'Farewell to a Noble Soul' by Cassam Uteem, GCSK

IN MEMORIAM of Mohamad Vayid

Rédigé le Samedi 22 Juillet 2017 à 23:24 | Lu 459 fois

Sent by Past President of the Republic of Mauritius Cassam Uteem, GCSK, from Geneva.

L'Express, 15 May 2013.
L'Express, 15 May 2013.
The sad news of the passing of Mohamad Vayid during his short sojourn, which was also to be his last, in the South African city of Cape Town for the treatment of an eye ailment, reached me on the very fateful evening of May the 5th in Baku, Azerbaijan, where I was on a Club of Madrid mission. I had no heart, on the spur of the moment, to express my deep feelings of sadness at this sorrowful announcement but made up my mind I would, at the first available opportunity, add my voice to the numerous public tributes that would undoubtedly be paid to the towering figure and noble soul that he was.

The last time I saw Mohamad Vayid, barely three weeks ago, at a reception party in Rose-Hill, he looked his usual affable and courteous self and showed no apparent sign of illness that could forebode an imminent departure for what was to be his eternal abode. Such abrupt and unexpected death of close ones or ones whom one cares for, like a nasty bang on the head, brings home to us man’s ephemeral earthly life and unavoidable end which Shakespeare aptly describes as ‘a  necessary end (that) will come when it will come.’

Mohamad Vayid was of a rare breed of intellectual personae, with exceptional scholarship and amazing versatility. His untimely demise as that, a few months earlier, also in foreign land, of yet another stalwart scholar of unparalleled depth of erudition, Professor Jagadish Manrakhan, has left us with a profound sense of void and the country lamenting over its incommensurable losses.

Opinion leader, political analyst, management consultant, Mohamad Vayid was a man of bountiful talents with complete mastery of both oral and written English and French languages. He would occasionally wear his preacher’s garb and deliver sermons that would often pale to insignificance many a professional cleric. In his more youthful days, he was a much sought-after speaker at conferences, fora and roundtables especially organized by youth clubs on a variety of topics ranging from economics and history to politics and religion. The vastness of his knowledge, the pertinence of his arguments coupled with a sharp analytical mind and a rare eloquence used to keep spellbound his audience. He would always make time to underscore the importance of work ethics and human values that should be inculcated while the individual is still young. Always elegantly dressed but elegant also in demeanor and speech, he was the role model of many of the pre and post-independence youth.

He could also be quite provocative when required and even at times controversial. Dauntless and with a fearsome self-confidence he would, when ruffled by any stupid or ill-advised remark or a hollow argument, render entirely speechless his unfortunate interlocutor. I bet Mr Jooneed Jeerooburkhan, who, in his public posthumous tribute to Mohamad Vayid, refers to the Islamic conference organized in a Grand Baie bungalow in the wake of the 1968 communal riots, would never forget how his benefactor and tutor trounced him after an unwarranted and injurious remark or foolish reply of his that led to his prematurely walking out of the conference at which he was one of the distinguished speakers. I must confess that present there, I found Mohamad a wee bit tough on him for what was albeit considered by many as uncouth behavior for the occasion.

Not himself a politician, he nonetheless formed part of the politicians’ wide circle of influence. He was known to be close to the leader of the defunct CAM, who made no secret of the fact that he valued his advice and to the former Labour Party leader who entrusted him with quite a few important assignments. For nearly half of a century, Mohamad Vayid has either openly or discreetly, directly or indirectly, made use of his wide and influential network of friends and acquaintances in both the public and private sectors to further what he believed was a just and worthwhile cause. He was allergic to all forms of corruption and denounced the practice of favouritism and nepotism to the detriment of meritocracy.  His closeness to the current leadership of the Labor party did not prevent him from publicly voicing bitter criticisms against the incompetence of some of the political nominees in both public and parastatal bodies and denouncing measures that ran counter to the general  interest.

His knowledge, competence and integrity more than his proximity with the ruling parties saw him, at different periods of time, serving with rare distinction, as Chairman of the Boards of several public companies, institutions and parastatal bodies.  He found no substitute for good governance and proper management of public funds and would go to as many additional miles as necessary to meet his objectives. In so doing, he created quite a stir and a political furor when , in 1993, presiding a committee set up to review the structure of the Central Housing Authority, he recommended its immediate closure and the redeployment and/or early retirement of its staff. This very controversial decision, approved by the MMM/MSM government of the day was severely criticized by the Trade Union movement  as it resulted in a lot of unnecessary hardship to long-serving officers and their families.

I have always found Mohamad Vayid’s political philosophy or ideology to be more liberal than conservative and at the helm of the Mauritius Employers’ Federation, he distinguished himself markedly from the more conservative elements of the Private sector. He is known to have established good industrial relations at the BAT when he was its CEO and constantly worked on the improvement of the workers’ conditions of service.  He was of course no revolutionary and showed little sympathy to the historic leader of the MMM. However, unlike many others, he could transcend political differences and engaged into civilized if not friendly relations with quite a number of the MMM leaders.  I owe him a debt of gratitude for, although politically and ideologically at variance with each other, he did not hesitate to be one of my references , and a determining one, that enabled me, in the election year of 1976, to join a well-established and prestigious private Company in a senior executive capacity.

On a personal level, I have often had the benefit of drawing on his wide and varied experiences in coming to grips with some of the challenges that came my way, during my political career. A relation of trust and confidence naturally ensued. On the sudden and unexpected death of our son Oomar in March 2007, Mohamad and his wife Sajeda (Dr Malleck) were among those who would regularly visit us and spend hours providing comfort and solace to my wife and me. Theirs was affectionate, hearty and soothing company.  I will never forget that, one day, after we had been for some time exchanging views on Islamic History and the life full of tragic events and sacrifices of the early companions of the Prophet of Islam, he suddenly asked me whether I had read Victor Hugo’s poem A VILLEQUIER. I had not. This poem deals with the pain and tragedy of the death of his 16-year old daughter. Victor Hugo therein describes his grief and shock. It is a cry of revolt that is followed by a state of appeasement after which the poet asks for God’s forgiveness and offers Him his prayers. It is sublime poetry. It is therapeutic. The next day he bought me a book of French poetry with Victor Hugo’s poems in prominent place. This episode of my life while confirming what I already knew of the man of multifaceted culture which Mohamad Vayid was, revealed also his deep human touch and the strong feelings of empathy and understanding this extraordinary couple could convey in moments when they are most needed.

May this noble soul rest in peace and may his pious wife find solace in the thought that her husband has left the rich legacy of an exemplary life in the service of the country and its people. Such a towering personality would be the pride of any nation.

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