Galleries more

Videos more

Dictionary more

LALIT calls for Overhaul of ID Card System


 LALIT calls for a complete overhaul of the ID card system, starting with scrapping the entire repressive legal framework, simultaneously destroying the data-base of photographs of citizens and the fingerprint details on the ID card itself which is property of the State, and also ensuring that any data is kept out of the hands of the Police and of imperialist countries. The go-slow on converting cards continues.

 In a Press Conference yesterday, 20 January, ten leading LALIT members met the Press in order to explain the way in which Minister Bhadain is doing exactly what the previous Ramgoolam regime did: intimidating people, leaking information to the Press, using the MBC which is under his aegis in order to spread fear and disinformation in the public, and generally propagating pseudo-statistics so as to force people to submit to the new surveillance regime that was concocted by Ramgoolam and the Singapore State, and which he, Minister Bhadain, is now consolidating.

 Rada Kistnasamy, presiding, said how the deadline of 31 January is yet another date that will have to be pushed forward. All past deadlines have been postponed because the matter was going through the Law Courts; well the issue is now before the Privy Council, so the deadline for converting to the new biometric cards must be extended, he said.  

 Lindsey Collen said that the Minister of “Good Governance”, who had just piloted a law with the appellation of “integrity”, is himself governing in complete opacity instead of transparency, by leaking information to the Press and MBC and using propaganda instead of acting with integrity. In addition, she said, he uses threats of repression to attempt to cower people into obedience instead of acting civilly, and he resorts to autocratic methods instead of democratic ones.

 Minister Bhadain is now using the very same methods used by his predecessors, Minister Chedumbrum, Mr. Rama Rao, and the disgraced former Prime Minister Ramgoolam, that is to say intimidation.

 - Despite Roshi Bhadain’s electoral promises, the Lepep program, and despite formal undertakings during the campaign:

(i) He has not destroyed the centrally stored biometric photographs (which can obviously be used for one-to-many identification, which he insisted rightly to be the definition of “biometric”)

(ii) He has failed to stop taking 10 fingerprints from applicants, and storing them on the State’s property, i.e. the ID cards, as well as storing them centrally in Ebene for a week

(iii) While a whole year has passed, the dictatorial legal framework remains intact, exactly as Ramgoolam created it.

 - Despite the Balancy twin judgments on 29 May, 2015 saying that, “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 are unconstitutional”, and despite a formal injunction, the Government for three whole months continued in blatant contempt of court as if there had not been the judgments. It was not until LALIT held a demonstration, and submitted a letter to the Data Protection Commissioner on 19 August that Minister Bhadain catapulted into a Press Conference with his PS at the very same moment, and announced that the Conversion Centres would close down in two days. Which they did, and all the fingerprint data stocked, was in fact destroyed, although without proper transparency. Minister Bhadain would be better housed as Minister of Bad Governance and the very opposite of integrity.

 - Then, despite a Stay of execution (that he would not have to give his fingerprints) granted by the Supreme Court in the judgement handed down by the Supreme Court giving Dr. Madhewoo the right to appeal to the Privy Council, Mr. Bhadain has just gone on taking fingerprints from everyone. Justices Balancy & Caunhye (18 Nov 2015) said: “We further order the stay of execution of that part of the Judgment of the Supreme Court dated 29 May 2015 requiring the applicant to give his fingerprints for the purpose of obtaining a biometric identity card as per the provisions of the National Identity Card Act, pending the determination of the application for final leave in the matter.” This is pure autocracy, to flaunt the Courts in this way.

 - Despite the fact that the DPP has said he does not intend to prosecute until the “final judgment”, which means until the Privy Council decision, in a letter to LALIT on 27 June 2014, with his usual autocratic methods, the Minister, through the MBC he controls – without so much as a Board Chairman or Director General named – he proceeds to intimidate people threatening that they will be in an irregular situation as from 31 January. We note that Mr. Bhadain known for telephoning private radios to intervene from his car, has not formally come and explained the situation, but has preferred sneaky leaks to different journalists in the press.

 For the record, let us quote from the DPP’s letter to LALIT:

“Let me thank Lalit for its letter, the contents of which have been noted.
“It is a fact that until there is a final pronouncement on the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of the Act, it would be unlikely for me as DPP to exercise my powers under Section 72 of the Constitution of Mauritius to initiate criminal proceedings against those persons who have failed without reasonable excuse to apply for the new identity card but at the same time it would constitute a gross dereliction of my duty as Director and an abuse of my powers were I to undertake that a crime yet to be committed would not lead to prosecution.
“I would certainly make my position known on or after the 15 September as there is a legitimate public interest consideration in the matter.
“Satyajit Boolell SC

 - Despite a Cabinet decision, in early June 2015 following the twin judgments, saying in its very own communiqué that “The ID Card system is being reviewed to remove the biometric data, including photograph ….” So Minister Bhadain has not even respected Cabinet decisions, let alone Court Judgments, let alone his own electoral commitments.

 On Bhadain and the State’s “Statistics”

At the time of the signing of the ID card system contract, Business Magazine, in its supplement Lifestyle on 22 October, 2012, said that, on its information from official sources, some 800,000 cards were expected to be issued. This was the figure bandied about at the time of the contract.

 A year later, “920,000 new cards” will be issued, announced a Prime Minister’s Office communiqué published, 9 August, 2013.

 On 26 September, the Rao Rama gave detailed figures, announcing that “945,000 ID cards” would be converted.

 In Parliament, three months later Minister Mr Pillay Chedumbrum, referred to meeting the needs for “900,000 ID cards” (28 Nov 2013) i.e. 45,000 less than Mr. Rama’s figure, and 100,000 more than the figure at the time of the contract.

 So, over the course of one year, the estimated number of cards to be converted, the figures announced publicly and formally, varied by tens of thousands each month.

 This year, until today (20 Jan 2016) when it changed, the Government propaganda on MBC and in the Press has announced that 950,000 cards have been converted. This is 30,000 more than the most touted previous figure of 920,000 when the project started in 2013. The margin of error in their estimates is thus 30,000.

 All this to say the State did not know and does not KNOW how many people have not converted their cards.

 They have no way of knowing.

 The Mauritian diaspora makes the figures very elastic. Indeed, even the MBC in its propaganda program Friday and Saturday, when announcing the hordes rushing at the last minute to convert their cards, they came up with only two people to “prove” the point: a man who lives abroad and has decided to convert his old card although he lives abroad, and a woman who proudly announces she is only converting because she lost her old card.

 The statistics are, just as they were in Rao Rama’s days, when “quelques centaines” had not converted their cards, all pure intimidation. And the weird thing is, when they say “only” 4,000 have not converted their cards, even their figures pulled out of thin air, show that as many as 4,000 people have stood up to the intimidation of the State, i.e. by first Ramgoolam and then Jugnauth. It’s an awful lot, when we remember that Rao Rama was claiming it was “a few hundred” over 18 months ago.

 Why the MBC and press should take all these figures for granted, publish them unquestioningly, when they are so obviously tricked, remains a mystery.

 And to make it even more amazing, in today’s (20 Jan 2016) Le Defi Quotidien, there is an article quoting Minister Bhadain as saying the figure is up from 950,000 to 974,000, and that 2,500 people have not converted their cards. Since originally they were expecting 920,000 people to convert cards … well the mind boggles at the manipulation of information, when there margin of error has now reached 54,000.

 Administrative debacle

Not only are the statistics confused and confusing, but there are so many muddled facts and an administrative debacle. We name four:

1. The Press announced an enquiry into the contract for the ID cards. Mr. Rao Rama in response even announced the cancellation of his Christmas holiday abroad, so that he could climb the CCID steps for the enquiry. Nothing has been heard about this since then.

2. L’Express announced that there is “nobody in charge” of the ID card project at all. The Singapore firm just took the money and ran, the article reads, and no-one in Mauritius is qualified to run the thing. Nothing has been heard about this since then. (15 Dec 2015).

3. MBC has announced that people who have not picked up cards they applied for, for example, from the Goodlands conversion centre, can come to Port Louis to fetch them. In the past it had been announced that if you did not pick up your card, it would be destroyed.

4. In Bambous the Conversion centre, which closed down over a year ago, still bears the signposts as if it is functioning. The State has not even got it together to remove the signs.

 Bhadain promised new legal framework

Minister Bhadain has not changed the law as he promised, and Parliament is now on holiday.

 The law absolutely forces any thinking person to carry their card. You can be asked to produce your card to “every person”. Beat that for a basic formula! “Every person” is then defined as anyone who “by law” can have access to your identity, or anyone who can reasonably demand proof of identity. If you do not carry your card, you are then at the mercy of this person who has power over you, or claims to have power over you: he can “direct” you who to present it to, within what delay, and where to produce it. Then, if you do not, it will presumably be an offense covered by the hold-all clause of the National Identity Card Act, itself: “2) Every person who contravenes this Act or any regulations made under it shall commit an offence. (3) Every person who commits an offence under this Act or any regulations made under this Act shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years”. This all remains intact, a year after the election of the Lepep Alliance.

 The I. D. Act no 18 of 2013 was specifically amended to allow for the inclusion of “such other particulars as may be prescribed”. This legal provision remains intact, too.

 The police are still able to control all data. There are exemptions where the Data Protection Act, itself, tells you. There are eight Data Principles that get suspended.

 Section 45 tells us that all “Personal Data are exempt from any provision of this Act where the non-application of such provision would, in the opinion of the Prime Minister be required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.” This means the Prime Minister’s opinion is all that is needed. This reminds us of the Police’s role in pulverizing political opponents of the Regime: Since 2010, the CCID have been used politically, even against leaders and parties elected to Government who have since fallen foul of the Regime: against the President of the MSM, the President of the PMSD, against the MSM leader three times, against the Health Minister, as well as opposition MPs and even Attorney Generals. Since the 2014 elections, the same CCID has hounded out a string of Ministers from the Ramgoolam Cabinet, the DPP, and others, as well, of course, as Ramgoolam. This shows how quickly “derives” occur during the tumultuous times of economic crises. 

 Section 46 tells us that “The processing of personal data for the purposes of –

“(a) the prevention or detection of crime;

“(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders; or

“(c) the assessment or collection of any tax, duty or any imposition of a similar nature,

 shall be exempt from -

“(i) the Second, Third, Fourth and Eighth data protection principles;  [this includes exemption from guarantees like: “personal Data shall be obtained only for … lawful purpose”, should be “not excessive” and should be “accurate”, and “shall not be transferred to another country”]

 “(ii) sections 23 to 26;” [this includes sensitive personal data like: 

‘(a) the racial or ethnic origin;

‘(b) political opinion or adherence;

‘(c) religious belief or other belief of a similar nature;

‘(d) membership to a trade union;

‘(e) physical or mental health;

‘(f) sexual preferences or practices;

‘(g) the commission or alleged commission of an offence; or

‘(h) any proceedings for an offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings’ ]


(iii) Part VI of this Act in respect of blocking personal data [This Part is headed “Rights of the Data Subject”.]

 So, the entire legal framework remains.

 LALIT Demands

We call for the immediate extension of the delay for converting to the new card.

We call for destruction of the photo database, and the finger print minutiae.

We call for the entire legal framework to be overhauled.

 The go-slow, for everyone who is in a position to follow it, thus continues.