I woke up on Monday morning and started humming ‘Glo o o ry to thee’ followed by the French version “Gloire à toi Ile Maurice”. My voice reached a crescendo at the words “comme un seul peuple, une seule nation, en paix, justice et liberté” and for one minute I felt proud to be an independent Mauritian, although miles away from my motherland. But that was it, the sense of patriotism didn’t last more than one minute. I think I know why.   
‘In peace, justice and liberty’. I can’t help thinking of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Not only because his name has been mentioned many times these past few weeks in the play ‘A Few Man Fridays’ at the Riverside Studios in London. I really wonder what was going on in his mind as he sang the words ‘in peace, justice and liberty’ on the 12th March 1968 having agreed to the excision of the Chagos islands from Mauritius by the British in 1965. Was he calm when he knew that a population of around 2 000 islanders would be deprived of peace, justice and liberty? Did SSR feel that the independence of Mauritius was justified when what was about to happen to the Chagos islanders was nothing less than sheer injustice? Did the first Prime Minister of independent Mauritius think he could enjoy liberty when freedom was being stolen from a whole population?
Sadly the lyrics of my national anthem do not move me in a way that I wished they would. But that does not take away my pride of being Mauritian. Right now I wish I could have the privilege of buying a fresh copy of Le Mauricien at St Georges Street, opposite the sweaty marchand dholl puris, and feel like there’s no better place to be than in the bustling heart of Port Louis and walking along the packed China Town up to the vibrant and colourful Plaine Verte and across Route des Pamplemousses and Sainte Croix. That for me is to be home, to be Mauritian. I can do without ‘Gloo ory to thee’.
For as proud as I am of my country and its people, it’s hard not be saddened by the price some people were ready to pay to get what they wanted. It’s hard not to feel for those many Chagos Islanders who were thrown into the slums of Port Louis after having been ripped off the UK and the US with the blessing of Mauritius.
Desperate to gain its independence, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam not only betrayed the Chagossian people by selling their lands to the British, but he also deceived the Mauritian people for covering up the truth behind Independence. And while SSR thought he was putting his name in the history books, it seems that he simply held himself up to ridicule in the eyes of the colonisers, by deceiving both the Chagossians and other Mauritians.
Forty four years later, while many Chagos Islanders still long to return to their homeland, can we still sing about peace, justice and liberty? Can the children and grandchildren of the Chagossians born in Mauritius sing these words? I don’t think so. But let’s not despair. A movement has emerged, which is getting bigger and bigger all the time. In Hammersmith, London, A Few Man Fridays has attracted hundreds of new supporters to the Chagossian cause thanks to writer and director Adrian Jackson. The old slogan ‘Rann nu Diego’ has been revisited by the actors of the Cardboard Citizens theatre company, who have wonderfully engaged with and educated audiences about events surrounding the exile of the Islanders.
Alongside this, the SPEAK Human Rights and the Chagos Refugees Group are going strong with the e-petition on the White House ‘We the People’ website, which all Mauritians can sign in support of the Chagossian people. It is also likely that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will decide this week whether the case about the Chagossians’ right of return is admissible. If it is, then a decision should be made by June or July about whether Chagossians can return to their motherland.
So yes, a movement is now in top gear spreading the word about the injustice done to the Chagossians at the time of Mauritian independence. For peace, justice and liberty…