The revolving door at the Presidency

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It was an embarrassing moment for the country when, during the commission of inquiry on the former president, Senior Puisne Judge Ashraf Caunhye called out Ameenah Gurib-Fakim on the various purchases she had “inadvertently” made on – hold your breath – 58 occasions, using a card she was told by the judge she was not supposed to have in the first place. 

 “We will spend the rest of our lives forking out for the pensions and benefits of those who took us for a ride.”

In less than six months, Gurib-Fakim went on a shopping spree and blew over Rs2 million. Her defence? She confused the card she should not have had in her possession with her own credit card and never checked her bank statements or wondered why the bank allowed her to exceed the amount she was authorised to draw on her credit card. She also proudly announced that she had paid it all back and that was it. Caunhye ruled that “inadvertence does not hold when someone uses a card 58 times” and sarcastically pointed out that all the advertence was dissipated when the platinum card scandal made the headlines. Ouch! 

The confirmation that our State House was marred in shady deals and that our former president was writing to heads of states, requesting funds and using the seal of the Presidency, is a terrible blow to the prestige of our country. What is more embarrassing is the fact that a president we were paying handsomely to uphold the constitution openly reveals she had no idea what she was doing. She did not know whether the commission of inquiry she tried to set up was legal or not. Yes she admitted that her lawyer, Yousuf Mohamed, had told her “legally you can’t” but since he also told her, “tactically you can”, she took that to mean that it was legal. The cherry on the cake was when she was asked whether she knew what a commission of inquiry was since she had set up one on drugs. The answer is really to be framed and hung on the wall of the State House: “No, I was simply asked to sign!” And this is what we are still paying for?! Someone who signed when she was asked to, didn’t make the difference between what is legal and what is not, did not know that she had no business getting involved in business or that by begging other heads of states for money, she was committing a whole sovereign nation! 

And our woes are not over: Gurib-Fakim’s successor, Barlen Vyapoory, is following in her footsteps. Coincidentally – since the former president is such a great believer in coincidences – as revelations about her were being made or confirmed at the commission of inquiry, MMM MP Rajesh Bhagwan was asking the minister mentor, Anerood Jugnauth, about Roddy Ramsamy, who was arrested on the premises of La Sentinelle two weeks ago and was formally charged with issuing a bounced cheque. The gentleman – as revealed by l’express – was given a similar treatment by the acting president as Alvaro Sobrinho had been given by Gurib-Fakim. And in a bitter irony, Vyapoory was even seen in a video openly sponsoring Ramsamy and encouraging South Africans to invest in his company, Karthi Holdings Ltd.
“Does the minister know that this person was given a red carpet treatment and had access to the State House?” Bhagwan asked. “I haven’t followed him. I don’t know if he went to the State House,” Jugnauth laconically replied. There!

The sad thing is that, whatever the outcome of the Caunhye commission – or any other commission that may be set up in the case of her successor – one thing is for sure: we will spend the rest of our lives forking out for the pensions and benefits of those who took us for a ride. 

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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