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[Paul Lismore] OUR INDIFFERENCE MAKES US ACCOMPLICES TO THE CRIME OF CORRUPTION


Rédigé par Paul Lismore le Dimanche 16 Février 2020

"Power does not corrupt men. Fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."–George Bernard Shaw.



The recent ranking by Transparency International of Mauritius in the corruption league of shame, even based on the bogus figures presented by its buffoon of a local representative, has elicited hardly any comments or concern; our reaction has largely been a defeatist shrug of the shoulders to what seems to most of us an inevitable aspect of public life in Mauritius, and that complacent attitude is perhaps a subconscious acknowledgement that we have become inured to this intensely undesirable side effect of a democracy that functions in name only.

Our attitude to corruption is typical of the 'elephant in the living room' syndrome: the obvious truth, that so many aspects of our lives are subject to a degree of corruption so endemic that it has become institutionalised, is ignored either because many of us hope to benefit from it, or many more are scared of the repercussions from the expert manipulators of the truth and the feckless masters of flagitiousness.

Politics have become caricaturized into an absurd game where the incompetence and corruption of the regime in place is rightly excoriated by the opposition until the latter takes power at the next elections….and then proceeds to replicate exactly the same reprehensible conduct that it found so objectionable in opposition.

Our short political history is teeming with examples that put all politicians and political parties in the basket reserved specially for poseurs, shysters, and self-serving idiots.

Let us start with the five years preceding every election: the opposition candidates have no problems whatsoever walking around without police bodyguards or driving their own cars whilst mocking ministers being escorted in chauffeur driven limousines.

Twenty four hours following an electoral victory, the same people have suddenly decided that our votes in their favour have made their situations highly dangerous and they now need police bodyguards and chauffeur driven limousines on a 24 hour basis. The height of ridicule is reached when those ministers kicked out of office at the next elections are strenuously denouncing the new incumbents for having…police bodyguards and chauffeur driven limousines!

A few months ago, I saw an ex-minister in shorts and flip-flops at Quatre-Bornes market; he was on his own and trying to bargain with the vegetable seller for a better price for a few kilos of tomatoes. I asked him whether he felt safe being on his own and whether he missed having his police bodyguards do his shopping, take his children to school, or drive him around. This man, who had been in charge of our destiny for five long years, missed the irony completely and mistook me for a sympathizer concerned for his welfare; " ki mo pou fer?" he replied dolefully. I was tempted to ask him to detail all his achievements as a minister, but realized quickly that such a futile exercise made running in front of the traffic a far more irresistible proposition

We have become experts at making the right noises in order to address any of the many problems that afflict our society; everyone agrees that corruption is a major problem that needs tackling urgently, so we spend a fortune in establishing a body armed with sufficient legal powers to investigate allegations of corruption and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

I do not need to remind you of ICAC's moribundity and rapid descent into obsolescence since vast amounts of public money were set aside for that useless body to satiate our ardent desire for a meaningful battle against corruption. A public holiday ought to be decreed on the day that ICAC finally brings a really serious investigation into large scale corruption to a positive conclusion; in the meantime, we will have to make do with the odd cases of police officers or junior civil servants accused of taking a little bribe, ene ti di te, whilst the real sharks continue to swim effortlessly in the cesspool made specifically to their measurements.

On the ICAC issue, remember this: When it was created in 2003, under the Prime Ministership of Paul Berenger, its first Director General, Navin Beekharry, was on Rs 350,000 + expenses/chauffeur driven limousine, etc etc. In those days, the average worker used to get Rs 5000 a month....

The same chuttur ka mou has been back in charge of ICAC for the last few years, and for lots more of your money, he has so far achieved sweet fuck all of any note...Samputh and Choomka can sleep comfortably.

Let us look at some examples of the fight against corruption in countries that do not boast of the democracy that our government loves to boast about.

This is one of many examples from Africa: In 2007, the High Court in London ruled that the former Zambian President, Frederick Chiluba, took part in two separate conspiracies to siphon off nearly one and a half billion rupees; he had a world wide reputation as a "smart and expensive dresser" and had hundreds of stylish suits and shirts bearing his monogram "FJT", and specially made "signature" shoes with extra-high heels (he was only five foot tall..).

