jeudi 26 mai 2011

Putting Seychelles before all else

“..Putting Seychelles before all else” is indeed a noble cause for all the nation’s children to work for.
Fresh from its last and fourth consecutive electoral victory, the ruling party can afford to be magnanimous and invite everyone to take a rightful share in the task of nation building.
The local political opposition will, however, most likely and not unreasonably so, take the call join to in this noble cause, with a pinch of mistrust. Similar calls were made in the past and not much changed towards reinforcing our democracy, whether or not the political opposition made common cause with the ruling party.

Firstly, a political opposition has an unchanging reality the logic of which it cannot escape at the risk of losing its "raison d’être". It exists as a counter-balance to the government, a voice of dissent that, in a functioning and respected democracy, offers the vital check on, and alternative views of, government policies and programs elaborated from the ruling party’s political agenda. The logic for a political opposition is that it cannot afford to jump into bed with the ruling party, unless the nation confronts a major crisis the nature of which threatens national sovereignty and overshadows all partisan politics.

There not being, at this point in time, any crisis facing the nation, the call to the opposition from the ruling party must be taken as an invitation to do nothing more than assume its role as an opposition in a democracy, with responsibility and vigour. To use all means allowed under the Constitution to be as effective and vocal in the support and defence of the interests of the 45% of the electorate it represents.

The ruling party may cackle, strut and preen about the Government and the President being for every Seychellois. The reality has, is and will always be different. Our country has, is and will likely continue to be victim of the great political divide that has so divided us since the first days of the quest for political representation around the end of the 19th century.

Since then, political intolerance across the highly polarised divide has endured both the bumbling pre-independence years and the long, dark ones of One-Party rule where it was carefully cultivated to reach its culminating point to allow for all the country’s children who had a dissenting view of the ruling party’s policies to be crassly labelled as enemies of the state, to be persecuted, deprived of employment, shunned from the public service, handicapped in all economic ventures, blocked from business, when not imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile, and sadly for a few of them, killed outright!

If most of this last ugliness has washed away since the 3rd Republic, the nation remains polarised on its usual 55-45 split. The 45% minority still endures the frustration of the government of the 55% majority playing lip service to democracy while carrying on with business as usual of a one party state logic. No amount of cajoling or entreaties will do anything to help bridge this gap and "dialogue des sourds" unless there is a genuine efforts by the ruling party that it has a duty not only to make comforting speeches about national unity but to also vigorously pursue a national plan of action that will wear away at the mistrust and suspicion that bolster the political divide.

Nothing will change unless the ruling party makes an effort to recognise and respect the vital role of a political opposition in a democracy, and allows it to assume its role unfettered, as the Constitution allows it to.

Nothing will change unless the ruling party understands that, while the all the children of the nation expects to share in creating and benefiting from the national wealth, 45% also feel the need for the greater enjoyment of their constitutional rights, liberties and freedoms. As president Barrack Obama recently confirmed “…all human beings are endowed with certain rights that cannot be denied.”

This is the core “revendication” which the Seychelles President consistently fails to even understand, to wit his last inaugural address, where not one word was uttered, despite mild placating words in trying to define democracy as a “ dynamic process. In the New Seychelles we shall continue to put in place and strengthen our legal and institutional frameworks to ensure the progress of our democracy. It is my aim to improve on our achievements and to reinforce the rule of law, good governance and transparency. Seychelles is determined to provide a shining example of the development that is possible when good governance is prioritised”

Without the government respecting and guaranteeing our constitutional rights and freedoms, there is little chance of our democracy going any further than from the hole in which it is stuck!

But perhaps there may be a shift in the wind. In stating that “ is time for us to consider our brothers and sisters who may not share the same opinions as we do, not as our enemies, but as Seychellois who are also contributing to the future of our country, even if we remain political adversaries” president Michel may perhaps be having the first whiff of understanding that business as usual will need to yield to the higher recognition that we need to bridge the gap of political intolerance. An understanding that will perhaps grow into recognition that, indeed, the political opposition and behind it, 45% of the population, are no longer enemies, but sons and daughters of the land, equal before the law, with as much rights and freedoms to be respected as everyone else.

From this, there could be a chance of us all to work, each in our own ways, towards reinforcing our democracy, creating national wealth, ensuring professional and ethics-bound public and security services, impartial and effective justice, fighting rampant social scourges, securing the future for generations to come. Then and then only, shall the country be proud to look the rest of the world in the eye and not blink one bit!

The first steps towards this noble goal shall be when:
* Appointments or promotion to senior and top executive posts in the Public Service (including within the military, paramilitary and police) along with membership to Parastatal Boards and Statutory Bodies, are decided on merit alone, the latter defined in terms of qualifications, proven experience, seniority and aptitude, as opposed to affiliation to and "militantisme" within the ranks of the ruling party.
* The Ministry of Community Development ceases to be, via the District Administration, the extention of the ruling party’s arm in ensuring politically- motivated local community development programs. Members of the district administration should at least reflect the prevailing local mood and aspirations.
* Specialised Health Care, Professional Training, along with financial support for commercial ventures, are decided upon by professionals on the merit of each case and on known, published criterion
* Housing programs, the concern of all governments, are developed in a serious and economically sustainable manner, and in accord with what the country can reasonable afford while not stinging on basic standards.
* Housing allocation and Social Welfare criterion are set, if necessary by proper legal instruments, and applied openly and fairly without interference by local politicians.
* Our human rights including freedom of speech and association along with no unlawful detention, a stop to all intimidation, and removal of all impediments to lawful assembly, broadcasting and publication are vigorously upheld and guaranteed. When no one may die not from known, medically established cause, in our country without there being a proper public inquest in the cause and circumstances of the death and, where applicable, criminal charges diligently pursued through the courts.
* Elections are handled by an impartial commission comprising persons of impeccable integrity with no known political affiliation. When the Voter Register is based on a verifiable district / national population database with cross-referrenced bio data, becomes credible from being open to reasonable challenge, is rid of those who are registered under multiple names from different districts, when a mechanism for inter-district migration record and control is set in place for election-registration purposes.
* When the Judiciary becomes truly impartial and given the means to properly discharge its responsibilities as the vital 3rd arm of our national setup. When the Courts will grow to grant equal considerations to the legal worth of all and every case without regard to the parties involved.
* When the national security forces grow to develop into a professional corps, governed by their oath to serve the country which is defined as excluding exclusive favours to the ruling party and its leaders and systematic intimidation of known opposition leaders and supporters. When new rules are put in place for the possession and display of firearms in public by the security forces and when there are professional rules of engagement in the use of firearms for maintaining law and public order. Such that no member of the security forces can continue to feel being above the law, with relative freedom to use deadly weapons such as in simple matters of search and arrest.

These are little steps that can be taken within the short term, will go a long way towards establishing trust in our system, make little demands on our economy and can deliver big dividends towards reinforcing our democracy. Then and only can the children of the land all join in the task of nation-building, certain that each is respected and none can be unreasonably expected to compromise one’s political position.

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