Address by the President of the Republic, Mr. Wavel Ramkalawan - 26 April, 2021
26 April 2021 |
Seychellois brothers and sisters,
Today, the 26th of April, is exactly 6 months since I took my oath of office as President after the people of Seychelles gave the LDS (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) party and myself a mandate to lead our country, Seychelles. It was a democratic mandate through a democratic election, and this was also the first time a Seychellois commenced a Presidential mandate through an election that the Electoral Commission and the whole world described as free, fair and credible. It was not a coup d’état or the handover of a baton but a democratic election by the people of Seychelles, for the people of Seychelles. After having been led by a single party during 43 years, Seychellois voted for change under the theme « Seychelles for all her children».
The mandate that the new administration and I received is for 5 years, that is, 60 months. Thus, 54 months remain. Today, after only 6 months, a tenth of that time, some people are frustrated because all should have been completed, all problems resolved, 3,000 houses completed, everyone in employment, the problem of drugs eliminated, the cost of living lowered, and government should have accomplished all that was in its manifesto.
I feel that this kind of expectation is far too high. To do all this in six months is simply impossible. Therefore, those who believe in this kind of speed will, of course, be disappointed, and I sympathies with them. Just to remind you that I took the helm from a political party that was there for 43 years, for 516 months. So, am I asking for too much when I tell all Seychellois to have a little more patience and we shall transform our country?
But I am also happy to say a big thank you to that majority of Seychellois who are less vocal and who are observing attentively what is happening in our beautiful country, Seychelles. They are following and they understand that like the proverb goes; ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ Thank you for not falling for these tactics and the false propaganda being sown every day. Everything has an explanation. Where there is a mistake, I will be the first to admit it so we can correct it, and where there is an explanation to give, I will do so. I have the patience for it. Where sacrifice and effort is required and decisions to take, you know that I am ready to do it. Therefore, for the moment, I will tell you to not be afraid, Seychelles is headed in the right direction. I am not here to take political decisions to try to satisfy everyone and to become popular. That is not my mandate: I am here to work hard and with honesty, without corruption, and to make our country and people move forward and get a better life. I am working for all Seychellois, without exception. I am eliminating grudges, envy, division and victimisation. We will do it for our country.
In this new Seychelles that we are looking to create, I must first state that I am not in conflict with any citizen. I respect all citizens and speak to everyone to encourage them in the work they do. Workers in government have a right to their political and other opinions, but where we should not differ is in our loyalty towards our country and in working hard for our people. Dragging one’s feet is not an option. We should, at all times, be giving 100%. I congratulate all workers who are doing so and I encourage those who are not giving 100% today, to embark on this path and join the same team of workers.
I listened and I know that certain persons’ disappointment lies in the fact that there are many workers who support the previous government’s party who are still working. Believe that I understand the feeling when a person tells me that they are angry that the same person who has blocked him, made him suffer to stop him from getting a job, a plot of land, a house, a business, a scholarship or a carer, is still holding the same position. I understand you and you too, understand me well.
The most important transition that our country must go through is to reach a stage where everyone who works in government sees themselves as a professional, valued and engaged in delivering their best for Seychelles. This is what I wish to see. This will only happen when every government employee sees themselves as a public servant and they give the best service to the population as well as taking care of their department as if it were their own business. This is what I wish to see, and I must say that I have already started to find this is happening in various ministries, including at State House, and this is the feedback I am getting from the different ministers. In other words, I am looking to eliminate bad practices and replace them with positive ones which are good for our country. I can give the example of Ton Mazaren on the outer islands: He used to kill turtles, and today, is most significant ambassador for their protection. Transformation and change of mindset to see oneself as a servant – this is what needs to happen.
You must also understand me. When I came to State House, all workers thought they would be sacked. This is what they had been told. I have seen fear in the eyes of grown men and women because they did not know where they stood and what would happen. With the principle that we need to look for what is good for our country and to deliver our best work possible, I have succeeded in creating a good team around me. Fear has fled, trust has been established and today workers are valued and encouraged in all aspects. They are not scared of taking good initiatives, because they know that I will never give instructions to victimise any Seychellois citizen.
I want everyone to know that they have the right to use their intelligence and their mind, and that if previous administrations emphasized political segregation and preference, this new administration is bringing change where all the children of Seychelles have the opportunity to blossom and receive the best service possible. This is the foundation of the human change which we are seeking in our country and which I engage to bring. There has been too much suffering, bitterness and tears. My mission is to stop this. God will give us the courage, we shall be faithful and succeed.
