Still time to do the right thing

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There is no better way to illustrate the current situation than a caricature by our colleague POV this week: a simple drawing with Pinocchio’s nose becoming so long that he got entangled in it, with one leg completely trapped and the other tripping all over the elongated nose. 

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth had been on quicksand for a few months now but kept putting on a show with the help of the speaker in the national assembly and by proffering threats outside, making sure he avoided the nosier press and any embarrassing questions an encounter with journalists might entail. The mountain laboured and laboured for nearly four months before it gave birth to a cute little monkey that made the whole nation smile. Thank God Mauritians have a sense of humour! 

The little monkey story, in a nutshell, goes something like this: the receipts are fake. Jugnauth paid for the land bought from a benefactor who, after buying it from Bel Air Sugar Estate, decided to sell it to him eight years later – in 2008 – with another sizeable piece of land thrown in for the same price! A nice bedtime story with a happy ending! Except that a document produced by Reform Party Leader Roshi Bhadain the same day clearly showed that the Jugnauths had officially been in the act of acquiring the land in question as far back as 2004! 

What saddens me here is not the fact that Jugnauth is clutching at straws and trying to buy time to wriggle his way out of his entangled nose. My worry is the number of innocent people who got nothing out of this deal but who will be sucked down to their death into the quicksand Jugnauth has dragged them into. 

My heart goes out to Former Attorney General Ravi Yerrigadoo, for example. When asked about the letter sent from the attorney general’s office to stop the Mutual Legal Assistance, Jugnauth simply dismissed the question as something that had nothing to do with him and suggested that the question be put to the attorney general. And before he knew it, poor Yerrigadoo found himself under the bus. Again!

So when push comes to shove, all those who, out of interest or obsequiousness, might be condoning acts of alleged corruption, money laundering and graft will have to answer for their deeds. I fear for the director general of the ICAC, for the police commissioner and for those who systematically stand in parliament gesticulating about the Standing Orders to make sure the truth does not see the light of day. The submissive MPs – including young women – who laugh at their leader’s sick joke and obscene innuendoes in a matter too serious for smoke and mirrors, will laugh much less when the time of reckoning comes. This is an invitation to them to do the right thing. History remembers kings not soldiers, they say. I disagree. Some valiant soldiers can also be remembered for standing for the right thing. 

How can History forget a Carl de Souza, who last week declined the insignia of Commander of the Order of the Star and Key, citing the “persistently disfigured and soiled” atmosphere and the lack of respect for the “basic principles of law and justice”? Who will forget any other soldier of justice who can stand up and be counted? 

History will unfortunately also remember those who, for a little ephemeral power and material gain, stood on the wrong side of justice, ethics and good governance. They, their children and grandchildren will bear the consequences of their choice. It is still time to do the right thing! 

As for the prime minister’s threats and lawsuits against our newspaper, another caricature this week sums this up: Deven T.’s illustration of him shadowboxing while Bhadain, who keeps challenging him with more and more documents, is right behind him, taunting him with yellow boxing gloves. Maybe the prime minister too should start thinking about doing the right thing!

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