jeudi 18 février 2010

With Arab Money, Paradise will be turned into the Prostitute of the Indian Ocean

In 2008, for a symbolic SCRs.1.00 (then US$0.15, today US$0.08) the Seychelles Government transferred a large chunk of state land at La Misere to an Arab Sheik
When news of the transfer reached the public, it caused some outcry, with the local political opposition vocally denouncing another sign of what was deemed the Seychelles Government’s irresponsible management of national assets.
In response to the protests, the Seychelles Government, in the person of Minister Joel Morgan, informed that over and above the Government’s gratitude towards the considerable assistance Seychelles had benefited from the magnanimous Arab Sheikh in question, the land was deemed not suitable for development, ergo, its symbolic transfer value.
Barely a year after the Arab Sheikh became owner of part of the central highlands of Mahé, the nation was astounded to see one of the most extensive private residential development underway on land that was supposedly unsuitable for development.
Indications are that the palatial development has been undertaken contrary to Town and Country Planning Act (1976), which usually do not permit any construction to mar the national skyline (though this is not specifically stipulated in the Act!) (The former US tracking station’s characteristic white domes atop the mountains for over 30 years from the 1960s, was well before the Town and Country Planning Act. It was also a military project -usually exempted from city planning regulations - and the result of negotiations between the US military and the British colonial administration.)
There seems to have also been further concessions granted to the developer to import his reportedly 700-strong team of foreign nationals for the construction. Plus reported diplomatic priviledges allowing direct and duty free-imports for materials.

I consider it reasonable for the political opposition and others to have voiced outrage over this matter.

Because I also feel outraged.!

The outrage is not over an Arab Sheikh owning property in Seychelles and building his palace!

It is over the blatant irresponsibility of a government who, yet again, surrenders a piece of national territory to a foreign national for next to nothing (unless one were to factor in the favours and largesse received, and that may or not be related to the land transfer)
It is over the re-enactment of the same scenario (bar the transfer cost)of rich foreigners rushing in with their petro-dollars, lapping up parts of our limited national territory and driving real estate cost through the ceiling, effectively relegating us, and our modest desire to one day own a piece of land, to the place of dreams!
It is over the blatant arrogance of the particular Arab Sheikh developer to use his wealth, power and influence over our vapid local leaders, to put himself above the law and contemptuously shove aside our country’s development regulations.
It is over reports that the development site is de facto foreign territory to which our national law enforcement agencies may not even access to investigate and address recent reports of serious environmental pollution emanating from the development site.
It is over the all-too obvious signs that our government is quietly, and perhaps un-intentionally, turning Seychelles into the classiest prostitute of the Indian Ocean, pimping parts of our country to those of the richest, most influential foreigners who crave to own a piece of what we used to call paradise.
It is over the increasing sense of unease that my pride in living in and owning a piece of that paradise will, in the not too distant future, be turned into shame for being no less than part of the chattel that used to be Seychelles!
It is all the more galling in being totally unable to do anything to correct the outrage!

mercredi 10 février 2010

The risks are REAL

For once, The Independent article of 08.02 ( read like a fairly well-balanced appraisal of the potential risks to the Seychelles economic mainstays from pirates’ activity within or in proximity to Seychelles’ EEZ.

Minister Morgan’s refutal published by The Nation of 10.02 ( seems to focus on the one part of The Independent’s article that touched risks to the tourism industry. This rebuttal may be quite acceptable in terms of the expected official response to re-assure the sensitive (European)market.
While we are certainly not a “pirates’ paradise”, it would however be a grave mistake to brush off Daniel Howden’s “nightmare scenario ..(of) pirates washing up on one of the exclusive beaches waving guns at free-spending tourists” .

Seychelles’ territorial integrity does indeed stretch to small, low-lying remote islands sprinkled over a vast expanse of open sea. Some of these provide exclusive resort facilities to the higher end of the tourism market. Their remoteness, clientele and the proven capability of pirates to operate within range, do mark them as potential targets!

It is perhaps because of our having understood the risks that troops have been stationed on some of these islands!
Without ceding to paranoia, perhaps it would be wise to ensure reliable and immediate communication between our remote islands and Mahe. Perhaps we should also revise the deployment of the security forces in order to allow bases in the outer island groups, as both a visible deterrence as well as for rapid deployment, immediate and effective intervention.

