Should The Civil Service be Mauritianised?

In our issue of the 28th January last, one of our correspondents writing under the penname of Civil Servant expressed the view that the Mauritian as head or subhead of a department is never popular because he is always biased by social communal and political views. In support of his statement he quoted one example of Favouritism and one of Ruthlessness alleged to have been committed by a Mauritian head of department. As the allegation of our correspondent was of a communal nature we did not mention it.

Le Mauricien whose zeal for the Mauritianisation of the Civil Service and whose reluctance to the Mauritianisation of the Administration are known gave the opinion of our correspondent a party political twist which made much ink flow.

The issue is simple and clear. As a matter of principle, Mauritianisation of the Civil Service should go Pari Passu with the Mauritianisation of the Administration. Merit for merit a Mauritian should be chosen instead of an overseas officer. What the tax payer expects from heads and sub-heads of the Government Departments is that they must be highly efficient and humane, that they must be persons of character and above all that they must not be biased by social, communal or political considerations.

Nationalisation of the Services is the watchword of progressive parties in all British Colonies. Even in a colony like British Guinea where politics had been pushed to an extreme there had been a demand for “Guianization” of the Civil Service.

Mauritianisation of the Services is but a recent innovation. It was hailed by all sections of the population. Because some Mauritianized departments did not function properly people got quickly disillusioned.

The case of the Schools Department (now the Education Department) is still vivid in the mind of the public. Sir Bede Clifford appointed Mr Ward Director of Education, who cleansed the Augean stable and raised the standard of education and the status of the teachers and thus proved himself a very sound administrator.

The Post and Telegraphs Department similarly underwent a complete overhaul under a Britisher.

A Mauritian was at the head of the Income Tax Department. The dramatic resignation of that gentleman set people thinking as to how far Mauritians could be entrusted with high posts of key departments.

Man is an emotional creature. The campaign of political and communal hatred which has been going on in full swing in some sections of the press has had unfortunately its impact on people who should know better. No one can gainsay that some local heads of departments betray, ‘unconsciously’ perhaps, a way of acting and doing things which savours too much of the communal line. Further, as heads of Government Departments are answerable for their actions only to the Colonial Secretary and not to the taxpayers’ representations, it is not strange that some consider themselves as belonging to a distinct class and sometimes adopt a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude.

In a responsible government the head of the department would be answerable to the minister (or member) for that deparment, who in turn would be answerable to the Cabinet (or to the Executive Council) and ultimately to the taxpayers. This principle will apply whether the officer is an overseas or a local officer. So long as the minister or member is a local man, we need not bother too much about the sort of officers serving under him and need only concern ourselves about their abilities, honesty and aptitudes. In Nigeria, Gold Coast and to some extent even in Pakistan and Ceylon, there are still a number of British officers serving under local ministers. Mauritianisation of the Civil Service and the Mauritianisation of the political structure are not necessarily contradictory and any brief to the contrary betrays at best a superficial acquaintance with constitutional theory and practice.

If the public or the junior Civil Servants are sometimes inclined to prefer Britishers as heads or sub-heads of Government Departments, it is not always by prejudice or disposition but because they are aware that most Britishers have some qualities which place them above our local men. Whatever may be the faults we attribute to the English head of department, it is generally accepted that he is not very easily amenable to inside or outside influences in his administrative capacity: he is not easily biased by communal or racial views and he looks at things in a border perspective. He is an administrator by tradition. Because he has learnt his job in a country which cannot bear any comparison with Mauritius and because he had the advantage of serving in other territories his ability as an administrator is as a rule more versatile than that of the Mauritian who has not had similar advantages.

We are not holding any special plea for the British officer but we must record that there are many Britishers who accept to go out into the Colonies not so much with a view of amassing wealth but to serve the real interests of a territory. Of course one cannot be very dogmatic one way or the other. We are stating the rule as a rule and there can be, and there have been exceptions. But generally, British officers if they are not anything, are, on a long-term view builders of sound political institutions and in such territories as ours this is the first consideration that really matters.

All this however is not to say that there have not been good Mauritian administrators. They have been few and far between. The politics of the country are passing through a transition period. After a period of trial and error, things will certainly settle down to a more orderly and more satisfying pattern.

(MT – 2nd YEAR NO. 28 – Friday 18th February 1955)

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2nd YEAR NO. 29 — Friday 25th February 1955

* The care of human life and happiness… is the first and only legitimate object of good government. – Jefferson

Glimpses of Mauritian History

Indian convicts built roads

By D. Napal B.A. (Hons)

C’est une population des plus attachantes que cette population indienne. Elle est un géréral laborieuse, sobre, économe.
— Duclos

Indians, in spite of their noticeable minority, side by side with the slaves had worked for the development of Ile de France. They took an active part in the conquest of the island in 1810. But their contribution was not to end there. By dint of their industry and goodwill they have since the coming of the English been shaping its destiny.

In the English period, the Indians first came to Mauritius early in 1816. They were Indian convicts condemned to hard labour, who were sent to our island upon a demand of Governor Farquhar to the Indian Government for the supply of workmen. Farquhar, struck by the deplorable state of the roads and anxious to see their repairs and unkeep, had as Labourdonnais a century earlier, turned his attention to the Government of India for the supply of labour-power.

The roads had, in fact, suffered a sad neglect since the days of Labourdonnais. According to Rev. Patrick Beaton, author of Creoles and Coolies, there was but one carriage in the whole island – this must have been due to the fact that the roads were impracticable for carriages. The system put in force for the unkeep and repairs of roads was such as no good could be expected from it. The “corvée” was a system which demanded that planters should provide slaves for this work of public importance. These slaves could not or did not care to do efficiently the work entrusted to them.

“Il était reconnu,” writes Pitot, “que les corvées causaient aux propriétaires des inconvénients de tout genre, hors de proportion avec l’utilité qu’on retirait. La loi était éludée par les uns, d’autres se contentaient d’envoyer le rebut de leur ateliers, des hommes ineffectifs dont on ne pouvait tirer aucun parti, de sorte que la perte la plus forte se trouvait supporté, en réalité par ceux, qui avaient subi honnêtement les prescriptions de la loi ».

The convicts came for the purpose of road building. They were not however immediately employed for their arrival had roused sentiments of bitter hostility in the whites. Governor Farquhar, coming to know that among the Indian convicts there were men who had a knowledge of silk-culture, sent them to M. de Chazal at Vacoas where they successfully carried on their work of silk production. (Unfortunately when General Hall took into his hands the reins of government, he called back these men to work on the roads in spite of the protestations of Chazal who was highly satisfied of their good work).

General Hall called a meeting of the notables of the Ile de France to discuss the problem created by the presence of the convicts in the island. The members talked much but were slow in making up their minds. General Hall cut short their endless discussion by telling them that the matter which demanded their consideration was not whether the convicts were to remain in the island or were to be sent back to India. The matter in hand was to decide whether the convicts were to be confined in prison at immense cost to the public treasury or were to be put to use on the roads for which they had been purposely brought from India. Finally it was decided that “les forcats au nombre de 500 environ seront distribués dans les quartiers et employés exclusivement et d’une manière permanente à ouvrir de nouveaux chemins et à réparer les anciens. »

Thus began the work of Indians in the English period in our island. Soon after, regular immigration was to follow and the Indians were to give such a high satisfaction in the work entrusted to them that Rev. P. Beaton was to say: “Those swarthy Orientals so thinly clad are the muscles and sinews of the Mauritian body politic. They are the secret source of all the wealth, luxury and splendour with which the island abounds.”

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Editorially Speaking

Mauritius Times and the Catholic Church

Rev. Father Dethise has found it necessary to blame us for the polemic, which is going on in that Mauritius Times around an article written by our London Correspondent, Mr Peter Ibbotson.

In the issue of the 20th February of La Vie Catholique, Rev. Father Dethise among other things writes: “L’habitude semble prise maintenant dans le Mauritius Times d’accumuler des calomnies et des attaques contre l’Eglise Catholique… Dans cette guerre à coups d’épingle, le Catholicisme ne souffrira pas – il en a vu d’autres! Mais, si j’osais, je ferais remarquer à l’éditeur du Mauritius Times qu’il dessert la cause qu’il prétend défendre en attaquant ainsi une religion » (italics are ours).

Our readers probably remember how the polemic started. When publishing the comments of Mr Ibbotson on the Pastoral letter of the Bishop of Port Louis, in a note we stressed that we did not necessarily agree with our correspondent.

The following week we printed a letter from a correspondent who signed the initials R. D.

R.D. said something disagreeable regarding the Anglican Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The week after another correspondent writing under the pseudonym “Le Capuchon de la plume” found it necessary to disapprove R.D. We were bound to publish both letters. Now Rev. Father Dethise accuses us of attacking the Catholic religion. It is a strange conception of journalism that the views of a correspondent, especially one writing under the column Letters to the Editor should be considered as being the views of the paper. As we should like the readers of La Vie Catholique to know our point of view, we are writing a letter to the editor of that paper.

