Did you hear that? Shocking! A prison inmate, tortured? A prison inmate, murdered? Ki pe ariv nou douniya? (What the hell is going on?). Lend me your lachrymatory! All handkerchieves out!

Haven’t you had enough of these lachrymatory shows of crocodile tears to give yourself a good conscience while you frantically look for a scapegoat?

Do you know the world in which you live? About 85% of all prison inmates are non-literate and non-numerate. Do you have to be another Einstein to understand why they are there? Is not the education system to blame? Afro-Creoles, most of whom are descendants of victims of the inhuman and criminal slave trade, represent 25% of the global Mauritian population and in our prisons, they represent about 80-85% of the carceral population. Why is that so? The death of Father Roger Cerveaux has not ended the Creole malaise. Don’t curse his soul for raising the issue. Curse yourself for both you and I are guilty. And please don’t argue that indentured labour was as bad as slavery and yet coolie’s children have known much success. Indentured labour was bad but slavery was worse. NO COMPARISON POSSIBLE! Don’t mix issues.

Those who pocketed the abolition of slavery compensation money are guilty for nothing was done to help the children of the liberated slaves on the road to mental growth and cultural freedom. Majoritarian ethnic leaders, whether red or orange, who are often heard saying, “Dan nou napeyna sa!” (We are not like them/ they are not like us.), have a fair share of blame for they have insistently treated Afro-Creoles as less than human. Political leaders, whether blue or purple, for whom Afro-Creoles are just a big vote bank which ensures success in certain constituencies provided they are regularly cajoled and conditioned to despise or hate “bannla” (the others) are also to blame for they are more interested in servicing the power of the rich and powerful than in helping Afro-Creole children to grow and develop. Religious leaders who have systematically ignored the importance of Afro-Creoles’ L1 (mothertongue) have willy-nilly contributed to the Creole malaise.


We are guilty because most Mauritians think that carceral institutions should impose harsh measures of punishment, hard labour and deprivation. The general public thinks that prison life should be ruthless, merciless and full of discomfort, harassment and anxiety of all sorts and that some forms of torture are acceptable. I have often heard people voice views in favour of such barbaric practices as flogging, branding, caning and brutally plucking out nails of prisoners (ras zot zong).

We are guilty because we give power to finger-and-tongue-cutting politicians who have a medieval notion of crime and punishment. A prison is not a chamber of torture and suffering to pay for our misdeeds but a school where we are educated to earn a place in society. REHABILITATION is now the key policy to curb recidivism. Authorities in Mauritius favour violence and repression and ignore totally the basics of rehabilitation.

While some countries are closing down prisons because of social benefits derived from rehabilitation, leading to a fall in recividism and also because of the adoption of a more progressive outlook such as open prison, others are privatising or are planning to privatise prisons with the consequential rise in recidivism and lowering of carceral standards. Good investment for some but bad social repercussions for all.

Radical changes are much needed not only in our correctional institutions but in our society at large. We only hope that Covid-19 will ‘ouver lizie tang’ (arouse tenrecs from hibernation) and help us chart a new course which will help us survive.


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