Seewoosagur Ramgoolam

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The Right Honourable
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam
GCMG, LRCP, MRCS
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam - David Ben Gurion 1962.jpg
SSR greeted by David Ben Gurion at Lod airport in 1962
Governor-General of Mauritius
In office
28 December 1983 – Demised on 15 December 1985
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth
Preceded by Dayendranath Burrenchobay
Succeeded by Sir Cassam Moollan (Acting)
Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo
Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity
In office
2 July 1976 – 2 July 1977
Preceded by Idi Amin
Succeeded by Omar Bongo
Prime Minister of Mauritius
In office
23 December 1976 – 30 June 1982
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Sir Raman Osman
Sir Henry Garrioch (Acting)
Sir Dayendranath Burrenchobay
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by Sir Anerood Jugnauth
In office
12 March 1968 – 23 December 1976
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Sir John Shaw Rennie
Sir Michel Rivalland (Acting)
Sir Leonard Williams
Sir Raman Osman
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Himself
Chief Minister of Mauritius
In office
21 October 1963 – 12 March 1968
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Thomas Douglas Vickers (Acting)
Sir John Shaw Rennie
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by Office abolished
In office
26 September 1961 – 21 October 1963
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Thomas Douglas Vickers (Acting)
Sir John Shaw Rennie
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Himself
Leader of Labour Party
In office
1958 – 15 December 1985
Preceded by Emmanuel Anquetil
Succeeded by Sir Satcam Boolell
Personal details
Born (1900-09-18)18 September 1900
Kewal Nagar, Mauritius
Died 15 December 1985(1985-12-15) (aged 85)
Port Louis, Mauritius
Resting place SSR Botanical Garden
Nationality Mauritian
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Lady Sushil Ramgoolam (1922-1984) [1]
Children Dr. Navin Ramgoolam
Sunita Ramgoolam-Joypaul[1]
Residence State House (Official)
Alma mater Royal College Curepipe
University College London
London School of Economics
Religion Hinduism
Website ssr.intnet.mu

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) (September 18, 1900 - December 15, 1985) GCMG, LRCP, MRCS, often referred to as Chacha Ramgoolam, was a Mauritian politician, statesman and philanthropist. He was a leader in the Mauritian independence movement, and served as the first Chief Minister and Prime Minister of Mauritius, as well as its sixth Governor General. He was the Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 1976 to 1977. As the leader of the Labour Party, Ramgoolam fought for the rights of labourers and led Mauritius to independence in 1968. As Mauritius' first Prime Minister, he played a crucial role in shaping modern Mauritius' government, political culture and foreign policy. He worked for the emancipation of the Mauritian population, established free universal education and free health care services, and introduced old age pensions. He is known as the "Father of the Nation". His son, Dr. Navin Ramgoolam, is the incumbent Prime Minister of Mauritius.

Early life[edit]

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, also known as Kewal, was born on 18 September 1900 at Belle Rive, Mauritius, in the district of Flacq. Ramgoolam is a Mauritian of Indian origin, that is, an Indo-Mauritian.

His father, Moheeth Ramgoolam, was an Indian immigrant labourer. Moheeth came to Mauritius aged 18 in a ship called The Hindoostan in 1896. His elder brother, Ramlochurn, had left the home village of Harigaon in Bihar in search of his fortune abroad. Moheeth worked as an indentured labourer and later became a Sirdar (overseer) at La Queen Victoria Sugar Estate. When he got married to Basmati Ramchurn in 1898, he moved to Belle Rive Sugar Estate. Basmati was a young widow born in Mauritius. She already had two sons: Nuckchadee Heeramun and Ramlall Ramchurn.

Ramgoolam had his early grounding in Hindi, Indian culture and philosophy, in the local evening school of the locality (called Baitka in Mauritian Hindu term), where children of the Hindu community learnt the vernacular language and glimpses of the Hindu culture. The teacher (guruji) would teach prayers and songs. Sanskrit prayers and perennial values taken from sacred scriptures like the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita were also taught.

But the young boy thirsted for further knowledge. One day, without his mother’s knowledge, he went to the neighbouring R.C.A. School, run by Madame Siris. The lady was glad to welcome him, and at the school he learned History, Geography, English and French. [2] After leaving the pre-primary school, he went to Bel Air Government School, travelling by train, until he passed the sixth standard. At the age of seven, Ramgoolam lost his father and at the age of twelve, the young lad had a serious accident in a cowshed that cost him his left eye. He continued his scholarship class at the Curepipe Boys’ Government School while taking up boarding with his uncle, Harry Parsad Seewoodharry Buguth, a sworn land surveyor, in Curepipe. He would listen to the political discussions carried out by his uncle and his circle of friends. He would also relish the talks given by his barber, Ratan, on local politics and on the current struggle for Indian independence under Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rash Behari Bose. These initial conversations were to form the basis of his political beliefs years later. [3]

