mardi 22 novembre 2011

Good-Bye Air Seychelles?

“Answering a question regarding the uncertainty being faced by Air Seychelles employees now that the airline is being restructured, Mr Michel accepted that he had words of encouragement for the staff when he visited them earlier this year.
At that time he reassured them that the government will do whatever it can to ensure that they did not lose their job and the airline would continue its operation as the national airline.
“But today the situation has changed,” said Mr Michel.
He added that in spite of all goodwill, and the desire to do good things, often there are unforeseen circumstances upon which we have no control and in cases like that we have to be realistic and accept what we can and cannot do.
“Air Seychelles today is in a situation where it can no longer sustain its operations and the government is also in a situation where it can no longer sustain the airline, thus the decision for it to restructure and in the process it is inevitable that some employees are affected,” he said (Nation 22.11.2011)

Granted, no one has the gift to look into the future. Adjusting the present on the basis of what has been seen in the future, would effectively cancel out any future….. a tough paradox by any measure!
If no one can see into the future, most of us go about our everyday lives trying to project a logical course for each of our present realities reaching out into the future. Thus in most situations, each new day that dawns is one that meets up with planned anticipation, and, bar accidents of Fate, holds no surprise. This is the cornerstone of each one of our projects for personal and social development (training, job advancement, dating, marriage, family, holidays, retirement, etc)
Whoever fails to plan and organise a predictable future on the basis of logical extrapolation from clear and objective appraisal of present-day realities, is bound to come up with surprises and unending complex adjustments as tomorrow’s projects reveal unplanned and unforeseen obstacles.
The case of Air Seychelles’ November restructuration is a case in point, though, unfortunately, just another in a long and sad history of poor judgement of the Seychelles Government since 1977. This list includes SADECO, SEYCOM, SMB, IDC, Spirit of Koxe, District Council, De-linking, NYS, EDA, FoodPro, …….to the point that SeyGov-bashing has grown into a bore, were it not for the drama arising from broken personal dreams, each poor national judgement brings.

That within the space of a few months, a national airline, albeit a fledgling one like Air Seychelles, could move from a position of re-assuring robust and vibrant growth to one of re-positioning and restructuration, smacks of nothing less than lack of basic planning and perhaps the usual just plain, bad and dumb management.
The strength of any corporate entity often lies in the sum of its staff’s professionalism, integrity and diligence towards meeting both customer satisfaction and market targets as well as ensuring adequate returns on investments for the viability of the company.
The world in which the national airline operated provides few circumstances that cannot be foreseen and planned for in advance. When the writing is on the wall, he is dumb he who looks away.
Perhaps the President would do better to point the finger where it needs to be pointed, singling out the cancerous sore of individual complacency and ‘laissez faire’ that are at odds with the needs of the current airline market goals of pampering the customer, optimising operations on realistic, money-making routes as opposed to the money-drain of National Pride.
It is all very sad that those who had their fingers on Air Seychelles’ corporate reigns, never seemed to have fully grasped the scope of the cut-throat market in which our little carrier was flung! A vision for development, consolidation and investment was perhaps handicapped by cocky and naive over-confidence from those who were brought to manage something for which their only qualification was in being at the self-glorifying receiving end of good old state-orchestrated cronyism! Flying wings do not necessarily make one a competent International Airline Manager / Administrator
We over-reached back in the 1990s when we killed off the links and likes of Air France and British Airways, to better allow our self-inflated egos to fly our Creole Spirit.
We certainly mis-calculated again when we opened our access to three of the current best global-reach airlines, with limitless petro-dollar rich investment coffers!
It should not therefore be a surprise that the strength and aggressiveness of these more robust eagles may be the principal cause of the clipping of feathers from our fledgling’s wings, forcing its undignified withdrawal from the skies. And who would have guessed it? The Captain has been spared the indignity of preparing for this demise!!!

