A few months ago, the political situation in Mauritius was in ebullition with the Labour Party holding on to power with a slim majority in Parliament. The defection of the Movement Socialist Mauricien (MSM) from the government in 2011 could have endangered Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam’s rule, but the ongoing crisis offered a chance of a lifetime to Paul Berenger to grab power for the last time. <!—more–>
As a backdrop of the crisis, is the sale of a private medical institution, the MedPoint. MedPoint is where a historic meeting in 2000 sealed an unlikely alliance that defeated the MLP. Berenger, a Mauritian of European descent has clear chances of becoming Prime Minister again. After the MedPoint saga, the burning question around the ‘Government House’ in Port Louis is for how long will Ramgoolam hold on to power?
The ‘MedPoint affair’ as it is called in Mauritius, remains at the forefront of the events that has stirred the crisis. Now that the MMM and the Labour party has joined forces to bring massive constitutional changes in Mauritius, the battle is between former Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ) and Navin Ramgoolam. In this battle of personalities, it is apparent that SAJ has the upper hand, due to perceived faults in Ramgoolam’s leadership, and the creeping corruption that the latter’s reign has allowed to feed on the government’s projects and finances.
SAJ is credited with his ‘sacrifice’ that allowed Berenger to become Prime Minister in 2002. He is also known as the man who transformed Mauritius economy, assisted by Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo then Minister of Finance, who has now joined SAj in the battle against the Labour-MMM alliance.
While Berenger’s charisma brought him huge popularity, his being ‘white’ would always be a stumbling block in his political ambitions. His party would always face defeat with him as PM, sticking the label of ‘eternal’ opposition leader on his back. With Pravind Jugnauth as leader of the MSM, the MMM could not accept playing second fiddle to the smaller party. Jugnauth Jr. does not have the same clout that was known of his father. SAJ was tough to deal with and ruled at times with an iron fist. Unfortunately for Berenger, Pravind does not have that iron fisted personality, thus the MMM’s decision to unite with the Labour party on the backdrop of a 2nd republic that will – according to Berenger and Ramgoolam – transform Mauritius from a sleepy township to a hustle and bustle economic dragon.
Nevertheless, Berenger is being targeted for a historic flip-flop, with the town is buzzing that SAJ’s resignation as President of the nation to join the latter in the opposition against Ramgoolam a few years ago, was a move by Berenger to rid the country of the old political stalwart.
SAJ was mooted to lead a new MSM-MMM alliance, with his presidency being a pain in the neck of Ramgoolam, limiting the Labour party’s political plans over the years. During his reign as President, SAJ did criticize Ramgoolam’s government on major issues of contention. SAJ and Berenger will always be known as the two political animals who ‘destroyed’ Navin’s father, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) in the 1982 elections.
Labour sources indicate that Ramgoolam, who had tussles with SAJ since 2005, is still in control of situation despite the growing opposition to his alliance with Berenger.
Ramgoolam is said to have turned the tables against the Jugnauth clan, and has also caused Berenger to be unsettled, threatening him with arrests and legal actions prior to the 2010 elections.
The MedPoint Affair
The cabinet run by Ramgoolam since 2010 had two members of the Jagnauth clan as Ministers. Pravind, was the deputy PM and Minister of Finance. This made him one of the most powerful man in the country after Ramgoolam. Pravind’s cousin Shakoontala Howaldar was the Minister of Health. It is through her Ministry and under her tutelage that the MedPoint clinic sale was carried out.
This would be the most politically damaging sale in Mauritius history as the ‘pot of roses’ came under scrutiny.
MedPoint is a private medical institution owned by Dr Malhotra, the son –in –law of SAJ. Dr. Malhotra had been severely wounded in an ‘acid’ attack by a grudging customer who claimed the clinic overcharged him.
The clinic that was subsequently sold at an overvalued price of Mauritius Rupees (MRU) 114 million. MedPoint is said to be valued at MRU74 million.
The overpriced sale caught the attention of the Independent Anti-Corruption Agency (ICAC). An agency set-up by the Prime Minister, ICAC was viewed as a ‘lame agency’ by the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius.
Now it is seen as being ‘used’ as a political tool by the opposition. Ramgoolam claims the ICAC is an independent body that is doing its job. The Med Point clinic was said to be unprofitable, accumulating debts exceeding MRU100m. The Jugnauth clan is accused of literally plotting to get rid of the clinic by selling it to the Government.
Ramgoolam is also said to have played along with the Jugnauth clan in the Cabinet by allowing the deal to go through. He altogether allowed the payment by the Ministry of Finance to be approved. Ramgoolam has accused the Jugnauth clan of conflict of interest in the scandal in which Paul Berenger is being dragged inadvertently. Berenger placed himself in the line of fire for his support to the Jagnauth clan. Berenger has been Aneerood Jagnauth’s ‘political’ son since SAJ joined the MMM in the early 1970’s.
Overall, the Labour-MSM alliance in 2010 was one in which the MSM and the Labour did everything to undermine each other, and unfortunately for the MSM, Ramgoolam came on top in the MedPoint affair.
Will the MedPoint damage the MSM-PMSD-ML chances in the upcoming elections on Dec 10, or will the rising rejection of the Labour-MMM alliance sway the votes in favor of SAJ?
Ultimately, it is hoped that the Mauritians does not end up losers, in what seems to be a long drawn political battle between the most powerful clans in the country pitting the Ramgoolam’s against the Jugnauth’s and the Berenger’s against the Duval’s while the Muslims elites are backing the MMM-Labour alliance.
A question that remains unanswered: Where will the 1% Chinese vote go?