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Capitulation of Aret Kokin Nu Laplaz in their Campaign v/s Le Chaland Hotel Project

14.07.2017

Rezistans & Alternativ (RA), together with the NGO Aret Kokin Nu Laplaz (AKNL) that it is also a member of, have concentrated their energies on halting the Currimjee Le Chaland Hotel Project near Mahebourg. So mobilized were they on this one campaign that RA held its Labour Day in Mahebourg two years in a row.


 Now, AKNL has suddenly capitulated in the most abject way.


 The circumstances are thoroughly bizarre. Equally bizarre, neither RA nor AKNL has offered any explanation. Instead, AKNL has tried, immediately after capitulation, to change the subject – presumably to prevent people seeing what a pickle they are in.


 There is enough on record to give an idea of the debacle. We just have to focus really hard, and put the bits from the press all together in one place. So, this is what we in LALIT are doing: explaining in this one article what has happened – insofar as the Press reveals it. Then, we will comment on how strange the role of the Press is in all this – so that we in LALIT, just like the public in general, have to really concentrate to understand what the AKNL has done, and then we still don’t really know.


 To summarise, for over two years RA made stopping the Le Chaland project their flagship campaign. They drew in dozens of people, especially enthusiastic young people, to protest against this Hotel project. Well and good. But the question is, Why did they so suddenly capitulate? What on earth is going on?


 For the record, we would like to quote what we said about this mobilization of RA two years ago: “Eco-Sud, together with Rezistans, are leading a campaign against the new La Cambuse hotel near Mahebourg on the basis that it will affect the sensitive ecology of the Blue Bay Marine Park. It is true that the hotel industry, including this new hotel, as well as the sugar estates there, are ruining the lagoon. But what is suspicious about EcoSud is that it is funded by the main Mauritian capitalists, the MCB, and more specifically, by the Croix du Sud Hotel Group (Preskil Beach Hotel and Astroea Beach) who are amongst those impinging directly on the sensitive Marine Park at Blue Bay. The two existing hotels that fund Eco-Sud are, as if by pure chance, direct competitors of the new hotel La Cambuse.” (Revi LALIT Sept 2015). In fact, one of RA’s main spokespeople and candidates is none other than Sebastien Sauvage, who is in charge of Eco-Sud.


 This means, although LALIT opposes this destructive form of development (hotels and IRS villas) in general, and campaigns tirelessly against it, we have nevertheless felt it necessary to keep a critical distance from AKNL. There are more than one reason, but one is precisely this funding of member organizations like EcoSud by capitalists with a vested interest in opposing the Le Chaland project as business competition; till today hotels like Preskil Beach Resort are shown as their funders on the AKNL web site. There is another conflict of interest when the main spokesperson for AKNL, Yan Hookoomsing, is also CSR manager for the HSBC Bank. Perhaps this latter conflict of interests could be avoided by Yan Hookoomsing making a disclosure of his interest. We do not know what bank is behind the Currimjee project, but it would be unlikely to be HSBC and more likely to be a competitor bank.


 Anyway, a time came when AKNL sought an injunction against the Currimjee project. They also appealed to the Environment and Land Use Tribunal. This official opposition was made by AKNL through Yan Hookoomsing, Veena Dholah, Michel Chiffone, Ian Jacob, Hervé Sénèque, Subash Hurree, a fair proportion of these being members of RA.


 Then, after all the months, even years of mobilization, there is total capitulation?


 On 25 June 2017, Week-End published a Currimjee paid communiqué that has not been replied to by the AKNL. The communiqué says that the AKNL has withdrawn its contestation altogether.


 So, after a long campaign, much pumped up by the mainstream press, there is an Agreement that remains secret between the AKNL and Currimjee. The Currimjee management however says in its communiqué about the Agreement: “Après relecture attentive du dossier, AKNL admet ne plus avoir d’objection contre le projet,” and that the AKNL accepts that Currimjee goes ahead on the basis of their original hotel project design “sans modification”. The only request that AKNL has made, according to the unrebutted Currimjee Communiqué, published in Week-End and then subsequently in every daily and every weekly imaginable, is that a “professionel independent, choisi par les deux parties, puisse venir effectuer une visite mensuelle du chantier.” This is the description of total defeat for AKNL. AKNL still has not replied until today.


 But there is worse to come. Read on.


 Just after the Agreement between AKNL and Currimjee, and before the Communiqué, AKNL had announced in the press that the “professional” would be named by AKNL and would monitor construction of the hotel. “C’est un match nul qui s’est déroulé aujourd’hui devant le Tribunal de l’environnement a, pour sa part, déclaré Yan Hookoomsing, du collectif Aret Kokin Nu Laplaz.” (L’Express 14 June 2017) and Un expert indépendant sera nommé à la discrétion d’AKNL pour surveiller les travaux” (Le Mauricien, 16 June 2017). The Currimjee communiqué says that the expert will be chosen by both sides and adds, with a sting, that “supervision du projet tombe sous le Environment Monitoring Committee du Ministere de l’Environnement”.


 The communiqué continues hogging the high moral ground by saying that “ses valeurs de ... intégrité aient fini par avoir raison.” Humiliation for AKNL goes on. The communiqué says that “tout ce qui a été dit par Currimjee Jeewanjee & Co Ltd durant ces deux dernières années était vrai ...” 