mardi 4 octobre 2011

2011 Seychelles Elections

It is done!
The Seychelles’ 2011 National Elections episode has run its course. The national political divide hardly shifted when in May, 85% voter participation returned the incumbent President to office with a 55% majority vote leaving the Challenger fulminating in the enduring 41% doldrums.
Backed by this renewed victorious political wind, the ruling Party made some deft manoeuvres to steam-roll through their not-too surprising strategic move for new National Assembly elections, with the declared intent to “eliminate the opposition”,.
Not surprisingly, the Political Opposition Alliance objected and promptly called for a boycott of the National Assembly Election, leaving the ruling party with little other option than to engineer a puppet opposition willing to be soundly defeated.
Thus ordered, so delivered.
The Observer Missions have declared the whole process as free and fair, filed their reports, made the customary recommendations to make our elections freer and fairer and left us to our own devices.
With a 74% voter participation, the ruling Party can now congratulate itself to having been properly and dutifully handed over a 100% majority in the National Assembly. In the face of the Opposition boycott and the lame challenging duck of the PDM, the “first-past-the-post” majority system has translated its 31,123 votes from the 69,480 registered voters into a minority 44.8% victory leading to a resounding and absolute control of the National Assembly!
The new MPs now have the task to convince the nation that they deserve their Honourable titles.
They must foremost understand that they represent a minority of the electorate and have been ushered into office by the quirks of our electoral system!
They must learn that being Honourable starts with ensuring that the National Assembly must at the very least, “(live) up to its constitutional responsibility of assuring more responsive and accountable governance” (October 2010 workshop )
It must strive to enact just laws that reflect national consensus to steer the country forward as opposed to rubber-stamping the wishes of the Executive.
There will be no honour to remain besotted with keeping the party line and not heeding the needs and aspirations of the silenced 55.2% of the electorate

vendredi 22 juillet 2011

Democracy Delayed By Bernard Georges : My Very First Reaction

At last!
Somebody has provided a blunt and frank overview of the sickness in our land!
It would be a grave error for the powers that be to shrug off the disturbing truths about the overall conditions in Seychelles’ electoral system as a mere inevitable inconvenience coming from the other side of the fence.

That it is so, does not make the diagnosis any less valid.

Our Democracy can be likened to a sick patient in hospital.
The patient is gravely ill. Propping him up, dressing him up in nice clothes and proper make up may provide comfort but will not make the sickness go away.

It is time to heed the voice from the other end of the hospital corridor, from the 'Practicien' whom no one wants to hear, but who at least seems more concerned with providing a cure and a discharge than in ensuring comfort before burial.

Perhaps it is true that if democracy is our common way to the future, then multi-party pluralism in its current format may not be the most suitable medium, in that the latter, in all the years since 1964 (bar the 1977-1992 one party rule) has done nothing but to institute and perpetuate a national 55-45 divide of win-or-lose-all.

The question that perhaps need to be put is why does the incumbent government resolutely fails to understand that, in order for democracy to be allowed to take deep root and flourish, winning the majority vote, while it gives legitimate claim to the right to govern and rule, also demands that the woes and merit of the minority vote not be committed to the dustbin. Doing so can be an indication that, in the final analysis, what is sought is not democracy for itself, but to remain in power and using democracy as a convenient tool to achieve this goal.

Can one reasonably argue that only the Parti Lepep has the genuine better interest of the nation and that its leaders and representatives at all levels, the sole advocate for a better Seychelles? That any voice that rises to the contrary is devoid of merit? Or have we already crossed the line and we now find ourselves pitted on either side of the intolerance line, doomed to systematically oppose and ignore the other?

There are sufficient wise voices that arise and speak, in the interest of democracy and ultimately, for a better and vibrant civilised politics in Seychelles. Sadly, the voices are never heeded. Partisan interests are staked too high to allow the mechanisms of democracy to do anything but turn the wheels of power the way it is deemed it must be turned. That’s what the outright media control, imperfect election playing field, chequered political party financial support, polling-day check –points, voter assistance, voter intimidation, vote-buying, outright bribery, etc; are there for, along with blithely ignoring appeals for reforms and electoral corruption to be curtailed.

Perpetuating this mentality of winning election as an end in itself, may prove to be fatal to our democracy. The losing side may despair from their voices raised over flawed electoral laws and outright fraud never getting a fair chance at being heard. It may risk imploding into radicalised cells, eventually forcing necessary change as happened with the 2004 Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” and similar others throughout history , or like the current so-called “Arab Spring”.

