The rift between the population and the law-enforcement authorities is growing day by day. And sadly it is the police’s sometimes rash decisions and knee-jerk reactions that contribute to that. The police commissioner’s decision to temporarily restrict access to Port Louis to make it easy for an accused minister to waltz out of the court room to his official car paid for by our hard earned money and bearing his personal initials is not likely to help the perception of mollycoddling those in power.
An accused is an accused and has to go through the court process irrespective of his status in society. That is the first principle of justice not only done but seen to be done. The police cannot come up with drastic rules, denying access to the capital to a large swathe of the population just to avoid a minister the embarrassment of angry crowds. Yes, his safety has to be a top priority and it is the role of the police to take care of that. It is, however, also the right of other citizens to go about their business normally as is the case every time an accused appears in court.
I wonder where the police were when previously powerful people were facing justice for – mostly – trumped up charges and they had to deal with the wrath and humiliation of angry crowds fed on the daily government propaganda. Today, the police are restricting access to Port Louis and picking and choosing who should be circulating on the public streets of their own towns just to avoid a repeat of crowds expressing their anger at someone handsomely paid and accused of faking documents to rob the poor and the state of a monthly allowance of Rs15,000 – a shameful act if proven!
Besides, how will the police, in practical terms, deal with the situation? Will children going to school pass muster before they are allowed to their classes, workers screened to make sure they are nowhere near the court and shoppers sent away to find their joy somewhere else, depriving poor shopkeepers in Port Louis of much needed business? Will those who are hungry be denied a bite at the eateries around the court? How about those who would like to make their way to the church or other places of worship for peace and a prayer? Are the police going to take the risk of stopping them? Seriously? How many police officers will be deployed to blocking the roads and managing citizens and how many will be left to deal with the rising crime situation? What is the need for all this heavy-handedness while the VIPSU, some agents and a large chunk of the police force will be mobilised before the court anyway?
Shouldn’t the police instead be busy working on building trust with the population to be able to shed light on the high profile crimes the country has been hit with rather than bending backwards to protect the powerful? If they send the wrong signal, who will take up the offer of the Rs400,000 for information to elucidate Kistnen’s murder, for example? Who will trust them to keep their identity confidential and offer them the protection needed?
Other questions could also legitimately be asked: If this whole operation is put in place for the court appearance of a simple minister, what would happen if the prime minister himself were to be tried in the case of Angus Road? Declare a state of emergency? Or perhaps a three-month lockdown until the matter has been resolved? Who would that surprise?
Come on guys! Be serious!