Speech By Dr The Hon Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Gcsk, Frcp Prime Minister

13 March 2012 | Foreign Affairs

Your Excellency, Mr James Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles,
Distinguished Members of the Delegation of the Republic of Seychelles,
Distinguished Guests,

On behalf of the Government and people of Mauritius, on my own behalf and that of my wife Veena, I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to you, Excellency, and to the distinguished members of your delegation.

Bienvenue A Maurice mo dallon !!

I also extend a warm welcome to other foreign dignitaries who are with us tonight.

Mr President,

We are deeply honoured to have a statesman of your calibre as our Chief Guest for the 44th anniversary of our independence. Indeed, your accession to the Seychelles Presidency since 2004, has seen the emergence of an innovative and ambitious vision for our sister island, a vision underpinned by the concept of self-reliance or as you yourself term it, Leve Debrouye.

Under your leadership, Mr President, Seychelles has embarked on a vigorous reform of its economy, a far-reaching democratisation of its educational system and an active diplomacy centred on the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States and sustainable development issues.

Mr President,

Thanks to the policies of your Government laying stress on the responsibility of citizens to safeguard the environment, the Seychelles to-day holds the record for the highest percentage of land under natural conservation, amounting to almost 50% of the total land area of the country. This compels both our admiration and respect.

The Gold medal of the Five Continents awarded to you by UNESCO in 2009, and other distinctions of a similar nature bear testimony to your commitment to nation building based on the values of democracy, good governance and human rights and to your continued efforts to bring to the fore the vulnerability of small island developing states. Your recent appointment as World Tourism Ambassador by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for introducing a new tourism development model is a further recognition of your personal interest in making of Seychelles a model for sustainable development.

Mauritius espouses the same ambition.

Mr President,

We take pride in your achievements, for Mauritius and Seychelles share similar histories and are bound by a common regional destiny. Since independence, both Mauritius and the Seychelles have striven to adopt an economic development based on sustainable growth and an inclusive approach. The efforts made to diversify the narrow economic bases of our countries, to look for alternative markets, to seek concessional financing as we became middle income countries and to grapple with external factors such as soaring petrol prices and food and financial crises have often challenged our already vulnerable situations as small island states. In the face of these numerous difficulties, our people have always remained at the centre of our development strategies despite budget deficits and pressures to contain social welfare costs. We can draw satisfaction from the road we have travelled even as we look forward to the road ahead.

Mr President,
Distinguished Guests,

Over the years, Mauritius and the Seychelles have laid the foundation of a mutually advantageous and enduring partnership based on common values and ideals and a shared vision of regional integration and of the role our respective islands can and should play in the concert of nations.

Our peoples may speak Kreol with a different lilt but we speak the same language. It is especially in international meetings, when we are surrounded by foreigners, that it strikes us most forcefully how kindred we are. Maurice na pa bisin dir koste Seychelles, nou deza  koste. (For those of you, who do not know it, Koste Seychellois is the national anthem of the Seychelles).

Indeed, as small island developing states, Mauritius and Seychelles are bound by the Ocean we share. Both our countries are currently engaged in reflection and charting out plans on how to develop the blue component of our economy. Many would be aware that the Seychelles and Mauritius have shown the way as to how good neighbours, sharing the same ocean, should co-operate.

Indeed, on 30 March 2011, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf adopted our recommendations that provide for an extended continental shelf, covering an area of 396,000 square kilometres beyond our EEZ. This area will be co-managed by the Seychelles and Mauritius and it holds significant potential. A strong economic partnership between our two countries is necessary if we are to successfully leverage on this new access to significantly larger areas of seabed resources.

Let me take this opportunity to also share with you, Mr President, that Mauritius has deposited a Preliminary Information Note concerning a claim to an extended continental shelf, of approximately 180,000 square kilometres, in the Chagos Archipelago region.  We have started work on the preparation of our submission for the region and expect to make the final submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf this year itself. I am sure we can rely on the usual support of friendly countries like the Seychelles when the issue comes up for consideration.

