The most powerful men in Mauritius: Harish Boodhoo

Harish Boohoo's rise to power was very interesting indeed and this article shows how he changed, became a different person or was he that person all the while? Il y a toujours un Anguille sous les roches?

Photo by Shubham Beeharry / Unsplash

Once upon a time, there was Harish Boodhoo, an ally of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who ended up abandoning the Labour Party.

He had his reasons to form his own political party. This helped swing the votes against the then ruling government in 1982. As a Labour supporter, I think this was the nastiest form of betrayal.

But later on, I accepted the change because it proved the Labour Party was outdated. The subsequent governments coming from the downfall of the Labour brought Mauritius back from the brink.

But what was the role played by Bhai Harish in the real economic and social transformation of the country? Once in power, Harish was not the same man he portrayed himself during the fierce campaigns.

His aim was to remove the Labour Party from power. But behind, there were other reasons. He was a changed politician and this was shown in his personality once he became Minister.


He was not the same Bhai Harish I met because he was now the powerful man. The kingmaker. Without the Parti Socialist Militant (PSM), the MMM would not win.

So he was probably thinking and he was right in a sense. Right he was the kingmaker. Events will prove that sooner than later. The change he portrayed was not good for the image of Mauritius and for political integrity.

Today we are paying the price of what Harish accomplished during his days in the government. He cannot deny this. After the elections in 1982, Boodhoo became a powerful masterpiece in the MMM-PSM coalition.

They defeated the Labour Party and the PMSD by 60-0 on the June 11th elections. A historic moment for tiny Mauritius.

But his role as an actor for change took a strange wayward course. He became the enemy of the press. The same press that carried his name far and beyond. They supported him in the wave of change in Mauritius.

Boodhoo was morphing into a fanatical element within a government that had promised to consolidate unity. While he was putting a stick in MMMs action plan–opposing Paul Berenger within the government– he was also firing the engine of fascism.

And that was under the rule of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth. It took Harish nine months to see the breaking of the MMM-PSM coalition. Following which he dissolved his party to merge with the newly-formed MSM. That was instrumental to let both the PMSD of Sir Gaetan Duval and the Labour Party of Sir Satcam Boolell back in the government.

After the collapse of the MMM-PSM regime, Jugnauth formed the MSM with the full support of Boodhoo and break-away MMM members.

They allied with the PTR and PMSD to form a government but soon enough, they called for general elections.

The MMM was broken and left the government with Paul Berenger as leader of the opposition. They suddenly left the future of the country in Boodhoos hands. He had an elaborate political game.


Without Berenger in the game, Harish targeted SAJ with slow lethal doses. Pushing his agenda forward with the muzzling of the press, to begin with.
And we see the rise of a mafia kingdom at the government house at least under the wings of the then deputy PM.

With Boodhoo now a super-powerful minister given all powers by Jugnauth, he changed the media laws. It was an era where the media was put under severe stress by the SAJ-Boodhoo tandem. It was Boodhoo who promoted this idea. My investigations into the matter prove it. Events that unfolded subsequently also stands as proof.

New laws were passed that would raise the ire of media practitioners but they did not lay down their arms. Instead, there were demonstrations in the streets. Journalists were arrested and jailed. The protests were against the terms and conditions making it difficult to own and print a newspaper.

These new laws were against the freedom of the media and the freedom of information. As deputy Prime Minister, Boodhoo was in total control of the situation. The police became more arrogant and acted upon his orders.


And I fought my own battles against the media laws and against the politician Harrish Boodhoo. The first thing I did was to inform the BBC. I was the BBC Network Africa link in Port Louis. The local media needed all the help it could get to fight back against the draconian laws.

This went into the ears of responsible people outside of Mauritius. Soon enough I was asked by a UN agency for media freedom to detail the situation. They wanted to know why the new laws were retrograde for a democracy like Mauritius.

I did a report of some 50 pages interviewing editors, journalists, activists and unionists. The report was sent to the UN via a British agency in Port Louis.
A British citizen working for the agency was diligent to send the document out in all secrecy.

He was using his position as Manager of the agency to ferry the documents under diplomatic delivery to the UK and on to the United Nations in the USA.
It took some time for the UN agency on media freedom to pressure the Mauritian government.

