Mauritian nation: The decline of a Republic

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Now is the time to stay united and cast divisions aside as we witness the decline of a Republic, or how a state is being failed.

 Sowing the seeds of Tyranny

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” American Declaration of Independence, American Congress, July 4th, 1776.

The American declaration of independence represents one of the major political realisations of enlightenment ideas. First introduced to the American Congress by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others who were among the first to politically champion the ideas of thinkers like Rousseau and Locke who had by then contributed to establish the principles of governments that would emerge after the French Revolution, in 1789. If the Revolution has its detractors, it needs to be recognised that it established the basic principle that the Ruler should be chosen among the people as per merit, regardless of bloodline. Those events might seem remote to a far away country in the Indian Ocean, but this wind of change didn’t fail to reach us and laid the foundations of our Republic. According to Marc R. M. Hein SC, G.O.S.K, the then Ile de France had by 1791 its own Constitution which had been set up by the Revolutionary power, with the consent of Louis XVI, who still maintained some powers over the colonies. Out of this Constitution emerged the Colonial Assembly of April 2nd, 1791, which already back then separated the Judiciary, Legislative, Executive and even the Administrative powers in Mauritius. On August 1st, 1794, the Colonial Assembly duly voted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The decision not to abolish slavery, although consequential would provide the impetuous for progress in that direction until the British abolished it on the Island in 1835. The British take over resulted in the Act of Capitulation of December 3rd 1810, which clearly stated in Section 8 that the Religion, Laws and Culture of the inhabitants would be preserved.

The current traditions of governance of our Republic have therefore established roots, and at the same time provides us with the ability to produce new fruits as the seasons change. But those roots anchor our inalienable rights within our constitution and cannot be severed. Laid out in Section 1 is that “Mauritius shall be a sovereign democratic State”. Section 3 on “Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual” guarantees us “the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law”. Is indeed ingrained within the Mauritian DNA this will of nations to be free and sovereign, as being ruled by Superpowers doesn’t seem to suit the “irréductibles Gaulois” that we are.

When one objectively considers the state of the current government, it is hard not to notice how the democratic process has been shortcircuited. Even when compared to a time that only now exists in history books, the standards set by the MSM government are at a historical low. A comparison of societies through time would lead us to the conclusion that decision making in many a tribal system relied on more sophisticated forms of consultation and cooperation with stakeholders than our current government. Tribal leaders back then understood that their legitimacy to rule was derived from the trust between rulers and ruled, and only by achieving a “Common Good” acceptable to all parties could they get the support of clan leaders who represented their kin. In these pre-industrial societies where war and violence were integrated within the political process, power had a more even distribution as clan leaders had the ability to counterbalance the power of the chieftain and remove him if need be. This historical detour I think serves as a stark contrast to the actual functioning of our Parliament where demagogy and cowardice are deployed as a shield against opposition members to avoid tackling actual issues and answering tough questions. Sophism and delaying tactics have become their trademark, arrogance and pride their mantle.

“The state of the country today cannot be dissociated from the fact that the Prime Minister has failed in almost all aspects of governance, be it as a Moral leader, as a Unifier or as a Father figure who understands that the only family a Prime minister can favour is the nation.”

I therefore wish to dedicate this paper to all those who have fallen, been jailed or been victims of abuse of power and corrupt governance anywhere, anytime. No nation is built without sacrifice and many noble men and women throughout our history have dared question and stand up against tyranny. While governments have historically taken different shapes, Tyranny is the universal evil which all peoples and nations have identified as the enemy. When the system and those who represent it fall into Tyranny, the citizen becomes burdened with the moral duty of ousting them. This responsibility I believe has befallen our generation. Whether we will live up to the standards of past freedom fighters, who live forever in our collective memories and in the legacy they left for us, is a question which we ought to urgently put to ourselves. We think of the Maroon community of Le Morne or women like Anjalay Coopen, who against all odds stood up to people who were supposed to serve the Law of the Land but who were puppets to masters who themselves served a system they inherited, without however the ability to put that system at the service of the people, and instead cast aside out of weakness the basic principles of politics and governance.