We must hope that our country is far removed from this frightful spectre. And yet, violent overthrow of governments was something that, until 1977, was a reality we only related to on a detached level from the radio news bulletins.
And yet, when it actually hit us on the 5th June, it came through also as a result of the then electoral minority having despaired from ever receiving fair representation and attention by continued allegiance to democratic principles of the time. Does History therefore not hold a lesson for us?

M. Georges makes a compelling case. His arguments are fact-based and verifiable. Some reasoning are obviously weighted by virtue of his political stance, the latter deliberately admitted, perhaps in a bid to free us from the petty shackles of partisan politics.

There seems to be broad consensus that reforms are necessary. The new electoral champion has admitted so much through the recent amendments of the Constitution and the proposed other reforms in campaign funding, district authorities, ect.

The way forward from this point may be not so much as complaining, however justified one may be in doing so, that the reforms are so diluted as to be meaningless, as to come to grips with the undeniable fact that a victorious political party will always set about to implement its own wining agenda and that it becomes the losing side to pick itself up to be more forceful and convincing for the inevitable future bouts!

We must work with and in the system to beat it at its own games.

We must cry out loudly for further electoral reforms.

Our elections are held on the basis of electoral areas and voters registered to vote in each area. We must therefore pay particular attention as to how the electoral areas are constituted and how voters are registered in each area.

Consider these:
a) our electoral areas are defined by law.
b) The population of any electoral area is never the object of any legal and binding registration, other that which civil records may purport to show or that the district authorities may aver.

In short, and in the context of our islands where everyone knows everyone, including which party one or the other is likely to vote for, the voting population in any electoral area may be shifted at will ( and often is) to strengthen or weaken one position or the other.

When the Roche Caiman electoral area was created, its new housing estate was filled with known supporters of the incumbent government, with a smattering of known “dissidents” as smoke screen.
The tactic was used again for Perseverans. While the latter still awaits formal set up as an electoral area, it is pinged to the nearby electoral area of Anse Etoile, a coveted Opposition seat. Just before the June 2011 presidential election, enough Parti Lepep supporters were deliberately housed and accepted as being duly registered for the Anse Etoile electoral area. The June 2011 election outcome for that district was as unsurprising as strong winds in Vann Swet.
This shifting of people around through the Housing smoke screen has been well tried. New housing estates not unsurprisingly come up in areas where it becomes easier to weaken the opposition in their strongholds or where they may threaten the Parti Lepep seats. (Les Mamelles, Au Cap, Belombre, Beau Vallon (Beau Belle), St Louis, Glacis, etc.
This is one aspect of the perfidiousness of the current government that M. Georges could have considered. Social Housing as an insidious tool for undetectable vote rigging!
Command and control the district population migration, and you control any electoral vote outcome. Any Electoral Reform that does not address this matter will not be a reform at all!
If we do not move towards formal district population registration, then we should, in the interest of fair elections, do away altogether with the current electoral areas. We are small enough a country to be able to ensure proper local development and government without the hassle of local representatives.

…to be continued/

vendredi 3 juin 2011

The Future of our Democracy shall be the Judge

The first summary of the cabinet meeting, rendered public in the nation of 02.06 read like something at the end of a fairy tale when the badies have been bested and the do-gooders can set about the business of making the world a better place for ever after!
That there was even a report of the last cabinet meeting was in itself an event. Unless I have not been particularly attentive over the last 34 years, this is the first time, and despite numerous appeals, including, I believe from the former –and first-President, that direct information is made available on what the top echelons in the land have been discussing and decided upon in the interest of the nation. Let us hope that this first positive step in the right direction has not been more of a reflex magnanimous action from the buoyant electoral victory mood.

Seychelles being the small-island country that it is and the Seychellois being so passionately divided over politics for so long, the suspicion with which each side of the local political spectrum regard each other will likely endure and put to serious tests any move by the ruling party and incumbent government to make amends and move towards invigorating our democracy. I for one, while happy at the new developments, and hopeful that they are sincere and will make significant impact on our democracy, remain suspicious that they could also very well be another clever bit of window-dressing, a return to the good old, time-tested “make the right noises and they’ll leave us alone”. That the Presidential Candidate did not allow the merest whiff of what sounds now as a laudable move, is in itself, eloquent!

