Thursday 8 December, in the run-up to UN Human Rights Day, the organizations JUSTICE, that opposes police brutality, and MUVMAN LIBERASYON FAM, the most important women's liberation organization in Mauritius, jointly launched two booklets.
One reprinted below is by Jean Claude Bibi. (The other in a separate web article is by Ram Seegobin.) The two prefaces are printed below the article.
The Press and TV were present in surprisingly large numbers at the Company Gardens Kiosk for the event. Neither TV NOR ANY NEWSPAPERS covered the press conference. We are publishing the booklet in toto below, so that you can ponder with LALIT as to why the Press, which claims "independence", blacked out the whole event and all reference to the booklet. Radio Stations covered the event well. One journalist from the newspaper, Le Dimanche, telephoned Ram Seegobin, and produced an excellent article, even though he had not been at the press conference in person.
Here is Jean Claude Bibi's analysis of the run-up to Kaya's arrest. It also throws light on WHY there were such huge nation-wide riots after Kaya's body was found in police cells.
LAW-KEEPERS AND HYPOCRITES
THE INJUSTICE OF KAYA'S DEATH
Kaya was found dead in a police cell one Sunday morning the February 1999. Others, too many others, had previously died in police cells in suspicious circumstances whilst under the custody, but obviously not in the care, of the Law-keepers.
Why was Kaya arrested? Why was he at the infamous Alcatraz? What crime had he committed? Whom had he offended?
Kaya was arrested on Thursday, 18 February, 1999 because some apparently nice people were upset or pretended to be upset when they learned that other people, people like Kaya, had smoked gandia publicly and had therefore disobeyed the law of Mauritius in the presence of the police at a concert organized by the Mouvement Republicain on Tuesday, 16 February.
These nice people, who presumably do not smoke gandia nor disobey any law, were upset. Once upset they got very excited. They started to incite the police to keep the law that people like Kaya had disobeyed.
One of these nice people was Jean Claude de L'Estrac, a notoriously intelligent man, a veteran journalist, ex-politician and an erstwhile Minister of External Affairs who now happens to also be the Director of L'Express.
Another one was a journalist from Le Mauricien newspaper, Koomara Venkatasamy, who would later, incidentally, write the worst article of all in Week-End the day Kaya died, along with Jean Claude Antoine's indignant "Flics en delire" which lamented that the police at the concert had become "sourds, aveugles et sans odorat." But the very day after the concert, Koomara Venkatasamy was praising the National Intelligence Unit for their reporting (in their secret reports that only he knows about) what the ordinary police did not dare report (he knows their reports too): i.e. that people were smoking gandia in public, which fact made (he knew this too) the Prime Minister "outre". It goes without saying that the impressive amount of secret knowledge that Koomara Venkatasamy accumates can never be verified or for that matter denied by anybody.
Another of these nice people was Gilbert Ahnee, editor in chief of Le Mauricien who said: "Quoi qu'on puisse penser de la necessite de depenaliser, la provocation d'hier ressemblait fort a un overt breakdown of Law and Order."
Jean Claude de L'Estrac is an influential man who can write about almost anything with some intelligence to thousands of people almost every day of the year. As can Gilbert Ahnee.
This is what Jean Claude de L'Estrac wrote: "Cette drogue a ete consommee ouvertement ... an vu et an su de la foule ... Aucune arrestation pour consommation de gandia n'a ete effectuee."
Maybe Jean Claude de L'Estrac was more than upset. Perhaps even outraged. People like Kaya had offended his principles, his need for laws to be kept. JCL demanded that the Law-keepers do their job, just as they themselves were doing their job of inciting the Law-keepers.
So Kaya was arrested. Days after he had smoked a cigarette allegedly containing gandia handed to him by somebody in a crowd. Days after the evidence of any offence had already vanished into ... smoke. No cigarette was available for forensic analysis and therefore no evidence could ever have been produced to convict Kaya. The person in the crowd could have given him a tobacco cigarette mixed or not mixed with any known or unknown substance - for all anybody knows. It is as if somebody confessed to a murder but no corpse, no weapon, no explanation as to the location of the corpse nor the time of the murder could be known. Experienced police officers like Superintendent Le Bon know very well that without direct and scientific evidence regarding the contents of the cigarette, Kaya admitted he had smoked, conviction for the offense of smoking gandia was more than doubtful. Kaya committed a ghost crime. However, his death was very real.
