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Prime Minister's Office>Cabinet Decisions taken on 06 April 2007

Cabinet Decisions taken on 06 April 2007

1. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Sexual Offences Bill which provides for –

(a) severe penalties for various acts of sexual perversions committed by offenders. The Bill pays particular attention to persons under 16 years, as well as those having close blood relationship or living under the same roof, or those who are mentally handicapped. Harsher penalties for a term of up to 45 years and 60 years of penal servitude are provided in respect of offences involving those persons.

(b) New categories of offences of sexual assault in order to cover various acts of sexual perversions.

(c) A new and wider definition of rape.

(d) A term of penal servitude of up to 60 years where aggravating circumstances exist, for example, gang rape, where death has resulted, or the victim is a person with particular vulnerability, such as mental deficiency or pregnancy.

(e) Offences of sexual touching, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child and causing a child to watch a sexual act.

(f) The offence of false declaration of the commission of a sexual offence. The offender is amenable to justice both when he or she takes the initiative of making the declaration, or where he or she makes the declaration in the course of an interrogation by the police or any other public officer in the course of an investigation.

(g) Trial for an offence under the Bill to take place from day to day until the hearing is over.

(h) The prohibition to disclose to members of the public, publish or broadcast the identity of a person against whom an offence is alleged to have been committed.

(i) The Intermediate Court to have the jurisdiction to inflict for penalties of 45 years and 60 years.

2. Cabinet has taken note that Mr Sen Ramsamy would be appointed Chairperson of the tripartite committee on annual salary compensation which will be known as the National Pay Council. Representatives of workers and employers on the Council should have competence in the field of either statistics, economics, accounting or finance. The Council would meet every quarter and, if necessary, more frequently.

3. Cabinet has taken note of the draft Employment Relations Bill which would replace the Industrial Relations Act and of the Employment Rights Bill which would be circulated to all stakeholders for their comments. The main purpose of the Employment Relations Bill is to amend and consolidate the law relating to trade unions, fundamental rights of workers and employers, collective bargaining, labour disputes and related matters.

4. Cabinet has taken note of the Outline of the Energy Policy 2007-2025 document entitled ‘Towards a Coherent Strategy for the Development of the Energy Sector in Mauritius’ which has been prepared in the context of the Accompanying Measures tied to the reform of the Sugar Industry as elaborated in the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy (MAAS) 2006-2015. One of the pre-conditions for the disbursement of the first tranche under the Accompanying Measures by the European Union, is the submission of an outline of the energy policy of the country for the period 2007-2025.

The key objectives of the Energy Policy are to –

(a) limit the vulnerability of Mauritius to imported fossil fuel and its volatile prices;

(b) promote economic growth and job creation;

(c) democratize energy supply;

(d) secure affordable energy consumers; and

(e) ensure the financial sustainability.

5. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Minister of Local Government to New Zealand where he participated in the Fourth Conference of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the First Executive Meeting of the Board. The theme of the Conference was "Delivering Development through Local Leadership" and important issues, namely creation of thriving local communities, meeting the Millenium Development Goals and the Aberdeen Accord, were discussed. Following fruitful deliberations, the Auckland Accord was adopted. The recommendations relate to important issues, such as decentralisation, service delivery in support of local development, responding to national and global challenges and capacity building for local leadership.
At the First Executive Meeting of the Board, the Minister of Local Government was, for a second time, elected Vice-President of the Board.

6. Cabinet has taken note of the critical financial situation of the Business Parks of Mauritius Ltd (BPML) and has agreed to the Ministerial Committee, looking into the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact Finding Committee Report, also making proposals for the redress of the financial situation of BPML.

7. Cabinet has agreed to Mauritius signing and ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

The general principles underlying the Convention are:

(i) respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;

(ii) non-discrimination;

(iii) full and effective participation and inclusion in society;

(iv) respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;

(v) equality of opportunity;

(vi) accessibility;

(vii) equality between men and women with disabilities; and

(viii) respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the rights of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

8. Cabinet has agreed to the introduction into the National Assembly of the Cheshire Foundation Homes for the Sick (Amendment) Bill which provides for the Foundation to be known, in the future, as Leonard Cheshire Mauritius and makes better provision for its objects and functions and in relation to exemption from taxations.

The object of the Foundation is to promote the well-being and rehabilitation of persons of any age, sex, colour or creed, whether in their own domestic environment or elsewhere, and who –

(a) are in need of special attention because of mental, or physical disability; and

(b) are ill, aged or in destitute or needy circumstances.

The functions of the Foundation would be, inter alia, to –

(a) ensure that they obtain such facilities as may enable them to engage in productive activities, or such training as may render them fit for gainful employment;

(b) provide them, in accordance with their needs, with residential accommodation, including private homes, flats, apartments or rooms; and

(c) promote, conduct and engage in such research and experimental work as may be relevant to the Foundation.

9. Cabinet has reviewed the situation in the steel industry and in order to mitigate any shortage of iron bars on the local market, has agreed to –

(a) duty on the importation of iron bars from Non-COMESA countries being reduced from 30% to 15%;

(b) the liberalization of the price of iron bars, both imported and produced locally;

(c) the Ministry of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives maintaining a close review of the situation to ensure that there is no abuse by manufacturers, importers and retailers in which case price control may be re-imposed; and

(d) the Commission for the Democratisation of the Economy further looking into the possibility of encouraging more competition in the importation of iron bars.

10. Cabinet has agreed to Mauritius signing the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement, which ensures the long term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources and the promotion of the sustainable development of fisheries through cooperation among the countries of the Indian Ocean region.

