mardi 28 avril 2009

Bravo Seychelles

A spot of appreciation goes to the SEYCHELLES' COAST GUARD for successfully responding to MSC Melody’s call for assistance, following a 26.04.09 foiled attack by pirates, and the follow-up and coordination by the Seychelles Coast Guard, that resulted in the interception of the pirates by a patrolling Spanish Frigate, their arrest and custody by the Seychelles Coast Guard.
That’s as reported by AP, courtesy as at 28.04.09 pm.

It was getting to be a tad worrisome to hear that these Somali wallahs were foraging at the fringes of our exclusive economic zone. The pirates attacking a cruise ship less that 300kms from our shores was either a declaration that they were fearless and powerful enough to predate anywhere and anytime they want, or a blatant act of qhat-induced recklessness verging on folly.

Now that we have nine pirates in our hands, let us hope that we do not flounder in the delicate diplomacy that will be required to manoeuvre between ensuring, on the one hand, the respect of our laws and international conventions, to which we are signatory, and which touch both matters of piracy within our territorial waters as well as potential threat to our national security, and on the other hand, using the nine Somalis as bargaining chips to secure the release of our compatriots held by other pirates in that chaotic land of Somalia.

We need to do what is right without causing any escalation, while at the same time letting it be known that we will not be caged in while pirates roam freely just beyond our shores, predating on our very livelihood.

jeudi 9 avril 2009

Koste Seselwa ?

“....paradise cannot be divided against itself. God did not give us this most beautiful of all countries for us to behave like cats and dogs conditioned by Red, Blue or Green parties which have lost all relevance under the conditions of today.
Today we must live on our own resources, not on polemics and slogans. Today we must face the truth and the realities and not be manipulators of divisive propaganda.
Through the philosophy of reconciliation we must destroy partisan, political polarisation and bring about a happy and equitable society where Seychellois will think about Seychelles First…….It is therefore important for today’s government to start thinking in this direction if its policy of working together is to be seen as sincere and serious.
Civilisation would be impossible without forgiveness. Life would be nothing but an endless cycle of vengeance, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, until we became a blind and toothless world…..”

This is what the Nation of 9-4-09 printed as a letter from Mr J.R.M Mancham, to share views he expects to elaborate upon before the national ‘Koste Seselwa Committee’

I wholly agree and applaud the Former and First President’s stance, consistent during the past 17 years since his first address on 12th April 1992, after 15 years in exile.
It also echoes similar positions recently taken by Mr. W. Ramkalawan, the Leader of the Opposition :
“... the leaders of this country need to come forward and acknowledge the wrongs that have brought so much hurt, seek ways to heal and from there we shall be able to live as a nation in unity. Too many hearts are still bleeding. There will never be peace as long as we have a nation with too many unsolved issues……. The other side of unity is indeed reconciliation. At a time when Mr. Michel is calling for the people to come together in those difficult times, is it not also the time for him to show initiative and lead by example? Should he not, together with the other leaders of this country for the last 32 years put finality to those issues? Is this not the way forward?.....” (Rebuilding Seychelles, SNP Leader's Message, 27-02-09)

Sadly, as with other similar past initiatives, this new call will likely fall on deaf ears.

For Mr. Mancham’s part, this will be simply because he is known to be from the Blue corner and the Reds in power have never shown the least inclination to seriously seek and work for National Unity other than in speeches that sound nice but that the wind has a nasty habit of ripping and carrying away until the next speech.

Fact is, after 32 years of holding the reins of power herding our 80K souls, the Reds just went and simply erased from memory, their own denunciations of not being given a fair chance at charting the way of the nation when they represented 46% of popular vote after the last pre-1976 winner-takes-all election.

The 1976 version of ‘Koste Seselwa’ was the platform that contributed to facilitating their forceful 1977 power take-over.

‘Chat chaudé craint l’eau froide’.

Despite the shift of forces in the local political arena and the systematic brainwashing by the incumbent Red Government since 1977, we remain deeply and enduringly split, along the lines of partisan politics. The Reds who used to be a big 46% minority are now the small majority (58.8% in 1993, 65.3% in 1998, 54.2% in 2002, 53.04% in 2004 and 56.2% in 2007.) The others, who were the small majority, are now the big minority, and the ones who clamour for the consideration they are deprived of.

Just as cats refrain from dipping in water, so do the Reds disdain power sharing. They are therefore most unlikely to revisit any form of government of National Unity, despite the calls they often regurgitated over the years, whenever it made good politics to be thus seen and heard.
A serious ‘Koste Seselwa’ call suggests that all children of the land is invited and welcome to come together and each take his rightful place in the task of nation-building.
It carries with it the unequivocal condition that when we come together, we do so with the trust that national interest is what we are all working for. We must not be expected to put aside our individual differences of politics or religion but recognise that these, and other differences, must bow before the greater importance and interest of our country.
It accepts that while we go about the business of nation building, we can each permit ourselves to express dissent and objections over the course we follow, as we may find cause to, and as is perfectly admissible in a democratic society. Dissent is healthy. With Objection, it contributes to keep our focus on consensus on what is best for the country. "Nobody has a monopoly on ideas", as the President J.A.Michel, said so himself.

The Reds have shown that they will never grasp this concept. They seem to find dissent and objection as redolent of the ghosts of dissatisfaction, power hunger and subversive overthrow plots, as they were in 1977. Coming together today is synonymous with rallying behind the one position that finds favour in their eyes. Theirs!

