Are the people being gazumped?

Is the MSM cutting the ground from under SAJ’s feet? Without the support of a majority of L’Alliance Lepep’s MPs, the legitimately elected Prime Minister cannot govern. This would be akin to a cavalier putsch

The country is facing an unprecedented situation. In December 2014, the people in their collective wisdom voted massively against the power sharing Labour-MMM alliance cobbled on the misguided belief that their combined electoral might would force their decried constitutional reforms over the will of the people. Alive to the dangers facing our democracy, the people decided otherwise. Their unity, determination and single mindedness meted out an ignominious defeat on the Labour-MMM alliance.

The rout of the Labour-MMM alliance should yet again be a potent reminder to politicians of every hue and colour that voters are not bank votes that can be blindly press ganged at the beck and call of power driven political leaders. At each general elections power is returned to the people who in their own free and wise judgement decide what is best for them. The choice is not made on the basis of propaganda, rhetoric, tall promises or political razzmatazz but more importantly on who really adheres to and promotes the seminal values, ideals and objectives of a more equal, inclusive and prosperous society which ignited and drove the battle to obtain independence to establish a democratic and new socio-economic order for the benefit of all.

The political history of Mauritius is marked by so many instances where poor governance, threats to our democracy, arrogance of power and breach of trust by successive governments have been severely punished by the people at the polls. The same leaders and political parties who have monopolized politics and have headed governments in the country since independence have each been repeatedly sanctioned by the people at the polls. The main leaders and their parties have amply demonstrated that in a challenging context of world trade liberalisation and enduring international financial crisis, they lack the intellect and innovative thinking acumen to chalk out the required strategies and policy framework to leap frog the country to a high income economy. For too long, this has been an elusive goal as the country has stagnated with stunted growth rates.

Ending the circus

It is also abundantly clear that the democratic and socio-economic future of Mauritius can no longer mean carrying on with the same unending circus of replacing, as has been the case over the past decades, a bad government by a worse one and so on ad nauseam. The people are tired of having at the time of general elections to choose a new government to entrust the future of the country among the same political leaders who have repeatedly failed the country and breached the trust of the people through their actions and poor governance.

In December 2014, the people voted for an alternative government led by Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ) as Prime Minister and head of L’Alliance Lepep, a united front of three parties (MSM-PMSD-Muvman Liberater). It is clear that the presence of Anerood Jugnauth and his success in terms of economic achievements of the country when he was PM as from 1983, as the head of the L’Alliance Lepep to challenge the powerful Labour-MMM alliance had a positive bearing on the outcome of the elections. It was the synergies of L’Alliance Lepep under the leadership and authority of SAJ and the people’s determination to sanction the Labour-MMM alliance which caused the latter’s debacle.

Against such a backdrop, the declaration made by the Prime Minister last week, a mere 21 months after the landslide endorsement by the people, that he will not be serving the full five years of his mandate and that it is the person who commands the majority in the National Assembly who will replace him has left the country in turmoil. This is not a scenario that the electorate who voted the Prime Minister to office in December 2014 had bargained for.

The country is in limbo and urgently needs clarity. Uncertainty is the greatest enemy of investor confidence and development. The country has already changed three Finance Ministers in the space of 17 months. Growth remains very modest despite extremely generous government incentives and an array of trade facilitation measures to the private sector.

Has SAJ’s leadership at the head of L’Alliance Lepep government been finally shown to have feet of clay? Was the united front and support of L’Alliance Lepep behind SAJ as leader and proposed Prime Minister at the time of the general elections in December 2014 a sham? The common belief was that SAJ who had founded the MSM, now led by his son, had the support of the party. Have the reported frictions between the PM and the leader of the MSM on issues such as the Heritage City mega project come to a head? Shouldn’t the Prime Minister come out clean as to the real reasons of his announced early retirement? Is the MSM, the largest party of L’Alliance Lepep, cutting the ground from under SAJ feet? Without the support of a majority of L’Alliance Lepep’s Members of the National Assembly, the legitimately elected Prime Minister cannot govern. This would be akin to a cavalier putsch. Such a situation would plummet our democracy to even more abysmal depths.

Burying the hatchet

It is therefore imperative that the Prime Minister and the leader of the MSM put an end to the wildest speculations being aired and stem the deepening and pervasive uncertainty which grips the country by burying the hatchet and any differences between them. The interests of the country and the people transcend theirs. Past experience has shown that the resulting clamour from the opposition parties for anticipated elections is more about nurturing their pipe dreams of coming back to power than genuinely serving the people. In the current sorry state of the country’s political leadership, changing the government through the polls by replacing it by those booted out at the last polls will neither change the prospects of the country nor improve governance.

L’Alliance Lepep was voted to power with a mandate to develop the country to higher levels of prosperity on principles of transparency, inclusiveness, meritocracy and good governance under the leadership of SAJ. They have so far badly miscued their governance. The task is colossal. This is therefore not the time to upset the apple cart by self damaging palace revolutions but the time to deliver on the promises made to the people and imaginatively chalk out the required strategies to realise our most ambitious objectives. The contract of trust between the electorate and L’Alliance Lepep which voted the latter to power in December 2014 did not include a change of leadership during the government’s mandate. Any transgression of the mandate which was sought from and endorsed by the people would be a breach of trust devoid of legitimacy. Let all those who want to gazump the people be warned that it would be foolhardy to do so.

Too many things have gone amiss since the government took office. After quite a bit of humming and hawing, the government is slowly getting its act into gear. The multi faceted port development and the implementation of the Metro Express and various infrastructural projects financed by generous grants from India will provide the much needed impetus to the economy.

The wide brief given to the Finance Minister during his recent mission to India which encompassed international trade negotiations of the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement, seeking Indian support for the government strategy on Chagos and financial assistance for various infrastructural projects as well as his diverse ministerial responsibilities will help him cut his teeth.

As a leader, Pravind Jugnauth must demonstrate that he is of a different mould from other party leaders ready when the time is ripe to seek the supreme investiture through merit at the polls. Leadership at the head of the State must and can only be earned legitimately from the people through a commitment of service to the nation, sound judgement and a track record of achievements. Rushing through the process would jeopardize it.

Let all those who wish to rock the boat for unavowed reasons be reminded that facing new general elections could leave lots of casualties in government ranks. They better count their blessings and start first and foremost to diligently honour the commitments and promises made to the people and for which they have been voted to power. The government has a few good men/women to efficiently deliver on its promises. Others with a poor performance would have to be replaced in a reshuffling exercise.

Going forward, our democracy can only be strengthened and put on a path of robust growth if we collectively as a nation stop pandering to mediocrity, political has-beens and sensational politics and instead support the emergence of a new inspiring leadership and governance based on talent, inclusiveness, accountability and dedicated service to the nation.

Mrinal Roy

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