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Covid-19, cohabitation and corruption… opposition leaders outline how they will ‘save Seychelles’ if they win the Presidential election

9th July 2020
Patrick Pillay: “Corruption should be tackled”
Patrick Pillay: “Corruption should be tackled”
Alain St Ange: “We have no time to lose”
Alain St Ange: “We have no time to lose”

President Faure has spoken eloquently of the “fragility” of Seychelles and it being “one nation under God”. But he has sparked opposing reactions by saying that as the country approaches the next Presidential election it will be in the “midst of a great storm” and the one solution is to form a government of national unity. It is, he said, the only opportunity “to save Seychelles”. Presumably, this coalition would be led by his United Seychelles party.

Seychelles Life wanted to know what the opposition parties think of his idea and put the following questions to key political figures: Wavel Ramkalawan, Leader of the Opposition, Patrick Pillay of Lalyans Seselwa, Alain St Ange of One Seychelles and Roger Mancienne of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa. In the interests of fairness, we repeatedly tried to obtain replies from Mr Ramkalawan and Mr Mancienne but there were no official responses by the time of our deadline. Here then, are some important declarations for the Seychelles electorate to consider before they go to the polls in October.

Seychelles Life:

In his Constitution Day speech, President Faure declared that if he won the Presidential election in October he would form a government of national unity and, with an inclusive administration, put partisan politics aside. Do you believe him, or is it a last gasp political ploy to undermine the opposition parties as he fears he will lose?

Patrick Pillay:

Mr Danny Faure does not qualify to talk about national unity. Any political leader who cannot bring unity within his own party, does not qualify to attempt to bring unity within a nation. United Seychelles as a political party has never been as divided as it is now. Take the example of Waven William. They booted him out of the party and its Central Committee. This is disgraceful.

Alain St Ange:

The President had come up with a proposal that sits high on the One Seychelles agenda for government. But one cannot just come up with such a plan, one needs to live unity. 

One Seychelles will form a government of national unity after the elections. This government will move Seychelles back into the block of “Friend of All & Enemy of None” as was practised by Sir James Mancham. Because unity is safeguarding our territory and respecting every Seychellois. 

The One Seychelles government of national unity will have to depoliticise government so that every Seychellois can live and work in his country without fear or favour. This is why the One Seychelles’ Cabinet of Ministers will be a technocrat one, made up of the best brains on the islands who have experience or been trained in their respective fields. They will come from different political orientations to work for our one and only Seychelles.

Early call for unity: From the Independence Day issue of the magazine of the Indian Ocean Club in June 2007
Early call for unity: From the Independence Day issue of the magazine of the Indian Ocean Club in June 2007

Seychelles Life:

A government of national unity has been suggested many times before, indeed in 2007 this was voiced in the Independence magazine published by the Indian Ocean Club when Seychelles was in an ongoing social and political crisis. Today, the suggestion has come three months into a very different emergency and could not take effect until October at the earliest, eight months after the lockdown began. We have no clear idea what impact the pandemic will be having on the world, so is it too late?

Patrick Pillay:

No, it is not too late. National unity can only be brought by a political leader who can unite his own party. How can Danny Faure talk about national unity when he himself has divided US? There is division, division, and lack of respect for freedom of expression.

Alain St Ange:

It is never too late for doing good. The remedy for the current situation is an election. This is the only chance the people of Seychelles have to choose a President who will guide their islands out of the economic mess we are in today. The One Seychelles technocrat government of national unity will be able to hit the ground running. Everyone will be a qualified Seychellois set to lead his Ministry to relaunch the Seychelles economy, provide work for our people and to show that our people are placed at the centre of their island's development.  

Seychelles Life:

Seychelles has suffered a massive loss in income and the economy has been brought to its knees because of Covid-19 effectively wiping out all tourism in the lockdown. With the economy set to shrink by more than 10 per cent, is the President on the right course to getting Seychelles back on its feet?

What would be your recovery strategy?

Patrick Pillay:

Faure talks of economic loss. It is convenient to blame Covid-19. Several countries, like St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean and East Timor in Southeast Asia, have managed the covid pandemic very well. The health professionals under the leadership of Dr Jude Gedeon (the public health commissioner in Seychelles) have also done extremely well and need to be congratulated. The economic mess we are in is a result of an incompetent Government led by an incompetent and an unelected President. What he should have done is to tackle the big issue of corruption. The country has all the structures, laws and protocols in place to stem corruption. Corruption continues unabated all around us.