 So, after 2 years mobilization and combat, AKNL has signed an Agreement that allows this communiqué to stand without a whisper of a reply?


 How could this have happened?


 Here we get to the bottom of the matter. Mud bottom.


 In Week-End 21 May, a month prior to the Agreement between Currimjee and AKNL, the Currimjee management accused the AKNL, in a letter of the right-to-reply type, of serious misdeeds. Very serious indeed.


 We will quote in full for readers: “AKNL a allégué dans ce même article que la déclaration de M. Anil Currimjee, selon laquelle l’hôtel ne sera pas construit sur la dune de sable existante, mais sur le terrain où se trouve l’infrastructure du NCG, est contredite par les plans du Rapport EIA soumis par le promoteur lui-même.
   Pour preuve de cette affirmation, AKNL a soumis une copie d’un plan publié dans l’article de Week-End, qui aurait été prétendument extrait de ce Rapport EIA. Vous remarquerez que sous ce plan soumis par AKNL, il y a une légende en rouge qui se lit “Existing Ground Line (SAND DUNE)”.
C’est aussi un mensonge. Le Chaland Hotel Ltd n’a jamais soumis de plan avec une telle légende dans son Rapport EIA. C’est un faux. Nous joignons à la présente lettre une copie des plans réels présentés dans le Rapport EIA. On peut clairement y voir la légende qui se lit “Existing Ground Line (SHOWN DASHED)”.
   Cette falsification, c.à.d le remplacement des mots “(SHOWN DASHED)” par les mots “(SAND DUNE)”, a été faite dans le cadre de la campagne mensongère systématiquement organisée par AKNL pour dénigrer Le Chaland Hotel Ltd et tromper le public.
[LALIT has re-published in our REVI LALIT number 129 the sketches with the forgery on them that Week-End published on 21 May. See our Documents Section.]. [...] Il est regrettable que AKNL a non seulement recouru au mensonge, à la tromperie, mais aussi à l’usage de faux pour essayer tant bien que mal d’étayer son dossier, car il est conscient que toutes ses affirmations ne sont pas seulement fausses...”


 So with such accusations of forgery, falsification, faux, lies and deception, we expected a reply in the next Week-End newspaper. These accusations are accusations for criminal misdeeds.


 But, there was no reply. Dead silence.


 RA and AKNL say nothing. The Press asks them nothing. Silence.


 One month later, we get just the Currimjee communiqué in the Week-End of 25 June saying that the AKNL has withdrawn its objections and accepted that since the very beginning the Currimjees were in the right.


 On the eve of  this communique, there was an article in L’Express Samdi 24 June, citing even worse parts of the alleged Agreement, “AKNL ne pourra, ni directement ni indirectement, faire de commentaires negatifs sur le projet du Chaland.”


 And still no AKNL or RA reply to the 21 May accusations of forgery and falsification, lies and deception, published in the biggest circulation newspaper in the country?


 What kind of a debacle is this? Up what garden path were AKLN and RA leading young people?


 They have still not given any other reason, from their side, for their capitulation. Nor responded to the accusations of forgery and falsification, lies and deception. We truly do not comprehend. We knew that RA and AKNL were opportunist, but this degree of rot we were not anticipating. And the confrontation with the picnicking Pelangi project promoters cannot cover up either the accusations of forgery or this capitulation in their flagship battle against the Le Chaland project. Although the Press may help them try.


 In fact, the role of the press is somewhat mysterious in all this.


 After hyperbolic publicity from the Press for RA and AKNL on this project over 2 years, while other projects mushroomed, when there is such a catastrophic ending for RA and AKNL, the press does not give an iota of explanation. Nor, themselves, even write articles of fact.


 All they do is publish paid advertisements from the Currimjee side – hardly “the work” of the Press – and then move on to the video clip of AKNL against the Pelangi project promoters on the beach.


 Journalists were not seen going up to the leaders of RA or AKNL in hordes to ask them to give a declaration on the forgery accusations against them? Did not even one journalist do so? This is flabbergasting. It is as if RA and AKNL benefit from a “press pardon”. By this we mean the press, as a whole, had given RA ek AKNL advanced “pardons” for anything they might do – just as the Pardoners of the Middle Ages sold “pardons”, true ones and false ones, in the name of Rome to people who, when they would sin, would benefit from pre-arranged insurance against punishment from above.


 We are no longer in medieval times. We expect a modicum of rational behaviour from journalists who have covered the RA-AKNL campaign, often lavishly.


 We do realize that the RA leaders are chummy with lots of journalists. We realize at least one former journalist, Jean-Yves Chavrimootoo, is a RA leader. We also know that RA managed to draw into their Blok 104, as candidates for their Platform Pou Enn Nouvo Konstitisyon in 2010, many journalists including influential ones like Philippe Forget, Ivan Martial, Shenaz Patel.


 Be all this as it may, the Press nevertheless owes the public an explanation for the outright forgery on two drawings in an EIA document. At the least the public needs to know how this happened, if it did happen. The public also needs to know exactly why the AKNL has capitulated this way. Are these two things linked, as they seem to be? And why have the RA and AKNL not replied yet? It is now two months since the 21 May accusations against them were published.


 


LALIT, 14 July, 2017