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Patrick Pillay Exclusive: My resignation was well-calculated – people were scheming against me. Now I want to be President

19th February 2018

Fighting talk: Patrick Pillay
Fighting talk: Patrick Pillay

The past few weeks have seen a bitter storm in Seychelles politics as Patrick Pillay resigned as Speaker of the National Assembly and as MNA of Anse Boileau. Seychelles Life asked him to clarify what is happening within his own party, Lalyans Seselwa, and the LDS coalition and if it will affect the governance of Seychelles. His answers are frank and fascinating. They reveal his political ambition to stand as President, intense rivalry in the opposition ranks – and the PL – and one leading politician is damned but not named. The intrigue continues.

There have been sharp divisions between you and some executive committee members of Lalyans Seselwa about quitting the LDS. Are you surprised at this split? 

No, I am not surprised at all. I am a strategic thinker and I pre-empted that move on behalf of Mr AA (Ahmed Afif, Secretary General of Lalyans Seselwa). While I was Speaker, I have been watching him and his leader in the LDS. They have been trying to undermine my authority very subtly. They were being assisted by one woman and a man working with me in the Secretariat of the National Assembly. I watched them closely and quietly. My father, Ton Paul, taught me one thing in life: “Parfwa ou bezwen zwe kouyon pou ou tyonbo malen”. You call it a split in LS, I call it a group of five people who are over ambitious in their political career and who wanted me out as leader of LS. You are a political analyst and therefore you must look at the bigger picture. There is one leader in LDS who is bent on becoming President of the Seychelles. Each time he has tried before he has failed. His strategy thefore was to replace me as leader of LS with somebody who is now loyal to him and more malleable. His hope was that if that happened then LS would join forces with the other satellite parties in LDS and back him as the sole Presidential candidate from the opposition to stand aganst Danny Faure.

Do you agree with your party's Secretary General, Ahmed Afif, that your move breaches the constitution of the party. Should you have held a full ballot of members?

That is the view of Mr AA. On Tuesday 7th February at noon we had a meeting of the LS National Executive Committee (NEC) at our headquarters in Bodco building. All members of NEC were present except one who was overseas. The main item on the agenda of the one-hour meeting was the leadership of the party. We needed to be clear as to whether everybody was in agreement that I remain the leader. The precursor to that meeting was a series of meetings organised by Mr AA where seemingly on the agenda was to vote for a change in leadership of LS. Each time he did not get a quorum. When I organised a meeting on the 7th February and put the question to NEC as to whether they wanted a new leader, AA sheepishly said that this was never an issue. What the LS constitution does say is that the SG (Secretary General) cannot call a meeting of NEC without the authority of the Leader of the party giving his approval. So who has not followed the constitution? I did not need to hold a full meeting of the NEC to take the decision I took. I held a full NEC meeting on Tuesday 7th February where / when nobody opposed my position as Party Leader.

What was the rush?

There was no rush. My move to resign as Speaker and MNA was well-calculated. I wanted to resign on my father's birthday, 29th January. There have been major policy differences between me and other leaders in the LDS; e.g. when to hold fresh Presidential elections, the fact that the so-called cohabitation was not working, the choice of candidate to represent the opposition at the next Presidential elections, the lease of Assumption to a foreign power. All these were policy decisions that were either taken behind my back or, to the best of my knowledge, were not discussed in the LDS Leaders' meeting. Before I announced my decision to the nation I had consulted 11 members of the LS NEC. One very loyal supporter was overseas. The five LDS MNAs and one woman were not consulted purposefully because I had proof that they were scheming against me. I chose Valentine's Day to divorce LDS because I knew that one leader in LDS would be courting Mr Faure at State House.

Did you gamble on winning the argument, and that all would back your decision?

Not at all. Facebook speaks volumes and if you have an analytical mind you will appreciate who supports you and who does not – minus the fake profiles of course. Additionally, when I went to protest for fresh Presidential elections at the Clock Tower in 2017, it became clear who had shifted their loyalty elsewhere. The comments of one or two spouses on Facebook spoke volumes. It became clear to me that AA's ambitions had brought him to follow another leader in LDS and his loyalty to me had evaporated! For the record, 13 NEC members backed my decision whereas only the four LS (LDS) MNAs plus Simone de Comarmond backed AA.

What if it wrecks your party?

The question does not arise. It is now nearly a week since I made the announcement. The amount of support I have had is incredible. Perhaps more interestingly is the number of small and medium sized industries who have pledged their financial support.

