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National reconciliation imperative for a happier and more stable Seychelles

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Sir James Richard Marie Mancham KBE was the first President of the Republic of the Seychelles from 1976 to 1977.

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Sir James Richard Marie Mancham KBE was the first President of the Republic of the Seychelles from 1976 to 1977.

eTurboNews reached out to Sir James. Here is a detailed plan to address the current conflict in Seychelles after the recent election last week.

Sir James released this statement to eTurboNews:

On December 9, 2015 Seychelles NATION published a letter I wrote as an opinion piece under the title ‘The inevitable need for national reconciliation. The first round of the presidential election which took place from December 3-5, 2015 had shown that we have today a nation that is sadly divided into two opposing blocs. The second round has once again confirmed this situation and has once again revealed how important it is for this nation to consider more seriously, more deeply, more honestly and more sincerely the politics of national reconciliation which I have been advocating since I returned to Seychelles on April 12, 1993 after more than 15 years of forced political exile. I am glad that after the publication of the opinion piece I have received many congratulatory messages from right thinking people confirming how much they supported my policy that we have no choice but to become pro-actively involved in searching for national reconciliation if we are not to end up in a situation like in Burundi or like the never ending conflict between Israel and Palestine or Kosovo versus Serbia.

In the year 2002, Mahe Publication Ltd published a book entitled ‘The Sayings of Jame R. Mancham’ which was edited by Mr Andy Pothin. I believe that some of the points that I made at that time stand as relevant today as they were before:

• “Today we take comfort in the knowledge that things have been able to evolve to get us where we are without us having been engaged in civil strife or loss of life. Personally I am a man of peace and I am proud of this.”

• “A party may have a majority and be able to rule but that does not mean the ability to consolidate social harmony and ensure internal happiness and stability.”

• “Confrontational politics result in the creation and perpetuation of what I call political tribalism, a situation where scarce talent and resources, instead of uniting for the common good and interest, are wasted in the creation of division under promotion, at times, of artificial issues.”

• “National reconciliation is above all a healthy process which is based on a genuine desire to promote more internal harmony and less social tension so that the overall national interest takes priority over partisan consideration.”

• “In the pursuit of national reconciliation some things are better forgotten than said. Silence sometimes become golden. It is however recognised that there is no action without a reaction and that deeds speak louder than words. And above all one must make it a point to avoid rubbing salt in old wounds.”

• “ It is true that with their majority the SPPF can decide and impose but do they really wish to remind themselves of all the tragedies and problems which characterised the Second Republic and for which they are responsible?”

• “At the moment we may be able to find the money to build five-star infrastructure but this will become a five-star establishment without five-star productivity and service but the improvement in the area of discipline, ethics, savoir faire, savoir vivre and inter-communal politeness will not materialise if we are to perpetuate a situation where partisan politics remain more important than the national interest.”

• “For one thing I only represent a part of the political equation of this country and reconciliation cannot be a one way process if it is to be of a lasting nature.”

• “National reconciliation should not be regarded as an end in itself. It is rather a base from which to start. There is a tide in the affairs of a country which rises only on rare occasions. The importance is for the leadership within a nation to know when this tide is up and to seize it.”

• “If you look at the world today you will find that there are more conflicts within states than between states. Since there has always been strong support by governments and rulers for the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country, then the only way left to establish internal stability, respect, peace and order is through the route of national reconciliation.”

• “Democratic freedom has its responsibilities. It solves problems, but unbridled it can also create others. An effective rule of law is vital but the truth is that order requires good justice and moral and social authority. We have to strengthen the institutions – the family, the Courts, the National Assembly and the Government – in a way that they are not only accepted but also appreciated and respected.”

• “I want to call for a partnership which comes from the heart and less from political maneuvering. I call for a Seychelles of greater fraternal harmony. More dialogue and social contacts among the players on the national stage. Let us sincerely and honestly collaborate to ensure that our common resources, our experience and goodwill work in harmony in the national interest.”

