SURESH RAMPHUL

Breaking into a house, street robbery, getting away with a couple of ducks in the proprietor’s absence, threatening to kill, damaging a CCTV – these are faits divers or brief news stories appearing regularly in our newspapers. A single item or several items are presented in an edition. They attract our attention but we are so overloaded with information today that we tend to give them little importance.
Brief news stories are « un récit d’événements variés, insolites, inattendus, considerés comme peu importants. Un fait divers n’appartient à aucune actualité: il n’est ni politique, ni social, ni économique, ni culturel et pourtant il occupe une surface importante des journaux et hebdomadaires » (source: Internet). Individually, they may not produce a significant effect on the reader. A man steals a telephone. It is a common occurrence – so common that we take it as trivial. We tell ourselves “So what?” You put down your bag of vegetables to pay the merchant, it disappears. Some people may find it funny. We tend to shrug off these “little” pieces of news. We resign ourselves to the idea that we cannot do anything about them.
However, they hit our imagination when we consider them as a whole.

Recent news items

The cumulative effect of the following items gleaned from recent local newspapers is likely to be disturbing, even shocking.
A policeman is accused of stealing a laptop in an office in Baie-du-Tombeau. 325 cans of beer, 24 cases of soft drinks, 60 litres of whisky, 24 bottles of alcohol disappear from a store. 400 tins of “thon” vanish from a container meant for delivery to an entrepreneur. A mason, 22, is going to the market in Baie-du-Tombeau, a man threatens him with a metal object and makes away with a telephone worth Rs 9,000. A bank cashier, 54, is returning home on foot in Port Louis; she fights back an attempt at stealing her bag. We have had breaches of Quarantine Act.
In Vallée Pitot someone parks his motorcycle in front of his house. Some hours later it is not there. He incurs a loss of Rs 38,000. In Trou-d’Eau-Douce a man in his fifties is walking peacefully; someone emerges from nowhere and says Donn mwa sa sak-la sinon mo tay twa mo garde. The culprit runs away with the victim’s documents and other belongings. A girl, 18, accuses her step-father of inappropriate touching. Approximately 1,500 chickens vanish from a hatchery in Petite Retraite, causing a loss of Rs 223,000. In Plaines-des-Roches a man, 81, puts fire to his house. A dishonest internet user cheats a teacher, 39 years old, to the tune of Rs 83,000.
A man, 26, reports the loss of a carpet worth Rs 2,500. A man is arrested for aggression on a bus conductor. An adolescent is robbed of his phone (Rs 15,000) in Port Louis. A twenty-year-old man breaks into his brother’s house in Clemencia. A teenage girl refuses to give money to her cousin, he grabs a stick and beats her up; the girl reports having lost a telephone of Rs 24,000. In Vallée Pitot a woman aged 45 is arrested for allegedly laying hands on an old person’s money.
The police are looking for murderer Sandeep Dussoye and discover a field of cannabis. Drunk, a man residing in Phoenix, assaults 3 members of his family. Parents arrested for mistreating child. A teacher’s windows are theft-proof yet they have forced one open; he loses about Rs 20,000. A metal worker in Plaine Verte reports the loss of his handicapped son’s wheelchair; total loss: Rs 40,000. In Vacoas, they damage an engineer’s aluminium door and escape with jewellery and a watch representing Rs 26,000. In Pointe-aux-Canonniers a Rs 1.2 million loss is reported in a restaurant.
8 iron sheets disappear from the kiosk of a youth centre in Cité La Cure. The Discipline Master in a college in Curepipe discovers on the football pitch a small bag suspected to contain drugs. A sex-worker walks off with a substantial sum while her client is taking a bath. In Port Louis a man is victim of extorsion after an accident. A college girl (14) alleges that she has been sexually abused by a stranger on the beach in Bain-des-Dames. 109 doses of heroin are found at the place of an unemployed in Baie-du-Tombeau.

The symptoms of a sick society

Deviance is about activities that do not conform to the norms and expectations of members of a society. They are strongly disapproved. Within the space of a few weeks, we have had a series of infractions to rules and law-breaking. This cannot leave us indifferent. Taken in totality, we get a bleak picture of law and order in the country. We are stunned that so many people are going against established rules. Why are they no longer afraid of messing with the police?
The internet is fashionable but people are still not learning about its danger. Online swindling involves two people. The perpetrator is as much irresponsible as the victim who agrees to play the game, albeit in ignorance. A woman makes the acquaintance of someone on Facebook. He says he is sending her a gift and she must send Rs 10,000 for customs. In the end he manages to get Rs 80,000 from her. Isn’t the woman blameworthy for not using her mind? Some people will continue misusing the internet but we absolutely need, on our part, to be vigilant at all times.
The threat of danger is constant. People are feeling increasingly insecure. The government must reconsider its position concerning proprietors who leave their ferocious dogs to roam around. A man was grievously attacked recently. The owner may pay a paltry fine but the victim will forever live with the trauma. His injuries may prevent him from working properly – his employment may be at stake. People who do not know how to look after their dogs must not breed them. The authorities must be more severe. Citizens must feel safe when they walk in the street.
Minor offences may be a stark reminder of the precariousness of living below the poverty line or irregular employment but what about white-collar crimes? Does human life have no value in the eyes of the pharmacist who sells out-of-date medicines? Profit-making is urging certain people to be unscrupulous. Putting aside professional ethics in favour of profiteering is inadmissible. But are we taking the right sanctions against such professionals? What exemplary actions are being taken to dissuade others from doing the same?
A salesman in Flacq forges a client’s signature, making the management believe that the victim has bought a particular product that, in fact, is at the salesman’s home. What makes people risk their career and reputation to commit a serious offence? Is the person naïve, foolish or improperly trained? Will he get away with a simple warning?
We must teach our children and our students that a theft is a theft, no matter how minor. Forgery is illegal no matter how innocent an act it appears; it has consequences. Children do make mistakes (some sign report books and letters of absence in the place of parents) and some parents might say “pas grave” not to hurt them. On the contrary, we should tell them the truth.
This broad spectrum of unpleasant events stands in sharp contrast to the image of Mauritius as a Paradise. There is something fundamentally wrong in our society. Are we giving too much importance to infrastructural developments and too little to promoting values and civic responsibilities? On the other hand, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has received 455 complaints against policemen within 8 months. What does this suggest? There is a perception that when matters are reported, police procedures are agonizingly slow; it appears that there’s one law for the rich, another for the poor, one for politicians, another for the ordinary citizen. Some people are benefiting far too much from the government and others are left to fend for themselves. “Leading by example” is becoming a misnomer. Our institutions are not working conveniently. There is an unbelievable rise in prices; more and more people are unable to manage personal conflicts or face the harsh realities of life. All of these could directly or indirectly be creating frustration.
At one time people had the gritty determination to struggle to survive. Today this is eroding.
A stranger approaches a pedestrian in Pereybère and wants to know the schedule of buses. The latter is giving him the information but the stranger snatches his telephone and runs away. In Highlands a niece steals Rs 25,000 from her uncle. A stranger asks an MITD student in Ébène what time it is. The young man does not answer. The stranger takes out a knife, bites the student’s hand and escapes with his cellular costing Rs 19,000. This, or even worse, could very well happen to you or to a member of your family tomorrow.
If we do not do anything now, the situation will worsen.
P.S : It must be said that there is presumption of innocence in the above-mentioned cases.