Mauritius: CAN anyone bell the cat?

The Special Striking Team struck this country in August last year like a violent thunderstorm, shrouded in mystery: no one knows its mandate, standing orders, who reports to who and how it fits in with other police units. And like a thunderstorm, it has been unrelenting. There hasn’t been a single week when it didn’t somehow compete for the headlines.

It was greeted with the suspicion that it deserves. Considering that all the ‘initiatives’ taken by the government have been to annihilate the opposition and strengthen its grip on power, I don’t know how many people believed – and still believe – in the SST’s declared aim of better fighting the drug scourge.

And lo and behold. The SST inaugurated its mission with high profile cases and continued with even higher ones: Akil Bissessur, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Bruneau Laurette, Rama Valayden and, more recently, Sherry Singh. The alleged offences differ but what these protagonists have in common is that they are all political opponents well-known for their stand against the government. The SST rode roughshod on all of them, not worrying in the least about public opinion.

Now that the SST is embroiled in a very serious allegation of colluding in drug trafficking and protecting convicted drug dealers, who will bell the cat?

That is the question that has been worrying citizens this last week. The prime minister persists that the police will be able to conduct a totally independent inquiry into the allegations made against its own people in the SST. The leader of the opposition maintains that only an independent inquiry by a foreign agency will allay the population’s fear of a cover up. Others are calling for a full-fledged commission of inquiry chaired by a sitting judge.

The fact of the matter is that whoever enquires into this case is potentially immaterial. The result is likely to be the same: we will not see justice. Indeed, it is the men and women heading our institutions who give them or rob them of the independence and fairness that make them function properly. Take any institution, including the Electoral Supervisory Commission – a once fiercely independent institution – and place political nominees who are partisan on its board and you might see it immediately turn into a branch of the Sun Trust. Take the central bank – an institution hitherto known for its boisterous squabbles with the Ministry of Finance about monetary policy – place someone malleable at its head and watch him/her open the vaults for government to use as it wishes, devalue the rupee at will without the slightest care for the interest of the consumers. This reasoning applies to most of our institutions today.