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THE LAST SUPPER OF PRINCE RATSITATANE I wish to start with the quote from Jason Fong Sometimes your

r closest friend is your greatest enemy. I am sure that by looking at the title of my talk and the quote, some of you wou ld naturally think of Jesus Christ who was betrayed by one of his closest frien d Judas. I will talk of a similar event which took place some 190 years back in Mauritius . I will relate you the last days of a mystical figure in the name of Prince Rat sitatane (real name was Ratsitantanina), who was betrayed by one of his own on t he darkest night of 17 February 1822. In fact if you go back in history, Ratsitatane was a Prince in Madagascar the neph ew of king Radama I. During that period there was fierce competition in the Indi an Ocean between the British and French to control the trade route to India. In this strategy, the British were successful in securing Radama support against th e French. As the British did not have that much resource to possess Madagascar, they were able to sign a pact with the British. The latter gain a foothold in Ma dagascar and supported Radama in his ambition to control the whole of Madagascar . The British despatch a battalion to that country to strengthen their hold and also despatch James Hastie to maintain an influence on Radama. The rebellions ag ainst Radama were crush mercilessly. Ratsitatane the young prince of 23 years did not view the British presence with a good eye and knew their underlying motives was ultimately to control Madagasca r. He openly contested the British presence in his country. The British as usual shrewd were successful in convincing Radama that Ratsitatane was plotting again st him. This rumour gained ground. He was swiftly judged and deported to Mauriti us. Ratsitatane reached Mauritius on the eve of Christmas as a chained prisoner. He was kept near the Granary at the Harbour with other prisoners. While he was kept in the prison at Bagne, he learnt that he was destined for isolation on Rodrigu es Island. However, the British considered him to be an obstacle in their proces s to control the whole region Ratsitatane was unaware what had fate reserved for him. If he had a fate at all! The colonial British true to their habit were successful in buying one of his fr iends namely Laizafi for a few pennies. During the night of 17 February 1822, Ratsitatane with the help of his treachero us friend who had already sold him escape from le Bagne prison. He could not bel ieve that he was free now and thanked his so called sincere friend. In this esca pe he was accompanied with other Malagasy prisonners. Unfortunately for Ratsitatane, the plan put in place by the British went as plan ned. Hastie, who was by now in Mauritus, informed Governor Farquhar. The Governo r gave orders for their capture and the whole island was put on alert. Rumours spread throughout the island that Ratsitatane and the other escapees wer e going to set fire and destroy the whole of Port Louis. Farquhar was not surprised of this and a full force was sent against Ratsitatane . The British knew where the Prince and the other prisoners were hiding. In fact as planned, Laizafi guided Ratsitatane and his companions towards Champ de Lort , Plaine Verte. Laizafi was able to keep them there and in that stormy darkest n ight they shared their supper until the arrival of the force. A fight followed a nd most of the convicts were arrested. Ratsitatane succeeded in escaping, but he was captured in Moka. The prosecution of Ratsitatane is considered as one of the most astounding one o f that time. It was swift and well prepared to such an extent that even the Prin ce of darkness felt outcompeted by their dark conspiracy. In short, all those in volved in ensuring that the trial was fair and equitable had concocted so well t hat it became so easy to pronounce judgement against him. The most interesting p art was that the traitor also was condemned. There was a proposal to return Ratsitatane to Madagascar. However, the pressure was so great that there was no other option than to send him to the death row. On 15th of April Ratsitatane, now a young man of 23, was beheaded. His head was displayed in Plaine Verte and from there was marched in the streets of Port Loui

s. Subsequently, it has been stated that the Head was donated to the Museum of P ort Louis. In fact, if you go to the Museum in the first floor there are three heads and on e of them is believed to be of Ratsitatane. What is interesting is that the Truth and Justice Commission has in one of its r ecommendation proposed that the case of Ratsitatane be reopened in order to set the records straight and ensure that history be returned to its rightful owners. I would wish with your permission to pay special homage to one of my heroes. He was a man of principles who at a very tender age stood against the colonial B ritish tyranny. May be I am overblowing my appreciation of this figure as anyone may rightly ask what he offered the world or our region that he outlived history. On one point I am sure you will agree with me that we all respect and admire tho se who did not sold their principles and ideology for physical comfort or the op ulence of the palace and princely life. Such was the character of this young Prince that the colonial British had to sea l a pack with Lucifer and use all deceit and treachery of the hell to match the determination and will power of this young spirit that outlived our memories and generation. I would like here to place on record my appreciation to the different authors an d historians that have shared information on the website and thus allowed me t o construct and pass this message June 2012

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