Alain St Ange:

Is the President on the right course to getting Seychelles back on its feet? On this, I cannot say anything. No course has been set that Seychelles knows of. We have once again heard that Seychelles will be developing its agriculture and fishing industries. This is great news and a repetition we have heard for 40 years. We are so behind in these two key industries that we cannot expect them to change our economy as fast as we need it to happen. We still do not even have a big commercial boat like those we see fishing for our tuna in our waters – which we buy back in foreign currency. The question raised is obviously a lack of political will to put Seychellois at the centre of their own islands’ development and instead we are content to give away control of our resources. We need our agricultural and fisheries industries, but they will need to be pushed forward alongside the Seychelles tourism industry, which is the only pillar of our economy now and for the immediate future.

One Seychelles’ recovery plan is to get into Government running with no time to lose. Domestic tourism will be encouraged and assisted to ensure it is consolidated. The world is aware, as per World Health Organisation remarks, that Covid-19 is with us for a long time and this with or without a vaccine. So with this in mind the “new normal” in Seychelles tourism will need to be re-seen and re-planned. Seychellois will need to be at the very centre of that relaunch. Seychelles has to work with the airlines flying here to ensure an effective and rapid test is done by Seychelles prior to anyone boarding the flight. It will have to be a POP style operation for a win-win result Seychelles - airlines - tourism.industry. Can it be done? Yes. This is why the One Seychelles technocrat government of national unity will see tourism falling straight under the Office of the President, because we need tourism to work to reduce the suffering now hitting the people as a whole.

Seychelles Life:

President Faure has admitted that certain measures he instigated to protect businesses and jobs in the private sector had hit problems and there has been “a great deal of confusion and frustration” processing applications.

Is he to blame for this problem and is his administration incompetent, or is he doing a good job and is just like many other leaders struggling against impossible odds to save their country’s economic sector?

Patrick Pillay:

All right-minded leaders around the world have recognised the need to protect businesses. Faure and his cronies have organised meeting after meeting on Mahe and Praslin. Some small businesses have been helped. However, there remains as you rightly put it “confusion and frustration”. In my considered opinion, the saving grace in all this mess is the fact that firm dates have been announced for the Presidential elections. Most people I talk to are counting the days until October 2020, when we will see the back of incompetent and dishonest politicians who are looking after their personal interests rather than the interests of the Seychellois people.

Alain St Ange:

The word of a President must mean something. The President promised that all employees’ salaries will be paid by the State for three months. Yes, the key defining word was ALL. He cannot make a statement then have it changed by his staff. He should have such discussions before and not after giving a guarantee to the country.

The changes and flip-flopping that followed just left a bad taste. 

He refused to call in a bi-partisan approach to look at the Covid-19 challenges and the economy that was destroying the lives of so many. He saw the drop of the value of the island's currency against the US Dollar which was causing increases in food cost and he did not see the need for a bi-partisan approach and kept on leading a political party which claimed a monopoly on ideas.

Seychelles Life:

President Faure said in his speech: “During this time that I have been President, there have been moments where I was expecting cooperation but instead I received resistance and obstruction. I stayed calm, I kept my cool, I never walked away – I chose to reach out. I persevered because I am convinced that the spirit of working together, the path of peace and reconciliation, is the only path for Seychelles today.”

Is that right, has he been let down?  

How do you view the relationship between the President and the Opposition in the recent past?

Patrick Pillay:

Mr Faure claims that he was expecting cooperation but instead he encountered obstruction and resistance. I cannot speak for other political leaders. However, as Leader of Lalyans Seselwa, it did not take me long to see that the famous cohabitation between the Executive and the Legislative was a joke. It served the interests of only two politicians. After about one and a half year as Speaker, I stepped down. I did not walk away. I made it very clear to all and sundry that I did not leave SPPF to ensure self-aggrandisement. Of course, many passed judgement on me without understanding my reasons for leaving such a high-profile and well-paid job with all the perks that come with it. Today, many now understand why I turned my back to both US and LDS.

In my considered opinion, there has been no relationship between the President and the opposition in the recent past. As far as I am aware Alain St Ange's political party One Seychelles has not been invited to State House for consultations and discussions. I can firmly ascertain that no such courtesy has been extended to Lalyans Seselwa. There may well have been consultations and discussions with the leadership of LDS.

As far as I am concerned, a government of national unity is a figment of Mr Faure's imagination.

Alain St Ange:

This statement is the situation between the Executive and the Legislative. Both sides failed in the spirit of unity for Seychelles, even in a cohabitation era as was voted by the people of the islands. It is important to see what politicians are doing and how it changes the lives of the people who voted them into office. When Speaker Patrick Pillay stood by the Clock Tower, with initially just one supporter, to say the cohabitation was not working, those elected should have pushed for elections as the only remedy for the existing situation instead of dragging on a situation where those affected are the people of Seychelles. As for the relation between the two sides, you need to ask them. We do not speak about others. We say what we are doing and will do for Seychelles. We have a manifesto and spend time discussing our plans because we have plans.

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