The National Assembly witnessed noisy scenes on Tuesday. According to press reports, a remark made by the Deputy Chief Whip (who was in fact the Acting Government Whip) Mr. Ravi Rutnah targeting the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Paul Bérenger led to the bedlam. Interestingly enough, it was when the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Public Utilities Mr. Ivan Collendavelloo was replying to the Private Notice Question (PNQ) of the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Paul Bérenger regarding various aspects of electricity that the tension suddenly rose up. It would appear that the Leader of the Opposition was referring to a report on the Management Accounts of the Central Electricity Board (CEB) with respect to gross profits amounting to Rs 4,2 billion expected by 31 December next that the high voltage was reached. Mr. Ravi Rutnah accused the Leader of the Opposition of “having bribed people to get the document” ( the report of the Management Accounts of the CEB). He requested Mr. Collendavelloo to start an enquiry on the matter and further accused the Leader of the Opposition of having committed a “breach of confidentiality”. Mr. Reza Uteem intervened on a Point of Order and urged Madam the Speaker Mrs Maya Hanoomanjee that Mr. Rutnah withdraws the unparliamentary words. The Speaker promised to listen to the recordings of this part of the sitting of the National Assembly before she would come with a proper ruling, which she did. Mr. Rutnah argued that he made the remarks while he was in a sitting position. He, however, withdrew the words. No sooner had he withdrawn the “unparliamentary words” than Mr. Bérenger termed him as being a “ti roquet”. The on-line dictionary Wiktionnaire (Wiktionary) defines a “roquet as being a “petit chien hargneux qui rauque (a small aggressive dog which barks raucously). It is understandable that Mr. Bérenger was slung to the quick; he probably felt that Mr. Ruthnah was tarnishing his character, integrity and honesty. But does that mean that an experienced and very senior parliamentarian like him should resort to such language? Over the years, Mr. Bérenger has developed a notoriety for his intolerance not only towards his opponents but also towards his own collaborators. In the past, Mr. Bérenger had argued that he withdrew the file of alternative mode of public transport from Mr. Anil Bachoo (who was the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Transport) because he found him to be “intellectually limited”. Later Mr. Bachoo, in a burst of dignity, resigned from the Bérenger-led government and founded his own party, the Mouvement Socialiste Démocrate (MSD). The same Mr. Bérenger once told Mr. Rama Sithanen, who was the then Minister of Finance that his hair was like a “laqué chatte” (the tail of a cat). That incident had occurred at the National Assembly. Mr. Bérenger has a very rich directory, or if you prefer a dictionary, of very insulting words, which journalistic ethic restrains us from sharing it with you. But we have no intention to drag down Mr. Bérenger. If this could be some sort of consolation, other political leaders too excel in the art of insulting others, including, their own close aides. The incident of the defective microphone at a public meeting in Quatre Bornes now occupies a prominent place in the anthology of insulting words used by our political leaders. May be this could be an interested theme for our university students in the context of their dissertation.
Just as an aside, owning a dog in Mauritius has become a symbol of social status. Today Mauritians are ready to disburse thousands of rupees to own impressive pedigree dogs. It is not that they love pets or they require some security in their yards; it is simply a matter of displaying one’s social status. If your neighbour owns a Labrador, then you must have a Rottweiler. Why one? May be two or three, even if they will disturb your neighbors and make a hell of their life. Now you can imagine how low is a “ti roquet”?
Coming back to the rumpus at the National Assembly on Tuesday, press reports indicate that at around 16h30, when the MPs were leaving the House to have their tea break, Mr. Bérenger came across Mr. Rutnah in the corridors. The tension could be felt. Mr. Rutnah then suddenly termed Mr. Bérenger as “requin blanc” (white shark). It would appear that Mr. Bérenger replied by a swearword. MP Mr. Guito Lepoigneur was the first to intervene to try to calm down things. Once more, Mr. Bérenger shouted “ti roquet”.[row custom_class=""][/row] At the same time, MMM MPs Mr. Rajesh Bhagwan and Mr. Veda Baloomoody rushed towards Mr. Rutnah and tried to grab him. Minister of Environment, who happens to be a former Commissioner of Police, also intervened while MMM MP Mr. Franco Quirin and Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms Mr. Alain Wong were involved in an exchange of harsh words. Obviously later, both parties gave their version of the incidents to the press. It is amazing that both parties seemed to be more reasonable in their comments. Though Mr. Ivan Collendavelloo, who is also the leader of the Muvman Liberater, accused some in the MMM of being facists, he however tried to pacify things. The president of the MMM Mr. Rajesh Bhagwan also depicted more restraint. On the whole, the behavior of our MPs, past or present, is a matter of concern. Take the case of former Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) Mr. Richard Duval. He publicly confessed that he had gone in the sugar cane fields to “casse ene pose” ( have some good time) with a woman called Sharon. As such he has given a new meaning to the expression “alle dans carreau canne” ( going in the sugar cane fields) coined by the one and only Anirood Gujadhur, the deceased leader of the Parti du Peuple Mauricien (PPM). He had referred to political defeats as “alle dans caro canne”. Ever since, this has become a commonly used expression in our local politics. There is yet another leader who is trying to get out from the sugar cane fields. It is none other than Dr. Ramgoolam. The function organized by the Mauritius Labour Party to mark the 115 birth anniversary of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam at Kewal Nagar on Sunday led to mixed feelings. The next day, Dr. Ramgoolam expressed his satisfaction regarding participation at the gathering. He insisted that a good number of young people attended the event. He was however very critical of the police and the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). On the other hand, his opponents tend to look down on the meeting, arguing that Dr. Ramgoolam is yet to stage a real comeback. We could seem to be cynical. Yet, what happened on Sunday is good for democracy. For the simple reason that political permutation is a constant factor in Mauritius. We would not be surprised if the MMM joins hands with the MSM at some given point of time. It is very unlikely that the other recent offshoots of the MMM, namely the Muvman Liberater (ML) and the Mouvement Patriotique (MP), will have a very long life. They might chose to put their differences aside and get to work together. For how long will the MMM stay in the opposition? Already, since the 2005 general elections, ten years have elapsed. Ten long years during which the MMM has failed to make its way to political power. A point to ponder at the eve of the celebration of the 46th anniversary of the founding of the party. If Dr. Ramgoolam manages to obtain the forgiveness of his own supporters and voters in general, he might again emerge as a challenger to the MSM and its allies. It is in this spirit that Mr. Xavier-Luc Duval fits in as the most eligible partner of Dr. Ramgoolam. The die has been cast. The trio Ramgoolam-Duval-Valayden could already put into a cold sweat the MSM and its future allies. Local politics resembles more and more the dog that chases its own tail!
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