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Quizzed: Ian Withers tells the TRNUC about his work for Rene by video link
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Campaigners for Press freedom: Lewis Betsy, left, and Bernard Verlaque
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By Lewis Betsy From the moment I left Seychelles on 1st April, 1980, and then settled in the UK, my thoughts have always turned to the same thing: the vital need for Seychelles to have a free Pre... more...

Seychelles Life will offer a new voice for the people of our islands… one that will promote unity and compassion

29th June 2021

Campaigners for Press freedom: Lewis Betsy, left, and Bernard Verlaque
Campaigners for Press freedom: Lewis Betsy, left, and Bernard Verlaque

By Lewis Betsy

 

From the moment I left Seychelles on 1st April, 1980, and then settled in the UK, my thoughts have always turned to the same thing: the vital need for Seychelles to have a free Press. 

The power of the Press is in my blood and, through my personal involvement working in several newspapers in the UK, I realised that I could do something constructive for my beloved Seychelles and my people.

I launched what was the first newspaper abroad to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the Seychellois people living under the Rene regime. I was joined by the late Bernard Verlaque to start the Seychellois International in 1990 in the UK.

The publication of the Seychellois International came just three years into the brutal era of France Albert Rene’s one-party state. 

Forty years on, and under the new administration of President Wavel Ramkalawan, I personally feel it is vital another newspaper with the same ideals and integrity should now be published in Seychelles. 

I have fought for many years to bring real democracy to the Seychelles, but I was forced to do it from exile. Now I am back living in Seychelles I want to make sure that a free Press is active in this country. 

The majority of the people in Seychelles democratically showed through the ballot box that they want change after suffering for four decades under a government that altered the name of its party – SPUP, PL and US – yet still retained the old vices of control, coercion and favouritism. 

We learned our lesson the hard way. 

For a government to represent all the people in a fair and just manner it is vital that the people have a strong independent voice to represent them.

That voice is Seychelles Life.

I have been able to pursue my mission to promote fairness, unity and compassion to the Seychelles through this website. The problem here is that the majority of people in Seychelles do not have personal access to the internet. That is why I aim to go into print and produce a paper version so that I can communicate with a wider part of the population.

This way, everyone will literally get their hands on a publication that is free-thinking and proud to promote positive views as well as be critical of bad practice.

I will, of course, continue to publish online as well. 

I am doing all this because, nationally, we need to improve on our standards. 

I admire Ralph Volcere, who has been fighting for a free Press since he launched the Seychelles Independent, but more needs to be done.

We need to have a balanced debate in which everyone can have their say in an honest and sympathetic manner.

President Ramkalawan has declared he wants a free and open relationship with the Press. That is fine with me. I want that too.

As I commented earlier this year, I take note of an index published annually by the group Reporters Without Borders which shows that Seychelles was ranked 52nd of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2021. 

We can do better.

So you can see that Seychelles Life has an important role to play and with the country aiming to rebuild not only from decades of internal division, but the devastation of Covid, this the ideal time for a new voice to be heard.

I want this publication to reflect how Seychelles is in 2021 with all its beauty and its challenges.

That means focusing on the image of paradise that we cherish as well as the sharp reality of the impact of the pandemic which, economically, has hit our group of islands particularly badly.

It is equally important to note the role of a free Press in reporting such crises. There was much fake news on Facebook about new Covid-19 cases in Seychelles.

On World Press Freedom Day in May, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres attacked what he called the pandemic of misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 crisis and issued a request to all governments to protect their media workers, saying that they “help us make informed decisions that could make the difference between life and death”.

Truth and honesty will be our mantra too.

With Seychelles Life based in Seychelles, we will be able to keep a close eye on events and so will promote the country in tourism, sports, the arts and culture.

I want Seychelles Life to be a shining light in our islands so we can help change and influence future national policies. 

We need dedicated people to work together for a better Seychelles.

My main aim is to bring unity to Seychelles and, clearly, politics will need to come under sharp scrutiny.

President Ramkalawan had a significant victory in the Presidential and National Assembly elections, but there is increasing criticism over the delivery of promises he made during his campaign.

There are some conciliatory voices. Many say it is still early days, though I would remind everyone that the elections were eight months ago.

Still, having said that it is clear that we need to have more – and permanent – success in dealing with the pandemic before we can go forward.

However, be assured that Seychelles Life will be there to monitor the government and its progress.

We will report on the good and the bad, but equally we will promote the idea of working together for a common goal so that we can all live in peace and harmony.

Under the masthead of Seychelles Life we carry the message “Forward with unity for a better Seychelles”. 

That is our core belief.

It is vital for us to promote unity and share the values of unity among the people of Seychelles. It is going to be a long battle after so many years under a one-party state.

Yet we are undaunted.

We want to bring the Seychellois generations together in our beautiful islands.

The spirit of togetherness is one that Seychelles Life will do its best to nurture.

Lewis Betsy
Lewis Betsy

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