Human Rights Report 2008 : Is Dheerujlall Seetulsingh acting ultra vires?
Human Rights Report 2008 : Is Dheerujlall Seetulsingh acting ultra vires?
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was set up under the The Protection of Human Rights Act 1998. The functions of the Commission are to enquire into written complaints made (i) by any person who feels that any of the human rights enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution has been violated or is likely to be violated by the act or omission of a public officer or employee of a public body; (ii) by any person against an act or omission of a member of the police. Public body is defined as (a) a Ministry or Government department; (b) a Local Authority; (c) a Parastatal Body; (d) a Company where Government by holding shares or otherwise is able to influence that company's policy or decisions.
Hence, the NHRC cannot enquire into human rights complaints relating, for example, to alleged abuse of or denial of freedom of expression (including rights of reply) by the press, or into human rights complaints regarding alleged racial, religious or sex discrimination by private individuals or private companies, because they do not fall within the above definition even though the functions of the NHRC include dealing with « the right to freedom of expression » and « the right to protection from discrimination ».
The press recently reported that in his Human Rights Report 2008, Me Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, former Solicitor General, former Judge and Chairperson of the NHRC proposed amending the Mauritian Constitution to include : (1) electoral reform purporting to add a dose of proportional representation to our first past the post system and Best Loser System ; (2) the protection of economic and social rights ; (3) the possibility of entering class actions (where an individual does not have locus standi; and (4) the Creation of a Court of Appeal. [le Mauricien, 10 July 2009]. The Chairperson also indulged in the politics surrounding the residual category of « General Population » in the Constitution and complained that politicians could not find a consensus on how it should be replaced. He also addressed « gender imbalance », and advocated positive discrimination (affirmative action) to increase the number of women lawmakers, and criticised the Legislative Assembly for not having addressed the issue at the adoption of the Equal Opportunities Act in December 2008.
Even though those with vested interests may well praise the report, one has great difficulty in distinguishing the Chairperson of the NHRC from the acting politician. Of course, the Chairperson has the right to, and indeed should, make recommendations on matters set out under the functions of the Commission. But people are bound to be utterly confused and at pains to find wherein political issues such as Proportional Representation (which is not a right), social and economic rights, positive discrimination (which is not a right), etc., are found under the functions of the NHRC. Is Dheerujlall Seetulsingh acting ultra vires, especially given that it is clearly stated that the NHRC « does not deal with complaints relating to economic, social and cultural rights »? Furthermore, political analysts may argue that such recommendations are a kick in the teeth of the government and provide fodder to political parties and pressure groups in making unreasonable and discriminatory demands to the government?
On the subject of discrimination, can Dheerujlall Seetulsingh explain his involvement, if any, while he was Solicitor General, in the rejection, by letter dated 6th January 1998 signed Mrs C. Awotar for the Solicitor General, of Sen Seetulsingh’s (my wife’s) application for official change of name as the adopted daughter of the late Ramduthlall Seetulsingh of Curepipe and as having been brought up as a member of the Seetulsingh family for nearly 25 years? An application for judicial review was lodged and the matter was settled and the annotation « Sen Seetulsingh » entered in her birth certificate. However, in a misleading and inaccurate response [l’Express 16 April 2009] made by Sen’s ‘niece’, Sharmila Seetulsingh-Goorah, who does not know Ramduthlall Seetulsingh and was not even born at the time of the adoption, alleged that there was effectively a racist and discriminatory promise between the biological and adopted fathers of Sen Seetulsingh whereby Sen would have to marry a Muslim because she was born of Muslim parents and upon which discriminatory ‘promise’ the rejection was based when the then Solicitor General’s letter did not give any reason for the rejection. To date, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, then Solicitor General and also a relative of Ramduthlall Seetulsingh’s family, has not refuted S S Goorah’s allegation that the decision was effectively motivated by religious discrimination which she is also promoting. However, S S Goorah gave the game away when she effectively argued that the Seetulsingh name is such a high-class name among Hindus that people are « Prêt à tout pour porter le nom de ‘Seetulsingh’ », the title of her article in l’Express of 16 April 2009. Does Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Chairperson of the NHRC, share this form of discriminatory delusion, especially given the inclusion in his 2008 Report of his alleged belief that Mauritians should call themselves just Mauritians and not refer to their ethnicity and religion? Does he therefore believe that a Mauritian citizen exists in a vacuum, that protection of minority rights should be a thing of the past, that because Sen Seetulsingh happened to have fallen in love and married a Muslim, she has no right to bear the name of her adopted Hindu Father and that an alleged racist and discriminatory promise which is allegedly passed down through generations should be imposed upon her until she is cremated per her wish?
