EXCLUSIVE: Why I am still prepared to stand for President... and why I bear no grudges, by Patrick Pillay
With the Presidential Elections looming next year, observers are starting to scrutinise the thoughts and actions of Seychelles politicians. Lewis Betsy, publisher of Seychelles Life, asked Patrick Pillay, leader of Lalyans Seselwa and the former Speaker of the National Assembly, for his personal assessment of the political situation – and his own plans. Here, in this exclusive report, are his fascinating answers...
SEYCHELLES LIFE: You told Seychelles Life last year that you wanted to be President. Is that still the case? Will you stand in the next Presidential Election?
PATRICK PILLAY: It is not that I want the post of President. It is more about Seychelles deserving better than the two political leaders who have announced their intention to be candidates in the 2020 Presidential Elections. Beautiful Seychelles deserves better than failed political leaders at the head of the Executive branch of Government. Yes, I will stand in the next Presidential Elections, if the political party that I lead selects me as their candidate.
When Lalyans Seselwa split with LDS, some of your colleagues stayed with the LDS. What do you think of them now? Would you welcome them back or do you still hold a grudge?
Actually, I do not think of them! What I do know is that at least two of them now regret leaving LS to find themselves supporting a defunct “Union’”which consists only of one political party, the SNP. It is common knowledge that an elected member for an Eastern district which was a bastion of US in the past dared express his difficulty in selling the “LDS” presidential candidate in his district. His boss remained calm at the caucus meeting. However, after the meeting the lawyer was verbally mauled by his new-found boss. Another one has sent me an email last year to say how he has a special place in his heart for me and appreciates all that I have done for him.
Actually, I bear no grudge against anybody. My stance in politics is that people have CHOICE and I must allow them to practise that. After 16 years as Minister in the SPPF Government, in 2009 I left the party because I could not reconcile the noble principles of the party with the actual practices (especially corruption) that I witnessed at close range. When you change from one political party to another it does not mean that you have abandoned your political consciousness and principles.?In truth, four of LS district reps who stood as candidates for Mr Francourt’s political party in the September 2016 National Assembly elections, have expressed the wish to come back to LS. It is a matter that will be decided upon by the National Executive Committee of LS.
I have always talked about a third force in Seychelles politics especially with regard to the next Presidential Election. Don’t you think it will be in the national interest for you to join forces with other political parties such as One Seychelles – headed by Seychelles’ former tourism minister Alain St Ange – as together you would have a stronger voice against United Seychelles?
I agree absolutely. This is how we have a National Assembly that has an opposition majority. Many LS supporters at the time were opposed to our party joining with SNP in particular. The rest is history. The political landscape in the country is evolving and while I agree with the principle you have proposed, it is early days and nearer the 2020 elections our party will study what is the best formula to “roul sa gro ros…”. Timing and strategy is of the essence here.
Has your trust in other opposition political leaders taken a fatal battering?
It would be inaccurate and unfair to lump all political leaders in the same bag. There is one Minister in the Faure administration who is very popular and well respected for his professionalism and competence. Having said that, I must admit that both candidates who have announced their intention to stand in the 2020 Presidential Elections have lost the trust of the electorate.
One is a very weak leader at the head of a dysfunctional, inept and non-performing administration. The other is a dangerous barrel of bitterness, anger, revenge and authoritarianism. So yes I have NO trust in them, especially after the Indian military base debacle and the undemocratic, unconstitutional and illegal regional councils.
United Seychelles also has its problems. Is it the threat it once was?
Not at all. The party that was founded by the late Albert Rene has never been as divided in its history as it is now. This started before Mr Faure took over the Presidency. His predecessor made many enemies within his party and alienated them. This continued when Mr Faure took over. There was much confusion when he announced that he was” divorcing” the party. I think the old diehards will still support the party of FAR come what may. But they are not in the majority.
What do you think about President Danny Faure asking the Electoral Commission to organise a referendum on whether Seychellois living abroad should vote in any Seychelles elections?
