I shall briefly deal with three aspects of the ESU : its genesis, its role in the context of various world developments and its future plans.

ESU was founded in 1918 to create global understanding through the use of the English language. Its patron is H.M.Queen Elizabeth II and its President H.R.H. Prince Philip,Duke of Edinburgh. One of its earliest Presidents was Winston Churchill. ESU exists in over 60 countries and its headquarters are in London.

ESU-Mauritius turns 18 this year. This is the age of reason,of responsibility, of discernment, even if it is not yet the age of wisdom. It is also the age when one looks back critically on one’s track record and achievements.

ESU Mauritius has covered a lot of ground over the past several years. We have been actively assisting Government’s strategy of liberating and emancipating people through education – not just from poverty, but also from ignorance and insularity – by promoting the use of English to plug into the outside world and to create global understanding.

English remains the indispensable medium of communication every sphere of human activity: in business, diplomacy,international relations, science and technology, the media.

English is the quintessential tool of human contact:Universities all over the world are increasingly offering medical and scientific courses in the English language to attract foreign students.

The leading newspapers in China, India, Pakistan, Japan,Malaysia, Singapore are written in English. The Indian Film industry now offers English sub-titles to market its feature films to a larger audience overseas.

But it would be wrong – and imprudent – to think that English will continue to progress without obstacles or contrary pressures. Mandarin and Hindi, not to mentionSpanish, German and Russian have their supporters too.

It is forecast that in a few decades English will be replaced by Spanish as the most widely spoken language in the United States. One cannot overlook the fact that China and India represent over one third of the world’s population and therefore can expect their national language to gain greater currency and prominence – a legitimate enough ambition, given the shift in the centre of economic and financial gravity to the East.

In these circumstances, the future progress of English as amost favoured language cannot be taken for granted.

In Mauritius, the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts in 15 languages, including seven Indian regional idioms.There is now a new initiative to introduce Creole and Bhojpuri in schools. Whatever the merits or demerits of this plan, it is easy to surmise that the space for English will be further squeezed, as the curriculum (and attention span) of school children is spread over additional subjects.

Coupled with this policy of political correctness, there is a palpable decline in the use and quality of English practised in the country. While our colonial administrators introduced English in Government, the Civil Service and the Judiciary,we witness today a growing tendency to speak creole inmost official spheres, while the standard of written English has gone down dramatically in most official correspondence and even in Court decisions. So much sothat it can be said that the English language in Mauritius is honoured more in the breach than in the observance of its rules.

In this context, the ESU can claim to have struck a blow in favour of English as a highly desirable medium,educationally, socially and professionally. Our English in Action Programme which emphasises conversational English is a success in deprived regions and will need to be expanded; our National Spelling Bee Competition attracts a larger number of school participants every year. Our support to Teachers by way of scholarships to the UK and the USA is a pedagogical contribution for which the scholars are very grateful.

We have even placed Mauritius on the English Language map by producing a local Champion, Mr Sebastien NgKuet Leong, who went on to win the International PublicSpeaking Competition in London in 2009, while last yearour candidate, Mr Advik Goorah, won a standing ovation and was among the six best contestants. When oneremembers that over 40 countries participate in this annual competition, this is an achievement for which ESU Mauritius can be rightly proud.

But to carry on our activities, we need additional resources. Through a quirk of the system, the ESU is the Cinderella of Speaking Unions, receiving much less Government subsidies than similar institutions, although it was the first of its kind in the country. We are able to maintain an adequate level of activity only through the generosity of our sponsors like Ken Lee Investment, HSBC,MCB, Harel Mallac Foundation, Reinsurance Solutions, Currimjee Foundation, Mr Alex Fon Sing of Jade Group of Companies, SICOM, On siong Associates, Kross BorderTrust Services Ltd and others.

We are most grateful to them all. Without their backing, the ESU would not have been able to maintain a satisfactory level of activity.

Finally, at 18, ESU is updating its structure and organisation to cope with new challenges and new opportunities. To that effect, we are revisiting our charter with a view to providing for greater access to membership and greater flexibility in our approach to the promotion of English, so that we can respond more accurately and effectively to the needs of the new generation. In this endeavour, we may require amendments to the Act setting up the ESU and we shall approach the Ministry of Arts & Culture, our parent Ministry, for appropriate action. We also hope to have the blessings of the President of the Republic, who has been a keen supporter and friend, in the restructuring ofthe ESU. I look forward to the support and collaboration of all our members in achieving the objectives we have set ourselves.