Calling the Diaspora  

Come back home, said PJ earlier this year while attending a conference organized by the Mauritian Academic Diaspora 2018

Le Premier ministre a lancé un vibrant appel aux Mauriciens de l'étranger ce mardi 20 février à Réduit. «Nous avons besoin de la diaspora mauricienne afin de construire une nouvelle île Maurice». Le thème choisi cette année pour marquer les 50 ans de l'Indépendance est «Lamé dans lamé».

Later on, he made another similar appeal and asked expats to pack up and fly back home.  “Brain drain is an issue of concern”, he said at the Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology. A few months later, he was celebrating the laureates and asked them to come back after their studies. 

When Ramgoolam came to power in 2005, he asked les fils du sol to come back and help rebuild the country. He promised them heaven. Some believed in him, went back and were disillusioned and left empty-handed barely six months later.

When this current government came to power, the Minister of Finance made the same appeal and introduced tax incentives to lure them back. I couldn’t find out how many took his offer. I doubt if many did.

Many expats would love to go back. They have left the country at a fairly young age. Their kids are grown up. Nostalgia is creeping in, some have aging parents and would like to look after them while others are tired of being in a foreign land. Many are ready to pack it in but the question is to go back to what? They have a wealth of expertise and experience and can surely contribute to the advancement of the country. Will they get a decent job based on their talent, skills, experience, and education? No, they won’t. Why?

To get a decent job, you need to know someone, preferably somebody in high places. If you want a job in the government, then you’d better be a family member of the ruling party where a pineapple seller sitting on the board may be the one vetting your CV.

Otherwise, if you aspire to work in the private sector, make sure you know the CEO. Better yet, connect the dot at the venue wearing your apron.  If you wish to work on the sugar estate, you must have the right racial attribute. Makeup won’t do. But then if you could get a job on the sugar estate you would never have left the country in the first place. In Mauritius, people are hired first, then they apply for their jobs.    

Now, what are the repercussions of such a practice? A simple example. Those who are called upon to lead investigations in criminal activities such as homicide or money laundering or taking commissions on public works are unable to successfully prosecute the culprits. Two high-profile cases where crimes have gone unpunished: Young Irish tourist killed in her hotel room and young South African woman found dead in the pool. As for taking commission money, don’t expect anyone to go to jail even if he’s found with his hand in the cookie jar. Ain’t gonna happen in a thousand and one years by the current cohort of investigators. Why? The answer to that question lies in knowing on what basis they got hired and subsequently promoted to where they are.    

So, all these shenanigans about lamé dans lamé and wanting expats to come back to help the country make for a nice political speech and photo op. Nothing more than that. Because in this country only a few people are hired on merit because meritocracy and sectarianism are oxymoron. They cannot exist side by side. Only one will survive. The resulting carnage is best exemplified by a comment from a reader posted on a local daily.

 

Ou pas capave sorti dans bien pour vinne dans lenfer couma Maurice. Societe Mauricien finne pouri et mo blame banne politician

 

Will expats ever hear PJ’s call to return home? Yep! They will for sure.

 

Saoud Baccus

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