LALIT is publishing below a letter sent to Ivan Collendavelloo of the Muvman Liberater, Pravind Jugnauth, Roshi Bhadain and Sanjeev Seeluckdharry of the MSM, calling on them to continue pressure on the ID Cards. In particular, even once the ID Card central database is destroyed, as promised in the elections, we call for the legal framework to be amended so that ID Cards are neither compulsory to have nor to present to police officers, as well as urgent measures in the meantime.
Here is our letter:
Open letter to the Hon. I.Collendavelloo, P. Jugnauth, R.Bhadain and S. Teeluckdharry,
12 February, 2015
Dear Messrs. P.Jugnauth, I.Collendavelloo, R.Bhadain and S.Teeluckdharry,
We address this open letter to you in particular as you have all made strong public statements against the compulsory biometric National Identity Card system introduced by the preceding Ramgoolam regime. Many of you have been actively engaged in actions against it: Hon Collendavelloo was one of the 25 personalities that signed the LALIT-initiated declaration expressing concern at the introduction of the new biometric identity card system; Hon. Jugnauth and Bhadain lodged a first Supreme Court case to challenge the identity card database; and Hon Teeluckdharry is publicly associated with the second Supreme Court case to challenge the human rights abuses caused when the State imposes a biometric identity card system on the entire adult population. You are now all either Ministers or Members of Parliament. One of you has even replaced ex-ICT Minister Pillay-Chedumbrum who was responsible for the biometric ID card system and was its political and institutional defender. This is now creating a complex situation in the Supreme Court ID cases as the ICT Minister is now one of the plaintiffs as well as being the defendant.
During the past 18 months, confronted with the new reality of the imposed MNIC system, the degree of awareness of what compulsory biometric identity card systems entail has greatly increased amongst the population:
People have been faced with the threat of being denied pension payments, certificate of morality, public sector jobs, access to credit facilities, passports, the right to vote when NIC cards are being held by someone else for other business;
People have experienced the reality of having to submit to having biometric data taken by MNIC officials;
People have realised that the MNIC law is just like a “pass” law as it means one would have to permanently walk around with one's NIC in case an officer demands its presentation;
People have seen private companies following suit imposing the presentation of NIC's for all transactions with the public,
People are more aware of the threats to privacy as regards personal data, and the dangers to security of an entire population's data being misused by the State, hacked, stolen or sold;
People were already anxious about the the huge cost Rs. 1.5 billion to the public for setting up the scheme and are now, in the present context, more than ever posing the question why the Ramgoolam government signed a secrete agreement that kept hidden the private companies and/or individuals that received MNIC sub-contracts and a share of the public funds allotted to building the MNIC system.
All this, in addition of course to what people were first told about the law: of risking a Rs.10,000 fines and 5 years imprisonment and the big individual cost of replacing a card if it gets lost.
The MNIC system is more unpopular than ever.
This reflects the current international shift against Big Brother-style State surveillance policies as more and more people and States recognise the threats to liberty and the wide array of human rights abuses that compulsory biometric national identity card systems and other State surveillance systems entail. In the United States, the Bush administration's Real ID program, Australia's Access Card, compulsory ID card schemes in Canada and France, the UK national identity system have all been abolished and in India, the Supreme Court has twice issued Court Orders against making the Aadhar card compulsory for citizens to gain access to State services.
LALIT expresses our satisfaction that the government has re-iterated in the President's speech its commitment to “destroy” the “data bank containing fingerprints and biometric photographs of the new National Identity Cards”.
We now call on you as Ministers and/or Parliamentarians to ensure that amendments to the National Identity Card laws are made to remove the compulsion:
a) to have an ID Card,
b) to present an ID Card to any Police officer or other officer when demanded or any place and any time dictated by the officer;
And in the meantime, until these amendments to the law are made, for two interim measures to be instituted so that firstly, any person applying for a new ID Card should not have to submit to fingerprinting, and secondly, that people can make use of other identity documents, as well as ID Cards, for any official business as was quite rightly the case for the recent general elections.