Being Thankful for Small Mercies

The sense of “impunity” among the political class can be considered as one of the obvious causes of the sense of decadence which confronts Mauritius

Political Titbits 

Readers of this column would by now be familiar with the proposition that the sense of “impunity” among the present political class can be considered as one of the obvious causes of the sense of decay and decadence which daily confronts the nation. The central line of argument has been that it made no sense for political leaders to hide behind “legalistic reasoning” when it comes to making a judgement and sanctioning the alleged “improper conduct” of Members of Parliament. Arbitrary as it may seem at first glance, it is nevertheless a tenable postulate that in the political space the Leadership is often called upon to act as judge and jury.

Similarly the precept of “innocent until proven guilty” so indispensable to our justice system may have to be overlooked when it comes to making a decision about the appropriateness of the behaviour of the political personnel regarding their responsibility for maintaining the uprightness of their positons. Every person who chooses to join the political arena should know that these are the “rules of the game” to which they have to abide.

As for political leaders, they should know that such responsibility comes with the baggage of the job and that their leadership will be constantly measured by the quality of their judgement under such stressing circumstances. It is true that in mature democracies ministers and other political officials frequently take the lead in resigning from their political positions even as they proclaim their innocence and vouch to take matters to court to clear their names when there have been serious allegations of inappropriate behaviour against them.

To come back to the local situation, it is notable that at least in the last two most decried cases of apparent abuse of authority of his office by the Attorney General and the totally unconscionable behaviour of a Parliamentary Private Secretary while Parliament was in session, appropriate punitive action has been taken by the Prime Minister.

Having constantly and vehemently denounced the prevailing sense of “impunity” among the political class as a source of dysfunctionality of our democracy, it is only appropriate that we should underscore these recent developments. At best this could represent the emergence of a new normative framework for our parliamentarians who are warned by the Prime Minister that future misdemeanours will not go unpunished. For now, we can only be thankful for small mercies…

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 Mentor: A wise and trusted counsellor or teacher

The above is the dictionary definition of the word mentor. In international politics the former Prime Minister of Singapore is probably the most well-known person to have assumed this position after he resigned as the primus inter pares in his country.

One need not necessarily agree with the economic policies which were applied under the regime of Mr Lee Kuan Yew or one can deplore the serious lack of democracy in the island state all through his regime. The fact remains though that the personal conduct and integrity of the man remained beyond reproach during his prime ministership as well as during his term as a Minister Mentor. It can be argued that the discretion with which he assumed his new role as adviser and guide to the government of his country and the impeccable conduct which he displayed during his terms constitute the quintessential qualities expected from a mentor.

This is why the sad spectacle presently being offered to the Mauritian people by the local counterpart of late Mr Lee Kuan Yew is to say the least highly regrettable. It does nothing to comfort the image of someone who has been credited for the “Mauritian economic miracle.” The all too frequent occasions on which highly offensive jibes have been proffered by the purported “wise counsellor” causing unnecessary harm to an already strained government definitely calls for some form of remedial action.

In the meantime, with all due respect to the seniority of the Minister Mentor, may we humbly draw his attention to the following quotation from the American philosopher William James, talking about the need for status among all human beings:

“… If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met ‘cut us dead’, and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us…”

It is perhaps time for SAJ to admit that this role of Minister Mentor, which has been thrust upon him under the very special circumstances that we know, is not one which suits his present dispositions if not his natural inclinations.

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Upholding the dignity of Parliament

After having overtly challenged the authority of the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has been suspended for the next two sessions of Parliament. It is a first ever occurrence in post-independence Mauritius and a matter of real concern for our democracy.

Those who want to justify the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition will rightly refer to the wider political context in which institutions and persons in authority are suffering from huge credibility deficits and lack of legitimacy. The fact remains though that his behaviour could by no stretch of the imagination be considered as “parliamentarian.” The Speaker was therefore bound to take disciplinary action.

Having said that, it would be particularly senseless to get into a blame game and partisan interpretation of these events which only blind us to the real issues which need to be examined concerning the functioning or Parliament over the past years. The quick deterioration in the decorum of the House has been evident for all and even more so since the direct reporting of proceedings on national television.

Leaders of political parties represented in Parliament MUST urgently address the causes of this constant degeneration before things get to an irreversible stage.

 

 

*  Published in print edition on 27 October  2017

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