12th. March 1968. Time:- 1200 O’clock on a bright, sunny day at the Champ-de-Mars, Port-Louis, in front of a big crowd of overseasguests and representatives of other countries, Sir John S. Rennie, the last Governor General of Mauritius under British rule stood with Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, to watch the Union Jack being brought down and the quadricolour (RED, BLUE, YELLOW, GREEN), the new flag being hoisted up.
It was a very touching moment to see these two men shake hands and make history together under the quadricolour. This is very vivid in my memory, I was the photographer of the daily paper “Le Mauricien”. It was a very busy day for me. Champ-de-Mars for the flag raising ceremony, Le Reduit for the signing of the documents by the ministers, etc,.
Mauritius was one of the few countries of the world which had its Independence flag raising ceremony held during the day at noon, instead of the accepted midnight ceremony.
While school children dressed in the quadricolour sang ‘MOTHERLAND’, the new national Anthem with words by Jean Georges Prosper and music by Philippe Gentil; the crowd gathered were entertained by the many colourful floats depicting the various steps Mauritius went through since its discovery. The Champ-de-Mars was packed with people and children of all ages.
Sir S. Ramgoolam is no more. But all of us who have known him will remember him as a very paternalistic figure who achieved his goals. Like every political figure he was loved by some and hated by others.
The next day I was again on busy photographing the mass exodus of those leaving Mauritius by sea. Patris, Australis, Queen Frederica are some of the “bateau” that took many Mauritians to Australia. These photos are now part of the history of migration in Melbourne. They were on display for La Faya 2004 at Federation Square. They are the only ones showing migrants leaving their country of birth. We came here by choice and paid our own fares. The future of our children was important to make the sacrifice.