Corruption, Caste and Accountability

animal-farmDo you trust Ramgoolam?

At the end of his first term as Prime Minister in 2000, Dr Navin Ramgoolam’s Government paved the way for the establishment of the Economic Crime Office to investigate corruption in both the private and public sectors.  Shortly after Sir Anerood Jugnauth ousted him, it was closed down and replaced with the toothless ICAC with no power to investigate crimes of the past. Was it a coincidence that a leading member of Jugnauth’s cabinet was under investigation at the time?

Hiding the truth from public scrutiny has become a characteristic of successive Prime Ministers and it seems that the longer they have tasted power, the more desperate they become. An article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, colourfully entitled “Like baboons, our elected leaders are literally addicted to power“, explains why:

Baboons low down in the dominance hierarchy have lower levels of dopamine in key brain areas, but if they get ‘promoted’ to a higher position, then dopamine rises accordingly. This makes them more aggressive and sexually active, and in humans similar changes happen when people are given power…But too much power – and hence too much dopamine – can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors of judgement and imperviousness to risk, not to mention huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others.

After 14 years as Prime Minister, is Ramgoolam going to even greater lengths than Jugnauth in order to feed his dopamine addiction? Continue reading

Orange-gate update: Political police?


The purpose of the Mauritian Police Force is supposed to be: “To uphold the law fairly and firmly, to prevent crime and bring to justice those who break the law. To protect the community and act with common sense, integrity and sound judgement…”. In his classic allegorical novel, Animal Farm, George Orwell warns us that even the most idealistic leadership can become irredeemably corrupt over time. The surest evidence for this is when the de facto law of the land has degenerated to: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Is Mauritius sliding down this slippery slope?

With lightning speed the police responded to the complaint Nandanee Soornack (Labour activist) made on 10th December 2012. The acccused, Yogida Sawmynaden (MSM activist), was questioned, arrested and provisionally charged with a crime that doesn’t even exist in law merely eight days later.   The farce only ended when the the Director of Public Prosecutions intervened, ruling that there was “no case to answer”. Contrast this with a complaint first lodged over two and a half ago…

[Source for photo:]
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MID Life Crisis

When the Prime Minister announced that he and Joël de Rosnay had conceived Maurice Ile Durable during a brief encounter in Paris, did he imagine that the gestation period would last 3 years 9 months? Finally, the long-awaited MID Strategy is about to be born… Or is it?

At the MID workshop last Thursday, some participants were calling for delivery to be postponed for another year. Had they peeked at the baby and seen the 4 limbs, head and body that they had carefully constructed in the 6 Working Groups, stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster? Alas it is worse than that. One participant summarised the overall conclusion to a long round of applause: “For the moment, the strategy we have looks more like Mauritius Green Washing than Maurice Ile Durable.” Continue reading

Vincent Pellegrin interviews Dr Mu

1. Tell me about your experience, from early beginnings up to now, in an Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO).

The NGO I work for is actually a charity that a friend and I founded at the end of 2008. Its goals include promoting human rights as well as protecting the environment, expressed as environmental stewardship and social justice. The two are fundamentally linked since the poor destroy the environment out of need and the rich destroy it out of greed. Moreover, the UN Human Rights Council has long been seeking to establish the human right to enjoy a healthy environment. My experience to date has been an exploration of what this actually means in the Mauritian context. Continue reading

MID – Maurice Ile Dépendante

The Empires Strike Back

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

A tiger-class merchant ship was making its way with the rest of the fleet towards the Golden Dawn of the New Age. Without the added weight of weaponry, it was one of the fastest craft around, it’s path illuminated by a state-of-the-art 4-sight navigation system which resembled a balanced tripod supporting a bright spark. All would have been perfect, except that three officers coveted the captain’s chair and the fickle crew regularly mutinied in favour of one or the other.

The first was an old Jedi Knight, who had turned completely to the Dark Side. The second was a short-sighted son of a former captain, who had lied about his lineage, assassinated his rivals and betrayed the most vulnerable members of the crew to get the post. The third was a rejected member of a race of condescending albinos, who had deceived the crew into believing that the ship could not operate without them, even though they did little work themselves. They had been the first to board the ship and, though few in number, still controlled most of the trade. Somehow they had managed to convince everyone that they had a divine right to occupy the best quarters and live in luxury while others lived in squalor.

Shortly after an unusually traumatic upheaval, the Dark Knight was reinstated as Captain. Once in control, he ripped the tripod apart, giving each leg as a prize to his key supporters and jettisoned the bright spark. The merchant ship meandered aimlessly. Half-hearted attempts were made to copy the trading strategies of others and unprofitable sectors were subsidised, mostly in the interests of the albinos and their fratres, whom many suspected of secretly manipulating the ship’s controls. Caring less about the lack of progress, the wannabe captains continued their feud for the captain’s chair. Continue reading

The erosion of democracy in Mauritius

Since the start of the reign of the current Prime Minister, human rights and the rule of law have been steadily eroded. In no year has this been more apparent to us than 2011.

Freedom of Expression

On 17th October, Dharmanand Dooharika, editor of the weekly Samedi Plus was sentenced to three months imprisonment for publishing, on 14th August 2010, the views of Dev Hurnam who questioned the independence of a supreme court judge. The editor was accused of “publicly scandalising the supreme court” and “bringing the administration of justice into disrepute”. He was denied bail pending appeal and incarcerated on 20th October in the main prison. (A full report has been prepared by the Committee to Protect journalists). On 31st October, the same day that we made intercession to the President on his behalf, the DPP performed a u-turn and removed his objection to bail. Continue reading

Not So Subtle Corruption In Mauritius

Here is the cable from the US Embassy in Mauritius dated 6th June 2008 as reported by Wikileaks:

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Recent allegations and press reports on corruption scandals in Mauritius highlight an often overlooked issue by those new to or unfamiliar with the island. Upon first impression, Mauritius may look relatively clean, but with some digging – one may find questionable dealings under the surface. Despite the founding of Mauritius’ Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 2002, the country still suffers from a pervasive and ingrained problem. END SUMMARY. Continue reading

Exploiting labour in Mauritius

There is no denying that certain Mauritians accumulated their wealth through the exploitation of labour. Once the African slaves were freed by the sugar estates, they were replaced by impoverished indentured labourers from India. Rather than pay higher salaries more labour was imported, ensuring that supply outstripped demand.

In the 1980s the textile sector was introduced to the country and gave jobs to many of our women folk. Did this emancipate them or exploit them as they were exempt from the workers rights that men enjoyed? Whichever the case, history repeated itself when they expected better pay. They were replaced by foreign workers from countries whose citizens were more desperate than our own. What is shameful is that such a high level of exploitation exists today. Continue reading

Pyrrhic victory

Finally, the Ministry of Agriculture has ended the lease of Flat Island to Discover Mauritius, a Government owned company that had unlawfully sublet the island to Patrick Fanchette, owner of the hotel 20 Degrees Sud and friend of ex-minister of tourism Xavier Duval. While We Love Mauritius has repeatedly raised the issue of breach of the original contract (original letter and subsequent video) , it was the extinction of the orange long tailed skink, unique to the island, that appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Let us hope this hails the end of profiteering in the name of “green tourism”.
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