Thursday, October 15, 2015


This week I had programmed to outline our Party’s stand on reconciliation and healing post 1977. However I have decided to save this for next week’s column as I have been tipped that there is a massive drive by Lepep to discredit me and embarrass my family before nomination day for the forthcoming elections. The whole idea is to humiliate me so that I will shy away from contesting the Presidential elections.

The ever lovable Ton Paul
This kind of malice and cheap politics are not new to me and my family. I come from a clan that was raised in the small village of Pointe-au- Sel in the south of Mahe. Pa was a popular, hard-working and kind-hearted man who was fondly called ‘ Ton Paul’ by everyone in the village. Ma was a strong matriarch who raised her brood of nine with a firm hand. When Seychelles started experiencing the stirrings of political activism in the 1960’s Pa was a simple unlettered farmer. However by sheer hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit, he by that time had bought quite a number of acres of land at Pointe-au-sel. Ma remained a housewife having to raise nine strong-minded off springs. When SDP (the Democratic Party of Mr James Mancham) was at the height of its battle with Mr Rene’s SPUP; Pa somehow aligned himself with DP. It was not that he was very politically motivated or had any pretensions of high office. After all he had only attended Primary school. He could not afford Secondary school as his father had passed and at a very young age; he had to look after his only sibling Martha and his mother Antoinette De Silva. My take is that Pa gravitated towards DP as a result of pressure from his circle of friends who played domino with him on Sundays.

1970 General Election
There is also the fact that Mr Mancham in his wisdom identified Pa as a popular man who could easily bag in South Mahe as an electoral district for the DP. This is exactly what happened. This of course infuriated the SPUP leadership and subsequently the Pillay clan experienced itsfirst case of the vindictiveness of the SPUP. Pa was hauled into court by his SPUP opponent who had lost again the South Mahe seat. The charge was that Pa did not understand the English language sufficiently to follow the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly. I was still in secondary school at Seychelles College then and I remember Pa leaving the house that morning in his ‘ savat-may-dan-pous’ with his head down- obviously he was very crest-fallen. I was mortified and still vividly remember the scene in our house as Ma tried to keep herself busy avoiding our despairing and questioning looks after Pa had left the house for Victoria. Only recently my youngest sister recalled ( obviously the girls have better memories than us ) how the judge had asked the plaintiff ( incidentally he was a figure that I admired and had great respect for) how does he “ know that Mr Pillay doesn’t understand English sufficiently?” The answer came back quickly “Because I spoke to him in English and he answered me in creole “ The judge retorted “ so he does understand what you said in English if he was able to answer you....” The case was dismissed.!! This was our family’s first taste of the malice that coated the politics of the forerunner of the SPPF . As Ma recalled years later “ this was only the beginning.”

 Then came “ The Liberation “( !!!!??? ) of June 1977. At first we were largely left alone since my eldest brother James had been appointed Commissioner of police- the first Seychellois to hold that post. Things did not go well for either James or the Pillay family. First there were the disappearances; then the detentions without trial. To add to James’ woes, my fourth sister Paulette wrote an open letter to the newspaper “The Independent” boldly and openly criticising the one party state and the absence of individual freedom after the so-called ‘ Liberation’. The state propaganda apparatus immediately went into full gear denouncing her as “an enemy of the people “ She, her husband Stan Gamble and their two sons had to hurriedly leave the islands for the UK for obvious reasons. This was effectively meant to silence the Pillays. Unfortunately for those who were responsible for the “Revolution” this did nothing of the sort. They did not realise that we are made of sterner stuff. James’s eldest daughter Kathleen and her friends (mainly the relatives and friends of those who had been detained without trial) became the voice of dissent. Under Rene’s stern dictatorship; she too was forced to move overseas. However she was determined not to be put down by the regime and boarded an Air France flight bound for Seychelles. She was forcibly dragged by state security personel and forced back into the AF plane.....

This whole episode left James wounded and humiliated. He was to be further humiliated later when he was demoted as Commissioner of Police and sent to open the Licensing Authority as Director...

In later years my second brother John was to be the target of the vindictiveness of the SPPF system. It was a well-known fact that the then Minister of Defence hated his guts. He was a Pillay after all and we had dared to stand up to the bullies. John spent a while in detention for no specified reason. He was detained in a cell at the Central Police station. When they felt that he had been suitably humiliated, an officer at the Central Station called home to say he was being released and could somebody pick him up. By that time fear had been well established in all families in Seychelles and ours was no exception. The truth is that we were all hesitant to drive to Victoria to pick John up until Ma; ever the matriarch said in no uncertain terms “ Pat will go and pick him up.”. The joke in the family is that when I got to the Central Police station, I did not see John or recognise anybody who looked like him. It was only after he called my name that I looked in his direction and saw a grey-haired ( quite white actually ) man standing upright and defiant. The authorities had not allowed him the privilege of having his hair dyed black...... The anecdotes above provide interesting chapters in my family memoirs which I started after my retirement and have had to put on hold now that I am back in active politics...

Now, if you fast track to 2015 and you will find that the Pillay clan is still the victim of SPPF malice and humiliation. This time round however, it is not ‘ Ton Paul’ but rather ‘ Ton Pat’.

Be that as it may, James et Al. will not bring me to my knees. I know you have the dollars and you can bring in Gihan Fernando and any number of Sri Lankans to try and sully my name. In my file locked in Michel Marie’s office at Immigration you will find the names of the Malagasies and Kenyans who have worked for me in the past. One thing I know is that the forthcoming elections will sort out the boys from the men!! I wonder in which group will Jam fall into???

Source: Seychelles Weekly