Oral Answers to Questions - 03 March 2001
INDIAN IT COMPANIES - VISIT TO MAURITIUS
(No. B/62) Mr A. K. Gungah (Second Member for Grand' Baie and Poudre d'Or) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will state if, following his visit to India, IT companies or their representatives have visited Mauritius to implement IT projects and, if so, will he give the number.
The Prime Minister: Sir, following my visit to India from 15 to 24 January, eleven Indian IT Companies have shown keen interest to start up business and/or to expand their activities in our local ICT sector. Some of them have sent representatives to Mauritius recently.
The lines of activities they are interested in encompass IT training, software development, call centres and hardware assembly.
Pentasoft and Infosys Ltd have already expressed the wish to set up their own infrastructure in Mauritius.
Government is now in presence of eleven IT projects which have been submitted to the Board of Investment for processing. The Board has set up a special cell to deal with these applications on a fast track basis.
May I remind the House that immediately after my return from India, we set up a Ministerial Committee for monitoring the development of the new economy. The Committee in turn appointed three Task Forces dealing with namely:
(1) the Cybercity and Business Parks,
(2) E-Governance and
(3) E-Education and Training.
Furthermore, Government has recently set up the Business Parks of Mauritius Limited, a body which is actively working on the Cybercity project at Ebène.
Government is fully engaged in providing the state of art facilities to IT Firms, both local and foreign, so that Mauritius very soon develops into a Cyber Island which will provide new jobs opportunities to our youth, as well as foster our economic growth and promote greater national prosperity.
Mr Gungah: Can the Rt. hon. Prime Minister inform the House on the number of Concorde aircraft which came to Mauritius with investors between 1996 to 2000?
The Prime Minister: I think the question is misfired.
Mr Dulloo: The Rt. hon. Prime Minister has mentioned some of the projects that are being identified. May I ask him whether, especially for the Cybercity and other huge projects that are being contemplated, the location sites have already been identified or whether when he was in India, his Minister of Lands identified those sites?
The Prime Minister: We were trying to find out from existing land what would be most suitable site, but now that we have a land in hand, I think we will go for Ebène.
(No. B/63) Mr A. K. Gungah (Second Member for Grand'Baie and Poudre d'Or) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the MBC information regarding the cost effectiveness of the so-called DVC PRO cameras and ascertain -
(a) when and by whom was the decision taken to buy same;
(b) whether there was any tender exercise;
(c) the number bought, their respective prices and countries of origin, and
(d) whether such cameras are practical for use and are compatible with the existing equipment of the MBC.
The Prime Minister: Sir, with regard to parts (a), (b) and (c) of the question, I have been advised by the MBC that the decision to purchase digital cameras with integrated recorders known as (DVC PRO cameras) was taken by the MBC Board at its meeting held on 16 December, 1998. Three units together with the necessary accessories all of Japanese origin were bought in January 1999 at a total cost of Rs2,332,774 from Panasonic Belgium following an invitation of tenders from potential suppliers.
As regards part (d) of the question, I am advised that the digital cameras with integrated recorders are used worldwide by many broadcasters and are practical. Their compatibility with the existing MBC equipment of analogue format have been achieved by means of a studio player which was purchased together with the cameras.
(No. B/64) Mr V. Baloomoody (Third Member for Rivière des Anguilles and Souillac) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will give the number of persons who have died whilst in Police custody during the last 5 years and, in regard to each case, say what action has been taken to ascertain the true cause of death.
The Prime Minister: Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that, for the period 1 January 1996 to 21 February 2001, 13 persons died whilst in Police custody. In all these cases an autopsy was carried by the Police Medical Officer to determine the exact cause of death. The exact cause of death was established as follows -
(a) hanging in six cases;
(b) fatal burns in one case;
(c) alcohol intoxication in two cases;
(d) shock due to multiple injuries in one case;
(e) natural due to cardiac arrest/pulmonary oedema in two cases, and
(f) unknown in one case.
Inquiries were also carried out in all the cases and the status is as follows -
(i) In three cases no further action has been advised by Director of Public Prosecutions.
(ii) In three cases judicial inquiry has been completed and referred to Director of Public Prosecutions.
(iii) Three cases are pending for judicial inquiry.
(iv) Two cases are pending for investigation.
(v) In one case judicial enquiry has been terminated and ruling is awaited (case of Topize).
(vi) One case has been referred to DPP for advice.
Mr Baloomoody: I thank the hon. Prime Minister for the reply he has given. It's clear from the list given that the majority of the cases are suicide, either by hanging or overdose. Can I ask the hon. Prime Minister whether an inquiry has been carried out regarding the conditions of detention in these particular cases? These people do commit suicide because they are depressed and because something must have happened before they commit suicide. Can I know whether a special inquiry has been carried out regarding the conditions of detention prior to their committing suicide?
The Prime Minister: I don't have the information requested. Maybe if notice is given, the information can be supplied.
Mr Baloomoody: From information available, it is clear that most of those who have committed suicide have done so while they were in Police cells. One of the basic rights of the detainees in Police cells is that they are allowed to be visited by their parents who should know their whereabouts and are allowed to be supplied with food and clothing by their relatives because they are innocent until proven guilty. In fact, I did ask a similar question to the ex-Prime Minister who promised to do something, but nothing has been done. It's clear that today there are so many divisions in the Police Force - the ADSU, the CID, the CCID, the CID North, the regular Police and so on - that when a person is arrested, there is no flow of information to the relatives. The detainee's relatives do not know where he is. Sometimes it takes hours and in some cases days for them to have the information. Can I ask the hon. Prime Minister to see to it - now that we have a new Commissioner of Police - that the Information Room of the Police makes information available to the effect that such and such person has been arrested by, for example, the ADSU in Port Louis and is detained in X or Y Police station? This, I think, will help in the improvement of the conditions of the people in detention. When a person has just been arrested, he is in a difficult situation and this is why the law provides for those facilities to be extended to him. Unfortunately, in practice, it does not work.
The Prime Minister: I will look into that, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
(No. B/65) Mr G. Paya (Second Member for Curepipe and Midlands) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he has been made aware that Mr Georges Conabeer, the Director of Airport Services, has awarded stands at the airport only to trade operators whom he knows without taking into consideration the application of new trade operators who have not even been called by him and, if so, will he, for the benefit of the House, make a statement thereon.
The Prime Minister: Sir, I am advised that the allocation of concessions to operators at the SSR International Airport is done by Airports of Mauritius Co. Ltd. (AML) in accordance with its tender procedures. In the present case, procedures have been followed.
The Company has a multi-stage tender procedure, which provides for a main Tender Committee comprising its three Heads of Divisions. To ensure transparency, the current practice is for the Tender Committee to be always chaired by the Head of Division other than the one for whose division the tender is being made. The Tender Committee appoints Sub-Committees as appropriate to examine the various tenders received, both technically and financially.
When it obtains the report of the Sub-Committees, the Tender Committee, if necessary, convenes the short-listed tenderers for further clarifications on the proposals. A report is then submitted to the Chief Executive, who has the prerogative to approve, or return the recommendations to the Tender Committee for review, should he consider that the Tender Committee's report is short of some explanation or information.
The Chief Executive would take the matter to the AML Board for approval, if the duration or value of the contract falls beyond his authority.
