mercredi 1 septembre 2010

Making our National Assembly more effective

Yet another workshop where there will be a lot of polite blathering and where yet another well-intended foreigner will tell us the time from the watches on our wrists!

Once the talking will be over, the trainers gone and their mission reports duly filed, we will revert to the same old Assembly we have known since 1993. The one where the members, in particular from the ruling party, will continue to be rendered honourable by the sole requirement of their constitutional office. The one where there is no honour to be derived from bothering to stand up and speak out in the interest of the constituency. (The demise of Anse Aux Pins MPA Michel over abortion laws is likely still to be one that none will want to threaten their cosy tenures.) The one where the interest of the constituency is equated, sine qua non, to those of the ruling party!
Toeing the party line is, undeniably, not something unique to our National Assembly. What is unique to ours seems to be the quaint habit, transferred or acquired from other arms of government, of making the right noises when there is somebody around to listen and too willing to take our empty words seriously!

Our National Assembly takes itself seriously! As it should! Far from me to say the contrary! However, it can never hope to be effective in anything other than a rubber stamp for the Executive, unless it rids itself of the mind-set that the members represent their party first and foremost above the better interest of their constituencies. In a land where the interests of the constituencies can be easily swayed or bought around election time, there is little hope of the Seychelles National Assembly ever “living up to its constitutional responsibility of assuring more responsive and accountable governance”

Being flippant with our History ?

On the night of 4th-5th June 1977, a certain James Alix Michel was one of the central figures who helped the Leader of the SPUP (since SPPF, now SPP) to depose the President of the Seychelles’ 1976 SDP-SPUP Coalition Government.
One of the reasons given for the 1977 Coup d’Etat that ushered in 15 years of the SPUP-SPPF One-party rule, was that the Seychelles’ First President was more interested in, and spending too much time, travelling overseas and therefore forsaking the affairs of the country.

Since that terrible night, time has flowed and our collective memories have dimmed out or been blunted by the sheer weight of the unrelenting propaganda from the state-controlled media, including the Daily newspaper, Nation.

In 1976-1977, another James went overseas on presidential visits to continue in the job started some years earlier in his capacity as Chief Minister, to market Seychelles, and attract the interest of financiers and other donors willing to invest and aid in the building of the newly-born nation. Those were the times when our tourism industry got off the ground. Those were the times when the shroud of isolation started to lift, allowing Seychelles to start preparing its place under the sun.

33 years down the road, the Nation now comes out in stout defence of the necessary overseas travels of the current President, the same James Alix Michel of 1977.

We are expected to accept that this time round, the various (and many) overseas visits were “all in the name of Seychelles and our people”, and “have borne fruit. Seychelles’ image abroad has been greatly enhanced, and our country’s success and the harmony that reigns among our people has drawn the admiration of the world more than ever before”

Both Nation and the President flippantly overlooked the historical fact that the 1970s visits of the other James were not for his own personal benefit. They bore fruits from the inflow of foreign capital of which we all ate and upon which the 2nd Republic would build its fortress. The visits did build international partnerships on equal footing that endures to this day. They did spread the reputation of our peaceful harmony, along with what the first President was-and still is-fond of calling “our joie de vivre”, both undoubtedly convincing arguments to secure investments, at negotiation tables.

In 2010 James Alix Michel’s overseas travels seek the same purpose as those of the erstwhile First President. The only difference perhaps lies in that one never sold our land and souls to those with ready cash and undeclared ambitions whilst the other is too willing to accept immediate capital with little qualms over real risks of the nation forfeiting its dignity, independence and sovereignty

In 1977 James Richard Mancham’s overseas travels were enough for others to violently force him out of the Presidential office.
In 2010, James Alix Michel may grow to discover that his overseas visits may turn out to be a growing millstone around his political neck. At the next election, the nation may yet call him to account and pay the price for sacrificing our future development goals and pimping our independence and sovereignty against easy and immediate favours, in particular to indecently petrodollar rich Arab Sheikhs!