Ever since the Panamanian-flagged bulker which belongs to Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping ran aground on the reefs at Pointe d’Esny, Mauritius, on 25 July 2020, concerns have been raised pertaining to the potential ecological disaster that could explode. Numerous questions have cropped up about the presence of the ship so close to our coasts. Why hasn’t it been detected earlier? It was heading from China to Brazil. The captain could not be contacted for at least an hour. That was very suspicious.
In those seedy circumstances, the general expectation was that robust action would be undertaken from the very moment contact was cut off on that fateful day the ship has run aground. Instead, a highly complacent attitude has been adopted since Day One, whereupon the population has been continuously informed that there were no cracks on the ship’s hull. No chance of an oil spill whatsoever. The environmentalists, ecologists, the fishermen community and the population in general who have dared complain about the slack attitude of the authorities have been labelled as scaremongers. Civilian photos about early signs of oil spill from the ship have been dismissed as being photoshopped and to keep up with contemporary trends, we have been reminded about the penalties for spreading fake news!
Naturally, what was bound to happen, happened. The dreaded oil spill from the MV Wakashio has started its staining process of our lagoons. The ship was no longer resting in peace. The oil spill has reached our pristine coasts and represents a true danger to the Blue Bay Marine Park, Ile aux Aigrettes and the fauna and flora in the surroundings. The stench from the oil spill has been described as stomach-churning. Dead fish are turning up. Schools in the area have been closed. The apprehensions which have been previously ignored have now actualised. The photos circulating on social media could no longer be accused of being fake. The truth is out there. It cannot be concealed for ever.
And now, we are being told not to indulge in blame games. To keep hush. To be patriotic. What this clearly illustrates is that those who are accusing the authorities of negligence are being tarred as unpatriotic. We heard in amazement as the concerned honourable minister said during his press conference that the MV Wakashio disaster was the first of its kind. What about the MV Benita in 2016? Criticism is not tantamount to being unpatriotic. Rather, lessons have to be learnt. In this case, it has been too late, alas. Refusing to take on board the genuine preoccupations of the population has come at a hefty price. Our tourism sector is already in distress due to COVID-19. Now, our beautiful coasts are exposed to pollution. Arrogance and contempt have brought us to our knees.
Thankfully, volunteers and NGOs have wasted no time in organising a massive clean-up operation. We have to salvage whatever we can. Time is limited. Our authorities cannot simply go with their same old ‘we-know-it-all’ tune. Being humble enough to accept one’s flaws and magnanimous to acknowledge others’ opinions and assistance are part and parcel of efficient governance. Living in a bubble does not do anyone any favours. Ruling by threat is catastrophic.
So here is the analogy between the MV Wakashio ecological disaster and Aesop’s fable ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ which has been later popularised by Jean de La Fontaine. The ants are those who have been drawing attention to the possible dangers associated with the laissez-faire stance of the authorities since the very first day. The Grasshopper of course symbolises the indolent poise adopted by those governors who waited for Godot before deciding to take a leap of faith. No wonder our Motherland is bleeding today. A black death.