Unprecedented! Not only the oil spill, which is the most serious calamity we have been hit with in our short history. Not only the exemplary response of our citizens who, irrespective of their age, creed or colour, pulled up their sleeves and had no hesitation in dabbling in the oil and soot to save whatever is left of our lagoon, which has been criminally abandoned by an irresponsible and incompetent government.
What is also unprecedented is the disappointment and anger with this government and particularly the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth. At no point before have we seen such openly expressed anger, despite the repressive laws enacted to prevent the population from speaking out when it has had enough. When even NGOs that have been blind and deaf to all the corruption, its cousin, nepotism as well as repression, wake up and start criticising the incompetence of the government, its leader and its advisors; when an ordinary citizen – Bruneau Laurette – lodges a criminal case against two ministers and plans to sue the Prime Minister’s Office for criminal negligence, you know the writing is on the wall.
Admittedly, we are not in Beirut, where women and children are seen stoning parliament and riot police. However, the seething anger being felt here should give the government sleepless nights. The population has woken up to the consequences of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, sectarianism, unaccountability and impunity. If it took an explosion to make people realise the consequences of such ills in Lebanon, here, it took the destruction of part of our shore, its marine life and the livelihood of the people there.
“A Rubicon has been crossed and the nation has woken up. By cleaning our lagoon, it is also symbolically trying to clean the country of the rot that has gangrened our country. It is a turning point.”
Engaged in outrageous nepotism at all levels and appointing inept and spineless people to control every lever of power, this government has created a situation where the country is led by mediocrity. And we are paying the price of our silent complicity: we almost silently watched our country being grey and blacklisted due to nepotism and incompetence. We only faintly whimpered when we found out about the anarchy in our hospitals as a result of ordering substandard and dangerous medicines and medical equipment from obscure suppliers while making us pay through the nose for them. And we kept out of trouble when our laws started becoming more and more repressive to gnaw away at our liberties and when our independent journalists were denied access to press conferences. We kept on watching and paying our fee while our national broadcaster was engaged in more and more outrageous propaganda and brainwashing on a daily basis and our airline – once our pride and joy – was grounded with thousands of people losing their job and everything they have worked for. And we kept the same apparent indifference when our state bank became a joke that few find funny. All this while the political elite – made up largely of semi-literate people – are filling their pockets to the brim and impoverishing the country by borrowing and printing banknotes to keep everyone happy.
However, every nation has its breaking point. Even Lepep admirable. That point was reached when thousands of citizens braved the weather, the intimidation and the fear to take to the streets on July 11. Before their anger subsided, the Wakashio tragedy hit us head on, leaving many terrifying questions unanswered. Or rather leaving a lot of suspicion as to why the ship was allowed to come so near, what it was carrying, why the captain and crew were initially allowed to get away and what level of incompetence and irresponsibility a government would need to reach to allow all this to happen while feeding us lies, more lies and blatant lies.
A Rubicon has been crossed and the nation has woken up. By cleaning our lagoon, the population is also symbolically trying to clean the country of the rot that has gangrened our country. It is a turning point. If the opposition does not seize this opportunity to deliver to the people what they want, it is not worth its salt.