However, let us be frank so that we understand each other better. Division, sabotage, corruption, laissez-faire and laziness is still happening and I wish to say loud and clear that they have no place in the civil service, the private sector and in Seychelles. Let us all agree that there is only one government in the country. The one that was there before is no longer the government and the sole administration is the one the people of Seychelles elected in October 2020. If we agree on this, we can progress because it means you are not taking directives from other former ministers which you continue to call ‘yes minister’ and who calls you ‘his player.’ I consider this loyalty to be very important and this is the line we must never cross.
Government employees who think they will go slow to delay government’s work will have to take a decision rather fast, as otherwise we will have to take the decision for them. Should this happen, do not cry victimisation, but rather mea culpa. Those who spend their working hours organising political activities, using state resources to telephone residents in their districts to check their readiness to join teams mobilising for protest marches, disturbances and sabotage in town, or pass their time leaking confidential information with the aim of destroying the government, will have to take a decision. I am not happy when a brother or a sister loses their employment but if you don’t like your place of work, it is best that you find another job where you will obtain satisfaction. It gives me no pleasure to say these words, however, I need to bring all of us to the same page and for us to understand each other.
Whilst I am on the subject, I want to make it clear that it is time for everyone who holds a position of responsibility to assume their responsibility and stop making people frustrated. I notice that too often, unless the Minister or I intervene on very simple issues for a person to get a response to a legitimate request, nothing happens. We need to micro-manage while the person who holds that responsibility makes no move. This causes frustration and tonight, I wish to issue a clear message: If, in the past, everything depended on the President’s decision, this has changed. You are paid to give the best service to this people. As a child of Seychelles and a worker for the children of Seychelles, assume your responsibility.
Brothers and sisters, we must not forget that we have inherited a situation where poor governance, corruption, theft and vicitmisation in the civil service based on your political colours had become a culture where the chief gave all orders based on his own whims without any clear policy. Let us not forget that the Truth, Reconciliation, National Unity Commission is still making us recall the past 43 years where people were killed, made to disappear, tortured, their properties seized by the state, sent into exile, their businesses closed and when fear reigned and during which period neither radio nor television or the courts listened to you. Compare this to what we are bringing today, where all points of view are tolerated.
Brothers and sisters, we wish to create a Seychelles where peace reigns and slowly, I am convinced that the social challenges we face will be addressed. We must do this in unity as one nation. There are many challenges, but with the same determination which brought us to this point, nothing will make us reverse our course. Have faith. Father knows what he is doing.
Today, I also wish that we congratulate ourselves. Seychelles has made progress in press freedom. We have gone up by 11 points, climbing from 63rd to 52nd (in the World Press Freedom Index) amongst 180 countries. During the coming year, we should work towards being ranked 1st in Africa and below 25 in world rankings. And we must come out first on the Mo Ibrahim Index for Africa. The principle is simple: We attach great importance to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and human development. Express yourself, critisise, analyse, give your views and promote your ideas. All this is fine because it is balanced with the truth. In this stage of transition which we are traversing, I make a special appeal to the national media, SBC, as well as all other media to raise their standards and undertake the work of professional journalists. You are not politicians but impartial journalists, unless you work for a political party. Give all sides to a story, with truth and education as your objective. Dig, do your work and not just journalism that is sensational and emotional. When you show a person on URS (Unemployment Relief Scheme) who has not yet obtained employment, show one who is working hard as well. This is the standard the country expects of you. I am not telling you to engage in propaganda for government, but always give all sides of the story and help this people.
During the last six months, with the right approach to COVID, a robust vaccination programme and proper planning for the reopening of the economy, we find that our tourism industry is recovering; tourism establishments, large and small are getting clients, taxis and omnibuses are making a living, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars are trading, boat excursions have restarted and in general, our country is once again on its feet. We have all been happy to see how fast the rupee has regained its value and the dollar exchange rate is back to how it was before COVID. Inflation will also decrease and more money is entering government coffers. I am encouraged to see many more people working, the police regaining momentum and we also see that the pension fund is collecting more money because more people are working and contributing.
Everything that I have mentioned shows us that we are on the right track, but they are not enough for us to address subjects such as housing, social support, better health services and others that need our attention. The challenges before us such as the price of utilities, water and electricity, the cost of living and other expenses that we need to lower, are already being addressed and I am hopeful that we will succeed in giving our people a better life in general. Let us not forget that sometimes, such seemingly simple topics as the bus service or the way that waste is collected is very important, not only for our population but also for our image. So, my brothers and sisters, in six months we have succeeded in restarting our economy and I wish to call on us all to put together our efforts to reconstruct this country instead of each pulling it apart to destroy it.
The government’s strategy over these last six months was simple : 1. To get COVID under control after community transmission had been detected ; 2. Start the vaccination programme ; and 3. Restore our economy. Of course, while we were focusing on these three things, we also looked at governance in our country and attacked all subjects relating to our development. In all three domains we are succeeding.