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Le Cerneen’s Malicious Criticism

Under the heading : La douane va-t-elle recommencer?, Le Cernéen of Tuesday 22nd instant says : « … Nous avons appris qu’un inspecteur des douanes (d’assez mauvaise apparence, nous dit-on) aurait été insupportable, lors du départ du dernier paquebot des M.M. à l’égard d’un de nos visiteurs, pourtant accompagné d’amis bien connus à Maurice et pouvant répondre à son honorabilité.

Va-t-on nous obliger à renouveler notre ancienne offensive contre le comportement de certains fonctionnaires de la Douane ? » (Italics are ours).

What we have gathered is this: the ‘incident’ happened on the occasion of the departure of the S.S. Maréchal Joffre in the Customs’ shed. The Chief Preventive Officer, having noticed that a passenger bound for Réunion had some packets for which permit was not previously obtained, referred the case to the Finance Control Officer.

Obviously that officer could not allow the export of the packets.

Where is the offence which has so shocked the Cernéen? Does the Editor of Le Cernéen know that the luggage of the Queen Mother was searched when she went to Canada last year? When an officer does his duty without favour, Le Cernéen ought to congratulate him and not blame, vilify and intimidate him.

The intimidation of Le Cernéen ‘à renouveler notre ancienne offensive’ is quixotic.

Concerning the « Inspecteur des douanes » who has been ridiculed by the Cernéen, we gather that he had nothing to do with the alleged incident. But if he has intervened, has he not a right to do it? The Authorities should be congratulated for having placed in a key post a man who in spite of “assez mauvaise apparence” is doing his duty impartially and efficiently. He is the pride of the Civil Service. We think it is the duty of the Comptroller of Customs and of the Secretariat to protect this civil servant from such malicious criticism.

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Readers’ Forum

Quatre Bornes

Le 15.2.55

Au “Capuchon de la Plume”

Non Monsieur, la religion n’est pas une balle ronde avec laquelle on peut jouer comme l’on veut. C’est ce qu’a voulu faire Henri VIII, et vous, vous appelez ça « avoir du cran » !

Puisque vous me référez à La Vie Catholique, vous devez y avoir lu la réponse du Rev. Père Dethise à Mr Ibbotson. Vous devrez sûrement avoir lu dans cette même Vie Catholique les articles qui y paraissent presque toutes les semaines concernant le communisme. Pouvez-vous les réfuter ? Peter Ibbotson le pourra-t-il ?

Peut-être connaissez-vous mieux que moi l’histoire des religions. Mais je connais suffisamment l’histoire de la mienne pour prouver qu’elle est la vraie.

Je suis fier de pouvoir vous le dire. Prenez cela pour de l’orgueil si vous le voulez…


P.S. – Je n’ai pas l’intention de continuer à disserter avec vous, Monsieur. Les discussions dans ce domaine ne servent à rien sinon à aggraver certaines discordes.

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South Indian League

The Editor – Mauritius Times


Whilst congratulating the South Indian League for the concert and bhajans which it gives at the MBS (Mauritius Broadcasting Services) from time to time, especially for the fine performance on the occasion of the Cavadee, could it not be reasonable for the MBS authorities to extend the Tamil programme? Though I don’t understand the language, not being a Tamil, I should say that the S.I. League has a bhajan team incomparable in the Hindu community of the island.

When one considers the number of hours wasted in sometimes disgusting and sexy Hindustani film songs, I think a part of that wasted time could be profitably used by extending the Tamil Programme.

Arrangements could then be made to hear the S.I. League bhajan team occasionally.

What do you think about it?

Yours respectfully,

Bhajan Fan

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[The Tamil Community has produced three up-to-date Jazz bands and some well-organised Bhajan teams. Their love for music, especially classical, is more marked than the other sections of the Hindu community. The South Indian league Bhajan team is doing an appreciable service in making the MBS listeners hear some very fine pieces of a classical music which is becoming a forgotten art in Mauritius.

They need our encouragement. We do not see why the Manager of the MBS should not allow some more time to the Tamil programme. Until the MBS authorities decide to increase the period allotted to Hindustani Programme, the listeners should concede to this curtailment with pleasure, because it will, we hope, be profitably used especially if the South Indian League bhajunum team is given the opportunity to make itself heard. Anyway, bhajunum or no bhajunum the weekly half hour allotted to the Tamil programme does not do justice to the Tamil speaking community. Ed]

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