(No. B/66) Dr S. Chady (Second Member for Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will state if an inquiry has been carried out into certain allegations made by one Mr Boolaky in a letter addressed to the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister and, if so, will he say if it has been completed, and whether he will make a statement thereon.
The Prime Minister: Sir, the letter referred to by the hon. Member, dated 28 February, this year, was referred for inquiry to the Commissioner of Police on 5 March this year.
I am advised that a prompt inquiry was instituted by the Central Criminal Investigation Division (CCID) to trace out the writer; but to no avail so far.
In view of the security implications and threat perception, efforts to trace out the writer are being maintained.
Dr. Chady: Sir, there are rumours to the effect that, apparently, a notorious MMM agent from Plaine Verte is at the origin of this. I am just asking the hon. Prime Minister to look into the matter.
The Prime Minister: We cannot take all this seriously unless we can trace the writer and find out exactly the genuineness of the letter itself.
(No. B/67) Dr. N. Issimdar (Second Member for Rivière des Anguilles and Souillac) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the MBC information as to the number of contracts awarded to date by the Corporation to Mr Bissoon Mungroo, either directly or through his companies, for the transportation of employees, indicating the respective amounts of the contracts and the duration of same.
The Prime Minister: Sir, I have been advised by MBC that, as from May 1992 to date, 13 contracts for a total amount of Rs26,674,178 have been awarded to Mr Bissoon Mungroo, either directly or through his companies for the transportation of employees. Detailed Information in respect of the contracts awarded is being tabled.
(No. B/69) Dr A. Boolell (Second Member for Vieux Grand Port & Rose Belle) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will, for the benefit of the House, ascertain if the Forensic Science Laboratory has purchased equipment to carry out specific tests like DNA to detect crime.
The Prime Minister: Sir, I am informed that the Forensic Science Laboratory last purchased DNA profiling equipment, from "Applied Bio Systems Ltd" of South Africa, to assist in crime investigation in December 1997.
These include an AB1 Prism 377 DNA sequencer and accessories, as well as a Thermocycler and accessories for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The systems are computerised and are provided with the necessary softwares.
The equipment, which was commissioned in February 1998, has not been used in casework up to now, as the training conducted in 1997 focused on theoretical aspects (of genetic and molecular biology). Practical training was not effected as the DNA profiling equipment was not available then.
Action has already been initiated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since January this year for the deputation of an expert from South Africa for appropriate training.
The South African authorities have reacted positively and have, on 27 March this year, submitted a DNA training proposal, which is now being examined by the Forensic Science Laboratory.
In this training programme, emphasis will be laid on practical aspects and hands-on training so that the project takes off and becomes operational in actual casework as soon as possible.
The practical training will most probably be scheduled for June/July, this year.
The Biology section of the Forensic Science Laboratory is also being reinforced with the recruitment of two additional staff in the grade of Scientific Officer.
This Government is giving priority to DNA profiling, which will assist the Police tremendously in crime investigation.
Dr. Boolell: Is the Prime Minister aware that since the last 10 years, scientific officers have undergone training in respect of DNA profiling, but it was the last Government which made the equipment available to the FSL? May I also impress upon the Prime Minister that a gentleman by the name of Varma underwent training and was not bonded, and instead he left and went to the States? This is the problem, and, of course, besides bickering at the FSL.
The Prime Minister: May I know when he left and went to the States?
Dr. Boolell: He was a protégé of your Government, Sir.
Mr Dulloo: Sir, may I ask the Rt. hon. Prime Minister whether the FSL is still operating under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Police, and whether he should not continue the process of trying to make it operate independently of the Police - as an independent body?
The Prime Minister: I'll try to find out what is the position, Sir.
Mr Collendavelloo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we have the equipment and it is obvious that for whatever reason - let us not blame people - there is no adequate staffing for use of this equipment. May I ask the Prime Minister whether, pending a final mise en ordre in this matter, every time there are serious cases, Government will hire the services of a specialist from Reunion or South Africa to come over and assist the Police, so that we solve cases instead of beating up people?
The Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have, myself, discussed this problem and the whole issue of the FSL with the Commissioner of Police, and we intend to bring whatever necessary changes and make corrections wherever it is necessary, but right now, there is a very important investigation going on and I don't want to disturb the whole situation.
(No. B/70) Dr A. Boolell (Second Member for Vieux Grand Port & Rose Belle) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will state if the Constitution will be amended to confer additional discretionary powers to the President of the Republic.
The Prime Minister: Sir, as the House is aware, the Government proposes to amend the Constitution with a view to consolidating and strengthening our democratic system of Government, by bringing constitutional reforms, including giving additional powers to the President of the Republic. In this context, a Commission of Constitutional Experts will be set up soon, to study and make recommendations on the proposed reforms. The question of giving additional discretionary powers to the President will be examined by the Commission, and amendments to the Constitution considered in the light of its recommendations.
Mr Dulloo: Sir, there has been a manifesto before the election and we have had the speech from the President, where certain indications have been given. So, may I ask the Rt. hon. Prime Minister whether Government has got specific areas of the power concerned in mind? Because we have seen what has happened at Air Mauritius - monstre à deux têtes. So, I would like to know, whether, ultimately, our Constitution may not end up like this when more powers will be given to the President. This may end up into removing the powers of the Prime Minister and lead to constitutional problems and crisis.
The Prime Minister: I don't see where the question of two heads or what not arises. The corporate governance with a Board and a Chairman and then the Executive Manager is quite common in this country. I don't see what they are laughing at. So far as the amendments are concerned, we are looking into the matter, the terms of reference will be prepared and the Commission will study them.
Mr Dulloo: Recently, the President raised the question of the Prerogative of Mercy, about his power, whether it should be discretionary or whether he should go by the advice of the Commission for the Prerogative of Mercy or not. Can I know whether this matter also is being looked into or whether Government, independently of the Commission that will be set up, can look into this question and bring the necessary amendment to the Constitution, to respond to the comments and suggestions made by the President?
The Prime Minister: This is already in my answer. The hon. Member should make it a point to listen to the answer.
Dr. Ramgoolam: The hon. Prime Minister mentioned that there would be a Commission of Constitutional Experts. Does he have an idea as to who will be the experts or they are going to decide later on?
The Prime Minister: Experts are being looked for.
Dr. Boolell: Will the Prime Minister state whether members of the public would be allowed to depone before that Commission of Experts?
The Prime Minister: They will decide whether they want to hear anybody.
(No. B/71) Dr. S. Chady (Second Member for Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain information as to the number of cases of Police brutality during the last 2 years and indicate the measures taken to combat same and the outcome thereof.
The Prime Minister: Sir, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that 48 and 58 cases of alleged brutality have been reported to the Police for the years 1999 and 2000 respectively.
Following inquiry, 11 cases have been classified out of the 48 cases reported in 1999.
In the year 2000, out of the 58 cases reported 7 cases have been classified following inquiry.
The protection of Human Rights has always been a matter of concern for this Government. I reaffirm that my Government will not tolerate cases of negligence or brutality on the part of the Police.
