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I admire Ramkalawan’s vision and Seychelles Life will do its best to help him achieve unity in our nation

29th January 2021

Wavel Ramkalawan: Historic Presidential address
Wavel Ramkalawan: Historic Presidential address

 

By Lewis Betsy

 

It was a truly historic moment, and one that for years seemed an impossible dream.

Wavel Ramkalawan became the first elected Opposition President to give a State of the Nation address since the 1977 Coup D’ Etat of France Albert Rene.

He covered the difficult issues facing Seychelles: the main ones being clearly Covid-19 and the economic recession it has caused, and our massive problem with drugs

He had been in power for just 89 days and the challenges he faces as leader are unprecedented

I thought he did well, though there were a couple of puzzling omissions which I will come to shortly.

In his address, the President was courteous. He thanked the Electoral Commission, and his predecessor Danny Faure.

The peaceful transition of power, he said, was an indication to the world that Seychelles has grown and respects democracy.

He didn’t mention America or Donald Trump and the shambolic Presidential changeover there, but the comparison is very clear.

Then he listed the challenges.

Poignantly, the President observed a minute of silence in honour of the Seychellois who have lost their lives to the virus.

He thanked the health professionals and enforced the message of people staying safe to help the country deal with Covid-19.

Mr Ramkalawan announced with pride the start of the vaccination programme, for which I personally am very grateful as I have now had the jab myself.

He thanked the United Arab Emirates who assisted the country with the first consignment of vaccines comprising 50,000 Sinopharm vaccines as well as Prime Minister Modi and the government of India for selecting Seychelles as the first African country to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccinations.

By July 2021, Seychelles would have vaccinated at least 70 percent of the population and, he said, would have attained herd immunity.

Let us hope that he is right and we can get back on track re-establishing our economy and our lives.

On the drugs problem, the President was uncompromising. He said: “I want to tell all drug traffickers that they have been given their final warning. Please, stop poisoning our youths, we are coming for you. We are coming after you with no mercy. We are coming after you to liberate our youths, our youths that you have caused to be slaves. We will not look where you are or what your political opinion is, but we are coming after you.”

These are tough words, and the fight against the drugs barons is not going to be easy for him.

We have to make sure that the people of Seychelles understand how serious this issue is and I will do my best to get that message over.

This is a fight that we need to tackle together to save the young people of Seychelles. 

As everyone is no doubt very well aware, bigger countries such as the USA, Mexico and the UK have been trying hard – and failing – to eradicate the problem.

Seychelles needs well-trained experts to help our enforcement officers do this job effectively.

It is going to be a very difficult task, but we should not flinch from dealing with it.

The President also dealt with democracy, our new sense of liberty and our search for national unity.

He appeared to ruffle a few feathers when he called on Members of the National Assembly to refrain from using cheap politic tactics to divide the nation. He stressed that such attitudes will not be tolerated under his administration.

Clearly that needed saying. Not every MNA is happy with the new order.

Mr Ramkalawan vowed to fight corruption, bureaucracy and other bad practices.

He also touched on the economic woes suffered by the workforce.

He said: “There are too many foreigners working in our country, and the number of foreigners is directly related to our economy. Each time a foreigner is paid a salary, the dollar being paid is remitted to another country. Could that dollar not go to a Seychellois?”

He called on the jobless to actively seek work, and not think that they can rely on social assistance.

He said: “Our government will not just give our citizens a fish to eat. As the Chinese proverb goes, we want to give our people a line and fishing hook, and we will give them the first bait and, from there, tell them to go fishing and to stand on their own two feet.”

But he was light on detail on how the high – and to some the unbearable – cost of living could be managed. 

This was particularly strange because the latest survey on poverty has revealed that in 2018, 25.3 per cent of Seychellois were living below the poverty line. This depressing statistic was only partly softened by the fact that two surveys in 2013 and in 2015 found a shocking 38 per cent of the population was in poverty. 

The President was speaking before this detail was revealed, yet there is no doubt that he would have been aware of  the situation.

I can only echo what an MNA member told the Assembly:  “The President missed his opportunity to tell us his plan to reduce the cost of living. The cost of living in Seychelles remains high, and has soared even higher with the devaluation of the Rupee as compared to other currencies used to import goods.”

It is all very well wielding the stick at so-called lazy workers, but where is the carrot? How will the poor who cannot rise above their situation get through all this?

And to my surprise there was no mention of sport at all. 

This was a serious omission because I believe that sport can be a major factor for good in our society. It gives purpose and employment to people as well as offering to all the opportunity of a healthy lifestyle.

However, on the whole Seychelles Life is overall impressed by this state of the nation address.

We too will be dedicated to rebuilding unity in our homeland which is a priority at the moment and the way forward for Seychelles.

We needed serious and dedicated people to rebuild our Seychelles. I hope that now we have them – and they are ready to do their job.

Lewis Betsy: Unity is our priority and purpose.
Lewis Betsy: Unity is our priority and purpose.

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