LALIT takes Police Commissioner to Supreme Court re Diego Garcia demonstration
LALIT will be calling the Police Commissioner before the Supreme Court on 9 March 2010 because LALIT has been prevented by the Police authorities from holding a peaceful protest march in Port Louis on the question of the Diego Garcia and Chagos issue, a demonstration due to be held on 10 March. Note that the Supreme Court will only be hearing the Writ on 9 March, while the proposed demonstration is to be held the next day. In 2003, the Police Commissioner similarly prevented the All Workers' Conference from holding a demonstration in the context of the AGOA summit, and then when a Writ was sent to the Supreme Court by the All Workers' Conference, the demonstration was allowed to go ahead and did go ahead.
Readers may be interested in the documentation of this new form of repression, which has taken an administrative form.
ORIGINAL LETTER FROM LALIT TO the Commissioner of Police
15 February 2010
We wish to inform you that there will be a peaceful march called by LALIT on Wednesday 10th March 2010, at 2.30 pm from St Georges Street to the British High Commission Building at Edith Cavell Street, Port-Louis. The participants will meet in front of the Centre Social M. Reine de la Paix, St Georges Street and proceed to the British HC along the following route. We will walk in the general direction of the Caudan along St. Georges, turn right into Barracks Street, and then right again into Edith Cavell St. We will walk along Edith Cavell Street and Desroches Street. (Map attached). On arriving at the British HC, a delegation of five persons will deliver a letter to the British High Commissioner in protest at the United Kingdom government's plan to establish a Marine Protection Area around the Mauritian Archipelago of Chagos.
The march will end by 3.30 pm.
Alain Ah-Vee, for LALIT
REPLY FROM DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER, T. Seerungen
16 Feb 2010.
Re: Proposed "March on Wednesday 10 March 2010 in Port Louis".
I refer to your letter dated 15 February on the above subject.
In connection therewith, I wish to draw your attention to Section 4(b) and (d) of Paragraph 3 of the Public Gathering Act which reads as follows:
4(b) "State the time at which it will start and its approximate duration."
4(d) "in case of a procession, state the starting place and destination of the procession and the route (authority to be sought from the The (sic) Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and shipping) through which the procession is to pass;"
3. (sic) In view of the above shortcomings, your request at this stage has not been acceded to. You may, however, if you wish to re-schedule your request and inform this office in compliance with the Public Gathering Act.
T. Seerungen, Deputy Commissioner of Police, for Commissioner of Police
LALIT's REPLY TO POLICE COMMISSIONER
19 February 2010
We write to you concerning your reply dated 16 February 2010 to our letter notifying you that we will be holding a peaceful march, in accordance with our fundamental human right of assembly, enshrined in the Constitution. The theme of our procession is a serious one: an issue of national importance, that is to say the illegal occupation of Diego Garcia and the Chagos.
1. First we would like to point out that the Public Gathering Act places an onus on us to "give written notice to the Commissioner". We do not, according to law, have to "request" permission, nor to wait for you to "accede" to our "request". Fundamental rights are not subject to any such "request". Even the repressive PGA recognizes this. The Police Commissioner can, once informed of a planned march, prohibit it, but that, of course, only on reasonable grounds.
2. In our letter we mentioned clearly the "time at which the procession will start and its approximate duration" in compliance with Section 3.(4)(b) of the PGA. (We assume that your officers can subtract 2:30 when we stated the march would start from 3:30 pm when we stated the march would end.)
3. As for your paragraph concerning the route through (your italics) which the march will go, we are perplexed by the bit that you have added in brackets to the legislation in question and from which you purport to quote. Our copy of the Act (and we are not aware of any amendment) reads as follows, without anything added in parentheses in the middle: "in the case of a procession, state the starting place and destination of the procession and the route through which the procession is to pass" [Section 3. (4) (d) of the PGA.] A map indicating very clearly the route planned for the procession is even attached. We are not aware of Section 3.(4)(d) of the PGA making any mention of the need for "authority to be sought from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping" concerning the organization of processions. According to the PGA, Section 7(1) and (2) permission is necessary only in respect of public gardens and public beach. In fact, it would be very strange to have one's fundamental human rights subject to an administrative procedure of this nature.
4. We believe that it is the role and duty of the police to inform any statutory bodies that may be concerned when any procession is to take place, should the Police believe it necessary for the conduct of the usual activities of such bodies or to prevent the disruption of the life of the community. This is true for processions of all natures, be they social, religious, or political. It would be reasonable to believe that the "7 clear days' notice" that the PGA specifies should be given is designed not to be gratuitous repression but so that the legislator assures a delay precisely so that the Police department can carry out this responsibility. We note, in passing, that the notice is nearly twice as long as the four day notice the previous law, the Public Order Act, specified. You will not be insensitive to the fact that LALIT is proposing to gather people on a wide one-way street, St. Georges' Avenue. You will note that the route we have proposed takes only fairly wide one-way streets. You will also note that we have specifically chosen to limit the time of the demonstration so that it cannot reasonably be expected to "unduly disrupt the life of the community".
So we believe that our letter dated 15 February 2010 complies with the PGA and consequently we see no reasonable grounds for you not to take note of our letter informing you of our intention to organize a peaceful procession in protest against the United Kingdom government's plan to establish a Marine Protection Area around the Archipelago of Chagos, part of Mauritian territory according to the Constitution.
We therefore call on you to refrain from prohibiting our peaceful march on the 10th of March in Port Louis on this subject of vital national importance.
for LALIT , Copy: Legal Advisor, Jean Claude Bibi
The Police Commissioner insisted by telephone that the letter of authorization from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure to walk on "his" roads be obtained.
So, following the advice of our legal advisor, one of our leading members, who had signed the letter, Alain Ah-Vee, (below referred to as Applicant) swore a writ calling on the Police Commissioner (below referred to as Respondent) to withdraw his objection to our peaceful march.
This is what our Writ of 1 March says:
I, Alain AH-VEE, a graphic designer, of 153 Main Road, Grand River North West, Port Louis, and representative of LALIT political party, holder of the national identity card bearing number ....,
DO SOLEMNLY, SINCERELY AND TRULY DECLARE THAT:
1. I have, by letter dated 15 February 2010, copy of which is herewith attached in ANNEX A, informed the Respondent that I and Lalit intend to effect a peaceful march on 10 March 2010 at 14:30 to end at 15:30, and stated the streets along which the march would proceed, and this in compliance with the provisions of the Public Gathering Act 1991.
2. The Respondent replied to my above mentioned letter on 16 February 2010, copy of which is herewith attached in ANNEX B, and intimated to me that my request had not been acceded to because of what he considered to be shortcomings, viz:
a. That my request did not state the approximate duration of the march;
b. That my request did not mention the route through which the procession is to pass;
The Respondent further intimated that I should seek authority from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping. I replied to the Respondent by letter dated 19 February 2010 copy of which is herewith attached in ANNEX C. Since then, I have not been able to obtain the Respondent's permission to the march.
4. I believe that the Respondent's withholding of permission is unlawful and unreasonable and that the permission sought should be given.
5. In the circumstances, it is urgent and necessary that be issued an Order from the Honourable Judge, who may be sitting at Chambers, authorizing the peaceful march intended to be effected on 10 March 2010 at 14:30 as set out in the letters herewith annexed; and any other Order as the Honourable Judge would deem fit in the circumstances.
6. I pray accordingly.
All the radio stations and Le Mauricien yesterday have accorded the Writ the place it deserves in the struggle against increasing repression.