Mauritius: Demystifying the Privy Council

On Monday, we skipped lunch, put our work on hold, wore a do-not-disturb notice on our foreheads and sat for four hours watching the live debates of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This board, we think, will decide, beyond any doubt, whether the 2019 election was genuinely free, fair and credible. The razzmatazz surrounding the debate is therefore fully justified, isn’t it?

Is it? The answer to that could be summed up in another question put by a lawyer during the Radio Plus debate on the day: if you take a very good football player, make him wear a pair of shoes which happen to be too tight for him and ask him to run and score. How many goals is he likely to score? Our shoes have been tightened first by our own outdated laws. Those are the shoes that the Law Lords sitting on that committee were wearing. Ironically, we still believe they will be able to score.

Secondly, as Kris Valaydon highlighted in yesterday’s l’express, there is no point stressing the irregularities that happened on Polling Day when so many unfair practices – some of which were legal -were prepared way before, like enticing the Indian and Bangladeshi workers to vote. These guests in our country do not have the Mauritian nationality and do not even speak the language, let alone understand what they are voting for. While these commonwealth citizens were being shuttled from one constituency to another, according to the Kistnen Leaks, many of our compatriots found out that their name had been legally struck off the electoral register with no further ado. As for the role of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, let’s not even go there. Seasoned politician and journalist Jean Claude de l’Estrac summed up the role the MBC is playing today by openly saying that “we will never have free elections for as long as the broadcasting station is being manipulated the way it is today.”

The Privy Council – and the world – sees the range of ‘independent’ institutions we have to fight every crime in society and ensure that justice prevails: An Independent Commission Against Corruption whose head is appointed by the president of the Republic, who himself is nominated by Parliament, after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; a police commissioner with full powers who does not take orders from anyone. A Parliament elected ‘democratically’ and presided over by a speaker who is so independent that he does not belong to any political party and does not stand for elections to avoid any bias. Parliamentarians free to ask questions and insist on accountability with backbenchers enjoying the right to put their own leader on the spot when their duty to protect their constituents calls for it. An Integrity Reporting Service Agency headed by two highflying expats brought all the way from the UK to enhance the fight on ill-gotten wealth. We even have a Mauritius Standards Bureau to make sure everything we buy is of high standards. Our constitution guarantees the freedom of expression. We have a Special Striking Team to give the drug mafia sleepless night. We have an Electoral Supervisory Commission to make sure our elections are free, fair and credible.