Weekly (Port Louis)

2 February 2013

Mauritius: Say a Prayer


"Alan Ganoo has, for years, been the go-between in - and privy to - all the kose-koser sessions which have taken place between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition."

Paul Bérenger's news about his illness is heartbreaking and we hope his ordeal will be short-lived. But, emotions aside, in a world of lies, covered by more lies, being open about his condition is dignified and commendable. It heralds an era of transparency which will hopefully prevent any wild speculation and rumour-mongering which may have resulted from the absence of the leader of the opposition from the political scene. Any lack of information concerning the lives of political leaders inevitably results in the gap being filled with the wildest speculations. An open approach nips that in the bud. Paul Bérenger has shown a great deal of transparency and courage by just giving the straight goods.

This also sparks new questions about when the private lives of politicians intersect with the public interest of Mauritians, a matter which is becoming more and more relevant, particularly considering the age of the players on our political scene. In this country, our politicians have generally had a far easier ride than their counterparts in other countries. They do not get any slack from the media for hiding their ill health. Yet, the state of health of prominent politicians may have huge ramifications on the country as a whole as it may directly impact their ability to carry out their jobs. So, they cannot legitimately keep it secret and the hue and cry which sometimes follows media revelations about the health of some political players, at times followed by a total denial of the seriousness of the condition in question, is against the interests of the country. Demanding to know about the health of those who are sitting in our national assembly has nothing to do with mere voyeurism.

What does the news about Bérenger's health mean for the MMM? Nobody before yesterday morning suspected that Bérenger would announce such news, not even his closest collaborators who woke up to the same shock as the rest of us. Many were frantically phoning each other yesterday to find out whether what they had heard on radio channels was true or not. Bérenger, like everyone else, is aware of the ambitions, some more justified than others, of his front bench. We will recall that this very week, the elections to the MMM's central committee were postponed to avoid the very conflict which might arise as a result of ambitions and frustrations.

Alan Ganoo is already deputy leader of the party and it is therefore easier for him to step into the leader's shoes and hold the fort during his leader's period of sick leave. He is not exactly a boat-rocker and, symbolically, he is one of the few MMM members who has cut it in rural constituencies. But, more importantly, he is one of the closest people to the Labour Party and one who has never made any secret of his aversion to the remake. He has, for years, been the go-between in - and privy to - all the kose-koser sessions which have taken place between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. We will also recall that, in 1992, the MSM/MMM alliance broke up because of a dinner with Navin Ramgoolam which Alan Ganoo had attended. So, a lot is likely to happen on the political scene. But, for the time being, say a prayer for Paul. You won't be the only one privately praying.

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