Navin Ramgoolam, Our Very Own Father Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly, merry and more importantly spend time with family and loved ones. In Mauritius, the streets from the capital city to every single town around the island are lined with merry street vendors and even merrier shoppers all with the purpose to enjoy this wonderful time of the year and all with the intention of preparing for the inevitable visit the man in red will hopefully pay to every household. By man in red, please understand I am talking about Santa Claus and not Navin Ramgoolam. Although this week, we could be mistaken for thinking he is in fact our very own Father Christmas.

As of Tuesday, Ramgoolam was once more thrust into the limelight of newspaper headlines, Facebook statuses and general conversation when he came out with his “Je suis le père de tous les enfants” comment on Tuesday. We could very well be mistaken and forgiven for thinking that Ramgoolam had suddenly found himself feeling the jolly Christmas spirit given that we are a week away from the festive period. But no, this somewhat vague statement was very much to the point and in my opinion, very well thought out when replying to what the press were in fact asking him. He has subsequently found himself in the centre of another Nandanee Soornack saga, this time involving his possible paternal status with one of Soornack’s children.

So, instead of implicating himself either positively or negatively, Ramgoolam uttered this gem of an answer to the nagging press. At face value we could guess that it was simply a way of evading the media who were no doubt tailing him for some kind of commentary. But when we really think about it and place the answer in context with who exactly we are dealing with here, we then begin to realise just how well this person is able to play situations to his advantage. We tend to forget that this same person, just a year before was head of the country and the one person who had the final say in pretty much everything. He himself was quoted as saying he was the only head of government, and therefore the only person who the decisions remained with. Someone in such a position does not simply forget the way to play the game even more so when he is in the media spotlight for reasons that are less than gratifying.

I think the point we are all subject to miss here (by no accident) is that this man is at the centre of this allegation – as well as others – but has somehow managed to divert this away from him and instead has the country in a tailspin with his one Father Christmas remark. At the end of this all, he is still accountable to answer the question instead of retorting to the press that he is in fact the father of the nation’s children. Because while he has managed to divert the attention off this latest news titbit, he fails to realise that someone will still want to know what the real answer to this is. There is a saying that goes, “Where there is smoke, there is usually fire”, and this is particularly true in this particular case. So while he may have cleverly diverted the attention off himself, the fire remains burning and we can only hope that the nation and press find themselves asking the same question once more of him.

Ramgoolam’s involvement – or lack of – in politics has no bearing on Mauritius’ curiosity when it comes to his affairs and the Ramgoolam name will continue to arouse interest particularly when it appears like our very own version of a soap opera series with a new instalment to the story every so often. While he has been able to bypass the press fanfare – for now – in this particular incident, the question remains not whether he is in fact this child’s father but rather why he is refusing to comment on the entire question after Soornack herself is said to have stated in front of a court in Italy, that he is in fact the father. While we know that Ramgoolam has always been a master of strategically playing the game of politics and media attention, we have to wonder how this has seemingly turned into a he-said, she-said blunder in the blink of an eye.

I must wonder though whether Ramgoolam doesn’t in fact take everyone for fools thinking that he can get away with such a stunt in front of the press as a means of putting everyone off the trail of what is really going on. Although when saying that, I am sadly surprised at just how well we have all taken his subsequent bait and are failing to ask the real pertinent questions or continue grilling him the way the press had initially started out trying to do.

At the end of the day, this matter remains that of a personal one and we should really not be surprised at the outcome of people trying to pry into Ramgoolam’s life. But in saying this, we must not fail to remember that this is the master of this kind of game and falling for this play, falling for the diversion tactic has played right into the hands of the master leaving him to make the next move as he sees fit to do so. What we must try to remember in all these is that he remains the culprit of this situation and is far from a victim trying to escape the ‘deadly grip’ of the Mauritian media.

– Krishna Athal

Krishna Athal has received various leadership initiative awards from national and international bodies. Former chairman of the National Youth Council of Mauritius, he authored the ‘Ramrajya: An Enigmatic Leader’s Rise to Power’ book. A passionate of poems, photography, transformational leadership and modern political thought, he is currently the national president of YUVA.


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