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Public Report becomes Secret: LALIT writes to the Ombudsman

11.11.2018

LALIT has exposed how a 2002 report on asbestos in Mauritius, a Report by John Addison, a Consultant in Mineralogy, Occupational Hygiene and Environmental Health and Safety  that was publicly released by a Cabinet decision has become a “secret” one. We have called on the Ombudsman to open up an investigation on how this has happened. The following is our formal complaint letter to the Ombudsman.


To the Ombudsman


2nd Floor, City Centre Building


Cnr Corderie and Leoville L'Homme Streets,


Port Louis


Email: omb@govmu.org


8th November, 2018


Dear Sir,


I write in the name of Joint LALIT-Asbestos house inhabitant Committees in some 50 Cité EDC, a body of persons not incorporated, to lodge a complaint regarding maladministration in the Civil Service: the Ministry of Health is denying us access to a copy of the Report on the Assessment of the Health Dimension of Asbestos in Mauritius by Mr John Addison, Consultant of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (2001). This Report was clearly and explicitly made public by the government in 2002:



  1. The said report was publicly released by a Cabinet decision on 19 April 2002. (see http://pmo.govmu.org/English/Pages/Cabinet%20Decisions%202002/Cabinet-Decisions-taken-on-19-April-2002.aspx)

  2. The government held a press conference to release the Report to the press in 2002 (See Annex 1 containing a Hansard transcription of the relevant PQ and answer).

  3. A copy of the said report was to be remitted to the National Assembly library according to this Hansard transcription.


The Addison Report is still of immediate national importance as it concerns health dangers of asbestos housing and specific recommendations to address these dangers. The present Government itself admits that removal of asbestos housing is a question of national public health. The Ministry of Housing and Land even released an official communique on 22 July 2015 to announce a “grand projet d’envergure” as the Communique goes on to state:  “L’amiante etant un materiau toxique, le Ministre du Logement a plaidé pour un plan de desamiantage.” (See Annex 2)


Here is a chronology outlining our efforts to obtain a copy of the Addison Report:



  1. On Wednesday 19th September, 2018, I went in person to the Ministry of Health library at Emmanuel Anquetil Building and was referred to Dr. Earally of the Occupational Health and Safety Unit. I met Mr Earally and he confirmed that he did have the Report, but could not arrange for photocopying facilities unless he got the green light from the Permanent Secretary. He requested me to write to Mr. Nursing, Senior Chief executive so that these arrangements could be made.

  2. I wrote to the Senior Chief executive both by registered post on the 27th of September and by email (see Annex 3). I rang his Secretary to make sure that he had received my mail, and his Secretary confirmed that he had. I was told I would be contacted in due course.

  3. I went to see Mr. Nursing in person a week later, and succeeded in meeting him, but he told me that he needed “referencing” to the Cabinet decision relating to the release of the Report before he presented my request to the Permanent Secretary. I informed him that the Cabinet decision was on the Prime Minister's Office website. I also sent him a second email on 3rd of October (the same day) to confirm with him that the 19th of April 2002 Cabinet decision is available online on the Prime Minister's Office website and gave him the link to assist him with this “referencing” (Annex 4 – lower part) .

  4. I received a reply from Mr. Nursing on the 4th of October stating that my request is being “processed” and that he would “revert” to me in “due course” (Annex 4 - Upper part.).

  5. As from that date, I have contacted his Secretary on several occasions to receive a reply. She always politely informs me that Mr. Nursing is unavailable and dutifully takes my mobile number and assures me that Mr. Nursing will be informed of my call.

  6. I contacted Mr. Earally by telephone on the 16th of October. He informed me that my request is still being “processed”.


7 weeks have passed since my initial and I have not received a reply from Mr Nursing to date.


The Report on the Assessment of the Health Dimension of Asbestos in Mauritius by Mr John Addison is unavailable on the government portal. The only document available on the Ministry of Health website is a National Action Plan on Asbestos (2002), a government plan following the Addison Report which might or might not include recommendations made by John Addison (we are not in a position to compare the two as we have no access to the Addison Report). On Wednesday 19th September morning, I went in person to the National Archives to request access to a copy of the report. Staff there searched the Archives but could not find a copy. LALIT member Ragini Kistnasamy also checked with the National Library and they could also not find a copy. It seems they were never given one. All this to say that the Ministry of Health has taken no steps to release the Addison Report to the public.


I would be grateful if you could open up an investigation to ascertain whether any decision by the Ministry of Health to deny us access to the Addison Report when a Cabinet decision has released it is:


(a) contrary to law; and/or


(b) based wholly or partly on a mistake of law or fact; and/or


(c) unreasonably delayed; and/or


(d) otherwise unjust or manifestly unreasonable.


We call on you to ensure that:



  1. Any decision of the Ministry of Health to reverse or cancel the 2002 Cabinet decision be annulled,

  2. The omission be rectified i.e that we get immediate access to a complete copy of the Addison Report;

  3. Any practice on which the act of denying us/the public public information be altered.


We remind you that asbestos housing is a danger to the health of inhabitants of such housing and thus  recommendations made by the Addison Report are of urgent importance.


Yours sincerely,


Rajni Lallah,


Annexes referred in this letter are published in the Documents Section