[L.E]Gutter politics on the rise

Confidence and trust in our politicians at an all-time low?  

Politics has become so toxic these days. We are seeing a different breed of politicians, who are economical with the truth. We have seen the consequences of this around the world, including here in the UK, where the PM had to go because of lack of transparency and alleged lies, which were peddled at the height of the pandemic and beyond. He is still being investigated about another serious matter as to whether he allegedly lied to Parliament. The outcome is awaited with much anticipation.  

A matter of trust

Politics has changed for the worse. It has become a real turn-off to many people nowadays, young or old, rich or poor, because it divides rather than unites us. People have had enough of the lies, empty promises, corruption, and favouritism that are so ingrained and pervasive in politics and our institutions.

There is a general lack of trust in our leaders and those who run our public institutions. It takes just one dishonest person, and the rot can spread to the entire system, bringing it into total disrepute. It is not surprising that people have had enough of the ‘dynastic’ musical chair in our politics in Mauritius and are calling for a complete clear-out of our political system and its structure, like ‘Linion Pep Morisien’ (LPM) and others. We need new people, new blood and new faces, a third force that espouse meritocracy; people who are truthful and believe in the betterment of all citizens in society, irrespective of their background or status. 

Enough is enough of political shenanigans! 

Look at our Parliamentarians. They have become figures of fun and jokes to many people nowadays. The Assembly and its proceedings, a source of amusement, both at home and abroad. 

The treatment of Opposition MPs, in particular the expulsion of the Leader of the Opposition some time back by the Speaker of the House reached a new low in the history of our parliamentary proceedings.

The Chamber of Parliament, once the custodian of our democracy that used to foster intelligent and constructive debates for the enhancement of the country’s prospects, both nationally and internationally, has never been in such peril. One has never seen such dramatic and unprecedented scenes at PMQTs. 

There have been a lot of political shenanigans going on in the House for some time now and the episodes before the recess top it all. The debates and proceedings were aired live, and many people found them farcical.  Not what the nation expects from the very heart of our political institution, which is supposed to uphold our freedoms and democracy.

The Speaker’s manoeuvrings, a subtle form of control?

The Speaker of the Assembly is supposed to keep order and manage the business of the House effectively. He has been everything but balanced and impartial in this role, it is being alleged, a matter, which has caused great concerns to the opposition parties, political commentators and the public.

Not allowing enough time for debates and expelling members of the Opposition so that they do not get the time and opportunity to raise awkward and difficult questions regarding important matters of national interest and security is worrying and unhealthy for a so-called fully functioning democracy. A subtle form of control, one may argue, which is impeding and stifling the democratic process.

The performance and alleged duplicitous records of the current Speaker is unfair and unacceptable, it has been reported. The office of the Speaker has unfortunately been greatly diminished by the incumbent Speaker, who has been defiant and belligerent in what could be observed as his partisan stance. He comes across as a bully, intimidating and sanctioning members of the Opposition most of the time during PMQTs. Suspending the House, which has become a habit of his, are disruptive and time-wasting, not to mention the delays this create in getting important matters through. This eventually impact on lives. 

It is high time the Opposition demands more forcibly that in the interest of and for the proper management of our nation’s parliamentary democracy, a new person who is level-headed, impartial and competent is appointed in the role. But this decision also rests in the hands of the governing party, which may be reluctant to revoke him because it has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. There continues to be mounting pressure though, from the Opposition parties, calling for the removal of the Speaker, concerning all his alleged misdemeanours but to no avail. Has he become too powerful and indispensable, an ‘asset’ in the ‘armoury’ of the government perhaps?  

Mind your language!

Nothing of substance is discussed amicably and seriously in the House by our parliamentarians anymore, without some form of accusations or personal attacks. Most of the time, they are full of hot air and are engaged in mudslinging, which has reached new heights, followed by numerous media interviews blaming each other. A worrying prospect for the country and the electorate which put them there. It’s all about image, public ceremonies and ‘coup riban’. They are being paid handsomely for these sorts of shenanigans, quite extraordinary!

We are also witnessing more personal attacks and vulgar language being used by politicians at mass meetings and rallies recently. There is no respect being shown to colleagues anymore. What will the World at large think of these types of behaviour?  They are very damaging to our international standing and prestige.  

A World in turmoil

The current unsettling situations in the world – the impact of the COVID pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continued climate crisis (the so-called ‘World Leaders’ are still dragging their feet on reaching a workable agreement to reduce our carbon footprints). Recent events in Europe (raging fires taking place due to the extreme heat (UK), storms (France) and not to mention flash floods in our part of the world (Mauritius)) are becoming a common occurrence. Experts are warning that they will be happening more frequently and will be more ferocious if we don’t act now. We are not doing enough to save fragile Earth. It should be at the top of the agenda of every government, including that of Mauritius. I am reminded of this famous quote by the Canadian astrophysicist, Hubert Reeves, “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that the Nature he is destroying is the God he is worshipping”.

