Last issue of sunday vani next sunday
A glorious chapter of the Mauritian press
will be closed after 2,441 days of struggle
NOTHING goes up and up without falling. for in-deed, what goes up is bound to come down at a certain stage or another. whether by force or natural means is quite another matter. all said, it’s physics. It’s the law of gravity in issac Newton scientific terms. In simple words it runs like this: the spinning wheel that goes up is bound to come down. So, the newspaper, which you have the fortune to be holding in your hands now, went up on September 12, 1999 — bearing my signature.
BUT fate now wills it that it will definitely have to come down on 28th May next. A strange twist of destiny commands it that the curtain which was up for 2,441 days or 343 weeks will finally fall down next Sunday. Maybe for good! More so, the fortunes of the press want it that history which was made on September 12, 1999, will end its glorious days next week with the last issue of SUNDAY VANI. Make no mistake now. As it is, the Prime Minister himself wills it that the lamp which was lit 343 weeks ago at the seat of ARYA SABHA, Port Louis, will undoubtedly be put off in one week’s time. So, in politics, it’s the new law of gravity of Navin Ramgoolam that counts. For indeed, what went up on September 12, 1999, will definitely be brought down and destroyed by him on May 28, 2006. Yes, he will himself fall down the curtain over the stage. Yes, he will himself destroy a part of the history of the Mauritian press. And yes, he will himself extinguish the light which has guided, comforted and saved so many since it was lit 2,441 days ago. No surprise at all!
Trampling our constitutional rights
BARRING any last minute miracle, all these worst-case, nay, nightmare scenarios are pre-set to happen. You may recall that for sometime now, we did announce the difficulties we are daily facing. These few elements will surely serve to refresh your memories once more. THAT:
(1) as soon as the Navin Ramgoolam l’ALLIANCE SOCIALE came to power in July last year, all the Government advertisements were withdrawn from SUNDAY VANI. Two other weeklies were also aimed at. No doubt, the worst-hit has been our own paper.
(2) in his fury to finish us off, the Prime Minister even directed to exercise a strict control over all the adverts of the institutions whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution of the country. Without surprise, the advertisements of PSC, LGSC, ELECTORAL COMMISSION and those of the para-statal bodies were all removed. It is to be remembered that all their members are political appointees, mostly nominated by the Prime Minister himself.
A top brass confirmed that it’s all political
(3) AFTER a total boycott of some 8 months, a top brass of the Prime Minister’s Office did ring me in person to announce that the head of the Government had decided to end the siege. Another important Minister (not an ordinary one) spoke to me twice on the phone for more than 65 minutes. That was in March this year. Thereafter, two advertisements of the Ministry of Education followed. However, when we categorically refused to barter our independence or sing the praises of the Prime Minister or toe the official line of the Government and turn ourselves into its mouthpiece — once more siege was laid. “En passant”, as both conversations were privileged, I do not want to reveal anything; hit below the belt and stoop to the level of the oppressors. Nevertheless, suffice it to say that in my life I had never heard such a frightened and shaken Minister. The roaring lion had turned into a squeaking, crestfallen, depressed and crawling mouse! All told, I must stress here that I was not scared at all to tell him a few home truths — “ses quatre vérités”.
Sunday vani mortally wounded by repressive measures
(4) FOR the last 10 plus months, the Government repression has been such that all those coming close to me or trying to help the paper have all been threatened. History will record that even the so-called opinion leaders of the independent press have all been silenced. Maybe, some of them are rejoicing — Barcelona fans like — at our bad fortune.
(5) before July 2005, SUNDAY VANI was receiving its fair share of Government adverts like all the other papers. With a few from the Private Sector, the total amount came down to some Rs 50,000 per week. With some Rs 200,000 per month, we managed to subsist mainly because of the army of volunteers and the untold sacrifices of the staff. It is to be recalled that both Sarita and myself have never claimed a single rupee for all our efforts and work. On the contrary, all our monthly pensions are sucked up by the paper. Many Readers and good samaritans have discreetly helped us to keep the paper alive and kicking. The bank loans have swollen to frightening figures. Now the management has frozen them. I’ll have to service them with my own monthly pensions. So, we are stuck financially. The last few days have revealed to be terrible ones. Bills for telephone; electricity supply; office and printing expenses; NPF; rent; etc, etc would all have been unpaid hadn’t some Readers and samaritans settled them. Next week will be more painful with its lot of stresses and strains. By the way, do not forget that the only Hindi weekly of the country — JAN VANI — was forced to stop its operation last January. SUNDAY VANI, mortally wounded by the Government boycott could no longer sustain it.
