Address by President Danny Faure on the Occasion of the Official Opening 24th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC)

09 January 2018 | Foreign Affairs

Address by President Danny Faure

on the Occasion of the Official Opening 24th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the

Commonwealth (CSPOC)

9 January 2018

Honourable Speaker Patrick Pillay,
Speakers and Presiding Officers,
Honourable Members,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the people of Seychelles, a warm welcome to all of you that have crossed oceans to be here. It is my great pleasure to be here with you, at the opening ceremony of the 24th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth.

As a Small Island State, Seychelles is proud to host this conference for the first time. This conference brings together the Speakers and Presiding Officers of 22 bicameral parliaments and 30 unicameral parliaments – a total of 74 members from 52 nations. It highlights both the diversity and the fundamental unity of the Commonwealth. We are all committed to the values inscribed in the Commonwealth Charter – democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We are all dedicated to the development of free and democratic societies, and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of our people.

Our parliaments, National Assemblies and Legislatures sit at the heart of each of our nation’s constitutional arrangements. It is in our Parliaments and National Assembly that a dedication to service of the people seeks legitimacy. Through discussion we can often see the solution to issues and problems that individually and collectively confront us.

This gathering provides an important forum for the sharing of experiences, collaboration, and partnership across national parliaments of all independent sovereign states of the Commonwealth. The objectives are critical for the continued development of our countries, including: “The maintenance, fostering, and encouraging of impartiality on the part of Speakers and Presiding Officers of Parliaments; the promotion of knowledge and understanding of parliamentary democracy; and the development of parliamentary institutions.” I would like to thank the Secretariat of the Seychelles National Assembly, and the Commonwealth Secretariat, for its continued support and for facilitating the organisation of this conference.

The oversight role of Parliament and National Assembly is critical to a vibrant democracy. Accountability is a duty that a government has to its people. It is a duty that is shared by all members of Parliament and National Assembly, and the responsibility of Speakers and Presiding Officers should be seen in this context. It is essential that the business of the Legislature is conducted to safeguard the security, prosperity, welfare, and dignity of our citizens. When we focus on the interests of our people, that is when a society succeeds.

I note that many of the topics for discussion in this Conference are directly related:
The role of the Speaker in strengthening parliamentary diplomacy in both regional and international cooperation
The use of technology to support Members and House Business
Strengthening Parliamentary research for the effective functioning of legislatures
Emerging security issues for Parliamentarians
And the Special Plenary Topic: the role of Speakers in strengthening Parliament as an Institution of Accountability, Openness and Transparency.

Connecting Parliament with the public; engaging citizens; remaining accountable, open and transparent; and keeping the institution relevant are critical issues to discuss in the 21st Century. All arms of Government – the Executive, the Judiciary, and the Legislature – and the House and its members – need to be mindful of these responsibilities if they are to uphold our democratic tradition.

In Seychelles, we are making history in our young democracy. As you are aware, we now have a cohabitation in Seychelles, where the Opposition is in the majority in the Seychelles National Assembly. The cohabitation is working for the greater good of our country and wellbeing of our people.

The Seychelles National Assembly as an essential branch of Government has transformed into an exemplary institution in the region. There are vibrant debates of divergent views, but there is also a new working environment; one where there is dialogue and consultation. And most importantly, mutual respect.

Under the leadership of Honourable Speaker Patrick Pillay, our National Assembly has seen greater transparency, openness and accountability. The sittings are broadcasted live on both television and radio. Through modern technology, citizens are able to directly contact their respective representatives while the debates are taking place, making use of platforms such as WhatsApp and social media. This is permissible by our Speaker. As for the Executive Branch, members of my Cabinet make themselves available to take private members’ questions from the Leader of the Opposition, and both urgent and 10 days’ notice questions from Members of the National Assembly. Cabinet Ministers are also available to attend sessions of the Assurance Committee for questioning on promises and pledges made. This has contributed to the strengthening of the planning process within Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Budget session is also televised live. In some jurisdictions, I am aware that Committee stage of the Budget debate is not live. This was also the case before in our country, but live broadcasting of Committee stage of the Budget is a new feature with the Sixth Cohort of the National Assembly. Ladies and gentlemen, since taking office on the 16th of October 2016, I have consistently espoused the values of good governance, accountability and transparency. Within the Executive Branch we have been implementing new policies that reinforce these values. There is presently a strong nexus between the work of our National Assembly and the Executive Branch on these values, which is great for our evolving democracy.

I believe in our democracy, and the central principles of accountability, good governance and transparency. It is important that these principles are promoted and reflected in all organisations – economic, social, civic and political. This international conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers gives us the opportunity to showcase the Republic of Seychelles as a dynamic democracy, and I would like to thank the Commonwealth for supporting and assisting in enhancing our democracies within the Commonwealth and beyond.

Seychelles is proud of its membership of the Commonwealth. As members we are bound together by our history, language, and institutions; but also united through our shared values of freedom, peace, rule of law and opportunities for all. This coming together of all Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth for the first time in Seychelles is a sign of our solidarity and partnership. The vision that is the hallmark of the Commonwealth, the consensus, and the scope of our association, remains relevant more than ever before, especially with emerging global challenges. Honourable Speakers, as Head of your respective Legislatures, you ensure that the voices of the people are heard, and you act as guardians of democracy, human rights, and peace.

In closing, may I take this opportunity to wish you outstanding success in your discussions over the next few days. It gives me great pleasure to declare this 24th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth officially open.

Thank you, and may God bless our Nations.

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