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What is the Prosecution Commission Bill all about?

19.12.2016

 The Lepep Alliance intended to install a “Lepep state” by means of using the police. This was their strategy to replace the previous “Labour state”! (i)


 In particular, the Lepep Government was relying on the Central CID and ICAC to force Labour to loosen its grip on the state apparatus. (ii)


 But, for this strategy to work, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) needs to be part of the ruling block. In the past, right up until the present DPP, at least since Independence, he, or even “she” on one occasion, always was. Now, with Satyajit Boolell, although from a famous Labour clan, we have had someone with an independent mind. He has publicly explained many of his decisions. He has a newsletter that gives the public access to the thinking of his Department.  


 Motivation of Lepep Government


The Lepep Government first tried to control the DPP by changing the law last year so as to put his office under control of the Attorney General, who is part of Cabinet. They had hoped he would resign humiliated, but he didn’t. Instead he launched a Constitutional challenge. So, that means for a few years the Lepep Government is trapped in litigation. And, as usual, it was Ravi Ratnah who has “kas lakle” as to why the new law: he said on a radio program last week that previous DPP’s when offered a job as a Supreme Court judge take up the offer and vacate the DPP position. Satyajit Boolell, he said, doesn’t. So, what can the Alliance Lepep do? This is presumably why the Lepep Government, in trying another tack to get rid of him, comes up with this half-baked Prosecution Commission Bill and its Constitutional Amendment Bill. This is the pretext. And, the danger is that the Amendment, if passed, whatever its pretext is or was, whether it works or not, remains.


 If the Lepep Government wants explanations for why charges were dropped, they have just to call on the DPP to give them. He should, as L’Express is calling for, step forward and give them, anyway. We call on him to do this. If this fails, the Lepep Government can call for a Judicial Review. And if this fails, it still has the power to set up a Commission of Enquiry on any serious offense not prosecuted.


 So, that’s the first point: the motivation. It is ad hominem, which means designed for just the one instance of attacking one particular man in the post of DPP. We do not think the law is as much against Navin Ramgoolam, who will in any case stand trial, as against Satyajit Boolell.


 While Rome burns ...


This new attempt to get rid of the present DPP also binds the whole body politic into very limited debates on who controls what bit of the State – while Rome burns. The entire country is being re-colonized, and nobody except LALIT even notices. Almost all capital is going into non-productive real estate speculation. This is just not being discussed. Almost all the foreign investments are nothing but the sugar estate bosses selling off the country. One-off sales, on the one hand, i.e. not genuine investment at all, and colonization, on the other i.e. losing hope of democratic control of the very assets that permit production, create jobs, create a good place for people of the country to live, and ensure food security in times, internationally speaking, of all dangers. And instead of debating this, there is a kind of mass hysteria around Bills which have, as main motivation, getting rid of the DPP.


 So that’s the second point: it keeps debate away from the essential life support of the country in these times of unpredicted crises: its land and its sea, its production and its employment, its environment and its food supplies.


 Laws that would be totally useless to the public


Thirdly, coming to the contents of the Bills before the National Assembly tomorrow, the whole plan does not make sense. Pravind Jugnauth argues that everyone will benefit. How? How on earth does anyone know if and when the DPP has decided to charge or not to charge you? Our experience in LALIT is that you have no idea when this happens. So, you would not even know when to start counting the 21 days the Bill gives you to file a complaint. How many cases do you hear people saying, “Sirman sa kes la finn reye!” or “Espere sa kes la finn tonbe!”? Once I personally (when I was inside a Court room in support of another LALIT member, Ram Seegobin, who was being charged with some trumped up rubbish case around an incident when police were spying on a meeting we were holding at Centre Social Marie Reine de la Paix prior to George Bush’s planned visit) found out accidentally, as I was leaving the Court room with everyone else present in support of Ram, when my name was called out to go into the Box. I was an accused. When was the decision taken? How would I know? When I protested to the Magistrate from the Box, he said, “Well, you are here, anyway!” He thought this was normal.


 LALIT members have had any number of police visits over the years about what one of us had said at a meeting against the sitting Prime Minister; maybe the DPP is still considering all these matters. Who knows? Some date back to 1977. When, and if, he decided not to charge, we were not informed. We cannot even imagine how we could be informed of that moment.


 So, the law is not to do with the public at all. It is to do with high profile cases, like the cases against Pravind Jugnauth under the last regime, Ramgoolam under this one, Cehl Meeah when Bérenger was Prime Minister. These people are likely to know when the DPP lays charges or stops charges. It is not even to do with political cases, because we, in LALIT, do not and have not ever known when a decision was taken to charge, not charge, or drop charges against us. 


 And if everyone in the public does put in an objection to every decision to charge or not to charge, as Opposition Leader Bérenger warns, the whole of the judiciary will slow down even further. And this is not a mere joke. It could easily happen. There could be two cases for every one prosecution and one for each non-prosecution: one case judged by three judges to see if there should be a trial or not, and if so, another where some District Court magistrate or other higher Court, will then judge the case. As for the 36 month retrospective part of the law, as well as being outrageous, it might provoke a real rush for especially Labour people to challenge every case or decision to drop a case.


 More urgent matters


Perhaps more urgent matters of instutional reform are how to give more power to the electorate as a whole, relative to the executive, and also how to give more power to the elected National Assembly relative to the executive that merely emanates from it. That’s food for thought. That should be our aim for future action.


 Conclusion


Jugnauth threatened during the electoral campaign to lock up Ramgoolam. Just as Trump had his supporters shouting, “Lock her up!” against Hillary Clinton. For this to come true, it depends on the police, for sure. But it also depends on the DPP. Before it even comes to the Courts.


Lindsey Collen, for LALIT


  (i) This dangerous slippery slope towards a police state, and towards repressive forces for solving political rivalries, is not particularly new. Under the Labour Government, Pravind Jugnauth was literally hounded out by the police when he was in opposition, locked up on three charges. He was prosecuted over the purchase of the Medpoint Clinic without him having any intention to commit an offense. So, as he might say when everyone is up in arms, “Bate rande pa fer mal”. It is worth concluding this endnote on the reason for political parties turning to repressive forces to resolve their rivalries: it is no doubt the deep, decades-long crisis in social democracy, a form of relatively benign if unequal rule, at least benign-seeming, that had established itself from the 1920’s in many Western countries, and which drew its strength not so much from its own political program as from the capitalists’ fear of the spectre of massive, conscious working class revolution in their country as had happened in Russia in 1917-1922. However, since the defeat/fall of the sclerozed Soviet union empire in the 1990’s, the capitalists, in particular finance capitalists, are now running the world directly – as they were trying to do before the Russian Revolution. Today, Trump has set up a Cabinet that represents this direct rule by an alliance of military generals and actual capitalist bosses. Social democracy, like the form of bureaucratic rule in the USSR, is defeated. Which means the only challenge that will work will be to build another conscious, massive world revolution – for proper socialism this time round – based on a shared program for political change.


 (ii) It is hard to think of any other way they could hope to do so, since they have no real political program to differentiate them from Labour, and no political vision at all as to how to get out of the unemployment crisis, the housing crisis and the food security crisis. They, like Labour, just tail-end the sugar estate bosses, who are making a quick buck by selling off the sugar cane land, which belongs in essence to the people of Mauritius, who worked it over a period of 300 years.