No one is a prophet in one's own country

Avec le soutien de
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth (centre) with, among others, members of the Mauritian diaspora, at the opening ceremony of the international conference, on Tuesday 20 February 2018, at Réduit.

Dear distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the diaspora, welcome to Mauritius, “c’est un plaisir!”. I hope your stay here will not be affected by the poor weather these days, long days of continuous rain, thunder and lightning. Certainly, it is way better than the long winters of Europe, with their snow and bad weather. You will have seen yourself on MBC-TV and you will trust all the words expressed by the distinguished speakers at the ceremony. But, remember, “no one is a prophet in his own country”.

On 20th February, unlike you, I watched with great interest the MBC-TV news report (some 15 minutes or so) on the Mauritian diaspora and efforts made by the present government to attract the best and the brightest minds to the country. I also listened to the interview of Professor Ramchurn, of Southampton University, on possibilities of cooperation between the Mauritian diaspora and the Mauritian institutions.

I was not at the function where you must have heard so many pressing calls for you to come back with all the incentives that will be provided to you if you do return to Mauritius. Apparently, a package was proposed to returning citizens of the diaspora who will contribute to the development of our beloved country.

It all appears very nice and encouraging and will certainly wish to make many of you, who have settled abroad, to have some nostalgia to come back to your homeland and serve your country. Certainly, Mauritius is a paradise island, with all the attractions of a peaceful people, a rich culture, a scenery and weather that make Europeans and others envious of us. How often have I not heard foreigners ask Mauritians abroad what they were doing in Europe, or elsewhere, when Mauritius has so much appeal!

But don’t be deceived. I am sure most of you have lived in countries where your competencies, your experience, innovative mind and initiatives have been recognised. Certainly, I am not saying that you did not face discriminations of some sort or the other.

But you did not have to bootlick, you did not have to belong to any political party, you did not need to go to political meetings, you did not need to be politically correct (Ivan Collendavelloo’s version “nou bizin met nou dimounn pou inplémant nou politik” or Anil Gayan’s “Government is government and government decides”). You did not face ministry staff that filled the ears of the minister against you, you could express your views and you could make the contribution that made you succeed. Otherwise, you would have come back to your own country, even if there was no package.

If you stayed where you are, it is because where you are living, you have job satisfaction, you feel your contribution is valued, you know you will make it to the top if you work hard enough. I am not saying that elsewhere it is perfect. I know there are certainly moments of frustration and many times you may have felt you are not at home there. But you stayed abroad. Mauritius has a tininess that does not escape anyone’s eyes. Compare the broad vision elsewhere to the limited vision of Mauritius.

Before you take a decision to return to your motherland, look around, talk to real professionals, ask your relatives, ask neutral people, read newspapers, listen to the free radio then take the decision. If you have not done enough homework, you are in for a real culture shock when you will come to Mauritius: Mauritian institutions are totally politically motivated (including the University of Mauritius or UTM – ask the present President of Mauritius and she will tell you).

To reach the top in this country, you need to have the right political connections and become spineless. Most institutions are full of sycophants that will drain your soul of its energy and your contribution will be determined by the political masters of the time.

You may have the best qualifications and experience, you may be one of the best brains, you may excel in what you are doing or have done if it is not in line with the political demagogy of the moment, your chances are quite dim. Your value will not even be recognised and you may face “living in karo kann”.

I have the first-hand experience and I know what I am talking about, having spent a large part of my life in the United Nations Organisation, but being a non-entity in my own country. I am going back abroad because my experience and qualifications are recognised elsewhere. But this is not about me, it is about YOU. Think hard, get the best advice, read and open your ears before you come to contribute to this country. You may end up creating a hell for yourself on our paradise island.

Think hard, get the best advice, read and open your ears before you come to contribute to this country.

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