Putting COVID under control, unfortunately, does not depend solely on government, but on each of us. I am disappointed with the behaviour of many of our citizens, with the number of cases which we are still registering. I repeat that all Seychellois must take the appropriate measures and it is only through this that we will combat and win against COVID. I know these directives may seem trite, but this is what will protect us. Therefore, let us always wear our facemasks, wash our hands and maintain social distancing, If we do this, we will vanquish COVID. I make a new appeal for all of us, together, to unite this month of May and put COVID completely under control. We shall start with Labour Day to show that we are really serious.
With respect to vaccinations, we remain first in the world as the country which has administered more vaccines per capita. When certain people in the world, including in developed countries are seeking to get vaccinated, here in Seychelles, because our government has the right strategy, we have enough vaccines for all of our population and we are even administering them to all foreign workers. I call on everyone to take their vaccines as a responsibility. Today, we have succeeded in administering the first dose of vaccine to 68% of our total population, and 57% with the second dose. When we compare this with our target population of 70,000 adults, we have given 95% the first dose and 80% the second dose. This is an extraordinary achievement for little Seychelles and it should make us all very proud.
Our vaccination programme is a success up till now and I take this opportunity to request everyone to go get vaccinated. It is this which will protect you from severe illness and avoid putting pressure on our health care system. If today, people are not showing symptoms of this disease it is because they have been vaccinated. I acknowledge your right, but I also make an appeal to your responsibility to protect others. There are certain people who have been in quarantine at least twice and this is putting the workplace behind schedule. It is not right that others should suffer and work more because of your negligence.
Putting COVID under control and our vaccination programme has permitted us to reopen our country as of 25th March. This is a huge success and today, more airlines and tourists are entering our country. Business has restarted and activities resumed. Everyone is reaping some benefit. We are on the right track and this is the basis to bringing down the cost of living in our country, while we reorganise STC (Seychelles Trading Company). I am happy to see that the cost of fuel at the pump has started dropping and the price of certain commodities starting to fall. I expect an immediate drop in prices of commodities entering the country at the moment. I appeal to all businesses to pass on this success to Seychellois.
Brothers and sisters, the local effort for vaccination is really good. Congratulations !. But we need to pay attention as we need to make a bigger effort to cut the infection rate. The world is watching closely, and if we, as Seychellois, don’t contribute towards bringing it down, tomorrow, these countries can instruct their citizens not to come to Seychelles, just like one of two have already done. Therefore, let us protect ourselves, combat COVID and consider that if we regress, the world will close its doors to us and it will likely be difficult for us to recover. I count on all Seychellois to take this seriously.
On the subject of the cost of living, STC is undertaking a comprehensive exercise through which, precisely, the cost of commodities they import will fall. With the introduction of a recommended price system, everyone will know exactly how much a product is supposed to cost, and with the collaboration of the Retailers Association, I am expecting that people will see an improvement in prices. The price of STC’s commodities will be the same on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. I give my assurance to all STC employees, especially those on Praslin and La Digue, that STC will accompany them during this transformation and they should not let anyone intimidate them. I also call on all other merchants to adopt the same attitude and not to exploit their customers. I also request that everyone pay their taxes as they should. Do not charge someone VAT and then put that money in your account.
Brothers and sisters, every day we identify weaknesses affecting the government’s efficiency. Our country has lost many benefits in various fields, be it financial assistance which we have not claimed from international organisations, or scholarships fully funded by their donor countries, or funds that should have entered the state coffers. Just with the Industrial Estates Authority, where at the premises leased by the IEA to small entrepreneurs, the sum of SCR11 million is yet to be collected, money which could cover the expenditure of an entire ministry. We see Day Care centres which government leases out at SCR1,200 per month, but where a sole child is charged sometimes up to SCR1,800. On top of this we continue to witness the abuse of state resources through corruption, negligence, or where those holding responsibility don’t do what they are supposed to. I am proud to tell you that all vehicles which fall under State House is in order today. Throughout this entire year there will be no outlay on hire vehicles, nor the necessity to purchase new ones. I am asking SPDF, the Police, and other large organisations to do the same. We need to protect state resources and here I appeal to all parastatals to cut down on abuse and institute more controls.
Government will need to review again salaries within its structure as well as those in parastatals. There continues to be a false notion that politicians earn the most in this country. And each time the subject of sacrifice comes up, the first argument one hears is ‘why not cut the salaries of the MNAs, ministers and that of the President ?’ Let me tell you that in Seychelles today, it is not those people who receive the most pay. Within the cadre of government itself, the posts of director, accountant, and other administrative positions earn much more than an MNA. The salaries of Principal Secretaries and other positions are much higher than a minister’s and the pay of many CEOs is even double that of the president’s. There are CEOs who bring home ahead of SCR150,000 a month, exclusive of other privileges. A salary needs to make sense and Seychelles needs to address this. I recognise that competence needs to be rewarded. The Minister of Finance will start a revision exercise which will be presented to Cabinet. All too often there are too many people in the ministries which makes government spend a lot. We need to move on quality and not on quantity. If we do not do this, it will be difficult for government to employ competent people because we cannot offer a competitive salary.
