Assembly approves amendments to several pieces of legislation |14 October 2021
The National Assembly this week dealt with amendments to several pieces of legislation including the Access to Information Act and Civil Status Act.
The first amendment to be approved was the Access to Information Commission Act which has now made it possible for constitutional appointees on the Access to Information Commission to hold jobs or engage in activities that might generate a profit outside from their work at the commission.
Vice-President Ahmed Afif presented the bill to the parliament on Tuesday, October 12 and explained the need to remove these restrictions in the Act.
VP Afif explained that it was the Constitutional Appointments Authority (CAA) which proposed the amendment of Section 45 of the Act which restricted those appointed to serve on the commission.
This section explicitly forbade the Chief Information Officer, Information Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer from occupying or engaging ‘in any other activity, profession or trade for financial gain, or political activity’.
The decision to scrape these limitations follows the CAA’s difficulties in finding interested individuals to appoint on the commission.
“This was the opinion of the Constitutional Appointments Authority, the CAA, which is tasked with proposing qualified individuals to the President of the Republic to sit on the commission. Its opinion was that the limitation on not being able to work outside of their appointment does not attract competent persons,” explained VP Afif.
Nonetheless, these constitutional appointees at the Access to Information Commission will only be able to hold positions or work in the private sector for financial gains and cannot be employed in the public sector or with an entity that falls under the purview of this Act, such as parastatals.
This bill also proposed that a list of all information commissioners is published in the gazette appointed in the public sector and government entities between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year.
This is to ensure that there is a comprehensive list of all information commissioners which people can have easy access to.
Given that the amendment was straightforward, the National Assembly skipped the committee stage and it was approved with 24 votes in favour, four abstained votes and none against.
Internal Affairs Minister Errol Fonseka yesterday brought the Civil Status (Amended) Bill before the National Assembly which makes provisions for the civil status registries to be made available electronically and for the public to upload documents to the civil status office without having to go to the office in-person.
The amendments to the Civil Status Act are aimed at bringing about some reforms in the birth and death declarations so as to facilitate the collection of statistics that are more accurate.
Minister Fonseka said that the bill is an important piece of legislation that will have an important impact on Seychellois living abroad and in Seychelles.
“Reliable statistics on births and deaths also has a direct link to the voters’ registry and social security benefits. The Ministry of Health also has a great need to receive accurate statistics so as to follow the progress of national strategies and the impact of their interventions so as to reduce the country’s mortality rate[…],” stated Minister Fonseka.
Minister Fonseka elaborated that the bill impels the government to upload and make available all of its civil status registries electronically for an indefinite period of time. These include the registries for births, deaths, marriage, adoptions and change of name.
At present, some of these records are only available on the manual registries in the archives which can get lost, damaged or go missing at any time.
“Moreover, I have been told that the records being kept at the National Archives are also being affected by fungus,” added Minister Fonseka.
This is also one of the expected works being undertaken by the government to digitise its documents, an indispensable step in this digital era.
The amended Act further makes it possible for the civil status office to make declarations as well as receive and accept forms via electronic platforms without a person having to physically go to the office to undertake the necessary procedures.
This expects to benefit all Seychellois, whether in Seychelles or living abroad.
The bill also makes provisions requiring all newborns to be examined by a doctor, nurse or midwife who will then have to notify the civil status office of the birth. The details that will be necessary on the birth notification includes the child’s date of birth, its name if it has already been decided at birth, details of the mother, her contact number and email address.
“This notification is important because these details will help the civil status contact the parent to finalise the registration of birth,” added Minister Fonseka.
Further, the bill makes provision for all birth registrations to be finalised in the period of 30 days following the birth and a system is being worked on to notify parents of such.
If parents or person responsible do not register the child’s birth before the 30 days are up, they will face a penalty of R1000 and R25 for each day they continue to be in contravention of the law.
However the maximum penalty that can be incurred will be around R3,250 because the government will be forced to register the child’s birth if the parent persists in flouting the law.
The penalty will not be recorded as a criminal offence.
As per yesterday’s amendments, only the parents and legal guardian of a minor who has given birth will be able to register the birth on behalf of the underage mother.
The amendments expect to resolve paternity issues at a faster rate since a civil status officer will be able to register the father’s name on the birth certificate if they receive concrete proof of paternity through a DNA test.
“This will help reduce the time it takes to resolve paternity cases and will make this process more amicable for the parties involved, without the parents having to go to court. This is as long as the parents agree to undertake the DNA tests at a medical firm approved by the department of civil status.”
Seychellois parents who give birth abroad will also be able to register their child in a registry called ‘Register of Birth Occurring Outside Seychelles’.
However this will only apply to Seychellois parents who received their citizenships through birth.
Another important provision of the bill will also work to resolve which surname a child takes on:
- If the mother and father are married and have the same surname, then the child will also share the same surname
- If the parents of the child do not share the same surname, and the father is not registered in the birth registry, the child will assume the surname of its mother
- If the parents of the child do not share the same surname but the father is registered in the birth registry, the child will assume either surname of its parents or both surnames.
As for the registration of deaths, the amendments make it an obligation for all corpses to be examined by a doctor or pathologist who will then have to notify the death to civil status office, principal secretary for health and the executer or close family member of the deceased.
It is only after the notification that a family member can register the death with the civil status office.
In instances of death by natural causes, a civil status officer will be able to register the cause of death based on the doctor’s certificate which specifies the cause of death.
Seychelles is intending to adopt the same medical certificate of cause of death recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
When an investigation in the cause of death is initiated, the civil status officer will have to register the cause of death based on the court’s certificate in line with provisions in the Inquest into Death Bill.
The registration of death of Seychellois outside of the country or presumed dead outside of the country will be registered in a new registry called ‘Registration of Death Occurring Outside Seychelles’.
The death of a Seychellois who permanently resides in Seychelles but passes away overseas, such as when undertaking overseas treatment, a university student studying abroad, an ambassador serving the country and so forth will be registered in the local death registry.
Following a long debate and the committee stage, the bill was approved with 28 votes in favour.