Happy Birthday Mauritius
“Our past tells us that we have always with hard work, perseverance and imagination met all the challenges we have been confronted with and this should sustain us in our confidence to make God’s island in the sun a place to live and work in with pleasure”
— Sada Reddi
In 1967, a majority of people voted for independence and in 1968 Mauritius achieved statehood. However the making of the Mauritian nation started centuries earlier and has been ongoing ever since.1968 was a leap into the future. We did not get where we have come by taking faltering steps. There was a vision of the future, a determination to fulfill it and as struggle to overcome all obstacles in the way.
During the 42 years, the nation has been working hard and on many fronts with great creativity and ingenuity. We are a vibrant democracy, we have a dynamic economy, and we are a welfare state imbued with the ideals of equity and social justice. We have been blessed with inspiring leaders among whom SSR distinguished himself by making Mauritians see not only that that prize of Independence was within their grasp. He had also the imagination to envision the impossible, the determination to find the way and the conscience to find the right way.
SSR had participated in the decolonisation movement in Britain. There he also adopted Fabian socialism and the British constitutional approach to politics. In Mauritius he was the link between these three forces, and after 1968 Mauritius marched along the road which he had mapped out for her.
Very early we found that a mixed economy was a sensible project for our island and we avoided costly mistakes committed in many countries. Even our non-alignment was not a neutrality per se but paradoxically an alignment with our former colonial rulers, the lands of our ancestors and the countries across the Cold War divide. Culturally we allowed all layers of our culture to embed in our soil without any one displacing the other. Our multiculturalism was never a postcard cliché but something we breathe and live by every day.
Mauritians are proud and ambitious. Any casual visitor will see that we have been successful on very many fronts. We have in recent years succeeded the most politically difficult reforms amidst a world financial crisis. We have given science and technology a new role for the modernisation of our economy and society. For the second stage of our economic growth we need a first rate infrastructure, excellent communications, knowledge workers, an entrepreneurial culture but also culture with a big C. We need to put in more effort for our food security and a sustainable environment. Above all we need stability, social peace and solidarity.
Let us recognize that we can do much more but there are a number of ills which lay across our path. For how long are we going to allow the structure of land ownership to strangle the nation with its problems of housing, traffic congestion and food security? We are faced with a number of challenges: the people want government to deliver results fast, efficiently and transparently. It is not only government which has the responsibility to meet the challenges of the time. Government can be sure of its direction but never of its strategy when confronted with the myriad of demands from within.
So a new mindset is also required from the people, other institutions and organisations and every one can make a contribution however little it may appear. We do not need a government to tell us that every family can have an additional tank to collect rain water to use for flushing toilets or for gardening or for washing our vehicles which have reached 350,000 these days. Just imagine how much drinking water can be saved by a simple action. May be government will have to include that in our building permit in the future.
Similarly it is useless to raise an alarm after every heavy rainfall if everybody is going to pave his courtyard with concrete and in addition build four concrete walls around the house and not expect his house to be flooded. There too government would have to force every proprietor to provide for proper drainage inside one courtyard and across. Our past tells us that we have always with hard work, perseverance and imagination met all the challenges we have been confronted with and this should sustain us in our confidence to make God’s island in the sun a place to live and work in with pleasure.