A la Réunion

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago – 2nd YEAR NO. 34 – 1st April 1955

Monsieur le Rédacteur du Mauritius Times

De passage à la Réunion où je suis actuellement à titre de touriste, j’ai relevé certaines irrégularités de l’administration préfectorale de ce pays, à l’encontre de certains de nos compatriotes mauriciens.

Monsieur le Préfet de la Réunion a pris contre plusieurs Mauriciens résidant dans ce pays depuis des dizaines et des dizaines d’années, et qui y ont fait souche, des mesures de refoulement inexplicables. Sans aucun motif sérieux, sans que nos compatriotes aient fait l’objet d’une sanction quelconque, ils sont soudainement avisés que leur présence dans l’île est indésirable et qu’ils ont à quitter le Département dans le plus bref délai.

Nous aimons à penser que nos députés au Conseil Législatif prendront position à ce sujet et demanderont au Gouvernement d’intervenir officiellement auprès du Préfet de la Réunion pour que l’amitié entre Mauriciens et Réunionnais ne soit pas altérée.

Avec mes remerciements anticipés

I.Choytun

(M.Times – 1st April 1955)

* * *

Editorially Speaking

Contempt of the Council

This subject has been one of the topics of the week. It is of so much importance that we think, it would be worthwhile to review and put on record Mason’s case and the declaration of His Excellency.

Mason’s Case

On the 12th of October, Mr Stirling, Labour Commissioner, attended a meeting of the committee of the Council as Head of his Department. In the course of a statement he said something regarding Mr Mason to which the latter took exception.

Mr Mason in his turn wrote a letter to the Labour Commissioner in strong terms. On receiving it Mr Stirling thought that by attacking him Mr Mason has committed a Contempt of the Council.

The question of Contempt was raised by the Procureur General in Council and subsequently Mr Mason was accused of having committed a contempt of the council.

Mr Mason appeared before the District Court of Port Louis and the District Magistrate, Mr Mootoosamy, found him guilty as charged and sentenced him to six weeks imprisonment with hard labour.

Mr Mason appealed against the decision of the Magistrate and the appeal was heard by the Hon The Chief Justice, Mr Espitalier-Noel, the Hon Judge Mr Simmons and the Hon Judge Mr Lavoipierre. Mr Mason was not represented by counsel: he was granted leave to present his case by affidavits.

Mr Mason’s appeal has been allowed, the Hon. Judge Mr Lavoipierre dissenting. Mason’s case has established that the Head of a Department or somebody else who is summoned to Council does not enjoy the privileges bestowed on ordinary members of the Council. In other words there is a difference between ordinary and an extraordinary member.

His Excellency’s Declaration

In the course of a debate in Council Dr Millien happened to say that while he was Liaison Officer to the Supplies Control Department, Mr Yee Cheong had tried to bribe him.

Mr Yee Cheong replied in the press that Dr Millien’s charge against him was false.

NMU took up the matter in one of his editorials and deplored the ill use made of parliamentary privilege and immunity.

Dr Millien drew the attention of the President of our council to the article. Last Tuesday H. E. the Governor made a declaration to the effect that Le Cernéen has not committed any Contempt of the Council.

It is clear from the declaration of His Excellency that the Freedom of the Press is not in peril. Even when a question like Contempt of the Council has to be decided it has to be decided in the light of the ordinary law of Defamation. His Excellency mentions, for example, “the right of fair comment on a matter of public interest” which is a defence in defamation.

It is interesting to note that His Excellency has ended his declaration by quoting Viscount Addison who said during a debate in the House of Lords in 1950: “Freedom of speech is indeed a priceless possession. It is nowhere more vital than under Parliamentary advantages and the possession of that privilege places upon us the obligation to use it very carefully.”

We hope that those wise words will ring in the ears of our Parliamentarians and echo in their hearts whenever they rise to speak in Council.

* * *

Who is responsible?

It is no time now to apportion blame especially when an enquiry has been instituted to report on the troubles and tension which have flared up in the South,

The parties concerned should make it their duty to come to an amicable settlement instead of perpetuating a state of fear and mistrust. We pray and hope that the situation will soon become normal so that the inhabitants of the locality may live as peacefully as before the tension.

(M.Times – 1st April 1955)

* * *

An Attempt that Failed

To contradict fantastic rumours which are being circulated concerning a petty incident which was likely to happen to our Editor, we give below a brief account:

On Friday last we were informed that a gentleman, apparently incensed by our articles on a recent case, intended to smear the Editor with a certain substance.