It will take more than just one cabinet meeting summary report to instil confidence in our democracy and Government. However, there is cause to hope that, after being rendered opaque by partisan politics for so many decades, the light of reason may finally be shining on the vision for the New Seychelles, by virtue of the far-reaching decisions taken by the new (renewed) cabinet.

Whilst Cabinet and the AG’s office by themselves have no authority to amend the Constitution, it is comforting that instructions have been given for the necessary proposals to be prepared for consideration by the National Assembly to amend the electoral laws allowing for an Election Commission, as opposed to the current One-Man Election Commissioner. This being a cardinal point of contention by the local political opposition, there is every hope that the amendments will receive the necessary votes! Unless the small prints to set up the Election Commission are such as to render the whole exercise pointless.

The proposed amendments of the Political Parties Act to allow regulation of Political party’s funding sources and expenditure of funds are welcome. They may introduce an element if not of control, then at least of transparency. Provided of course that the amendments include suitable provisions that make clear differentiation between Government’s funding programs and those of the ruling party’s. There is really no use going any further with the proposed amendments if they will offer nothing more than a repeat of de-linking of 1990’s vintage!

It took two presidential elections, a traumatic display of state-orchestrated police brutality against peaceful protests, a Riley Report and five years of acrimonious accusations from and by all sides, for Government to finally understand that it cannot make any pretence at wishing to uphold democracy without allowing unfettered freedom of expression. Let us hope that when given the chance and the means to finally operate, Radio (and perhaps TV) Freedom will find a new spot and live up to expectations to fairly and responsibly inform, educate and entertain rather than being another loud voice in a “dialogue des sourds”.

Dare we hope that the proposed new local governance system will not be mired in local partisan politics such that communities can truly participate in local decision – making? Experience caution us to be wary! In 1992 the District Council Act was rather short-lived when it became apparent that the ruling party could face political opposition from freely-elected local representatives at the local level. The District Administration quickly took over to maintain the ruling party’s controlling hand in the management of local affairs. A whole Ministry was created to this effect, contributing to blur the lines between government programs to local communities deriving from a public service and outright political shenanigans to bolster local support for the ruling party.

The future of our democracy will be the real and unforgiving judge of the newly re-elected President!

jeudi 26 mai 2011

Putting Seychelles before all else

“..Putting Seychelles before all else” is indeed a noble cause for all the nation’s children to work for.
Fresh from its last and fourth consecutive electoral victory, the ruling party can afford to be magnanimous and invite everyone to take a rightful share in the task of nation building.
The local political opposition will, however, most likely and not unreasonably so, take the call join to in this noble cause, with a pinch of mistrust. Similar calls were made in the past and not much changed towards reinforcing our democracy, whether or not the political opposition made common cause with the ruling party.

Firstly, a political opposition has an unchanging reality the logic of which it cannot escape at the risk of losing its "raison d’être". It exists as a counter-balance to the government, a voice of dissent that, in a functioning and respected democracy, offers the vital check on, and alternative views of, government policies and programs elaborated from the ruling party’s political agenda. The logic for a political opposition is that it cannot afford to jump into bed with the ruling party, unless the nation confronts a major crisis the nature of which threatens national sovereignty and overshadows all partisan politics.

There not being, at this point in time, any crisis facing the nation, the call to the opposition from the ruling party must be taken as an invitation to do nothing more than assume its role as an opposition in a democracy, with responsibility and vigour. To use all means allowed under the Constitution to be as effective and vocal in the support and defence of the interests of the 45% of the electorate it represents.

The ruling party may cackle, strut and preen about the Government and the President being for every Seychellois. The reality has, is and will always be different. Our country has, is and will likely continue to be victim of the great political divide that has so divided us since the first days of the quest for political representation around the end of the 19th century.

