Sports, Trade and Politics

By Peter Ibbotson — 

Mauritius Times  60 Years Ago

3rd Year No 79 – Friday 10th February 1956

* Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally – Abraham Lincoln

Mauritius is not the only place where “sport” is defiled by the colour bar. There was the disgraceful episode of the exclusion of coloured players from the “all-Mauritius” teams to meet the Natal football XI; there has been, as the Mauritius Times has shown, unsportsmanlike discrimination against Indo-Mauritians at the Turf Club.

When New Zealand rugby teams tour South Africa, though, they cannot play their full strength — Maori players cannot go to South Africa because they are black. Blacks cannot represent South Africa in the national teams in the Olympic Games – though the successors of Wint and Bailey, to name only two, have shown how ridiculous is the charge that black-skinned people are not good enough. South Africa will never play cricket against the West Indies – many of the West Indian cricketers are black or brown. Coloured boxers, such as Randolf Turpin (Great Britain) or Joe Louis (USA) would never be allowed inside South Africa to box against a white opponent. Recently the South African authorities refused to allow a South American tennis star, Pancho Segura of Ecuador, into the country. His “crime”? He has Indian blood! And one of South Africa’s best tennis player is a coloured boy named David Samaiii – but he can’t play against white opponents in the Union. To meet white players, he must come to England, to Wimbledon.

In the ‘Rhodesia Herald’ of 22 Oct 55 it was reported that the Health Committee of Salisbury City Council had recommended the full Council to express disapproval of native boxing being staged in the city’s European area, even if the boxing was meant primarily for the entertainment of the Europeans! The same committee also asked the Director of Native Administration to “discuss the question of admission of Africans to sporting and recreative functions in the European area”. In the past, Africans had been admitted to football matches, motor cycle races, and the Mashonaland Turf Club race meeting; but now they are expecting to find even this limited admittance being denied them.

The colour bar doesn’t operate in all colonial territories. In his recent monumental book ‘Inside Africa’ for example, John Gunther records seeing a Belgian football team play against a mixed Congo team before a crowd of 5,000 whites and 65,000 blacks at Leopoldville Stadium. He comments: “Imagine such a thing in Salisbury or Pretoria.”

Although scattered manifestations of the colour bar crop up now and again in Britain, there is no general objection to working alongside coloured people. In the last few weeks I have seen a number of West Indians working in various occupations: as a postman, as a building labourer, and in several grades on British Railways and for London Transport. I have seen porters, tickets inspectors, at least one bus conductor, and tickets collector – all attracted to London Transport or the railways because of the security offered by such employers. Security is also the attraction in post office work. British Railways recently opened (just before Christmas, in fact) a staff recruitment centre; and they are receiving many enquiries from coloured immigrants who want useful work. There is a great shortage of workers for the transport and postal services – and the coloured applicants who offer themselves are welcomed. Many of the West Indians who come to London are, of course, among the best of their own country’s young men.

The editor of ‘Le Cernéen’ yearns after the days when Ile de Maurice was a French possession. He yearns support for the crypto-Fascist Poujade. (In the British press, there are growing reference to Poujade, remembering his Fascist tendencies, as “Pouadolf”). This Francophily drives him, and others like him, to claim for French a compulsory and permanent place in the school curriculum. But one reason for learning a foreign tongue is to enable people who will be concerned, in however humble a capacity, in commerce to have intercourse with those with whom they are trading. The report of the Customs Department of Mauritius doesn’t give much support to those who would base their claim for compulsory French in the needs of trade. We find that in 1954, three-quarters of Mauritius’ exports went to the United Kingdom; 96% of her exports, in fact, went to English-speaking countries. Not much scope for French in a Mauritius export office! How about imports? Mauritius bought most from the United Kingdom, Burma and Australia. Not much scope for French there! If trade needs are any guide, it is English that should be the compulsory language in all Mauritius schools.

*  *  *

Mauritius Times and Ourselves

Jay Narain Roy

It is just over a year and the infant Mauritius Times has already began to make its mark. Educated, knowing Indo-Mauritians as well as the bulk of the people have began to pin their faith in this doughty champion of our liberties.

Champion it really is. There is firstly, the interest of the editors. They have the right flair for journalism. Like real journalists, they take interest in most matters that concern the welfare of the people at large.

Not that they take a Platonic interest. They delve into facts and figures to throw ample light on them. More than that, they throw the light with commendable courage and dynamism – such indeed as are not quite common in our country.

The editors are conscious of their youthful limitations and have the courage and modesty to seek advice from their elders. This itself is a quality not quite in prevalence nowadays.

Around the Times is a group of young men who are the growing assets of my community and I am proud of them. One of the things the paper has done is to take the lid off many suppressed enthusiasm. The pent-up genius has flowered out and I marvel at the ease the knowledge with which some of the young people marshal their facts.

If the Mauritius Times had done nothing more than mobilize and canalize youthful enthusiasm, it was enough to claim our gratitude. But it has done more than that and in various directions.

I know how difficult it is to run a paper. And particularly when it has no useless capital to gamble. Through modest beginnings, the small paper is gradually and courageously make its way.

One of the reasons why Mauritius Times has gained ground is that it has not cared blindly to toe the line of any party, clique or person. If our opponents do the right thing we should have the courage and morality to appreciate them. And if our leaders go wrong or prevaricate, we should equally have the honesty and courage to fling it to their nose.

The deeds and misdeeds of all public men should be publicly discussed. We should be able to assess whether they have been worthy of the trust and responsibilities laid on their shoulders. If they have not been worthy, it is absolutely futile to expect that they will be able to be good enough when Responsible Government comes.

It is therefore in this context of fearlessness and courage that I request the friends all over the land to help Mauritius Times in all possible way.

It would be a real tragedy if for some reason or the other the paper has to flounder. It would be difficult to replace it. Young men who want to do something at considerable sacrifice must be helped in every possible way. You must help the Mauritius Times and the flowering zeal around it because it is daily proving its mettle as few things have done in the history of the Indians in the colony.

Jay Narain Roy

Tags:   Mauritius Times,    Randolf Turpin,    Pancho Segura of Ecuador,    Mashonaland Turf Club,    Poujade   Jay Narain Roy,

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