Georges Ah Yan : “Activists and protesters must act in a disinterested manner”

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Georges Ah Yan

Georges Ah Yan is on all fronts where there is matter for protest. His aim is to see that justice is done for all those who feel that their rights are being baffled, but he does not want to give the impression that he is like Cervantes fighting against windmills. This is justified in the fact that he brought 49 cases before our courts of justice and won 48 of them.

What is the motive behind such a rage to fight for the population? There is a perception in the crowd that some activists get into the bandwagon of protesters against a development project and then disappeared seemingly after having been silenced with gratification. News on Sunday discussed the matter with Georges Ah Yan who has been an activist for the past twenty years.

The whole affair started in 1999 after the Kaya protests in Port Louis and its northern suburb. “I graduated from the University of Mauritius in Hotel Management a few years before and I have set up my own business as a restaurant keeper in Mahebourg. After the death of Kaya, the inhabitants of Mahebourg did not want to see this event happening again in their village. People of goodwill came together and appealed to all leaders of community, social work, whatever their ethnic group, to meet and devise a strategy in order to keep peace and harmony in the village. Fortunately nothing happened and the situation remained calm. It was after that event that the group, which was set up, wanted to keep the momentum by doing some voluntary and social work. This is how I proposed to help the homeless, there were around twenty of them who were sleeping on pavements and on the threshold of shops. In this connection, I got the support of Dr Pac Soo, a community physician, Sadasiven Coopoosamy, a psychologist and Christian Nichols, an architect. I thus became known as a social worker and Mauritians became more interested in my work, as I belong to the minority Chinese people and that it is quite rare that people of this group are involved in such works,” he relates.

Today, not only the people of Mahebourg and of the nearest villages show their gratitude towards my fight to have preserved the services of the hospital, but also the authorities who finally accepted that a blunder would have been committed if a hospital situated near the SSR International airport were to close its doors."

Georges Ah Yan explains that people of the Chinese community are more involved in business. “I was myself in the restaurant business. I earned my daily bread easily. It is only when the media got interested in the case of a former MP, who became an alcoholic and was rehabilitated by the group I was leading, that Mauritians from all over the island came to me for help. I suddenly became a reference as the one who can resolve social problems wherever and whenever they appear. It started at the beginning of this century and to-day at mid 2017,  I have brought 49 cases before the courts of justice and the latest is about La Cambuse, where I succeeded at asking for fairness and justice in the allocation of a better beach space for the public. A few matters remain to be settled related to the environment and which are still before the court.”

He reveals that the case relating to the Mahebourg Hospital, which the authorities wanted to close down, with all patients referred to Rose Belle, was the most gratifying struggle. “It was really unfair. I made my case based on two strong reasons- first the Mahebourg hospital was a heritage site built during the French colonial era, but mostly the catchment area represents more than 70,000 people who had to travel to another sanitary point more than 40 kilometres away. After some research, I learned that it was mandatory to have a hospital near an international airport. It was this point which was unbeatable and I won my case after four years of judicial wrangling. Today, not only the people of Mahebourg and of the nearest villages show their gratitude towards my fight to have preserved the services of the hospital, but also the authorities who finally accepted that a blunder would have been committed if a hospital situated near the SSR International airport were to close its doors.”

Georges Ah Yan also protested against the La Cambuse hotel project, putting forward the preservation of the environment and the right for the public to have a beach where they can spend their leisure time. “At no time did we protest against this hotel development or any other development project on the island. Whether other protesters have been gratified with money is not my concern. I keep a clear record, I have a clear conscience. I am still a restaurant keeper and I earn my daily bread as a honest citizen. What I can only say is that protesters and activists should act in a responsible manner.”

‘The Forum Citoyens Libres’ carries on with protests and seek justice for citizens wherever they live. It has eight more cases on its agenda- Liberation of the public beach of Trou d’Eau Douce, the Mon Choisy public road project nearer to Hotel Tarisa, the taking over of St Felix public beach for a hotel project, the wild development project on the western coast from Albion to Black River, Biometric ID card, Sale by Levy, the Flic en Flac new mapping and construction project on the wetland of Pereybere.

And his opinion on the Metro Express?  “This is well observed. As you could see, we, at the Forum, we do not jump on the band wagon. We do not join those who are fighting against the Metro. If we want to do so, we need to have in our group people who have the expertise and who can present a case before the population and at the court. Anyway the Metro Express is a project of high value that will propel our country towards modernisation. We will deal with the project whenever it poses a threat to the environment or to the health of the population.”