In his 2008 Human Rights Report, D Seetulsingh makes no recommendation on the protection of the rights of adopted children, most probably because this would have fallen outside the ambit of the functions of the NHRC, and ultra vires. Then, why make recommendations on social and economic rights, on positive discrimination, and so on, when they do not appear to form part of the functions of the NHRC either? Hence, it would be futile to ask D Seetulsingh how he proposes to persuade women to join politics and then discriminate in their favour! What about other women? Is it proper for the Chairperson of the NHRC to advocate any form of discrimination? Also, instead of leading by example, the Chairperson’s habit of copying what others are doing in Egypt, a brutal dictatorship under Mubarak, in South Africa, a country still grappling with the fallout of apartheid, does not inspire confidence either.
M Rafic Soormally
12 July 2009
Copy to : Hon. PM Dr Navin Ramgoolam
The flaws in Dheerujlall Seetulsingh’s Human Rights Report 2008
In the light of Dheerujlall Seetulsingh's interview published in Mauritius Times of 17th July 2009, please find below an update :
Even in areas which fall within the functions of the NHRC, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh’s Human Rights Report 2008 is littered with flaws. Instead of referring to cases in the Mauritian context and report accordingly, he bases his comments on what is happening or what others are saying elsewhere. For example, in his interview in Mauritius Times (17 July 2009), he says « There are no important human rights violations which are considered worth reporting in Amnesty International’s Annual Report » and that « Mauritius was reviewed favourably this year by the Human Rights Council in Geneva » upon which he concludes that Mauritians « have good reasons to be proud » of their Human Rights records. Mauritians are bound to wonder why so much taxpayers’ money should be spent of the Human Rights institution if all Dheerujlall Seetulsingh can do is rely on what other Human Rights organisations are saying. He speaks of « awareness amongst the Mauritian public of basic human rights » rather than protection of their Human Rights. He also speaks of alleged police brutality as « having stabilized » because allegations have allegedly not increased and switched from ‘quite serious’ to ‘less serious’ as if this is an acceptable yardstick in the measurement of respect for Human Rights.
In the matter of objections to the holding of DNA profile of innocent people (including children), Dheerujlall Seetulsingh argues that « requiring a person to give his/her DNA sample does not really infringe upon his/her right to privacy » and that « there is no such thing as the right to privacy in our Constitution ». He appears to be all for such a national database. He clearly does not believe that this is a civil, hence, a human right that should be protected while all other Human Rights organisations across the world are fighting tooth and nail to protect such civil liberties, and the European Courts of Human Rights even ruled that this violated people’s fundamental rights to privacy. As an advocate of constitutional reform, even in areas which does not fall within the functions of the NHRC, it is striking that Dheerujlall Seetulsingh proposes no amendment to the Constitution in order to protect citizens’ civil rights, especially given that DNA analysis is not a precise science and subject to interpretations, and that DNA mismatch and the risk of contamination are not uncommon. Professor Allan Jamieson, director of Edinburgh's Forensic Institute, said « I fear innocent people will be mistakenly identified as suspects as a consequence of being on this database ». When innocent people are on such a database, this means that they are permanent suspects, which Dheerujlall Seetulsingh wrongly believes is not an infringement of those citizens’ rights.
All these are matters of major public interest which have to be addressed properly.
20 July 2009
|Outils du sujet|
|Affichage du sujet|
|Sujet||Auteur du sujet||Forum||Réponses||Dernier message|
|vacances de noel 2008||powerbody||Tourisme à l'Ile Maurice et Rodrigues||15||08/10/2012 12h51|
|The inaccuracies and fantasies of Sharmila Seetulsingh-Goorah||Rafic Soormally||Actualités de l'Ile Maurice||0||12/05/2009 01h01|
|Pet show 2008||madhava||Actualités de l'Ile Maurice||0||15/11/2008 09h40|
|Négociation salariale pour fille ultra motivée||lotte||S'installer à Maurice||20||21/04/2008 09h10|
|Enhancing Human Resource Development Through ICT||isoc||Actualités de l'Ile Maurice||0||19/05/2004 17h17|