It seems that the butchers who felled the immense tree at Lagar Lenor did so illegally. We reported the crime against both the environment and society in our April edition of our magazine, REVI LALIT number 132 under the title “Trazedi: Lagar Lenor”, “The Tragedy at the La Gare du Nord”. In fact, the butchers slayed all the trees that made Lagar Lenor a welcoming place for the thousands who go through it, to-and-fro, all day long, linking the North to the rest of Mauritius. The dozens of workers who spend hours there are left bereft.
In September this year, Forestry Guards visited Lagar Lenor and interviewed the transport workers, in particular, sefdegar looking for clues. The sefdegar said that the huge, old trees were there when the last bus left the bus station, and then the next morning, when the first transport workers arrived, they found the horror. All the trees had gone clean missing.
The forestry guards also interviewed the Police at the nearby Station, Trou Fanfaron. Did they not hear the trees being felled? Who was on duty that night? Did they get bribed?
Here is an excerpt from LALIT’s article at the time of the felling of the trees, translated from the Kreol original:
“The La Gare du Nord has overnight become a desert. All the trees are gone, even the two huge, huge trees, are gone. All the younger trees. The lot.
“Not a single one is left standing. There is nowhere to hide from the sun in the shade of the trees. Vanished. No-one can believe their eyes. What time did people come and cut them all down? No-one knows. In the dark of night? When Port Louis was asleep?”
The article goes on to describe how the workers, the bus conductors and the women who keep the public toilets clean have not got the least bit of shade to hide in. The workers from India who meet up with friends and talk loudly in the shade, sharing stories, have found the place they meet desecrated. In the absence of the trees, we all, the article reads, find their importance. “My grandmother tells of knowing the biggest tree there from her own childhood. This makes us wonder just how old the immense tree was. And to mourn at the tragedy of its being executed without anyone having had the chance to defend the case against it.”
In LALIT, we ask ourselves, what kind of State apparatus is there in Mauritius that allows this to happen? What kind of impunity permits this? This kind of intervention that destroys years of Mauritian culture? True culture? The culture of the ordinary, as Raymond Williams puts it.
And this is not the first atrocity at the La Gare du Nord. In 1989, there was the first round of destruction: banishing all the street merchants. These were the very people that for generations and generations had been selling fat-cakes and berries, fruit and soft drinks, ice lollies and newspapers, representing again the link between people from the countryside and the North. The merchants acted as guides, explaining how to get to various Government offices or law courts, as countryside people came to town. They acted as protecting guards to girls and women coming and going in the early and late busses when it is dark. They made the La Gare du Nord part of Mauritian society. In August, 1989 LALIT organized a petition to the Prime Minister, literally pleading the case of the street merchants. But no. They were banned.
And just as Mauritian culture re-established itself, all the big trees get cut down. It is truly a sign of what capitalism is like. Nothing is sacred. Neither humanity or nature. And it shows us that we have a truly capitalist state.
And even if the forestry guards find those responsible, those who gave the orders to fell the trees, who will ever replace 100-year-old trees?