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Bribes, bickering, mud-slinging – Presidential candidates talk candidly to Seychelles Life about their battles… and their hopes

13th February 2020

Left, Entente: Alain St Ange, Right, Manifesto: Patrick Pillay
Left, Entente: Alain St Ange, Right, Manifesto: Patrick Pillay

With the Presidential elections entering a new phase, Seychelles Life was keen to hear what the opposition candidates have to say. 

President Danny Faure wants to stay in office and is standing as a candidate for United Seychelles under the banner of The Future is Faure. 

The President said that he recognises the challenges and past mistakes, and that the country should learn from these mistakes to move forward.

Seychelles Life asked key opposition party leaders about the state of the country and their plans and hopes for 2020.  

In the interest of fairness, we put the same questions to Wavel Ramkalawan, head of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS), Patrick Pillay, leader of Lalyans Seselwa and Alain St Ange, leader of One Seychelles, and here are their replies. Despite extending our deadline, we had not received a response from Mr Ramkalawan at the time of publishing.

SEYCHELLES LIFE: The history of Seychelles politics over the past 40 years has been the dominance of the pro-Government party now under the banner of United Seychelles (US). Any opposition success has been down to the unity among the various parties yet the opposition parties, or at least the leaders, appear at odds with each other again. At such a crucial time, can this be allowed to happen? 

PATRICK PILLAY

I cannot comment for any other political leader. However, I am not at odds with any other leader. I firmly believe that each leader should respect others and avoid dirty and gutter politics

ALAIN ST ANGE

Diversity of opinion and more choice for the electorate should be respected and embraced by believers of democracy. Different views and opinions should never be treated as categorising as being an enemy, instead it is and should be seen as strengthening the cause to get the best for the people. Seychelles, unfortunately, thinks big, but reacts with the smallest mind possible. When UO and SNP came on the scene many of the supporters of the then main opposition party (DP) screamed foul and said it was dividing the opposition instead of seeing what was wrong that caused the forming of a new group. The greens at that time were saying what I say today. Let democracy thrive, give choice, let the people decide. But should opposition parties be going out of their way to try to destroy each other, the simple logical answer is No. This is suicidal and helping the incumbent. One Seychelles, the party I lead, does not mention the LDS leadership at all, but instead continues to present to the electorate its manifesto and plans for a better Seychelles. One Seychelles concentrates itself at the current shortfalls and what should be done for the people to have a better life. Sadly, many prefer the mud-slinging alternative as the incumbent is left alone to move a consolidation approach for the coming elections.

SEYCHELLES LIFE: Do you think a new link-up of opposition parties is essential to defeat Danny Faure and United Seychelles in the presidential election? 

PATRICK PILLAY

No. I do not think a link-up of opposition parties is essential to defeat Danny Faure and his US. Danny Faure is the weakest of all the candidates who have expressed their interest in the coming presidential elections. He is also the least qualified of the lot. In 2015, the opposition parties linked up and still lost to James Michel. In 2020, the US is so divided that I believe it is at its weakest in the history of the party. I strongly believe that with a good candidate and a credible running mate, Lalyans Seselwa will win the presidential elections.

ALAIN ST ANGE

An entente is needed by all the opposition parties to achieve change, but as more personal attacks are thrown, the more difficult it becomes to achieve any consensus for the common cause. This is so obvious, and if in 2020 a small-minded approach and dictatorship attitude are still seen as the way forward then we are not ready for any change.

SEYCHELLES LIFE: Would an alliance between LDS, LS and OS achieve success?

PATRICK PILLAY 

LS is an alliance for and with ALL Seychellois. Sadly, all three other political parties have allowed internal divisions to leak into the public domain. Mr Alain St.Ange’s very public spat with his treasurer, Vincent Padayachy, cannot be any good for his image. Mr Danny Faure’s very public expulsion of the very popular and experienced MNA, Waven William, from the party’s Central Committee, will not have brought him any kudos. As for Mr Ramkalawan and his LDS party; there is much infighting. As a matter of fact the Clerk of the National Assembly has brought the Speaker to court. In 2019, the President brought the Speaker to court. In July 2017, when I called for fresh presidential elections and said publicly that the “cohabitation” was a joke, some in the opposition and in government said I had taken leave of my senses! It was almost like prophecy. In short, for the coming presidential elections Lalyans Seselwa will be going alone.

