PNQ: The PM confirms the entry into operation in December of the Agalega maritime surveillance base

7 months, 3 weeks ago - October 22, 2023
Agalega maritime surveillance base confirmed
The first question from the leader of the opposition, Xavier-Luc Duval, was devoted to construction work in the North Island in Agalega.

He therefore asked if, taking into account that the inauguration of the facilities is scheduled for next December, the Prime Minister can give the estimated costs of the maintenance operations and operation of these facilities. Likewise he can provide clarification on the Mauritian and Indian personnel who will be required and the date on which commercial flights will begin.

Pravind Jugnauth first thanked the opposition leader for his PNQ, “given that I still remain deputy for constituency No. 8, Quartier-Militaire/Moka, democratically elected with the support of the deputies of Lalians Morisyen, and that I am still Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, no offense to some.” And this, while adding: “Yesterday, the truth triumphed over lies, and democracy emerged strengthened with the judgment of the King's Privy Council. "

He alluded to the agreement signed between the Mauritian and Indian governments on infrastructure projects in Agalega concerns “solely the implementation of measures to promote and protect maritime security needs”. The objective is to ensure maritime surveillance of the exclusive economic zone covering an area of 2.3 million square kilometers, to counter terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking and combat illegal and irregular fishing. He also mentioned hydrological services, the promotion of economic development, including economic initiatives, urgent interventions, including search and rescue operations and in cases of maritime pollution.

“The infrastructure work underway in the archipelago will improve the quality of life of our Agalean brothers and sisters to the extent that they will generate economic activities” in Agalega. I take this opportunity to recognize the support and valuable assistance given to Mauritius by the Indian government,” added the Prime Minister.

Pravind Jugnauth continued by indicating that the civil works for the landing strip and the pier have been completed. Work on the infrastructure associated with the landing strip and the jetty is underway and should be completed in December. An amount of Rs 250 million is planned in the 2023-2024 budget for the purchase of tugboats and allow the MV Trochetia to dock at the jetty. These projects will improve air and maritime connectivity in Agalega.

Six other small projects are being implemented and concern socio-economic development, particularly the creation of infrastructure in the community development sector, among others. The Great Peninsula thus granted a donation of Rs 169,572,867 (Indian rupees) for the construction of a bookstore equipped with computers in the North Island; a shop for the sale of products in the North Island, two kiosks, in the North Island and the South Island, administrative offices in the South Island; a fishing station and a Multipurpose Hall in the North Island are also in the works. These projects will be completed by the end of November.

Pravind Jugnauth also mentioned two other projects undertaken by the OIDC, namely a shelter for the corporation's vehicles and the acquisition of a barge for the transport of products and passengers between the North Island and the Island of South. One of the main activities of the OIDC is to build residences for Agaléans and for staff of ministries and departments working in Agalega, while facilitating access to essential services, such as water, education, electricity. , telephone services and the Internet.

In this context, NHDC plans to build 50 housing units in Agalega. Calls for tenders have been launched. The deadline for submitting offers is November 7.

The Prime Minister also specified that once the construction of the jetty and the landing strip is completed, under the terms of the agreements between the Indian and Mauritian governments, these facilities will be under the control of the Mauritian government. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of a Senior Adviser from the PMO to coordinate the entry into operation of the new facilities and assess the costs necessary for their maintenance. At this stage he gives the composition, which continues his work regarding cost estimates.

Finally, the Prime Minister explained that with the exception of Scarcity Areas requiring foreign expertise or the insufficiency of local technicians, the facilities will be managed by Mauritian staff and will be under the control of the Mauritian Authorities. The committee is also looking into the issue of human resources. In addition, residents of Agalega who have benefited from basic training will be further trained and their services will be requested when the need arises, he adds.

On the other hand, the head of government explained that a Trial Landing was carried out on March 1 by Le Dornier. Civil aviation undertook a study on the new airstrip on June 27, following which the department made recommendations regarding commercial flights.

The Director of Civil Aviation will promulgate the landing strip in accordance with international standards. It is from this date that commercial flights can then be considered. He maintains that the development of the Scattered Islands is part of his vision to promote the entire territory towards sustainable, meaningful socio-economic advancement.

XLD: To govern is to plan. The infrastructure facilities built on the archipelago will be operational very soon. Can he confirm whether with these investments of Rs 14 billion financed by India, the operation and maintenance expenses of around Rs 1 billion per year will be incurred by the taxpayer of Mauritius or by that of India ?