The current ‘Koste Seselwa’ drive seems therefore to be another slogan behind which they will, once again seek to manoeuvre, trying to stir patriotism and harness popular support. It is light-years away from a serious quest for National Unity, of the short-lived type the country basked under, from June 1976 to May 1977.

Let me hope I am wrong!

vendredi 3 avril 2009

This is utterly outrageous.

That criminals from the largely lawless Land of Punt would turn to piracy on the High Seas is bad enough. That they would venture to predate on one of their smallest neighbours is absolutely unforgivable.

Since the collapse of effective government in Somalia in the 1990s and the ever-increasing reports of piracy at the Horn of Africa by a bunch of disgruntled ex-militiamen and impoverished but strangely well-armed fishermen, there were glaring signs of the inevitability of little Seychelles eventually falling victim to the marauding Somali pirates. In November 2005 and April 2008, we made world news headlines when first a US cruise ship then, a Victoria-based Spanish purse-seiner managed to berth safely in Port Victoria after successfully escaping from attempted piracy some 150kms and 460kms respectively off the Somali Coast.

Over the last decade, there have been hundreds of attacks by pirates on shipping at the horn of Africa and in a large swath that lumbers down off the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and the Comorros.
Since 2005, at least 82 separate and well-documented (*) attacks occurred that put in grave danger, the lives of over 3200 ship-crew members, fishermen and cruise ship passengers from nations across all continents, including from small islands states.
17 crew members have lost their lives as a direct result of pirate attacks on their ships. 130 are still in captivity, excluding the 9 Seychellois, assumed to also be in pirates’ hands since end March 09.
For the same period and number of attacks, only 72 pirates have been captured and 16 killed.

It helps not that we may be fully explained why some Somalis have turned to piracy. We know that the strategic position of a country with a quasi non-existent government, on the rich international shipping / trade route that pinches at the Gulf of Aden and the juicy prizes that can be plucked at merest effort, have combined with both the complacency of international shipping and international diplomacy, to lure both local discontents and criminals as well as the global underworld to gather for rich pickings.

Piracy and business interests have shared and fought over the same seas since time immemorial, in particular within the West Indian Ocean area. From that co-existence, modern business seems to have developed into adopting a position that seeks to largely accommodate pirates’ demands.

In only 15 of the 82 documented cases since 2005, an estimated MINIMUM US$23.265M have been paid out to the pirates in order to secure the release of captured crew, ship and cargo.

This is rich pickings indeed that would not pass by without drawing attention of powerful underworld interests who will more and more be drawn like moths to a flame, to our corner of the world. It already is difficult to deal with illegal narcotics, illegal immigration, slavery and other like activities from which piracy is a mere derivation. The situation can escalate and could potentially spiral out of control.
There is enough money to pay for faster and better boats, better technology, more effective weapons, to intercept, capture and hold ships and crew for ever higher ransom!

This cycle has to be broken. The international community seems to have woken up at last and by virtue of a UN Security Council December 2008 resolution, is trying to contain the situation, particularly in the area immediately around the Horn of Africa between latitudes 6° - 14° N and 45°- 55°S, where shipping is at the greatest risk and where the multinational naval task force managed to foil at least 13 separate attacks involving the lives of some 200 crew members, and the capture or death of 52 pirates.

As they seek to contain the situation north, the pirates seem to be mobile enough to have shifted some of their attention south, spreading their predatory nets right across the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel, between 2°N-4°S and 48°-52°E. For us in Seychelles, that is too close for comfort!

The situation seems rather complex.

The Multi-national Task Force seem to be sometimes too bound by rules of engagement and diplomatic strings that must have the pirates and their command centers laughing.
Perhaps this explained their boldness to launch, in March 06, attacks against USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez. Or maybe they were just too ‘qhatted’ out!
A year later, in June 07, the USS Carter Hall failed to stop the capture of the MV Danica White and in October of the same year, the USS Porter also failed to stop the capture of the MV Golden Nori . A total US$2.5M were paid out in ransom.
The situation is also one of extreme danger to innocent crew, as the November 08 incident showed when the INS Tabar inadvertently destroyed the Thai FV Ekawat Nava 5 with the loss of 15 out of the 16 crew!

What is happening in the our western corner of the Indian Ocean is a pestering sore that has endured through the centuries and now needs to be cauterised and expunged. Small countries with limited resources like Seychelles, cannot afford to have the pirates gain a hold in the area where national security and sovereignty can be too easily challenged
Our country comprises small, remote islands too uncomfortably dispersed and over an area too easily accessible to pirates to both use as base to launch their attacks and as targets in themselves.

Now that piracy in the area has proven to offer rich prizes, those of the underworld can easily shift their attention from their other criminal activities to join ranks and cash in from our remote islands.

Each human life, even that of a pirate, is precious. However, when cupidity pushes someone to the point that human lives become mere barter chips that can be carelessly tossed aside, then we must harden our resolve not to be squeamish.

So far, the ‘Somali’ pirates seem not to have been specifically targeting ship crew, in so far as most captured have survived their ordeal. However this may change once our resolves harden. Hopefully, our 9 brothers will, along with the 130 ship crew still in captivity, find their freedom before the situation changes.

(*) Source: