mercredi 5 décembre 2007

WhoTruly Stands For Unfetterred Freedom In Seychelles?

Freedom and Power

They are not just about ideologies and political philosophies. In our sunny islands, one ideology is as good as another and over the years, ideologies seem to have shown their capacity to adjust to changing local and global socio-economic realities and not least to the unquenchable thirsts of those who wish to drink at the national power fountain.

From a well-tested history of political manoeuvres, those of the SPPF leadership have shown themselves to be particularly adept at building their party into a fortress with wide-reaching powers from which they rule uncontested over the whole nation.

These include control over the legislature, gained and maintained over successive elections since 1993 to 2006, through its majority in the National Assembly won largely through sustained generous state largesse in social welfare programs over the years and outright pre-election vote buying campaigns.

They also have direct control over the judiciary through the statutory Constitutional Appointments Authority,(CAA) ostensibly a forum for political consensus on constitutional appointments, but in reality, a means by which such appointments, including that of the Chief Justice, are seen through by the party –affiliated Chairman named by the President. Then of course, the President appoints all judges to the Magistrates’, Supreme and Appeals courts, with fixed-term (renewable) contracts for expatriate judges and life-term contracts for locals.

The SPPF power sword also swings wide into every other aspect of national life, over and above its rightful mandate as elected government to implement the economic and social requirements of its political agenda, from commerce and trade, utilities, public service, army and police, to information and local affairs.

The strength of the SPPF is however, not always a result of its political adroitness as it is the sum of the weaknesses of its political adversaries.

The major adversary from the 2006 legislative and presidential elections is the Seychelles National Party (SNP) with some 43% of the popular vote.

This vocal political opposition proposes itself, alone or in tandem with the once (pre 1977 Coup d’Etat) formidable Democratic Party (DP), as the champion of democracy and all its concomitant freedoms and rights (of speech, association, press, etc…)

The SNP thus customarily brandishes at the SPPF, labels of oppressor of civil rights, state organised censure of liberties and freedoms and intolerance of dissenting political views.

This has undeniably found a certain appeal among free thinkers in the land and probably, quite explains the comfortable support base of the party.

This support base may however be rattled by the apparent burgeoning, within the SNP, of the same intolerance for dissenting political views and most undemocratic stances when the split of the DP-SNP 2006 electoral alliance was allowed to invade the sacrosanct realms of free press.

Can the SNP honestly look itself in the mirror and see a reflection of the champion for free press after the recent decision for the SNP- controlled Regar Printing to discontinue the printing of its former ally’s publication on the sole grounds of being in disagreement over the content of the latter?

If that is not political censure, then can somebody please lend me a dictionary!!

The SNP and DP may be having their little spat. This is nothing new in the realm of political alliances reached for the needs of convenience and short-term strategies, and would have been largely insignificant, were it not for the obvious questions that it raises over the strength of the SNP’s commitment to democracy and freedoms.

Thus the question is raised. Who really stands to uphold unfettered freedoms in our land? If the SPPF is more intent on retaining and wielding power, is the SNP truly the democratic alternative?

vendredi 16 novembre 2007

Human Rights in Seychelles : October 2006 Police Repression and the Judge Reilly 2007 Inquiry and Report.

Call for Radio Freedom
During the mid morning of 3rd October 2006, a group of supporters of the political opposition, Seychelles National Party (SNP) gathered before the Seychelles’ National Library building, in which premises the Seychelles National Assembly was debating an amendment to the local telecommunications and broadcasting legislation. The substance of the amendment was, in essence, to make it illegal for a political party to have its own broadcasting station.

This legislative debate was taking place in the context of the SNP disputing the independence of the national broadcasting agency, the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and allegedly in the process of finalising its plans to apply for a broadcasting licence.

The fairness and freedom from bias of the SBC in presenting the views of all parties on national issues, particularly those of political controversy, have persistently been a matter of partisan debate since the early 1990s.

The gathering had been planned beforehand by the SNP, to essentially petition the President of the country not to assent to the proposed amendment under debate. The latter debate appeared as a perfunctory exercise as the amendment had been tabled by the ruling party which enjoyed a comfortable majority in the National Assembly.

The local Police Force had come to know of the planned gathering, interpreted it as illegal and had mobilised the riot police Special Service Unit (SSU)

Violent repression by the Police

In summary, at around 1000hrs, when some 50 to 100 persons had gathered, the Police requested that they disperse. The crowd called to be addressed by their Leaders.

Mr Wavel Ramkalawan, the SNP leader (also Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly) came out from the debate and engaged discussions with the regular police on site and with the assembled crowd.

The SSU intervened and made to ‘arrest’ Mr Jean François Ferrari, an executive of the SNP leadership. They apparently only managed to beat him up severely and leave him unattended and under no restraint while they sought out others of the SNP leadership.

The Leader of the Opposition was severely assaulted. Others, some innocent bystanders were assaulted, including 63-year old, physically (medically) impaired Gilbert Elisa.

No assistance was provided to the injured. Mr Ferarri and Mr Ramkalawan who, though under arrest, were transported, as were others, by their peers to the Victoria hospital for treatment.

Government disinformation

The country was shocked at the unprecedented display of intransigent and cheap violence. The government-controlled daily newspaper, Nation, in its issue of 6th October, published a police communiqué which made several claims:

1 While many of the incidences of violence that occurred following this assembly are under investigation, the need to clarify certain events has been highlighted by the misrepresentation of facts in certain press releases emanating from the Seychelles National Party (SNP)

2. Police Officers were following procedures for the search of all persons entering the building which houses the National Assembly to ensure security

3. At 1005hrs the Leader of the Opposition left the National Assembly debate and joined supporters that had grouped outside

4. SSU (Special Support Unit) officers were engaged in containing the crowd at outside the building.

5. An altercation developed between Mr Jean-Francois Ferrari, an SNP executive member, one of Mr. Ramkalawan’s bodyguards, and SSU police officers during which force was used against the SSU. As a result of this altercation, two SSU officers were injured as well as Mr. Ferrari.

6. Mr. Ramkalawan was at this point engaged in conversation with a member of the regular Police at the entrance to the building. As Mr. Ferrari was being arrested, Mr. Ramkalawan punched one of the SSU officers

7. The situation then degenerated into a melee where several people were injured including Mr. Ramkalawan. Mr. Ramkalawan and Mr. Ferrari and a few other people had to be taken to Victoria Hospital for treatment at 1015hrs

8. Investigations continue into the damages caused to property in the town

On the 10th October 2006 the Nation reported that ‘the President was ‘satisfied that preliminary investigations had shown that the Police had acted correctly and professionally in the handling of (last Tuesday's) incident

The president further expressed the wish that ‘the opposition (renounced) violence publicly since only the highest regard for law and order could guarantee the peace and stability that the people of Seychelles need to progress’

The stage was thus set. As the independent inquiry will later show, local public opinion was, as is customary, being deliberately prepared to accept that on the one hand, the political opposition is bunch of anarchists bent on causing trouble and on the other, that the police is a professional law abiding force concerned only with the upkeep of law and order.

Reaction of the Political Opposition and Independent Inquiry

The political opposition weekly Regar, in its issue of 13th October, publicly called the Police Commissioner a liar in both making false accusations against the SNP and persons affiliated to the SNP and in misrepresentation of the facts.

Possibly pressured to save the image of the regime, the President ordered a special inquiry into the incident of 3rd October with a commitment to making public its report.

A judge (retired) from Ireland, Michael Reilly, was appointed to conduct an independent inquiry. The inquiry was duly conducted from January 2007 and the Reilly Report was submitted in October 2007 and made public early November 2007.

The Inquiry Report

I have had a rapid scan through the Judge Reilly Report and I do believe it vindicates the Seychelles Political Opposition

The report seems to highlight a lot of what I have suspected and said all along to any who would care to listen or read, about the partisan-charged bias of my country’s law enforcement and general public service management

If I have a lot of respect for the integrity and professionalism of some individuals within the state apparatus, I must also recognise that they all seem to be imbued with the pervading partisan bias of the ruling party which renders everyone impotent to stand up and speak out against flagrant disregard to both the constitution of the third republic and in particular to respect of our (human) rights as well as to the recurring failure of the national police force to provide professional policing.

While the Judge Reilly Report acknowledges under chapter 8, that on the 3.10.2006, the SNP did indeed act contrary to the stipulations of the local Public Order Act as it stood then, it may, and probably will, be viewed as overly critical of Government and is ‘sans apel’ on police incompetence across the hierarchy.

The SSU actions unprovoked, unwarranted, unnecessary.
Police Commissioner lied.

Under chapter 7, it rewrites the factual , chronological account of the incident on that inauspicious day, thereby establishing that the Police Commissioner did indeed lie in his communiqué of 6th October 2006.

Section 7.27 established that SSU officers beat and injured people who were vulnerable and attempting to leave the area and that (the) attacks were unprovoked, unnecessary and unwarranted. No police officer has taken responsibility for these actions, and no attempt has been made by the police at a senior level to establish who was responsible for these actions.

Section 7.28 pointed out that the fact that no police officers have been disciplined for their actions (….) and, indeed, no investigation into the actions of the police on that day has been carried out encourages the view that members of the Police Forces can behave improperly and not be held to account for that behaviour.

The Police: unprofessional, excessive and unjustified use of force

Chapter 9 of the report emphatically refutes the presidential satisfaction expressed through the Nation of 10th October 2006, of professionalism of the police action and exposes as, at best, gross misinformation, the Police Communique published in the Nation of 6th October

Indeed, section 9.7 clearly establishes an excessive and unjustified use of force by the SSU and under section 9.8, the report calls for the scraping of that unit altogether from under the Police and for public order policing functions to be exercised by the regular police with all police officers receiving appropriate training for policing public events with an emphasis on negotiations, the implementation of a graduated response, and a particular focus on respect for human rights

Police Commissioner and Senior Management Team: Incompetent

Section 9.14 of the report is an unambiguous recognition of Police incompetence, and for the Police Commissioner and his senior management team, it is a list of their personal and combined failures. ‘..evidence adduced at the Inquiry points to a number of critical failures on the part of the Commissioner to deliver a proper policing service on the day’ failures which the report concludes, ‘are endemic defects in the (Seychelles) Police Force.’

Section 9.14 goes further to list the minimum skills and experience requirements for the Police Commissioner and his senior Management team and pointedly spells out that they should have no political affiliation other than exercising normal political franchise. It goes on to make the crowning humiliating list of key competency fields that the Police Commissioner should have.

In the ensuing chapters it clearly calls for the independence of the SBC and for a greater respect of human rights.

The pervasive police incompetence we have known since June 1977

Judge Michael Reilly comes from a democratic country with a history of accountable and professional policing. It is to his credit that, in judging the local policing structure and conditions for respect of human rights, he seems to make allowances for the local system’s comparative inadequacies. He does not seem to be judging our local system on the basis of what takes place in his country.

Be that as it may. He was judging an incident, which occurred within a few hours, one day in October 2006 and concluded that on that day, the Police failed the nation it is supposed to ‘serve without favour, malice or ill will’ when its SSU officers launched ‘unprovoked, unnecessary and unwarranted attacks’ against a peaceful gathering and ‘beat and injured people who were vulnerable and attempting to leave the area’.

What Judge Reilly may not be aware of is that the country has, since 1977, been exposed to the pervasive incompetence and ineffectual policing of its boys in blue and others, armed, in khaki..

The SSU that Judge Reilly condemns in his report, we as a people, have been condemning for the past 30 years as ‘Gard Baté’ under its various guises .

In any open and democratic society, the Police Officer who carries out unwarranted assaults on unarmed and peaceful citizens must bear the criminal responsibility for his actions.

In our country, notwithstanding that no responsibility is ever borne, it is one that is also shared with the system which, since the violent coup d’etat of 1977, ushered in a mentality of violent repression of political dissent.

The SSU and its precursors, all partisans of the ruling party, became our local ‘tonton macoutes’, intimidators ready to wade into any crowd of suspected political opposition and to indiscriminately dispense violent repression, certain in the knowledge that none of them would ever be held accountable, once it is established that their actions was to quell political dissent. To object or in any other way, express opposition to the policies and practices of the Seychelles Government since 1977, is to invite on your head the full wrath of 'the people' through its police or army.

The hallmark of the regime then, and to a large extent, now, is to instil fear and acquiescence in a peaceful nation. Professional policing does not seem to have ever been of particular concern.

Career policemen have been routinely pushed aside to allow those with less qualifications and experience into the top leadership slots. Just a few months ago, the whole police leadership, including Officers with long years of service, proven qualifications and competence, was sacked by a Police Commissioner who felt that his senior officers were not competent!!.

The sacked officers pressed charges for unlawful dismissal and were vindicated in court. In time, the Police Commissioner, Andre Kilindo, whose qualification for appointment into the post seemed to have had more to do with his political affiliation than to policing qualification or experience, was given the golden handshake. He was replaced, in August 2006, by the current Commissioner who was a senior officer in the army, also affiliated to the ruling party and whom the Judge Reilly report now finds is totally unfit for the job through sheer incompetence and lack of qualification.

The army was routinely called in to euphemistically ‘assist’ the regular police in basic duties such as search and arrest of wanted felons or criminal suspects. Rules of engagement seemed to be ill-defined. Armed police personnel, in or out of uniform, often make use of their arms to intimidate unarmed, peaceful citizens. During the period 2004 to 2007, there were at least seven reports of police officers making use of their weapons in the pursuit and arrest of suspected felons or escaped prisoners, at Cote d'or Praslin, Curio Road, Les Mamelles and Port Glaud, resulting in six grievous bodily harm and one fatality. The latter case occurred in the evening at Port Glaud in proximity to the residence of one Robyn Henriette, principal suspect in a break-in which occurred at the Ste Anne Island resort late 2004 or early 2005. The Police was ostensibly trying to arrest the man.

There has not been any serious investigation into any of these incidents. Not many had the gumption to stand up and demand the right to due process under the law, even for convicted criminals. Those who did speak out for respect of human rights, democracy and police accountability were publicly tagged as pursuing a warped political agenda or merely seeking to score cheap political points, in favouring the criminals.

The pervading feeling has been that, the police officer, or soldier, is absolved of all blame and responsibility for any action, however unwarranted and illegal it may be, if it was executed in accordance to the tacit or implicit wishes of the authorities.

And to crop it all, within a few days of the violent, unwarranted police action of 3rd October 2006 against peaceful, unarmed citizens, the authorities publicly thanked the incompetent but totally loyal officers, in recognition of their ‘professional competence’. A number of them, was promoted, amongst whom the most notoriously incompetent Police Officer, chief of the ‘Gard Baté’ (SSU), promoted from Superintendent to Chief Superintendent. The very same officer who was found guilty by the courts for unwarranted assault in 2003 on a citizen, brave enough to press charges. The very same who epitomises political partisanship and police brutality on our peaceful shores

The promotion in itself was a clear demonstration, if ever any was needed, of how career advancement in the Police depends more on blind political loyalty rather than proven competence in effective policing

In so far as these, among other positions vindicate the SNP’s claims of pervading political bias and unfairness of the local set-up, the Judge Reilly Report will therefore probably add to the local apathy when it joins other reports, unattended, gathering dust and forgotten, because it simply spells out to Government what most free-thinkers have been observing and saying over the past 15 years :

That the full and unconditional respect of democratic principles, and the rule of law, must be ensured for the government to deserve the democratic label.

That the national police force is incompetent, from its head right down to the cop on the beat, largely due to a combination of political bias, improper training and lack of qualifications.

That respect of human rights in the country, if enshrined in the constitution of the third republic of 1993, is too often left at the whims of those who yield undisputed power in the land.

That there is a pervasive partisan-inspired mistrust between politicians on both sides of the local scene that, too often, are tacitly encouraged to degenerate into petty violence and occasionally influence decisions that threaten national peace and stability.

That the ruling party and incumbent government persistently fail to come to terms with these painful, everyday realities that so plague our land and remain the cause of so much unnecessary suffering and pain.

Will We Ever Wake Up And Take Heed ?

While this is to be hoped for, it is not unreasonable to expect it will not happen. Notwithstanding, I have taken due note of what may be a glimmer of hope in the long-suffering history of political bias in our land.

The President and the Leader of the Opposition have, this month started what may be a series of official consultations. Seeing that they both desire democracy to flourish in our land, maybe they will see the wisdom in seeking a way to work together, without compromising their respective political agendas, for the benefit of our motherland.

This said, maybe it is too much to hope for, too soon. But the least that should happen is for the Police Commissioner to resign, as any self self-respecting person in his position should, though he is not solely to blame to find himself unqualified, incompetent and inexperienced and in a highly sensitive and demanding position.

vendredi 5 octobre 2007


Mr James Michel, President of Seychelles, is reported by the Seychelles daily newspaper, Nation of 5-10-2007 to have exulted at Seychelles having scored 2nd place on the 2007 Mo Ibrahim Index on Good Governance for 2005 of 48 sub-sahara African countries !

Every Seychellois who has their country at heart should be proud that Seychelles has been recognized at an international level as a leader in good governance’ he is reported to have stated.

But this does not mean that everything is right and that we must rest on our laurels. We have to continually improve on our successes so that our governance record becomes the best, and this we can achieve if we all work together,”

He apparently aims to ‘create a modern Seychelles with a strong economy as well as engage in an “active” diplomacy on the international scene so as to further highlight the country’s attributes to the world.

Coming out ‘second best governed country in Africa’ as the Nation puts it is indeed cause for pride in being a Seychellois.

In that regard I fully agree with the President. He has every right to exult because, let’s face it, he does represent the whole country, and the ranking reflects to a large extent, the policies and programs of the Government he heads!

I also agree with his reported comment that not everything is right.

Indeed, if he truly aims to make Seychelles the best governed country in sub-Saharan Africa, he must therefore focus attention on those areas where the 2000, 2002 and 2005 reports showed consistently low scores.

If the 2007 Mo Ibrahim Index were to be compared to a school report card, then Seychelles as a student was following a course on Good Governance comprising some 56 subjects in 5 main modules. In matters of good governance, a score below 80% is not good enough! The aim must be to be closer to 100%.

Student Seychelles therefore performed excellently with scores of 100% in 25 subjects ranging from press freedom to health matters, road networks, literacy, armed conflicts, opposition participation in elections, to respect of physical rights, etc.

Student Seychelles performed well with scores of 80%-99.9% in 14 subjects ranging from Health matters to the Judiciary, Education, Internet usage, to some aspect of the national economy, etc.

