Governance: From Paradise Island to Island of shame

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A few centuries ago, our great grand parents emigrated from different parts of the world to Mauritius for a better living. (…) Most of them faced tremendous difficulties and hardships but their values, faith and high moral principles gave them the necessary self-discipline, the will to self-sacrifice for a better future for their children. In a nutshell, they came on a serious mission to build a solid base for a peaceful life for themselves and for the future generations and paid the price this task demanded with sweat if not blood. They succeeded without any question.

Now that they are not around and they have done the most difficult part of the settlement, one wonders what they would be thinking of the current turn of events. Is this what they sacrificed and worked so hard for; this shameless and blatant corruption and decadence where money is our new God? Where, as one politician said ‘moralité pa ranpli vant’. What a fall!

Our country is going through a very difficult and traumatic phase so much so that 150,000 Mauritians marched peacefully on Saturday, Au- gust 29th to show the nation’s disgust and rage at how our country is being governed. With placards showing ‘freemamamoris from dictator PM aka Pinokio, corrupted government, incompetence, favouritism, drug mafia, we had enough’, ‘maree noir politicien grand noir’, ‘judgement day’, ‘lev pake aller’ to ‘I have seen better cabinets at IKEA’. It is not looking very bright for the government and with modern technology, this gloomy shameful picture is being watched around the world. Not surprisingly, while our people were also demonstrating in (…) the world, those closer to home were petitioning the President for the removal of the current Prime Minister.

«Mauritius being Mauritius, everything is possible for a select few.»

A tanker full of oil enters the territorial waters of Mauritius. Neither the coast guards nor the police nor the radars were able to track this illegal and unauthorised entry. Two weeks after the tanker hits the coral reefs, the government suddenly woke up and requested emergency assistance from various governments. The delay in reacting to the disaster meant oil spills had reached the shores damaging the environment and marine lives. Contrary to what the Prime Minister said, Mauritius has the necessary equipment to deal with this kind of calamity nor was the weather as bad as the Prime Minister claimed, nor did this so called bad weather stop private suspicious boats to go near the Wakashio, one cannot help wondering for what purpose. To add insult to injury, the capsized tanker has been sunk against experts’ advice in an area where marine lives flourish the most and according to marine experts, where whales breed. As I write, around 40 dolphins and 5 whales have been reported to have died. With tourism as our major income generator and the beaches saturated with blackened oil, is there any hope for our tourism industry, the hotels and those earning their livelihoods while working there? What angers me and my fellow citizens most is the unnecessariness of this double tragedy, both of which would never have happened with a responsible government. The French Minister of the Outre-mer made it very clear that had this happened to our sister island, La Reunion, the French Government would have acted very differently. And the Prime Minister of Mauritius has the audacity to ask the press ‘kot mone faute’.

Wakashio and the death of our dolphins are the latest in a series of bad management and scandals which has blackened the reputation of Mauritius in the international landscape.

Bribe was given to the Mauritian Administration and others, for an energy project signed in March 2016. When the company, Burmesiter & Wain (BWSC) found out about the illegal activity, it dismissed five members of staff with immediate effect and two were reported to the police. The African Development Bank debarred BWSC for twentyone months. The Mauritian public would never have known about the scandal had not the BWSC taken swift actions. It would have been another of the many cover-ups.

Air Mauritius, the national airline has gone into voluntary administration due to a complete erosion of the company’s revenue base, partly due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic but mostly due to the fact that the company was already in financial difficulties and had begun a transformation programme because of mismanagement. One of the few, if not the only good administrators of Air Mauritius, Megh Pillay was fired when he tried to redress a most unhealthy situation. This voluntary administration has led to thousands of job losses. One of the administrators is an ex advisor of Air Mauritius. Can someone be judge and party at the same time? Or has it to do with the administrator’s son having any connection with the daughter of a politician in power? All will be revealed very soon.

A few months ago, the State Bank of Mauritius posted a paltry profit after tax of Rs 15 million for the financial year 2019 due to a credit loss of Rs 3 billion when the year before the profits were Rs 1.2 billion in 2018 and Rs 2.6 billion in 2017. And we had the notorious euro-loan of Rs 40 million granted to an exminister without sufficient collateral. Should not the bank be held accountable for not following all the criteria of prudential credit risk management before approving large loans?

(…) Using the excuse of the Covid, the government hastily passed a law allowing them to use funds to the tune of 180 billion from the central bank with no repayment plan specified. This government is clearly looting the central bank. What is the money being used for and who is benefitting? Will it ever be paid back?

The government keeps talking of Mauritius being Covid free. How can a Prime Minister go on television (national and international) to say Mauritius is Covid free when the whole population of 1.3 million has not been tested? How can we say we are doing well when we had ten deaths? One death is too many but to have ten in an island of just 1.3 million people is very tragic. Comparing like with like, not many countries with the same number of people had ten deaths. Our ancestors would not appreciate and approve our Prime Minister boasting how successful we have been in containing the virus when we are only a small island with a single airport that is easy to close. May be if Mauritius could be drug free and our coasts properly controlled, it would have been a more legitimate and justified source of pride.