At first we treated it as a joke, but when we saw the gentleman standing at the corner of Bourbon and Desforges Streets armed with two objects which appeared to be a tin (perhaps containing the substance) and a brush, we realized that it was something serious. After having followed his moves for an hour or so, we alerted the police.

Two CID Officers and two police constables were posted in the vicinity of our office. The presence of the police made the gentleman suspect that his plan has leaked out and he retired; later he confessed to the police that he did it in a moment of excitement.

We like to believe that he was sincere, because he did not return. We seize this opportunity to congratulate the police for its swiftness and the tact with which the situation was handled.

Sub-Editor

* * *

The Test Case

Education Dept. v/s R. Gajadharsingh

The case of the Education Department v/s R. Gajadharsingh came before the R. Hill District Court last Tuesday. Mr Garrioch appeared for the Government and Mr Bhuckory for the Defendant.

His Honour Mr Hughes, the district magistrate, after consulting Mr Garrioch and Mr Bhuckory, postponed the case to the 26th of April to deliver his judgment on the two objections in law raised by Mr Bhuckory some time ago. He said he could not be ready with his judgment because he was informed somewhat late that Govt had the intention of proceeding with the case.

Readers will remember that the last time when the case was postponed Mr Garrioch had declared that the parties might come to an agreement.

* * *

A M. Georges Sylvain

Monsieur le Rédacteur

Mauritius Times

Dans le Cernéen du 11.03.54, M Georges Sylvain écrit : … Et malgré tout ce déploiement des forces subversives le candidat patroné par les nationalistes hindous et les travaillistes Mr Delaitre fut battu par le « Vieux ramolli ! »

D’après cet article les Indo-mauriciens qui ont travaillé et voté pour Mr Delaitre, un membre de la population de couleur, sont des nationalistes.

Donc, d’après M. G. Sylvain pour que les Indo-mauriciens ne soient pas taxés nationalistes ils auraient dû voter pour le Candidat Franco-Mauricien. Voilà une opinion bizarre de ce grand M. Sylvain. Peut-être il aurait l’obligeance d’informer le public :

1.     Combien de Franco-Mauriciens ont voté pour Mr Delaitre ?

2.     Combien d’argents électoraux Franco-mauriciens ont travaillé pour Mr Delaitre ?

3.     De quelle communauté appartient la personne qui avait insulté une parente d’un candidat ?

4. Un agent électoral

(M.Times – 1st April 1955)

* * *

Editorially Speaking

Parliamentary Privilege – Its Legal Aspect

Last week Dr Millien drew the attention of the President of our Council to an “Opinion du Jour” published in Le Cerneen dealing with Parliamentary Privilege. The President’s final decision is yet unknown.

In his article N.M.U. has questioned the right of our MLC’s (Members of Legislative Council) to attack with impunity anybody they fancy and hide behind parliamentary immunity.

Le Mauricien too has voiced its feelings on this matter. In one of its manchettes, it has in its characteristic way, stood up for the Freedom of the Press.

It would indeed be a sad reflection on democracy, if democracy were to breed privileges allowing their beneficiaries absolute right to attack anybody and allowing the State to muzzle the Press.

It is to curb the unbridled urges and passions of M.L.C’s that the Mauritius (Legislative Council) Orders in Council, 1947 to 1952, enact the following:

“23 A. It shall be lawful, by laws enacted under this Order, to determine and regulate the privileges, immunities and powers of the Legislative Council and its Members, but no such privileges, immunities and powers shall exceed those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or of the Members thereof.”

That excerpt is part of the preamble of the Legislative Council (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Ordinance, 1953.

It is clear from the above that parliamentary privileges have their limits. Freedom of the Press seems to be threatened by Subsection (n) of Section 6 of the Ordinance, which defines “Contempt of the Council”.

Subsection (n) of Section 6 defines Contempt of the Council as:

“Publishing any defamatory statement or writing upon the Council or any Committee, or upon any Member, touching, or relating to his character or conduct as a member and with regard to actions performed or words uttered by him in the Council.”

Fortunately for the Freedom of the Press, Subsection (n) does not stop there. It goes on: “Provided that no statement shall be held to be defamatory statement within the meaning of this paragraph unless it is punishable under Section 288 of the Penal Code Ordinance.”

In short, the Ordinance of 1953 gives our M.L.C’s some privileges to be exercised within prescribed limits and safeguards the Freedom of the Press.

One need not shudder at the thought of getting a parliamentary punch at some improper place. Just as the journalist, the parliamentarian is not allowed to hit below the belt.

(M.Times – 25 March 1955)

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