On Monday 21st September, a dozen delegates of fishermen without fishing cards and LALIT militants organised in Vieux Grand Port local Joint LALIT South Regional – Fishermen without cards Committee were in Port Louis to hand a petition and documents to the Secretary of the Minister of Fisheries. Fishers of the South East of the island of Mauritius, as readers know, cannot fish because of the Wakashio oil spill. Fishing is their only means of survival. The government has allocated a monthly allowance of Rs10,200 to fishermen with fishing cards and other recognised workers and businesses (licensed fishmongers, for instance) in the Wakashio affected region. A first batch of fishermen without cards have started to receive the Rs10,200 monthly allowance. This was after an initial petition organised by LALIT Mahebourg branch and cardless fishermen in Ville Noire and Vieux Grand Port. This first batch includes fishermen without cards who are in the process of getting cards. The majority of fishermen without fishing cards have not received an allowance yet. This is why the joint committee met last Friday to discuss what the problem is and what action was needed.Delegates of Vieux Grand Port had already proposed that only fishermen without cards who had applied for a fishing card and who could bring a letter from the boat proprietor they respectively work with to prove that they regularly fish with this boat licensed proprietor should be invited to the meeting. And this was how the meeting came to be. With one exception of a fisherman whose father, a licensed artisanal boat proprietor had passed away, but who had continued to fish in his father's boat. So in Vieux Grand Port, this was how the meeting of some 15 fishermen and LALIT militants of South regional met in the Joint Committee last Friday.
Petition addressed to Minister of FisheriesAfter some debate, the following petition addressed to the Ministry of Fisheries was drafted, printed, signed by fishermen without cards present:
“We the undersigned, are artisanal fishermen without fishing cards in the South East Wakashio affected region who have not received the Rs10,200 that the government announced fishermen without cards would be entitled to. This is our only means of survival. We have not been able to fish since the Wakashio oil spill. Some of us have been told that we would not get this monthly allowance as we are 50 – 60 years even though we applied for fishing cards before the age of 50. This is unjust. We call on you to, as Minister of Fisheries to ensure that
We are stating the year in which we applied for a fishing card and the card number and boat number of the fisherman we usually work with as proof that we are indeed full-time fishermen.”
There was an annex to each petition page with a signed declaration from the licensed boat proprietor and their fishing card number as well as the artisanal boat number.
At the Ministry of Fisheries in Port LouisOn Monday, a dozen fishermen without cards and LALIT militants went to the Fisheries Ministry to remit the petition in person. They also went to see the Fisheries Protection Controller, Mr Bauhadoor at the Ministry who explained that the reason for the delay in paying the Rs10,200 allowance for fishermen without cards was because there needed to be further checks by the Social Security Ministry in case applicants for fishing cards had full time jobs elsewhere or were engaged in businesses.
Delegates present understood the need for these checks, but discussed the need for a fast track for these verifications to be made. Given that there was supposed to be a Wakashio support cell presided by Charles Cartier, delegates present decided to go and look for him to remit a copy of the petition and documents and to call for a fast track system for fishermen without cards in Ministries or departments doing the checks. As there was no telephone number for the “support cell”, they went to Economic Development Board (EDB) where they knew this was the last place Charles Cartier worked. The EDB didn't know. So they went to Government House, and the policemen on duty there finally found the number of a Ministry of Finance officer on the Wakashio support cell board. A copy was remitted to him through his colleague in the Finance Ministry.
On the way to the Victoria bus station, Vieux Grand Port delegates decided to propose fishermen without cards in other villages on the Wakashio affected South Eastern coast to organise in a similar way. Fishermen in Ville Noire had already organised in the same way.