Remembering Sir Anerood Jugnauth,  the Architect of the Mauritian Republic

 By Satyendra Peerthum, Historian, Writer, and Lecturer

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Satyendra Peerthum

 29 March 2024 marks the 94th birth anniversary of Sir Anerood Jugnauth(1930-2021), a towering figure of Mauritian politics for more than six decades who died at the age of 91 in 2021. It is also an auspicious occasion to remember the unique life and great achievements of this great Mauritian historical figure.

“SAJ”, as he was fondly known and called by Mauritians after being knighted in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II for his public service to the country, will forever be remembered as the father of the Mauritian economic miracle, a true Mauritian patriot, and a man of and with the people. He is the most important figure in Mauritian history between the 1980s and the 2010s who has greatly shaped and influenced the history of post-independence Mauritius.

A Unique Political Career

 The Right Honourable Sir Anerood Jugnauth (GCSKPVKCMGPCQC) was born in Palma, Quatre Bornes on 29 March 1930 and died in Curepipe on 3rd June 2021. He was a well-known Mauritian statesman, politician and barrister who served both as President and Prime Minister of Mauritius. He was Member of Parliament for Piton & Riviere Du Rempart. A central figure of Mauritian politics in the 1980s and 1990s, he was Leader of the Opposition from 1976 to 1982.

He served four consecutive terms as prime minister from June 1982 to December 1995 and again from 2000 to 2003. He was then elected as President and served as such from 2003 to 2012. Following his party’s victory in the 2014 general elections, he served his sixth and final term as prime minister becoming the longest serving prime minister with more than 18 years of tenure overtaking Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who held the office for more than 14 years.

Under Jugnauth’s leadership, his party/alliances won 4 general parliamentary elections in a row in 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1991. He led the MMM which secured 34 seats and SAJ was presented as the prime minister in the December 1976 general elections. The MMM became the country’s biggest party, but could not govern due to a hung parliament as it missed one seat to be able to form a government. Jugnauth became Leader of the Opposition up to 1982 when the MMM-PSM alliance won all the seats. He became prime minister up to 1995. He was appointed again as prime minister in 2000 and finally as President in 2003. Though his many years of administration did have its challenges, there’s no doubt that Sir Anerood Jugnauth considerably shaped the economic and political contours of contemporary Mauritius of which today we are his inheritors.

A Man of and with the Mauritian People

 Jugnauth first came onto the political scene during the mid-1950s following his return after his legal studies in Great Britain. He became a lawyer and later on a magistrate and Crown Counsellor. He joined the Independent Forward Bloc of the Bissoondoyal brothers who militated for Hindu political empowerment and renaissance. He subsequently held ministerial positions in the pre-independence government.

He was one of the last surviving politicians who witnessed and participated in the Lancaster House discussions in 1965 on Mauritius’ independence from the British. During the 1960s, SAJ worked to improve the living and working conditions of Riviere du Rempart district under the banner of the IFC where he was elected in 1963 and 1967. He took an active part in this decolonisation process and helped free Mauritius from British rule.

When Mauritius became independent in 1968, the island was fraught with economic and social uncertainty. Many didn’t want independence, with 44% of the population voting against it.Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became independent Mauritius’ first prime minister. Barely a year after indepdendence, the Mouvement Militant Mauricien fought for social justice among the working class and trade unions. This appealed to Jugnauth and he joined the party in the early 1970s and soon became its president and leader.

The Perennial Prime Minister and Father of the Mauritian Miracle

 In June 1982, after the first 60-0 victory in the general elections, Jugnauth was appointed prime minister for the first time, a position he would occupy uninterrupted for almost 14 years and eventually surpassing the length of the tenureship of SSR as PM. During the 1980s and the 1990s, was the period when SAJ and his successive governments worked for the country’s national development, progress, and putting people and employment first. This period was known as the era of the Mauritian economic miracle as the economy expanded rapidly, people’s standard of living and purchasing power improved, and there was almost zero unemployment.

His government faced new challenges and hard choices, like the management of high unemployment of more than 20%, more than 50% of the population lived in poverty, and severe austerity measures proposed by the International Monetary Fund had to be managed. Differences in strategic pathways concerning the economic and social issues split his cabinet and party. He left the Mouvement Militant Mauricien and created his own party, the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien. Just nine months after his resounding win, he dissolved parliament.

Jugnauth is often credited as being the father of the Mauritian economic miracle. Under his stewardship as both prime minister and president, Mauritius witnessed full employment, unprecedented growth and the setting up of new economic pillars, such as tourism, agricultural diversification, textile industry including the Zone Franche, the offshore and IT sectors including the cybercity, and knowledge economy. He modernized the airport, port, the city of Port Louis, erected new roads, buildings, healthcare and community centres.

Between the 1980s and the 2010s, SAJ improved the living and working conditions and standard of living of all Mauritians as well as increased their per capita income. In 1991, his government adopted a new constitution and Mauritius became a republic. In 2001, his government proclaimed 1st February a national holiday for the abolition of slavery and 2nd November, a national holiday for the arrival of the Indian indentured workers. It was also thanks to him that the Aapravasi Ghat and Le Brabant Mountain became UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mauritius. In 2003, Rodrigues was granted more autonomy by the central government and was granted its own Regional Assembly. These are among some of the great accomplishments of SAJ during his long and illustrious career.

SAJ the Consummate Politician and the Perfect President

He was an astute politician, with a flair for opportunism, he crafted coalition politics with military precision to his advantage where he would retain the position of prime minister and his Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien party would dominate within the coalition. This explains his successive electoral wins in the 1983, 1987 and 1991 general elections and then the general elections of 2000 and 2014.

Between 2003 and 2012, Jugnauth acceded to the post of president of the republic – a position that essentially holds ceremonial power. He led several state visits and help promote Mauritius and its national interests in the region and the world stage including at the United Nations and the African Union. He resigned in 2012 from the presidency and temporarily retired from politics,

At the ripe age of 84 years, he swept the polls in the 2014 general elections and once again became prime minister. He eventually ceded this position to his son Pravind Jugnauth in 2017, the current Prime Minister who was successfully re-elected in 2019. In the last act in his long and exemplary political career, SAJ assumed the role of Mentor Minister and helped to guide his son and the government towards good governance.

His last struggle was for the restitution of the Chagos Archipelago to the sovereignty of Mauritius. His success in garnering the support of the vast majority of the member countries of the United Nations General Assembly in supporting the return of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius bears the hallmark of a true patriot and history will bear witness to this remarkable achievement. He was able to get African Union and the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the UN, to recognize the claim of Mauritius on the Chagos and the atrocities committed by the British through their deportation of the Mauritian Chagossians from the islands. Today, the vast majority of the international community recognizes and supports the claim of Mauritius on Diego Garcia and the Chagos archipelago.

Sir Anerood Jugnauth, as the father of the Mauritian economic miracle, the architect of the Mauritian republic, of Rodriguan autonomy, his expansion of the social welfare state programs, social and cultural heritage initiatives, has left a good, lasting legacy for the present and future generations of Mauritians, as we commemorate the birth of this maker of our history.


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