Today, Wednesday 23 July, seventy-five people queued up alongside other people in the queue at the Conversion Centre in the Registrar General’s Building for new compulsory biometric ID Cards. Each of the 75 people was armed with all their relevant personal documents – birth certificate, old ID card, proof of address, marriage certificates, etc. One by one, each went in, had all their papers checked and then, when asked to give fingerprints, then said, “Fingerprinting, no!” When their application was turned down, they handed over a one-page letter to the Officer-in-Charge (click “Documents” Section on the home page) explaining their refusal to give fingerprints. Each person kept a copy of the letter.
As the action had already been announced, there were police officers on the scene. However, they acted politely, as they should. The officers of the Mauritius National Identity Card also acted reasonably, despite the fact that most of them are contract-workers, taken on by private companies like Valdus.
At a “Press Briefing”, inside the Registrar General’s Building, Alain Ah-Vee, Reeaz Chuttoo and Lindsey Collen, in the name of the collective of organizations present, explained the action, surrounded by dozens of protesters. Alain Ah-Vee explained the dangers of a centralized data-base, the infringement of peoples’ right to privacy, and the fact that there are cases in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the new compulsory cards. He added that the Data Protection Commissioner had, in fact, found in two cases that compulsory fingerprinting for the purposes of attendance at work was outright “illegal”. Lindsey Collen added that, with the Director of Public Prosecutions having said he would be “unlikely” to prosecute until final judgment, it was surprising that the cards were still being issued. She added that in India the cards were no longer compulsory for any social services, given that an Interlocutory Judgment of the Supreme Court had been handed down. Reeaz Chuttoo called on workers not to submit to pressure from the bosses to give their fingerprints for the ID Cards. He said that the promoters were having to have recourse to all sorts of things in order to force the new cards on people: not only threatening 5 years prison, but also threatening that you won’t get a loan, and holding singing-dancing shows to draw people in, and calling on the bosses to force ID cards on their workers, on fear of dismissal.
Afterwards a delegation of six representatives of the CTSP, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, the ACIM and Lalit, went and handed another 75 “original letters” to the Prime Minister at the Treasury Building, as the cards are issued under the auspices of his Ministry.
Most of the 75 people, ranging in age from around 20 to around 80, men and women from all areas, workers and artists, trade unionists and writers, stayed the whole of the half-day, discussing how this campaign against the new ID cards had gradually gathered strength. People in the queue to really take out ID cards were all very supportive, and many said they did not relish giving fingerprints.