Speech by President Wavel Ramkalawan at the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Seychelles Independence
29 June 2021 | State House
Brothers and sisters,
I wish all Seychellois living overseas and all Seychellois here in our country Happy Independence Day!
Today we are gathered here as a nation with great pride because, as the saying goes in English, «It’s about us». A nation that declares to live in unity, invest efforts in a commendable manner, stand strong in any distress and combine values that will help us fortify our people.
45 years ago, we were filled with hope; we were a nation being born. Today, 45 years later and in spite of all challenges, even challenges that are beyond us, we stand as a nation with a dream for all our children. In crucial times we are urged to step up efforts. In times of difficulties, this rainbow nation is called upon to stand close together. As a people of diverse faith, let us put our trust in our Lord, hold on to him and ask for guidance as our ancestors did. They helped each other and up till today, 250 years on, we can stand in dignity with fellow Seychellois, able Seychellois from different fields. These Seychellois honour their country, the country we call Seychelles, the country we love and cherish. A country with no place for discrimination, no place for hate. We simply have to give our best, stand firm and fly our flag with great pride.
Today, here in the gardens of State House, I wish to pay homage to the first person to be called President, the Father of our nation: Mr. James Mancham who attained independence from Great Britain. I recognize a son of Seychelles who held solid principles, who had love in his heart and who helped lead our country although he never had the chance, as I do today, to stand here on our national day and deliver a speech.
Today, on 29. June I also wish to pay tribute to another Seychellois who was in the very first Cabinet of Ministers. In fact, he was the sole Minister of the first Cabinet among us, but earlier today he departed; I pay homage to Dr. Maxime Ferrari, one of the builders of our nation and we thank him for his contribution. We convey our condolences to Minister Ferarri, his spouse and his family.
Brothers and sisters, today we find ourselves in the process of re-establishing normality in our country. Earlier on I stated we have no place for hatred, no place for division. Only a few weeks back we celebrated Constitution Day and as a people we know that this constitution we have adopted is the same constitution that guides us and upholds democracy as the only type of governance in our country. Respect each other, recognise the rights of the individual and promote the constitution in its charter of human rights. This is how we do things. The only way we elect our leader is through the ballot box. Brothers and sisters, this is the direction of our country, the resolution each Seychellois should have at heart. When we pass bills through a majority in the National Assembly, when we respect the Judiciary as the final referee, we recognise and proclaim no one is above the law but the law is above us all in Seychelles. When selecting our Government, we will discard violence and we shall establish strong institutions.
Institutions that safeguard the same democracy, and a constitution that advocates a treatment of respect and dignity for all children of Seychelles.
Brothers and sisters, there are many questions and our national day allows me to address these questions affecting our country.
Expectations are high but often we do not take the time to look around, to reflect and understand what is happening and what role each one of us can play. Too often we tend to sit back and expect others to do for us. And for much too long the central question has been, what can Government do for me. Today on our national day, I wish that each and every Seychellois makes the profound reflection on what you yourself are doing. What are we doing as a nation? Am I doing my part to improve my situation and help our country progress? In other words, quoting our National Anthem how can I help to raise our flag? How are we doing this?
As a Government we have to take many resolute decisions. And I am proud to say, as a nation we can congratulate ourselves. In the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging across the world, and Seychelles as a country that has unfortunately concentrated mostly on tourism, we find ourselves in a quagmire. Many countries could compensate with other sectors of the industry, but we were down on our knees. We need to understand this well and realise the state we were in. In all openness I can tell you, in December we found ourselves in distress. We were sinking and this is a fact we have to accept, like it or not. We were on the verge of plunging. We had zero in the bank – in fact we had minus zero. We were living on borrowed money.
But we didn’t just give up and sit on our hands. Many employees were losing their jobs, businesses were closing and even essential services were facing a predicament. In short, we found ourselves in a dilemma.
