GIS – 2 November 2014: The 180th anniversary of the arrival of indentured labourers in Mauritius was commemorated yesterday at Aapravasi Ghat, Port Louis, in the presence of the President of the Republic, Mr. Rajkeswur Purryag, the Prime Minister, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs of the Republic of India, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, and other eminent personalities.
The commemorative ceremony organised by the Ministry of Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund (AGTF) consisted in the laying of wreaths on the steps indentured labourers first climbed after they landed; a re-enactment scene depicting the arrival of the first batch of indentured labourers to Mauritius; dance performances by local and foreign artists; launching of a Souvenir Magazine of AGTF; inauguration and guided visit of the Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre; and unveiling of the bust of late Mr Beekrumsing Ramlallah.
In his address, the Prime Minister underlined that today is an opportunity to acknowledge our existential root, and traced the journey of the indentured labour from India to Mauritius after the abolition of slavery in 1834. He also paid tribute to those unsung heroes who through perseverance, resilience and fortitude contributed significantly to make this country what it is today.
Indentured labourers were treated like slaves, stated Dr. Ramgoolam, but they persevered because they had an indomitable spirit to overcome all obstacles. He recalled that the country was built by immigrants from different continents but they have all worked together for the prosperity of Mauritius.
We have travelled a long way and achieved much, but this road has no end, underlined the Prime Minister. We must continue to strive for a better life and rise up to the challenges of this changed, globalised world. We must unite our efforts so that we can unleash the full potential of all our people, he added.
Dr. Ramgoolam pointed out that UNESCO has early this week adopted a proposal by Mauritius to launch the International Indentured Labour Route Project to study the historic mass migration and its role in cultural interactions and shaping modern societies. He underscored that Mauritius is the only country in the world that has two UNESCO world heritage sites, one dedicated to resistance to slavery, Le Morne, and the other to indentured labour, the Aapravasi Ghat.
For her part, Mrs Swaraj, remarked that by their hard work and sacrifice, those ancestors of ours paved the road for the freedom and prosperity that are enjoyed in Mauritius today. Today, is an occasion for grateful remembrance as well as introspection, she stated.
The footsteps of those 36 first indentured labourers on Aapravasi Ghat would change the course of history for Mauritius and for India with the rest of the world. Those indentured labourers would become the architects of resurgent and modern Mauritius, Mrs. Swaraj added.
The Aapravasi Ghat, a world heritage site, according to her, is a shrine to the pain and anguish of those early pioneers without whom the human progress that surround us today would not have been possible. Emerging from the grim colonial experience of slavery and exploitation of indentured labour, Mauritius today can boast of impressive accomplishment that India and all humanity is proud of, she highlighted.
The Mauritian society, the Indian Minister stated, is a model of peaceful democratic vibrant and pluralistic mosaic of ethnicity, religions and languages which others around the world can follow to their advantage.
Government Information Service, Prime Minister’s Office, Level 6, New Government Centre, Port Louis, Mauritius. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://gis.gov.mu