President Ramkalawan’s recent address to the nation, delivered on October 20th, was one of his most daring. Facing one of the toughest years of his political career, with the country undergoing a cost-of-living crisis, increasing crime, and facing severe domestic criticism surrounding the country’s ongoing politically motivated trial, his speech was an obvious attempt at deflecting criticism.
His first all too obvious attempt at doing this was seen through his promise to raise salaries. Although marketed as an attempt to address his own government’s failures to combat spiralling prices, this strategic decision was obviously aimed at the addressing criticism surrounding severe instances of corruption discovered in his cabinet. Most recently this even included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ronny Govinden, who was accused of acquiring properties below market value and selling them at extreme profits.
Raising salaries in a country suffering from flawed economic policy as well as corruption is not an adequate solution. It is the direct equivalent of throwing a bone to the people while the President and his cronies enjoy steak. Thinking that people would not see through this very obvious attempt at silencing critics is both naive and insulting.
A similar attempt has been made throughout the course of the legal case over the allegedly missing USD 50 million. The trial has seen any and all attempts at silencing the defense, including going so far as violating their human rights and overriding their right to due process. The government, understanding that it is under the constant supervision of human rights organisations and even the European Union, which funds much of its efforts, has paid lip service to these issues in a similar way. One thing unsurprisingly not mentioned by Ramkalawan is that the current vice president Ahmed Afif has remained free despite being deeply implicated in the case, from back when he was working for the Ministry of Finance in 2002.
Lip service, however, is insufficient when it comes to upholding the integrity of the country’s legal system. Consistently reiterating ones commitment to rule of law does not make a country a democracy, just like raising salaries nationally not take a country out of economic crisis. All that actually matters are results, and the outcome of concrete government actions to date do not make anyone optimistic.