Far from joining the debate “to celebrate or not to celebrate” the victory of the French in La Bataille de Grand-Port of 1810 nor to comment on the style in which the celebrations are being held, we wish to refer to a suggestion which we made on 25 May 2008 to the then organisers of the festivities, at the Ministry of Tourism, Leisure and External Communications, as follows:
“We wish to say that according to the Archives, Mahebourg Village was built in 1806 by General Decaen… Decaen fit construire au centre de son emplacement un petit hôpital…
“No doubt the ‘petit hôpital’ was attended at some time or another by the French officers and by soldiers of all nationalities engaged in this battle; unfortunately we do not have specific details. However we are willing to contribute to the success of the commemoration by participating in a modest way, as for example through the holding of a religious ceremony in memory of those who lost their lives in the battle, and by participating in a march (from Rivière La Chaux to the present hospital) enacting the transfer of the wounded from the battle site to the hospital.”
Unfortunately, we never heard from the organisers.
In the same breath, we would like to make a suggestion to the concerned authorities, especially to those at the helm of the Municipality of Port-Louis and of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, that it would be most fitting to erect a statue of an African slave and an Indian indentured labourer holding hands at the Place Bissoondoyal or at the Caudan Waterfront to pay homage to the invaluable contribution made by the numerous slaves and labourers whose physical abilities were used and exploited for the building and shaping of the Island of Mauritius and its dependencies.
We, as a nation, owe them this much. A dignified place among the eminent builders of our society will be a fitting recognition of our debt to them.
Dr Mala Modun-Bissessur
* Published in print edition on 20 August 2010
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