Spotlight September 2020



Civil/Political Unrest in Mauritius


Some of you may have heard of a recent devastating oil spill that occurred in Mauritius, this led to thousands of people protesting in the county’s capital, Port Louis, over the government’s handling of the spill. However, this response from the population is not just due to the isolated incident of the oil spill. Over the past number of years there has been a build up of civil/political unrest in Mauritius due to the action’s of the current government, including corruption and voter suppression.

Current Leadership: In 2014, Anerood Jugnauth was elected as prime minister, a title which lasts for five years, two years after being elected he announced that he will be resigning as Prime Minister due to poor health and that he will be succeeded by his son, Pravind Jugnauth, with no election being held. In 2019, it is time for a new election in which 6000+ Mauritians could not find their names on the electoral list and were unable to vote. Pravind Jugnauth was re-elected but faced criticism over concerns of rigging/administration failures.

Freedom of Speech/Expression: In 2018 the Mauritian government amended The Information and Communication Technologies Act. This amendment criminalises messages that annoys, humiliates, or even inconveniences the receiver or reader which has been described as a clear violation of freedom of expression. There have been cases of individuals who have been arrested/incarcerated/sued for breaching this amendment. Such as a woman who was arrested and incarcerated because she did a Facebook live supposedly saying that she suspected hundreds of cases of Covid-19 in Mauritius when the official information by the government was there was no active cases. There was also a case of an individual who was sued for re- posting a meme which made fun of the Prime Minister.There are links to articles on these cases (as well as others) in our resource bank. It is clear that this amendment clearly infringes on the freedom of speech and expression of the Mauritian people.

Covid-19 Bill: The Mauritian government passed the COVID-19 (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in response to the national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This bill contained three provisions of concern for the population of Mauritius. The first of these provisions is that employers are permitted to fire workers and give them just 30 days of salary no matter how long they have been employed with them. Secondly, it granted the police powers to enter people’s homes without a warrant, the necessity of this was questioned as there were allegedly no active cases in the country at the time. Thirdly, the bill completely removed the debt ratio gap, which was previously set at 65%. This bill was criticised heavily by Mauritians who felt that their government was using the current pandemic as an excuse to pass new laws that would benefit them.

Mauritians Stuck Abroad: Currently, there are still Mauritius stuck in other countries without support. The Mauritian government decided to close down the borders on March 15 but did not implement this decision until March 18. They did not inform the population of their decision resulting in people leaving the country in those three days. There are now hundreds of Mauritians stuck abroad receiving no adequate help or assistance to get back home from their government. The country is set to reopen in October however there’s a 2 week mandatory hotel quarantine in force which is incredibly expensive for individuals even with a loan system being set up by the state.

Oil Spill: On the 25th July the M.V. Wakashio crashed into the coral reef barrier and leaked almost 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into Mauritian waters. The ship altered its course on the 21st July, heading straight for Mauritius, it entered Mauritian waters on the 23rd and crashed two days later at high speed. During those two days of the ship being in Mauritian waters the Prime Minister claims that attempts were made to contact the ship but there was no response. The government’s inaction to a foreign vessel on their territory created a strong concern among the population in terms of national security and public safety. Additionally, after the crash it took four days for Coast Guard vessels to approach the ship and six days for a tugboat to leave the port. During this time the government assured the population that everything was under control and there is no possibility of an oil spill occurring. Once it became clear that hundreds of tonnes of oil was spilling in Mauritian waters volunteers from around the country pitched in to help clean the area, creating oil barriers from sugar cane waste and even hair, which was shunned and dismissed by the Mauritian government while they did nothing to combat the spill. Matters reached a new level when the remains of dolphins and melon-headed whales began washing ashore from 26 August. In reaction to the environmental damage, the threat to local livelihoods and the government inaction and secrecy, local maritime security expert Bruneau Laurette called for a march to pressure the government into the public release of all information relating to the sinking. This march was also accompanied by protests in Mauritian diasporas around the world. In response, the government has denied any wrongdoing in regards to the spill, claiming it as “an act of god”.

The repeated incidents of government’s misconduct has created a mistrust between the Mauritian people and their government. They are angry with the government’s disregard for their human rights and the damage to their environment and have been taking to the streets to demand better and fairer treatment.

For more information and ways to help, follow this link to our resource bank: