While Bosses in Mauritius are to be prosecuted for illegal use of fingerprinting for attendance at work and are putting pressure on the State to amend the law, while the State is before the Supreme Court over the un-Constitutionality of collecting fingerprints for its new biometric Identity Cards, and while the Minister of ICT is clearly having trouble scraping in citizens to take up the new much-contested ID cards, the bosses of one firm, Princes Tuna, have accepted to take on a rather shocking role: They have invited the Government to come and take the fingerprints of “their” workers on the worksite of Princes Tuna in Riche Terre for the Government ID cards.
The Data Commissioner has published a summary of its judgment against the bosses who have been resorting to compulsory fingerprinting, calling on the Police to prosecute a CEO concerned.
This is what the judgment says, according to the Data Protection Office’s own website: “The matter is thus referred to the police under section 20 of the Data Protection Act for prosecution against the Chief Executive Officer of Respondent No.2.” The judgment, as summarized by the DPO, is printed by LALIT in a separate article on our News Page (next to this one).
Given that many Mauritian employers are threatened with prosecution for this practice that has crept in over the past two or three years, there is obviously some panic in their circles about criminal charges being laid against CEOs.
There is also a great deal of pressure being put by the employers on Government to amend the law to cover them, presumably retrospectively. But can this explain the rather risky decision of the Princes Tuna bosses to collaborate with the Government of the day, and to oppose the two main Opposition Paries, in the much-contested process of introducing the new ID Cards?
Faced with a ground-swell of protest, the entire Parliamentary Opposition has been forced to change its position radically, in order not to be completely abandoned by the broad masses.
Opposition Leader and past Prime Minister Paul Berenger has called on the people not to take up the new cards, while Pravind Jugnauth, past Vice-Prime Minister and MSM leader, has put in a main case, through his lawyers to challenge the Constitutionality of the biometric ID cards. His previous Writ forced the Government to bring in panic retrospective Regulations to “validate” fingerprints already taken, on the eve of the Writ being heard in the Supreme Court. The second good effect of the Writ was that it gave public Supreme Court confirmation that it is not illegal not to have a card until we reach next year in September. This gives time for the political battle necessary to take on the State and the employers.
The Data Protection Office judgment, taken together with a Constitutional case, raises the question of whether workers will be able, in the event of findings of un-Constitutionality, which may well be the case when it gets to the Privy Council, given the European Court of Human Rights findings, to sue Princes Tuna and other Bosses who collude with the Government in putting workers through this intrusive, degrading process. The Princes Tuna boss’s rather weak assurances on TV that he is putting put no “duress” on workers to take up the Government Cards, is hardly convincing, given the fact that the boss can take away the food from workers’ children’s mouths at any time they wish. And, workers know that once you have given your fingerprints to an On-line Database, it is very hard to be sure you can “get them back again”. The bosses, like those at Princes Tuna, are colluding with an irreversible process, a process which represents the infrastructure for future authoritarianism. A similar ID card system was thrown out by the Cameron-Lib Dem Government within 100 days of their coming to power, the Princes Tuna bosses should recall, being part of a British Company.