The first part of the past fortnight was relatively calm at a local political level, with mopping up operations after the resignation of the disgraced President of the Republic, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. The Commission of Enquiry – into the Commission of Enquiry that she was going to set up, and into her actions together with others prior to her resignation – has not yet been set up, and its terms of reference are still not clear. ICAC has, however, started to hall people in for questioning about Alvaro Sobrinho, the Angolan-Portuguese billionaire who was close to the President of the Republic. ICAC have been to visit car importers to see who got the limousines. They have called in Board of Investment bosses about what investments there are or were. They called in Sydney Bathfield about real estate deals, and it now seems that there were finally only two properties actually sold to Sobrinho, one in the Royal Park IRS and one in Ebene. The former Secretary of the President of the Republic, Dass Appadoo, who in a year’s leave of absence became a Sobrinho employee and then came back into the Civil Service, is going to be questioned. It is not clear if ICAC have any specific plan in their questioning. But, the ICAC’s reputation of being close to the executive shows a shadow over it.
The relative calm even spread to the Parliamentary Opposition parties, who are fighting less amongst themselves, and building up a focus against Government.
When Parliament came back into action again as from 27 March and then 3 April, it is interesting that four of the Parliamentary Questions are on LALIT campaign issues.
Kreol in Parliament
Rajesh Bhagwan (MMM) asked about whether and if so, when, Kreol will be introduced as a language in Parliament. The Prime Minister replied that it would come about, but there are, he said, technical issues to be ironed out. He named these: training of staff and acquisition of hardware and software that can automatically generate the first rush of the Unrevised Hansard. He refused to give a time frame. He quoted Dev Virahsawmy at length on how it was not the right moment. As ever, Dev Virahsawmy lends himself to this kind of move.
Osman Mohamed (Labour) asked about social housing. Housing Minister produced the following figures.
There are as many as 20,776 applications for NHDC Houses.
Of these, 11,443 applicants earn between Rs6,200 and Rs10,000
6,396 earn between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000
2,937 earn between Rs15,000 and Rs 20,000
This means Government’s back-log is enormous. And in LALIT we know that many people in severe housing difficulties do not even apply.
The Minister said that since the Government came to power, from January 205 to 21 March 2018, they had constructed 1,358 housing units and allocated 1,045 housing units. By the end of this year, he expects another 1,067, and by the end of next year another 2,588. And Government will float a tender for consultancy services for another 6,680 housing units in the coming budget.
Integrated Resort Scheme
Bobby Hareeram (MSM) asked for details on the Environment Impact Assessment for an Integrated Resort Scheme.
Opposition Leader Xavier Duval asked a PNQ on Police Brutality. Aneerood Jugnauth, as Mentor Minister replied that there had been 541 complaints submitted to the Human Rights Commission since January 2015. He continued that, “Out of these cases, in only one case, namely that of late Mr Mohamed Iqbal Toofany, who passed away in Police custody on 02 March 2015, five Police Officers were arrested. They were interdicted on 04 March 2015 and, on the same day, a provisional charge of “torture by Public Official” was launched against them.”
On a second part of the PNQ, Aneerood Jugnauth said, “on 29 January 2018, Mr D. G. [David Gaiqui] made a complaint at the Curepipe Police Station to the effect that he had been a victim of Police brutality. ... After having examined all the evidence, including statements of Mr D. G. and his relatives, as well as the testimony of 16 witnesses and medical reports, entries in diary books and occurrence books, the Police Complaints Division concluded that there had been no act of Police brutality committed upon Mr D. G. during the time he was in Police custody. As regards allegations of strip search, on the basis of evidence adduced during investigation, the Police Complaints Division found that the strip search was carried out in a humiliating manner. Police Officers responsible for the search at the material time failed to take necessary care to protect his privacy. Moreover, the Police Complaints Division found that there was no justification for strip search to be conducted upon Mr D. G. It is to be noted that the photograph of Mr D. G., which was published in several newspapers, showing him naked, was never produced to the Police Complaints Division since the Counsel who took the photograph refused to appear before the Division to give evidence. Following the investigation, the Police Complaints Division, pursuant to section 14(1) (b) (ii), has recommended on 08 March 2018, to the Disciplined Forces Service Commission, that disciplinary proceedings be instituted against the three Police Officers concerned.”
On a third part of the PNQ, the Mentor Minister replied, “As regards the death [in Police custody] of Mr E. P. (Eddysen Pachee], following the complaint made by Mrs A. P., the wife of late Mr E. P., on 25 March 2018, at Rivière du Rempart Police Station, concerning Police brutality, the Police Complaints Division has, on the next day, initiated an investigation into the case. I am informed that the matter is still under investigation.”
He also said that, “Arrangements have already been made for the Independent Police Complaints Commission Act [voted two years ago] to be proclaimed on 09 April 2018. Following the Gazetting of the Proclamation Order and the swearing-in of the Chairperson and the Members, the Commission will become fully operational.” In LALIT, we would prefer a proper Constitutional body, and not just a Commission to look into police violence, which is rife in the investigative branch of the police.
Chagos, another LALIT campaign theme, was also discussed in the course of debate on the Bill to ratify The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on The Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects. This means that at least the Parliamentary Questions have some programmatic interest. Meanwhile at the Non-Aligned Summit Foreign Affairs Minister has been garnering support for Mauritius for the ICJ case.
Sex Abuse Forces itself into the Press in Mauritius
Finally the Press is forced to talk about sex abuse, instead of continuing to partly deny, partly hide it. Two items in the news that have held all the media on the topic are charges against the chef de mission of the Commonwealth Games in Australia, Kaysee Tirvengadum and imminent charges against Nad Sivaramen, director of all publications at L’Express group.