Seewoosagur Ramgoolam

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Seewoosagur Ramgoolam

शिवसागर रामगुलाम
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam at Lod airport, Israel, 1962.
SSR at Lod airport in 1962
Governor-General of Mauritius
In office
28 December 1983 – 15 December 1985
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterAnerood Jugnauth
Preceded byDayendranath Burrenchobay
Succeeded bySir Cassam Moollan (acting)
1st Prime Minister of Mauritius
In office
12 March 1968 – 30 June 1982
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir John Shaw Rennie
Sir Michel Rivalland (Acting)
Sir Leonard Williams
Sir Raman Osman
Sir Henry Garrioch
Sir Dayendranath Burrenchobay
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAnerood Jugnauth
Chief Minister of Mauritius
In office
26 September 1961 – 12 March 1968
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorThomas Douglas Vickers (Acting)
Sir John Shaw Rennie
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Leader of Labour Party
In office
1 December 1958 – 15 December 1985
Preceded byEmmanuel Anquetil
Succeeded bySir Satcam Boolell
Personal details
Born(1900-09-18)18 September 1900
Belle Rive (now Kewal Nagar), British Mauritius
Died15 December 1985(1985-12-15) (aged 85)
Port Louis, Mauritius
Resting placeSSR Botanical Garden
Political partyLabour Party
Spouse(s)Sushil Ramjoorawon (1922–1984)[1]
ChildrenNavin Ramgoolam
ParentsMoheeth Ramgoolam (father)
Basmati Ramchurn (mother)
ResidenceState House (Official) Rue Deforges, Port Louis (personal)
Alma materUCL, University of London
LSE, University of London

The Rt Hon. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam GCMG LRCP MRCS (Bhojpuri-Hindi: सर शिवसागर रामगुलाम; September 18, 1900 – December 15, 1985; 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 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.

After his tertiary studies in London, Ramgoolam, who was initially a fervent defendant of the British administration and its empire, started calling for mass movement in order to obtain equal treatment, consideration, education and chances for all Mauritians through his authorship in a newspaper. His views changed due to then-fate of the Indo-Mauritian community which was oppressed, uneducated and ill-treated by the elite. He later joined the Labour Party to align himself with other members who were asking for equal rights and adequate working conditions for workers (mainly laborers). He later took leadership of the fight fought by other party members including Dr. Maurice Cure, Emmanuel Anquetil, Dr. R. Seeneevasen and Dr. Hassenjee.

He later cooperated with the Independent Forward Block (IFB) led by the Bissoondoyal brothers (Pandit Basdeo and Sookdeo; who were demanding for a complete decolonization and the removal of British administration from all Mauritian territories) and the Committee D'action Musulmane (CAM) led by Abdool Razack Mohamed (who demanded constitutional guarantees for the Muslim and other minority communities in an effort to prevent a circumstantial Hindu hegemony, which never happened) to form the Independence Party .This movement eventually led to Independence after the 1967 Mauritian general election.

A few years later he formed a national government with then opposition party Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD) in order to prevent the collapse of the fragile Mauritian economy and social order. The PMSD was the same nationalist, conservative and only party which led an intense campaign against Independence until 1968 and was led by Gaetan Duval.

Ramgoolam has been praised for his work for independence, free education & free healthcare. He is criticized for accepting the unlawful excision of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territories by the British government. However official colonial documents which has been declassified in the UK revealed that Ramgoolam acted under duress. The British eventually evicted all the natives of the archipelago to mainland Mauritius and Seychelles to allow American to build a military base on the biggest island of the Archipelago, Diego Garcia. He is also criticized for the poor performance of his last government (1976–1982) which lacked extreme economic growth and led to the country being on the verge of bankruptcy.

Due to the extreme poor performance of his government, his party lost the 1982 general elections with a heavy defeat when none of his candidates were elected to parliament. He himself lost his seat leading to the downfall of the Labour Party. He then supported the newly formed party named MSM and its leader Anerood Jugnauth in the 1983 elections. The Labour Party became a minority party in a coalition government and Ramgoolam was appointed as Governor-General, position he held until his death.

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, Navin Ramgoolam, has had three terms as Prime Minister of Mauritius.


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

His father, Moheeth Ramgoolam (who belonged to [[Kurmi[2] community), 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 Queen Victoria Sugar Estate. When he married 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.

He was a precocious student and enrolled in the neighbouring R.C.A. (Roman Catholic Aided) School, run by Madame Siris without his mother's knowledge. He learned History, Geography, English and French.[3] 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, he suffered 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 between his uncle and his circle of friends 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.[4]

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 the 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.[4]


In 1921, Ramgoolam set sail on one of the ships of the Messageries maritimes for Marseille, and continued by train to London, his final destination, with a transit of a couple of days in Paris. In the French capital he purchased copies of the books of André Gide and André Malraux with both of whom he struck friendship.[4] He graduated from University College London and attended lectures at the London School of Economics.[5]

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.[6] 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 I\integration as “a practical proposition for Mauritius, even if the majority of parties in Mauritius wanted it”.[7]

Many historians have claimed that Dr Ramgoolam 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.[7]

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[7] and to facilitate this issue, he was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 12 June 1965.[5]

Ramgoolam was an ardent admirer of the late Mahatma Gandhi of India and worked to ensure that there would be no bloodshed in the campaign for independence.[citation needed] He led the Mauritian Labour Party from 1959 to 1982 having taken the leadership from Emmanuel Anquetil and Maurice Curé. It as finally granted independence on 12 March 1968, and he remained Prime Minister, heading a series of coalition governments, up to 1982. In the general elections that year, his government was finally defeated by a Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM)-led coalition; Ramgoolam lost his own seat. Anerood Jugnauth became Prime Minister. In 1983, however, the MMM split and a new election ensued. Ramgoolam and the Labour Party supported Jugnauth and his new party, the Militant Socialist Movement. In return, Jugnauth, who won the election, had Ramgoolam appointed Governor General. He held this office till his death at the State House in 1985.

Ramgoolam was succeeded as leader of the Labour Party by Sir Satcam Boolell, who later passed the leadership to Ramgoolam's son, Navin Ramgoolam, who has since served as Prime Minister twice (1995–2000 and 2005–2014).


One rupee coin displaying the face of SSR

Various streets and public places in Mauritius bear the name of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) including the following:
1. garden
2. recreational centre for elderly people
3. college
4. SSR National Hospital in Pamplemousses (at the site of the Royal Alfred Observatory)
5. national airport previously called Plaisance International Airport
6. Kewal Nagar which is a small village previously known as Belle Rive.
He also figures 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 the village of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam's forefathers, near Patna, Bihar, India. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is the main international airport in Mauritius.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sunita Ramgoolam-Joypaul : « Maman doit être fière de Navin et moi" (in French). Le Defimedia Group. Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Gender and Politicised Religion (PDF Download Available)". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  3. ^ Our Struggle, 20th century Mauritius, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Anand Mulloo
  4. ^ a b c "The Man and his Vision". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b "No. 43770". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 September 1965. p. 8899.
  6. ^ Not a Paradise, I love you Mauritius, Dr. A. Cader Raman, Singapore National Printers Ltd, 1991
  7. ^ 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
Succeeded by
Sir Cassam Moollan
Political offices
Preceded by
Office established
Prime Minister of Mauritius
Succeeded by
Anerood Jugnauth