jeudi 14 avril 2011

Has the La Misere Community been sacrificed on the altar of “Raison d’Etat?”

I read with interest, the nation’s 14th April report of the Seychelles’ Minister for Internal Affairs…. responding in the National Assembly to a Private Notice Question from the Leader of the Opposition on the matter of compensation payment to the families of La Misere whose water supply was polluted from works underway to construct the UAE Sheikh's “palace”!

There is no doubt that the Seychelles Government, through the offices of both the Attorney General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Office, Internal Affairs and the PUC spent considerable energy in sorting through the complex web of causality and accountability to negotiate a settlement.
There is also no doubt that the mobilisation of the La Misere Community, contributed to keeping the pressure on all parties for the matter not to be brushed aside. This in itself is a significant first in our country. One where a community can, by itself –allbeit with perhaps some underlying coordination from those who sought to gain political capital from the situation- rise as David to tackle and call to task the Goliath in both our Government and the all-powerful UAE sheikh and his construction company. (Some may reasonably argue that under our current legislation, BOTH the latter should be held responsible!!)

It is a good thing that ASCON, the construction company, has recognised being at fault and committed itself to compensation payment.
The responsibility of ASCON for causing the damage having been established and accepted, one would have thought that in the search for fair compensation, the negotiating parties on the Seychelles’ Government’s side would have had foremost in mind, the immediate physical and psychological trauma and suffering the la Misere community endured, (and the probable long term effects that some will likely be required to manage each time they turn on their household water supply). This and this consideration alone should have been their motivation to hammer out a deal with ASCON.

This is not the impression I get when I read the nation report of 14th April. At the end of the day, what has transpired seems to be the priority need to settle compensation rather than take the ASCON bull’s horn and bring it to fully and completely settle the tort it caused.
I read that ASCON has:
a) agreed to a limit US$20,400.00 per household (?) person (?)
b) not agreed to pay compensation to:

i) home owners who were not occupying their houses at the time of the damages but whose house plumbing installations were contaminated.

ii)bona fide persons, not legally residents of the area but who were visiting relatives at the time and who were thus exposed to the contamination as were the usual residents.

While I acknowledge the inevitable give and take in any negotiation, I am of the view that when the Seychelles representative went to the negotiating table, notwithstanding that the public prosecutor has little business dealing with such matters, he/she did so as a sovereign state representing its citizens who suffered from established negligence and disregard to our Public Health Act by a private entity. Our representative must have done so with the certainty of our infringed laws and good cause on our side and the greater interest of our citizens at heart, not those of safeguarding the bilateral (sic) cooperation between the Seychelles state and the UAE through ASCON.

This latter is what seemed to have transpired.

How can the good Minister Morgan justify the government failing “to get a settlement with ASCON that covers all the categories of people involved”?
This implies that our negotiator abandoned the latter “category” knowing full well that they were deserving of compensation. That the government took “its moral responsibility and approached some of its foreign partners with the aim of increasing the money paid out to the victims who would not have been paid enough with ASCON’s offer,” is proof enough that the interest of the La Misere Community seems to have been sacrificed on the altar of “Raison d’Etat” and the compensation settlement expediently negotiated, perhaps in a complex mix of election deadlines, not wanting to kill the golden goose, the mirage of a US$20K manna falling in the wake of raw sewerage flowing out of household taps and not least, not appearing to be ungraciously rocking the good UAE sheikh’s boat!

In another time and place, there would have been a properly conducted litigation through the courts and settlement reached from a fuller and fairer appraisal of merits and dues of the La Misere Community, on the basis of He who Causes Suffering Must Pay Damages in line with the seriousness of the suffering caused. Our Seychelles Courts have shown that a person’s ruffled pride and reputation through real or imagined malice is deserving of US$36K compensation. What is the worth of real psychological damages and established medical conditions suffered by a person exposed to drinking water from his residential plumbing, contaminated by raw sewerage arising from negligence and nonconformity to the law, by a third party?

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