This “nightmare scenario” of our sovereignty being compromised is not new. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, in the face of the humanitarian and political catastrophes that were hitting Mozambique, Madagascar and the Comoros, there were one or two who quietly voiced concern on whether or not we were equipped and ready to manage a potential tide of refugees that could unlawfully be landed on our remotest islands. Fortunately we were never put to the test.
And then Somalia broke down and Western Naval Security Forces inadvertently pushed Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden into the South West Indian Ocean!

mardi 9 février 2010

La Plaine St Andre : A piece of Seychelles Cultural Heritage askew ?

Lest we forget:
The object of what was presented in the “Nation” of 09.02.2010 as part of our national heritage should not only be the buildings and vestiges of what was once the property of Grand Blanc Jean-François Marie Jorre de Saint Jorre.
It must also be a recall of what we now know to have been the sufferings and indignities visited upon the flesh and souls of those who were deemed simpler and humbler, torn from their ancestral lands and forced to serve the needs of their Grand Blanc master in the person of Mr Jorre de St Jorre. True, there were then, others like him lording it in our land: Sauveur Thomas Audibert, Guichard, Fournier, Antoine Barthélémy Hodoul, Jean François Hodoul, (père et fils) Julien Antoine Hodoul, Antoine Maurel, Pierre Hangard, Jean Marie Le Beuze, Charles Blaise Savy, Pierre Fournier Louis d’Offay de Rieux, Andre Nageon de l’Estang, Landrous, Maximilien Morel, Pierre Gontier, and Jean Pierre Langlois, and others, bourgeois, vulnerable nobles, demobilised military or adventurers, the whole bag of them, who had all left their troubled country (from St Malo, Antibes, Morbihan, Yonne, La Ciotat and Ile de France or Ile Bourbon,) and fortunes in search of better prospects, and in the process, bestowed upon themselves the merit of being more cultured and civilised.
That the nation must preserve whatever vestige that has survived through the ages as an enduring silent testimony of the past, is a good thing. However, in order for us not to be a modern and accommodating accomplice in perpetuating the ignominy of our humbler ancestors being cast aside, unworthy of homage and remembrance, we must guard against modern economic projects that divert focus to only the visible signs that allow immediate recall of the prestige and vibrant fortunes and glory of a certain era, the stuff that commercial promoters – and perhaps influence from the circle of contemporary descendants of the Grand Blanc – would be more comfortable with as an income generating tourist trap.
We must not dismiss further into the mists of time and our collective conscience, the memories of what our enslaved forebears had to endure to shore up the prestige and glory of the Grand Blanc. Should we but dig into the foundations of the La Plaine St Andre Estate, we would perhaps discover that these lay upon the silent bones of those whom history never bothered to give a name: The Mingas, Bristols, Moumous, Lajoies, Octobres, Samedis, Kissombees, Acikciris, Poonelewas, Amices, Lesperances, and so many others whose memories need to be stirred from our national archives where they lie silent and dusty.

Ironical it is indeed, that in the name of Cultural Heritage, we have since the 1980s been focussing so much national attention to restoring the glory of an edifice that reeks of Grand Blanc arrogance and oppression, the same stuff that some prominent local politician with a gift of the gab used to bludgeon us with as the embodiment of evil and the supreme obstacle along the path to national freedom.
The modern Savys now have beyond life-time lease of Ste Anne, the same land that in early 19th century, their Grand Blanc ancestor Charles Dorothé Savy worked his 100 or so slaves before the abolition of slavery.
The Hodouls have their La Ciotat. The Nageon de l’Estang, d’Offay de Rieux, Gonthier, Maurel, etc, all have had their fair share of prominence in the contemporary social, economic and political life of the nation. Will La Plaine St Andre be yet another reminder that history can afford to frolic only around the memories and vestiges of the rich, powerful and influential?

Go Eddy! GO

Modest and humble but moving on with dogged determination, Eddy Maillet makes us all proud.
The truth and sacrifices of his personal and private journey from humble Sports Assistant (Physical Education Instructor) with the National Youth Service and defender in his district amateur football team in the 1980’s to FIFA 2010 World Cup Referee is one that perhaps Eddy will –must- one day tell.
Whether or not Eddy gets to be the Man In Black on the RSA World Cup pitch is secondary to what he is now for us all and to football in our islands. He is a beacon that has been steady and uncompromising, and unlike some of us, his ambition and drive never an object for the public limelight until the goal is achieved.
Congratulations Eddy! I share with you and your family the pride and glory of your moment!