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!