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We need the participation of all in the building of the New Seychelles

13th June 2014

President Michel:
President Michel:
Seychelles Life asked President James Michel his views on National Reconciliation now that there is momentum to the statement by former President Albert Rene that it is time for the process to begin. It is well documented that former president Sir James Mancham, who was deposed by Mr Rene in a coup d'etat on 5th June 1977, has been campaigning for National Reconciliation since 1992. Seychelles Life has asked key figures and all the political parties the same questions to gauge the national reaction to these moves. As both President of Seychelles and leader of the PL/Parti Lepep, Mr Michel has a vital role in a sensitive process that will shape the future of political and community life in Seychelles. Here is the President's response.

Seychelles Life: Now that there is talk of reconciliation and unity from both sides of the political divide what does your party think should be the next move forward?

President Michel: Seychelles’ history, like those of other nations, has, from the time of the arrival of the first settlers, been forged in the quest of our people to build a society of liberty, equality and fraternity to be enjoyed by all. There have been bitter times, struggles, victories, sweet times.

In our 244-year history we’ve known slavery, neglect by the colonial powers, extreme poverty, lack of opportunities of development. A big majority of our people suffered from the powerful influence of the plantation owners. We’ve known resentment of our conditions. Political emancipation came late. Happily, we succeeded in empowering our workers, our people in time for independence. We fought for our freedom. On our own we have diversified our economy. We’ve built a comprehensive welfare system.

Today, we continue to seek the best for our beloved nation, for a sustainable future. But we can only progress and continue to enjoy prosperity when we put the interests of our people first. To the majority of our people national unity is an ongoing process. We have managed to repair many of the injustices that delayed our progress throughout our history. We owe our successes to our ability to make monumental changes when needed, to pull together, to pool our resources, to improve the lives of our people, to remain committed to national development. Our national unity enables us to overcome our differences, to reconcile, to enjoy plurality of opinion in diversity.

Parti Lepep and I have been given a new task, and that is to turn Seychelles into a high income country. We realise that unity is always crucial for our nation to advance. That is why my party and I are determined to remove certain rancour that may still linger in our community. We attach a lot of importance to national unity and harmony among our people. We all need to consolidate our national unity as we all avail of the many opportunities of the New Seychelles.

Seychelles Life: Should the government organise the reconciliation process or should it be conducted by an independent person or organisation, possibly from overseas? If so, who would you consider ideal?

President Michel: The New Seychelles we are creating is an inclusive society. It contributes to the process of national unity and creates greater understanding among people. We may not notice it, but the process is ongoing every day in our lives. Our views on the different stages of our history may differ, based on our own interpretations and personal experiences. We live in an open and mature society, where we are able to express ourselves, to exchange opinions freely.

What is important is that we continue to involve more of our people in the running of national affairs. There have been many instances whereby we have included individuals or organisations from overseas in our process of nation-building. We will continue to create the conditions that will give all our people the sense of belonging to our country, which is our common home. I think we are achieving that and we will do more to promote national unity.

Seychelles Life: What role would you like your party to play in this process?

President Michel: My party’s role in building a Seychelles of fraternity and unity is historical. Parti Lepep, because of its experience and popularity, has taken on a greater responsibility in fostering national unity. It has the support of the nation. It was Parti Lepep that in March this year took the decision to move Seychelles beyond the 5th June era. After another major decision to promote greater national unity, we have relocated the Liberation Day – Zonm Lib – monument.

Parti Lepep is a unifying party. In the recent past, land acquisition files were reopened, guided by the requirements of the constitution. But we need two to tango. All of us have to revisit our 244-year history and draw lessons from it. Let us all realise that national unity, social cohesion and harmony among our people will bring greater progress for all. It was also in March that I put the following question to our party delegates at a symposium: “What can we do as a party to bring more unity in our country, even more solidarity and fraternity among us?” We want a Seychelles that is at peace with itself, and prosperous.

Seychelles Life: Observers note that the timing of the move for reconciliation comes ahead of the elections next year. Will this affect or hinder the process?

President Michel: There are links connecting the various events that have impacted the lives of the earliest generations, the generations of yesterday, and the generations of today. We’ve had many elections following the announcement of the return of multi-party politics in 1992. Some of the elections were held in very difficult situations, the process of transition traumatising to our people. The people emerged victorious, more mature, resilient, more aware of the need for a Seychelles focused on the future. Elections, the voice of the people, help the process.

Seychelles Life: The removal of the Zonm Lib Monument has proved controversial. What is the next step?

President Michel: Many of the reactions expressed confirmed that Zonm Lib was indeed an important symbol. What is clear is that it is missed by many across the political lines. I was amazed at how popular Zonm Lib was. It meant, it means, a lot to a lot of people. That is why establishing national unity cannot be only about a short period of our history. The monument has been relocated to Maison du Peuple. In its place along 5th June Avenue will stand a new monument which will be a powerful symbol of the unity of our nation.

I mean it when I say we need the participation of all in the building of the New Seychelles. We are one. We want the participation of all. We want to work together, to prosper together in the free and thriving Seychelles. This is the best time to start a new era of unity.

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