By Raj Paneken
Sir Anerood Jugnauth will be celebrating his 88th birthday on the 29th March. Let us wish him a very happy birthday plus many happy returns.
Yes, let us give the devil his due! If today Mauritius has made gigantic strides on the economic level and is cited worldwide as an example for its economic success, it is thanks to that visionary man, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, « n’en déplaise à ses détracteurs.» We can ask ourselves where our country would stand today without the prime ministership and vision of that man. On the occasion of his birthday, let us see what that visionary has done to make the country what it is today on the socio-economic level.
After Independence in 1968, the country moved gropingly under the leadership of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam on the socio-economic level. In 1982, when SSR and his government were swept out of office in a 60-0 poll by Sir Anerood and his Party, the country was on its knees with an economy in shreds along with acute unemployment. But with his vision, industry and conviction, Sir Anerood and his government redressed the socio-economic situation and set the country on the rails of progress till the end of his first mandate.
However, more could have been achieved had he and his Party not lost the elections in 1995. Anyhow, the country was already solidly on the rails of progress under the leadership of SAJ. Unfortunately, the thankless electorate wanted to try an adventure with Navin Ramgoolam and his Party. They completely forgot all the good work of Sir Anerood who had changed the economic landscape of the country. An adventure which stalled the economic development of the country and moved it into a period of stagnation. Recently, in an interview for the 50th anniversary of the Independence, Sir Anerood said that the thanklessness of the electorate in 1995 has marked him for life. He said that in politics, there is an ingredient called « ingratitude ». When the people are fed up with you, all your contribution is relegated into the background.
The political wilderness of Sir Anerood and the advent of Navin Ramgoolam and the Labour Party in office would impact heavily on the socio-economic development of the country. His successor failed lamentably to keep up the good work started by his government. The ill-considered decision of the electorate to send SAJ and his government « dan karo kan » stagnated the progression of the country, which moved into a period of socio-economic hibernation. A period characterized by « tam-tam, dialsa, Macarena etc.» The country definitely stepped back under the leadership of Navin Ramgoolam, who had other fish to fry. Just imagine where the country would stand today on the socio-economic level if SAJ had been in office during that 14 years that Navin Ramgoolam had been at the helm of the state! The country would have made tremendous strides in all fields. All the social evils like fraud and corruption, insecurity, law and order, drug-trafficking, the gap between the rich and the poor which were rampant under the leadership of Navin Ramgoolam would definitely have been under control. With Sir Anerood alone at the head of the country, without false modesty, we would have earned the label of the Singapore of the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately!
Anyhow, his vision and leadership will make history. He will go down in history as the father of the economic development of the country. This is an acknowledged fact. No one can usurp that paternity as everyone recognizes SSR as the father of the Independence of Mauritius. It is the vision of that man as head of the country for 19 years that has made Mauritius what it is today.
So as an acknowledgement for his wonderful contribution to his country and its people as Prime Minister, let us once more wish Sir Anerood a very Happy Birthday, plus many happy returns. May God bless him with health and longevity!