Reaping the fruits of Violence

“The tragedy in all of this is that we know the Camp-Levieux police officers and it was not them who were there to provoke people. We hang out there all day and we know them, we get along and we have cooperation between us, and they even help when needed. The police squad that was present came from somewhere else.” Bruno Raya Hell broke loose in at least 9 neighbourhoods throughout the country during two sleepless nights for many as we prayed things would not further escalate. Clashes with the police, ransacking of public property and surveillance cameras, as well as burning tires on the streets; police property and vehicles attacked with Molotov cocktails. For those who have not yet realised that the current governmental formula will lead us to chaos, the time is ticking. The population is on edge and we are in the midst of an economic crisis that has not even fully unfolded yet. As usual, the most vulnerable amongst us feel the first pinch. Just like Covid didn’t spare the wealthy, the level of nepotism that is concentrating wealth in the hands of a few is a virus will make us all victims in the end. Should we be worried about the next elections being called-off as a state of emergency is called for? A mere spark, a spontaneous demonstration, and police squads who are suspected of deliberately creating tensions, and all the progress we made since 1968 could go up in smoke.

According to the world Bank, our GDP in 2020 had shrunk by 14.9 percent since the second MSM government took power in 2019. If Covid has no doubt played a major part in it, how can we explain that our neighbours like Reunion (-7.86), Madagascar (-7.14), Mozambique (-1.23) all had more resilient economies than us in 2020? That countries so troubled like Pakistan (-0.94) or Sri Lanka (-3.57) whose government just got ousted fared better than us? Why were our regional competitors for the North-South and West-East trade routes, like Ethiopia (+6,06) or Somalia (+2,44 so ahead of us as despite their difficult political and border situations and being the target of exploitation by great powers? Is our economic strategy outdated and over reliant on tourism? Do we even have an economic strategy for the digital age?

I believe former President Cassam Uteem sums it up perfectly in an interview with Touria Prayag. “The two-digit inflation and almost indiscriminate price hike today are such that many people cannot afford to buy even the basic commodities especially food items for babies and children. This dire situation we are all experiencing is not due only to exogenous factors – increase in import and freight costs – but also to Government policy of hold-up on the Central Bank reserves and the ensuing rapid depreciation of the Mauritian rupee against the US dollar and other international currencies.”

After the fall of LPG prices on the world commodity markets, cooking gas prices at the start of the pandemic was at Rs1 80 and they will now be at Rs 240 representing an increase of 30%. The price of gasoline rose from Rs 44 per litre before we got hit by Covid, but now sits at 40% higher, at Rs 61.3 per litre. After the water crisis in Curepipe and elsewhere, after the Covid lockdowns and curfews which instilled a martial climate at times on the Island, the nosedive of the economy and the repression of protests, isn’t it obvious that the government is reaping what it sowed, with all of us caught in its lustful and lowly attempts to retain power at all costs?

If the Minister of Finance is not responsible for that, who is? How can one at the height of a national crisis indulge in such lowly politics as to attribute positions of responsibility to mistresses and concubines? While we admit that Covid came as a wreaking ball to the system, it could not have found an easier target as the Mauritian health system under such and incompetent leadership. The management of the sanitary crisis by the Minister of Health Kailesh Jagutpal has been catastrophic to say the least. How can people get arrested or fined for daring to eat without their mask on, while he throws unmasked parties with no distancing to howl “kourou kou kou”? While his colleague walks unmasked in supermarkets as if he was above the law. While respirators are scarce and deceased babies are discarded in the shadows from hospitals. This I think illustrates how much Pravind Jugnauth and his entourage have lost the plot. Their behaviour is indeed typical of elites as they live their last moments at the top of the pyramid, as they respond to the havenots to eat cake if they couldn’t afford bread, not realising that hungry men turn into angry mobs who will eventually take both their bread and cake.

“A comparison of societies through time would lead us to the conclusion that decision making in many a tribal system relied on more sophisticated forms of consultation and cooperation with stakeholders than our current government.”

 Ushering an era of Corruption and Division

In many Democracies, especially Republics, are bestowed upon the Prime Minister or President ultimate executive powers and simultaneously ultimate responsibility of the nation. The ideals of leadership in this quasi regalian tradition demand that the Ruler unites the role of the Moral leader, as the one who upholds the nation’s values and defends them, the Unifier, as the one who embodies the unification of the nation’s various factions, above private interests, and finally the Father or Mother figure, in whose hands lie the state apparatus which will safeguard individuals and families from harms of all kinds, be it economic, political or social. Those are the common standards by which leaders are measured and there is no reason why our expectations should be lowered when it comes to our motherland. On the contrary, there is a fight to be had within ourselves against this race to the bottom, a symptom of cultural trauma resulting from systematic attempts to genocide our cultures and identities, leading us to believe we deserve the leaders we have. What crime did the Egyptian people commit to deserve Mubarak? What crime did the people of Chile commit to deserve Pinochet? What crime did we commit to deserve PKJ?

The state of the country today cannot be dissociated from the fact that the Prime Minister has failed in almost all aspects of governance, be it as a Moral leader, as a Unifier or as a Father figure who understands that the only family a Prime minister can favour is the nation. The ongoing Angus road saga has showed to everyone that Pravind Jugnauth is able to look people straight in the eyes and even invoke divinity to explain his actions that are evidently incoherent. The implications of this real estate deal express the nepotism that rules the country today and also the kind of people who have become part of the very selective entourage of PKJ. In a country where drugs and mafia of all kinds are destroying our youth, what message does it send when the top man favours the company of people who we are supposed to be fighting against? What message does he send when “lordre from la haut” supersedes our constitution and court orders? When a Judge of the Supreme Court prohibits the “deportation” or “extradition” of a Slovak national, why does the Attorney General go to such length to prevent this person from answering for his crimes on Mauritian soil? What was the role of Economic Development Board in issuing resident permits to unchecked international criminals and why did the Red flag from Interpol take so long to reach the concerned local authorities? Does Pravind Jugnauth have any moral clout left to lead the fight against drugs and corruption? Is he part of the solution or rather the problem?

There are ignorant people who speak flowery words and take delight in the letter of the law, saying that there is nothing else. Their hearts are full of selfish desires, Arjuna. Their idea of heaven is their own enjoyment, and the aim of all their activities is pleasure and power. (BG 2:42-43). The concept of the fake prophet or the Tartuffe has been incarnated throughout history by people who focused their energies on appearing good, rather than being good. For some years now, the MSM has invested in political communication at an unpreceded level. And this kind of focus has historically been the mark of those who do not have anything to offer but words and emotions. The use of family and children for political marketing is not new but the amount of exposure that the PM seeks to get indicates that he spends most of his time on the job as some sort of top model, or poster boy whose priority is to get noticed, whatever the means, as exuberant and desperate as necessary. This is a far cry from the image of the leader whose assurance doesn’t require such frills. The leader who chooses actions that uplift the nation, rather than words that degrade her. The success of Communication experts in politics is quite similar to the frenzy for perfumes during the 18th century. The level of hygiene was pathetic and perfumes were the means to make odours bearable. To cloud one’s sense of smell from the stink, just like the Prime Minister’s current attempts to cloud our reason with photo ops that appeal to our emotions, a rather poor trick which he uses so that we see him for what he is clearly not, an enlightened leader. The inhabitants of Camp-Levieux were very clear as to the intentions of this squad to humiliate the locals by swearing at them, gassing them and even shooting indiscriminately.

As a result, François Gowin got shot while trying to rescue her sister-in-law and her asthmatic child from tear gas. The Prime Minister has clearly chosen a path of division and every Mauritian with any once of national consciousness understands that our diversity is a sacred treasure that if sullied can open a pandora box that cannot be closed. Now is the time to stay united and cast divisions aside as we witness the decline of a Republic, or how a state is being failed.

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