As the House is aware, the Human Rights Commission which has been set up by legislation, will be an independent institution with powers to investigate into the complaints against the Police, including alleged cases of Police brutality. The Commission has become operative today with Mr D. Seetulsing, formerly Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman. With the setting up of the Commission, it is expected that relationships between the Police and detainees will improve and will be accessed with greater objectivity and impartiality.
Moreover, Government is envisaging the establishment of a Police Complaints Board to look into complaints against the Police.
Dr. Chady: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for the past few months there have been quite a few cases of alleged brutality and I refer the Prime Minister to Parliamentary Question B/15 which he answered the week before. The question was about one Mr L.V., 37 years old who was taken into Police custody at Vacoas. Then he was brought to Beau Bassin and he ended himself at SSRN Hospital with a left-sided paralysis. So, here is somebody who is 37 years old, who is well, ends up with a left-sided paralysis - he had no history of hypertension or anything of that sort. But according to the answer given by the Prime Minister last week, there is no investigation into that case. I won't read the whole answer, but I find this very shocking that nothing has been said about any investigation into that particular case.
The Prime Minister: When there is a complaint, there is an investigation. If there has been no complaint, there would be no investigation.
Dr. Chady: Surely! I would like to rephrase my question now. The fact that this 37 years old person who is well, he is taken into Police custody, he gets admitted to hospital and ends up with a left-sided paralysis means that there must have been brutality of some sort and he must have been bleeding from his brain. I am asking the Prime Minister whether an investigation will be carried out. Is he waiting for a request from me? In that case, I think, since my question came up that time, I thought the Prime Minister would have acted promptly at the very outset of my question. This is showing a bit of negligence about the whole issue.
The Prime Minister: I am no doctor, nor expert in that matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. What I have said is something that is logical. If the person who is suffering, if there has been brutality, I am sure he is going to complain about that and if there is complaint there will be investigation.
Dr. Chady: One further question. According to the parents themselves, they did file a complaint. They went even further to make a request that the patient be examined by an independent Neurologist and that was published in "Le Mauricien" newspaper of 10 March.
This is a fact. Now, the Prime Minister says there has been no complaint. There was a complaint. This was the origin of the whole thing. So, the family must have made a complaint that their son has been beaten up or that alleged brutality existed. I am even more shocked that the Prime Minister has given such an answer and now he is coming with an excuse to the effect that there has not been any complaint from the family. There have been complaints in the newspapers, it is widespread and there is a question in Parliament. Now, who is going to believe that this Government is serious about Police brutality?
The Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I don't know whether there has been a formal complaint to the Police in this case or there has been any complaint to journalists which has been reported in newspapers, but whenever there is a formal complaint there is investigation.
Mr Dulloo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, if I may, following the reply of the Prime Minister. Now, that this matter has been raised in the National Assembly by an hon. Member indicating that there could have been Police brutality, the question is: will the Prime Minister now make an inquiry as to whether there is need to go to a Police Station to make a complaint? The matter has been raised and there is an allegation of Police brutality. Will an inquiry be conducted now in this matter?
The Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I must ask that they should ask the person involved to make a formal complaint.
(No. B/72) Mr X. L. Duval (Fourth Member for Curepipe and Midlands) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether, in view of the forthcoming World Conference on Racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, he will state if Government will arrange for the payment of compensation to descendants of slaves.
The Prime Minister: Sir, a three day African Regional Preparatory meeting was held in Dakar, Senegal in January last, prior to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which will be held in Durban from 31 August to 7 September this year. Mrs. Françoise Labelle, Member of Parliament, represented the Mauritian Government at that preparatory meeting.
A draft declaration focussing among other things on the impact of slavery and colonialism was adopted at the meeting. The declaration also called for recognition of past injustices and warned that recognition would be meaningless without explicit apology by ex-colonial powers or their successors for those violations. I am laying a copy of that Declaration.
As regards paying of an appropriate compensation to the descendants of slaves, the representatives of the countries of the African region have, at the preparatory meeting held in Dakar, recommended the setting up of an International Compensation Scheme for victims of slave trade. The modalities of such reparation would be defined by the World Conference in a practical and result-oriented manner. This Government does not intend to address the issue of slavery in isolation in Mauritius. However, we shall support any reasonable effort made at the international level to compensate descendants of slaves.
Sir, it is known that although the previous Government announced with great pomp the setting up of Slavery Reparation Committee in 1998, nothing concrete has come out so far and the proposed members were never officially appointed.
I am informed that a sum of Rs800,000 had even been spent on the purchase of furniture and office equipment for the Committee which never met.
My Government will follow closely developments, and thinking, on this matter at the regional level and eventually take a position on what kind of reparation can be made.
However, the House will appreciate that we have given due recognition to the contribution of our ancestors who came to Mauritius as slaves, by proclaiming the 1st of February as a public holiday.
Mr Duval: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, can I ask the Rt. hon. Prime Minister whether Mauritius will be attending the Conference on Racism in Durban and who will attend?
The Prime Minister: Well! That goes without saying, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
Mr Duval: Who will attend, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir?
The Prime Minister: We will be attending. Mauritius will be represented.
Mr Duval: The Prime Minister does not know whom yet?
The Prime Minister: I don't know.
Mr Duval: Would the Rt. hon. Prime Minister tell us what would be the stand of Mauritius concerning compensation to slaves? Has he decided what stand he will take?
The Prime Minister: My answer was very clear about that.
Mr Duval: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the question of international compensation is fine for Senegal and other such countries because these countries have suffered, their people were taken as slaves to other countries which benefited from slavery. The situation for Mauritius is quite different, if I may say so, and I would like the Prime Minister to look at that because here we have received the slaves and a number of companies are still operating which benefited considerably from the slave trade. I will ask the Prime Minister whether, through Government and the private sector everywhere, a gesture cannot be made. A public holiday is not sufficient. I will suggest to the Prime Minister given that we received the slaves and the economy here benefited from slavery, that such compensation should start from here.
The Prime Minister: In the ILLOVO case, Government's stand has been made very clear from the answer I have just given, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir.
(No. B/73) Mr M. Dulloo (Third Member for Grand' Baie and Poudre d'Or) asked the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Home Affairs and Minister of External Communications whether, in regard to the law and order situation in Port Louis North, Ste Croix, Roche Bois, Nicolay Road, Cité La Cure, Briquetterie, Batterie Cassée, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain information as to -
(a) the number of -
(i) incidents involving the Police and the inhabitants, indicating the date/s, the place/s, the reasons therefor and the outcome of each incident;
(ii) arrests for offences connected with drugs, prostitution, assault and larceny, indicating the date/s, the place/s, the type of offence and the outcome thereof, and
(b) whether representatives of his Ministry and/or of the Police have recently met the forces vives or other representatives of the region to discuss the situation.
The Prime Minister: Sir, with regard to part (a)(i) of the question, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that three (3) incidents occurred in the region of Port Louis North where the relatives and friends of suspects opposed the Police in the performance of their duties and obstructed the officers with offensive weapons. These incidents occurred on 05 March 2000 at Ste Croix, on 27 May 2000 at Roche Bois and on 12 March this year at Cité La Cure. In the Roche Bois case, inquiry has been completed and the matter referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In the two other cases, inquiry is still being carried out.
With regard to part (a)(ii), the information requested is being tabled.
