Ex-Mauritius prime minister Ramgoolam arrested: Media reports

Navinchandra Ramgoolam (centre), then prime minister of Mauritius, leaves a counting centre during polls last year, on Dec 11, 2014. - PHOTO: AFP
Navinchandra Ramgoolam (centre), then prime minister of Mauritius, leaves a counting centre during polls last year, on Dec 11, 2014. - PHOTO: AFP

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AFP) - Police in Mauritius arrested former prime minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam on Friday, media reports said, sparking angry demonstrations from supporters in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Ramgoolam, 67, who accepted defeat in parliamentary polls in December, was arrested and held in prison for questioning on Friday afternoon, L’Express and Le Mauricien newspapers reported, quoting his lawyer.

An AFP reporter said scuffles broke out between his supporters and those of the government on the streets of the capital, but police separated the two sides.

However, the situation remained tense on the popular tourist island, the reporter added, with crowds smashing the windows of the car belonging to Ramgoolam’s lawyer.

In December, Ramgoolam, who had wanted to run for the presidency had he won the polls but in a crushing defeat even lost his own parliamentary seat, said the “elections were carried out with respect to democracy.”

Le Mauricien newspaper said the arrest was connected to a burglary that took place in 2011 at a beach property belonging to Ramgoolam.

Police have been seeking to question Ramgoolam for allegedly lying about his presence at the scene of the robbery, and asking a businessman to give false testimony to the police.

It remains unclear why Ramgoolam may have lied about his presence at the property.

Police are also investigating the alleged suicide in custody of a suspect in the burglary.

The ex-prime minister has denied any foul play and has accused his critics of trying to discredit him.

Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel information for Mauritius, saying there had “been reports of political demonstrations in Port Louis” and advising its nationals to “monitor local media and avoid all large crowds.”

Ramgoolam was succeeded by former president Anerood Jugnauth as prime minister in December.

Jugnauth’s centre-right Alliance Lepep swept up 47 out of 62 seats in parliament, after voters rejected Ramgoolam’s bid to boost presidential powers.

Ramgoolam’s father, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, led the country to independence and also served as chief and prime minister.

Mauritius is one of the richest countries in Africa with a per capita GDP of just over US$9,000 (S$12,200) among its 1.3 million people.