The scholarship classes, which formed the basis of lower secondary schooling, permitted Ramgoolam to go straight for the Junior Cambridge at the Royal College, Curepipe, where he fell under the influence of the English tutors, Reverend Fowler and Mr Harwood. He was charmed by British culture and manners and became a devoted admirer of English language and literature; he also acquired a liking for French literature. After secondary school, Ramgoolam worked for three months in the Civil Service, despite racism within the organisation[citation needed]. His encounters with poor people, and the death of his mother, inspired Ramgoolam to help those who were less fortunate than him, and these experiences had a deep influence on his future life. With the financial help of his brother Ramlall, Ramgoolam went to study medicine in England.[3]

London[edit]

In 1921, Ramgoolam set sail by the Messagerie Maritime for London with a transit of a couple of days in Paris when he rushed into the bookshop to purchase copies of the books of André Gide and André Malraux with both of whom he struck friendship.[3] He graduated from University College London and attended lectures at the London School of Economics.[4]

Struggle for Freedom[edit]

Independence of Mauritius[edit]

At the 1961 Constitutional Conference in London, the Parti Mauricien was in favour of an integration with Britain rather than independence within the Commonwealth. But Britain, at that time, had already decided that it would give up all its colonies with the exception of Hong-Kong, Gibraltar and the Falklands. [5]In fact, the die had already been cast as early as 1959 when Harold Macmillan had made his famous “Wind of change blowing over Africa” speech. After the general election of 1963, Gaetan Duval, then deputy-leader of the Parti Mauricien, again lobbied for Integration with Britain. But this was once more rejected by the British who did not consider Integration as “a practical proposition for Mauritius, even if the majority of parties in Mauritius wanted it”. [6]

Many historians have claimed that Dr Ramgoolam have fought the British and the integrationists with all his might to bring about independence for Mauritius. However, documentary evidence shows that Independence was inevitable, and had already been decided by the Anglo-Americans whose strategy was to maintain a military presence in the Indian Ocean, by excising the Chagos from Mauritius - prior to its independence. Up to what point the leaders of colonial Mauritius were collaborative or not in this excision process is a moot point that still needs to be thrashed out. [6]


After Independence[edit]

Ramgoolam served as Chief Minister from 1961 to 1968. The Colonial Office considered Dr Ramgoolam as a capable and far-sighted leader but they were also aware of his political ambition. In 1963, the British Conservative government was relying heavily on him to form an All-Party Government in Mauritius [6] and to facilitate this issue, he was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 12 June 1965.[4]

He became Prime Minister from 1968 until 1982 and lastly as Governor General from 1983 to 1985. He is known as the "Father of the Nation". Amidst much decolonisation, he led Mauritius to independence from the United Kingdom in 1968[citation needed].

Ramgoolam was an ardent admirer of the late Mahatma Gandhi of India and followed in the footsteps of some Asian and African countries. He worked ardently for his country to gain independence from the United Kingdom,[how?] making sure that there would be no bloodshed.[citation needed] He was finally granted independence on 12 March 1968, and remained Prime Minister up to 1982 when he was succeeded by Anerood Jugnauth[citation needed].

He was a medical practitioner from London and held a series of coalition governments from 1968 to 1982. He was leader of the Mauritian Labour Party from 1959 to 1982 having taken the leadership from Emmanuel Anquetille and Dr Maurice Cure. He was eventually defeated in the 1982 general elections by the MMM-PSM coalition, losing his seat in his constituency. In 1983, he joined hands with the MSM-MLP-PMSD coalition and was appointed as Governor General while Jugnauth continued as Prime Minister[citation needed].

He died in office, on 15 December 1985, at the State House due to health complications. He handed the leadership of the Labour party to Sir Satcam Boolell who later passed it to Ramgoolam's own son, Dr. Navin Ramgoolam, the incumbent Prime Minister since 2005.

Foreign Relations[edit]

Memorial[edit]

One rupee coin displaying the face of SSR

In memory of SSR, various streets in Mauritius, public places such as a garden, a recreational centre for elderly people, a college and the national airport bear the name of SSR, as well as his face on every Mauritian Rupee coin and on the highest note tender of Rs2,000. A monument was constructed at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, a statue at the Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis and another one in Patna, Bihar in India, the village of SSR forefathers. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is the main international airport in Mauritius.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b (French)"Sunita Ramgoolam-Joypaul : « Maman doit être fière de Navin et moi". Le Defimedia Group. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Our Struggle, 20th century Mauritius, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Anand Mulloo
  3. ^ a b c "The Man and his Vision". Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43770. p. 8899. 21 September 1965. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  5. ^ Not a Paradise, I love you Mauritius, Dr. A. Cader Raman, Singapore National Printers Ltd, 1991
  6. ^ a b c "Histoire: Mauritius Independence 1961-1968". Le Mauricien=9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Dayendranath Burrenchobay
Governor General of Mauritius
1983 – 1985
Succeeded by
Sir Cassam Moollan (acting)
Political offices
Preceded by
Office established
Prime Minister of Mauritius
1968 – 1982
Succeeded by
Anerood Jugnauth