In these areas, one recognises the dogged determination of the professionals that pushed the country forward despite the often hard and intimidating local conditions.

In 10 subjects however, where scores range from 30% to 78.5%, student Seychelles needs to seriously get to work in order to improve on performance and achievement. Of particular attention is the subject respect for civil rights where the poor score of 30% is unchanged since 2000 whilst first - placed Mauritius scored 100% and 90% respectively

Of similar concern is the subject of GDP per capita growth that has plummeted from an average 52.8% in 2000 to the current 34.1%. Whilst first – placed Mauritius scored 50.5% in 2000, 47.4% in 2002 and is currently at 52.4%

There is no reason why student Seychelles should fail to achieve top scores for subjects of Free and Fair Elections, (50%) Levels of Violent Crime, (50%) Public Sector Corruption (52%), and Independence of the Judiciary (78.6%).

Student Seychelles was not rated for some 7 subjects ranging from electrical outages per year to % of 15-49 years old living with HIV.

Most of the areas of low scores fall directly in the presidential lap.

They are known and have consistently pervaded the national efforts for transparency and good governance over several years.

They have been the core of grievances from the opposition and the country at large. We do not need the Mo Ibrahim Index to re-confirm it for us.

However, this having been done, and the President deriving obvious satisfaction from the trustworthiness of the report, he has therefore the remaining years of his current presidency to both maintain current levels of good achievement and also to ensure:

1. Respect for civil rights

2. Free and Fair Elections

3. Lower levels of Violent crime

4. Eradication of Public Sector Corruption

5. Full and effective Independence of the Judiciary

6. Better GDP per capita growth.

It is a pity that his advisers seemed not to have fully briefed him on the whole extent of the report. He would have deduced that priority areas for better scores are not a strong economy (however vital this one may be ) nor active diplomacy!

mercredi 3 octobre 2007

Seychelles and large-scale commercialisation of forged pharmaceutical products?

Is Seychelles truly a new haven for large-scale commercialisation
of forged pharmaceutical products?

I was following a peak time news report on a main national TV channel in this EU country! Right in there with the other news was the one about fake pharmaceutical products that were reportedly flooding the so-called third world countries and even some EU states!

The news report deplored that some Asian countries such as India, were at the forefront in large –scale industrial forgery of everything from upscale clothing, software, food products to pharmaceuticals

Of the latter, the new rage is for so-called generic products that are selling over the net at prices that defy competition. And the best selling is the little miracle blue pill! Except that the blue is only a dodgy paint-job imitating the Viagra pill, but is unlikely to contain Sildenafil Citrate or any of the other active agents for Tadalafil or Vardenafil.!

I was about to go ‘ so what, the world is full of shysters out to make a fast buck,’ when the reporter revealed its bomb-shell, right there before its trusted millions of viewers.

The Seychelles is among the countries harbouring Indian companies, which commercialise fake Viagra pills over the net.

The report produced a net screen clearly showing the name ‘Seychelles’. I noticed an URL on the page shown and wanted to check it out for myself.

The site claims to have been “established since Feb 2005,’ and to be ‘one of the most affordable and reliable online pharmacies, … dedicated to bringing you a range of generic pharmaceuticals at reasonable prices and from reputable manufactures.

We are located in Seychelles and have several shipping locations around the world in order to satisfy the needs of our customers

To me, the site is quite innocuous and there is not much to distinguish it from the millions of others doing business over the net, if not for the lack of a Seychelles’ local address and a contact phone N° that could place its office anywhere between Kamtchatka to Timbouktou. It is child’s play for a company that wishes to operate behind the anonymity of the net to write up a web page and give a bogus location.

Except that French authorities seem to have managed to lay hands on some of the pharmaceutical products the company had sold to some EU pharmacies.

The Viagra and other products were all fake! EU pharmacies were conned by carefully planned marketing con-jobs, including substitution of de-activated products codes.

That’s for the news report! And it had to be featured a few hours after Mr. James Michel, President of the Seychelles had met his French counterpart, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy!

I was saddened that my beloved country had to be named as part of the ring of cyber-crime, though there was no proof that the company targeted by the news report is actually based in my homeland

Notwithstanding, Seychelles' national authorities should be diligent in assessing the merits of companies registered to do business from our shores. The world must know that it is not only our natural landscape that is pristine and attractive. So must be our national pride and conscience, and we must strive never to lose these to base cupidity in the quest to fill the national coffers!

mercredi 19 septembre 2007

Seychelles National Assembly:
Trading Democracy against Preservation of Political Stability?

Doesn’t it make you sometimes wonder whether the Seychelles National Assembly deserves to be considered as a serious national institution? Perception of the importance of its vital role seems to me to be recurringly affected by what appears to be overly petty debates.

Such a feeling arose when I read of the Nation’s reporting of 19th September 2007, of an intervention made by no less than the Vice-President of the country, albeit in his capacity as Minister for Internal Affairs, in response to a question raised by the Honourable Leader of Government Business.

This most honourable member of the House would have the nation believe that it is a matter of national importance for the House and the country to know how much it costs the national Police Force each time it is requested to assist in events of a political nature.

And the VP obliged!!. SCR 40,000.00 to SCR 60,000.00, to mobilise and maintain at operational level, some 250 to 300 officers, he revealed!

Not to assist however, but to watch over the event.

Not only the event itself as it takes place, but much before it even gets going!

And this involves not only the Police, but also the army, which is sometimes called in and placed on standby to assist the police in case the event should run out of control and turn violent, he declared!

And, lest the House and the country fail to remember the usual chorus line, the VP had to throw in the ‘negative effect’ political events may have on the country’s image as a tourist destination!!!

I daresay the Honourable Leader of Government Business is as much interested in the matter she raised before the House as she is with her first set of bloomers! Her query seems more directed at some vague political aim of painting groups who hold political events as irresponsible in both squandering national resources and sullying the national pristine tourism image!

Could it be that the Honourable lady failed to take note that squandering national resources is also evident when an SCR8,000.00 a-month Hon. member of the Assembly takes time to prepare and send her questions; for the Clerk of the Assembly to draft and forward same to the competent Executive Authority; for the august office of the Vice President to mobilise his personnel for research and response and to organise his schedule to include presence in and response to the Assembly? Did anybody bother to research the costs involved? Probably not! Because it would be quite un-called for and serving only the cause of pettiness! Just as the Hon. LoGB’s question.

It is possible that both the Hon. LoGB and the VP were too taken in by their role to use the Assembly as a forum for free public education (sic!) that they seemed to have missed a few vital points, and thereby failing to truly and correctly educate the people!

One is that the Police Force in any country is always mobilised when any event, which is likely to cause a crowd or assembly, is scheduled to occur in a public place. The mobilisation is necessary both to uphold the rights of free assembly and to preserve and protect the public peace! As with everything undertaken by a public authority, there is a price tag, which is borne by the operational budget. This is true for all police forces in the world. Just as true as it would be irresponsible for any national public authority to shirk this duty.

Another point is the democratic right enshrined in the constitution for freedom of assembly. This right is neither for dogs nor for anarchy. In all democracies of the world, free citizens make just use of their right to assemble together and press for redress of whatever they may perceive as grievances. It would be a denial of their right and a mockery of the constitution if, the Police were to fail in their responsibilities, over a matter of resources squandered!

Yet another point too often missed is that if Seychelles is deservedly a truly magnificent and world-renown tourist destination, its patrons, in their vast majority, come from countries with well-established democracies. Countries where, as private citizens, they enjoy the rights and freedoms they would want to see everywhere they go.

Just as they could be disturbed, in their own country, by an assembly turned ugly, so they would be anywhere else. None would however, make the link between democracy, rights and freedoms and the preservation of the tranquillity of their favourite holiday destination.

We must not do so for them!

We must guard from trading our rights and freedom against preservation of what some considers as political stability to entice tourists! Both are beyond value to us!

We should be simply allowed to embrace all our rights and freedoms in a civilised and peaceful manner and never find cause to feel threatened by the state whenever we exercise those rights!

And therein lies the trouble.

The incumbent Government of Seychelles seems to go paranoid whenever the country takes a path that could lead to truly embracing freedom! This threatens their power hold on the land! Thus the police force, most of the regular and the whole of the para-military (how else can one count up to 300?) and the military are called in, sometimes to intimidate, at other times to directly intervene and deny the rights and freedoms given by the constitution! The October 2006 incident around the National Assembly, is an illustration of the latter!

jeudi 13 septembre 2007

Seychelles Government’s August 2007 Public Service Restructuring Exercise:

How much of it is really ‘Answering the people’s call ‘

Excerpts from the 'Nation' daily newspaper of 13th September 2007:

…….President James Michel has said that the government’s ongoing restructuring programme is in effect answering the call of the population for a government that is more efficient and accountable. He also noted that in his consultations with the private sector, the need for a more responsive and less heavy government had consistently been on the agenda.

….(the) restructuring exercise (……) was aimed at a leaner and more efficient government, “a Government that is not intended simply as a means of employment for as large a portion of the population as possible, but rather a Government which is a true facilitator”. Government restructuring “had been a cry on the lips of our population for a while now”, and that the question of Government efficiency was a key debate during consultations that he had had in the districts. “Members of the public have demanded that government be more accountable. And so they should, it is their right as citizens that the civil service be accountable to them,” “Efficiency and performance are the benchmarks. We have long assumed that a Government job is for life. But we have to move forward and ensure the implementation of a true meritocracy

“Some ministries have bloated up over the years without necessarily maintaining their efficiency or becoming more efficient. Similarly, some ministries had two or three departments, sections or units performing more or less the same functions. As a result of this, things got stalled or were duplicated,” President Michel said.

