The deputy prime minister, Ivan Collendavelloo, is laying the blame for the St. Louis scandal squarely on the shoulders of the Labour Party. This at a time when the Central Electricity Board has been effectively taken out of his control and put under the ultimate control of the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, through his adviser, Ken Arian. Note also the tepid support coming from the rest of government for Collendevalloo, with Jugnauth holding back from a full-throated endorsement of Collendavelloo’s case. But Collendavelloo is persisting.
It was not always thus. In a previous incarnation, a mere hint of scandal was enough for Collendavelloo to submit his resignation. Before Sobrinho, there was another rich foreign tycoon splashing money around who was linked to Sobrinho. This was the South African Sol Kezner, a hotel and casino tycoon who, in 1989, admitted to dishing out bribes in Transkei – one of Apartheid South Africa’s infamous bantustans – to get a casino built there. The scandal hit Mauritius since Kezner had also opened a hotel on the Mauritian west coast and had got a Mauritian passport. As it turned out, it was Collendaveloo who had signed the documents for Kezner on his passport application in 1986. The resulting scandal was enough for Collendavelloo to resign his parliamentary seat in No.15 and try to win it back again in a by-election in 1989. The calculation was that he would be seen to be taking the moral high ground and his re-election would mean that in the eyes of the people, he was blameless, thereby silencing his critics and burying the Kezner affair for good. Just for good measure, he got support from Gaëtan Duval and Harish Boodhoo. It didn’t work. Collendavelloo was beaten by an MSM candidate, Cyril Curé, by 351 votes and lost his seat. The moral high ground proved expensive and it was a lesson he never forgot.
So the next time Collendavelloo found himself in power and courting another rich foreigner – this time the Angolan Alvaro Sobrinho – he went the extra mile to defend Sobrinho, insisting Sobrinho’s money was clean, gleefully sitting beside him in press conferences deciding which media would be allowed to attend and keeping mum when the whole thing turned into a political crisis that engulfed the former president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Collendavelloo came out of it pretending nothing happened. Much safer than taking the moral high ground.
Now with the St. Louis scandal threatening to undo him and his flunkies at the CEB, once again, he is looking to ride it out. The trouble is that the government doesn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about backing him this time round, despite his efforts to compare Pravind Jugnauth with William Pitt the younger (rich even by the flowery standards of the Mauritian parliament). When Sobrinho happened, Collendavelloo, as an ex-MMM politician able to fish in the MMM’s pond, was a precious novelty. Since then, the MSM has collected a lot of these. An ex-MMM paladin to fight the MSM’s battles is no longer a Collendavelloo monopoly. That, more than anything else, might be his undoing.