Perth Mauritians have not forgotten where they come from

Diaspora

By Ben Genevieve
Western Australia 

As a people Mauritians are very adventurous and very inventive. They are intelligent, clever, and immensely adaptable. They integrate easily into any environment without losing their Mauritian-ness.

They are very successful in whatever they do and are very popular with their neighbours whether they are Australian-born or not. They belong to clubs and organizations, and engage fully in all activities. 

Mauritians work hard but also know how to relax and enjoy themselves. They love a BBQ and a party, but they also delight in Mauritian food and events such pétanque, quiz nights, cabarets, dances, bingo nights and fancy-fairs. While these activities are highly entertaining, their main purpose is to raise funds for charities. 

For nearly 30 years, a large group of Mauritians in and around Perth have been doing so for a not-for- profit organization called COMMSSA-Western Australia. This stands for Children of Mauritius Medical and Surgical Support Association. COMMSSA is run by a management committee of volunteers elected at the AGM. No committee member receives any remuneration, thus allowing virtually all funds raised to go towards making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children of Mauritius and Rodrigues. The funds are used to finance various types of medical and surgical treatment and, in some cases, medications and equipment which are forwarded to Mauritius.

Founded in 1991, COMMSSA has financed more than 80 episodes/cases of care for children who could not be treated in Mauritius. Those children, referred by SACIM in Mauritius, are flown to Perth for treatment. They are usually accompanied by a family member and are accommodated with a Mauritian family for the duration of their stay in Perth. All their treatment costs and living expenses during their stay in Perth are met by COMMSSA. 

Since 2016, in conjunction with SACIM-Australia in Melbourne, COMMSSA has also assisted in funding the treatment of more than 25 disadvantaged children in private hospitals in Mauritius. Many complex cases can now be treated locally by an excellent team providing surgical, orthopaedic, intensive, neonatal and general paediatric care. 

In 2017 the Medical Directors of COMMSSA identified the need for the specialized training of nurses in stoma and wound care in Mauritius. In 2018 and 2019, under the auspices of the Nursing Council of Mauritius, COMMSSA initiated and financed nurse training programs which were conducted in Mauritius and Rodrigues by nurse educators from Australia.

​This tells you that Mauritians here have not forgotten where they come from and that they do care about their island and its people, especially the ‘little’ people who cannot help themselves.

* * *

What’s going on in the customs office?

On another note, I would like to draw the attention of the Mauritian authorities regarding the handling of packages dispatched from Perth.

We sent a package of 14 Christmas cards and 6 letters from Perth, Western Australia to a recipient in Mauritius. The package was sent via Australia Post. The local Customs Declaration identified the contents as Cards and Letters with a nominal value of 20 Australian dollars i.e. $1 for each letter and card. 

When the package arrived at Plaisance, someone from Customs rang the recipient to say that a sum of Rs 2100 had been levied on the package because it was deemed to have a “commercial value”. The recipient was asked to come down to Plaisance to pay the levy and then to come back two days later to collect the package. The recipient replied that the journey would be a long one let alone two journeys. Customs suggested that the levy could be paid in Mahebourg instead. After some more discussion, it was agreed that Ebene would be agreeable to both parties. 

The recipient was asked to pay the levy in cash and not electronically. Then he arranged for his son to pick the package two days later. When the package finally reached its destination, the recipient discovered that someone had placed an official looking red sticker across the package so that the original Customs Declaration was covered up. 

The official looking red sticker proclaimed that the package was a Service Alert thus triggering a protocol. Apparently the description of the contents as containing “Cards and Letters” was not clear enough. The protocol required that the package be treated as containing commercial products and therefore subject to the aforesaid levy. 

Some two or three weeks beforehand, we had sent a similar package via Australia Post and the package was delivered directly to the recipient. So obviously something had changed in the meantime. 

I believe that this is either a scam by some very imaginative and enterprising individuals who have found a very lucrative way to earn some Rupees. I found the fact that he had to pay the levy in cash very suspicious indeed. If I am right, it could mean that some officials in any of these offices would be involved in a scam.

It would be interesting to find out if other recipients in Mauritius have been asked to pay a levy on packages arriving from abroad. 


* Published in print edition on 20 November 2020

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