The San Diego sunk by “The Mauritius”

During my recent trip to the Philippines at the invitation of my son Dhiren and his wife Sejal, Sharmila and I took time to discover the country and visit historical places, including the imposing St Augustine church and the national museum in Manila.
As the Philippines was colonised for more than three centuries by Spain, the vestiges of the Spanish civilization are quite apparent through the names of persons and places (Ayala,Rosetta,Garcia ,etc), the architecture, religious and educational institutions and  the way of life. At the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, the Philippines fell under the control of the US. It became independent in 1946, inheriting  a political system ,bearing the strong mark of the American administration. It has an executive President, a Vice President, a Congress and a Senate.
The Philippines, an archipelago of 7,107 islands, blessed with 36 km of coastline, including the best beaches, with all its natural resources (copper, petroleum) and a friendly and mobile population, except for a terrorist group, Abu Sayef, in the south of the country, should have already become one of the roaring tigers of Asia. Corruption has been its worst enemy. We are far from the dictatorship era of Ferdinand Marcos. The concepts of good governance and accountability are gaining ground. It is worth noting that the Philippines Constitution limits the Presidential term to one mandate of six years. The actual President, Beningo Aquino III, has a clean image.
To come back to our visit to the national museum, we were surprised to learn that during the Dutch and Spanish rivalry for control of some of the Asian countries, the Dutch sent one of its navy vessels called The Mauritius to capture an island in 1400. The Mauritius sunk the Spanish vessel The San Diego. A few years later, the Spanish Armada chased the Dutch and controlled the entire area. However the victory of The Mauritius is safely recorded, especially as the wreck of The San Diego was recently recovered from the depth of the sea.
The Philippines is developing its economy at a fast rate. It is currently the second fastest growing economy in Asia after China. Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050 it will be the 14th largest economy in the world and the 5th largest in Asia. It is expanding its economic cooperation with the giant China despite their territorial dispute over the Spratly islands in the South China sea. At the recent APEC meeting in Shanghai, the Chinese President announced that the famous Silk Route will be reopened and billions of dollars have been earmarked for this ambitious project. Things are happening in Asia and it is unfortunate that the Mauritius government has done practically nothing to promote diplomatic and economic ties with Manila. We do not even have a honorary consul there!  What about our region?
Our regional organizations are becoming ineffective. The Commission of Indian Ocean has not been able to lobby successfully for its Secretary General, Jean Claude de l’Estrac to secure the top job at the Francophonie.What a pity when it has been widely acknowledged that he was the most competent candidate for the post! The SADC has witnessed a number of dramatic drawbacks. President Zuma of South Africa is not pulling his weight. His image is tainted at home and abroad. He is dogged by allegations of corruption. Political unrest has shaken Lesotho. Its Prime Minister fled the country to seek refuge in South Africa. Zambia has lost its President while there is the possibility for President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to be succeeded by his own wife. Madagascar is still grappling with thorny political, economic and social issues. This is certainly not a bright picture of our region. But,what about Mauritius now?
Parliament met only a handful of times in 2014 and was dissolved in October last, paving the way for general elections on the 10 December. What a mockery of democracy to keep Parliament dormant almost throughout the year! How on earth can Parliament be considered as if it were the personal property of the Prime Minister? What has he learned about the concept of separation of powers? I have written a number of articles to voice out strong criticism on the manner the Prime Minister has been running the affairs of the country. The situation has gone from bad to worse. In all democracies, the people judge the performance of the outgoing government and examine the different political manifestos before deciding which party or alliance will deserve their confidence. The lacklustre performance of the Prime Minister and his government needs to be severely sanctioned. All along the electoral campaign, his personal image has been badly bruised. Public Officers and other citizens who have suffered various forms of injustice at  his hands will be too happy to give him the boot. His lack of leadership both in the government and his own party, coupled with his glaring blunders in foreign affairs and his own lifestyle should disqualify him from seeking a fresh mandate. His strategy of using the issues of second Republic and electoral reforms as a façade to push all the dirt under the carpet has backfired  in the face of growing resentment to his proposals. Accountability is a major yardstick for the electorate. It will hold the Prime Minister and his government responsible for its woes and use its vote in a judicious and decisive manner to empower Sir Anerood Jugnauth and other patriots to constitute the new government and clean the Augean stable.
On the 11th December, we shall know which vessel has been sunk. But whatever happens, Mauritius should emerge as a stronger and more united nation, ready to cope with the daunting challenges on all fronts.