The comments made by the sitting prime minister and a lawyer, who has perhaps spent more time in court as a defendant than as a barrister defending clients, is of utmost gravity, no matter which way we look at it. It puts each and every one of us at risk of not being afforded an entirely fair trial if we were to appear in court. It is very dangerous.
The prime minister’s blurring the lines between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary has reached an obsessive and obsessional level. He has become totally averse to anyone and anything that he cannot bend to suit his own personal desires and caprices. And he reacts in more and more abusive ways.
You will recall the continuous brickbats that were directed at the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). These took time to develop into direct frontal attacks going crescendo and culminating in the Wild West car chase we witnessed and which was also in a way done in contempt of a Supreme Court decision. For the new DPP Rachid Ahmine, there was no grace period. From day one, he went under a full-blown apparently concerted and direct attack from all the arms of the MSM, using all the power they have to try and discredit him. From people leaking information out of his office to being accused of having a link with the drug mafia, going through filthy pages like Sun TV, the whole machinery was unleashed against him.
We knew from the start that Mr Ahmine would not have an easy task. What we didn’t know was that an all-out war would be declared on him from the first week of his taking office.
Having manifestly got away with that, as there is currently no independent institution in the country to hold him to account, the prime minister turned his attention to a senior district magistrate who gave a judgement that even her detractors said was very good. So good in fact that they said it had been written by a former chief justice. And it is this judgment that Pravind Jugnauth finds “bankal” handed down by a magistrate who is “incompetent”. This is a real threat to our civic freedoms.
Granted that the PM is outraged that one of his arch enemies is enjoying some semblance of freedom while the police are dragging their feet to complete the inquiry into the provisional charges against him; granted that the prime minister is used to seeing everyone bend to his whims and fancies; granted that he suddenly finds himself confronted with professionals who are different from the hangers-on who say ‘yes, my lord’ to every single one of his wishes. But he really should start thinking about hiding those feelings and obsessions as they are incompatible with state matters.
We all know that those who are heading most of our institutions whose independence we have a vague memory of are waiting with pen and paper for instructions they are happy to execute. Many feel honoured when their opinion on several matters is given to them. Now the prime minister is firing at the only two institutions, apart from the press, with a backbone that have been resisting the pressure to cave in: the office of the DPP and the Judiciary.
These institutions are made of men and women like all of us with ambitions, desires, fears, apprehensions and hopes. We don’t know for how long they will be able to sustain the pressure, insults and smear campaigns they are subjected to every time they show their independence and their decisions go against the will of the autocrat at the helm (dixit V-Dem).
Both institutions under attack are fighting an uphill battle with powerful means deployed against them. Those who are silent in the face of this blaring injustice or are using sugary language like the one used by the Bar Council have let them down. And if they go down, so does the little justice we can still aspire to in this country.
We are living in dangerous times. We are all at risk. J’accuse.