Will you now form a new party? If not, what is your next political move? Would you consider standing in the Presidential election? 

I have suggested in my interview with the Press here last week that perhaps AA should form and lead a new party. I already have a party which is very much alive i.e Lalyans Seselwa. Yes, I will definitely ask my NEC if they wish to propose me as a candidate in the next Presidential election. If they do, I will accept to stand.

You wanted to hold Danny Faure's administration to account over cohabitation and the call for Presidential elections. Some think your actions will now help him ignore any pressure on these issues as the opposition appears to be in disarray?

You may not appreciate it, but the party that is really in disarray is PL. An insider informs that their Central Committee is very much in disarray. As for the opposition, I have made my position very clear to all and sundry. I cannot speak for other leaders in LDS. I would humbly suggest that you seek an interview with them as you have done with me. As for Mr Faure and Presidential elections. It is simply a matter of time. There is so much frustration and anger in the general population that elections will come sooner rather than later. As a matter of fact, if I can offer my two rupees worth of advice to Mr Faure, it is to call elections before the end of July 2018 to avoid civil disorder, if he really is interested in Seychelles and its people.

Do you think this “divorce” will bring down the LDS as an opposition coalition and let in PL?

The LDS leadership will decide on that. I cannot comment on their behalf. You will need to interview them. As for PL, When I formed LS with some colleagues our vocation was to remove PL from power and fight for a less corrupt Seychelles where there is no victimisation etc, etc. Our vocation and mission has not changed.

Was the LDS ever truly united?

I believe we were truly united especially before the September 2016 National Assembly elections. We were all focused on getting a majority in the National Assembly and getting rid of James Michel. We achieved both. The intrigue started in 2017. I observed calmly and quietly as one of the LDS leaders started to show overt interest in being the opposition's sole candidate in the next Presidential elections. Facebook posts followed by interview after interview made it clear that the person was determined to get to State House. A pally-pally and cosy friendship developed between that leader and Mr Faure in State House. I watched and as always in politics, strategy and timing is of essence. The rest is history.

When you resigned as Speaker and member for Anse Boileau, you mentioned in interviews the bad feeling in the NA between you and two PL members and one LDS member. How bad was it?

It was bad. I gave both PL MNAs adequate time and warning that I was serious and that if they do not respect their financial commitments to me, I will go public and name and shame them. My primary purpose in doing this was / is not to chase money. I am not rich, but I am comfortable and will now earn a good pension because I have devoted 50 years of my working life to the people of this country. Sixteen of these 50 years I spent as a Minister of State and over these 16 years I headed six Ministries and Departments. As for the LDS MNAs, with time I will talk more freely about how they tried to undermine my Speakership. Mercifully, I am a strong no-nonsense leader and gave them a run for their money.

Is the “backstabbing” in LS and the LDS too much to handle? 

Back-stabbing is common in politics whether you are functioning in Seychelles, the UK, the USA, or any other country for that matter. I love politics and I experienced back-stabbing even when I was a Minister in the SPPF Goverment. It is too much to handle if you are a weak personality or politician. I do not belong to that league. All I can say to the backstabbers who have tried to destroy me is this: “Bring your team on. Smell the coffee and cut to the chase”. The Seychellois nation are not a bunch of morons. They know who is sincere and can be trusted and who is corrupt and are bent on self-aggrandisement.

How has it come to this? Is it down to bad management or bad people?

It is simply down to over ambitious politicians – most of them inexperienced in politics – who are bent on promoting themselves with very little care for the people who elected them. I can only describe them as “having their snouts in the trough with their 'derrierre' turned to the people”.

Some observers think you should have stuck it out. Should politicians be more thick skinned or is there a limit?

I repeat what I said before, politics is all about strategy and timing. I am very thick-skinned. If I wasn't I would have been destroyed in 2015 and 2016 by James Michel and Danny Faure when I was a candidate for the December 2015 presidential elections. You will remember how much they tried to vilify me and turn the electorate against me. At the end of the day, I was the one that helped to take the Presidential elections into a historic second round.

Are you confident you have correctly set the wheels of change in motion? What if, when the furore dies down, the status quo remains the same and there is no Presidential election and, after the Anse Boileau elections, there is no change in the political climate?

I am more than confident. Sooner or later Faure will have to call Presidential elections. I have always been an optimist and will always remain one. I will continue to fight for fresh Presidential elections soonest.

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