Since then, political intolerance across the highly polarised divide has endured both the bumbling pre-independence years and the long, dark ones of One-Party rule where it was carefully cultivated to reach its culminating point to allow for all the country’s children who had a dissenting view of the ruling party’s policies to be crassly labelled as enemies of the state, to be persecuted, deprived of employment, shunned from the public service, handicapped in all economic ventures, blocked from business, when not imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile, and sadly for a few of them, killed outright!

If most of this last ugliness has washed away since the 3rd Republic, the nation remains polarised on its usual 55-45 split. The 45% minority still endures the frustration of the government of the 55% majority playing lip service to democracy while carrying on with business as usual of a one party state logic. No amount of cajoling or entreaties will do anything to help bridge this gap and "dialogue des sourds" unless there is a genuine efforts by the ruling party that it has a duty not only to make comforting speeches about national unity but to also vigorously pursue a national plan of action that will wear away at the mistrust and suspicion that bolster the political divide.

Nothing will change unless the ruling party makes an effort to recognise and respect the vital role of a political opposition in a democracy, and allows it to assume its role unfettered, as the Constitution allows it to.

Nothing will change unless the ruling party understands that, while the all the children of the nation expects to share in creating and benefiting from the national wealth, 45% also feel the need for the greater enjoyment of their constitutional rights, liberties and freedoms. As president Barrack Obama recently confirmed “…all human beings are endowed with certain rights that cannot be denied.”

This is the core “revendication” which the Seychelles President consistently fails to even understand, to wit his last inaugural address, where not one word was uttered, despite mild placating words in trying to define democracy as a “ dynamic process. In the New Seychelles we shall continue to put in place and strengthen our legal and institutional frameworks to ensure the progress of our democracy. It is my aim to improve on our achievements and to reinforce the rule of law, good governance and transparency. Seychelles is determined to provide a shining example of the development that is possible when good governance is prioritised”

Without the government respecting and guaranteeing our constitutional rights and freedoms, there is little chance of our democracy going any further than from the hole in which it is stuck!

But perhaps there may be a shift in the wind. In stating that “ is time for us to consider our brothers and sisters who may not share the same opinions as we do, not as our enemies, but as Seychellois who are also contributing to the future of our country, even if we remain political adversaries” president Michel may perhaps be having the first whiff of understanding that business as usual will need to yield to the higher recognition that we need to bridge the gap of political intolerance. An understanding that will perhaps grow into recognition that, indeed, the political opposition and behind it, 45% of the population, are no longer enemies, but sons and daughters of the land, equal before the law, with as much rights and freedoms to be respected as everyone else.

From this, there could be a chance of us all to work, each in our own ways, towards reinforcing our democracy, creating national wealth, ensuring professional and ethics-bound public and security services, impartial and effective justice, fighting rampant social scourges, securing the future for generations to come. Then and then only, shall the country be proud to look the rest of the world in the eye and not blink one bit!

The first steps towards this noble goal shall be when:
* Appointments or promotion to senior and top executive posts in the Public Service (including within the military, paramilitary and police) along with membership to Parastatal Boards and Statutory Bodies, are decided on merit alone, the latter defined in terms of qualifications, proven experience, seniority and aptitude, as opposed to affiliation to and "militantisme" within the ranks of the ruling party.
* The Ministry of Community Development ceases to be, via the District Administration, the extention of the ruling party’s arm in ensuring politically- motivated local community development programs. Members of the district administration should at least reflect the prevailing local mood and aspirations.
* Specialised Health Care, Professional Training, along with financial support for commercial ventures, are decided upon by professionals on the merit of each case and on known, published criterion
* Housing programs, the concern of all governments, are developed in a serious and economically sustainable manner, and in accord with what the country can reasonable afford while not stinging on basic standards.
* Housing allocation and Social Welfare criterion are set, if necessary by proper legal instruments, and applied openly and fairly without interference by local politicians.
* Our human rights including freedom of speech and association along with no unlawful detention, a stop to all intimidation, and removal of all impediments to lawful assembly, broadcasting and publication are vigorously upheld and guaranteed. When no one may die not from known, medically established cause, in our country without there being a proper public inquest in the cause and circumstances of the death and, where applicable, criminal charges diligently pursued through the courts.
* Elections are handled by an impartial commission comprising persons of impeccable integrity with no known political affiliation. When the Voter Register is based on a verifiable district / national population database with cross-referrenced bio data, becomes credible from being open to reasonable challenge, is rid of those who are registered under multiple names from different districts, when a mechanism for inter-district migration record and control is set in place for election-registration purposes.
* When the Judiciary becomes truly impartial and given the means to properly discharge its responsibilities as the vital 3rd arm of our national setup. When the Courts will grow to grant equal considerations to the legal worth of all and every case without regard to the parties involved.
* When the national security forces grow to develop into a professional corps, governed by their oath to serve the country which is defined as excluding exclusive favours to the ruling party and its leaders and systematic intimidation of known opposition leaders and supporters. When new rules are put in place for the possession and display of firearms in public by the security forces and when there are professional rules of engagement in the use of firearms for maintaining law and public order. Such that no member of the security forces can continue to feel being above the law, with relative freedom to use deadly weapons such as in simple matters of search and arrest.

