Weekly (Port Louis)

29 December 2012

Mauritius: 'The Return of the Undead'

column

We staggered through a year during which there was no room for boredom.

The political players played a pretty rough game over our heads in a flying zone characterized by constant turbulence.

Our national assembly initially looked more like a nice garden party where the majority, basking in the glow of victory, smiled at the opposition which, in anticipation of what might come, sat opposite asking nice I-will-embarrass you-not questions. The continuous sidekicks exchanged between two brothers who share a relationship of love and hate made one thing clear - how imperfect our democracy is.

Suddenly, in the middle of chewing the bare bones of the then-minister of finance - Pravind Jugnauth, the opposition happened upon a big, juicy steak which came to be baptised as the Med Point scandal. The slogan zot mem vender zot meme aster (they are the ones selling and buying) stirred the emotions of a nation otherwise characterized by its apathy. The ordinary citizen suddenly started to make the link between the money s/he works hard for, how it leaves his/her pockets to go into those of protected cronies.

As the opposition kept the pressure, the government, initially reluctant to anger its ally, had to refer the matter to the ICAC. The ally - Pravind Jugnauth's MSM and his six ministers and MPs - first threatened to resign from government if it went ahead with the enquiry, then - in a unique move which came to be known as lev paké resté - resigned from government promising to stay loyal to it. This was followed by the divorce being formally pronounced.

In a strange and ironic twist of fate - or should I say opportunism - the leader of the opposition suddenly opened his arms to the person he criticised most - Pravind Jugnauth - and invited him to join hands with him in the opposition.

A strengthened opposition and a weakened government have led to baring an aspect of human nature we wish we didn't have to discover. Some nondescript politicians we had never heard of put themselves up for auction to the highest bidder and another episode - more nasty this time - of courtship, started with the aim of attracting more suitors. Don't you dare talk about ideology, loyalty or principles here. We all know what those are worth in politics.

As the government managed to reinforce its ranks with turncoats - the definition being absolutely anyone who is ready to rat and get handsomely rewarded for their disloyalty and - in a masterly stroke only he is capable of, Paul Bérenger managed to convince then-President of the Republic Anerood Jugnauth to resign from the state presidency. The spotlight then switched to the State House for the "Return of the Undead". The press photographers and TV cameras zoomed in on an 82-year-old past president and past prime minister with jet black hair and shaking hands waltzing into the political arena vying for the post of prime minister again! Talk about a revolution and an anticipated general election started. By this time, the most insignificant MP started realizing the difference s/he could make through ratting on his/her party. A sad tale I will refrain from narrating.

The population at this point had little appetite for any more opportunism and double talk. Something they took the opportunity to show at the municipal elections by largely abstaining from voting. Those who did take the trouble to go and half-heartedly cast their vote sanctioned both the arrogance of power and the opportunism of the opposition, which managed to get away with a marginal victory; a victory made more marginal by Eric Guimbeau, an ally the opposition had sacrificed on the altar of the new alliance, commanding considerable support in one municipality and making the difference in an otherwise indifferent, predictably insipid election.

The year ended just as it had begun.

The two brothers teasing each other, this time about their private lives in a language denoting once more the I will- hurt-you-not attitude. Except that the language this time was unparliamentary, unbecoming and at times indecent. Pity the Mayans got it wrong.

All the signs were there.

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