PM Jugnauth salutes courage, perseverance & sacrifices of indentured labourers

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Nakul Shivani | Date 04-11-2022
Mauritius commemorated the 188th anniversary of arrival of indentured labourers
Mauritius commemorated the 188th anniversary of arrival of indentured labourers


Mauritius/ Nov 3

The official ceremony to commemorate the 188th Anniversary of the Arrival of Indentured Labourers in Mauritius was held on Thursday, at the Trou Fanfaron Wharf, next to the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

The ceremony, with a gathering of some 4,000 people, was organised by the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund. The Vice-President of the Republic of Mauritius, Eddy Boissézon; Me Xavier Duval, the leader of the opposition, members of Cabinet and of the National Assembly; representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, including the High Commissioner of the Republic of India, K. Nandini Singla; and other eminent personalities attended the commemorative activity.

The event comprised a wreath-laying ceremony by the Prime Minister and other dignitaries; cultural and artistic items highlighting the historical legacy of the Indentured Labourers; and the launching of the annual Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund magazine.

Historical figures

In his keynote speech, the Prime Minister saluted the courage, perseverance, sufferings, sacrifices, efforts, resilience and patience of the Indentured Labourers, underlining their immense contributions to the socioeconomic development of the Republic of Mauritius.

The Head of Government recalled that some 462,000 immigrants came to Mauritius from India between 1834 and 1920, seeking a better life. Upon their arrival, they faced tough challenges and appalling conditions that denied them their humanity. He talked, too, of the significance of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site, where 188 years ago, some 36 Indian immigrants, after their journey on board the M.V. Atlas, climbed the flights of 16 steps with the objective of creating a future for themselves and their children.

According to the Prime Minister, indentured workers' history was one of Mauritian history's most inspirational chapters. He thus stressed the imperative for the population, in general, and the young generations to learn their common history and of the life of their forebears, and to visit the historical sites across the island. Jugnauth put forward the harsh experiences of the previous generations who struggled, sweated, and toiled with great dignity and succeeded, against all odds, in paving the way for the development and prosperity of the country. “Our story is the continuation of their history,” he said.

The Prime Minister also honoured all the historical figures who fought throughout decades for the human, social, political, religious, and cultural rights of all to be recognised and respected. He moreover paid tribute to the people who were instrumental in the preservation of the historical legacy and site, namely the contribution of the late Dr. Corrine Forrest to the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund and in the promotion of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site.

Cultural Show

Furthermore, the population was invited by Jugnauth to work together and to persevere in building unity amidst the diversity and multicultural aspects that were the hallmarks of the Mauritian nation. The Prime Minister urged everyone to live in peace and harmony while being proud of their ancestors and remembering the past. Pravind Jugnauth says that it is only through remembrance that justice can be done to slaves and indentured labourers. He stated that for what our ancestors did for the country, we must stay united. He added that the flame of unity should be preserved and nourished as some are trying to set the country on fire. He denounced an attempt by some people to jeopardize social peace.

As for the Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Avinash Teeluck, he invited the audience to cast their mind back to the time of the arrival of the first Indentured Labourers, and to reflect on their living and working conditions. Teeluck spoke of the wreath-laying on 1st November 2022 at Antoinette Phooliyar in Barlow where the first 36 Indian Immigrants lived after they arrived in Mauritius.

The Minister announced that an indentured village would be constructed at Antoinette Phooliyar in Barlow to present a living picture of the indentured experience. He indicated that thorough research had been undertaken and was ongoing to deliver a factual rendition of life and circumstances at that time.

For her part, the High Commissioner of the Republic of India dwelt upon the prominent and active role of the Indian Diaspora in the world. She affirmed that Mauritius epitomized the spirit of the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas and seized the opportunity to invite people from Mauritius to participate in the 17th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas which would be hosted in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, in India, in January 2023. The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas is celebrated on 09 January, to commemorate the date of the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India in 1915 and highlight the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.

After the speech of the Indian High Commissioner, Nandini Singla, at the Aapravasi Ghat this morning, Xavier-Luc Duval left the room. He was, therefore, not present when Pravind Jugnauth delivered his speech. The Prime Minister pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition was no longer present.

This article has been published in arrangement with Le Matinal (Mauritius' Digital English News Channel)