“It is better to have only one unit or section who performs efficiently and makes things move and that those people who are made redundant in this downsizing exercise are redeployed in other workplaces where they can be more productive,”

Describing as “hypocritical” the actions by some people to melodramatise the redundancy issue, President Michel said that only 56 people so far had been made redundant and that the majority of them were being assisted in efforts to have them redeployed in the productive or private sectors. (Nation 13-9-2007)

Ok! Let’s try to get behind the cant and rhetoric.

Government of Seychelles is the single most significant employer in the land.

The public sector answers to the needs of a service – oriented administration. Added to this public sector are the not insignificant personnel from the 35-odd organisations of the parastatal sector and other national authorities, ranging from tourism regulation, training, civil aviation, banking, marketing, trade and commerce to housing and Island development, amongst others.

In so far as the current Government is a successor to itself since the coup d'etat of 1977, it can reasonably be argued that it has, over the years, and despite recurring past restructurations, created the bloated public service that, it seeks yet again today to restructure. If this time round restructuring may indeed be a necessity, how true can it be that it ‘answers the call of the people’?

To restructure means to organise differently. In our local public administration context, this has implied, as can be expected, dismantlement or reorganisation of ministries, with the inevitable and well-announced aim of making them more efficient but with no prior warning of the resulting redundancies.

How did the people make this call?

Was it not answering the people’s call when, over the years, Government initiated public service schemes one after the other to bolster employment? On the lower end of the employment scale, we had the Full Employment Scheme, the Youth Entrepreneurial Scheme, the District Beautification Scheme, to name a few. On the upper end, we had ministries frequently re-organised with new departments and divisions with new Principal Secretaries, Director Generals, Directors and Managers, along with their plethora of lower echelons technocrats and bureaucrats. All these were aimed at answering the call of the people for an efficient public service.

The persons who are today justifying the need to trim down the public service and avoid duplication are, by and large, the very ones who, over the years, directly took part in the decision-making process to approve the various re-structuration proposals that led to today’s ailing, bloated and inefficient service.

If the restructurations that have come and gone over the years were all in response to the needs of the people, how can today we tell whether or not the people truly know what they want in terms of public service administration.? Or is it an indication that high level decision makers consistently fail to truly understand the needs and calls of the people and and mask their own incompetence and ineficiency in the guise of restructructuration?

Very often in the past, we have heard various personalities, some well-informed and others far less so, posing as representatives of the people, denouncing the public service as overly bureaucratic!

The people is admittedly justified when it clamours for less bureaucracy! Bureaucracy however is not about getting rid of people. It is about getting rid of the heavy load of regulations and procedures, in order to secure some public service delivery.

However, it is not a simple matter to merely flush away the set of rules and procedures created and approved with the well-intended aim of rendering the public service more efficient and accountable.

It is a tasking exercise to keep tabs on the merit of each set of rules and procedures in efficiently delivering public service against the sometimes unjustified, if understandable frustrations, of those of the community denied a particular desired or promised service for simply failing to qualify for same. In these instances, the public service officer who is applying the rules and following procedures in a professional manner then becomes the target of vituperations, and, in the context of an island community where everyone knows everyone else, is often passionately accused of pushing a particular political agenda. The unfounded accusation, if often and loudly repeated, will gradually build itself up into an accepted truth, which, in the context of partisan politics in our public service, always leads to a witch-hunt of opposition party sympathisers.
It speaks volumes on the merits, qualifications and talents of the highly–placed public service decision makers when the structures created to efficiently deliver public service are regularly dismantled. The dismantlement however, never takes away any significant part of the public service or the rules and procedures or the officers required to ensure compliance. It merely unloads the odd section that is perceived to have become cumbersome or the public service officer who has become persona non grata!
This therefore, is what I understand the 2007 public service restructuring exercise to be!

Is it truly contributing to a public service sliming exercise when Government decides to re-organise its ministerial departments resulting in 56 redundancies? How far far-reaching will this be in terms of less duplication and improved efficiency?

If a true answer can only be reached from a careful analysis of Government public service organisational structures before and after the current exercise, the justifications given thus far fail to convince!

But could we be barking up the wrong tree? The truth of the matter may very well be elsewhere!

The truth may lie in that we have an employment base made fat and heavy from years of well-intended but unwise and short-term social and employment policies ranging from nationalisation to full-employment and other schemes and restructurations during the time when employment in public service was needed both to pacify those on the lower socio-economic spectrum and reward others who had demonstrated militant zeal and dedication to a particular political cause. Bottom line is that now, when considered purely in economic terms, we can ill-afford this bloated public service that costs more that it benefits the country.

It smacks of a certain clichéd political partisanship for Government to shrug off as ‘hypocritical melodramatisation’ the criticisms of its August 2007 public service restructuration. The exercise has certainly caused discontent in those made redundant and a sympathetic ripple among their immediate circles and at least some concern in others.

Any self-respecting political opposition would pounce on the atmosphere of local discontent and concern to seek political capital at the expense of the ruling party.

Wisdom suggests however, that when Church Leaders are moved to the point of making public statements on the matter, then the issue is not solely one of partisan politics!

No self –respecting public service can make any pretence at efficiency if it cannot ensure job security. No public service officer can perform to best ability in an atmosphere of uncertainty and stress over the secure tenure and career development of the office.

Unfortunately, from the experience the country has had of similar past ‘restructuring’, it can be surmised that it’s the usual sword of Damocles which comes in the wake of national elections and which falls mostly over those heads of the public service which had not showed the expected level of dedication and zeal in their support of the ruling party’s cause, or worse, had been misled into believing that democracy had truly arrived, with its accompanying rights and freedoms to which every man, woman and child can make just claims as free citizens!

The government of the ruling party has never failed to bring all to their senses.

Because in our beautiful islands, there is a democracy and rights and freedoms that are not defined in the same way they are in other democratically accountable countries.

The local national leaders speak pompously on democracy. The president even talked on meritocracy, which latter has probably caused Michael Young to shudder, and Karl Marx to sigh, in their respective graves!

On the one hand, one has only to look at some of the current highly placed faces in the local public service structure to wonder about their talents and merits! On the other, isn’t meritocracy anathema to the practices and philosophies the country has been exposed to these past 30 years?

Let’s face it! Rights and freedoms in our country derive directly from the largesse of the ruling party. Few of us seem to understand this reality. Most of us pay more attention to, and have misplaced hopes in, the public statements and other lip service dutifully given more to appease foreign observers than to seriously allow any policy or national effort to truly render the Seychellois free!

Others may have understood it clearly and wisely camouflaged their feelings and beliefs in the now well-established national tradition of ‘Vey son pye diri ‘.

To date, however, few public service structures have withstood the post-election vengeful brooms! Did not the 2nd republic’s former president call out against the serpents.? Isn’t THAT part of what the people clamoured for. ‘Tir li, I pa ek nou’!

Sadly, this seems to be the call the President of all Seychellois is responding to! Public service efficiency is only a decent dress with which to clothe a base action.

mardi 3 juillet 2007

Cabinet Reshuffle or Playing Musical Chairs In Seychelles

It is the prerogative of the head of state to appoint and reshuffle the cabinet.

In exercising this priviledge, the head of state seeks to lay down the thrust of national policies and priorities as well as to chart the course that the state administration will follow.

Other than the inevitable and quasi universal portfolios of Health, Finance, Education, Employment, Sports and Culture, the cabinet portfolios in every country give a clear message of what the administration will do and the areas of priority thrusts for national development, based on the economic realities of the country and the potential it has and needs to harness and harvest to secure sustainable national economic and social development.

The thrust can be for developing basic economic mainstays which latter vary from country to country. Some have vast natural resources and other development potential (oil, timber, and valuable minerals, fisheries, agriculture, tourism.) Where viable natural resources are wanting, the thrust for national development often are laid on the services sector, such as human resources, trade and commerce.
The boss at State House declared he wanted to : set new policies, transform the way things are done in the country, focus on efficiency, reduce bureaucracy,
have a government that relinquishes its role as an employer and takes on the role of facilitator. In short an annouced change for everybody’s betterment. Sustainable national economic development was not to be part of the game.

Indeed the new administration annouced on 3rd July (2007) seems to lack a discernible thrust of national priorities, and appears to be more of a musical chair play, shifting personalities around and regrouping of portfolios with a timely (if sometimes deserving) retirement and what can pass as an ill-disguised move to maintain the Party heriditary allegiances.

Not unsurprisingly, the focus of the new administration seems to be more on the usual services delivery. These are (not in order of priority):

Health, Education, Foreign Affairs, Human Resource Development, Revenue Collection, Environment, Transport, Housing, Community Development, Youth, Sports, Culture, Young Leaders, Investment, Land Use, Information, Communication, Technology, Planning Authority, Reclamation Work, Natural Ressources, Social Development.

There is no indication of adequate emphasis on our most viable national economic mainstays such as Fisheries and Tourism ( though there is a new portfolio for oil exploration.)

Fisheries is probably covered within the Natural Ressources Division along with Agriculture. Both remain at the same level of national emphasis as the more services-oriented Transport and Environment sectors. They apparently are not deserving of any particular emphasis. A Fishing Authority is to be run by an executive formerly (reportedly) from a revenue collection office.

Tourism is relegated from the attention of the Vice President to a board headed by a former Principal Secretary.

The new cabinet also has the usual mix of overlapping roles.

The office of the president has a high executive in charge of Young Leaders, while another high executive in a Ministry is responsible for youth affairs.

Civil Aviation is not to be confounded with the Transport Division. The latter is barracked to land transport and presumably to road construction and maintenance.

Land Use and Urban Planning remain two distinct areas of responsibility. The former is even quaintly regrouped with Investment and Industries.

Environment seems to be deserving of such national import that it has both ministerial and presidential attention.

Regrettably, while reclamation work seems to have been elevated to national importance, there is scant focus on internal security and policing. No indication either that the oft-declared quests for higher moral values, stronger families, intensified fight against social evils (illegal drugs use and trafficking, crime, domestic violence) greater national unity and harmony will receive any particular national attention.

What can one say? Good Luck to the new team. Do the best you can!

A little word of appreciation for Mrs Sylvette Pool though. She 's been in there since mid 1980s and has charted Information, Culture, Youth, Sports portfolios through good and bad times. Have a battery-recharging retirement Ma'am! You deserve it!

mardi 5 juin 2007

Political lies and fallacies in Seychelles

Today in Seychelles, the national authorities are celebrating an event that occurred 30 years ago.

It was a coup d’etat.

Since the moment of its first execution to the present day, it has been ennobled by being relabelled “Liberation” in the name of Freedom and Liberty against exploitation and colonial oppression.

Whether or not there was exploitation and oppression in our land to the point that it justified armed revolt is a matter of debate. In my view, the Freedom and Liberty that will therefore most officially be celebrated in the country today appear to me to have been a fabrication that endured 14 years from 1977 to 1991 before revealing itself to have been nothing more than a convenient banner to rally behind in order to mask darker political ambitions of the leaders of the political opposition which, at the time of the power take-over, represented 47% of the electorate.

Their coup d’etat brought in a socialist-oriented, single party regime, to govern and rule the nation undisputed till 1993, and since, to continue ruling with scant attention paid to the demands of some 43% of the nation who has since rallied behind the opposition.

To many therefore, the new regime of 1977 developed to represent the very force of oppression it had sought to replace.

If these are the Freedom and Liberty now being celebrated, then they are ideals that need to be re-defined so that the nation as one could rejoice.

My purpose today is, in so far as my memory and the little reading of some background material permit, to remind myself of what my beloved country has gone through. It is also to commit my thoughts and impressions to share with whoever needs to be reminded never to accept blindly what is said.

It is not my intention to have another bout of SPUP / SPPF bashing. I simply wish to put into perspective some of the circumstances of the socialist regime, which I believe, seemed to belie the statements made by its leaders in support of their coup d’état.

In so doing, I recognise that I can make no pretence at absolute historical exactitude, and that what I take for facts may be disputed by whoever has opposing views on this subject.

Nonetheless, I will try to argue my point by briefly positioning Seychelles through the years of her young history right up to that fateful night of 4th June 1977.

Then I will consider selected statements made both in 1977 and in 1978, that gave justifications for the coup d'Etat and will make my comments on these, not so ancient statements, that still continue in 2006 -2007 to reflect the attitude and policies of the government of the day, as the following indicates:

"The majority of Seychellois will tomorrow celebrate a very memorable date that is very dear to our hearts: the 30th anniversary of June 5, 1977 when a group of fearless Seychellois changed the course of this country for the better, forever.

This group of Seychellois made the dreams of the people their pre-occupation when they lit the flame of the country’s liberation which led to extraordinary development and progress.
It is the June 5 1977 event which has lit the way to success and guided us to transform the conditions of our people who had been oppressed for a long time
" - Nation, 4th June 2007

Seychelles and British Colonial rule

British Colonial rule

History tells us that, on their interminable quest to expand their mercantile, cultural and other horizons, the western Europeans, from the late 15th century through to the end of 19th century, established themselves as the dominating powers in the farthest reaches of the world, often through suppression and outright extermination of local potentates and cultures.

The process has been called colonisation.

Whatever moral or political stance we make today with regard to it, it nonetheless will remain an undisputed part of the world history that takes its justifications from the morals and politics of the time.

Throughout the colonial empires of Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Germany, the colonies served the principal purpose of upholding the influence and power of the ‘mother country’ in international affairs, and as the natural resources of individual colonies allowed, lining the metropolitan treasury

In the case of the British Empire, colonial rule and administration was generally perceived as good, if benignly patronising. The colonial power developed the colonies’ services and infrastructures, however restricted this may have been to the main centres of colonial administration and despite it having more to do with the colonial power’s own comforts, health, safety and other strategic interests, than the welfare of the indigenous populations!

Notwithstanding, and in keeping with establishing its cultural influence and lifestyles, British colonial administration throughout the empire, upheld the rule of law, permitted free trade, freedom of expression and ensuring some form of representation and participation of local nationals in the running of national affairs. This has been a lasting legacy enduring, to this day, to a lesser or greater extent, throughout the countries of the British Commonwealth.

The Seychelles Islands

The islands of Seychelles were part of the French Empire from the mid 18th to until the early 19th Century when the 5700 or so souls living isolated, at a minimum 2-months’ sailing, from everyone else, became part of the British Empire through some Peace Treaty that ended a far away Napoleonic war between Britain and France.

British rule abolished slavery, allowed the Roman Catholic Church to establish itself, and despite what seemed to have been the hardships of daily living of the time, the colony’s population tripled within 100 years.

From the early 20th century when the administration of the islands was separated from that of Mauritius, the services and infrastructures of the new colony received greater attention, despite the country having no natural resources worthy of large scale exploitation. (The copra, patshouli and cinnamon oil industries and other island products weighed little in the trade and commerce basket of the British Empire).

Colonial Infrastructure development in Seychelles

Without seeking to praise colonial administration, it must be recognised that a significant part of what the islands today enjoy in terms of infrastructure and services were laid down less than 100 years ago.

At the same time, let us also recognise, that this is as it should have been!

New solid, permanent structures were built in the centre of what was becoming the new Capital, to house the public administration and the courts of law, the mainstays of British rule. British colonial administration established the organisation of public service, which endures to this day, along with all the basic statutes that still govern our modern life.

And to ensure that no Seychellois should be too far removed from the administration of Justice, courts were extended to include magistrates’ courts buildings at Grand Anse Praslin and Anse Royale, this in a country where no one is further than 30 km distant from the capital.

The colony’s health and social welfare infrastructures and services were bolstered under the colonial administrations of Governors Charles Richard Mackey O'Brien (1912-1918), Eustace Edward Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes (1918-1922), Sir Joseph Aloysius Byrne (1922-1927) through to William Marston Logan (1942-1947) Sir Percy Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke (1947-1951) and Sir John Kingsmill Thorp (1958-1961) with the construction of the new hospital building, for improved health care and services, built in the 1920s, (and a National monument of the new republic in the 1980s). By the 1950s, this service was extended to include referral hospitals on Praslin, La Digue and at Anse Royale.

During the same period, the Fiennes Institute was built, as were schools, road networks and all - weather surfacing for the east and north coastal main roads, the Victoria pier and harbour, the Victoria market, (also a national monument since the 1980s.)

By the mid 1970s, the islands had a new international airport to receive inter-continental long haul flights and forever jettison its centuries’ old isolation!

If the country were being exploited and oppressed during that period, then it must have been of a particular flavour as the colonial administration left their legacies that endure to this day, not only in the infrastructures and services they provided, but in the names they left behind as a reminder of a country’s appreciation. To name a few: Logan Hospital on La Digue, Sir Selwyn-Selwyn Clarke Market in Victoria, Sir John Thorpe School in Victoria, Obrien House at Le Rocher, the recent Fiennes Institute at Plaisance, the Sweet Escott road at Anse Royale.

The move to independence

The islands’ course through history will be once again determined by events occurring far beyond its shores, when, at the end of the First World War, with the world opinion becoming more pro-emancipation, the British Empire started to succumb to rising expectations among colonial populations to be granted an increased measure of self-government. At the same time, it had to face nationalist agitation against economic disparities, often stimulated by perceived acts of racial discrimination by British settlers.

Seychelles’ early to mid 20th century politics were characteristically, very much in the hands of the British colonial system.

From the mid 1930’s British Colonial rule and administration had to contend with, and adjust to, local demands for increased local participation in the running of local affairs. By the mid 1940s the local Legislative Council comprised 4 directly elected members.

The Legislative Council comprised mostly the well-off in society of the time, the land-owners, merchants and other tax-payers (i.e the middle classes) along with the colonial power. It was seen by some as a mere extention of colonial rule and in the 1960s, with the onset of the so-called Cold War between the forces of Western Liberalism (Capitalism) and International Communism, and the nationalism the latter inspired to seek an increased influence over the former, the country would take that irrevocable step to once again allow its destiny to be charted by politics debated beyond her horizon

Mid 1960s Politics

Two new parties grew up in the mid 1960s to contest the right to represent the aspirations of the Seychellois.

One was the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) of lawyer France Albert Rene, mostly pro-socialist and anti British rule.