ALAIN ST ANGE

Different political parties are now on the scene and all are in the opposition camp looking for a change for Seychelles. The different breakaway groups are not working together for one reason or another. One Seychelles believes that we have but one Seychelles as our country and that our people must be first in their country. Patrick Pillay has shown 'grandeur d'esprit' and meets often to discuss politics and Seychelles. The LDS camp on the other hand sees us as an enemy for daring to challenge the status quo when they should be smelling the coffee and realising that all is not well. Insulting One Seychelles and its leadership will not help the opposition cause. This is obvious.

SEYCHELLES LIFE: What do you hope for and plan to do and how will this affect your approach to the National Assembly elections in 2021? 

PATRICK PILLAY 

I plan to have a very clear manifesto touching on all the different departments of government and different sectors of the economy. LS will continue to work for the needs of all Seychellois rather than the greed of a few. I have said time and again since the launch of our party five years ago, that my priority will be to eliminate corruption; that cancer that is killing Seychelles and the Seychellois. I know what corruption is about. In December 2015, I was offered three million US dollars to return to the Parti Lepep. It has no place in my heart and I will simply not stand for it. I will show no compassion or tolerance towards malfeasance, nepotism or hypocrisy. The first thing I will do is investigate the 50 million dollar grant or loan that came from Abu Dhabi and disappeared soon after. As for the 2021 National Assembly elections, it is early days. When LS wins this year’s elections the electorate will witness the determination and good management of the new democratically elected government. There will be discipline and order and foreign direct investment will start to flow in.

ALAIN ST ANGE

The coming elections will show the reality of a divisive approach strategy, as practised by LDS, versus a cooperation approach as was in place for the last general parliamentary elections. As it stands today, the parliamentary elections will be the most contested one ever. We are a political party and as such will contest every election and every electoral seat. The aim or obsession to push for deregistering us as a political party will not bring cooperation in the coming elections. Talk and be seen to want cooperation is a better approach. I rest my case.

SEYCHELLES LIFE: We note that the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission hearings are continuing to provide a harrowing insight into the brutal actions of the Government in the years Albert Rene was president. As you at some stage, though blameless, was involved in Rene’s administration do you have any view on those accounts or wish to make any comment? 

PATRICK PILLAY 

The revelations that have hit the public domain since the setting up of the TRNUC are harrowing indeed. I came back from University in UK in 1974. I have since been working tirelessly for the country that I love. In 1974, as part of my PGCE, I did my teaching practice in Woodway Park Comprehensive – a large secondary School in Coventry, England. When I graduated from Warwickshire University, the headmaster of Woodway Park offered me a teaching post in the school. I turned it down and came back to work for Seychelles. Since 1974, I have had many offers to work overseas especially by the Commonwealth. I have never left Seychelles apart from my spell in 1981 when I spent one year at the University of Sussex to study for a Masters in Education Management. I also spent two and a half very interesting years as High Commissioner in London (2010 to 2013).

To come back to your question, yes, I spent 16 years as Minister in the Government of President Rene and President Michel. From 1974 to 1992, I did not belong to any political party. It was well known that my parents, Paul and Maud Pillay, were staunch supporters of President James Mancham and his party the DP. I joined SPPF in 1992 at the invitation of President Rene and when multi-party politics had returned to the country. Indeed, I witnessed many nasty, sad and unacceptable events during the one-party state. Perhaps one that affected me most was the arrest and internment of my second brother John. After weeks spent at the Central Police Station, my mother asked me to go and fetch him when he was freed.

My comment on my time as a Minister under President Rene’s is that I always look on the positive side of life. I pride myself as being a fast learner and a very perceptive administrator. I therefore learnt a lot under the leadership of President Rene that has thus far stood me in good stead.

ALAIN ST ANGE

I followed in my father's footsteps early in life and left the system in place in the early 1980s feeling disillusioned when I resigned from my position as the elected member for La Digue (SPPF Member of the People’s Assembly. Both my father and I were not party or privy to any activities that could bear reproach today. I only came back to the Government as a technician to help make the country's economy work and to strengthen the island's tourism industry. I am happy I succeeded in that mission for Seychelles. 

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