11. With a view to adding value to inland tourism and ecotourism in Mauritius, Cabinet has agreed to authorize ecotourism and other activities, such as trekking, table d'hote, within areas leased for shooting and fishing, provided no damage is caused to the forests and their water resources and in conformity with sustainable forestry. This measure would also create additional employment opportunities.

12. With a view to diversifying tourism-related activities and allowing jet skiing off lagoon, Cabinet has agreed to remove the ban on the importation of "water scooters."

13. Cabinet has taken note that the Tourism Authority Act would be proclaimed to be effective from 1 May 2007. The Act provides for the establishment of a Tourism Authority to cater for a more efficient regulatory framework in relation to activities within the tourist sector with a view to ensuring that international standards are complied with and to sustaining the development of Mauritius as a high quality and safe tourist destination.

14. Cabinet has agreed to the importation of a limited quantity of snoek salted fish to keep a balance between the protection of consumers and the development of industrial activities.

15. Cabinet has taken note of the proposed twinning between the Town of Quatre Bornes and the City of Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, People’s Republic of China.

This agreement would provide for:

(i) exchanges and cooperation between the town of Quatre Bornes and the city of Daqing in various forms in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology, culture, education, sports, health, personnel, etc., to promote common prosperity and development; and

(ii) regular contacts between the leaders and relevant departments of the two sides to facilitate consultations on exchanges and cooperation, as well as matters of common interest.

16. Cabinet has taken note that the visa fees for the United Kingdom have been increased since 01 April 2007.

The British High Commission has, however, indicated that the visa fee is not applicable to Mauritian nationals travelling to the UK as visitors for periods under six months without prior entry clearance.

In view of the fact that fees for a multiple entry student visa would increase by 16.45%, i.e, from Rs 5,530 to Rs 6,640, our Mission in London has been requested to take up the matter with the relevant British Authorities for waiving or at least maintaining the current visa fee for our students in order to alleviate the financial hardship of Mauritian students travelling to the UK.

17. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the official mission of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism, Leisure & External Communications to Reunion Island from 28 to 31 March 2007. The main objectives of the visit were to:

(a) renew contact with the tour operators and travel agents in Reunion Island with a view to consolidating the recent upward trend in tourists arrival from Reunion Island, specially as Reunion is a counter seasonal market;

(b) explore the possibility of carrying out joint promotion campaigns which would be in the interest of both destinations; and

(c) visit potential tourist sites for development/management by Mauritian entrepreneurs in order to create possibilities for two centre holidays involving Mauritius/Rodrigues and Reunion.

Side by side with the visits, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, in collaboration with Air Mauritius and Air Austral, had organized two workshops at St Denis and St Pierre respectively with a view to -

(a) arousing confidence of tour operators and travel agents in Reunion Island;

(b) reassuring the Reunion public that they are most welcome in Mauritius in view of the recent chikungunya crisis there; and

(c) discussing the needs of the tourism industry in terms of destination marketing.

During his visit, the Minister had meetings with M. Jean Paul Virapoullé the “Sénateur Maire de St André”, M. Paul Vergès, “Président du Conseil Régional”, M. Marcionni, “Préfet de la Réunion”, M. Pierre Yves Maureau, “Président de Syndicat National des Agences de Voyage”, M. Jean Marie Virapoullé “President of CIREST” (Communauté Intercommunale Réunion Est), and with M. René Paul Victoria Deputé Maire de St Denis and Messrs Michel Fontaine and Didier Robert, Mayor of St Pierre and Tampon respectively.

18. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance & Economic Development to South Africa where he participated in the “China-India-Brazil-Africa” (CIBA) Business Forum, organised by the Commonwealth Business Council and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development with the support of the Government of Western Cape, and the Investment Promotion Mission organised by the Board of Investment.

The theme of the CIBA Forum was “The New South-South Imperative: CIBA nations leading the way.” During his intervention, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance & Economic Development focused on the need for Africa to accelerate regional integration, lower trade and investment barriers and mobilize assistance from the North.

In the margins of the Forum, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance & Economic Development met Baroness Lynda Chalker from Africa Matters Ltd and Dr Mohan Kaul, Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council, with whom he discussed, inter alia, the importance of Aid for Trade with European and US partners to support the transition of Mauritius towards an open economy.

19. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Minister of Health and Quality of Life to Arusha, Tanzania, from 14 to 16 March 2007, where he attended the 44th East, Central and Southern African (ECSA) Health Ministers’ Conference. The theme of the 44th Conference was “Scaling up Cost-Effective Interventions to Attain the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) in East, Central and Southern Africa”.

The Conference adopted 12 resolutions relating to, inter-alia, -

(i) Maternal/Reproductive, Newborn and Child Health;

(ii) Scaling up cost effective interventions in Malaria Control in ECSA;

(iii) HIV/AIDS and TB;

(iv) Diabetes Control;
(v) Enhancing the performance of health systems to accelerate attainment of MDGs in ECSA;

(vi) Human Resources for health; and

(vii) Avian Flu.

20. Cabinet has taken note of the outcome of the mission of the Minister of Information Technology & Telecommunications where he participated in the Commonwealth Connects International e-Partnership Summit held in New Delhi on 23 and 24 March 2007.

The central theme of the Summit was 'From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunities: Realising the Objectives of Commonwealth Connects: Perspectives, Policies, Priorities, Targets and Achievements'. It has offered opportunities for Mauritius to make itself known particularly as the ICT gateway for Africa.

In the margins of the Summit, the Minister met Hon D. Maran, Minister of Communication and Information Technology of the Government of India and top officials of well-known institutions and companies with whom he discussed possible areas of cooperation in the field of ICT.

21. Cabinet has taken note of the reconstitution of the Board of Trustees of the St. Andrew’s College Foundation with Mr John Leung Yinko, as Chairperson.