The other was the Seychelles Democratic Party, of Lawyer James Richard Mancham, mostly liberal and, at the time, more in favour of closer ties with Britain such as those currently governing several former colonies: Gibraltar, the Falklands, St. Helena, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, etc

Both of the new political parties conducted separate, public and generally peaceful campaigns to further their causes and the right to seats at the 1967 Legislative Assembly Elections.

Mr Rene’s party however was seen as more prone to turn the campaign into ugliness in what local observers found as a policy of violence and aggression.

The party held protest marches against a variety of issues including what were described as unfair and unjust living conditions in the country (la prosesyon diri), the opening up of the country to tourism (anti tourism demonstration at Intendance Beach), the BIOT and its proposed military naval bases

Through their party-affiliated Workers’ Unions, it held strikes for better work conditions and pay. The strikes invariably ended up in rioting with the police using batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Terrorist actions were also partly laid at the doorstep of the SPUP when private commercial enterprises and public utilities were bombed during the brief period 1969-1972

In the early hours of 30th May 1971, an explosion caused by a demolition charge placed on the radio broadcasting premises at Union Vale totally destroyed the transmitters. The radio went off the air for several months. No responsibility was ever claimed nor were criminal charges ever brought against whomever.

A year later, in March 1972, just before the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth II on a royal visit, bombs exploded within the commercial areas of Le Chantier and Market Street. Some local observers ascribed the explosions to political protest against British presence and rule in the islands

Guy POOL, an activist of the SPUP, was found guilty of placing a bomb at the newly-built Anse Aux Pins, Reef Hotel in the early 1970s.

Following Guy Pool’s statements during his trial, Mr Rene himself was brought to court to answer charges that he and his party had planned and instructed the execution of these acts. It was then claimed that the planning was carried out from the Plaisance SPUP branch Office, at the time situated at the junction just opposite the La Misere –East Coast road. An East African lawyer, was recruited to represent Mr Rene, who was eventually cleared of all charges by the court.
Wild bush fires also erupted over the country during each election campaign. Private businesses, shops, kilns, etc, caught fire! Responsibility for these acts of arson were all generally ascribed to the SPUP. No proof was ever provided. No one was ever charged.

Despite these violent and fiery acts, both parties contested free and fair national elections (1967, 1970, 1974) on the basis of universal adult (21 years) suffrage. The SDP won the majority votes at each of these elections with 53.8% and 52.37% votes in 1970 and 1974 respectively

The result of these elections led both parties to participate in the national Legislative Councils, thereby effectively participating in the direction and management of national affairs. (The sessions of the Legislative Council were held at the main hall of the Seychelles College during the early 1970s, before they were transferred to the newly constructed National House.)

London Constitutional Conventions

Both parties were also represented at the London Constitutional Conventions (1974, 1975) that would eventually steer the country to Independence.

Negotiations and consensus reached at these conventions paved the way for the leader of the Seychelles Democratic Party, Mr James R. Mancham to become Chief Minister of the country from 1974, by virtue of his party having won the majority of electoral seats in the 1974 national elections, and to be President upon accession to Independence. Mr Rene was to become the nation’s Prime Minister in a government of national unity. (Coalition Government)

When the country became Independent in June 1976, the inter-party consensus was strictly applied. Mr Mancham became the new President. Mr France A. Rene, leader of the opposition party, the SPUP, became Prime Minister. Other members of the SPUP were given Ministerial portfolios.
The Seychellois people had thus effectively taken part in the national democratic process during the whole pre-independence period which, by and large, peacefully led the country to full independence and were all fully represented at the highest level of government!

Mr Rene, as Prime Minister of the newly independent country, swore allegiance to the constitution and loyalty to the Government. As the second-in-command of the executive, he had the priviledged position of fostering his party’s cause in the country’s destiny, irregardless of whether or not he was in agreement with the policies and strategies of the new Government under Mr. Mancham’s leadership.

History would prove that there were political ambitions that went further than to be second-in-command.

Coup d’Etat

On the evening of 4th June 1977, when the President and several other senior Ministers were on official overseas missions, Mr Rene, with some 200 members of the SPUP, staged a coup d’Etat and overthrew the Government of which he was part

He thus effectively betrayed the trust he was held in as well as the oath of allegiance he had made before the nation on Independence Night, June 29th 1976.

There is only one word to describe the betrayal of national oaths of allegiance: Treason.

The Seychellois, is a peace-loving people. They were understandably dismayed and fearful to find, from the day of the coup d’etat, gun-totting persons in the streets and hearing of violent deaths that had occurred from the use of these very same guns.

Nothing in their history had prepared them to confront this ugly reality. Many were on the way to or from early Sunday Church Services when they heard gunfire. Little did any understand, until they reached home or met someone along the paths away from main roads, who informed them of the terrible news.

Others were caught unawares and were fired upon, as happened along the Mont Fleuri road off the Corgat Estate Housing Estate. (Till recently, the road-side wall still bore the marks of bullet holes from AK47, silent testimony of that terrible moment when, in the name of freedom, Seychellois opened deadly fire on his unarmed and unsuspecting brothers.)
If at Corgat Estate, the gunfire caused more alarm than anything else, it took a more tragic

turn when those who had launched a deliberate and premeditated attack against the Police Armory killed Berard Jeannie, the unarmed Police Constable on duty then.

Another terrible tragedy occurred along Benezet Street in Central Victoria where Davidson Chang Him lost his life to those who were calling themselves liberators.

The same tragedy would touch a certain Francis Rachel, member of the 200 who participated in the putsch.

Over the years, the nation will silently mourn her lost sons: Gilbert Morgan, Hasanali, Sonny Elizabeth, Simon Denousse, Alton Ahtime, Gerard Hoareau and others who simply disappeared or had 'accidents'. While we may not fully endorse the particular paths some of them trod upon, we respect their spirit, which having drunk from the fountain of liberty and nurtured in island joie de vivre, like ours, refused to be kept in the bottle of socialist tyranny, even if "à la Seychelloise." They paid the ultimate price for their defiance and their sacrifice remains a bright beacon on both the merit of standing up for democracy, rights and freedom, as well as the need for any change to be sought through peaceful and democratic means!

To this day, the circumstances of these tragedies remain largely a mystery, notwithstanding, which, Francis Rachel, one of the lost sons from the 'liberators' ' camp, was made into a national hero.

The whole country quite reasonably therefore, posed no objection to letting Mr Rene, over the initial years and thereafter, claim his victorious and unchallenged power take-over and crown himself as a conquering liberator.

Rationale for power take-over

Most free-thinkers in the country however understood very well that freedom for the people was merely a convenient argument used to secure the power and influence that had been denied by the democratic process.

And to the conqueror, the spoils and priviledges, including that to write history in any way chosen, irregardless of truths and facts.

In effect, Mr Rene’s regime got off on a basis of lies and half-truths that would be its 28-year hallmark.
On the morning of the 5th June 1977, the national radio, then the sole means of immediate, mass public information, announced at its 6.30 am opening time, that a group of people had carried out a coup d’etat, during the early hours of the day and had asked Mr Rene to form and lead a new government.

Later on in the same day, Mr Rene came in to address the nation over the radio.

Who was or not behind the putsch?

The nation will subsequently learn that Mr Rene was central to the planning and execution of the act including concluding arrangements with Nyerere’s regime in Tanzania for immediate direct military support and with the OAU, via the latter’s Liberation Committee, for immediate diplomatic recognition.

Who is or not masters in his country?

He declared, over the national radio, that Seychellois, despite being independent, were not masters in their own country. He thus conveniently ignored the well-established democratic process in the country, and in which his party had vociferously, and often also violently, participated.

Petty politics

He showered sarcasm on his predecessor and accused him of being flamboyant and more a playboy than President. He denounced his predecessor’s presidential motorcades and magnanimously declared that he would never have such styles around him. Pettiness was further officially elevated to the level of national politics when he announced his disdain for the honorary presidential title of ‘Your Excellency’

The whole nation will notice that for the next 28 years, Mr Rene would never travel anywhere in the country without an armed personal bodyguard by his side and a whole convoy of armed soldiers and armoured vehicles. As to playboy tastes, let the nation speak for itself.

Gift of the gab

Mr Rene was a man who seemed to enjoy listening to himself talk and who seemed to thrive before the obsequiousness of his peers. He seemed to have a gift of voluntarily wrapping verbal nooses around his opportunistic political neck at each time he is offered the chance to subject the nation to his particular, and often colourful, rhetoric.

I have selected some excerpts of the national address he made before the nation at the first commemorative anniversary of his coup d’etat.

The Government newspaper, Nation, carried the whole speech. The text is in what was then Creole at its early development stage as a language. I have attempted to literally translate this while retaining all its nuances to the local ears

I then chose to comment on the statements in order to show how Mr Rene was either mis-led, misguided and mis-informed or he carefully and cunningly mis-led, misguided and mis-informed the nation with a series of lies, half truths, fallacies and magnanimous promises, that was to be the hall-mark of his 28-year rule.

Date: 5th June 1978

Occasion: Public Speech at the Commemorative first year anniversary of the coup d’etat of 5th June 1977

Venue: Stadium, Victoria, Republic of Seychelles

1. On the people’s participation in ‘how the country should be run’

«We have started to set up a system that allows the people to express themselves. Before our liberation, people did not have the means to express their opinions. It is true that they could gossip and nag in the market or at street corners, but no one could seriously give his opinion on how the country should be run.” (translated. Source: Souvenir issue, Seychelles Nation, 5.6.78)


This statement conveniently ignored the whole democratic process that Mr Rene had participated in from 1964 and which had seen the country achieve Independence in a generally peaceful manner

Three national elections on the basis of multi-party contest and universal adult suffrage were held in 1967, 1970 and 1974. Two main political parties came to the fore : The SPUP of Mr Rene and the SDP of his rival, Mr Mancham.

