Some disturbing questions

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Our cosy hangover from seeing the 18 pilots that had been put to pasture back in business should not prevent us from seeing the forest for the trees. And the communication stunt orchestrated after the public outrage following their suspension should not be calmed down by this act of ‘charity’.

If we accept this act of charity – while we have just forked out Rs12 billion to keep the airline afloat – and take the crumbs being thrown at us to silence our anger and disappointment, we should happily accept its disturbing implications. These implications are obvious. We already know that Air Mauritius has run aground because of excessive political interventionism, nepotism and favouritism. This ‘charitable’ act is promising us more of the same. Those who applauded it and profusely thanked the prime minister and his advisor are in effect applauding that simple fact.

This invites the following questions: if these pilots are going to be gainfully employed and the country will benefit from this, why did we pay hundreds of millions of rupees to administrators who made them redundant? If the prime minister, with one simple smile to the cameras can re-instate them to their positions, why were they laid off in the first place? How many more staff members were sent on leave without pay unnecessarily when their positions could be saved? If staff members who have devoted their lives to their companies are laid off and reinstated on a whim, perhaps to make us forget the incestuous appointments at MK, what have the administrators been doing for 11 long months? Who exactly is running Air Mauritius?

Also, if the decision of putting them on leave without pay was arbitrary enough to be reversed without causing any harm to the airline, what about the dozens of staff who were laid off? What about other long-serving members who were forced into early retirement with no further ado and with a reduced or no pension to help them in their old days? Can’t the prime minister organise another photo opportunity and reinstate them in the same way? And since we are at it, what need is there for a CEO at Air Mauritius or a board for that matter since the prime minster is running the airline himself? Above all, can someone tell us exactly why we keep inviting the CAPA (Center for Asia Pacific Aviation) every time to come and rummage through our public purse when the decision making is independent of whatever recommendations – useful or otherwise – that they may make? How much money do they need to walk away with before our national carrier gets out of the red? And how much of that could have kept all the MK staff on the payroll?    

Come to think of it, why are we paying some chairmen of parastatals so much money and offering them so many privileges when we know that their institutions have become moribund and that all the decisions are taken by one person? There is a lot of money that the country could save by laying off all the rubber stamps, including the man at the Réduit and his vice – yes there is one – and having an open and frank governance.

If one can appoint and reinstate with ease, one is well capable of laying off with the same ease. Accepting one is accepting the other.

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