Wednesday's torrential rains which slammed into our island were a reality check. And it is a reality we have to stare in the face. It has highlighted just how ill-equipped and inadequate we are to cope with disaster - any type of disaster. So, they should be a wake-up call.
When the rainstorm started hurtling towards our island in the early hours of Wednesday morning, it would seem that our meteorological station did not see anything coming. If they did, the communication was terribly poor. So, we had to wait until 6am before the nation was told that children had to be kept home. Some were already in the vans on their way to school. Still forgivable, one might say, considering that, in the past, it was only when our kids were in school that they were told to find their way back home; an incident we still cringe over when we remember, as it had resulted in the death of two of our youth.
As we crawled towards Port Louis in an unprecedented traffic jam, we thought our woes would be over once we had swum through the Venice-for-a-day capital. Then we were told to go back home as the rains were going to get worse. Perhaps the communiqué put out by the civil service and the MEF should have had an additional note asking us to take our swimsuits with us. Those who managed to make their way home through - this time predictably- hellish traffic and reached Flic-en-Flac for example, were pleasantly surprised to see tourists sunbathing. Good for our tourism industry. Pity we were not told to be prepared to join in the sunbathing for a day out which cost the country Rs300m.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to take a second look at our navel-gazing culture. When it comes to bragging, we are unbeatable: the Tiger of the Indian Ocean, the best in Africa, the Cybercity, the communications giant...It took only a few drops of rain too many for our whole communications system to come to a total standstill. And we suddenly were more isolated than people living in Timbuktu!
Communication problems compounded by fear, uncertainty and bad decisions served to remind us yet again that we do not have a decision-making process independent of politicians. And when it comes to politicians, the shameless pas-moi-sa-li-sa is in order. Vasant Bunwaree blames the meteorological station; a station which, amazingly enough, deals marvellously with cyclones, just failed to even predict the intensity or the duration of the rains. But the cherry on the cake is Tassarajen Chedumbrum Pillay putting the blame squarely on Mauritius Telecom! What an excellent opportunity for our minister to settle his scores with his sworn enemy. At the expense of the nation. And, at the end of the day, no one is to blame of course.
Lack of information leads to bad decision-making which itself leads to a delayed response when time is of the essence. We are grateful this time around that there was no loss of lives. In future, let's look less amateurish. A rainstorm is no different to a cyclone. We need to have similar systems in place.
And these need to be independent of politicians. Until then, let's call ourselves the Cat of the Indian Ocean. And that's not being humble.