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Let 2020 be the year of real unity in Seychelles

17th December 2019

By Lewis Betsy

For me, 2019 represented a new beginning in Seychelles and now I want to see the nation head towards a fresh start in 2020.

To that end I am determined to take on a more personal role to help shape the future of our beautiful Seychelles.

But first of all, let me thank the National Assembly members for their hard work in the three years since the last NA election.

After many years of campaigning by Seychelles Life, and several others, we saw the setting up of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC). It provides a difficult but, I believe, essential process to heal the wounds of our recent history.

Among the first to testify were myself and my wife Juliana. We were able to state what suffering we had to go through since the Coup D’ Etat on the 5th June 1977 and our eventual exile.

I had returned to Seychelles after 40 years living abroad. But I discovered there are still many questions and no answers.

Even today I am still waiting to find out why I was arrested and detained for three months. It meant I lost the most important things in my life.

I lost my job, which I was enjoying. I lost my house which Juliana and I bought to start our family at La Misere. 

I lost my dream role in a sport I loved. I could not play football with my club Rovers and the Seychelles national team – where I was captain and had proudly taken our country to the final of the Indian Ocean Games in 1979.

Bad though that was, worse was to come.

On 15th November 1979, my best friend Gerard Hoarau, who was the coach of Rovers when I was captain, was also arrested and detained as was Paul Chow, secretary, Pat Barallon, treasurer, and goalkeeper Max Racombo.

It was the beginning of a dreadful end.

Gerard went into exile in South Africa and later moved on to England where in 1985 he was shot dead outside his London home. 

On my release I was told by the then Minister of Defence Ogilvy Berlouis that it would be best for me to go and live abroad too. He said it was for my own personal security because he didn’t think that it was safe for me to stay in Seychelles.

I went and found it very strange to start life in a different country. Fortunately, I had a sister Nadege and brother-in-law Robert in the United Kingdom who received me with open arms to start a new life there.

Giving my statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped me realise what we as a family had really suffered. I don’t want to see any other family going through that same process.

Today, after listening to the many accounts from other people who had similar experiences I still find it unbelievable that all this could happen on our beautiful islands.

They told harrowing stories of sadness, fear, intimidation, and detailed the disappearances, the killings, and the degrading experiences they endured during the time of the dictatorship of France Albert Rene.

Next year there will be more accounts before the Commission and we should brace ourselves to hear how bad this country has been to its own citizens.

I thank the panel on the TRNUC for the job they have done so far. It has been commendable. But I still want to see more Government representatives appearing before them, and for them to speak out openly.

Former president James Michel appeared by video link. “I am not afraid of the truth and I have nothing to hide despite the lies and rumours to the contrary on social media,” he said

It is a curious thing to see how political history is remembered by people from the opposite camp.

When Michel gave his account of the events during and after the 1977 coup, it was as if it he was merely a ghost in the action. He was there but he wasn’t there. 

He acknowledged he had a role helping Rene but that was it. He was innocent of any crime or wrongdoing. 

Yes, bad things happened but he didn’t know who did it. Someone else was responsible.

Of the coup he said : “I think it was necessary to carry out an action that would bring a radical change which has brought many benefits including social justice for all.”

Really? After all that has happened, isn’t that an insulting thing to say to the victims of Rene’s brutal administration?

It makes me question whether there will be any apology or explanation offered for the conduct of the Rene regime.

Michel is due to testify again soon so we wait to find out.

And talking of Governments, let’s see what President Danny Faure has to say about the state of our nation.

At his latest Press conference, President Faure said he would not be resigning before the 2020 presidential election. 

He boasted: “President Danny Faure will complete his mandate; the captain has to bring the ship to the port, not abandon it half-way, and only after this can the Seychellois people be able to choose the person it wants to lead the country.”

Captain Faure also said: “I am not under any pressure to announce my running mate; I will do it at the appropriate time. In that same spirit, my programme will also be revealed in due time.”

So much mystery then… and so much speculation on the horizon. 

One thing was clear though and that is while our master mariner accepts that he has not lived a blameless life he has survived it, bobbing up and down on the choppy political sea like a cork.

He said “Despite all the criticism, I have withstood it all.”

Let’s see how his self-confident captain navigates the forthcoming presidential elections.

One key topic that has deeply concerned Seychelles Life for some time now is drug abuse. It is a toxic attack on the life of our community. 

The reputation of our country for drug abuse is shameful and commentators are puzzled why we still appear unable to put a halt on the narcotics that have made thousands of our young men unfit for work or unwilling to even try it.

President Faure said that it was encouraging that all of the authorities, and both parties in the National Assembly, conceded that drug abuse is a problem for all of society.

The Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation is on the case, he said, and more money and new laws have been pledged to tackle the problem.

Strong words. I hope that his actions match them.

Yet drugs are not the only things dragging Seychelles down: Poverty and inequality are also increasingly major issues.

We can’t afford to continue the way we are going at the moment. Seychelles needs to change and change quickly. 

I wish the politicians could work together for a better Seychelles. We need to encourage a new attitude so everyone can work together for the benefit of the community.

There have been at least two generations since the coup and consequently many young people will have no idea what Seychelles used to be like. I want that time revisited.

So, on that hopeful note, let me take this opportunity to wish the people of Seychelles a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Let’s make 2020 the year for a vision of a better future.

Testimony: Lewis Betsy gives his account to the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission
Testimony: Lewis Betsy gives his account to the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission

Picture courtesy of Today in Seychelles