irrespective of the interpretation given by the Supreme Court to the application of the PPA, the evidence gathered by the police as contained in the file submitted to the ODPP did not reveal the commission of any offence by the suspects.”

Then the government – which l’express columnist El Figaro qualifies as the MSM/ML/MBC government – has gone far too far with its milking of the verdict, thus tarnishing the reputation of institutions, particularly the much maligned DPP.

Worse, our attorney general, in a total disregard for the office he occupies, has stooped so low that it is a national embarrassment. Instead of taking a dignified position and leaving vulgarity to those members of his party who have become experts at it, he chose to launch a series of diatribes against his political opponents. Crowing about what he called a victory for his government, he went on a venomous tirade against his political opponents in a language that would literally make a sailor – and I have nothing against sailors – blush: “Eta kouyon, go and read the judgment,” he said addressing the former prime minister. “Li pa compran narien,” he added. “Ferme to labous…pran en drink al dormi…pa vinn koz nimport!” These are just appetisers. For the main full 10-minute course of airtime generously given to him by the MBC, please watch last Saturday’s MBC news.

While seeing our attorney general insulting his own office, you will not fail to notice the pride with which the MBC cameras zoomed in on the new recruits sitting behind him and drinking in his words:  young men and women who had once given us hope. They had all promised ‘to do politics differently’. And they are! Very differently from anything we would classify as decent.

For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, Weekly magazine (Price: Rs 25) or subscribe to Weekly for Rs110 a month. (Free delivery to your doorstep). Email us on: [email protected]

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