Each party was free to hold its campaigns and convince voters to rally behind its banners and cause.

The two main political parties, Mr Rene’s SPUP and Mr Mancham’s SDP, who together pulled over 90% of popular votes, were represented on the Legislative Councils and subsequently at the Constitutional Conventions of 1974 and 1975 that would steer the country to Independence.

This whole process was the recognised, civilised and lawful way by which a nation contributes to charting its destiny.

Mr Rene was effectively negating history when he opted to say otherwise.

2. On freedom of expression

In each district, there is branch office. In each region, there is the militia – radio and press is open for everybody. Workers have their National Unions and women have a national organisation. In addition, there is a special office where we can say what we want.”


This was cynicism at its most elevated level.

The new régime had just abolished all political parties other than the SPUP.

The branch office in each district was that of the SPUP and the opinion that really counted was that which endorses the philosophies and causes of that party.

No one dared come forward to suggest any other view points.

And, not uncharacteristically, an SDP supporter would never deem foul the doorstep of an SPUP branch office. This latter regrettable attitude endures to this day.

Whereas Mr. Rene was right to claim that people felt free to express themselves, he conveniently omitted to point out that this was always a priviledge enjoyed by his partisans only and which was always to endorse party guidelines, principles and actions.

Of press and radio

In so far as the press and radio were concerned, there was simply no comment to cause a ripple in the smooth monologue of the one-party socialist state rhetoric. The press was muzzled. The last independent press ‘the Weekend Life’ would be finally banned some months after that commemorative speech.

The radio used to broadcast international news and public-participation programs. These were cut off and the radio became a party propaganda machine. No views contrary to those of the regime were ever expressed over the radio.

Arrest and Imprisonment without charge and trial, Forced exile

Fearful of counter-coup attempts, and in that regard the régime’s fears were not unfounded as the November 1981 mercenary attack would show, the nation was frequently subjected to ratzias and ensuing curfews.

The ratzias pulled in persons suspected of being unsympathetic towards the regime, for long spells in jails without charge or trial. Many would opt to emigrate. At one point, it was even reported that some 25% of the national population was living outside the country, mostly on forced exile.

There were frequent reports of people ‘disappearing’, never to be heard of again.

The regime used the radio services to broadcast its unsavoury serial ‘Konplo 412’ made up of bugged conversations of dissidents in London. It then gloated over the 1985 assassination of a prominent Seychellois dissident, a Mr. Gerard Hoareau, living in London.

Fear to voice one’s opinion had set in.

When multi-party democracy was re-introduced in 1991 and the country had its first multi-party represented assembly in 16 years, the nation was reminded of what could happen to anyone who dared voice an opinion different from that of the regime’s.

This happened during a formal session of the newly elected National Assembly, when Mr Christopher Gill, a directly elected Member from the district of Belombre, and member of the opposition party, railed against what he perceived as grievances to be laid at the ruling party’s door.

Obviously displeased at what he was hearing, Mr Francis Mcgregor, Speaker of the National Assembly and member of the ruling party’s Central Committee, darkly reminded Mr Gill ‘ou war ou, si nou ti dan lepok parti inik, ou ti ann disparet!’ (if we were in the one party state era, you would have disappeared!)

Surprisingly, this remarkable statement made little impression on the nation, other than timid complaints within the political opposition.

Vey son pye diri (Looking to one’ own)

Those who had no means to emigrate or who would not consider abandoning their cherished motherland, would merely opt to either keep their mouths shut about whatever they found disagreeable with the regime or fake their support. A phrase was coined for this attitude: ‘sakenn i vey son pye diri’( roughly : each look to his own, or’ safeguard one’s interest’

The Militia

As for the militia, one fails to see how this rag-tag assembly had anything to do with freedom of expression.

The Militia was made up of volunteers, all members and militants of the SPUP with a mix of intelligentsia rubbing shoulders with other common folks in a display of real or orchestrated new egalitarianism.

They were given some basic military training, armed with AK47 kalashnikov rifles and briefed on their mission to ‘defend the revolution’ which consisted mainly of personal dedication, and sensitising others, to the party’s cause, but which the most visible aspect was nightly armed patrols against any eventual ‘counter-revolutionary act’.

The militia endures to this day. It has dropped its revolutionary cant and is now doffed in grey slacks, renamed National Guards and ascribed to security duties at public and sometimes private buildings.

National Workers Union

The National Workers Union did effectively exist. How it represented workers has never been clear. Officials on its management committee were party supporters nominated or appointed by the party (sometimes via mock-elections).
I may be wrong, but it does not seem that, in its whole history from 1978 to 1993, the NWU ever once called out against injustices, unfairness, discrimination etc. at the work place, public or private. Or ever once made a proposal for labour laws or work relations. It most certainly did not conduct labour strikes.

Women’s Organisation

There was, indeed a women’s organisation. It was the party’s Women Organisation and would soon be named the ‘SPPF Women Organisation’ when the SPUP changed its name to SPPF.

The office where ‘we can say what we want’

The office where ‘we can say what we want’ was called ‘the Complaints Office’. It did exist for a year or two.
I may be wrong but it does not seem that this office ever presented any public statement or report of complaints received and how these were managed, if at all.

3. on fisheries and agriculture:

“During the last twelve months, we have thought a lot about agriculture and fisheries…….we have signed agreements with England and France to start our own Industrial Tuna Fishing. On the matter of traditional demersal fishing, we have decided to build a Cold Store with a 100-ton capacity. This cold store is for two reasons. Firstly, to ensure that we have enough reasonably priced fish through all seasons such that everyone can have fish. Secondly, to allow fishermen to sell their catch, irrespective of the time they come in from the fishing banks.

For us to be able to develop our country, we must firstly produce our own food. Last year we imported more than Rs. 60M of food from overseas. Therefore we must grow our food…….”


These would be laughable, were it not about the economic destiny of the nation.

28 years after the country heard those heroically noble words, it still had nothing substantial to show for either Industrial Tuna Fishing or Food Self sufficiency

Industrial Tuna Fishing

National development strategy to launch either Industrial Tuna Fishing. (ITF) or Agriculture has been at best haphazard and all but abandoned after some fits and starts.

Asian long liners were soon joined by European purse seiners and both continue to harvest the fish from our territorial waters.

In the late 80’s, there was a move to start a national purse seiner fleet. Two vessels were commissioned from the Sento shipyard in France. The first of these burned and sank shortly before it was to be delivered, in circumstances never fully elaborated (which is somewhat surprising given the vigilance and professionalism of French authorities )

The second vessel – the largest civilian ship of composite construction to be built in France, was delivered with pomp and ceremony and named, ‘Spirit of Koxe’. It never actually managed to set our ITF off. It would appear that the co-owner and master Jean-Marie Avallone, of the firm “Armement Avallone” subsequently acquired the ship for operation in the Mediterranean region .

28 years down the road, the Ministry of Fisheries had evolved to being a department swallowed by the Ministry of Environment.

The fisheries sector is currently championed by a tuna canning factory owned and operated by foreigners with some local labour input.

There are licences granted to foreign fishing fleets, fees derived from ship handling, one or two privately-owned small-scale local fisheries-export oriented businesses, a state enterprise producing prawns and the traditional fishing sector for the local market.

During the period 2000 – 2003, the combined local owned and / or operated, export-oriented fisheries sector contributes a meagre annual average 8.8% to the total national fisheries export trade.(source (

Agriculture and Self Sufficiency


For the Agricultural Sector, the call for self sufficiency was to be shown as more pomp and fanfare than anything serious.

A state company was created. Grandly named, the State Agricultural Development Corporation, (SADECO) had a short life. It started off with projects to grow potatoes, fruits, vegetables, breed animals, etc.

Its flagship base, a large estate of prime land compulsorily acquired from its private owner in ‘in the interest of the state’ under the national land acquisition laws, did turn up a few fruit trees. But the land was turned over for housing development in the late 1990s.

Our valiant attempts at growing potatoes turned up a few publicity campaign and political propaganda harvests for a year or two. Then it got forgotten amidst potato blight that had soon infested other local traditional cultivation like coco-yams.

SADECO did not live to beyond the 1990s. It finally disappeared after a brief revelation of financial scandal and thievery.


A state enterprise pompously named Island Development Company (IDC) was also created to run the outlying island estates confiscated from its private owners. The islands were at the time mostly producing copra, guano, salted fish and other agricultural produce.

The IDC was to enhance the production of these traditional produce as well as to promote new productions of fresh poultry and other meats such as lamb and turkey.

By 2007, not a single piece of mutton was ever put on the local market nor any produced for export. The country continued to import turkey and by Christmas 2006, that annual roast was costing 300% more than its 1990 price.

Poultry production all but seized up. The chicken coops on Silhouette, the IDC’s flagship island, were abandoned and empty since the early 1990s.

In the early 2000, they were being used as site housing for Indian expatriate workers on private tourism development projects on the island.

The main singular activity that the IDC has managed to stick to over the years is that of seasonal harvesting of the eggs that migratory birds lay in millions on certain outlying islands such as Desnoeuf. A local traditional delicacy, the ‘birds’ egg’ now sells at 3000% of its 1960’s price. A heaven –sent manna to fill the IDC’s coffers.


Some time after the SADECO and IDC were launched, the regime created another state enterprise, the behemoth Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB). This became to be a very tentacular enterprise, manoeuvring to control everything from import-export to wholesale and retail commerce.

It soon became obligatory for all local farmers to sell their produce to the SMB. It became similarly obligatory for all fruit and vegetable retailers, butchers, animal fatteners, breeders, etc to buy from the SMB.

The latter set what it called seasonal prices for fruits and vegetables. Low prices in the typically abundant northwest monsoon period (November – March) and higher prices in the drier South West Monsoon.

A few years later and after considerable recurring objections across the country, the SMB abandoned its control of retail trade in vegetables and fruits. However, the price-reference point for these produce remained at the dry monsoon season level. Cost of living followed.

The fishermen had their traditional truculence to thank for keeping the SMB out of their hair. The SMB did try to impose the same conditions that applied to farmers. But it soon gave up.

4. On housing

“Over the last twelve months, Government has done a supreme effort to help people to build more houses. In one year, we have provided loans to 230 families whereas only 60 loans were provided (during the period 1974 to 1977……

….Since June 1977, we have bought several plots of land for us to build houses. And soon, the European Common Market will give us money to help us help our people to have their own houses……..

…….For us to get the money, those who give the money put conditions that we, as the people’s representatives, could not accept. For example, they wanted us to have pit latrines instead of septic tanks. This we refused. They told us it was not necessary to have a small garden for each house. This too we could not accept. Our tradition is that we have a small plantation nearby to our house and this tradition we have to protect……’


Decent housing is the preoccupation of nearly all governments across the world, irrespective of ideology.

Obviously Mr Rene’s government could not have, at the time, the priviledge of witnessing the evolution of their housing policies over the years. And it is of course easier now to analyse and criticise, with the benefit of hindsight. However, it is clear that the programs had built-in faults.

During the period mid 1960s to mid 1970s housing estates were built at Corgat Estate, Les Mamelles, Anse Aux Pins, and Port Glaud.

The houses were all made of bricks, covered with corrugated iron sheets, had louvred windows, internal plumbing, including sanitary facilities, and electricity.

Though the individual house was of a standard far above the often ramshackle and dilapidated abodes of a significant sector of the national population, their lay-out did not present an appealing estate.

The estate at Anse Aux Pins was quickly dubbed ‘Kan Poul’ (Chicken Camp ) and it, as well as the estates at Les Mamelles and Corgat Estate, slowly turned into a blur on the social housing landscape, racked by petty crime, incessant inter-neighbour squabbles, overflowing faulty drainage, etc

Individual housing units soon became over-crowded as family members grew up, had children and all tried to fit in the family home.

Notwithstanding, most of these housing estates endured their full 30-year lifespan till early 2000 when they underwent a thorough re-construction.

Kan Poul was razed in the 1990s. Les Mamelles was reconstructed in the early 2000. Corgat Estate is currently undergoing reconstruction.

At about the time the country became independent, the new Government of National Unity had a housing project at Pointe Larue, in what was to become the Nageon Housing Estate, to provide a new style of individual houses.

Three specimen houses were constructed by and to the west of the Pointe Larue coastal main road to show-case the project. Each were modern, independent of each other, and had its own grounds. They still stand today, though successive occupants have enhanced them.

The European Common Market financed the project and is presumably the same Mr Rene referred to in his commemorative speech.

Clearly, the project was on line well before the coup d’etat. And clearly, each house was to be of a standard above that of the previous housing estates.

Mr Rene was therefore not being truthful when he claimed that the Europeans did not want the houses to have flush toilets nor individual small gardens.

When his government finally completed the Nageon Housing Estate, none of the new houses resembled those show-cased by the road. Most were a combination of brickwork and timber with corrugated iron sheet roofing plus the, by then, basic standards of internal plumbing and electricity!

The nation was not particularly impressed. Nor were the occupants.

The Estate was quickly dubbed ‘Kan Pizon’ (Pigeons’ Camp) signifying local appreciation that it was not far above the Kan Poul estate at Anse Aux Pins.

Kan Pizon endures to this day.

Over the years, after the Nageon Housing Estate project, Mr Rene’s regime embarked on more large – scale social programs which included the provision of Housing. The regime was to face considerable pressure to deliver the goods.

Coupled with a policy of social patronisation, the housing policy required that some houses are of the highest standard. This is all to his regime’s credit, but in view of the high costs, this social arrogance to forgo the wisest economic investment policy would soon have him revert to the time-tested apartment buildings as part of his social housing program.

The pledge to protect the local tradition of the family garden by each house was quickly and easily discarded.

His regime still cannot provide housing for all as he promised 28 year ago and continues to promise to this day.

Some families, long used to fare for themselves rather than relying on state benevolence, managed to build their own homes, modest, modern and comfortable. Some took housing loans from either the private commercial banks or from under the Government’s Housing program and repaid their loans over a typically 10-15 year period

Others scrimped and saved and built their own houses slowly without taking any loans, relying only on family solidarity.

The greater number of local families however opted to rely on the state housing program.

Often enough, some enter their new houses and promptly ignore the rent or loan repayment thus seriously contributing to compromise the viability of the social housing program. The situation got to be so bad that in the early 2000, the Government disbanded the state Housing Development Corporation and re-structured the housing loan policy.

This allowed mostly for a transfer of housing loan management to and by the private commercial banks.

In 2006, the situation had not significantly improved, to the point that Government was compelled, half in what some observers call a pitiful vote-buying gesture for the imminent presidential election, to announce massive reductions in loan balance repayments, so as to have tenants pay for the houses they occupy and thus rid the state of the despairing unpaid social housing burden

In September 2007, the new Minister with portfolio responsibility for housing, acknowledged that Government sometimes bend to community pressure for housing. In his response to a question from the Honourable elected Member of the National Assembly for Anse Etoile district of North East Mahé, on issues of treated water supply and unspecified sewerage problem in newly constructed housing units at La Gogue village of the district. The Minister revealed that Government, under pressure to provide houses to persons from that district, allowed, 18 tenants to move into newly constructed houses when these units had not yet been connected to the treated water supply. The tenants had apparently given their prior agreement to this.

As a temporary measure, untreated water was provided from a stream, while waiting for treated supply which will be arranged upon completion of a SCR500,000, 100kl reservoir to serve the new housing units.

As for the unspecified sewerage problem, the Minister revealed that there is a plan to provide a sewerage treatment plant for the region. This however will only get underway after completion of the 2nd phase of the housing project. No dates were given.

Some would reasonably argue that this is clearly putting the cart before the horse. Which is not atypical shoddy planning in the face of social pressures for short-term relief and long term loss and problem management!

Housing development demands that basic infrastructure such as road access, electricity and water supply, communication, sewerage disposal / treatment, etc. is planned in detailed lay-out and, in as much as practicable, provided before the initiation of housing construction. If anything, the placement and density of housing units depends entirely on the infrastructure and lay-out. Not to do so invariably result in the type of problems raised in the new housing estate at La Gogue village. A situation not unusual in other estates provided during the last 10 years!

One aspect of the housing policy that merits a little attention is the Tenants’ Rights Act. Simply put, it allowed any tenant who had lawfully rented a house and properly executed the tenancy terms for a consecutive period of five years, to apply for full ownership of the rented house. This little piece of socialist legislation is perhaps the single most important cause for the lack of private sector financing in the housing.

5. On External Help

“The whole world has recognised that there is now, in Seychelles, a serious nation that has taken over the steering of the country……..a lot of countries and organisations are ready to help us build our new society. They know that the help they give will not be wasted and will be used in the interest of the people……But we will not be able to continue receiving aid. This is a sacred principle to us. We need to be a nation that can stand alone rather than one that relies on crutches.”


Nice words. And how awfully and terribly designed to lull and mis-inform

To cut a long story short, let us only consider that 28 years down the road, the national external debt remained at Rs. 2.6 billion or 70.31¨% GDP!

In a world of sympathetic socialist governments and like –minded international organisations from Europe, Asia and Africa, a flurry of enthusiasm allowed foreign aid to flow in immediately after the coup d’etat. The regime was thus well propped up

Perhaps we thought the day we would have to really stand alone was way, far way in the future

Then came the demise of the socialist block from the late 1980s. The new watch words became Democracy, Transparency, Good Governance and Respect of Human Rights.

Foreign aid trickled away.

And the country suddenly found itself without the crutches that had propped it up.

And we started toppling over!

The economic chasm that opened up before us has been made worse by one mis-guided economic and investment policy after another, coupled with waste, corruption, mis-management, cronyism.

From the Gold Card to the EDA, to the sale of Seychellois nationality, to the giving away of state land for Rs. 1, to foreign loans for white elephant projects, etc..

6. Of land development for Agriculture

Our agriculture on Mahe and the Outlying Islands must be mechanised. We have difficult terrain and we need machines. Before the end of this year, we are going to have, here in Seychelles, to help those who want to till the land, more tractors and other agricultural machinery that we have never seen before, and Government will put these at the disposal of those who are interested in toiling the land.”

No comment. Agricultural mechanisation never hit our islands.

The tractors and other un-seen before machines must have been dropped overboard during shipment from wherever they were promised