JCL and his colleagues from Le Mauricien and Week-End had been so offended by this ghost crime that they screamed blue murder in their newspapers. Sooner, earlier than they ever imagined, they had a corpse, not on their clean and intelligent consciences, nor in their arms, but in a sordid police cell not very far from their respectable offices.
No politician, no leader of any "Socialist" party, nor of any "Federation" should blame L'Express or Le Mauricien for Kaya's death. JCL did not have Kaya in his custody and certainly not in his care. The Law-keepers did.
Curiously, Mr. Paul Berenger, leader of the remains of the MMM, vociferated ad nauseam that Mr. Valayden of the MR was to blame for Kaya's death. Unlike Lalit who correctly explained that the police was responsible for the welfare of Kaya whilst in detention and rightly demanded the immediate arrest of those police officers on duty at Alcatraz, Mr. Berenger and his allies preferred to make political capital out of the death of Kaya, and in the process came very close to absolving the "rotten police" (Prime Minister dixit) from any blame.
It is interesting to note that the women's wing of the MMM and other major political parties signed a petition which supported Lalit's demand for the arrest of those police officers on duty over the 24-hours before Kaya's death.
But then Mr. Berenger too has already joined the ranks of the Law-keepers and of those who incite Law-keepers to keep the law. It is worth remembering that, when in power, both Berenger and his present ally ex-Prime Minister Jugnauth did not hesitate to brutally and illegally dismiss eight hundred DWC workers. This is what a judgement of the Industrial Court of Mauritius has recently established. In 1992, the Prime Minister's Office gave directives to the management of DWC to carry out an illegal lock-out and sacked 800 workers who were on a legal strike. JCL too at the time was a Cabinet Minister in the very same government.
So much for the Law-keepers and their inciters.
We should not congratulate JCL, Ahnee, Venkatasamy, Antoine, Berenger and their ilk for their devotion to the law. Nor to justice. Their strident commitment to law-keeping is far from consistent. Homosexuality, for example, is a criminal offence in Mauritius. The act of sodomy, whether performed in public or private, is punishable by law. Sexual love between two consenting adult males is considered a crime in this country. Frequently enough, people are arrested, prosecuted and jailed for the offence of sodomy.
L'Express itself has in the past published a dossier on the subject and has allowed courageous homosexuals to express themselves. Inconsistently enough, or by accidental wisdom, neither L'Express nor Le Mauricien nor Week-End have so far campaigned for such law-breakers to be hounded out.
They have never campaigned for homosexuals to be arrested. Is it because sodomy occurs mostly in private? That would be no explanation: private acts of sodomy, even within marriage, are violations of the law.
Nor have JCL and Le Mauricien campaigned for the humanization and decriminalization of laws regarding sodomy. It can be mentioned here that the late Sir Gaetan Duval, QC, was courageous enough to acknowledge his known homosexuality. In this matter he was not a hypocrite, even though his politics were reactionary.
The inconsistency of the self-righteous law-lovers who incite Law-keepers can easily be demonstrated in yet another area. Abortion is against the law in Mauritius. They do not demand that women who have illegal abortions or doctors who perform them be branded as criminals, arrested, persecuted and jailed. Nor do they campaign for the decriminalization of abortion. Is it for fear of alienating the politically influential Catholic Church? Do they support the right of women to control their own bodies? Whatever they think on laws regarding homosexuality and abortion is a darkly kept secret. Political prudence is so often very close to abject hypocrisy and cowardice.
After the death of Kaya, while in police custody, even after the announcement published in L'Express that the death was the result of a "fractured skull", JCL did not call for the arrest of those who had custody over Kaya and were in charge of his care, i.e. the police officers at Alcatraz. Nor did Gilbert Ahnee. Nor did Koomara Venkatasamy, nor Jean Claude Antoine. Nor any journalist at any of these newspapers. Even after the publication of the contre-autopsie carried out by Dr. Ramstein, still no calls for arrests.