The pressures were strong enough to force the regime to abandon the anti-press laws. It was a mighty defeat for the Jugnauth-Boodhoo tandem and it soured their relationship to a certain degree.

Boodhoo may have promised international support for the draconian laws to Jugnauth. But this did not happen, even if New Delhi was probably silent on the matter.

This defeat also changed the fortunes of Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo who was Minister of Finance. But all these did not come without pain as I was made to realise that as long as Harish was in the government, he would be a threat to the media. He would also be a threat to the countrys unity and stability.


One fine morning, I went to the Government House in Port Louis only to hear bad news from the policeman on duty. At the gate, I was informed I had no right to enter the Government House. I was banned from entering the Parliament and all the ministries for that matter. I protested loudly, and vehemently. But the officer refused to budge. He insisted I should call the office of media accreditation of the Ministry of Information to get the information on the ban.

I had only one course of action: Call Sir Robin Ghurburrun who was an influential member of the PTR. He was a personal friend. Hearing the voice of Sir Robin on the phone, the police officer was trembling with fear. He allowed me into the Government House.

I went to the Ministry of Information where I quickly found out that my accreditation papers were not at the Ministry. I was told they were with the deputy Prime Minister, Harish Boodhoo. He had suspicions that I was the author of the damning report against the government on their media muzzling attempt.
What I did next was not gentlemanly but I had no other option but to show my disgust.

I wreaked havoc at the Ministry and like magic, my papers were back. And like magic, my status as an accredited journalist was reinstated instantly!
Yes, I made a lot of noise and I threatened to break some necks in the office if my documents were not found.

By that time, Sir Robin made calls to the Information Ministry and his threats were not taken lightly.

I remember he told the policeman at the gate he should expect a transfer to Agalega islands.


The same day, after the incident, I received a call from the office of Vishu Lutchmeenaraidoo. I was close to his clan and they said they regretted my actions at the Ministry of Finance. I told them to shove it off if they cannot control Mr Boodhoo, I will.

They also said this issue could have been resolved if I had confided to Vishnu. I did not know him personally at that time. And I confided to the partys strong man, Sir Robin.

I told them I do things my way. And I solved it my own way, albeit with an angry face. But this is when my relationship with the Vishnu clan grew bigger.
However, I did not lay off Harish Boodhoo who used to call me Bhai Mahmood. We had chance encounters at a printing shop at La Rue Corderie, Port Louis. We met in rallies and that was it.

After he became Minister, I said he was a different person.
I remember chasing him at the Government House in the lifts and chasing him on the streets. I chased after his car and went to his events where he acted like a chauvinistic fascist.

I wanted to get statements from him and his office would say send faxes. Remember, we did not have the internet then. Then I sent memos to Vishnu and Sir Aneeroods office to plead with them to act against Harish Boodhoo.

Rumours were he had a cosy relationship with a certain mafioso group. But I also knew the head of this group. Some of them were neighbours during my childhood.
I also sent memos to the PMs and Vishnus offices as part of my complaints against Harish Boodhoo for his fascist talks and ways.

He would make everyone stand before he enters the halls where he would hold talks. That was more like a dictatorial lecture. These talks had nothing to do with democracy. He was planning his next move and if you are deputy PM, what could be next in your plans?

It took them a few more years to decide to revoke Boodhoo as Minister. But the beauty of all these elements was the publication of an article in Africa Now.
In the article, I predicted the firing of Boodhoo by Jugnauth. That issue of Africa Now came with a thud, when Boodhoo was eventually revoked days after the publication touched the shores of Mauritius.


Before his firing, there was the Amsterdam Boys in 1985. Four Mauritian Parliamentarians were caught with drugs at the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.
At that time, we never thought Sir Aneerood Jugnauth could be involved–directly or indirectly–in drug trafficking.

The local media may have thought so. The local journalists were insisting it was the PM who was behind the trafficking. Boodhoo was removed from the MSM in 1986.

The drugs scandal at Amsterdam airport brought an inquiry in 1986 which implicated three members of the Legislative Assembly.
Six more politicians were subsequently accused in 1987 of involvement in the affair. This brought the SAJ regime to its knees. But they won the elections that year.

This is a series that will explore the past, present, and future of the most powerful figures of our beloved country.

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