As regards part (b), in the reply to PQ B/5 at our sitting of 20 March, I mentioned the various measures taken by the Police to control such evils in the regions of Port Louis and its outskirts. I am further informed by the Commissioner of Police that, since the beginning of this year, twelve (12) meetings were held by Police with the forces vives of Roche Bois, Ste Croix, Cité La Cure and Vallée des Prêtres. The Police were represented by high ranking officers of the regular Police Force as well as representatives from the ADSU, Alpha Squad, CID and Traffic Branch. The main grievances of the forces vives are the proliferation of the drug problem, prostitution, larceny and the opening of licenced premises selling liquor during prohibited hours.
The last such meeting was held on 19 March 2001. Furthermore, a meeting was held on 28 March of this year at the Police officers' mess, where in addition to the Police and the forces vives, Minister Lesjongard and other Members of the National Assembly for Constituency No. 4, namely hon. Chumroo and hon. Grivon were present. The meeting served as a forum to identify problem areas in the region and possible remedial measures.
I am also informed that the next meeting between the Police and the forces vives will be held on 04 April at Ste Croix.
Mr Dulloo: The Rt. hon. Minister will agree that the situation is rather serious and special attention is being given and should be given. So, may I ask him whether any representative of the Ministry of Defence and Home Affairs was present during those meetings?
The Prime Minister: Well, we don't have a defence Force, we have a Police Force and the Commissioner of Police is the Head of that Force and he was there.
Mr Dulloo: Does the Rt. hon. Prime Minister mean that there is no staff at all as far as the Ministry of Defence & Home Affairs is concerned, to advise him on law and order?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please!
The Prime Minister: I think the Commissioner is best qualified.
The Deputy Speaker: Prime Minister's Question Time is over now. Questions to hon. Ministers, please.
(No. B/77) Mrs D. Perrier (Third Member for Belle Rose and Quatre Bornes) asked the Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizen Welfare and Reform Institutions whether, in regard to the numerous private homes meant for the elderly which are opening in the country, he will state if he proposes to come to the House with a comprehensive legislation with a view to regulating these homes in order to afford protection to the vulnerable groups.
Mr Lauthan: Sir, the Ministry is fully aware of the need for a legislation to regulate the operations of residential care homes.
This has become a necessity owing to the proliferation of residential care homes over the past years with not enough concern for the general welfare of the residents.
However, shortly after my assumption of office as Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity & Senior Citizen Welfare and Reform Institutions, I received a number of complaints from residents of residential care homes regarding lack of security norms in these homes.
I subsequently commissioned a risk assessment exercise into 26 residential care homes, subsidised by my Ministry, with a view to ascertaining sanitary, security and nursing care standards in these homes.
The risk assessment exercise was carried out by officers of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, Fire Services Department and the Medical Unit of my Ministry. The exercise revealed the following -
(a) a lack of full-time nursing officers was noted in all the homes, except for two of them;
(b) two of these homes were found to be unequipped with fire extinguishers and since remedial action has been taken. Besides, an early warning system for all the homes has been recommended to ensure safe evacuation in the event of fire. This is being presently considered by my Ministry ;
(i) sanitary conditions were found to be generally satisfactory in all these homes, except for a few cases, which require furtherimprovements.
This being said, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I seize this opportunity to pay a great tribute and express my gratitude and that of the Government to the wonderful service being rendered by the selfless and dedicated workers of the charitable institutions. Such is not really the case with the private homes really because we don't have as at now the necessary legislation.
Coming to legislation, my Ministry has already attempted a first draft of a Residential Care Home Bill, which has been submitted to the State Law Office. The latter has subsequently asked for further clarifications regarding certain technical aspects of the Bill.
However, given the highly technical nature of the exercise, this Ministry has sought consultancy services from the Luxembourg Authorities under the Second Phase of the Luxembourg Project to assist in the finalisation of the Bill, which is meant to incorporate the following:-
- Registration requirements
- Security norms
- Hygiene & sanitation standards
- Management of personal belongings of the residents
- Right to dignified living and self determination of residents
In this connection, the Luxembourg Authorities have already advertised, through Internet, the post of a Consultant to assist my Ministry in the preparation of the relevant legislation.
Mrs Perrier: Je remercie le ministre, mais à part le manque de sécurité, de soins médicaux et de la maltraitance, il y a aussi le fait que certains foyers expropient ces vieilles personnes, qui sont vulnérables et qui font totalement confiance aux directeurs de ces foyers. Donc, ils prennent complètement leurs biens, ils font des joint accounts avec eux pour exproprier leurs biens. Ces vielles personnes sont totalement isolées de leurs familles qui ne peuvent même pas souvent leur rendre visite. Il faudrait que la loi prenne cela aussi en considération.
Mr Lauthan: M. le président, comme je l'ai dit dans ma réponse, ces problèmes sont pris en compte dans les critères et paramètres de la nouvelle loi. On a fait mention de "Management of personal belongings of the residents
". C'est vrai qu'il y a aussi des problèmes d'héritage, d'appropriation, etc. Puisqu'il n'y a pas de cadre légal, nous sommes impuissants, mais cela va être résolu dans un proche avenir.
Mr Sakaram: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have got in my possession copy of a letter from one of my constituents on the conditions prevailing in one of the homes for the old. Anyone who reads it will be disturbed. I'll lay it on the Table of the Assembly and the Minister can make his officers carry out an inquiry and take appropriate action, because the conditions are very disturbing.
Mr Lauthan: M. le président, je suis au courant de certains cas d'abus et ce, précisément, parce qu'il n'y a pas de loi cadre. Ces propriétaires résistent. Ils ont même fait obstacle à la visite des officiers de mon ministère dans au moins un ou deux cas. J'ai même dû faire appel à la Police pour intervenir et pour veiller à ce qu'il y ait au moins un minimum de sécurité et d'hygiene dans le dit cas. M. le président, ce n'est que cette loi qui va nous permettre d'avoir un contrôle strict sur le fonctionnement de ces homes et combattre aussi les cas d'abus.
(No. B/78) Mrs D. Perrier (Third Member for Belle Rose and Quatre Bornes) asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance whether, in regard to the Illovo deal, he will state if he had invited representatives of trade unions for consultations and, if so, will he say who turned up.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Yes Sir, other Ministers and I had a meeting on the 07 March 2001 with representatives of -
Plantation Workers Union,
Agricultural and General Workers' Union,
Organisation of Artisans Unity,
Sugar Industry Staff Employees Association, and
Sugar Industry Overseers Association.
The Mauritius Labour Congress actually solicited a meeting on behalf of the said trade unions to discuss the ILLOVO Deal.
Government acceded to the request of the MLC and, at the same time, invited SILU and UASI also to the meeting. The latter, however, declined the invitation and demonstrated their utter bad faith by going to the press a few days later to state that I was refusing to meet them.
On the other hand, the Sugar Industry Workers' Association (SIWA) has recently solicited a meeting with me. SIWA does not have official recognition from the Mauritius Sugar Producers' Association.
Government proposes to have further meetings on the issue with the trade unions and, subject to there being no objection on the part of the recognised trade unions, SIWA will be invited to join in.
Dr. Boolell: May I ask the Deputy Prime Minister what were the proposals made, what requests came from the trade unionists? Had it got to do with the blueprint, the Strategic Plan? What was discussed?
