B/524 The Honourable First Member for Vacoas and Floréal (Ms Joanna Bérenger) To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity –
Whether, in regard to the Mauritian sign language, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, information as to where matters stand regarding the proposed collaboration between the Corporation and the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf for the live broadcast of one news bulletin therein, as suggested by the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf?
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, in my reply to Parliamentary Question B/387 at the Sitting of 18 May 2021, I explained the various implications and challenges for the introduction of live broadcast of news bulletins in the Mauritian Sign Language.
I also informed that the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation was working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity and the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf to examine those implications and challenges, and that they were considering the advisability of implementing the project in a phased manner, that is, in the first instance, increasing the number of weekly news bulletin in the Mauritian Sign Language from one to two and, at a later stage, identifying a specific live news bulletin to include the sign language interpretation.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the House will recall that a news bulletin in the Mauritian Sign Language was first introduced in 2007 and was broadcast on Saturdays on MBC 2 only. The duration of the broadcast in those days was around five minutes. As from November 2015, the bulletin was broadcast on three channels, namely MBC 1, Senn Kreol and MBCSat. In December 2020, the duration of the news bulletin was increased from 5 to around 12 minutes. This news bulletin in the Mauritian Sign Language is currently being broadcast every Saturday on MBC 1, MBCSat and Senn Kreol at 17.48 hours, 17.15 hours and 19.18 hours respectively. This news bulletin is also rebroadcast on MBC 1 on the next day at 12.25 hours.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that a meeting was convened by the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation on 10 August 2020 with representatives of the Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity and the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf to examine ways and means of introducing live news bulletins in the Mauritian Sign Language. The Society for the Welfare of the Deaf had pointed out that competent staff had to be sent to India for training as interpreters and newscasters for the hearing impaired. Further discussions in this line were put on hold in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.
A second meeting was held at the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation on 26 May 2021 with, among others, the representatives of the Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity and the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf for follow-up actions.
During the meeting, the representative of the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf reiterated that, in order to produce a daily live news bulletin, additional human resources would have to be trained as interpreters and newscasters. The cost implications for all stakeholders were also discussed.
In view of the lack of adequately trained personnel at this stage, the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf made a request for a mid-week Mauritian Sign Language news bulletin, in addition to the one being broadcast on Saturdays. It was agreed that the technical facilities would be provided by the MBC while the mode of financing the fees for Mauritian Sign Language interpreters and newscasters would have to be examined.
Mr Speaker, Sir, a follow-up meeting was held at the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation on 28 January 2022 with all stakeholders, including the Chairperson of Society for the Welfare of the Deaf to discuss the matter further and chart a way forward.
The representative of the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf confirmed that live telecast of the news bulletin cannot be entertained for the time being due to lack of interpreters and newscasters. The Society has indicated that for daily live news bulletin in Mauritian Sign Language to become a reality, a pool of interpreters will first have to be trained in the Mauritian Sign Language. The Society has further indicated that such training would take around two years. Presently, there are three hearing interpreters and eight deaf newscasters and they would not be sufficient for the proposed live telecast of news bulletin in the Mauritian Sign Language.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that for two news bulletins in the Mauritian Sign Language, the services of three interpreters and eight deaf newscasters would be required. The deaf newscasters would work in two batches of four persons; one for the Saturday news bulletin and the second one for the proposed mid-week news bulletin.
I am further informed that the training programme for the Mauritian Sign Language interpreters comprises two phases. The Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity has taken the initiative of mounting locally the first phase of the training programme which will be conducted by the Mauritius Institute of Training and Development, in collaboration with the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf. Phase 1 will be geared towards imparting to participants the basic communication skills in Mauritian Sign Language and will be conducted in four different batches of three months’ duration each. Successful participants from the different batches in the first phase will be retained for further training in the second phase, which aims at developing communicative proficiency in Mauritian Sign Language.
The second phase comprises six modules, which is covered over a period of one year. At the end of the course, there will be a two-weeks’ visit abroad for exposure and assessment. This second phase of the training programme will be conducted in collaboration with the Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association, which is affiliated with the World Association of Sign Language of Interpreters.
Mr Speaker, Sir, it has been agreed by all parties that the proposed mid-week news bulletin in the Mauritian Sign Language be considered for the time being and for which the MBC is ready to provide all technical facilities and backup for the early kick-start of the project.
Ms J. Bérenger: Thank you. The hon. Prime Minister just said that interpreters still need to be trained in Mauritian Sign Language, but, in 2020, following my PQ B/521 on the same subject, which is live broadcast in Mauritian Sign Language, the Prime Minister said that, in the past, we asked for assistance from South Africa. Can he indicate to the House what kind of assistance was asked and most importantly what was the outcome? Because the years go by and live broadcast in Mauritian Sign Language is still not a reality.
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am informed that the Mauritian Sign Language is not being taught and lectured in many other countries. The most appropriate one – this is what I have been informed by the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf – is in India. They have a collaboration with India and in the past, I believe that some interpreters have been trained in India.
So, up to now, I am not aware whether South Africa is also another country where we can send people. But as I have replied, the issue of training has, of course, been looked at very carefully. It is unfortunate that during the time when we wanted to move forward, the borders were closed. Then we had restrictions because of the COVID-19 situation, and then India itself, and you will recall that even after we had relaxed in terms of our borders, still had very strict border control. So, it is only now, as I have stated in my answer, that we are looking at how we can at least send some people to be trained in India.
Ms J. Bérenger: L’honorable Premier ministre parle de frontières fermées, mais dans ses réponses précédentes à mes questions parlementaires sur le même sujet, c’est-à-dire sur la retransmission en direct des bulletins télévisés en langages des signes – tout comme la réponse qu’il vient de donner à l’instant – l’honorable Premier ministre met en avant le manque de facilité technique pour permettre aux sourds et malentendants de suivre les bulletins télévisés en direct et surtout il met en avant le coût onéreux. Mais le Premier ministre n’est-il pas d’accord qu’il faudrait revoir les priorités ? Car il s’agit ici d’inclusivité ; il s’agit du respect des droits humains ; il s’agit du respect de la Convention des Nations Unies sur les droits des personnes en situation de handicap, dont Maurice est signataire. Et si son gouvernement peut dépenser des milliards dans les projets d’infrastructure…
Mr Speaker: No! Put your question!
Ms J. Bérenger: J’arrive avec ma question. Et des millions dans des per diem, cela devrait être possible…
Mr Speaker: I will disallow your question if you continue along that line!
Ms J. Bérenger: Est-ce que l’honorable Premier ministre n’est-il pas d’accord que cela devrait être possible d’investir ce qui est nécessaire pour que la communauté des sourds et malentendants ne soit pas discriminée?
The Prime Minister: M. le président, je pense qu’il faut faire l’honorable membre se rappeler que son parti a été au gouvernement de 2000 à 2005. À ce moment, n’y avait-il pas le droit des personnes handicapées et des personnes sourdes ?
Mr Speaker: Order!
The Prime Minister: Il y avait 5 ans pour demander à la MBC de faire ce qu’on est en train de demander aujourd’hui ! Mais seulement, il faut quand même admettre, comme je l’ai dit dans ma réponse, que le fait qu’on avait commencé avec un news bulletin de 4-5 minutes et au fil des années cela a augmenté, je suis d’accord que ce n’est pas suffisant. Je suis d’accord qu’il faut faire encore plus et c’est la raison pour laquelle le côté technique a été revu.
Evidemment, ce que j’ai répondu auparavant c’est la réalité. Il y a toute une organisation à mettre en place au niveau de la MBC. Mais après discussion avec la société, avec le ministère de la Sécurité sociale, on est tombé d’accord de bouger par phase et d’essayer d’augmenter le news bulletin qui se fait actuellement une fois la semaine et qui est répété le lendemain, c’est-àdire le même news bulletin qui est recorded mais qui est rediffusé. Allons essayer de voir comment on peut l’augmenter à deux fois par semaine. Je comprends que la MBC a travaillé dans ce sens et la MBC, très probablement, dans un proche avenir, va être prête pour pouvoir diffuser ce deuxième bulletin. Mais seulement, il y a aussi les coûts. Donc, au ministère de la Sécurité sociale et dans les autres ministères, on est en train de travailler pour voir comment on peut trouver le financement nécessaire pour faire ce deuxième bulletin devenir une réalité. Et puis, il y a le long terme. Et à long terme, si on arrive à réaliser ce deuxième bulletin, il faut essayer de voir comment on peut non seulement continuer à augmenter le nombre de bulletins mais aussi et éventuellement venir avec le live broadcast in the Mauritian Sign Language.
Ms J. Bérenger: The House will recall that India – since the Prime Minister was talking about India – enacted its accessibility standards for persons with disabilities in television programmes. Can the hon. Prime Minister indicate to the House whether Mauritius will enable the enactment of such standards in Mauritius?
The Prime Minister: Sorry? Which standard is the hon. Member talking about?
Ms J. Bérenger: India enacted its accessibility standards for persons with disabilities in television programmes. Since the Prime Minister was talking about India, can he indicate to the House whether we will ask for assistance from India for the enactment of such standards?
The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, Sir, each country has provided different regulations and different laws adapted to its own situation. Of course, we want to improve in Mauritius with regard to accessibility of people who are autrement capables and whatever assistance we can get not only from India but also from other countries, we shall, of course, tap such assistance.
Mr Speaker: The Table is advised that PQ B/537 will be replied by the hon. Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, that PQs B/587 and B/614 will be replied by the hon. Prime Minister time permitting, that PQs B/528, B/536, B/540, B/587 have been withdrawn.