These are little steps that can be taken within the short term, will go a long way towards establishing trust in our system, make little demands on our economy and can deliver big dividends towards reinforcing our democracy. Then and only can the children of the land all join in the task of nation-building, certain that each is respected and none can be unreasonably expected to compromise one’s political position.

lundi 23 mai 2011

Thirsting for Freedom

The serenity with which each of us face our everyday life is always the result of compromise reached between what each of us believe in and seek to achieve and that of the next person’s. One’s beliefs and pursuits have as much merit as the weight with which we measure them against those of other’s. The glass can be half empty, just as much as it can be half full. There is little point is fighting over which version is more truthful.

Thus it was that on Saturday night, the dream of finally quenching my thirst for freedom was once again blighted by the SPPF-PP election –winning steamroller.
Some may argue that mine is a dream not based on the realities of the present-day Seychelles. Some will define the latter as being the place where a government inherited from a 1977-coup d’etat is growing up into a modern and respected democracy while orchestrating considerable local popular appeal, recognised and respected human rights, thriving economy with both local and international investments, including those from petrodollar–rich Gulf States.

Let there be no doubt that there are sufficient numbers of my fellow countrymen who either fully believe that this is indeed the case or who have never been particularly concerned over the intricacies and complexities of democracy, human rights and the economy, as long as there is always food on the table, clothes on one’s back and a house to shelter from the storm!

The last three consecutive elections of the Seychelles’ 2nd Republic from 1993 are eloquent on the consistently 50%+ support granted to the SPPF-PP, former One Party State, government. The ballot boxes of Saturday 21st May 2011 did not falter from yet another confirmation in both popular support and endorsement of the government’s populist social and economic development programs. 55.43% is as decisive as any electoral victory one can get in any democracy!!.

What’s the use of cursing the majority of the Seychellois voters’ vulnerability to pre-election generous gifts and honeyed, vote-winning campaign propaganda. In this they are no different from other voters across all continents, regardless of how deep democracy is rooted, respected and upheld.

What we should perhaps curse is our inability to cut across the academic rhetoric of our campaign for democracy to link it directly to the voters’ real and daily concerns. To do this, we need to find a way to educate the voters on how we have been and continue to be walled in by the nation’s pervasive dependence on state- benevolence, with far ranging impact from our jobs, formal training, social welfare, housing assistance, extra medical care, business facilitation, service infrastructure to our leisure, sports and cultural development.
These daily practical considerations far outweigh the merit of taking a moral high ground, particularly in defence of the often elusive extravagance of rights and freedoms.
We need to succeed in persuading the voters that the time will come when we will each need to weigh the importance of democracy, rights, freedom, equality before the law, equal opportunities for all, responsible parliament, independent judiciary and accountable, transparent government, that define the long term basic quality of our everyday lives against the immediate impact of material favours that make us see one day through to the next.

This is indeed what has driven revolutions throughout history and perhaps to a great extent, is the galvanising force behind the ongoing events in the Arab world. The thirst for freedom cannot be quenched from the well of immediate and short-term material comforts.

The voters must be educated to fully understand that the nail driven into the coffin of our rights and freedoms is real and occurring everyday, in big and small moves.
It is doing so, each time that the state apparatus of security clearance turns some of us away from a job opportunity, career advancement, promotion, training. A security clearance that departs from seeking to establish the threat level that may be posed on a known and declared reasonable need of state security, to embark on an evaluation of one’s adherence to a certain political party and ideology.

It does so when political affiliation is a discriminatory tool used in everything from a favourable administrative outcome for social assistance, some sensitive town and country planning matter, to a licence or business venture.

It does so when we continue to allow fear to rule our lives, in part from our not having forgotten the killings, disappearances, arson, criminal frame-ups and forced exiles upon which the present government built the foundation of its modern fortress.

The same is achieved at each time each of us shrugs off reports of State transgressions in upholding the rule of law, transparent and accountable government by consistent disregard to review the Public Order Act from the One-party era, endorsement of obvious political discrimination by the police and state security forces, failure to manage public assets in transparent transactions, or from taking decisive actions to root out corruption in the public service, etc.

It does the same when we fail to weigh the import of actions and declarations, however small or big these can be, by those who are entrusted with the highest office and duty to safeguard our democracy, rights and freedoms. It is, for example, a testimony to how disrespectful the Speaker of Parliament can be to the values, and by extention, how undeserving he is, of his office, when he makes a public declaration that the political opposition must be eliminated!!

It does so when we remain indifferent to our public-funded daily newspaper blatantly flouting the basic principles of impartial journalism by consecrating a special page of each publication to the President.
It does so when we fail to recognise that receiving some crumbs from the national cake, is part of our rightful claim rather than being something for which we should be thankful.
It does so when we remain silent at the slow and insidious erosion of the dignity of our elders by state largesse that is always vocal on its material worth and silent on its moral merit.

The quality of our lives will never change, unless we can each see beyond, and turn away from, the pre-election gifts and honey.
It will never change as long as the electorate continue to be easily swayed by promises of more shared wealth and material comforts and remain unfazed by speeches on freedom and liberty.
A new Seychelles has been promised. It will not be one based on the strengthening of freedom, liberty and rights. It will be another 5-year extention of the patronising one derived from “remaining close to the people…..and working hard for them….a vision to build a new Seychelles…”
Beyond the obvious rhetoric tones, perhaps we should recognise that if nothing much will change, then at least our wounds will heal and will have made us stronger for the next bout. By then, we will perhaps have developed a strategy to bring down the panem et circenses Election-Winning Machine of the SPPF-PP.

This will perhaps include having an Electoral Commission as opposed to the current one-man Election Commissioner, whatever his merit and the level of his integrity, appointed by the president, and Election officers who remain members of the public service and therefore subject to the whims and caprices of that Administration.

The new strategy will perhaps also include a credible voters’ register that will have debunked all attempts for a person, under various guises, to be recorded as an eligible voter in different voting centres, and other attempts to surreptitiously arrange for voters to be transferred from one voting centre to the next depending on the strength of a given contender in one or the other district.
In this regard, it may be necessary to secure a viable means by which the actual district population can be established, and arrange for a formal and verifiable mechanism allowing easy record of changes in the district population database (births, deaths, migration) and from which the district voter register will be derived. As it is, the current voter increase in certain districts from 2002 (51730 votes cast) to 2011 (59242 votes cast) defies the logic of the national (7512) 14.5% average: Anse Etoile (60.7%), Baie Lazare (32.8%), Beau Vallon (35.4%), Glacis (68.4%), Pointe Larue (40.6%), Roche Caiman (28.8%), Bel Air (–6.3%), Grand Anse Praslin (-4.7%) Port Glaud (-5.4%) St Louis (-0.8%)

More importantly, it shall also perhaps be the marking moment when our democracy and electoral set-up will have started to be transparent and trustworthy enough to be spared the scrutiny and judgement of foreign observers.