The Deputy Prime Minister: Everything that has any relation to the ILLOVO deal was discussed; and I am sure the hon. Member is aware that the MLC trade unionists made very positive statements to the press and the MBC immediately after the meeting.
Dr. Boolell: Was a request for a pension scheme pr plan social made? Did the Deputy Prime Minister pledge, on behalf of Government, that there would be a pension scheme in respect of those who are going to retire from the sugar industry?
The Deputy Prime Minister: I think we should be more serious. The hon. Member is mixing pension schemes with the plan social! There are already pension schemes in existence at the level of the country taking care of the sugar industry. Now, we have a plan social pour la centralisation de l'industrie sucrière and we have said that the blueprint is and will remain in force. We have also said that there will be no redundancy in any way related to the ILLOVO deal.
Dr. Boolell: The trade unionists made it quite clear that the blueprint should be the minimum in respect of the proposal and the request they are going to make. The Deputy Prime Minister, who was Leader of the Opposition then, said loud and clear to those who wanted to hear him that a pension scheme should be introduced. I would like to know whether he is going to honour that pledge.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, the hon. Member knows what took place exactly when we were together in Cabinet. I was for a slightly different blueprint in those days; and the hon. Member knows what took place in my absence when I was outside the country as Minister of Foreign Affairs then. I shall not go into the details. Now, it was, when he was Minister, with the present Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister, that a blueprint was adopted. The details of whatever compensation to be paid to the workers affected by any closure of sugar factories are spelt out in the blueprint.
Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we know that recently the price of sugar that we get from the European Union and so on has deteriorated. We have been under heavy pressure as a new Government from the sugar industry to revise the blueprint, to bring down the compensation to be paid to the workers affected. This Government has resisted those pressures, but the situation is serious in the sugar industry with the euro behaving as it has been, with the price we are getting from the European Union, with the Lamy initiative, so on and so forth. The situation is very serious and calls for very responsible behaviour from one and all.
Dr. Boolell: If I understand the Deputy Prime Minister properly, it means that provision exists in the blueprint in respect of the package to be given to the workers who are going to retire. So, there will be a revision downwards. Now I would like to know....
The Deputy Prime Minister: Mr Deputy speaker, Sir, the hon. Member did not listen at all. I just said that we have been under very heavy pressure from the sugar industry to bring down the level of the compensation, but that we have resisted such pressure and the blueprint in respect of centralisation of the sugar industry, closure of sugar factories is remaining as it is.
Dr. Boolell: Can I then impress upon the Deputy Prime Minister, since the ILLOVO deal, as the Prime Minister stated, is like manna falling from heaven why is it that Government does not make an overall bid, use the proceeds, invest to protect the interests of workers of the sugar industry? This is it, Mr Speaker, Sir, manna falling from heaven at a time when the sugar industry is at a crossroad....
Mr Speaker: Hon Boolell!
The Deputy Prime Minister: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the level of irresponsabilité of the Opposition does not need to be commented upon. Mr Deputy Speaker, I think the workers outside, all of them, know - for example, in the case of Rose Belle, the former Minister said that Rose Belle has to close down.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, Rose Belle is bankrupt right now. Of all the existing sugar factories, the only one that has not made any provision for paying compensation due to the workers unfortunately is Rose Belle sugar factory which was under his responsibility as Minister of Agriculture for so long. This level of irresponsabilité, Mr Deputy Speaker, the whole country will judge.
Mr Dulloo: Concerning that meeting, I have two points to clarify from the hon. Minister. I'll ask him, at that meeting, he, therefore, did not propose anything over and above the blueprint contrary to what he proposed when he was Leader of the Opposition. Secondly, I am asking him whether he discussed the question of the 7,000 acres of land and what Government is proceeding to do concerning that, whether he discussed that at that meeting and what he proposed to the workers?
The Deputy Prime Minister: I did not propose anything, Mr Speaker. All the details of the ILLOVO deal - the 35% in the shareholding of the consortium, the 10% shareholding in Mon Trésor Mon Désert itself, the 600 arpents that we are getting for a nominal sum of Rs1, the 3,000 arpents in the Highlands area and the 7,000 arpents in the different estates, all the information available was communicated to the trade unions. We listened to whatever points they had to make and invited them to meet and discuss further with the Mauritius Sugar Authority, to put in memoranda which they have done. As the hon. Prime Minister has said, the Mauritius Sugar Authority is processing all that and will report to Government.
(No. B/79) Mr S. Sakaram (Second Member for Vacoas and Floréal) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether, in regard to the angiography equipment, he will state -
(a) the number of hospitals which are equipped with such machines;
(b) the mean waiting time for a patient who has to go an angiogram test present;
(c) the number of patients awaiting for angiogram test; and
(d) the likely cost to be incurred by a patient who has to undergo an angiogram test in a private clinic.
The Minister of Environment (Mr R. Bhagwan): Mr Speaker, Sir, I am advised that the Cardiac Centre at Pamplemousses is the only public institution which is equipped with an angiography machine.
As regards part (b), the mean waiting time for non-emergency patients is three to five months. Emergency cases are attended to promptly.
With regard to part (c), about 900 to 1000 patients are awaiting such tests.
Concerning part (d), I am advised that the likely cost to be incurred by a patient for an angiography in a private clinic varies between Rs22,000 and Rs30,000.
Mr Sakaram: Mr Speaker, Sir, being given that there are more than 1,000, as the Minister said, who are on the waiting list to undergo the angiogram test, can the Minister state the House whether the Government is envisaging or contemplating the idea of purchasing another angiography equipment to solve the actual problem?
Mr Bhagwan: Sir, I am informed that procedures have been initiated for the purchase of a new angiography machine. The Central Tender Board's approval was sought on the 14th March for launching of tenders. The approval was obtained on the 19th March and the quotations were launched on the 21st March. The closing date for such submission of bids is 9th May 2001.
Dr. Chady: Knowing fully well that the Minister is not the substantive Minister, I am just asking him to transmit this information. The fact that there are about 900 to 1,000 patients on the waiting list, surely there must be a percentage of those 1,000 who need an angiogram urgently. I, myself, had transmitted a few urgent cases to the Minister last time. I am just asking the Minister to ask the cardiac physician to look into the urgent cases.
Mr Bhagwan: Action has already been taken regarding the urgent cases.
(No. B/80) Mr S. Sakaram (Second Member for Vacoas and Floreal) asked the Minister of Agriculture, Food Technology & Natural Resources whether, in regard to the former Chairman of the Sugar Investment Trust, Mr Sanjay Dabysing, he will for the benefit of the House, state -
(a) his salary and the terms and conditions of service attached to his post
(b) the fringe benefits enjoyed by him and,
(c) the expenses incurred in regard to his foreign travel, including air tickets and per diem allowances derived since his appointment.
Mr P. Jugnauth: Mr Speaker, Sir, Dr. Sanjay Dabysing was appointed Chairman of the Sugar Investment Trust after the creation of the Trust in August 1994. He was paid fees and allowances amounting to Rs6,000 per month until July 1998 when in consultation with the then Minister of Agriculture the fees and allowances of the Chairman and all Board members were reviewed. The Chairman therefore drew Rs20,000 per month as fees and travelling allowances as from July 1998 until he submitted his resignation.
