The political pot is still boiling and for some time it can be observed that arrests and intimidation against political opponents are more and more frequent. Several attempts to muzzle the press and put a padlock on freedom of expression have been noted. The question that arises is, are we in a locked power? Are we heading towards a totalitarian drift? To address this subject, the Ki nouvo Moris set of June 26, 2023, had as guest Dev Ramano, a left-wing lawyer and political activist, very committed from a young age. The debate was hosted by Ashvin Gudday.
An assessment of the political situation in Mauritius.
To have a precise picture of the situation that prevails in Mauritius, we must look at if from a global point of view, that is to say at least 3 and a half years. Let us remember that during the state of emergency of Covid-19, the Attorney General who was the main adviser of the government concerning the reform of the laws had made a declaration to say, that there was a lot of archaic law which deserved changes in order to adapt to the situation and the reality that Mauritius was facing at that time. Certainly, there were several laws which had been created to cater for the unprecedented context in which Mauritius was immersed. Nevertheless, there were also some legislatures which went against the freedom and right guaranteed by the Constitution to each Mauritian. Dev Ramano says that it was quite predictable that the government would try to move in a direction that would taint the country’s democratic situation. Indeed, just a short time after this announcement, there were laws limiting the right of movement and the freedom of expression. In addition, the Criminal Code had also been amended so that those who do not comply with it were punished with fines that the lawyer deemed exorbitant. For example, the Work Access Permit use at the time.
“What was really important was to understand the situation we were really in, a context of a pandemic where the population was in fear, isolated, people felt alone, there was no physical contact with other which largely affected people’s mental health. What was unfortunate was that this government had served the anxiety of the people to become autocratic.”
The political situation of the country will become more and more autocratic in the future claims Dev Ramano. The lawyer assures that the objective of these amendments and the implementation of these acts such as the Covid-19 Act, the Quarantine Act, the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act was a tactic to muzzle the masses. Dev Ramano says that all the parties that have been in power have tried so hard to undermine democracy. The problem does not only come from the current regime since each party that was in power post-independence came up with bills that endanger the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. The amendments of 1970 and 1971 for instance were extremely against the very idea of human rights, such as the right to strike which had been wrested from people as well as the censorship of the press.
All the government that Mauritius as known before the current regime cannot be qualified as a healthy government because they have their part of anti-democratic action too. It is important to know that all the successive governments, are simply divergent in form but they have the same policy in substance, and it is this policy which has a negative impact on freedom of expression. To understand the functioning of these political parties, it is important to know the history of Mauritius.”
Dev Ramano finds it regrettable that people who dare to voice out, whether trade unionist and extra-parliamentary opposition movements, see all forms of tools of repression used against them. What is unfortunate is that this will always be the case as long as Mauritius is a state and class society which uses state repressive apparatus such as the police force to contain the population. Concerning the private press, journalists are more and more summoned and intimidated because they do not mince their words when writing articles concerning the abuse of power and unjust enrichment of certain political personalities.
“It is a government allergic to criticism and it is the typical behavior of these regimes towards investigative journalists. They will find several stratagems to stop them.”
What happens to our institution?
According to the information and opinion of citizens, our institutions are infected. Whether it is the police or the health system, all our institutions do not seem to be spared. Consider the scandal of Molnupiravir where it was the public’s money that had been used to pay for the tablets at 79.50 rupee when it only cost 9.75 rupee. The lawyer characterized this action as the theft of the working class, because taxpayers’ money was used to make profit. For Dev Ramano, this explains why citizens are enraged. To do the cleaning that Mauritius needs, it is therefore necessary to have the mobilization of the citizens.
Mauritius needs a three-pronged project, firstly provide immediate solutions to stop the gangrene of our institutions. In addition, it is necessary to have the corporation of everyone so that things can evolve. Change will come with the citizen mobilization. Last but not least, how to bring a political reflection in order to bring an in-depth societal change. As such addressing the several ills of Mauritian society to create an island based on social justice and therefore eliminating unjust enrichment.