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Mauritian Government’s Burying of Wakashio Grounding Report Angers Islanders

A general view shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, in this handout image obtained by Reuters on August 10, 2020. French Army command/Handout via REUTERS

Mauritian Government’s Burying of Wakashio Grounding Report Angers Islanders

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January 5, 2023

The government of Mauritius is being accused of resorting to “totalitarianism” over its decision not to publish its investigation report into the Wakashio grounding

By Vel Moonien (gCaptain)

MAURITIUS – The left-wing political movement Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) is calling on the government of Mauritius to publish the findings of the Court of investigation tasked to shed light on the grounding of the MV Wakashio back in July 2020.

The report had been discussed at the Council of Ministers on December 23, 2022, where it was decided that it won’t be made public. Instead, a ministerial committee chaired by the head of government will look into the recommendations in order to prevent such accidents in the future.

The Panamanian-flagged ore carrier was sailing from China on its way to fetch a cargo in Brazil when it grounded on the reefs of Pointe-d’Esny, a village in the South-eastern tip of the Indian Ocean island state. The captain has admitted that he navigated close to the island to allow his crew to pick up cell phone service. Twelve days after the initial grounding, 1,000 tons of heavy oil spilled in the pristine lagoon due to the rupture of one of ship’s fuel tanks. The government, which was clearly overwhelmed by the catastrophe, relaxed strict COVID-19 mitigation measures to respond to the incident.

“The decision of the government led by Pravind Jugnauth not to make this report public demonstrates once again that it is locked into a form of totalitarianism. This is dangerous and unprecedented in the history of Mauritius,” says Stefan Gua, a spokesperson for the ReA movement. “Instead of being attentive to the various criticisms regarding the management of this disaster and which would have allowed us to learn the necessary lessons, this government has once again decided to betray the people,” he adds.

“This unilateral act demonstrates the despotic character of this government and that of Pravind Jugnauth himself. Since the Wakashio grounded on the reefs of Pointe-d’Esny, nothing has been done that is in the public interest,” laments Stefan Gua. “The public will remember that the government took 12 whole days to decide how to avoid an oil spill and that it was completely overwhelmed when it happened. The government even spoke of fake news in the National Assembly when traces of oil were first reported by the locals.”

ReA recalls that the Prime Minister refused to apologize for the “ecocide” and accused the government of failing in its duty to avoid the same. The movement says it was clear that the government failed in its response and accused it of “criminal negligence.” It also questions the government’s motives for not revealing the findings of the Court of Investigation, while also highlighting its “collaboration” with the insurer of the ore carrier to encourage the seafarers to abandon any future lawsuit after having been paid a “miserable” indemnity.

“The decision not to publish the report goes in the same direction. […] It deprives the people of the South-east part of the island and the thousands of volunteers who made the floating booms of the truth to which they are entitled. […] The betrayal of the government is also detrimental to the legal aspect of this disaster,” pinpoints Stefan Gua. Some 1,700 Mauritian seafarers and inhabitants have already filed a lawsuit against the insurer and charterer of the MV Wakashio before the Supreme Court of Mauritius, at the initiative of ReA.

Some 4,000 southeasterners have registered with ReA for a claim up to now. The Court of Investigation’s report covers enough ground – it was mandated to investigate any shortcoming of the local authorities before, during and after the Wakashio’s grounding, including the decision to scuttle the bow and the damage to the marine environment – that could have been used in a court of law, Stefan Gua underlines.

He also insists that this report could have enlightened the relatives of the four crew members of the Sir Gaëtan, a tugboat of the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA) — the government-run organization managing the Port-Louis’ harbor — who died on the night of August 31, 2020, off Poudre-d’Or. The crew had been commissioned to bring back to Port-Louis a barge that was to be used to harvest heavy oil around the Wakashio wreck. The Sir Gaëtan was sailing near the shoals and sank in rough seas in this northeastern region after being hit by the barge.

ReA also calls on the population to rally behind the legal action against the insurer and charterer of the MV Wakashio for the ecological and social damage that this disaster has caused. A union of Southeastern skippers are also calling for the report to be made public and is asking for a meeting with the Prime minister.


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