He did not have any fringe benefits and did not travel overseas for account of SIT.
However, the SIT has a subsidiary SIT Leisure Ltd. incorporated under the Companies Act 1984. The Chairman of SIT, Dr. Sanjay Dabysing, was also Chairman was also Chairman of SIT Leisure Ltd. He drew the following fees and allowances as Chairman of SIT Leisure Ltd. Fees and allowances from January 2000 to March 2001 :Rs20,000 per month. Housing and Entertainment allowance from July 2000 to March 2001 : Rs30,000 per month.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr P. Jugnauth: The Chairman made six business trips in the context of the Water Park project. Expenses incurred in regard to his foreign travel amounted to Rs387,415 with respect to air tickets and Rs515,324 with respect to allowances.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Shame! Shame! La monnaie travailleurs avec planteurs!
Mr P. Jugnauth: Other fringe benefits of the Chairman were :
(i) an E-class Mercedes Star
(ii) two first-class air-tickets Mauritius/London/Mauritius
which he could use as such or the cash equivalent. In fact, in July Dr. Dabysing exercised to cash the benefit amounting to Rs199,290.
Mr Dulloo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am not sure I got the date when he was appointed as Chairman of the SIT. When was he appointed and by whom was he appointed?
Mr. P. Jugnauth: If I may repeat, Mr Deputy Speaker, Mr Dabysing was appointed after the creation of the Trust in August 1994. But, then, at that time, for the information of the hon. Member he was paid fees amounting to Rs6000 per month until July 1998.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Shame!
Mr P. Jugnauth: I need not repeat again the other information that I have provided to this House!
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please, hon. Members.
(No. B/81) Mr M. Allet (Third Member for Beau Bassin and Petite Rivière) asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance whether, in view of the fact that the Director of Audit has made damning remarks in his report for financial year ending June 2000 on several Government Departments, he will state what action he proposed to initiate to streamline Government expenditure and to take necessary remedial measures as required.
(No. B/82) Mr M. Allet (Third Member for Beau Bassin and Petite Rivière) asked the Minister of Education and Scientific Research whether, it is proposed to upgrade the school infrastructure at Gros Cailloux and, if so, when works are likely to start.
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am informed that in the recent past, the following works have been carried out at Gros Cailloux Government school:
(i) general internal and external repainting of the whole school block;
(iii) repairs of cracks and fallen concrete;
(iv) upgrading of toilet blocks;
(v) laying of ceramic floor tiles and wall tiles in the toilet blocks;
(vi) laying of floor tiles and white glazed wall/tiles in kitchen;
(vii) fixing of naco blades;
(viii) upgrading of school playground;
(ix) levelling of school playground;
(x) planting of grass on compacted soil;
(xi) re-installing of existing chain link fencing.
And this is for the past 2/3 years.
The hon. Member will also be pleased to know that the construction of the pre-primary unit has been completed in December 2000 and has been operational since the beginning of this academic year. And further upgrading works will soon be carried out at Gros Cailloux Government School. In actual fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is now finalising the award of a contract for the construction of a block wall in lieu of the existing chain link fencing of 200 m in length and 1.8 metres in height around the school. Works are expected to start in a month's time and my Ministry is following the matter closely.
The hon. Member is aware that I had a meeting with all three Members of Parliament for Constituency No. 20 at the end of last year where problems of school infrastructure, including Gros Cailloux Government were raised and priorities identified and such priorities will be reflected in the planning for works to be undertaken during the course of the next financial year. If my colleague of the House has had any afterthought or has received any further representations from the public we shall be only too happy to try and accommodate.
At 1.00 p.m the sitting was suspended.
On resuming at 2.35 p.m. with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
(No. B/83) Mr F. Abdoolah (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping whether, in regard to the public service vehicle (contract bus) licences held by Mr Bissoon Mungroo and Bissoon Mungroo & Sons, he will for the benefit of the House, obtain -
(a) the number;
(b) the type of such licenses held in respect of those buses;
(c) from where the buses are authorised to operate;
(d) whether they have applied for additional licences, and if so, since when; and
(e) indicate whether the applications have already been considered by the National Transport Authority.
Mr Bachoo: Sir, with your permission, the information sought is being placed in the Library.
(No. B/84) Mr F. Abdoolah (Third Member for Stanley & Rose Hill) asked the Minister of Housing and Lands whether he will state if Mr Bissoon Mungroo, either in his personal name or through companies of which he is a shareholder, is the beneficiary of any State land and, if so, will he indicate the purpose for which such lands were granted and whether the terms and conditions governing same are being complied with.
Mr Choonee: Sir, Mr Bissoon Mungroo holds a commercial lease in his personal name over an extent of 844 m2 of Pas Géometriques at Flic en Flac for the construction and running of a restaurant.
The State land lease register of the Ministry contains the names of persons and companies who are lessees. It is therefore not possible to ascertain in which company Mr Mungroo is a shareholder. However, it is noted that the company Messrs Mungroo and Sons Ltd holds an industrial lease for hotel development over an extent of 3377 m2 of Pas Géometriques at Flic en Flac, partly adjoining the extent of land leased to Mr Bissoon Mungroo.
As regards the last part of the question, I shall, with your permission, Sir, refer the hon. Member to the reply I made to P.Q. No. B/34 wherein I had informed the House that Mr Mungroo has carried out development not in conformity with the purpose of the lease.
I must also point out that the company Messrs Mungroo and Sons Ltd has also carried out development in contravention of the articles of the lease agreement.
Mr Abdoolah: I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether the restaurant he is referring to include hotel facilities also?
Mr Choonee: I made it clear in my reply, Sir, that there are two leases. One is granted to Mr Mungroo and another one to his company. The one leased to Mr Mungroo is a commercial lease of 844 m2, for construction and running of a restaurant while the other one leased to the company, Messrs Mungroo and Sons Ltd., is an industrial lease for hotel development.
(No. B/85) Mr M. Nanhuck (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port Louis East) asked the Minister of Health and Quality of Life whether he will state what action is being initiated to inquire into the loss of 5 cardiac monitors, indicating if such loss has been reported to the Police.
The Minister of Environment (Mr R. Bhaguan): Sir, I have been advised that during the visit of the substantive Minister of Health to India from 26 February to 7 March 2001, Dr Trehan, Executive Director of Escort Heart Services Institute and Research Centre, informed him that Mr Deerpalsingh took five portable cardiac monitors from him in February 2000 and never paid for them.
The substantive Minister of Health and Quality of Life was shocked on learning this. However, as a gesture of goodwill, he asked his secretary to request Mr Deerpalsingh to return the monitors. As he failed to respond, he mentioned this matter in his press conference of Friday 16 March 2001.
Mr Deerpalsingh has, in a letter written to my colleague and published in 'Le Mauricien' of 22 March 2001 proposed that a representative of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life accompanied by an Usher of the Supreme Court visit his place for inspection and take the monitors if they are found.
In the meantime, a letter was issued by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life by express delivery on 22 March 2001 inviting Mr Deerpalsingh to return the monitors by 10.00 hrs on Tuesday 27 March 2001.
As he did not return the monitors, the matter was referred to the Police on 30 March 2001 for action.
