My first contact with Mauritius Times dates back to the early 1970s on my return to Mauritius after having completed my Masters’ degree. I had been recruited as Education Officer and had been posted at Royal College Port Louis. As a young idealist, I used to read all newspapers in search of wisdom and information.
Mauritius Times was one of my favorite newspapers because it was, if I am not mistaken, the only paper totally in English.
I regularly found myself, during my formative years amongst others, discussing with my friends the content of articles in Mauritius Times. During those days, I had the fortune to meet, in one of the social/family functions, the Founder-Editor-in-Chief of Mauritius Times, Beekrumsing Ramlallah and Sir Kher Jagatsingh. Both of them encouraged me to make contributions to the newspaper. They were the ones who urged me to consider myself as one of the many young men who had returned to the country fresh from university and needed to work for the welfare of the country and contribute intellectually.
Those were the days when I often used to meet my good friends Vijay Makhan (we studied at the same university and stayed in the same hostel) and Prakash Ramlallah regularly. We would talk on a lot of things but I was always timid to write any article, especially when I read the great stalwarts’ articles that inspired me a lot those days. One day, in an official function, I had a meeting with Sir Kher Jagatsingh, when he was Minister of Education and following a discussion on a controversial topic, he urged me once again to write down my thoughts so that I could share them with others as well.
I still hesitated although I did send one of my articles to two widely read papers in the country but they were never published for some reason. I assumed that they were of poor quality. Eventually in the 1980s, I stated contributing to Mauritius Times, not always very regularly, after meeting with another good friend Madhu.
Often in class, as a General Paper teacher, I used to bring some issue raised in the Mauritius Times and we discussed it thoroughly and shared views. Some of my students who eventually became laureates will bear witness to those discussions and how they must have shaped their thinking in some sort.
Nowadays, we can witness some kind of disinterest in the political thing by our youth that has become more insidious and cynical after witnessing the different alliances and misalliances, confusing, boring and distracting the majority away from politics. In such moments, Mauritius Times, with its variety of articles has succeeded in presenting events, on a weekly basis, in an organised, constant and regular way and readers are better able to hold on to the thread of some of the most important national issues.
The role of Mauritius Times in shaping public perceptions and opinion about significant political and social issues cannot be ignored in today’s modern society. It has the ability to enlighten the public, students, journalists and other media operators on the important role of the media and how best it can be used to mobilize people towards national development.
Unlike many newspapers that have specific ideologies and agendas, Mauritius Times, to me, is one of the weeklies that has the potential to shape civic discourse, with its numerous interviews, allowing for a very broad variety of thoughts to be expressed and encouraging readers not to be bogged down. Most daily newspapers have a well-cemented ideological “brand,” and more partisan readers increasingly see no distinction between “objective” news stories and opinion. One can only peruse the reader comments following any online news article to watch the inevitable ideological skirmish break out. To that extent, Mauritius Times has always been much more objective, allowing for opinions to be expressed, and letting the readers make their own judgment.
I firmly believe that Mauritius Times will continue to remain most relevant and enriching as a very respected weekly, eagerly awaited by its subscribers and readership. I sincerely hope that Mauritius Times will continue to keep us, as a society, honest, by telling the deep, ugly truth, finding the elephant in the living room, caring most about getting it right, not getting rich. Writing in the New Statesman, famous editor Peter Philby wrote: “Anybody who says they can predict the future of newspapers is either a liar or a fool.”
* Published in print edition on 14 August 2014