Paul Lismore

[Paul Lismore] Freedom of expression : why we must always fight attacks by any politician against that fundamental right

Rédigé par Paul Lismore le Jeudi 28 Janvier 2021

"If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell, Preface to Animal Farm (1946).

Every now and then, some public figures have reacted rather hysterically to opinions about their ineptitude, hypocrisy, and greed, whilst at the same time pledging their absolute commitment to the notion of freedom of expression; such intellectual dishonesty brings to mind Noam Chomsky's famous dictum (published in Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992) when he raged against intolerant bigots shamelessly proclaiming their democratic credentials. He said, inter alia, that "Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."

It is a perverse law of human nature that those entrusted by us with the authority to govern the country somehow expect unconditional support and adulation for that supreme privilege. People suffering from an acute lack of imagination and objectivity apparently believe that the letters M.P. automatically confer on the bearer every positive attribute that ordinary mortals strive to achieve.

The magic 'X' on the ballot box in their favour is misconstrued by them as a sign of the enormous respect that we have for their handsome looks, great intellect, and impeccable manners, when all that we have done really on election day is choose the lesser of two evils, say a quick prayer, and hope for the best. Most of us grudgingly accept that a large number of our representatives in Parliament will inevitably be in the Macro and Putain category, and will spend the five years of their mandate thinking of ingenious ways to enrich themselves at our expense.

We have become used to this sad state of affairs, and we simply shrug our shoulders and plod on with our daily lives. 

 But what does stick in one's craw is the presumptuousness and outrageous gall of people in the public domain professing absolute devotion to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 1948, and simultaneously striving to remove my right to freedom of expression by asking me to reveal my identity. I have thought long and hard about whether I should respond to these clear attempts at intimidation, and I have decided that I owe it to myself to explain for the last time the reasons for using a pseudonym.

There is a very simple reason why I have chosen not to reveal my true identity, and I am convinced that most Mauritians will be able to relate to that:

I am afraid that cowardly, irredeemably vindictive politicians will adopt the tactic of choice of the bully and translate their frustrations with my comments into actions to harm the living conditions of my relatives. I am only too aware of the fragile democracy that exists in Paradise Island where the power of the legislative is supreme and almost dictatorial in practice, and remains untrammelled by an impotent and subservient executive.

The history of anonymous expression in political dissent is both extensive and commendable, and Voltaire's Candide is but one example of this honourable tradition; nobody complains about the fact that all editorials in British newspapers are written anonymously, or that in most legal systems, a name assumed for a non fraudulent purpose is a legal name and usable as the person's true name.

So, why do we see in Paradise Island the sporadic manifestation by a handful of public figures and some wannabes of an atavistic obsession with the pseudonym that I choose to use for my papers? Why is my name so important to these gentlemen? Would it make the message more palatable if my identity was known? Or, as I suspect most of you would agree, is it merely a crude attempt at intimidating me into a cowering silence that would accept without a murmur the gross waste of taxpayers' money by those charged by us to handle it with due care, and the disgraceful maladministration of our institutions?

I write as I find; it is as simple as that. I am not beholden to any political party, individual, or so called socio cultural group, and I will exercise the right open to every citizen to voice my opinion without fear or favour. 

Most of us know from experience that Sir Gaetan Duval's remark that the tragedy of Mauritius is the poor quality of its politicians is unfortunately too true. I have heard a few excerpts of Yatin Varma's interview by Radio Minus yesterday, and he falls in that category of absolutely useless, good for nothing, hypocritical, greedy politician. Never forget his shameless trawling of most of our useless parastatals for a legal adviser's post whilst he was a Member of Parliament, knowing full well that there are loads of easy pitaye in that many other zavokas politicians have found out.

Don't ignore the fact that the man whose arse he has been assiduously licking since being kicked out of the PTr is the same man he tried to sue for sedition in 2012 on a nonsensical charge: Pravind Jugnauth. Never forget his assault on a young man and his contemptible attempt to try to get out of it with the present of a cheap bottle of fizzy wine and a book. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and only He knows how he got away with that....

Now, as leader of that useless thing known as the Bar (or Tavern...) Council, where the vast majority of zavokas showed how much they value that organisation by once again declining to vote, he wants to take action against those who call themselves " The Avengers". Why? Is he scared of the truths that have come out primarily because of the work of these Avengers? He then has the impertinence to say that he is 'non political' when he is clearly doing the dirty work of la cuisine?

As I never intend to reveal my identity, let me make two suggestions to the political pygmies who have chosen to be in the public eye and then stupidly demand total respect and unswerving obedience from us: 1/ Do your job properly and I will praise you to the heavens 2/ if you pay only lip service to the principle of freedom of expression and your megalomania prevents you from tolerating any criticism whatsoever, do what President Harry S. Truman advised his oversensitive Secretary of State to do: "If you can't stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen."

Jeudi 28 Janvier 2021

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