(No. B/86) Mr M. Nanhuck (Third Member for Port Louis Maritime & Port Louis East) asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance whether he will state if the transfer of funds from the Ministry of Health from its initial budget to the Medical Trust Fund for the renovation of 2 mediclinics and the construction of hospitals is in keeping with financial instructions and regulations in the public service.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Sir, I take it the hon. Member is referring to the National Trust Fund for Community Health Development. Funds were, in fact, re-allocated by the Ministry of Health from its item "Building" and "Mediclinics" to the item "Grant to National Trust Fund for Community Health Development" for the purpose of upgrading and renovating two mediclinics and health infrastructure in hospitals. Such re-allocation of funds is in line with standing financial regulations in the public service. Paragraph 23 of Chapter 10.3 of the Financial Management Manual stipulates that, I quote -
"The Minister of Finance, if he is satisfied that the proposed expenditure does not represent an important departure from the original intentions of the Legislative Assembly, may sanction a transfer of provision from one item to the other". End of quote.
However, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as pointed out in the Report of the Director of Audit for the year ended 30 June 1999, the transfer of funds from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to the National Trust Fund for Community Health Development for execution of renovation or capital works raises fundamental issues concerning control over expenditure of public funds.
According to the Director of Audit when Parliament approved the provisions directly under the control of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life there was implicit understanding that the Ministry would spend those funds within the existing control framework governing expenditure of public funds. Had such projects been undertaken by the Ministry of Health itself, it would have referred all tenders for project exceeding Rs500,000 to the Central Tender Board for approval. It would also have had these projects supervised by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
In fact, in his report the Director of Audit has stressed that the following questions need to be addressed. I quote -
"Is it ethical and within the spirit of financial regulations for the Ministry to transfer part of its budget and thus elude the control framework established by the financial regulations, including the pervasive scrutiny of the CTB?
Can the National Trust Fund for Community Health Development claim to have systems in place for competitive bidding that can match the independence, professionalism and competence of the CTB?
Can the National Trust Fund for Community Health Development claim to have regulations that can match the comprehensive financial regulations of the FMM?
Can the Consulting Architect adequately and effectively act as a substitute to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, with its pool of independent professionals, for the supervision of projects financed from public funds?
Is it possible for Government to get better "value for money" by incurring expenditure outside the control framework of the FMM and CTB?"
I would like to point out that the Trust Fund had already entered into various contracts for renovation works before submission of the application for re-allocation by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to the Ministry of Finance. In December 1998, the Ministry of Finance had drawn the attention of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to the fact that it was not proper for the Trust Fund to undertake projects of the Ministry which are funded directly from the Budget. The re-allocation was, however, approved by the Ministry of Finance then as it was put before a "fait accompli" and there was a contractual liability to effect payments for works already undertaken in respect of contracts awarded by the Trust Fund.
I would wish to see the Public Accounts Committee look further into the matter.
Mr Dowarkasing: I think it is clear from the reply of the Deputy Prime Minister that there has been a breach of procedures concerning the
Financial Management Manual. Does the Deputy Prime Minister intend to pursue an inquiry? Because 15 such capital projects involving more than Rs20 m. have been done through this procedure without going through the CTB and the concerned Ministry.
The Deputy Prime Minister: I just indicated that I would wish to see the Public Accounts Committee look into it, but at my end also I will have a fresh look at the issue and if it is required to refer the whole matter to the Economic Crime Office or to the Police, we shall certainly do that. What is clear is that, even if there has been no violation of the regulations as such, it is to get round the CTB that all this took place so that les petits copains could benefit from tenders without going through proper procedures.
(No. B/88) Mr J. Von-Mally (Third Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Local Government, Rodrigues and Rural and Urban Development whether, in regard to the Human Resource Centre in Rodrigues, he will state -
(a) if a notice for application of candidates for the post of Director thereof has been published and, if so, indicate the date of publication and
(b) if a date was fixed for the interview of candidates, indicate if such interview was done and, if not the reasons for any postponement.
Mr Lesjongard: Sir, I am advised that:
(a) There is no post of Director for the Human Resource Centre. The post of Head, Human Resource Centre was advertised on 15 November 2000.
(b) An interview by the Public Service Commission was scheduled for Friday 05 January 2001. However, on 03 Jaunary 2001, the Island Secretary was informed by the Commission that the interview would not be held as scheduled. No reasons were given and no further information has been received from the Public Service Commission as regards the new date for the interview.
Mr Von-Mally: Since there has been some delay concerning the operation of that Human Resource Centre, can we know when the post of Director will be filled?
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as I said, I don't have the information right now, but I'll inquire into the matter.
Mr Dowarkasing: Regarding this Human Resource Centre, initially a sum of Rs8 m. was earmarked. We now see that the contract was awarded on 29 January and that the amount involved is about Rs20 m. Can we know where Government will find funding for the extra amount needed for the construction because there have been delays all throughout the project?
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I do not have the answer. If the hon. Member comes with a specific question, I will be glad to answer.
(No. B/89) Mr J. Von-Mally (Third Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Local Government, Rodrigues and Rural and Urban Development whether, in regard to the village of Eau Vannée, he will state -
(a) to what use the water in its reservoir is put, giving the reasons why the water pump and all the pipes have been removed;
(b) if the said reservoir will be properly fenced to avoid accident and if washing amenities (lavoir) will be installed.
Mr Lesjongard: Sir, pumping of water which was used for domestic purposes at Eau Vannée has ceased since 15 months as the water supply in the borehold is not adequate for exploitation.
The water pump has since been removed, to be re-installed at Reposoir, and the pumping main, being obsolete, is also being removed and used for upgrading existing distribution main at Eau Claire and Pompée.
The fencing of the reservoir and the construction of washing amenities will be envisaged in the next budget. However, a small concrete tank has been temporarily installed next to the reservoir for washing purposes pending the implementation of the improvement works.
Mr Von-Mally: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this is quite shocking. We are actually, in Rodrigues, facing a period of drought while this reservoir is full and its water is not being utilised. Will the hon. Minister have a proper inquiry carried out because it is not clear as to what has really been happening?
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I'll be glad to look into the matter. J'assure l'honorable membre qu'on est très conscient du problème d'eau à Rodrigues et qu'on donne à ce problème le maximum d'attention.
(No. B/90) Mr J. Von-Mally (Third Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Local Government, Rodrigues and Rural and Urban Development whether he will consider the advisability of completing the tarring of the short road strip between Mourouk and Gravier with a view to facilitating access between these two villages and, if not, why not.
Mr Lesjongard: Sir, the road strip between Mourouk and Graviers is about 3 km long and will necessitate the construction of two bridges and four major culverts. The estimated cost of the road, including the bridges and the culverts is about Rs30 m.
According to the established programme of work, the construction of the above road has been targeted to start in financial year 2002/03.
Mr Von-Mally: This is quite amazing. Have I heard that Rs30 m. have been earmarked for this project? In fact, it is a road of less than 3 km long. Since it is such a short strip of road, why not get the works started? I think we have the necessary funds for that.
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, according to information I have, the road is about 3 km long and the estimated cost is Rs30 m. In the established programme of work, we have set priorities and this project will be carried out during financial year 2002/03.
