Monday, June 13, 2016


Amnesty International was concerned about the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience. No new "disappearance" cases were reported to Amnesty International during 1985 but the organization remained concerned about the government's failure to investigate allegations that at least seven people had either "disappeared" or been executed extrajudicially between 1977 and 1984. A prominent political opponent of the government was assassinated abroad. The government denied responsibility for the killing but there were allegations of official involvement.

Amnesty International adopted as a prisoner of conscience Jean Dingwall, a businessman detained without trial since September 1984 Under the Preservation of Public Security (Detention) Regulations Which allow indefinite detention without trial with no right to challenge the order in court. Jean Dingwall was apparently detained On suspicion of organizing political opposition, including a nonviolent demonstration which took place on 30 September 1984. He had previously been detained without trial in 1979 and between 1981 and 1983. It was the first time that he had been adopted by Amnesty International, although his detention had been investigated by Amnesty International once before.

Nine other prisoners of conscience were among a group of some 20 people detained in May and June for possessing or distributing literature criticizing the government. All but nine of those detained were soon released but three, two of whom were brothers, Joachim and Robin Sullivan, were still held untried at the end of 1985. Two other people were sentenced to a year's imprisonment in November but were released in December after remission for good conduct. Another four people were sentenced to suspended terms of imprisonment by the Supreme Court at a separate hearing in November but were not released until the next month. They included Andre Barallon, a stevedore, and Bernard Racombo, a former police Officer.

In another case, Amnesty International adopted as a prisoner of Conscience a known opponent of the government who was sentenced to imprisonment on criminal charges which appeared to have been fabricated for political reasons. Royce Dias was arrested in December 1984 and charged with possessing cannabis. He was tried by the Seychelles Supreme Court and convicted on 27 June. He was sentenced to seven and a half years' imprisonment, reduced on appeal in October to five years'. Before his arrest, Royce Dias had on several occasions been publicly named by President France-Albert Rene as an enemy of the government. He was also known to have expressed critical views about the government in press interviews. Royce Dias claimed in court that the cannabis had been placed in his car by an officer of the Police Mobile Unit, a paramilitary force whose duties do not normally include traffic control or criminal Investigation. The officer concerned denied this but Amnesty International noted that he was alleged to have harassed and intimidated political suspects on other occasions.

In July Amnesty International appealed for the government to establish an impartial inquiry into the fate of at least seven people reported to have been abducted by the security forces for political reasons between 1977 and 1984. In each of the seven cases Amnesty International had received detailed allegations about the abductions, including in some cases the names of the security officers said to have carried them out. The organization had also received allegations that police inquiries into the "disappearances" had been obstructed by the authorities. Moreover, the family of the person who had "disappeared" most recently - Alton Ah-Time, said to have been abducted and killed in September 1984 on account of his opposition to the government - was harassed. In May 1985 three of Alton Ah-Time's brothers - George, Wilhelm and Peter Ah-Time – were detained, assaulted and subsequently released by the security forces. Amnesty International drew these "disappearances" or extrajudicial executions to the attention of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Special Rapporteur on summary or arbitrary executions. However, by the end of 1985 the authorities were not known to have established any inquiry or to have issued any response.

On 29 November Gerard Hoarau, President of the exiled Seychelles National Movement, was killed by an unknown assailant outside his house in London. The Seychelles' authorities issued a statement deploring his murder and dissociating themselves from it. However, Amnesty International noted that the authorities had claimed to have kept Gerard Hoarau under surveillance for at least three years, and that several sources, including Gerard Hoarau himself shortly before his death, had claimed that the government had conspired to kill him while he was abroad. Amnesty International subsequently received allegations that his eventual murder was carried out with the complicity of the Seychelles Government.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Legalizing double voting; PERSEVERANCE

In what is being perceived as a total disregard for the views of the opposition and at least 50 percent of the population, the government has proposed amendments to the Elections Act that will allow residents of Perseverance to vote for two MNAs in a twelve-month period.

At present, when a new electoral area is approved by the National Assembly, receives the assent of the President and gazetted, the area automatically becomes a district upon the dissolution of the National Assembly.

During meetings between the Electoral Commission and representatives of political parties, objections were raised as the law says someone ought to have been a resident in an electoral area for at least three months at the time of elections to be allowed to vote.

To bypass this issue, the Elections (Amendment) bill 2016  published in the official gazette on 2 June states that where a new electoral area has gone through the process, the people living in that area will be able to vote in their previous district at an election.

The other problem raised during meetings between the EC and political parties involved young voters who have just turned 18 and living at Perseverance. The proposed law says they will be registered in their previous districts of residence even if they were kids before moving to Perseverance.

A third section makes provisions where Seychellois who have lived overseas and who are now residing at Perseverance, will have to register in the district where they originated. The most interesting part of the bill says that a referendum shall be held within a period of one year from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly.

