Dear Prime Minister,
I participated in the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) conference hosted by us this week at the SVICC. Overhearing remarks during tea breaks, I must confess, I have never been so embarrassed to be a Mauritian as I have been during this occasion.
The first tragedy occurred when the system in our Cyber Island crashed ; registration had to be redone, manually this time, and participants, among them VCs and Directors of Education, had to queue for over an hour finally to be told that their passes would be ready late in the evening or on the following day. The lunch programmed on that day was never served and foreign delegates had to buy biscuits and roasted nuts for their midday meal.
At the state dinner hosted in Réduit, the meal was served before the arrival of our President. The Tanzanian seated next to me remarked whether we serve drinks at all as the menu did not mention one. For their second helpings, the guests had to pile up their used plates in a corner as there was no one to clear the tables. We eat better at home during special occasions than what we have been served throughout the conference and by the President. One cheerful moment though was the interpretation of the Belafonte’s memorable “Oh Island in the sun” by the Police Band. By the way, do we consider the Police as human beings ? Young recruits have to stay on duty in the scorching sun for hours without refreshments. Has anyone ever asked what are these officers supposed to do when they face the call of nature ?
The transport for delegates between hotel and the SVICC was a pain. Participants were advised by phone that their car would arrive at a specific time but did not show up an hour later leaving no choice to the foreigner than to hire a taxi. Sometimes, emails reached recipients at eight to announce that their pick-up service would reach their hotels at SEVEN. Many guests were asked to leave their hotels before breakfast time and had to fast till 10.30 a. m. when the first coffee and snacks were served at Pailles. Servers told guests that Samosas and gateaux piments were rationed at one per guest.
The chirpy souls that we encounter in Government offices seemed to have lost their voices and smiles in the presence of foreigners. There was no coordination among staff and nobody seemed to know what advice to give when visitors complained that there was no postal and bank services available on spot. What a waste ! Over 800 citizens of the Commonwealth spent a fortune to travel to our island, paid at least Rs. 450k for a stand and hospitality to be cursed finally with the amateurism of Organisers who have been hired, it seems, for vingt cinq manqué a dozen. What a lost opportunity ! We could have made of those 800 individuals our Ambassadors for our Tourism Industry by serving them our best cuisine, move them in coaches than in regular buses and giving them opportunities to enjoy our beaches and of sightseeing. Instead we wasted their time in red tape and asking them to spend their Sundays at the Ministry of Education to trace the exhibits they had shipped. Ala ! With the departure of the British, the quality of our civil service has degenerated to a point of ABC. [Asize Bez Kas].
Would someone remind our decision makers that there are no “two first impressions” and that one does not have to be dodo-brained if one lives in dodo land ? What’s the point of spending millions on road shows abroad and neglecting a captive client who spent his own money to see our show, if we cared to present them one ?