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Victory for LALIT: Police Commissioner backs down after banning demo

10.03.2010

LALIT has had victory in its challenge of the Police's objection to our holding a demonstration in Port Louis against the British plan to set up a supposed Marine Protected Area in the Chagos.

The Police Commissioner unexpectedly backed down after LALIT took him to the Supreme Court. (See all correspondence between LALIT and Police Commissioner and also our Affidavit for a Writ in article of 3 March 2010.) What happened was the Police in charge of receiving notification for demonstrations had gradually managed to introduce a new repressive condition for the holding of demonstrations that was not in the Public Gathering Act. When they used this new measure against LALIT and objected to our Diego Garcia demonstration, we decided that it was vital to challenge this administrative infringement of the fundamental right to hold a peaceful procession.

Victory came in a most curious way.

Leading LALIT member, Alain Ah-Vee, swore the necessary affadavit on 1 March to bring the Police Commissioner to Court to question his objection. The Supreme Court chose, for inexplicable reasons, only to hear the case on 9 March, on the very eve of the planned public procession, ie 10 March. So, although the Public Gathering Act specifically forces the Police to object within 48 hours of being informed of a planned procession (giving time for organizing the demonstration), the Supreme Court decided to take 9 days to hear the Chamber's Case. At which point it would be too late to organize this kind of demonstration well, if at all.

To LALIT's surprise on 8 March, the day before the Case was due to come before the Supreme Court, the police hand-delivered a letter withdrawing their objection to the holding of the demonstration. The content of the letter curiously made no reference to their having objected previously, nor to there having been a Supreme Court case fixed for the next day.

Some 15 LALIT members went to Supreme Court Number 2, accompanying Alain Ah-Vee, for the Case. Barrister Jean-Claude Bibi and Attorney Jean-Marie Leclezio represented LALIT in Court. The Parquet represented Officer in charge, Chandar Dip.

Justice Chui Yew Cheong requested that our lawyers withdraw the Case on the grounds that the Police had yesterday rescinded their objection to the demonstration being organized for tomorrow. However, they had been instructed not to.

So, LALIT has had a victory. The new administrative hurdle to holding a peaceful demonstration has been wiped out. The Police had invented a new requirement not in the law: that some bit of paper be sought from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping and sent to the Police. Obviously the government lawyers representing the Police knew that this new condition imposed by the Police in exchange for the fundamental right to free and peaceful demonstrations was not in any law.

Organizations holding marches will no longer have to seek this bit of paper.

LALIT decided on 9 March not to go ahead with the demonstration, as there was definitely not enough time to organize it.

We will fix another date when the time is ripe. The demonstration was to be held on 10 March, because Independence Day is relevant to the British illegal occupation of Chagos at Independence.