Seychelles’ President Wavel Ramkalawan has said that there is no member of his Cabinet of Ministers that has been named as perpetrator in the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) final report.
The President spoke to SNA in his quarterly press interview about the TRNUC report and other subjects of national interest.
The TRNUC has been the subject of much debate in the National Assembly recently, with many discussions being about who will pay the compensation that the victims of the various cases are requesting.
SNA: There have been numerous debates on the TRNUC report including who should pay the damages. What is your thought on this issue?
WR: I am happy that this debate is being done, even in the districts where I have visited. But at this point, I cannot say anything as I have to await the report from the National Assembly. I do not want to pre-empt what they will bring before me, because they have also commented on other things, aside from compensation.
When I do get the report, I will call on the press and share what the government has considered and what we want to do. However, it is clear that from some of the discussions that I have heard, the TRNUC Fund must be created. From what I am hearing at the moment, there is the suggestion to seize all assets and properties of the SPUP [Seychelles People’s United Party/SPPF [Seychelles People’s Progressive Front] or United Seychelles to start the fund with, as they have also been named as perpetrators in many of the cases brought before the TRNUC. I will wait, and after that, I will share an opinion on the matter.
[editor’s note: The United Seychelles party is the successor party of Parti Lepep, which in turn was the successor of SPPF and SPUP]
SNA: You have seen the report yourself and can you confirm if any member of your Cabinet has been named as perpetrators in any of the cases?
WR: I can say very clearly that there is no one in my Cabinet of Ministers who has been named as a perpetrator. I find it sad that in the discussion in the National Assembly, in which members are discussing the report of the cases, with the details and names of all the perpetrators, the opposition has made allegations that we are hiding things. That there are people in the Cabinet who are perpetrators, and I take offence that they have named Minister (Sylvestre) Radegonde [ for Foreign and Affairs and Tourism] and Minister (Jean-Francois) Ferrari [Designated Minister and Minister for Fisheries and The Blue Economy]. None of them have been identified as perpetrators.
|Gabriel McIntyre handed the commission’s final report to President Wavel Ramkalawan in March. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: Will the list of perpetrators be made available to the public?
WR: The issue is that the Commission has decided to give me the list in confidence. But in the report itself, after each case, the perpetrators are named. All perpetrators are named one by one at the conclusion of each case in the report and the opposition could simply look there.
SNA: The TRNUC was set up with the aim of bringing unity to the country, do you believe that this objective has been achieved?
WR: I remember when I met with the former President [Danny] Faure [of Parti Lepep] to talk about TRNUC, we set up a committee and all voted in favour of its creation. President Faure came forward to express regret at what happened in the past and asked for forgiveness on behalf of the state….For me, it’s clear that it is the [current] opposition party who is not interested in the unity of our people and is more interested in dividing the nation.
SNA: One subject that has dominated conversations recently is the tourism environmental sustainability levy. What’s your government’s position on this matter?
WR: The government is not moving away from it. There are petitions where they are supposed to get 2,000 signatures, but they have only got 126 so far, and most of them are anonymous, so we do not even know if they are real people.
What is interesting though, is that there are hotels already collecting the tax. This is a law and this law says that you have to collect this tax. But if we live in a country where the people want to decide what tax they want to pay and which law they will follow, then I think we are not going in the right direction.
The government has had negotiations with the SHTA [Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association], and when presented with the three tiers of taxes [for small, medium and large hotels], they rejected it and said all should pay the same. When we decided that the tax will be the same across all tiers, they again rejected it, because they wanted to have three tiers, and now when we went back to that, they rejected it again.
I can say that there is a division here, where some hotels say that the SHTA does not represent them. Sometimes I laugh when people talk about this subject, as some of these same owners, when we visit them, talk about how their beaches are degrading and the need for artificial reefs and rock armouring to protect their property.
When they talk to us, everything is fine, but when you put a microphone and cameras in front of them, then they are against everything. We need to be serious and understand that this money will be used to protect our environment.
SNA: You recently announced a hospital fund and asked people to contribute. We have, however, not seen or heard of any concrete plans of where the hospital will be built. Can you give us some details on that?
WR: Firstly, we are finalising the fundraising committee and maybe by next week we will announce the members of that committee. Our target is to get the maximum that we can and we have estimated that the new hospital will cost about one billion rupees.
We will build it where the old casualty wing was, opposite the ‘yellow roof’ building. We will demolish all of that area, even the ‘blue roof’ building, and the new hospital will then join with the current one.
We want the casualty to be there along with other specialised sections. The current hospital will remain, but we will look at revamping it. We will share with the public as and when the plans and concepts are finalised.
SNA: You announced some time back that the government will be looking to amend the Constitution in order to have a fixed date for national elections. How far along are you on that subject?
WR: We have started various reflections on the matter. We have the position of a Designated Minister and the question is, do we still need a Designated Minister when we have a Vice-President? We also discussed on handing over the presidency during a mandate, where we said that if something happens to the President, there should be new elections.
But we have talked about it and discussed exceptions, each as in cases where the president is ill or maybe is assassinated, then the Vice-President should be able to carry on the mandate. In terms of a fixed date for the election, we are continuing the discussions and I imagine that before my mandate is over, we can put something forward in that regard. We do not want to have multiple amendments to the Constitution all the time, but we want a series of amendments altogether.
SNA: Since you took office, you have talked about the need to revise the public service. There are human resources personnel in the public sector taking courses at The Guy Morel Institute (TGMI). Is that part of the process?
WR: This all forms part of the process. I am left dumbfounded at the amount of work that we need to do to bring public service to a high standard. The recent public meetings have shown that.
I myself had to resolve small issues that these services should have been able to handle on their own. I am still pushing for that improvement and we have identified TGMI as the public service college we spoke about in our manifesto. These courses will continue to move us in that direction. I only ask that there is better communication with the public and we give them a better service.
SNA: You mentioned the public meetings where you had addressed the public’s issues yourself as people complained that the ministers did not help them. Are you satisfied then that your Cabinet of Ministers is doing its job well?
WR: We need to understand how our system of governance works. I was elected but the minister was not. So, regardless of what ministers we have, I am the one who is responsible for the running of the government.
So, I went to the districts to have these conversations and consultations, and I brought my ministers with me. I did not go there to do their jobs. I wanted them to get a better feel of the sentiments of the public and see where they can do better.