For sure, all these five key factors have been mentioned in some previous issues. Notwithstanding, on the eve of the disappearance of the paper, it’s important to refresh our memories anew and look in the rearview mirror. Why? To ward off any misunderstanding or evil campaign from the butcher of the Government House!
If only a miracle can occur
SO, what could be the miracle to save the paper which you are now holding in your hands? Well, as announced in our previous issues, we have opened negotiations with some good-meaning people who are more or less on the same wavelength as SUNDAY VANI. Four weeks have elapsed. We are still waiting for a reply. Given the repression and the state of affairs at the Government House, we fear that our counterparts may fall back and retreat for good. Who will take the risk of antagonizing the dictator of the Government House? If destiny wills it, they’ll surely take over the running of SUNDAY VANI. For my part, I have decided to stay away from it after 28th May next. The dream of a new life — far from the madding crowd; free from the woes and worries; a long way from the daily stresses and strains and a great distance from the tussle, hustle and bustle — is exciting my passion to turn over a page of history.
Rest is not written in my dictionary
FOR the ostensible purpose, I have already started dreaming of retiring and enjoying a peaceful life. At long last! Just imagine I’ve been struggling since my birth in the lap of poverty and adversity. My father passed away some three months before my birth leaving a pregnant widow and five little children in a hut at the mercy and vagaries of life and sacrifice. Thereafter, childhood and schooling proved to be a most difficult one — very often helping mother in the sugarcane fields; cutting grass for the cattle; selling vegetables and newspapers, etc. etc. Rest was not written in my dictionary. Just imagine, to fight off poverty, week-ends and public holidays were all like any other working and surviving day. I happened to join the Teachers Training College in 1963. Maybe, from 1963 to 1967, it was a quiet and untroubled moment of my life. Not for a long time! Once I joined the SEVA SHIVIR movement in 1967 and later active politics in 1976, life has not been easy at all. The 10 plus Police arrests and imprisonment by the Anerood Jugnauth Police and lots of Police cases have all taken their pound of flesh on my health.
A non-stop marathon race against time for survival
BY all accounts, on the financial front, the last 10 months have been the worst and the most traumatic ones of my life. It will not be proper to mention here the various struggles I have been instrumental to and the numerous battles I have won in the interest of the country — whether inside or outside the National Assembly. All said, just imagine a non-stop marathon race against time for survival since my birth. Yes, I am badly in need of a rest now. Let the population take care of itself and its own destiny. It is sad that the country is going to the dogs! Who cares? By the way, who cares in this dog eat dog world of Navin Ramgoolam. I am discouraged. I am fed up to the back teeth. I just want to live my own life! If only I could go through all the tens of thousands of manuscripts — especially when I was imprisoned — edit and publish them in book format, I’ll feel myself blessed. And my life will be complete!
TRUE, that’s a fantasy world, like a dream. It’s an exciting and unusual experience. It’s a strange situation I am now imagining. I am taking pleasure in dreaming of it. If only that flight of fancy could be transformed into real facts! That said, it was not easy to launch SUNDAY VANI in 1999. During and after the sad Kaya February civil unrest, it was felt that a section of the press was biased, one-sided and attacked unjustly all those who happened to join the civil service. More so, it was further believed that some journalists deliberately diverted public opinion in order to settle old political and communal scores. It was in those dark hours of our history that it was decided to have a paper which would strike the right balance whilst being 100% Mauritian.
We have weathered untold storms for 2,441 days now
AFTER months of dilly-dallying by some pseudo-intellectuals, Sarita and myself finally decided to take things in our own hands. We fixed the date of launching. And the rest is history now. At this stage, suffice it to say that even after SUNDAY VANI’s creation, some of the same pseudo-intellectuals — whose contribution had been nil — hatched plot after plot to destroy the paper. We have been able to weather so many storms during the last 2,441 days. Ups and downs of life exist. We’ve been able to stick together through thick and thin. We thank one and all — especially the Readers — who have stood by our side in defiance of the Government tyranny.
among the highly respected newspapers
OF course, we have not been perfect all through. Quite a few mistakes have been committed here and there in the last 342 issues. However, overall, in comparison to some other papers, we have been able to keep a very high standard. Without doubt, SUNDAY VANI is considered among the most respected papers of the country. Open any of the 24 pages. You’ll always find something decent and nice that will interest your burning curiosity. The entire paper is geared towards character formation. We have avoided cheap and sexy articles which are unfortunately the latest media craze. All said, you’ll hold the last issue in your hands next Sunday. The Government House butcher will kill it for ever. For our part, there are no tears left to cry our eyes and our heart out. It’s been a real pleasure to have been by your side for so long. Thanks.