We saw the price of commodities soaring – something many talk about today – and we saw the dollar rate climb to between 30 and 50 rupees, aggravating our plight. We asked ourselves, what will happen to the businesses, the taxis, the hotels, the entire workforce? All of us gathered here today at State House and those listening to me from home, what would have happened to us? Yet, in spite of that challenging situation, we took decisions. The first decision we took was to vaccinate our people. I mention this because I want all to understand, if we had not taken this decision to vaccinate our people with Sinopharm, Covishield, Sputnik v, today Seychelles would be on its knees. Credit goes to the vaccine we started to administer in January brothers and sisters, that we could re-open our economy. We could re-open our country, the airport, and hence we could start breathing and could secure a certain stability. We saved jobs, we gave our people a salary to take home and I will not stop praising and thanking the Lord for blessing our country Seychelles. Thank you for the friends that came to our aid. Friends that came to us and said «In hard times a friend extends his hand to his brother or sister. »
So my brothers and sisters, even though the situation is still trying, we have gained some stability. Every day when I hear of somebody dying from Covid, it breaks my heart; not only Covid deaths but any Seychellois, a friend, young or old, somebody full of energy and potential who went down with Covid. And it hurts even more when we as a people cannot come together to offer our support. When tragedy is being glorified, I say no my friends, my brothers and sisters, let us not glorify tragedy in our country but let us show solidarity! The 29. June calls upon us to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters. To be responsible citizens and to combat this virus and live a better life.
It is distressing to see Seychelles on the red list. We are stricken when we hear certain countries warning their people against visiting Seychelles. Brothers and sisters, this does not depend on the Government. It depends on you and on me. It depends on you who are gathering at Anse Boudin today, you at La Passe, La Digue taking things easy, it depends on you at Port Launay, Cap Ternay, St. Louis and Belombre. I pray, do not ask what is Government doing about Covid but ask what am I doing as a citizen of Seychelles. How can I protect myself and whilst doing so, I will be protecting my beautiful country and allow our glorious flag to fly as high as possible.
Brothers and sisters, in a short space of time we have received many donations to help us combat the virus. We could erect a medical facility in a record time of 7 days. We have been granted funds from Seychellois and foreigners alike amounting to SR 78m that is helping us in this demanding situation we are in. Yes, we have well appropriated this monetary gift and again I call on all Seychellois who can make a contribution, be it at work, in a business, with friends to please help so that we can move forward.
As a nation of course, we are striving for the best but sadly there are many aspects affecting us. It was a shock to learn that some of our children are victims of sexual misconduct. We are dismayed to learn that this trend is on the rise and I thank all organisations that are helping to cut this ugly trend in our society.
Of course we all want to see the cost of living go down and this is another matter we are handling. I would like to congratulate STC for the efforts with over 300 retailers in all districts trying to lower prices to the benefit of all Seychellois. This will have the effect that merchandise on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue will not only become cheaper but prices will be maintained.
Brothers and sisters, if I could lower the price of electricity I would but unfortunately there are many factors that are not under our control but that of external forces. When the oil price for a barrel doubles with the economy that is ameliorating, we as a nation are directly impacted. Precisely here as a people we need to be more innovative, stronger and anticipate matters. We must look ahead and determine what is important and what is not. It is this attitude that forms part of the dutifulness we should have as a people.
I would like to call upon the media too, in the construction of our country to share information well with the people. Information on what is happening and how to best organise one’s life.
Brothers and sisters, together we can achieve all that, a slogan I always proclaim. Yes, we can do it! But it takes every one of us in this country, every man and every woman.
Today on Independence Day, I am filled with pride as a Seychellois. I am proud because I am convinced that the route we have taken as people from all continents, as one of the smallest countries, has not been in vain. Our ancestors have set us on the right path and today we must continue on this path.
Now on our national day, we must learn to take care of our country, we must help our community to eliminate bad habits. We must become a clean country, a country that fights drugs and crimes. We must continue defending our territory against crimes and I would like to congratulate the different forces active in this combat, all those taking their responsibility. It was an honour to commission a new boat in the Coast Guards fleet this morning. Coast Guards and CDF, keep up the good work! Police Force, continue the reform that will make our country stand upright. Teachers, guide our children, make them understand what is right and wrong.
All professionals, please don’t linger and people of Seychelles, let us construct our country together. Let us not just pretend to work or play a role. Let us put our hearts in what we do. If we put our hearts to our work, our country will become a place we can be proud of. A country that will give us hope. That we can tell our children nobody will do them harm, nobody will abuse them because your neighbour is also your parent. The community will help bring up the children and they will work and put all they have to good service not only for the country but for the family.
Brothers and sisters, let us live in dignity. Let us stand close together, united and with love for our country. Let us support our neighbour and through this we will make a change.
Everyday my heart sings, long live Seychelles, long live our nation from four corners of the world living together as one nation. I abide with my prayer to the Lord Almighty to bless our country Seychelles, to shed his grace upon us and that we serve it faithfully. Once again, Happy Independence Day!
Thank you very much!