“We are at a difficult turning point, and the coming elections will decide our future”

Encounter: Sarojini Seeneevassen

* ‘Ramgoolam and Berenger have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ending their careers with honour’

In this Encounter with Sarojini Seeneevassen, daughter of the late Renganaden Seeneevassen, a prominent figure in Mauritius’ political history, we delve into her reflections on her father’s legacy, her own political journey, and the current state of Mauritian politics. Sarojini Seeneevassen provides insights into her father’s profound influence on the Labour Party (LP) during the 1950s-60s, emphasizing his values of justice, honesty, and commitment to societal welfare. She discusses her early involvement with the MMM and her eventual return to the Labour Party, drawing parallels between her aspirations and her father’s vision for Mauritius.

From addressing contemporary challenges in Mauritian society to offering advice for aspiring women in politics, Sarojini Seeneevassen shares her perspectives shaped by a diverse career that spans marine biology studies in Germany to serving as Mauritius’ ambassador to Germany and Austria. She also offers a candid reflection on the path forward for Mauritius, emphasizing the importance of leadership qualities, good governance, and the resilience of Mauritian society in facing current and future challenges.

* The Global Rainbow Foundation recently honoured your father, Renganaden Seeneevassen, for his pivotal role in the Labour Party (LP) during the 1950s-60s on a recent TV program. Could you share more about your father’s contributions to the LP and his influence on Mauritian politics at that time?

To appreciate anyone’s achievements, one has to understand the historical context in which he lived. Since I was six years old in June 1958 when my father passed away, some historians are perhaps better placed to describe his political career in detail. Yet, I can confidently assert that his kindness, sense of justice, and honesty formed the cornerstone of his contribution to society throughout his brief life.

I quote his words of thanks in 1947 at the Legislative Council for his nomination:

“My ardent desire is to work for the welfare of my countrymen and, in particular, for the multitude of men and women who have not full political rights in the country and who in their moments of distress look up to us for comfort. I am alive to the great difficulties that are ahead of us… but I shall spare no effort to bring in my modest contribution in the pursuit of the good government of the country and the happiness of the people.”

He meant every word, so much that he died as Minister of Education penniless — something unheard of in this century.

Speaking about the Labour Party’s ideology, he said:

“…We do not think we should assess a man with regard to his origin. We think that whatever may be the origin of men here, this country is their birthright and they are all citizens of this country…we do not want it for one particular community…We say we want constitutional progress so that the less favoured people in this country, the working people in this country, may have political expression…Those are the reasons for which we want to change the Constitution. That is why we want universal suffrage. That is why we want responsible government.”

Once more, he meant every word. Leveraging his skills as a lawyer, he laid the foundation for our Constitution.

Napal wrote the following on Friday 20th June 1958, in the Mauritius Times, to describe Seeneevassen’s impact on our Constitution:

“There is a strangely prophetic ring in his concluding words before the Consultative Committee,” and he quotes Seeneevassen: “There will be a social evolution in the world and there will be big waves of it. Sir, I think these waves will reach Mauritius be it in the shape of ripples and these people will progress as fast politically that if now we have in the country any Constitution that would not embrace them, we shall very quickly find that our Constitution has become antiquated, and we may have trouble and great dissatisfaction.”

Napal goes on to write:

“He seemed to look quite into the seeds of time. The Seeneevassen of 1945 was, so to say, a prophet pointing to the not-too-distant future.”

His vision of a Mauritian society was far-reaching. While grounded in his own culture as a Tamil, he valued the harmony between cultures in Mauritius as a necessity for a sound society. Historian Mohindranath Varma:

“If Renganaden Seeneevassen had lived longer, he would have been a true bulwark against communalism. If he had been there, communalism would not have been so rampant, eventually becoming the cancer of Mauritianism.”

* How has your father’s legacy influenced your views and involvement in politics?

I was fortunate to grow up among people who were close to him and imbued with his values. He was a kind and gentle person, always initiating discussions before attributing blame for any misdeed, even with me as a child.

He was a gentleman, and I recall that many gentlemen populated the political arena during his time. Just compare the Vaghjee of his generation to today’s Phokeer as a speaker in parliament!Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 5 July 2024

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *