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[BLOG] “Ethnic clientelism” : the new spectre of Mauritian politics

We take stock that today Mauritius is at a political crossroad, with massive popular uprising. Enters a game of “thrones” which is steadily and conscientiously being angled for future political alliances and emerging power structure leading to governing positions. So far, traditional political parties have been able to downplay the dangers of losing political hegemony through the formation of new alliances. The future is however less fortuitous with the slow economic growth and the growing drug related problems.

The Wakashio ecological disaster and dysfunctional institutions have galvanized people who previously were happy with their daily lives.  Their lives turned into a nightmare and discontentment has been expressed by street protests.  Anonymous figures have turned into the heroes of the day and a national solidarity movement has taken new dimensions. The realization that “l’union fait la force” and a clear message of stepping down has been chanted out : “bour li dehors”.  A sudden political awakening of people who previously could not be bothered with politics has started. The mixed composition of those protesting shows that Mauritius is on the path to a new future. 

I draw reference to countries where such changes occurred, namely Guyana, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago. Corruption, cronyism and widespread economic issues raged against the government of the day. The same symptomatic issues have led governments to fall in disgrace or be pushed out by a coup. Mauritius shares the same history as those former colonies and in colloquial terms “copy paste” in the unfolding of their political fate. The pandemic is the catalyst for the right social explosive concoction.  The government should take note and re-connect with the people.  Senior advisers have made poor impressions on media and social media has responded by a storm of recriminations. The disproportionate salaries of advisers and MPs are also a concern.  One would expect better results from elected officials being paid hefty salaries and driven in limousines. Their former status prior to being elected did not include those luxuries and some gratitude, diligence, and humility should be the norms.  Arrogance is a façade and soon enough reveals the weaknesses therein. 

The demoralized population marching through the capital city is certainly a cause for concerns.  The tourism sector is as dead as the dodo, at least for the foreseeable future.  Government can nonetheless move towards a more equitable outreach to those in distress and be less focused on propaganda. Time is for action and the price for social peace is going to be costlier than ever. There are real issues and by December, the situation will be more difficult.  Mauritius has been too loud in the international arena. We make breaking news for the wrong reasons and the noise has to stop.  Mauritius is under serious scrutiny and its worldwide status should seek an abatement as a blacklisted jurisdiction by the European Union. I do believe that the newly appointed ministers have little or no experience in their respective ministries. Our diplomatic ties with friendly nations have been built through decades of cooperation. Now is the time to find support internationally and try to mitigate our already damaged international reputation.  The protests are transborder and will adversely affect our future ties with other countries.  No empire has survived fighting many fronts and least of all, a democracy like ours.  

NAVNEET AKALOO

 

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