By Stephen Spark
Friday 1 February 2013 : 1:00 GMT
Last year Soca News brought you the story of the extraordinary spat between Mauritius and Seychelles. Twice Seychelles invited Mauritius to take part in the carnival; twice Mauritius refused. Last year, its only representation was a lonely truck draped in the Mauritian flag organised by a radio station. To rub salt into the wound, the Mauritians decided to hold their own event at Flic-en-Flac on the west coast of Mauritius.
Over-hasty organisation and poor promotion meant that although monster bottlenecks built up as thousands of Mauritians tried to get to the carnival – unwisely routed along a narrow dead-end road – the event failed to attract more than a handful of foreign visitors, which was the whole justification for the expensive, tax-payer-funded extravaganza. The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) initially called it the ‘Vanilla Islands Carnival’ but had to back down after protests from Seychelles. Meanwhile, tourism commentators derided the Flic-en-Flac affair as the “cut-and-paste carnival”.
After this bruising experience, it was assumed that Mauritius would steer clear of controversy and quietly agree to send a group to Victoria in 2013. Instead, Mauritian tourism minister Michael Sik Yuen told Le Défi newspaper on 7 January that Mauritius would need to see some return “because if we participate we will have to pay out a sum of 100,000 euros”. Alain St Ange, Sik Yuen’s opposite number in Seychelles, immediately pointed out what everyone else already knew: “To participate in the annual Carnaval International de Victoria is free. There is no fee whatsoever to send a delegation to parade alongside the best-known carnivals of the world.” Only if Mauritius came in as co-sponsor of the event would it need to pay any money, he emphasised.
Two weeks later Le Défi interviewed Sik Yuen, who merely said: “Mauritius will be present in the Seychelles for the carnival.” Neither the tourism ministry nor the MTPA has released any details about what form the Mauritian “presence” will take in Victoria.
The co-sponsors of the Carnaval International de Victoria are the French island of La Réunion and Zimbabwe.