What Is The Kistnen Case?
Throughout 2020, the current Mauritian government became increasingly unfavourable due to several reasons:
Their handling of the Wakashio disaster, and the subsequent supressing public protests and arbitrary arrests of activists
A series of corruption cases, including the Angus Road Affair, and allegations of electoral fraud in the 2019 general election. People who were critical of the Prime Minister on social media faced arrests, while investigative journalists and media were blocked and harassed by police
Suspending Parliament during at key times- a move the opposition leaders have called “illegal”
These allegations and complaints were lodged in court, but it’s rumoured that the government’s ‘tactics’ (lengthy suspensions of Parliament, emergency COVID-19 measures, and the State of Emergency caused by the Wakashio) have delayed any court proceedings to take place.
These, combined with restrictions on human rights in forms of media blackouts and arrests, has led to a series of protests in Mauritius over the past year, calling for the government to resign. The largest protest was in August 2020 after the Wakashio disaster, where 100,000 descended on the streets of Port Louis.
WHO IS KISTNEN AND WHY IS HIS NAME HEADLINE NEWS?
Now, since October 2020, there have been a series of suspicious deaths in Mauritius- the first being Soopramanien Kistnen. His charred body was found in a sugarcane field, yet a verdict of suicide was given by the police before further investigation took place.
It was allegedly later found out that Kistnen was an ex-political agent in Prime Minister Jagnauth’s constituency of Quartier-Militaire, and had proof showing how the government and senior ministers allegedly lied about their campaign spending for the 2019 general elections.
In December, Sarah Boitieux, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Pravin Kanakiah, a Procurement Officer at the Ministry of Finance were also found dead in suspicious circumstances.
The suspicious circumstances surrounding the 3 deaths include no CCTV footage at crucial times, missing shoes and bags, important personal documents missing, threats to family members, blood found in mysterious cars, missed evidence by police, discrepancies in travel times, and delayed forensic reports.
A panel of legal experts have taken the case to court to prove that Kistnen did not commit suicide. On 7th January 2021, a senior minister was called to trial at the court in Port Louis to testify, where peaceful protesters had gathered outside of court demanding justice for Kistnen, Boitieux and Kanakiah families.
For the first time in history, military police were deployed to handle the latest protest, with fully armed soldiers, snipers on roof-tops, police dogs, and bullet protected riot police. This caused further resentment amongst Mauritians, as this type of military deployment seemed unreasonable for a protest that was largely reported as peaceful.
THE IMPACT OF THE KISTNEN CASE
The implications of the Kistnen case could eventually invalidate Mauritius’ 2019 general election results, following revelations that the winning political party may have broken laws by exceeded election spending limits.
This means the current government could be dissolved, and another election held.
Further to the ongoing suppression of Mauritians’ Freedom of Expression in the past year, the latest events and findings from the Kistnen case made the people more resentful of the already unpopular government.
(The Kistnen case is ongoing, with continuous coverage in local Mauritian media. This blog has been written to help readers gain a topline overview the topic, and further personal research/ reading is encouraged.)
This blog has been written using the sources listed with the intentions that its as accurate as possible. This blog is to help readers gain a topline overview the topic, and further personal research/ reading is encouraged.