An exclusive shop in Switzerland - Boutique Basile - received nearly Rs 40 millions, Rs 10 millions was plundered by an aide to pay school fees, and other large sums were stolen on behalf of Chiluba by Xavier Chungu, former head of Zambian secret intelligence services, Stella Chibanda, a former senior official in the Ministry of Finance, two financial advisers, and former Zambian ambassador to the US, Atan Shansonga.

The case was brought in London by the Attorney General of Zambia because it was considered to be the centre of wrongdoing by Chiluba and his gang of mercenaries and because the stolen money passed through bank accounts in London. With the best will in the world, can we imagine any Mauritian Attorney General ever embarking on a similar course of action against some of our inexplicably very rich politicians? The Judge, Mr Justice Peter Smith, ordered that the money recovered must be returned to the government of Zambia to be invested in the people's future - such as education or clean drinking water for some of the seven million Zambians living in poverty; he condemned the corruption as "taking place when the vast majority of Zambians were struggling to live on one dollar a day and many could not afford more than one meal a day. He was the President at the top of the control of government finances.

He was uniquely positioned to prevent any corruption. Instead of preventing corruption, he actively participated in it and ensured it happened. It is a shameful series of actions and he should be ashamed".
 In 2007 also, the Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, hanged himself only hours before being questioned in Parliament and amid growing calls for his resignation over allegations that he had claimed over Rs 6 millions for official expenses that had already been paid from the public purse.


Again in 2007, Joseph Estrada, the former President of the Philippines, was sentenced to life in prison and barred from holding public office again after being found guilty of corruption in a marathon six-year trial; he was convicted of receiving millions of pounds from illegal gambling and taking commissions in the sale of shares to government pension funds. The court also ordered him to forfeit a mansion and nearly Rs 500 millions that were deposited into two bank accounts. Now, Lee Shim has obtained a monopoly over gambling in Mauritius, et zamai li pou rode bribe ban Jugs, non....
 
Other examples: Israel's attorney general ordered police to open a criminal investigation into allegations that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fraudulently purchased a Jerusalem home well below market value, in return for awarding construction permits to the developer.

Jacques Chirac, the ex President of France, was investigated over a secret Japanese bank account containing nearly Rs 2 billions. Alberto Fujimori, the former President of Peru, was sentenced to long periods of imprisonment after losing his battle to avoid extradition from Chile to face corruption and human rights charges. He also had to return hundreds of millions of stolen dollars. 

Nigeria's Parliamentary Speaker, Patricia Etteh, was found guilty by a panel of M.P.s in a Rs 150 million corruption scandal that included the purchase of Rs 20 millions worth of massage equipment for her office and 10 new cars. 

A 110 page report by the international risk consultancy Kroll exposed the breathtaking extent of corruption perpetrated by the family of former Kenyan President, Daniel Arap Moi; apparently, Rs 60 billions of government money had been siphoned off in an uncontrolled orgy of looting, which were then used to purchase multi million pound properties in London, New York and South Africa, as well as a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia and bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pounds.

According to the report, the ex President's sons, Philip and Gideon, are now worth well over Rs 25 and Rs 35 billions respectively. In case if you are wondering, nothing will happen to these charming individuals. Why? Because the Kenyan parliament, in an uncanny echo of the law that shackles our own ICAC, recently legislated that the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) will no longer be able to investigate offences committed before May 2003, when it was set up!

I hope this little list of examples of corruption in other countries will prod you into asking yourselves this obvious question:

How come we all talk amongst ourselves about the mephitical nature of corruption at all levels of our society, and yet no one in a senior position is ever taken to court or found guilty of corrupt practices?

How do our politicians manage to send their children to universities abroad on salaries that in the past could simply not justify such expenses? How many of them own property abroad and have bank accounts that have managed to escape the "scrutiny" of ICAC, the MRA, or the police?

The obfuscation over party political funding and the disgraceful procrastination employed over the implementation of a Freedom of Information Act guarantees that corruption's destructive influence will continue to ravage our society. 

It is an absolutely key issue for the democratic system that people know where political parties are getting their funds — to see who might possibly have some influence on their future policy making and to ensure that governments work for all the people and not just those who finance them.
 
But do we really care? Our apparent indifference has made us passive accomplices to that most selfish of sins. That is why the so called battle against corruption in Paradise Island remains hitherto a concatenation of futile stunts designed to fool us into thinking that something is being done.

Either that or we are truly governed by sweet little angels who desperately want to servi nou pays....and who will never steal even one cent from us.

Dimanche 16 Février 2020

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