The Mauritius Islands in the Indian Ocean have no laws to regulate political parties. When the islands gained their independence from the UK in 1968, the integrity of politicians rendered regulation redundant. Today, the sons of those leaders have taken over the family business and political parties now have more in common with the Mafia than their democratic counterparts in the US and Europe. A lone crusader has set out to challenge their domination of the nation. His story, like a John le Carré novel, stretches the bounds of credibility.
Nearly three weeks before the polls for the General Elections in Mauritius, an action was initiated in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of all Mauritian political parties. What started as a question, which the Chief Justice declined to answer, turned into a challenge when a second judge refused to explain why he believed the case was weak. After withdrawing the first case because of an alleged contravention of procedure, the protagonist immediately supplicated for an interim injunction to exclude all political parties from participating in the elections.
While this was denied, ex parte, Judge Shaheed Bhaukauraully ordered that “the respondents [including the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) and the President of the Republic] and the co-respondents [the 65 political parties] appear before me in Chambers on Tuesday the 27th day of April, 2010 at 10:00 hours to show why the…[petition]…should not be granted.” In a dramatic race against time and at a not insignificant expense, all of the political parties, including several in Rodrigues, were served notice of the proceedings.
When the fateful morning arrived, few political parties made an appearance, not even the two main coalition blocs. The list of parties that did send representatives reads like a scene from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”: the Mouvement Liberation Militant (MLM), the Mouvement Authentique Mauricien (MAM), the All United Mauritius Hindu Sanatan Association (AUMHSA), the Mouvement National Mauricien (MNM), the Front Peuple Mauricien (FPM), the Parti du Peuple Mauricien (PPM), the Voice of Hindu (VOH) and the Front Commun Musulman (FCM).
Also noticeable by his absence was the President and defender of the Constitution of Mauritius, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth. His representative moved that he be excused from the proceedings. Acknowledging the absence of the main parties that would be contesting the elections, the protagonist’s advocate moved that all the political parties be put out of cause. Both motions were granted. None of these parties insisted on costs except the AUMHSA and the MNM.
Sir Hamid Moollan QC, counsel for the ESC, then declared that his counter affidavit would be ready by the next morning so that the protagonist would have time to reply the same day. He moved that the matter be fixed for an early Hearing. The protagonist’s advocate agreed and the showdown was set for Thursday 29 April at 10:30 hours.
During the next twenty four hours, the protagonist prepared his affidavit. He sought to pre-empt every legal argument that Sir Hamid would make on the merits of the case and defeat them from first principles. His advocate, meanwhile, had a good night’s sleep and the next day, on receiving Sir Hamid’s counter affidavit, produced a second counter-counter affidavit to defeat the procedural obstacles that were thrown into the protagonist’s path. The protagonist swore his affidavit by 14:30 but the Judge’s secretary refused to accept it. Meanwhile, his advocate completed the second affidavit and the two were delivered to the Judge’s secretary and the respondents in advance of their presentation in Court the next day.
On the eve of the great battle, the protagonist presented his case to the official Election Observers from the Southern African Development Community. Needless to say, they were shocked into silence. When they had recovered their composure, they agreed to send two of their team to the Hearing the next morning.
On taking his bench in the Supreme Court, Sir Hamid Moollan consented to the presence of the Electoral Observers and several reporters. The protagonist had to take the place of his advocate who eventually made a late appearance. When the Judge arrived, he ordered the protagonist to the back of the Court. A complex discussion ensued between Sir Hamid Moollan, the Judge and the protagonist’s advocate over the acceptability of the two counter-counter affidavits. A plethora of objections were raised, including, most bizarrely: “the [protagonist’s] arguments are too argumentative”; closely followed by: “the [protagonist’s] affidavit is already in the public domain”.
The Judge ordered the protagonist to return to the front of the Court. Shortly afterwards he ordered him to move backwards again by one bench. Upon realising that the Election Observers and the press were beginning to view the proceedings as farcical, Sir Hamid ordered the Judge to clear his Court. The Judge duly complied and requested that the Election Observers and the press leave. Several men in police uniform, one of whom gave the impression of being a very poorly disguised member of the National Intelligence Unit, remained to safeguard their Bosses’ interests.
Outside the Court, the incredulous press asked the Election Observers, allegedly from Angola and Zimbabwe, what they thought about this unprecedented spectacle. They nonchalantly replied something like: “This sort of thing happens all the time where we come from”.
The Judge then sealed his Chamber with an order of secrecy. Only the Final Judgement would be made public. The weary combatants emerged from the contest several gruelling hours later, forbidden from revealing what had taken place in the Chamber of secrets. Presumably, Sir Hamid and the Judge spent a long weekend thrashing out the decision of the Court before the appointed hour on Monday.
On the Day of Judgement, in the Year 2010, May, the third Day, the protagonist writes again. Even before the Master’s decision was delivered, late incidentally, the protagonist gave notice that he would apply to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to order a peer review of the matter.
While awaiting the decision of the Law Lords, one may ponder why this landmark case has received such little coverage in the local press, radio and television…