Gone too soon?

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No one is mourning Barlen Vyapoory’s departure from the State House any more than we mourned his predecessor’s forced resignation. His time as acting vice president was marred by open partisanship and bending backwards to please the government in place. Every time he weighed in on a particular issue of national interest, he spoke more as a government member than as a dignified president who had a higher role to play in safeguarding our constitution. 

So I don’t expect any tears to be shed by a nation fed up with the outrageous politicisation of our institutions and looking back with nostalgia on the good old days when presidents and vice presidents stood for principle, gave proper advice to the government, acted independently and, if ever they disagreed with the government, resigned in dignity rather than gave their assent to bills that would restrict the freedom of citizens or risk denying them their rights.

So while we agree that Vyapoory was the wrong man in the wrong place, the matter to be questioned is the haste with which he was pushed out of the Réduit without any rational explanation. At a time when no nomination of a new president has been made public, what is the point of decapitating the state by asking for the urgent resignation of the one holding the positon of vice president and acting as president? What reason was offered for his urgent dismissal? What has the former vice president been suddenly found guilty of that the government can’t wait until a new president or a new vice president has been appointed before making him go?

“There are fears that if, due to the forced urgent dismissal of the vice president, the Judiciary is dragged into politics, the respected institution will be dealt a serious blow too.”

The lack of a plausible explanation for such an important decision may lead to a lot of unhealthy speculation and might exacerbate the confidence crisis that the country is going through. It takes very little for citizens to lose trust in their institutions and, once that trust is lost, it will not quickly come back. Not so long ago, the citizens of this country had an almost blind confidence in many of our institutions, particularly the State House and the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). The State House lost its credibility as soon as the wrong people were appointed for the wrong reasons and started acting in a partisan way rather than as dignified heads of state who are above party politics. And suddenly the Presidency, once a prestigious institution, became the abode of yes-men and women to be rewarded by the prime minister as he wishes. The fact that the occupant of the State House and the vice-president can be moved like pawns at the prime minister’s whims and fancies, for reasons that could be calculated, might rob the institution – and possibly other institutions too – of whatever little credibility it may have left. This is very dangerous for our democracy. 

As for the ESC, doubts about its independence started cropping up as soon as a member from within the Jugnauth clan was appointed to its board, with the blessing of the same Vyapoory who is now being asked to vacate the State House. The perception of lack of independence is being reinforced daily through the surprises we are being served and the explanations offered. And for the first time since the country’s independence, election results in Mauritius have faced such grave contestation. 

It is naturally up to our courts of justice – which have up until now resisted the temptation to cave in to politics – to decide, in the months to come, whether the doubts of our fellow-citizens about the independence of the ESC are justified or not. Whatever judgement is given might however not be sufficient to restore it to its glory days. I wish I could say, for the sake of our country, that the State House will have more luck. 

As it happens, there are fears that if, due to the forced urgent dismissal of the vice president, the Judiciary – the only protection and safeguard we have left against injustice, tyranny and slipping into a full-blown dictatorship – is dragged into politics, the respected institution will be dealt a serious blow too. 

God save the Judiciary from the noxious influence of politics. God save our judges and magistrates from the politicians’ temptation to bring them into line. God save this country from nasty politics. 

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