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ID Card Up-Date: Call for Urgent Parliament Sitting

07.06.2015

LALIT notes with alarm the Cabinet Communiqué of 5 June 2014 that states that the interim measure for people who are applying to replace lost ID Cards, or who are applying for their first-ever ID card. People are being called upon to give “consent” to something that, following the Supreme Court Judgment, is not just illegal, but unconstitutional. The Government, despite being elected on a platform that it would destroy the central data-base of the ID Card, chose to wait for the Supreme Court judgment instead of acting politically. It did this despite being offered the opportunity by Judge Balancy to change its stand from that of the previous Labour regime. And now that the judgment is out, the Government is making no effort to respect it.


Judgment is clear


Here is what Judge Balancy said in point number 6 of the conclusion of his judgment: “the provisions in the National Identity Card Act and the Data Protection Act for the storage and retention of fingerprints and other personal biometric data collected for the purpose of the biometric identity card of a citizen of Mauritius are unconstitutional.” It is clear. We say that this is “clear” despite rather confusing drafting in the judgment, where elsewhere it is stated that it is not unconstitutional under more specific points in the Constitution. The State cannot now call on people to sign a “Consent Form”, as they call it, to override this procedure now declared “unconstitutional” in no uncertain terms.


LALIT also calls for the immediate announcement of the amendment of the legal framework for the ID Cards, so as to make it more acceptable to people living in a modern, democratic society; so as to:


More democratic legal framework required


- Remove the compulsory nature of the ID card; eliminate the fines and prison sentences, make the card voluntary, as it used to be.
- Remove any legal obligation to present the card to people in authority.
- Remove the need to give fingerprints, even those stored just in the card.
- Stop the taking of biometric photos that make people unrecognizable, and the return to ordinary photos.
- Set up an enquiry into the Labour government spending Rs1.5 billion on this useless project.


Recall Parliament


So, we call for the immediate recall of the National Assembly to legislate so as to put an end to the unconstitutional and thus illegal situation that now prevails; and at the same time legislate to do away with the repressive nature of the previous Labour Government’s ID card legal framework, taken as a whole.


LALIT welcomes the extension until 30 September 2015 of the validity of the old ID Cards by which time the State will destroy all the biometric data in the Central Data Base of the new ID Card System, as it promised to do and as it is bound by the Supreme Court to do. In fact, on 9 September last year, LALIT, together with CTSP, FTU, CITU, ACIM, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, Centre Idriss Goomany, Playgroup, ABAIM, all part of the Collective Against Compulsory Biometric ID Cards, called for an extension until December, 2015, knowing the possible technical difficulties that the dis-aggregation of biometric from other data involves.


"No" to the old "notab" system for identification


The Communique issued by the Ministry of Communications, Technology and Innovation is also somewhat absurd. It announces that the Ministry is “en voie d’élaboration” of a new ID Card application process. This will cover those still holding out against converting the old cards, first-time applicants, and those who have lost their cards. What the Ministry proposes is to revert to the old “notab” witnesses system that used to be in place for Passport applications. However, this is an absurd and elitist procedure, whereby any member of the professional elite can be approached to vouch for someone’s identity. LALIT proposes that this be democratized and made any two witnesses to one’s identity, as for marriages, but with the added proviso that they already, themselves, have an ID Card.


Lindsey Collen, for LALIT


7 June, 2015