Sir Anerood Jugnauth


On Thursday 3rd June 2021 Mauritius lost one of its most illustrious sons of the soil, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, former Prime Minister and President of the Republic. He was among the longest serving political leaders in any democratic country, his active engagement in politics extending over six decades, which also made him one of the oldest statesmen in the world at the time that he stepped down as Prime Minister in 2018. He had led his party, the MSM formed after breaking away from the MMM in 1983, to victory five times in alliance with other parties.

Hailed for leading the country towards an accelerated industrialization after the defeat of the Labour Party in 1982, he achieved national, regional and international stature over the years. Thus, he was honoured at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held in India, the global forum of the almost 30 million strong Indian Diaspora, and subsequently was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India. He got enhanced recognition internationally when he took it upon himself to defend the cause of the Chagossians at the International Court of Justice at the Hague and at the UN afterwards.

Like most Indo-Mauritians of his generation, he was born and brought up in a poor family in Palma, and faced the hurdles that such circumstances place in the way of obtaining  proper primary and secondary education, before proceeding to London to study law and returning to Mauritius after completion of his studies.

Given this background, it was quite natural that he would have the interest of the poor and the downtrodden at heart, and his profession as lawyer no doubt placed him in a position to gain more awareness about their plight and the need to defend their rights and improve their conditions. He saw education as key to this, which is the reason that he rejected the recommendation of the IMF in 1982 to cut the education budget, as Suren Bissoondoyal points out in his interview to this paper today.

In fact, as the interview shows, he was influenced by the activism of the Bissoondoyal brothers in the social and political fields, and this led him to join the Independent Forward Bloc founded by Sookdeo Bissoondoyal. He stood as its candidate in 1963 at Riviere du Rempart and defeated the Labour Party stalwart Anauth Beejadhur. This political engagement was complemented by his involvement in the All Hindu Congress, which had a socio-cultural focus.

As is well known, the IFB joined with the Labour Party and the CAM to fight for Independence, but split from the LP shortly after independence was won. The next stop of Anerood Jugnauth was the MMM from the 1970s onwards, until he formed his own party MSM in 1983, and leading it to five successive victories by forming alliances with other parties, including LP.

The new breed of leaders have not been exposed to the kind of hardships that SAJ and others of his generation went through, having grown up in relatively more well to do circumstances. This is all the more reason for them to be inspired by the trajectories of those who have assumed the responsibilities of the highest offices of the land with honour and dignity.

* Published in print edition on 8 June 2021

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