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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Edition 6: Mauritius

Population of Mauritius: 1,240,827
Area of Mauritius: 2,040 SQ KM:
40 miles by 30 miles
Official Language: Creol
Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in 975 AD, then by the Portuguese between 1507and 1513. In 1598, the Dutch landed in a bay in the south-east. island "Mauritius" after Prince Mauritius Van Nassau, the stadtholder of Holland.
Although the Dutch called occasion-ally for shelter, food and fresh water, they made no attempt to develop the island. The beautiful bird, The DODO, which was described as a feathered tortoise was an easy target for the laziest hunter. Unfortunately, it was fat and couldn't fly.
In 1622, Danish adventurers arrived, hoping to exploit the ebony with which the island abounded. The French and British, too, began to see possibilities both for trade and strategy in the mascarenes and sent out expeditions in 1638. Their ships arrived too late.
In September 1715, France took possession of Mauritius in the name of King Louis XV of France. He named it the Ile de France, placed the French flag near what is now Port Louis, drew a document witnessed by his officers declaring the island French and sailed away after three days. Island was under french rule for 75 years.
On the last Sunday in January 1790, a packet-boat arrived in the Port Louis harbour from France, flying a new flag, the Tricolor. It brought news of the revolution in France. The colonists' enthusiasm for the revolutionary principles of liberty, equality and fraternity faltered when in 1796, two agents of the Directoire, wearing splendid orange cloaks, arrived from France and informed the colonists that slavery was abolished. The news was received with anger and the agents had to flee for their lives.
The last French governor of Ile de France was appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803 to bring the colony back to order after 13 years of autonomy. With such a task, it was inevitable that the governor, General Charles Decaen, would be unpopular.
Charles Decaen curried favour with the elite by allowing slavery and privateering, which were both hugely profitable, to continue.
On the 3 December 1810, the British, under General Abercrombie, marched into Port Napoleon where the French surrendered. Ile de France, Port Napoleon and Port Imperial was reverted to their former names, Mauritius, Port Louis and Mahebourg. Soldiers were to be treated as civilians, not as prisoners of war and were allowed to leave the island. Settlers who did not want to stay under a British administrator were permitted to return to France with all their possessions.
In 1810, Robert Farquhar, aged 34 became the first English governor. Under his governorship sugar production increased, Port Louis was transformed into a free port, roads were built and trade flourished. He mixed with everyone and encouraged younger generation to open dialogue with coloured leaders. The British also preserved the island's laws, customs, language, religion and property. The treaty of Paris did restore Bourbon / Reunion island in 1814 but the Ile de France, by now with its former name of Mauritius, was confirmed as a British possession.
Slavery was finally abolished in 1835.
Shortly afterwards thousands of Indians from Madras, Calcutta and Bombay were encouraged to emigrate to Mauritius with promises of a labour contract that included a salary and accommodation and a passage home. They arrived in dreadful conditions at Port Louis where they were housed in temporary depots and distributed to the sugar estates. They were paid very little, subjected to harsh treatment and forced to work long hours. These indentured labourers or 'coolies', were slaves by another name and were to form the majority of the population.
Also in 1907, Mohandas Gandhi (later Mahatma Gandhi) visited Mauritius and as a result sent Manillal Doctor, an Indian lawyer, to Port Louis in 1907 to organise the indentured labourers who had no say in politics and no civil rights.
In 1936, the Labour Party was formed and persuaded the Indians to take politician action and campaign for better working conditions.
The Second World War brought infra structural development. The British based their fleet at Port Louis and Grand Port, as well as building an airport at Plaisance and a sea plane base at Baie du Tombeau. A large telecommunication station was built at Vacoas, although the first underwater telephone cable, linking South Africa to Australia, had been laid to Mauritius in 1901.
In the election held after the war, the Mauritius Labour Party won the majority of seats in the Legislative Council set up under the 1948 constitution. this success was repeated in 1953. After the 1959 election (the first held following the introduction of universal adult franchise), Hindu doctor (later Sir) Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, leader of the Mauritius labour Party became Chief Minister, then Premier in 1965, holding the post until 1982.
Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1968, Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State represented by a Governor General.
In 1992, Mauritius became an independent republic with the Commonwealth.
Since independence, Mauritius has changed drastically from a sugar producing island to a newly industrialised nation. For many, Mauritius was synonymous with the dodo. Much of its success is attributable to a policy of diversification from its traditional one crop industry, sugar to tourism, textile and agriculture. Mauritius has now the distinction of being one of the most stable countries in the developing world.
Mauritius is also promoted in holiday brochures as one of those faraway places associated with the dodo and desert island dreams. It is a country of diverse cultures justifying the tourist office's claim to being " the most cosmopolitan island in the sun" with a smiling, natural and charming people. Mauritius has an almost perfect year round climate and hotels with excellent service, comfortable accommodation and a full range of water and land sports, dazzling white beaches, deep blue lagoons and an enchanting mountain scenery.
Places visited by Riya
South: Shiva Temple, Volcanic crater, Seven color earth, falls, topmost point
East: Isle Aux Cerf, natural falls, parasailing, speed boat, surfing
North: Port Louis, submarine ride, shopping, grand bay…

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