Saturday, August 22, 2015



Family asks President Michel to set up commission of enquiry

The Chellen family organised a symposium in Mauritius to denounce what they say is the "cover up" and the "shady dealings" in the Harmon Chellen affair.


"There's a lot of shady dealings and cover ups in Seychelles", Harmon Chellen's widow, Jayshree told Mauritian daily l'express on 18 August, a year to the day after she lost her husband in Seychelles.

The Chellen family lawyer organised a symposium on that day in Ebene, Mauritius, in a bid to raise awareness about the circumstances of Harmon Chellen's death and the way the police enquiry has been conducted.

Commenting on the judicial enquiry set up by the Attorney General to determine the cause of death of the Mauritian national, lawyer Rama Valayden said he was not happy with the way it was going as he did not believe it is the right forum to elucidate what has happened. Speaking to Le Defi newspaper, Mr Valayden said he was convinced foul play was involved in Mr Chellen's death and denounced what he called the contradictory versions of Seychellois police officers involved in the case.

At the symposium on Tuesday, Rama Valayden said an official letter will be sent shortly to President James Michel to ask him to set up a commission of enquiry to shed light on the death of Harmon Chellen.

Mr Chellen arrived in Seychelles on 13 August last year to attend the graduation ceremony of the Seychelles Tourism Academy as its guest of honour. On the day he was supposed to leave the country, Monday 18 August, his body was found by fishermen in Port Glaud not far from L'Islette. The police issued a statement on that same evening and attributed the death to suicide.

It emerged that a woman who worked as chambermaid at the Constance Ephelia hotel where Harmon Chellen was staying, had given a statement to the police complaining of sexual abuse on the part of Mr Chellen. It was said to be in this regard that the police detained him on the day of his departure.

On that day, the police went to the hotel to ask Mr Chellen to accompany them to the Port Glaud police station for questioning. The chambermaid travelled in the same car as Mr Chellen.
 The versions differ about what happened after. According to the officer in charge of the station, Mr Chellen was arrested but not detained in a cell because the police officers found out that he was a VIP. He was left in the enquiry room from where he was eventually said to have disappeared when he was left alone for ten minutes.

But a cleaner also told the court that she had seen Mr Chellen in a nervous state outside the police station and that he had sought her help to contact Flavien Joubert of the STA, adding that she did not help him because she did not know him.

It is unclear at what time all of this happened but the officer in charge of the police station said that after he discovered Mr Chellen's disappearance, he went out to look for him until he received a phone call on his mobile phone telling him Mr Chellen's body had been found in the sea.

The prosecution has asked the police to provide telephone records of the officer's mobile phone to verify his claims.
 "When his body was found, he had no shoes on but his socks were on. He had his trousers on but no belt and he was shirtless", Mr Valayden told the symposium on Tuesday. He claims that two commissions of enquiry were held in Seychelles in 2009 to shed light on the deaths in custody of Morris Hoareau and Mervyn Pierre and that it was found in both cases that their deaths were a result of police action. "In both cases, the men's trousers had been kept on but their belts removed, the shoes were removed but the socks kept on", Mr Valayden said, explaining that it was a "procedure" of the Seychelles' police.

"But they tell you, expecting you to believe that a man who could swim but who did not because of a skin problem, chose to take off his belt and keep his trousers on, remove his shoes and keep his socks on and take off his shirt to get in the sea to commit suicide. Then they tell you that even though they looked three times, they could not recover Mr Chellen's belongings", Rama Valayden said.
 He also showed a photo of Mr Chellen's body taken after his death to the audience. "There were six holes in his right hip. But the medical examiner in Seychelles did not see them when she did the autopsy", he claimed.

A counter autopsy was performed in Mauritius but the court in Seychelles hasn't so far been able to question the medical examiner about the inconsistencies. Last week, she was said to be out of the country while earlier was too ill to attend the court proceedings.

Mr Valayden also pointed out that two blood samples taken from Mr Chellen and tested by the same laboratory technician at the same laboratory in Mauritius had yet yielded different results. The one sent by the authorities in Seychelles showed Harmon Chellen to have 2mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood whereas the one sent by the authorities in Mauritius contained no alcohol.

The lawyer also denounced the lack of cooperation of the hotel where Mr Chellen was staying, saying that although they had requested copies of the CCTV cameras, when the time came for the hotel to submit them to court, "we found out that they had deleted everything so we could not verify what Mr Chellen was wearing when he left the hotel or whether or not he came back to the hotel before he died."

Rama Valayden said though that it has been established that during the time the chambermaid said she was being abused by Mr Chellen, "the records at the hotel show he was on the phone with his family in Mauritius. That phone call lasted 12 minutes".

Mauritius' former Foreign Affairs Minister Arvin Boolell was also present at the symposium and he said that he fully supported the Chellen's family's endeavour to seek the truth. He recalled his meetings with Ministers Adam and Morgan last year and said they had promised full support on the matter. "I believe Seychelles is a country where the rule of law is upheld and where institutions are respected and I hope President Michel will respond positively to the family's request that a commission of enquiry is set up", he told the Mauritian press.

The President's prerogative

Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry act says the following:

 (1) The President may, whenever he shall deem it advisable, issue a Commission appointing one or more Commissioners to inquire into

(a) the conduct of any officer in the public service; or

(b) the conduct or management of any department of the public service, or of any public or local institution; or

(c) any matter relating to the public service; or

(d) any matter of public interest or concern; or

 (e) any matter in which an inquiry would be for the public welfare.

Source: Today in Seychelles