Mr President,
Distinguished Guests,

The Ocean States that Seychelles and Mauritius are, our extensive maritime territory, make of us important players in the Indian Ocean.  This is all the more significant as both our countries are strategically placed between Asia and Africa. This however also thrusts upon us a clear responsibility for ensuring that the maritime flows in the Indian Ocean remain secure.

In this context, the scourge of Piracy, and its economic impact on our region, threatens our capacity to take advantage of our extended maritime area. At the recent conference on Somalia held in London, both Mauritius and the Seychelles received accolades for the proactive role we have chosen to play in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. We hope that the renewed vigour of the international community and the pledge made to mobilise more naval and financial resources will be translated into prompt and effective actions to rid our region of this scourge.

Your country, Mr President, has acquired significant experience on the issue of piracy and we, in Mauritius, would be glad to benefit from this experience through regular exchanges on the matter. For our part, we will continue to work closely with you and with other stakeholders to combat piracy particularly through the Anti-Piracy Unit being set up in the Seychelles under the responsibility of the IOC Secretary-General.

Mr President,

The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) has served us well and I would like to commend Mr Callixte D’Offay, for the excellent manner in which he has discharged his duties as Secretary-General of the Commission. I am confident that the incoming Secretary-General, Mr Jean-Claude de l’Estrac, who is one of the founding fathers of the Indian Ocean Commission, will provide additional impetus to the organisation. Our expectations of Mr de l’Estrac are high and we know that he will live up to them.

We are fully aware of course that if the Indian Ocean Commission is to be more responsive to emerging challenges and if it is to pursue its objectives in this new world order, we will need to constantly review its structure and functioning. We feel that the Seychelles and Mauritius should lead the way and together with other Member States, look concretely at what action is needed to enable the IOC to continue being an even more effective organisation.

We cannot talk of the region without invoking with concern, the situation in Madagascar.We know that stability in Madagascar is of critical importance to all countries in the region.This is why Mauritius has been fully involved in the SADC Mediation together with the IOC to find a lasting solution.The only way to achieve this is through positive and pragmatic engagement from all the parties involved and to ensure that they stick to their agreements at each and every step on the way to constitutional order.

Mr President,
Distinguished Guests,

The issue of sustainable development and the challenges that this poses for small islands is one that binds Mauritius and the Seychelles firmly together.Mauritius and Seychelles are already working in a concerted manner, to sensitise international institutions on the specificities and vulnerabilities of small island developing states, as highlighted by both the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation. We should continue coordinating our efforts to address environmental challenges such as mitigation of the effects of climate change, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and marine pollution.We hope that the Rio+20 Conference will come up with a concrete set of recommendations and actions to ensure the sustainable development of our countries.

Of course, our concerted action on environment must be sound and coherent throughout. Mauritius cannot and will not accept that environmental concerns are wrongly invoked and used as a shield to prevent us from effectively exercising our sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.

Mr President,

We have already signed a bilateral agreement with your country to facilitate its accession to the WTO. We will continue to support Seychelles’ efforts to accede to the WTO and stand ready to provide any assistance that may be needed to facilitate the process. We welcome your decision to adhere to the WTO Agreement, thereby reinforcing the presence of small island developing states in this multilateral forum.

We remain, like the Seychelles, committed to the conclusion of an ambitious Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Eastern and Southern Africa.We are glad that at the last meeting held in Mauritius considerable progress was made in the negotiations. We now hope for an early conclusion of this agreement.

Mr President,

Allow me to re-iterate what I said earlier. Mauritius and Seychelles are bound by the same Ocean, by a similar past and by a common future. The advancement of our countries cannot take place outside the context of a strong region and we must therefore dedicate more time and effort to regional integration if our success is to be sustainable.

I am fully confident, Mr President, that your visit will further consolidate our bilateral relations and engage us into a stronger partnership for the common good of our peoples.

Distinguished Guests,

May I now invite you to join me, in a toast to :

The good health and well-being of His Excellency, President James Michel ;

The happiness and prosperity of the people of Seychelles; and

The abiding friendship between Mauritius and Seychelles.

Vive la Republique des Seychelles !

Vive la Republique de Maurice !

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