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LALIT maintains its modord not to apply yet for a new ID Card


The old card is still valid until March 2017. Here is what LALIT has written to the Minister of Technology, Communications and Innovation:

Dear Minister Sinatambou,

As you may know, LALIT opposed the imposition of the compulsory biometric ID card system from the start. As we campaigned, every other opposition party followed suit. Even people who had taken out the new card began opposing it.

Consciousness about the risks of this new system, and of electronic surveillance, increased so much that the question became central to the 2014 elections. The MSM and ML both opposed the new system. This includes your colleagues Messrs A. and P. Jugnauth, Collendavelloo, Bhadain and Teeluckdharry.

The Electoral Commission meanwhile devised a system for Nomination Day and it worked well. “National Identity Card of the candidate or any other acceptable proof of his identity” (GN 201, 2014) was accepted. This included old ID Card, driver’s licence, pension card, passport, etc. Even former PM Ramgoolam presented his old card. For voting, the same flexibility was the rule.

The present Government, instead of putting into practice what it had been mandated by the people to do, waited for a Supreme Court judgment, which forced it to scrap the central database. The deadline for the new card was later postponed to March 2017 pending judgement on other ID card issues before the Privy Council.

The Privy Council judges, however, do not know Mauritius. They said, “It is true that, if circumstances arose in which a police officer was empowered to require the appellant to produce his identity card and the government had issued cardreaders, the authorities would have access to his fingerprint minutiae which they could use for the purposes of identification in a criminal investigation. But that does not alter the presumption of innocence”. But here is the problem: the presumption of innocence is compromised by the practice of provisional charges. As the DPP said: “Today, although no reference to a provisional charge is made in our statute books, it has survived as a settled practice and is probably unique to Mauritius. … [T]here is a well-founded (but not new) concern, among members of the Bar, that the judicial control is inadequate and provisional charges are being used as a cover for arbitrary arrests and detentions.” (Newsletter, Office of DPP, Issue 54, Dec 2015). This practice makes access to fingerprint minutiae dangerous.

The judges also assume that no sensitive medical data is on, or even can be put on, the Identity Card. So, the judgment is at least a “brake” on adding further data.

What needs to be done now?

  1. Scrap the biometric photograph and scrap temporary fingerprint data. This means changing the philosophy of the National Identity Card so that it concerns only “verification” (one-to-one comparison between, say, someone and their photograph on the card), not “identification” (one-to-many i.e. identifying one individual from stored data). This was the core of the Jugnauth-Bhadain’s Court case. The philosophy of the Ramgoolam Card was “identification” – with its digital photograph  and RFID chip (data handled biometrically for one-to-many identification).

  1. Remove compulsory aspect of card.

The Electoral Commission’s alternative procedure for verifying identity should be generalized, instead of keeping the Identity Card compulsory.

  1. Remove all repressive features in the National ID Card system. Former TCI Minister Bhadain stated that the “abusive and repressive” features would be removed. He would repeal clauses that make it obligatory to present cards to people in authority, as well as decrease fines and prison sentences (2 Sept 2015, Habib Mosaheb Radio Dossier). He also stated that Government would consider making fingerprinting voluntary (16 Sept, 2015)

  1. Repeal Civil Status Act clause that permits the later addition to the card of “such other particulars as may be described” by “Regulation”.

  1. Amend Data Protection Act. The Supreme Court judges qualified as “alarming” the absence of “vital safeguards” and the “relatively low threshold for obtaining access to personal data” in the Data Protection Act. We quote from the judgement: “(…) it is inconceivable that there can be such uncontrolled access to personal data in the absence of the vital safeguards afforded by judicial control”.

  1. Amend Constitution so that it protects privacy properly. The Privy Council judgment exposed the limitations of our Constitution. New digital technology has led to new dangers. We need protection against State and private sector abuse and misuse of new technological means of surveillance. Many advanced States have broadened privacy in their Constitutions, to include:       

a) Information privacy - protection from State or employers obtaining personal data e.g. medical and government records;

b) Bodily privacy - protection of people’s physical selves against invasive procedures e.g.genetic and other tests, fingerprinting, body searches;

3) Privacy of communications - security and privacy of mail, e-mail, telephone communications;

4) Territorial privacy - limits on intrusion into domestic and even public space, like protection from searches, CCTV surveillance, ID checks.

6. Bring these amendments before March 2017 or extend the deadline.

Yours sincerely,

Rajni Lallah

for LALIT, 7 November, 2016

cc Prime Minister and Finance Minister