The constitution is clear that every Seychellois citizen has a right to vote. The barrier is Article 114 that states that a Seychellois citizen needs to have lived in Seychelles for three months to be able to register in an electoral district. As some experts have argued, this could be resolved if the cohabitation was working and the two parties in the National Assembly could have made amendment where necessary to the law or the constitution. This would have saved us an estimated 13 million rupees to organise the referendum. At the moment, there are some technical issues which need to be resolved. The Department of Immigration has no database on who has received Seychellois nationality and passports over the years.
In any case no law as promised by the President of the Republic has been presented to the NA for debate on the issue. Various high officials of the ruling party have made known their stance on the matter. They believe that people not living in Seychelles should not have a right to decide who the local leaders should be. This of course is debatable and it will make interesting listening when the National Assembly does get to debate the issue.
The growing drugs problem is destroying the lives of many of our young people. What is your view and how is Lalyans Seselwa going to deal with it?
The drugs and alcohol problem is a major national calamity. One has to give credit to Dr Patrick Herminie and the Agency for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation for trying to wean off those who are addicted, especially on heroin. I have said on different occasions publicly that I cannot believe that in a population as small as Seychelles, we cannot stop the supply of hard drugs entering the country. Most of the escobars are known to the National Drugs agency.
It may well be that the political will from the very top is lacking and the Commissioner of Police is working with his hands tied. LS has a very clear strategy to tackle both the drugs and the alcohol problem. We will unveil it nearer the elections.
Families are increasingly concerned about the high cost of living in Seychelles, and shockingly Victoria is now rated the 14th most expensive city in the world. What should be done?
The cost of living is priority number one for an LS-led Government. It has been debated time and again in the National Assembly, the Executive has made pronouncement after pronouncement about the issue, yet since September 2016, it has been just talk and more talk with no follow up action. LS has a very practical, pro-active and achievable plan that we will present to the electorate once the Presidential Elections are announced next year.
Can you tell us what you know about Cosmoledo, Astove, and Assumption? What is going on there?
I wish I knew. It is for this reason that in my last YouTube on “Speakers Corner” I sent a challenge to both the Leader of the Opposition (LOTTO) and President Faure to inform the Seychellois public as to what is happening on Cosmoledo, Astove, and Assumption. Vice-President Meriton and Glenny Savy should be invited to the NA to be quizzed by the House on what is going on on our outer islands. President Faure in his last Press conference said that it costs to get there. Was it a joke? There is an Islands Committee in the National Assembly headed by LOTTO, which has since last year been gallivanting to the outer islands. Did it not cost? I have informed him that we as a political party will be happy to send a rep there and pay for the transport.
I am sure other organisations, e.g. Preserve Seychelles and other Seychellois patriots, will be willing to pay for their fares to visit the three islands. All that the Government needs to do is to organise the trip. They may not respond to the challenge. That will not be unusual. However, as a political leader, nearer the 2020 elections, I have every intention to keep challenging them on this issue.
Politics is a bruising business that demands sacrifices on a personal level. How do you cope?
Yes, but it is also a fulfilling business when you see results even after you have been bruised. I speak from experience when I say that if you believe that what you are doing is right, and then you see positive results, it makes it all worthwhile. I like one of American President George W Bush's quotes. He said: “When you are fighting for what you believe is right you are toughened by the attacks and insults. The victims who suffer most are your children and family members.”
This has been certainly true in my case when JAM [former President James Alix Michel] led a series of nasty personal attacks on me. Who ran away? Him or me? I cope because I enjoy politics. I see it as serving the people and their interests; not for personal aggrandisement. I have enjoyed a political career serving particularly in the “social” sectors like Education, Health and Culture. I was Minister of Culture for eight years and at the time chaired the Kreol Festival Organising Committee. I really enjoyed those years because I firmly believe in creole culture and it’s role as a motor for societal progress.