To put it simply, if the National Assembly is dissolved next week,  residents of Perseverance will vote in their former districts and  within a year they will again vote at Perseverance for their own Member of the National Assembly (MNA).

“This is pure gerrymandering,” a senior official of the main opposition Linyon Demokratik Seselwa said adding that “given  that they will be voting for their own MNA within a year, residents of Perseverance should not vote in other districts.” The measures published in the official gazette may be unlawful and there is a strong possibility the amendments to the Elections Act may be challenged in court.

The decision taken by the government is pretty much in line with the stance taken by representatives of Parti Lepep during meetings with the Election Commission which suggested that citizens should be allowed to vote in the area where they last resided until such time that Perseverance residents are able to vote for their own MNAs. The opposition, on the other hand, had proposed an amendment to article 116 (5) of the Constitution to make a draft order come into effect upon its publication in the official gazette and not upon the dissolution of the National Assembly.


Friday, June 3, 2016


With less than 250 years’ worth of history to our credit, our young nation most certainly wants to promote the little we do have and share it with the quarter million visitors who holiday in our country every year. And that is all the more reason why the stories and tragedies in our history must be told in their entirety and not from a single perspective.

The story of Pompée, the slave who was sentenced to die at the stake, is just one of the many tales already told through the critical eyes of the historian and now the romantic eyes of the artist. And credit for the dedicated art exhibition must go to our local artist and sculptor Egbert Marday.

Opening the exhibition to coincide with this year’s edition of FetAfrik, when our rainbow nation celebrates the African dimension in its melting pot, was well chosen too. Except that as is so common with our omnipresent party politics and political rhetoric in everything we do, the occasion seems to have given government ministers and officials another golden opportunity to claim credit on behalf of their government for improving things for everyone.

That the exhibition showcasing the life of the Mozambican slave and his ‘heroic’ murderous act against what some have termed “the barbaric system of 1810” should ‘bring the story to life for all Seychellois to understand what really happened so we can fully appreciate the future,’ may seem evident to the culture minister.

That it should ‘promote our vibrant history and give tourists and residents alike the opportunity to learn more about important aspects of our history’ may seem less evident to the rest of us, especially since the slave was tried and convicted of murder, even if he pleaded in court that he killed his white overseer because the latter beat him up and because he did not like to be commanded by a white man. The punishment received by the Mozambican-born field worker was that he be burned alive by the French colonial authorities on 15 August, 1810 near the Moosa River in the tiny nameless establishment of a very young colonial outpost barely 40 years old.

“We need to learn from that past so that we can appreciate the future,” the culture minister said as he opened the exhibition which could only have been one artist’s perspective on the slave’s life story. Of course Pompée’s story evokes oppression and repression, and heroism and revolt against barbarism. But it also evokes rebellion and a heinous crime by a man who broke the law. Pompée cleaved his overseer with a sickle whilst his partner in crime held him down. Hardly the stuff of romance and certainly no act of self defence!

This may have been one of the tales upon which our so-called people’s revolution of 1977 was justified with its promise to restore power to an oppressed nation. But it also illustrates perfectly the dangers of viewing history through rose tinted glasses and seeing it in a rosecoloured romantic perspective.

Whilst no one doubts that Pompée may have lived “a very hard life”, or ignore his courage in taking on a ruthless system, this like many other similar stories, must be told in its entirety if it’s to be a true lesson in history and if every Seychellois is to fully understand and appreciate its significance. The Colony of Seychelles in 1810 was part of Napoleon’s First Empire – a time when protest was met by repression. History recalls that Pompée was not burned because he was a black slave but because the small colonial outpost had no executioner to behead him. And besides, his death had to serve as an example to all who dared challenge the authority of the day in a colony of only 317 whites, 135 free blacks and 3,015 slaves.

Since 1810, our liberated country has seen many more Pompées and their stories too are waiting to be told. The post-revolutionary period after the 1977 coup d’état provided the backdrop for many other tragedies and their heroes that remain part of the living memory of many citizens to this day. Stories abound of those who lived, were persecuted and died for their sustained loyalty to the party politics of our pre-independence era. And if they may not have suffered the same fate of Pompée, history does recall Simon Denousse and his friend Mike Asher who died in the inferno of a vehicle on a deserted beach in the South of Mahé in 1982 and Gérard Hoarau gunned down on his front porch in a London suburb in 1985.

Pompée may be an essential part of our young history. But so are the likes of Simon and Gérard, Davidson Chang Him, Bérard Jeannie, Alton Ah-Time, Gilbert Morgan, Hassan Ali and many others who disappeared or were killed in circumstances that have never been elucidated and whose stories have never been told.

That’s why we must also make the same space for their stories in that place where “wonderful art can be placed” and where students, residents and tourists alike can “appreciate the history of Seychelles” and the barbaric acts of a liberator.

N. Tirant

Source:Today in Seychelles