• “Paradise cannot be divided against itself. God did not give us this most beautiful of all countries for us to behave like cats and dogs, conditioned by a ‘blue’ and ‘red’ politics which has lost relevance in the world of today. Today we must live on our own resources and not on polemics or slogans. Today we must face the truth and not be manipulators of divisive propaganda.”

• “Modern politics have a lot to do with manipulative actions which themselves have a lot to do with availability of resources.”

Incidentally there have been a lot of allegations left, right and centre about the buying and selling of votes in this last election. This of course poses the important question: ‘Is the citizen who is ready to sell his vote truly entitled to a vote?’ Say one day the ruling party offers him R500 for his vote. This individual next day would have no compulsion in taking R1000 from some businessman funding another party and on the eve of the election he would be quite ready to accept R5000 from a party funded by a mafia organisation.

I guess this is what Mr Wavel Ramkalawan was referring to when he spoke about an “auction sale election”. The point is that with such voters in increasing capacity, be they drug addicts or otherwise, the country could easily one day fall under the control and influence of a mafia-run organisation. After all with a total voting population of 72,000 if each voter was targeted to receive a value of US $1000 per vote, a contribution of less that US $10 million would be more than enough to induce the majority of the voters to vote for one side. Leave alone the mafia influence in the election, what if the influence was of a matter of geo-political control? If India thought that Seychelles was flirting too much with China can you imagine how much money could be donated to a party espousing an anti-Chinese position?

There lies Seychelles’ vulnerabilities when it comes to one man one vote election with several thousands of the population totally unaware or unappreciative of the consequence of their vote. In this case it would be one of major power auction sale and another feature of democracy a la Creole.

To be honest I do believe that although President Michel was very much a part of the Second Republic, the man did not assume a bed of roses when he was elected President of the Republic for the first time in his own right. At that time he inherited a country which was financially bankrupt. Today, this is not the case. He inherited a country with a big forex problem. Today, this is not the case.

He inherited a country which was about to exhaust all its reserves at the Treasury. Today, this is not the case.

During his tenure of office we have seen many housing projects come up in different parts of Seychelles, even on the slopes of some hilltops of Mahe. Today much improvement is being done in the field of education where our young people have been given the opportunity to study the new technology which is imperative for future growth. Today every Seychellois is the proud owner of a mobile phone. During his presidency he built up the University of Seychelles where over one hundred Seychellois graduated this year.

Today we are really proud to be a Seychellois because we are entitled to a passport where we need no visa to enter China, India, Russia, UAE and several other nations. Today we have a medical service which is regarded as one of the best in Africa. And today we have a GDP which is among the highest on the African continent.

Unfortunately, Mr Michel’s election campaign was not too cleverly managed and so the election result did not provide him with the votes which he deserved. Happily, both Mr Ramkalawan and himself have acknowledged the need to work together for national unity but there can be no unity without going through the process of national reconciliation.

I have over recent years been travelling to different parts of the world in an endeavour to promote peace and reconciliation in these sometime far away countries. Against the background that charity begins at home, I consider it my duty to try and bring as much national reconciliation as possible within our nation. I hope and pray that working in association with the Seychelles Inter-faith Council (SIFCO)

I will get the support from both President Michel and Reverend Ramkalawan in this respect. The task and challenges are enormous but one must aim for the sky to get above the trees.

Life is by itself a great university. I believe the Seychellois people will benefit tremendously if they are to remember the value of time, the success of perseverance, the pleasure of working, the dignity of simplicity, the worth of character, the power of kindness, the obligation of duty, the influence of example, the wisdom of economy, the virtue of patience, the improvement of talent and the joy of originating.

If they face the future with these thoughts in mind, the success will be theirs and they will become proud assets of a greater Seychellois nation.

With God’s grace I hope to remain active in the promotion of national reconciliation in Seychelles and maybe elsewhere for a few more years. But when I am gone I do not wish to be remembered as a politician who returned to his native land hungry for power but more as a humble statesman whom history will one day proclaim to have been a visionary acting in the ultimate wellbeing of his people.

This is where the victory of those who support me will lie. It is not a victory which will be celebrated next year or the year after. It is a victory which will be celebrated for generation after generation and which will be remembered long after we are all gone.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.