(No. B/91) Mr C. Leopold (Fourth Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Local Government, Rodrigues and Rural and Urban Development whether, in regard to the anti-erosion project and to the 200 labourers already interviewed therefor, he will state -
(a) when such labourers will be called for duty, indicating the duration of their contract and
(b) if all procedures were followed for the recruitment of the said labourers, and whether he will make a statement thereof.
Mr Lesjongard: Sir, on 23 March 2001, letters of appointment were issued to the selected candidates who have been requested to assume duty as General Field and Office Premises Worker on Monday 02 April for an initial contract period of one year.
With regard to part (b) of the question, I am advised that the Island Secretary has obtained from the Local Employment Service a list of 225 male and 75 female job seekers who could potentially qualify for the employment. A selection exercise was carried out in accordance with usual laid down procedures and the appointment was made by the Island Secretary pursuant to powers delegated to him by the Public Service Commission under the PSC Regulations.
Mr Von-Mally: May I know from the hon. Minister whether the anti-erosion project has been finalised? We are awaiting this project since a long time.
Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the project has been finalised.
(No. B/92) Mr C. Leopold (Fourth Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport & Shipping whether he will state if the number of public service vehicle (taxi) licences in Rodrigues will be increased for the purpose of bettering the service and, if not, why not.
Mr Bachoo: Sir, I am informed that at present two public service vehicle (taxi) licences have been granted at Port Mathurin and three others at Pointe Coton. The two taxis at Port Mathurin are providing a service while only one licence has been implemented at Pointe Coton so far.
The National Transport Authority has carried out a survey throughout the island and, following this exercise, it proposes to grant taxi licences as hereunder:
Port Mathurin 3 (additional)
Grande Montagne/Mont Lubin 5
Oyster Bay 2
La Ferme 2
Grand La Fouche Corail 3
Rivière Cocos 3
Port Sud-Est 2
Roche Bon Dieu 2
Petit Gabriel 4
Applications for public service vehicle (taxi) licences will be invited through the press from inhabitants of the abovementioned localities in due course.
(No. B/93) Mr C. Leopold (Fourth Member for Rodrigues) asked the Minister of Education & Scientific Research whether, in regard to the Rodriguan born students who are beneficiaries of the State (President Award) scholarship at the University of Mauritius for the year 2000/01, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain information as to -
(a) their names;
(b) the monthly amount payable to them;
(c) whether they have been paid since the beginning of the first semester of the year 2000/01 and, if not, why not and whether he will make a statement thereon.
Mr Obeegadoo: Sir, I am informed that:
(a) The scholarship under the President's Award Scheme for the year 2000/01 has been awarded to Miss Marie Joyceline Begue (now Mrs Hortense).
(b) The monthly allowance payable to her is Rs6,500.
(c) Mrs Hortense has already been paid her allowance for the first semester 2000/01.
Mr Leopold: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there are two other students at the University to whom scholarships had been promised. I already contacted the hon. Minister of Education and the Minister of Rodrigues on this issue. Until now, these cases have not been cleared. Can I know from the Minister what will happen in the case of these two students?
Mr Obeegadoo: Mr Deputy Speaker, there is only one scholarship under the President's Award Scheme. The hon. Member might be referring to the two new scholarships announced by the previous Government for science related subjects. If that is the case, as the hon. Member knows, there has been some controversy as to whether the scholarships should indeed be limited to science subjects or otherwise. For the present year, the status quo is being maintained, that is, the gentleman - I believe it's Mr Courteau - already studying at the University of Mauritius, will benefit from the Science Subjects Scholarship Scheme pending an overall review of the whole gamut of scholarships being made available to Rodriguan students.
Mr Léopold: Sir, the students are already at the University since August last year, and I know of the financial difficulties of the families. Can I know from the hon. Minister when this question will be finalised?
Mr Obeegadoo: As I said, the matter has already been finalised. Unfortunately, we are not responsible for the confusion that initially existed. The matter has now been thrashed out. For the present academic year, the status quo is being maintained, that is, Mr Courteau should have benefited from all the payments due to him.
(No. B/94) Dr. N. Issimdar (Second Member for Rivière des Anguilles & Souillac) asked the Minister of Agriculture, Food Technology & Natural Resources whether he will state what measures are being taken with a view to ensuring that equal treatment is afforded to tea planters who are members of a co-operative society and those who are not.
Mr P. Jugnauth: Sir, with your permission, I will reply to PQ Nos. B/94 and B/103 together.
Planters of privately owned tea land may be classified broadly in two main categories:-
first, those who are members of the seven tea Co-operative Societies and who are grouped in the Grand Port/Savanne Credit and Tea Marketing Federation; and
second, free planters who are not members of any co-operative society.
Both the two categories of planters supply their green tea leaves to one of the four private tea factories, namely Bois Cheri, Corson, La Flora and La Chartreuse. The members of the tea co-operative societies were suppliers of one of the Teafac factories until the closure of Dubreuil tea factory in March 1999, after which they have started to supply their leaf to one of the four private factories. When they were supplying leaf to Teafac, these planters were obtaining a fixed price of Rs2.50 per kg. After the closure of the Teafac factories in 1999, an agreement was reached between the private tea manufacturers and my Ministry, whereby the former agreed to process the leaf of these planters at a fixed price of Rs6.00 per kg. The other free planters have always been suppliers of the private tea factories and have always been enjoying the final price as determined by the Tea Board which vary between Rs7.70 and Rs10 per kilo, depending on the factory.
Recently, I received representations from the representatives of the Grand Port/Savanne Credit and Tea Marketing Federation for an increase in the fixed price of Rs6 per kg.
Immediately afterwards, I held consultation with the private tea manufacturers with a view to convincing them to bring both categories of planters supplying leaf to their factories at par. They did not agree to that proposal, arguing that they have had to invest massively in their factories, in order to cope with the additional leaf. Instead, they have agreed to increase the green leaf price payable to the planters of the co-operative societies from Rs6 per kg to Rs7.50 per kg as from 01 July 2001. This decision has been communicated to the planters yesterday.
With the forthcoming increase in the green leaf price, the question of payment of any special bonus to the tea planters does not arise.
Mr Dulloo: Sir, at the end of each year, especially when planters receive low income, normally there is payment made to them, but last year this was not the case. May I know the reason why the planters were not given this special payment last year?
Mr P. Jugnauth: I don't know to what payment the hon. Member is referring.
Mr Dulloo: I cannot follow what has happened.
The Deputy Speaker: I think the hon. Minister too has not heard what the hon. Member said.
Mr P. Jugnauth: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Member has referred to a payment that was made last December.
Mr Dulloo: Normally, this is made at the end of each year. Why was it not made last year? At the end of the year, normally planters who have a reduction in revenue are given a special payment. I think that was the question hon. Baloomoody put when he referred to the bonus. So, why have they not been paid last year?
Mr P. Jugnauth: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as far as I know, there is no question of bonus, but, however, I am willing to answer to a substantive question that the hon. Member will put in the future.
The Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members, I have been informed that hon. Dr. Issimdar is withdrawing PQ No. B/95, and hon. Dr. Beebeejaun is withdrawing PQ Nos. B/98, B/99, B/100 & B/101. Furthermore, I am informing the House that hon. Hurnam is on mission.