School for Parliamentarians

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago– 1st YEAR NO. 20 — SATURDAY 24th December 1954

On the 30th of November, Honourable Dr Chaperson in the Council of Government requested the Government to inquire into an alleged brutality committed by a G.M.O. of Victoria hospital on Mr Dwarka Parsad who complained that a doctor on night duty kicked him on the shin, shook his head and knocked it against the wall.

Honourable Dr Chaperson did not make any accusation and in order not to slur the name of the physician involved he did not even mention his name; he simply related the incident as it was related to him and requested for an inquiry.

In his reply The Hon Colonial Secretary said among other things: “But it is not the duty of Members of the Legislative, or of any responsible individuals, to repeat all the stories they are told without some prior attempt at enquiry and verification. The proper course is to report, but not to publicise what is alleged to have happened and then, if the matter is of sufficient importance, to ask objectively whether Government will make a statement on the matter. By this means wrongs can be remedied and Honourable Members will no longer be open to the risk of being charged with irresponsibly slandering individuals’ characters and reputation under the protection of parliamentary immunity, and thus to run the further risk of lowering the reputation of the Legislature itself. It should also be remembered that it is much to ask the Government Officers that they should give loyal service when unsupported ex parte statements against their characters or professional conduct are trumpeted to the four corners of the island with the use of this Council as a loudspeaker. (Italics are ours).

While replying to George Sylvain in the Cernéen, Hon Dr. Chaperon has made his position clear. He has given proof once more of his sincerity and has outlined the duty of a Member of the Council as he understands it. There is an uneasy feeling that the Hon Colonial Secretary has gone too far in his declaration.

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False Allegation

It is regretted than an insignificant incident has created an unnecessary hue and cry in Council and elsewhere. In the light of the declaration of the Colonial Secretary on the case of a G.M.O. of Victoria Hospital who was alleged to have assaulted one Dwarka Parsad, now it can be safely stated that Hon Dr R. Chaperon was given a wrong and exaggerated version of the said incident.

We sincerely regret having reported a false allegation; in fact we acted in all good faith.

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Tenacity of woman moves the Mayor

Rights not obtained by begging

In order to safeguard democracy the citizen should be articulate and alert in the defence of his right. Liberty or right is not obtained by begging or standing with folded arms and hoping that it will come by itself. It demands tenacity of purpose, perseverance and self-sacrifice; naturally that implies that it should be within the limit of logic and law.

The duty of the Govt officials is to give urgent consideration and sympathetic attention to genuine complaints and ventilate them as urgently as possible. Compared with several backward colonies, Mauritius can be proud of its Civil Service; but there is still room for improvement. The authorities need sometimes be roused from slumber.

The courage and originality with which a woman did an unusual shaking of the Municipal Authorities created a stir. It happened in Dorset. Mrs David Somerset complained to the local sanitary inspector that the dustmen very often neglect to empty her dustbin which endangers the health of her children. The inspectors did dot pay heed. She complained without success to an official at the Town Clerk’s office. Exasperated, she wrote to the officer in charge of the Town’s Scavenging Service: “If you don’t send a man to empty my dustbin by six o’clock this evening, I’ll bring it down to the Municipal Buildings and empty it there myself.” Once again nothing was done. Mrs Somerset went into direct action. She loaded the garbage in the back of her car, went to the Municipal compound and spilled it on the Mayor’s private car parking space. She left a note informing the Mayor that unless something was done she would be making another delivery of rubbish next week – at the same time and the same place.

The bold step taken by that lady had a tremendous effect. The Deputy Town Clerk was hurried to Mrs Somerset to inform her that there would be a normal collection on Tuesday. She sent this message to the Mayor: “I am sorry if I inconvenience you, but I am really desperate.”

She received this very recomforting reply from the Mayor: “If you have further trouble, let me know, I will save you the journey and collect the rubbish myself in the Mayoral car.”

This is democracy. This is England, the country where the humblest citizen enjoys the same rights and privileges of a Mayor or of a Minister.

Those who know England know that the Mayor was serious. Had this incident happened in Mauritius the lady would have been probably prosecuted, persecuted and become the laughing stock of the snobbish. While the Mayor of an English town offers to remove the garbage of an aggrieved citizen in his car, in Mauritius the Mayor of Port-Louis when requested to help victims of the recent fire of Royal Road exclaimed: “That was the will of God!” This is Mauritius!

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Glimpses of Mauritian History

Indians and The Capture Of Mauritius

— by D. Napal B.A. (Hons)

1810 is the most memorable date in Mauritian history. In that year the English, who for long had looked with covetous eyes upon the French possession of Isle De France, effected its conquest. In the eighteenth century, which knew the heyday of colonization, our Island had a strategic position. England, or rather the East India Company was interested in the conquest of Mauritius because it wanted, among other reasons, to use it as a base whence to paralyse French commerce in India and to get rid of corsaires which harassed the East Indiamen.

There are certain facts about the conquest which should not be kept out of the picture. The English who conquered Mauritius did not come from England, nor did the mother country take so active an interest in Isle de France. It was the East India Company which ruled British India in those days, that undertook the conquest. Historians have not done sufficient justice to this fact and to the part played by Indians in the capture of Mauritius. Without the help of Indian soldiers, the English might not have conquered the Island. A good number of the rank and file among the conquerors of 1810 were Indian sepoys. These sepoys were not under fire for the first time during the conquest of the Island. Indian soliders had taken a major part in India in the fights which were the results of the colonial and commercial rivalry of England, France, Holland and Portugal from days as early as the foundation the East India companies.

It is an established fact that troops from Bombay, Bengal. Madras and Ceylon landed here. Though there are several Mauritian authors who have intentionally, neglectfully or as a result of the contempt shown towards Indians, ignored this fact, yet some historians have mentioned the part played by Indian Sepoys. Both Albert Pitot in his ‘Esquisses Historiques’ (1810 – 1823) and A. D’Epinay in his ‘Notes pour servir à L’histoire de l’Isle de France’ agree that 8,700 sepoys had assembled at Rodrigues which was the rendez-vous for the troops who were to take part in the conquest. The readers of Albert Pitot know that on the eve of the conquest of the island when all the troops had not yet gathered at the place appointed “les forces britanniques se composaient de 21 navires de guerre et 46 transports portant 11,300 marins et 2,700 cipayes soit 16,000 hommes en tout.” Afterwards upon the arrival of the division of the Cape Colony “elles se montèrent à 90 navires de guerre et transports, 14,850 soldats et marins européens, 8,700 cipayes soit 23,590 hommes.”

Other authors who have spoken of the presence of Indian soldiers among the English conquerors are De Burgh Edwards, A. J. Bertruchi, Raymond Philogène Ingrams and Eugène Fabre.

We also read in Mills History of British India: “The natives troops from Bengal and Madras consisted of four volunteer battalions and a party of Madras pioneers; three thousand men.”

There is one other point to consider. What was the fighting efficiency of the sepoys? The authors who have spoken of them have admitted that they were docile, loyal and courageous. In this connection, we should quote the order issued at Fort St. George, dated 11th February 1812. “The Honourable the Governor in Council performs the satisfactory part of his duty in requesting His Excellency the Commander in Chief will be pleased to convey to the several Indian corps and detachment which served at the conquest of those island, the public thanks of the government for the alacrity with which they embarked on that service, for the gallantry which they displayed when opposed to the enemy, for the uniform good conduct on all occasions during the period of their absence from the coast.”

 

* Published in print edition on 24 December 2014

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