Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Navin Ramgoolam: Deeds on Trial

In a Special Speech on 17 May 2012, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius spoke succinctly on a range of world and national issues, and religious and political developments. The Speech was made in the backdrop of recurring Divine Revelations received by the Khalifatullah (atba) and it included many comments that were prescient and prophetic, waiting to be unveiled in the fullness of time.

Almost three years down the timeline from that Speech, it is astonishing to reflect on the extraordinary Light of Truth the short document represents in many ways. In this essay, we shall seek to illustrate in this article the truthfulness of the Divine words which Allah made the Khalifatullah (atba) to pronounce on the Special Sermon vis-a-vis the then Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Navin Ramgoolam.

It is instructive and striking to note that the Speech that was made in May 2012 began its assessment of the national issues with a frontal attack on the wily character of the then actual Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam and his rampant, corrupt business practices, seeking to defraud the national exchequer by millions of rupees and his hypocritical duplicities and strategies to remain in power even beyond his term of office (ending in 2015). The Khalifatullah (atba) goes on to state: “If a profound investigation is made on his activities, then there is prison involved for him, and it is possible that such prison terms be for life!”  

Recently, on 17 March 2015, the journalist James Wan of the Al Jazeera English Network reported the ongoing predicament of the former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam and his coterie of people who face the troubling prospect of their ignominious deeds swiftly catching up with them. The long arm of national law and justice system is certainly seeking to put them on trial for their misdeeds and egregious offences.

Extracts from the Report is reproduced below: 

At the start of December 2014, Ramgoolam's future could barely have looked more rosy. 

As the country's prime minister since 2005 - as well as having served a term from 1995-2000 - he called early elections for December 10. 

As part of a new coalition, Ramgoolam was widely expected to run away with the victory, with some even suggesting the coalition might win every single seat in parliament. The plan after the polls was to change the constitution to confer more powers on the presidency, for which Ramgoolam would then run in turn.

Wrong decision

However, the public turned sharply against the incumbent, leading the opposition Alliance Lepep to victory in a landslide. Ramgoolam even lost his own parliamentary seat and, a week later, was replaced by 84-year-old Anerood Jugnauth, who returned to the premiership for his sixth term since 1982.

But this was just the start of Ramgoolam's demise. In February, he was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and money-laundering. The former prime minister was accused of having made a false statement regarding a robbery at his beach property in 2011, while the police who searched his home discovered coffers packed with $6.4 million in cash - much of it in foreign currency.

Ramgoolam protested his innocence, claiming the money was from legitimate donations to his Labour party.

This first domino, however, led to more dramatic events, which followed in quick succession. Former Bank of Mauritius Governor Rundheersing Bheenick was arrested with cash and confidential documents found at his house. Allegations surfaced that Ramgoolam's close associate Nandanee Soornack - who fled to Italy with 12 suitcases after the results of the election became clear - had received preferential treatment in government contracts. And two FBI agents were flown in to help follow the Ramgoolam money trail.

If a week is a long time in politics, then the last few months must have felt like several lifetimes to the former prime minister, for whom formal hearings have recently commenced.

'Musical chairs'

The arrest of a former prime minister is unprecedented in Mauritius. 

Since independence from Britain in 1968, the island's political culture has relied heavily on rotating alliances among a tight-knit political class, and when leaders are defeated, they have typically launched comeback after comeback. Jugnauth's party, for instance, has been allied with Ramgoolam's in a number of previous elections, while Jugnauth himself has been in and out of power for more than three decades.

"One of the reasons there has been stability in Mauritius is that, at least until now, no one was ever totally out the game," political analyst Jocelyn Chan Low told Al Jazeera. "You lose an election but then you return. It's musical chairs - one day you're in, one day you're out."

According to some commentators, this carousel-like system has made politicians reluctant to challenge one another, especially on issues in which all parties may be implicated. After his arrest, for example, Ramgoolam warned ominously, "when you live in glass houses, you do not throw stones". 

As Chan Low pointed out, "There has long been a public feeling that there is a tacit understanding among the political class that they really know what was happening around clientalism and crony capitalism, but still it continued."

What changed in this landscape is difficult to say. Some suggest the Jugnauth government's decision to pursue Ramgoolam was the result of political animosities that finally bubbled over. While giving some credence to this reading, Manchester University anthropologist Sean Carey also emphasised the shifting nature of Mauritian society more broadly.

"Five or 10 years ago, this wouldn't happened," he said. "The scandals would have been kept under the carpet. But there are ever growing internal pressures from the likes of graduates and the middle classes. Also, as Mauritius becomes more engaged with the world, there is the notion that the rules by which we previously lived are challengeable. People want a more meritocratic society and are less willing to accept the status quo."

What will come of Ramgoolam's case and the other scandals remains to be seen. The cases are likely to be ongoing for some time, but although there have been concerns about police leaks and counter-allegations of an organised conspiracy against the former prime minister, most here trust in Mauritius' independent judiciary to ensure a fair trial.

However, there is a sense that regardless of the outcome, this has already been a watershed moment in Mauritian politics….

(c) Al Jazeera- March 17,  2015). For the Full Report, see the link here.