Of Sovereignty Issues & The “lawful removal” of foreign nationals

Dawood Rawat was under a Red Notice for a long time. Would or could the Mauritius police have landed in France and take him away with the assistance of the French police force?’

By LEX

A sovereign democratic State, reads our Constitution in the substantive provision of its Section 1. Today, we try to further our readers’ enquiries about the notion of sovereignty, the multiple ramifications of this fundamental tenet and the agencies that would be exercising full vigilance to ensure its application over the breadth of our territories (including Rodrigues, Outer Islands, Chagos). These questions and Lex’s views thereon were felt pertinent in the light of the recent “extraction” of a foreign national residing on our shores over the past four years despite being wanted since 2015 for alleged criminal activities in his home country.

* What does it mean for a country to be sovereign and why is it important?

It simply means that the country has the right and power to manage its own affairs through an elected government subject to its obligations under international law, like complying with international treaties or conventions it is a party to.

 * A key provision in our Constitution is Section 1, which states that ‘Mauritius shall be a sovereign democratic State which shall be known as the Republic of Mauritius’. Sovereignty here appears to be a simple idea, as if casually mentioned in the Constitution, but could it be complex in its implications?

No, it is not a simple idea. Both the Supreme Court and the Privy Council have in many cases held that section 1 is an important substantive provision which should be given full effect and that any law that is passed or any action that is taken must comply with the principle enunciated in section 1.

* The concept of sovereignty could mean that sovereign power rests with the people and is only exercised through a representative body, i.e., Parliament, but how does it work in practice as regards autonomy and freedom from external control?

Any law that is passed is subject to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, which is empowered to judge whether a law is consonant with the Constitution. To that extent it cannot be said that parliament is sovereign.

* Since October 2001, the island of Rodrigues enjoys an autonomous status within the Republic with its own Regional Assembly and an Executive Council for the framing and implementation of its socio–economic policies. It is administered by a Regional Assembly whereby elections are held every five years. Does that make it a sovereign country?

No. Section 26(1) of the Rodrigues Assembly Act states that the Regional Assembly shall, in relation to Rodrigues, be responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy in respect of the matters set out in the Fourth Schedule. Under section 30 of the Act, Bills that are adopted by the Assembly of Rodrigues, shall be transmitted by the Chief Commissioner to the Minister with a request for its introduction into Parliament for enactment into law. Further the Fourth Schedule of the Rodrigues Assembly Act contains a list of matters over which Rodrigues has no power.

* The Criminal Code was amended in 2020 to make it an offence for any person who “acting under the authority or instructions of, or pursuant to a contract with, or with the direct or indirect financial support of, a foreign State or any organ or agency of such a State produces, distributes, supplies or markets any coin, stamp, official map or technical report or other similar object or document which, in any manner, misrepresents, or conveys misleading information to the public about the sovereignty of Mauritius over any part of its territory…” This demonstrates very clearly that the authorities take this matter of sovereignty very seriously, right?

Of course. Any country would do so. In Mauritius the avowed motive was to ensure that nobody and no foreign power ever questions our sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago. Let us assume that the United Kingdom keeps saying that the Chagos is British: the United Kingdom would be committing an offence, but how will the Mauritian government prosecute the spokesperson of the British government who makes such a claim of sovereignty over the Chagos? It’s a question worth pondering.

* There has been the suggestion however that the “lawful removal” of Peter Uricek, a Slovakian national from the Mauritian territory by “Slovakian authorities” on Tuesday 26 April 2022 defeats the commitment of the authorities to safeguard the sovereignty of the country as laid out in the amendment to the Criminal Code. Isn’t that suggestion far-fetched?

If the police authorities of a foreign country were allowed to penetrate the country and instruct the local police that they wanted to be handed over the Slovakian national, then our police force would be surrendering their power as a sovereign State to act independently.

The authorities that allowed the Slovakian national to stay here for over four years (Economic Development Board, Mauritius Police Force) all operate under the aegis and control of the PMO, so who would dare bell the cat and take the police or other authorities to task?

* The average Mauritian does not understand all the “fuss” that’s being made about the “lawful removal” of Peter Uricek, which as revealed by a communique issued by the PMO was the object of an Interpol Red Notice; he was wanted for prosecution in the Slovak Republic for “establishing, masterminding and supporting a criminal group”, and for “illicit manufacture, possession of trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances, poisons”. What’s your take on that?

Even when somebody has been placed under a Red Notice and is located in a foreign country, the requesting State where he is wanted would make a request for extradition and not send its police force to take the person away. Because extradition proceedings give the suspect the right to state his position and defend himself according to human rights principles and the rule of law. It is understood that an extradition request was being processed in Court by the Attorney General, therefore the reasons for “lawful removal” that was by-passing the ongoing normal process remain mysterious.

Dawood Rawat was under a Red Notice for a long time. Would or could the Mauritius police have landed in France and take him away with the assistance of the French police force? Just give it a thought.

* There are some nagging questions about the role and responsibility of the EDB in this matter of the alleged Slovakian narcotrafficker, who was granted a three-year Occupation Permit on 19 April 2019. Now we learn from the PMO communique that it was reported by the Slovakian authorities that Mr Uricek and a criminal group were involved in drug-related activities, namely the production of methamphetamine. This raises the question about whether a proper due diligence exercise was carried out by the EDB with the cooperation of other state agencies?

Well, according to information in the media, Peter Uricek had a clean morality certificate. It is assumed that the EDB did their due diligence properly before granting the Slovakian national an occupational permit. If they did not, they should explain. Could it be they looked in his eyes and concluded that he was clean?

At any rate even if there were pending charges against him and he had never been convicted, nothing would appear on his morality certificate. People should be reminded that before the DPP issues a morality certificate the person is investigated by the police, not by the DPP’s Office.

* By the way, one cannot understand why the Executive has relinquished its role and responsibility in the vetting and issue of Occupation or Resident Permits to the EDB, peopled for the most by non-Civil Servants at the level of its board. Shouldn’t such an important and sensitive matter be better left with the Executive?

Section 6(3)(a) of the Economic Development Board Act provides that Every member appointed to the Board shall be a fit and proper person – (i) of high integrity from among the business sector, public sector or civil society, with expertise and experience in, but not limited to, banking and finance, agri-business, the energy sector, regional development, information technology, medical research, industry development, higher education and academia, science, innovation, engineering, urban planning and renewal or public policy.” All appointments are made by the Prime Minister except for the chairperson who is appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister. What this means is that they are all political appointees. Without attacking the integrity of any one person, we all know what is the public perception of political appointments.


Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 6 May 2022

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