28 February 2018

Mauritius: Independence Day Wish - For a credible police department

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Independence of Mauritius, my wish is to see a credible police department. I also wish to see an end to political nominations. Both are doing enormous harm to Mauritius.

A great majority of policemen perform their duty diligently. They are cooperative and helpful. They are courteous to those who seek information from them. If you are looking for a particular street or building in Port Louis and you are confused about its location, you can depend on a policeman to politely show you the way.

However, we do have some policemen who have been, or are at the moment, involved closely in shady activities. There's no doubt that they give the police a bad name.

Policemen may be legally allowed some amount of force but when excessive force is used or when it goes beyond the reasonable, we can say that there's a clear abuse of authority. It amounts to taking the law in their hands. It's not for the police, for all I know, to pre-judge or even judge an offender. It's for the Court to pronounce whatever verdict it deems fit on the basis of arguments presented against the offender.

At times, some policemen tend to be over-zealous. By being aggressive, they think they are demonstrating how competent they are. Under the colour of law, they think they can do things as they want. They know they will be protected.

There may be times when an offender categorically refuses to cooperate with the police and systematically avoids answering questions or providing clarifications. This may give rise to frustration and anger. In no way can this be a justification to mistreat the offender physically. The police have to be firm and assertive. We understand this. They are as much under pressure as anybody else.

However, there are limits not to be crossed. Even if the offender is a serial law-breaker, the police must be in control of their emotions and avoid at all costs to get carried away. Causing physical harm to the offender or degrading him is far from legal.

The police use all sorts of means to threaten and intimidate an offender, and, in the process, forget that the latter has his rights too. He needs to be treated humanely. I am not saying that he must be treated in a princely manner. I mean he must be treated according to the existing procedures. Breaking the law to punish a law-breaker is irrational.

Widespread condemnation

The offender is not only mishandled physically, but also psychologically and emotionally. He may be left with deep scars for the rest of his life. This may be largely disproportionate compared to the crime he may have committed, like breaking into a house, for instance.

Does using excessive force solve a problem? On the contrary, it aggravates it. That's why there is a widespread condemnation of the practice of brutality. Cruelty and torture shouldn't be happening at a time when human rights campaigns have made tremendous strides the world over. This has been achieved through consistent efforts since years. We must progress by respecting the dignity of people, not regress by sticking to barbaric methods of another era.

The black sheep of the police have to be re-educated in the manner in which they carry out their duty. There's an urgent need to reform the system. Let us not forget that police brutality can go wrong someday and become a major cause of social upheaval in the country.

And now, we hear of policemen engaged in drugs and apparently in fake driving permits. The public expects better from the police. Such policemen tarnish the image of the police. People place their entire trust in the police and expect them to be exemplary. And when they find that some of them are carrying on illegal activities, they are bound to lose faith in the police as a whole. No institution can function if it is not credible. I wish the police department to be clean.

My other wish is to see meritocracy prevailing in our country. For too long now, it has been rendered cheap by our politicians. In spite of high-sounding promises about sanzman, it's deplorable to note that one thing that remains constant is nominations of near and dear ones to various posts. It's scandalous, incredible and shameful.

Our politicians do not see that they are setting a bad example to the young. I think it might be a good thing if people could make their voices heard more strongly and frequently on the issue of "our people first", "connections", "family members first", "nou bann", "party affiliations" and what not. In Mauritius, we are not critical enough of the excesses of the government. That is why they do as they wish.

We must move towards modernity in terms of infrastructure, but we must also change our mindset. After fifty years after Independence, we are still witnessing politicians pushing their own family members in key posts paid from public funds. You find this correct? I wish to see more justice and fairness in Mauritius. But, knowing the kind of politicians we have, I think I must be dreaming.


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