vendredi 3 juin 2011

The Future of our Democracy shall be the Judge

The first summary of the cabinet meeting, rendered public in the nation of 02.06 read like something at the end of a fairy tale when the badies have been bested and the do-gooders can set about the business of making the world a better place for ever after!
That there was even a report of the last cabinet meeting was in itself an event. Unless I have not been particularly attentive over the last 34 years, this is the first time, and despite numerous appeals, including, I believe from the former –and first-President, that direct information is made available on what the top echelons in the land have been discussing and decided upon in the interest of the nation. Let us hope that this first positive step in the right direction has not been more of a reflex magnanimous action from the buoyant electoral victory mood.

Seychelles being the small-island country that it is and the Seychellois being so passionately divided over politics for so long, the suspicion with which each side of the local political spectrum regard each other will likely endure and put to serious tests any move by the ruling party and incumbent government to make amends and move towards invigorating our democracy. I for one, while happy at the new developments, and hopeful that they are sincere and will make significant impact on our democracy, remain suspicious that they could also very well be another clever bit of window-dressing, a return to the good old, time-tested “make the right noises and they’ll leave us alone”. That the Presidential Candidate did not allow the merest whiff of what sounds now as a laudable move, is in itself, eloquent!

It will take more than just one cabinet meeting summary report to instil confidence in our democracy and Government. However, there is cause to hope that, after being rendered opaque by partisan politics for so many decades, the light of reason may finally be shining on the vision for the New Seychelles, by virtue of the far-reaching decisions taken by the new (renewed) cabinet.

Whilst Cabinet and the AG’s office by themselves have no authority to amend the Constitution, it is comforting that instructions have been given for the necessary proposals to be prepared for consideration by the National Assembly to amend the electoral laws allowing for an Election Commission, as opposed to the current One-Man Election Commissioner. This being a cardinal point of contention by the local political opposition, there is every hope that the amendments will receive the necessary votes! Unless the small prints to set up the Election Commission are such as to render the whole exercise pointless.

The proposed amendments of the Political Parties Act to allow regulation of Political party’s funding sources and expenditure of funds are welcome. They may introduce an element if not of control, then at least of transparency. Provided of course that the amendments include suitable provisions that make clear differentiation between Government’s funding programs and those of the ruling party’s. There is really no use going any further with the proposed amendments if they will offer nothing more than a repeat of de-linking of 1990’s vintage!

It took two presidential elections, a traumatic display of state-orchestrated police brutality against peaceful protests, a Riley Report and five years of acrimonious accusations from and by all sides, for Government to finally understand that it cannot make any pretence at wishing to uphold democracy without allowing unfettered freedom of expression. Let us hope that when given the chance and the means to finally operate, Radio (and perhaps TV) Freedom will find a new spot and live up to expectations to fairly and responsibly inform, educate and entertain rather than being another loud voice in a “dialogue des sourds”.

Dare we hope that the proposed new local governance system will not be mired in local partisan politics such that communities can truly participate in local decision – making? Experience caution us to be wary! In 1992 the District Council Act was rather short-lived when it became apparent that the ruling party could face political opposition from freely-elected local representatives at the local level. The District Administration quickly took over to maintain the ruling party’s controlling hand in the management of local affairs. A whole Ministry was created to this effect, contributing to blur the lines between government programs to local communities deriving from a public service and outright political shenanigans to bolster local support for the ruling party.

The future of our democracy will be the real and unforgiving judge of the newly re-elected President!

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