§ Mr. O'GRADY
asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the statement of Parsee Rustomjee, sentenced to a second term of six months' imprisonment on 11th August, 1909, for recrossing the border after being deported, and who complains of the treatment he received at the Diepkloof Prison; whether the treatment complained of is that always given to offenders under the Registration Law; if so, will representations be made to the Transvaal Government that the offences under the Act shall be considered as political offences, and that those convicted shall be considered as first-class misdemeanants, and should not be subjected to rigorous hard labour treatment?
§ Colonel SEELY:
Yes, Sir; the Secretary of State has been in correspondence with the Transvaal Government in regard to the case of Mr. Rustomjee, and the following reply has been received from Ministers: "Mr. Rustomjee was suffering from obesity when admitted to prison, and was ordered sedentary labour by the resident medical officer at Diepkloof Prison. Ministers are advised that, although this convict was nominally employed at stone-breaking, he was really on light labour, as he was not pressed and practically allowed to do as much as he liked. On admission to prison no signs of organic disease were discovered in Mr. Rustomjee, 1023W but the conjunctiva of the left eye was found to be slightly red at the angles. This appeared to be a chronic condition, but Mr. Rustomjee never complained of his eyesight. Mr. Rustomjee was medically examined several times at his own request, and was specially transferred from Diepkloof to Johannesburg for the purpose of obtaining the opinion of the visiting medical officer there. All medical reports agree, however, that nothing constitutionally wrong could be detected with him, and that he was in good physical health. With regard to the point that Mr. Rustomjee was made to remove his cap, Ministers are advised that although devout Parsees wear head-covering both by day and night it is not necessary on the part of a Parsee confined in gaol to wear the usual velvet cap, the cap supplied in the Transvaal prisons being quite sufficient in this respect. Mr. Rustomjee was discharged from gaol on the 10th instant, and on discharge admitted to the governor of the gaol that he had been allowed to do practically what he liked at the Diepkloof Prison except for about two days before his transfer to the Johannesburg Gaol when a native warder had tried to make him work harder than he usually did. He stated that he had no complaint to make about his treatment in gaol, apart from what he considered to be lack of proper medical treatment for his pains in the back and chest." Ministers are not, I understand, willing that offenders under the Registration Laws should be treated as first class misdemeanants.