Government has already made certain changes in different posts. We continue to review how to use our manpower more effectively. Internal changes have started in many ministries where some people have either already stopped work or have taken up new responsibilities. I must say that we see a new spirit, which is encouraging. As you have seen, there are new people on certain boards, while others, upon reflection of their efficiency, have been abolished and their work transferred to the ministry itself as a new department. Government has taken an approach whereby we put people in positions where they will be most effective, and we also demand regular reviews to see if the objectives set are being accomplished. Hence, a change in position does not imply a demotion, but rather a way for that organisation to become more effective.
I will announce certain changes which will occur within certain ministries. At the same time, it is important for me to highlight that much discussion is still ongoing in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Lands and Housing, and that we will soon be in a position to make certain announcements. The only position we have confirmed is a new CEO for the Planning Authority, and this is Ms. Angelina Servina who has replaced Mr. Joseph François.
Changes within the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment are as follows:
PS for Environment is Mr. Denis Matatiken;
PS for Energy and Climate Change, Ms. Rebecca Lousteau Lalanne;
PS for Agriculture, Mr Keven Nancy.
With the amalgamation of the Botanical Garden Foundation and the Marine Parks Authority, the new CEO will be Mr. Alain Cedras.
The position for the new CEO of LWMA will be published and will be open for all to apply and after interviews, we will announce who has been appointed.
The Ministry of Education will be structured in two departments – Department of Education Services and Department of Education Sector Development.
The Department of Education Services will be headed by Dr. Odile de Commarmond as Principal Secretary.
The PS for the Department of Education Sector Development is Mr. John Lesperance.
Three Directors of Education for different divisions will fall under the PS:
Priority Areas – Director of Education - Mr. Alex Souffe
Resources – Director of Education - Dr. Linda Barallon
Regulatory and Legislative Affairs – Director of Education - Mr. Jean Michel Domingue.
Other announcements for other structures will be announced by the Ministry itself.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism will be reorganised as follows:
PS for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Vivienne Fock-Tave;
PS for Tourism, Mrs. Sherin Francis.
In keeping with the strategy of making better use of our resources in embassies to cover tourism, Mrs. Anne Lafortune will enter the diplomatic service.
Government has taken the decision to restructure the Ministry of Finance as follows: The position of Principal Secretary will be served by Secretary of State Mr. Patrick Payet.
Mr. Damien Thésée will become the new CEO of the Financial Services Authority (FSA). He will have a specific mandate to direct the organisation so that Seychelles is removed from the European Union black list.
There have been many changes within the Ministry of Local Government, from the position of PS and where the positions of DAs are concerned. The appointment of a DA, today, is done after the vacancy for the position is opened to anyone to make their application, this is followed by an interview and it is only after this that the successful candidate is selected. An exercise has been conducted whereby the previous DAs have changed districts so they have a new overview of work in another district.
With respect to Praslin and La Digue, as I have previously announced, these two islands fall under my direct responsibility. I will choose a person on Praslin and one of La Digue who will act as the liaison with State House. This will be announced soon.
The post of the Commissioner of Police is vacant following the retirement of Mr. Kishnan Labonte. One of the first order of work which the National Assembly will have is to approve the new Commissioner of Police. Following this the transformation of the police force will begin. Seychelles needs a serious and efficient force which becomes our nation’s pride and gives everyone a sense of security, order and peace.
Seychellois brothers and sisters, our vision is based on a civil service which is efficient, productive and professional. This is what is at the foundation of our society. If we get this right, our people’s frustrations will lessen, because our lives themselves will be better. Today, I again appeal to all Seychellois for us to come together to build our country. We are the ones who will make that change in our country. I have no doubt that when each one of us comes together to defeat the bad habits in our country, we will make giant steps in our development. Let us live as brothers and sister. There is no place for hate, grudges, and other destructive sentiments.
God has blessed our country with beauty and our people with intelligence. Let us put back those granite boulders, green mountains, beautiful beaches, and sand banks decorated and encircled by beautiful flora and fauna in the Indian Ocean in His hands and always ask Him to bless us.
God bless Seychelles.
Bondye in beni nou pei avek labote e in beni nou pep avek lentelizans. Annou remet sa bann ros granit, montanny ver, zoli lans ek bann ban disab dekore e antoure avek zoli flor ek fona dan Losean Endyen dan son lanmen e touzour demann li pou beni nou.
God bless Seychelles.