In the short-term, let us be prepared for the griping and moaning from post-election social and economic burdens that will surely repeat themselves.
As a true democrats, I for one, must be resigned to recognise that 55.43% of my fellow countrymen apparently do not share my views. I must therefore join the ranks of the 44% to respect the verdict from the ballot boxes, however warped and a perversion of my definition of democracy, it may be!

jeudi 14 avril 2011

Has the La Misere Community been sacrificed on the altar of “Raison d’Etat?”

I read with interest, the nation’s 14th April report of the Seychelles’ Minister for Internal Affairs…. responding in the National Assembly to a Private Notice Question from the Leader of the Opposition on the matter of compensation payment to the families of La Misere whose water supply was polluted from works underway to construct the UAE Sheikh's “palace”!

There is no doubt that the Seychelles Government, through the offices of both the Attorney General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Office, Internal Affairs and the PUC spent considerable energy in sorting through the complex web of causality and accountability to negotiate a settlement.
There is also no doubt that the mobilisation of the La Misere Community, contributed to keeping the pressure on all parties for the matter not to be brushed aside. This in itself is a significant first in our country. One where a community can, by itself –allbeit with perhaps some underlying coordination from those who sought to gain political capital from the situation- rise as David to tackle and call to task the Goliath in both our Government and the all-powerful UAE sheikh and his construction company. (Some may reasonably argue that under our current legislation, BOTH the latter should be held responsible!!)

It is a good thing that ASCON, the construction company, has recognised being at fault and committed itself to compensation payment.
The responsibility of ASCON for causing the damage having been established and accepted, one would have thought that in the search for fair compensation, the negotiating parties on the Seychelles’ Government’s side would have had foremost in mind, the immediate physical and psychological trauma and suffering the la Misere community endured, (and the probable long term effects that some will likely be required to manage each time they turn on their household water supply). This and this consideration alone should have been their motivation to hammer out a deal with ASCON.

This is not the impression I get when I read the nation report of 14th April. At the end of the day, what has transpired seems to be the priority need to settle compensation rather than take the ASCON bull’s horn and bring it to fully and completely settle the tort it caused.
I read that ASCON has:
a) agreed to a limit US$20,400.00 per household (?) person (?)
b) not agreed to pay compensation to:

i) home owners who were not occupying their houses at the time of the damages but whose house plumbing installations were contaminated.

ii)bona fide persons, not legally residents of the area but who were visiting relatives at the time and who were thus exposed to the contamination as were the usual residents.

While I acknowledge the inevitable give and take in any negotiation, I am of the view that when the Seychelles representative went to the negotiating table, notwithstanding that the public prosecutor has little business dealing with such matters, he/she did so as a sovereign state representing its citizens who suffered from established negligence and disregard to our Public Health Act by a private entity. Our representative must have done so with the certainty of our infringed laws and good cause on our side and the greater interest of our citizens at heart, not those of safeguarding the bilateral (sic) cooperation between the Seychelles state and the UAE through ASCON.

This latter is what seemed to have transpired.

How can the good Minister Morgan justify the government failing “to get a settlement with ASCON that covers all the categories of people involved”?
This implies that our negotiator abandoned the latter “category” knowing full well that they were deserving of compensation. That the government took “its moral responsibility and approached some of its foreign partners with the aim of increasing the money paid out to the victims who would not have been paid enough with ASCON’s offer,” is proof enough that the interest of the La Misere Community seems to have been sacrificed on the altar of “Raison d’Etat” and the compensation settlement expediently negotiated, perhaps in a complex mix of election deadlines, not wanting to kill the golden goose, the mirage of a US$20K manna falling in the wake of raw sewerage flowing out of household taps and not least, not appearing to be ungraciously rocking the good UAE sheikh’s boat!

In another time and place, there would have been a properly conducted litigation through the courts and settlement reached from a fuller and fairer appraisal of merits and dues of the La Misere Community, on the basis of He who Causes Suffering Must Pay Damages in line with the seriousness of the suffering caused. Our Seychelles Courts have shown that a person’s ruffled pride and reputation through real or imagined malice is deserving of US$36K compensation. What is the worth of real psychological damages and established medical conditions suffered by a person exposed to drinking water from his residential plumbing, contaminated by raw sewerage arising from negligence and nonconformity to the law, by a third party?