Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the first prime minister of Mauritius when that Indian Ocean nation gained its independence from Britain in 1968, has died after a long illness.
Sir Seewoosagur, who was 85 when he died Sunday, became governor general of this Indian Ocean island in 1983. He got that largely ceremonial job a year after his ruling coalition was defeated by a left-wing alliance and he left the government.
The son of Indian immigrants, he studied and practiced medicine in Britain and entered Mauritian politics in 1940.
Residents of multiracial Mauritius often called Sir Seewoosagur, who played a central role in leading the island to independence, the father of their nation. He tried to provide a moderating role among Mauritian political parties and to diversify an economy heavily dependent on sugar cane.
As head of the Labor Party, Sir Seewoosagur supported free education, pensions for the aged and a sweeping national health program for the island’s 850,000 citizens.
Devaluation of the Mauritian rupee cut into his popularity, however, and he lost to the leftist coalition in 1982.
He was knighted in 1965.