This article was written collaboratively by Stephanie Walkerdine, Sonia Lee and Kim Grady covering the events of the student’s final day in Mauritius.
The British High Commission
At 10am we had a briefing session with Jonathon Drew, British High Commissioner and Sharon Taylor, Deputy High Commissioner. The Commissioners spoke about their roles within the Foreign Office in Mauritius and told us about the types of work they have been undertaking. They informed us the FCO promotes the United Kingdom’s interests in Mauritius, supporting British citizens and businesses. Sharon discussed employment requirements (one of which is an aptitude for languages) and their experiences working in overseas posts. An average overseas post lasts between 3-5 years in the Foreign Office, and we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the job. While moving posts so frequently can be disruptive for family life, it is also beneficial as staff get to travel and work in a wide variety of countries and environments. It also keeps fresh ideas and new faces in rotation throughout every British Foreign Office establishment.
In terms of the type of work, Sharon outlined that the needs of businesses and society are forever changing and she has to be able to adapt to whatever roles are required of her. In the past they have had to deal with piracy with Mauritius (being close to Somalia where piracy has been a big problem). She informed us that the problem has significantly decreased as vessels can now carry armed guards. This has acted as a huge deterrent to prospective pirates. Jonathon outlined his work both in conflict resolution and anti-terrorism in some of the most dangerous places in the world (East Timor, Afghanistan) and in promoting LGBT issues within the Foreign Office. We discussed the role of mediation both within law and diplomacy. Both the Commissioners were extremely helpful towards us all and shared many personal experiences.
Once that session had finished we were left with an hour until our next meeting. We took this as an opportunity to go shopping in the colourful markets of the capital city, Port Louis. We put our lawyer negotiation skills to the test by haggling with the stallholders to get some souvenirs to take home. It was an interesting experience with a bustling atmosphere, an ideal spot for people watching.
Following our foray into the hot, steamy markets, some of the group (i.e. Michael and Peter) had some genuine Port Louis street market food e.g. alouda (a sweet milky drink with tapioca balls) and a veg curry paratha wrap. We are afraid that others of our group succumbed to the temptation offered by a well-known multi-national fast food chain. It’s true that the food was not authentic Mauritian street food but boy was the air conditioning welcome!
The Ministry of Social Integration
Our next stop was a 13.30pm appointment with The Hon. Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment and UCLan LLM International Business Law alumnus. It only took a few minutes for Mr Roopun to get into his stride. After telling us about his route into politics and confessing that he missed his legal office, he went on to explain the difficulties presented by the current breakdown of the Mauritian Government. He explained that having a cabinet comprising of 24 ministers taken from a total of 70 MPs has led to issues relating to the separation of powers. With the executive function having such a controlling voice within the legislative function. If you compare this to the UK where the Cabinet consists of 21 MPs from over 600 it is easy to see the potential problems. He also explained the Best-Loser System, which is unique to Mauritius and is designed to ensure that all ethnic groups are represented in Parliament without altering the seat margin held by the party with the most seats over other parties.
After bidding farewell to Minister Roopun we were able to take a walk along the waterfront in Port Louis to our meeting point with Mr Ally, our mini-bus driver who would be taking us back to UCLan Mauritius for our final meeting with the students there.
At 17.00 the UCLan Mauritius students had arranged for us to have a gathering to say farewell. They had made a collection prior to the event and brought us traditional Mauritian cuisine – Biryani. We sat in their canteen and spoke to all the Mauritian students about what they plan to do after their degree and whether they wish to remain in Mauritius. Many of them expressed an interest in studying in the UK at some point in their careers. They had all gone that extra mile in terms of the dress code, and looked great wearing traditional attire that reflected their culture.
At 8pm we then had a second dinner with our much loved hotel host Mr Clifford, and prepared (not totally joyfully) for our return to the UK the next day.