The departure of two men, Geerjapersad (Pandit) Ramloll and Deepchand Beeharry, who have been closely associated with this paper for decades, as also with the erstwhile daily paper Advance, the Mauritius Labour Party and, we can confidently say, to the country as a whole gives us an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of that generation of soldiers-in-arms who joined forces with many others both to free the country from the colonial yoke and to usher in a time of plenty and freedom. Both men, who passed away within a few weeks of each other, in April and June 2010 respectively, need no introduction, at least among intellectuals and all those who are closely associated with the press and the world of creative writing.
Deepchand Beeharry was well-known as a pioneer from the pre-independence generation of writers who have marked Mauritian Literature with novels, short stories and radio plays not only in English but also in French and Hindi. Among his novels, some famous titles are That others may Live, Never Good Bye, Three Women and a President and The Heart and Soul. He was conversant with many languages in Mauritius and had acted as the President of the Hindi Speaking Union.
After secondary education at the Royal College Curepipe and a short stint as teacher, he left the country to pursue further studies in India at the Benares Hindu University where he passed his BA in Hindi. He obtained an MA in English Literature at the famous Rabindranath Tagore-founded Vishwa Bharati University in Shantiniketan, Calcutta. He worked for a time as an Education Officer at the Royal College Curepipe, but later he decided to pursue law studies at Middle Temple in Great Britain.
In the political field, he was active within the Labour Party, and stood as the Party’s candidate in Montagne Longue in 1963 and in Port-Louis Nord/Montagne Longue in 1976. In between he served as Road Transport Commissioner at the Road Traffic Licensing Authority and chaired the Wages Council.
Readers of Mauritius Times will remember him particularly as a regular columnist of this paper. True to his objectives, the issues he covered in this paper spanned the whole range of concerns, the political and social developments in those critical years before and after Independence, covering them in great depth. Everything was there: from the basic needs of people such as decent wages and regular employment, to the provision of facilities for housing loans, population control, land tenancy, budgetary and other resource allocations, transparency and accountability, the prices of essential foodstuffs, health issues and the cost and availability of medical treatments and the quality of medical care, law and order — an endless list of concerns to many of which he came back again and again.
Born in Port-Louis on the 18th March 1928, “Pandit”, as he was affectionately known to his close friends and relatives, was the son of Rugbeer Ramloll, the second Hindu attorney-at-law in Mauritius. He came from a family of 12 children. After secondary education at the Royal College Curepipe, he obtained his “Teachers’ Training College Certificate” in 1950 and he spent 10 years as a teacher in the educational sector.
However, he took a keen interest in languages and in written and verbal communication, which led him automatically to journalism. He started writing press articles while working as a teacher. He worked for the Advance newspaper in 1963 as reporter and decided to follow a course in journalism at Cardiff (UK) after having secured a scholarship from the Thompson Foundation. Then, in 1965, he continued his studies at the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris where he obtained a “Diplôme d’études de civilisation française”. However, determined to become a full-fledged professional, he continued his studies, completing his BA in Journalism in 1970 from the University of Strasbourg and his MA in Journalism two years later. After an internship at the United Press International and at the Le Monde newspaper during his studies, he decided to come back to Mauritius.
He was earlier involved with the Mauritius Times right from 1954 and for many years until he joined Advance. In June 1972, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the daily, which he served for 12 years. He has also served as the Secretary of the “Mauritius Union of Journalists”. As a journalist, he took a keen interest in the outside world and he travelled and met people of all backgrounds in international conferences and elsewhere. He had discussions with very interesting people, such as Golda Meir and Mother Theresa. Throughout his career, he contributed to the development of Mauritius through his work and ideas.
Geerjapersad Ramloll died on the 19th April 2010 at the age of 82 but he will be remembered not only as an intellectual and a journalist but also for his love of life, his sense of humour and his outspokenness.
Of equal if not greater importance than the issues that both Deepchand Beeharry and Geerjapersad Ramloll wrote about in the Mauritius Times and in Advance, were the values and principles that guided their articulation. Both were resolutely against personalising a matter, or hurting let alone insulting opponents with whom they crossed swords.
Mauritius Times extends its deepest condolences to the bereaved families.
* Published in print edition on 25 June 2010