Talking of the virus (…) When other countries were closing their borders, we kept ours open. The irony of all ironies is that the borders between La Reunion and Mauritius were closed with immediate effect when Reunion Island did not have any Corona virus cases but the borders between hard pressed Europe and Mauritius were kept open, at least for a few days for the reasons we all now know. Some people are lucky to have a senior officer at Air Mauritius to book or rebook their flights. Even the British Prime Minister or his partner cannot avail the services of an officer at British Airways. But Mauritius being Mauritius, everything is possible for a select few. I wonder what our ancestors would think of this. Would they not blame the government for not closing the frontiers earlier which led to the un- necessary death of ten people? Why blame the guy from UK? He came because the frontier was open.

While some are lucky to have their flights rescheduled at short notice, many of our compatriots are still stranded around the globe relying on support from local people to survive. While other governments got their compatriots back home as soon as possible, our government had no plans to aid. It is reported the embassies were of little help. Our people were prevented from coming back to their native land, some of them deprived of medication and medical treatment. Moreover, a young girl lost her life because she was neglected during her quarantine period. Treatment was denied and sadly she lost her fight. Would our ancestors approve of such negligence?

When news of the Corona virus became world news, equipment and medications worth millions of rupees were ordered for use in the hospitals but there was a catch. The two companies which supplied the equipment and medications were very closely connected to the government. They made the money, but the equipment was found to be faulty. To think that when questioned by the BBC about his disastrous handling of the Wakashio, our Prime Minister had the nerve to change the subject to his “superb and praiseworthy” handling of the Covid 19!

When this government came to power, it promised many things. Meritocracy and equality were their mantra. Nepotism was going to be non-existent. When they won with just 37% of the votes, everything they did was the opposite of what they had promised. All the posts are occupied by their friends or families. One of their supporters got a Chief Executive Officer’s post without her realising she had applied for the position! There are examples of chairmen applying for directors’ jobs in the same organisation and there are also chairmen becoming directors of the same organisation. And there is more: others are heading certain organisations without the necessary qualification or experience. (…)

And it is getting worse. The partiality of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation towards the government in power, the inefficient ICAC which will never act against the government and the role of the Police force towards the government are other causes of shame for our island. Do we really need 10 police officers to arrest a woman at six in the morning? Is this not police harassment? Can the police arrest people without a warrant? But it happened.

As if the above were not enough to make us realise that we are an unfortunate lot and we have been cursed somehow, the European Union added our country to its blacklist for money laundering and terrorist financing. The EU’s decision to blacklist Mauritius has sent a shockwave across the island. The list has not yet been confirmed but, despite Mauritius’ delayed efforts, it looks likely to happen in October. (…) While the Mauritian population is trying to cope with the emotional and economic sequels of the Covid 19, some of our filthy rich members of government are still making more money through dubious deals. We had an instance when an old clinic which was valued at Rs74 millions, had its value doubled to Rs144 millions and all its transactions signed and sealed before a certain deadline. Our ancestors would love to know why there was such a hurry to complete the deal. Was it to avoid taxes? But there is more. As I write it is alleged and reported in the local press that a Mauritian politician and his family (with two minors) has suspiciously bought a land for Rs20 millions through a third party. Several questions have arisen, and the press is awaiting a response from the person concerned. (…)

The brother of Vikram Hurdoyal has been nominated to the Mauritius Shipping Corporation Ltd with a salary of Rs 54,450 with other perks like entertainment allowance. Is he the guy who is an independent Director and also a member of the Board Credit Committee at the State Bank of Mauritius where a massive loan to the billionaire, B R Shetty, was approved that led to such low profits at SBM? Perform poorly but be with them and you are rewarded handsomely is the new government motto. (…)

I love my country of birth. I am passionate about our history and culture and I am proud to be a Mauritian, but I strongly object to our politicians and what they are doing to our country. Everyone who is elected thinks of himself/herself and his/her own benefits. They think the country is theirs for looting and they can do what they like, when they like and how they like. They forget they are elected by the people for the people and that they can be removed by the same people. We are lucky, although we are part of Africa, our people are not like those in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, or other similar countries. I prefer not to think what the consequences would have been for our politicians and their families.

What would our ancestors, with their lofty principles and high community spirit, think of all these nominations and scandals, cruelty to animals, central bank looting, filthy language from supposed knights, stopping certain press from asking relevant questions, threatening to kill a Member of Parliament and being rewarded with an ambassadorship and turning this country into a dictatorship? I bet they are turning in their graves. Is this what we sacrificed ourselves for, they might well ask?

I am worried they might make an unexpected appearance from the other world to clear the mess being created by our politicians or may be, they are in some ways inspiring the protest movement ‘All lives matter, Mauritian and animal’. Enough is enough!


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