Covid-19 and the lockdown, which affected millions around the world, showed how important the natural environment played in our lives in maintaining our sanity and good health. We can’t live without it, but it can live without us.

It is also reported that with soaring prices for food and fuel, a quarter of a billion more people could end up into extreme levels of poverty and destitution this year and Mauritius is not exempt from this grim forecast. We are already seeing the pressures on working families struggling to make ends meet. There are also pressures in other sectors, like agriculture, construction and so on, which can only get worse before they get better.   

With this stark reality facing us, we can ill afford these political shenanigans and vengeance politics, which are happening nowadays and relayed on our screens and social media. They are damaging and tarnish our standing and reputation abroad. But do politicians care?

Is it time for change?

For far too long, we have had much of the same thrust upon us. The same old, false promises peddled by politicians who want to preserve the status quo. Enough is enough. We need people who have a conscience and who can live by their principles and convictions; people with a different mindset, where they put country first instead of greed and ‘roder ti bout’; people who are visionaries and not opportunists who keep changing their allegiance depending on which direction the ‘political wind’ is blowing, a trait of many a politician in recent times. Shame on them!

The real question is, are we, the electorate, ready for a fundamental shake-up? A complete overhaul of the current political landscape; a political system enriched with new people with bold and credible agendas, which will benefit all citizens, people who believe and uphold the principles of fairness, truth and justice? Building a society with leaders endowed in these fundamentals is paramount. Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest with integrity, honesty and always speak the truth, qualities which are lacking in our leaders nowadays.

It is time the electorate let go of their prejudices and vote with their conscience? To let go of the traditional partisan ways of electing our representatives. They are damaging, divisive and backward-looking. 

The Opposition parties are unfortunately in tatters at the moment and can’t come up with the right formula to fight this government due to the ongoing infighting as to who will get the top jobs. If they are serious about winning the next general election, they have to change their mindset and concentrate on a unified party with a credible alternative. Despite the various attempts and civil protests decrying the current regime regarding their records in handling the economy, the cost of living crisis, inflation, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wakashio disaster, the delay in the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act, the ‘Sniffing gate’, to name but a few, they have been unable to capitalise and hold the government to account for any of the so-called alleged failures.

The recent scandal which broke out surrounding the ex-CEO of Mauritius Telecom (MT) and the PM concerning a request to undertake a so-called ‘survey’ by Indian engineers of the country’s IT network capability, which serves businesses, institutions and personal communication traffic, both internally and externally, caused quite a storm on social media. The allegations that this act amounted to a breach of the internet protocol and put the country’s national security at risk has been well exploited by opponents of the government over the past few weeks. 

The revelations, including the so-called evidence, were drip fed to the press and on social media by the ex-CEO, who embarked on a mission to discredit the PM’s reputation. There were calls from the Opposition parties asking for the PM to go. His position was untenable they said, citing alleged ‘treason’ for putting the country’s national security in danger. Is this yet another distraction by the opponents trying to destabilise the government? Have they run out of options?  Vengeance politics as we are seeing, are not healthy for the country. It puts our hard-fought freedoms and democracy in peril.

The electorate has become fed-up, indifferent and desensitized with the toxic political climate. They have lost faith in politicians, but they rather trust in the ‘devil you know than the devil you don’t know’. However, it is for the new political parties and aspirants to change minds and show that there is an alternative, there is light at the end of the tunnel for a fairer society, for honest politicians who are ready to fight for all of us, not for just a privileged few.

There are also some vile sentiments and calls being expressed (‘B… Li Dehor’, BLD) out there for change by some, and others have gone even further asking for the removal of the entire senior decision-making body of the government (‘B… Zotte Tou Dehor’, BZTD). There may be a plausible argument for the latter as it will break the link with the old systems that are perpetuating the status quo, serving the main established traditional parties, which incidentally have now passed their sell-by date according to the mood in the country.

Since Independence, Mauritius has done well in managing its own affairs and successive administrations and leaders have stamped their own agendas and narratives, sometimes not in the country’s best interests. The time for change has come and as loyal citizens, we should choose our leaders wisely; elect people who are charismatic, progressive and honest; people with fresh ideas and vision; individuals who are willing to embrace change and work together irrespective of class, colour, creed, and religion; people who can change lives and put the interest and security of the country first instead of self-interest and empire building; those who truly believe in transparency, integrity and in always speaking the truth. Powerful tenets of huge importance to live by that are rarely practiced by our leaders these days, which is threatening our hard-fought freedoms and democracy. 

Oudesh Jhayraz Bhurtun


August 2022

NOTE : Les points de vue exprimés dans cette rubrique ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux de la rédaction et n’engagent que les auteurs eux-mêmes.