All Quiet on The Colonial Front!

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Somduth Bhuckory

Considering the success which Mr Lennox-Boyd had with the delegation from Mauritius. one would say that the Secretary of State must be living in the best of worlds and that all must be quiet on the colonial front. But how misleading!

Any student of colonial affairs knows that these days Mr Lennox-Boyd is like a cat on hot bricks. When, therefore, the special correspondent of Advance cabled from London on the 2nd of April that the Secretary of State was contemplating resignation, we found nothing unusually striking. It must have dawned upon Mr Lennox-Boyd that running the British colonial empire is no joke.

Had every colonial territory been as humble and docile and easy-going as Mauritius, the Secretary of State could have stayed in office for eternity. Unfortunately for him, Mauritius is but an exception — a quiet crown colony in a troubled colonial empire.

Mr Lennox-Boyd is feeling the pinch because he is wearing shoes that are getting tighter and tighter every day. Oh, how must he be cherishing that pair of comfortable slippers offered by our delegation!

Is it too late for Mauritius to assert its true self? Whatever blunder may have been committed it will reflect only upon a few. They cannot lead the country to the dogs if the masses resist them. Public opinion has to be formed in such a way as will demand that Mauritius be worthy of emulating the rest of the active colonial world. To take the path of the least resistance is also to take the path of prostituting principles for political expediency. Yielding to a temptation is not the only way of getting rid of it — no matter what the temptation is and no matter what Oscar Wilde thinks.

* * *

One has only to cast a glance on the colonial world to see into what a discreditable position we have been put.

Take the colonies in the Mediterranean. Leaving Gibraltar aside, we have Malta and Cyprus. In Malta the watchword is integration and in Cyprus enosis. Malta wants to integrate with Great Britain and Cyprus with Greece. Dom Mintoff and Archbishop Makarios are indomitable leaders who know what they want. They are not to be cajoled, threatened, frightened or to be sent home satisfied with a pat on their backs.

Turning our attention towards the West Indies, we find the Caribbean islands getting together in a Caribbean Federation. That is an achievement of no mean importance. The Federation did not come to Manley, Adams and Williams on a silver platter from Whitehall. In British Guiana, Dr Jagan is not a man to be trifled with. We have seen lately that his shooting star has not set yet. In British Honduras, by winning all the nine seats in the election, the People’s United Party has asserted its superiority over the Honduras Independent Party, a party formed after a split in the PUP last year. The victory of George Price, the leader of the PUP is being interpreted as the decision of large number of British Hondurans to seek their future in South America rather than in the Caribbean.

Coming to West Africa, we find the face of the Gold Coast completely changed: it’s free Ghana now. Dr Nkrumah, leader of the People’s Convention Party and Prime Minister of Ghana, knows what the struggle for independence means. To him goes the credit and honour of shaping the first African country to become a member of the Commonwealth. Nigeria is following in the footsteps of Ghana. Already there is talk of its becoming independent in 1959. Gambia and Sierra Leone, the other two colonies of West Africa, will surely not remain unmoved at the sight of what is going on in Ghana and Nigeria.

In Central and East Africa, there is no less activity. In the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the demand for Dominion status and the resurgence of African political consciousness are conspicuous. East Africa brings Kenya first to our mind: the uprising of the Mau Mau has riveted the attention of the world on it. It’s another fight against oppression. It’s another heroic struggle. Uganda & Tanganyika, the two other territories of East Africa, are also busy struggling in their own ways. For example, Julius Nyerere, President of the Tanganyika African National Union, recently made a scathing attack at Lake Success on British policy in his country.

Other important territories to be considered are Malaya and Singapore. We know that the Malayan Federation will be a certainty before the end of this year. Tungku Abdul Rahman has won the admiration of one and all by his success. And Singapore has just won self-government by the efforts of Lim Yew Hock. What a rousing reception will he be given when he goes back home from London!

* * *

It’s impossible to do justice to the awakening taking place in the British colonial empire in a short article. But even a sketch can show how the colonial world is moving.

After reviewing the colonies in the Mediterranean, the West Indies, West Africa, Central and East Africa and Malaya, it remains only to have a look at the island outposts in the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Here two names stand out: Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and Fiji in the Pacific. Leaving alone Fiji which is not much in the news, we are left with our lovely little island home.

What is in store for Mauritius? Who is going to voice the feelings of the people? Who is going to be that man of vision who will be the captain of our destiny? Who will take Mauritius out of the political and constitutional chaos in which it finds itself?

These questions arise because the natural order of things appears to have been completely upset. Old parliamentary hands, in whom we had faith and confidence, have sorely disappointed us. We have to start all over again. We are sick of talks — big, empty, persuasive and patronizing. We want a lively spirit to reign in the place of the grim and drab political atmosphere around us. We want nothing less than to be in step and in tune with the rest of the colonial world.

Mauritius was the “star and key of the Indian Ocean”. We don’t want it to degenerate into a land of sugar and… carrots.

Everywhere the strong will of the people is challenging the Secretary of State to the point of disturbing him. In this hour of trial, Mr Lennox-Boyd can fortunately look towards Mauritius with a sigh of relief because here he has no resistance but the wholehearted co-operation of grateful friends!

4th Year – No 140
Friday 12th April, 1957

* Published in print edition on 20 March 2020

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