Lovers of the law and those who incite Law-keepers should be careful. They may find themselves, if they are not already, in strange company. Our top Law-keeper has been living in a state of "suspension" for quite some time . (It is not clear whether he stays "suspended" to collect his fat salary or if he collects his salary because he is not yet dismissed but only "suspended".) In any case, he has not yet been arrested, he is not yet in a police cell, and he still enjoys remarkable good health, at least physically.
Yet, the Sik Yuen Commission has found, inter alia, that there are grounds to prosecute him for criminal violations of the law. Businessmen hitherto enjoying much-deserved (?) respectability have also confessed to the crime of bribing our "suspended" Commissioner, an offense which carries up to10-year prison sentence. Unlike Kaya who was arrested, the corrupters and the corrupted are all at large, alive and kicking, free to go about their normal business. They are distributing alms to or collecting alms from the poor. None of them is locked up in a sordid police cell. Their health shows no sign of rapid fatal deterioration.
Kaya was a gifted and a popular musician. A popular law-breaker died in a police cell. He had had the courage to say he had smoked pot. He was frank. No court of law was likely to have direct evidence to convict him. Journalists from L'Express and Le Mauricien and Week-End assumed the role of policemen and magistrates, as if they could issue warrants of arrest. Afterwards, they deplored Kaya's death and may even be still in mourning, feeling, as they no doubt do, that his death was a horrible injustice.
Alive, Kaya denounced hypocrisy and social injustice in so many of his songs. Dead, hypocrites feel bolder. Some Law-keepers and their inciters may feel themselves lucky, but for how long?
Hypocrisy is a contemptible disease that is more destructive to Mauritian society and its questionable laws than smoking pot could ever be. Kaya is dead. Those infected with hypocrisy do not die of it. Hopefully, Kaya's death and the consequent riots would have served to expose the crass hypocrisy that that seems to have got so entrenched in high places.
We are now, more than ever, very much aware of this hypocrisy. We know who the hypocrites are. We know what to expect from the Law-keepers, especially those at the top.
Jean Claude Bibi
21st May, 1999. Western Sahara.
PREFACE to the booklet by JUSTICE
Justice is very pleased to be able to publish, jointly with the MLF, this important document by one of our own members. In 1999, when it was written, the press did not publish it. Not surprising: it criticizes the media for its role in calling for the arrest of people like Kaya.
This document stands for enlightenment relative to criminal codes, and for respect for human beings. We praise it for its reasoned arguments, exposing self-righteous hypocrisy.
The timing is also propitious, when there is a new wave in favour of more liberty when dealing with social problems: PILS and now many individual social workers are joining those of us who prefer to rely on ordinary people not state officers, and on our collective social control, not on repression and violence when confronting important social problems: from drug use to AIDS, from unwanted pregnancies to even the most difficult of subjects of rape, even rape of children and handicapped people, domestic violence and torture by officers of the state.
Repression and state violence only engenders further problems, often more grave than the original one.
PREFACE to the booklet by MUVMAN LIBERASYON FAM
Today, when there is a tendency for some people to call for more repression, it is important for us to remember where such repression leads us. Muvman Liberasyon Fam believes in Liberty. Women are in charge of informal "peace-keeping" in the household, in our neighbourhood. We in this women's movement know that it is freedom that brings real peace. The macho violence inflicted on people through repression does not solve anything. More often, it brings on even more serious problems for everyone in society.
When we, in Muvman Liberasyon Fam, re-read this article, written by Jean-Claude Bibi right after the mass rebellion of February 1999, we realized that it has special significance in today's context. He explains, with precision, how repression is not limited to institutions, or men from institutions that inflict it on others in the name of the State. Repression in its more brutal form happens when those with more influence and power in society demand it. Jean Claude Bibi exposes for all to see, the responsibility of those who demand repression as a so-called "solution".
7th December, 2005