Mauritius PM defends anti-graft body’s independence


The prime minister defended the Mauritius anti-graft body yesterday after six cabinet ministers quit the government over the arrest of a top official, prompting a rare political crisis in one of Africa’s most stable nations.

Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, returning to the Indian Ocean island from a week in London to find his government embroiled in uncertainty, said the anti-graft watchdog must be able to work without hindrance.

But Ramgoolam made no reference to his next political move as speculation mounted on whether the finance minister and five others would be allowed back into the government or replaced.
“I said it in Parliament and elsewhere on different occasions since March: the Independent Commission Against Corruption should be able to do its job independently and in all serenity,” Ramgoolam told a news conference.
“Mauritius has built its success on the integrity of its institutions. We need at all costs to preserve what has been acquired for the future of our country.”

Analysts said the political uncertainty was affecting business sentiment and, if not resolved quickly, could jeopardise growth in a country which markets itself as a bridge between Africa and Asia.

All six members of Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) party walked out last Tuesday to protest at the arrest of the health minister by the anti-graft watchdog. She was accused of inflating a government tender to acquire a private hospital.

Consistently rated one of Africa’s best performing economies, Mauritius has weathered the fallout from the global economic slowdown and euro zone debt crisis better than expected, partly thanks to the economic policies of Ramgoolam’s Labour Party, which dominates the ruling coalition.

Mauritius is widely regarded as one of the most stable African economies and generally has a better reputation on fighting corruption than other African countries.

The Labour Party has been in power since 2005 and has overseen sustained economic growth, cutting red tape to lure foreign investors.