PM: At this stage, we cannot provide exact figures for the implementation of these facilities. For the simple reason that the work has not yet been completed. In response to a previous PNQ from the leader of the opposition, I had advanced an amount. (At this point, Pravind Jugnauth makes it clear to the opposition leader that what he cited is not accurate.) We will have the amount when the work is completed.

India is financing the work for these two infrastructures. As for operation and maintenance, a committee is currently looking into Human Resource Requirements. Obviously, Mauritian staff members, with the necessary expertise, will be stationed in the archipelago. India stands ready to provide the rest. They will be paid by the Indian authorities while for the Mauritian staff, the funds will be drawn from the Mauritian budget. It’s still being worked out.

XLD: The inauguration of these facilities in Agalega is planned in a few weeks. Does the Prime Minister want us to believe that he has no idea of the operating cost of these facilities or to whom their management will be entrusted?

PM: We have an estimated figure. But I cannot report this because it is necessary to be precise about the costs. Once we have a final figure, I’ll provide it to the House. At this stage I’m not able to provide the exact figures of the operations. The implementation of these facilities is announced for the end of December at the latest. I hope this will be the case as we have had to face delays for various reasons. Now, we are nearing completion…

XLD: I did not ask for precise figures. And what about the Ministry of Finance? The highly respected Hindustan Times recently announced the installation of 50 soldiers in the archipelago. Does he want us to believe that the Hindustan Times is better informed than the Prime Minister of Mauritius?

PM : I do not rely on newspaper reporting. Je ne veux nullement traiter avec dédain la presse. Mais la presse publie n’importe quoi. All sorts of things have been said. (À ce stade, il fait allusion à des articles publiés au sujet des frégates et des avions de combat, sous le sigle IRDW, qui n’est pas une organisation officielle en Inde.) I did not rely on this organisation. I took the pain to ask the government of India. I was informed that it was not an official source. It’s a bla-bla-bla. There are so many bla-bla-blas. I did not rely on this.

XLD: It’s about the Hindustan Times. Cette publication avait fait état de 50 militaires indiens pour opérer les facilités. Vous ne semblez pas disposé à révéler si ces officiers militaires indiens seront sous le contrôle du commissaire de police ? Auront-ils besoin de permis de résidence et de permis de travail ?

PM : I have not said that I’m not aware. Le comité institué se penche sur la question des ressources humaines. Des Mauriciens seront affectés dans l’archipel. Mais là où nous nous retrouvons avec une pénurie d’expertise, l’Inde assurera. Nous avions un accord en ce sens. This is what I have said. Ce que publie la presse vise à discréditer les relations indo-mauriciennes. Ce qui compte pour moi n’est pas ce qui est publié dans la presse mais ce que communiquent les autorités indiennes. We should be thankful for what has been done.

The leader of the opposition has been part of governments. From 2005 to 2014, the Agalega airstrip was in such poor condition that no air service was possible. Except emergencies and with all risks. Fortunately there were no incidents. We should have been congratulated for this development, whether for the Runway or the pier. Until now, transfers by barge are required between the boat, anchored offshore, and the shore. Whether for passengers or goods.

In a few weeks, all this will change. Ça, c’est du concret. On améliore la qualité de vie des habitants d’Agalega. Time will tell.

XLD : I’m happy the Prime Minister has mentioned the runway. This track is one kilometer longer than the one for Rodrigues. We would have liked to applaud India.

Unfortunately, the problem is that we do not have access to any documents or agreements. My question is whether the Indian military will be under the control of the Commissioner of Police or will they need Residence Permits and Working Permits?

PM : We are building a runway of that size. Do you think that to ensure maritime surveillance, we’ll need a Dornier or an ATR-72? 

We would need specially equipped aircraft to carry out these surveillance missions. There is a confidential clause in the agreement. Both parties must agree to make it public. The Indian authorities do not agree. I take this opportunity to correct a statement made by the leader of the opposition during the previous PNQ. He had alleged that India agreed to make this agreement public. I went to intelligence and Foreign Minister Jaishankar denied this assertion.

I have already said that airport and port facilities will be under the control of the Mauritian authorities.

XLD: My question is simple: will these Indian soldiers be under the control of the police commissioner? Will they need Residence Permits and Work Permits?

PM: If the opposition leader has difficulty understanding, the people of Mauritius understands…

Speaker : Time is up. Prime Minister’s Question.

It is 12:21 p.m. on the clock in the hemicycle and protests are heard from the opposition sections because parliamentarians were waiting their turn with additional questions on Agalega...

Text by Le Mauricien

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