2008 brings Constitution to the fore


President Michel unveils one of three plaques at the base of a new monument named Voice of Our Nation after this year’s theme as part of National Day celebrations

That has now changed with the launching by President James Michel of the 2008 theme: “Our Constitution: The voice of our nation.”

Since then, many committees have been formed and they have relentlessly worked to highlight the importance of this foundation of all laws to the people of Seychelles.

Vice-President (VP) Joseph Belmont chairs the National Theme Steering Committee which has since invited a number of other teams to do specific tasks which led to activities being held not only within, but also outside Seychelles.

For example, VP Belmont invited the President of the Seychelles Court of Appeal, Justice Francis MacGregor to form the Judicial Panel, which in turn spearheaded discussions on the Constitution locally and in various other countries including Belgium.

The launching ceremony itself provided a major stage for the initial education of Seychellois on the Constitution.

Attended by President Michel and top government and opposition officials as well as diplomats, the event took the form of a cultural show and saw popular musicians offer patriotic songs as different groups of dancers performed and others recited poems based on the Constitution.

A giant model of a copy of the Constitution stood majestically on the stage as copies of the book of law were sold for R100.

During the event and in different forums since then, many speakers have explained various aspects of the Constitution, and its preamble is now quite well known.

Every Seychellois now knows the Constitution expects us to live together as one nation and to continue serving as an example of a harmonious multi-racial society to the rest of the world.

Speaker after speaker was a little surprised to find people knew so little about their rights, but efforts have continued throughout the year to educate the masses on these, through workshops and the media.

The rights highlighted are those to do with freedom, justice, welfare, fraternity, peace and unity as well as rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and freedom from all types of discrimination.

The Constitution talks of the need for Seychellois to be committed to upholding the rule of law based on the recognition of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the need for a social order guaranteeing food, clothing, shelter, education, health and a steadily rising standard of living for all citizens.

The judicial panel headed by Justice MacGregor included Court of Appeal Judge Jacques Hodoul, Supreme Court Judge Bernardin Renaud and former Attorney General Maitre Francis Chang-Sam.

A giant copy of the constitution on display at the International Conference Centre during the launching of this year’s themeReview of Constitution

Mr Chang-Sam, now a private lawyer, was himself appointed by President Michel to head the Constitution Review Committee which was charged with the work of conducting a thorough examination of the Constitution and proposing changes.

Mr Chang-Sam was attorney general at the time the Constitution was drafted in 1993. 
When appointing the committee, President Michel said 15 years had passed since we adopted the Constitution.

“Many changes have occurred in our country since then. The Constitution itself has been amended on several occasions. In anticipation of those changes, it was recommended then that the Constitution be reviewed 15 years after its adoption,” the President said.

Mr Chang-Sam yesterday told Nation the review committee is to conduct a thorough examination of the law in the light of developments and changes that have taken place and make recommendations to bring it in line with these changes so as to secure the achievement of goals and fulfilment of the aspirations of the people of Seychelles as enshrined in the Constitution.

He noted although the theme applied until the end of 2008, his committee is expected to submit its report with the appropriate recommendations within 12 months.

Other members sitting or represented on the committee are Marie-Louise Potter, leader of government business; Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the opposition; Anthony Fernando, attorney general; Jérémie Bonnelame, chairman of the Constitutional Appointments Authority; Gustave Dodin, ombudsman; Albert Payet, chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Philippe Boullé, attorney-at-law; Bernard Elizabeth, chairman of the Liaison Unit for Non-governmental Organisations; Cheryl Vengadasamy, speaker, National Youth Assembly. The committee’s secretary is Elizabeth Charles, director of international cooperation at the Ministry of Finance.

Mr Chang-Sam said to effectively undertake their work, the first thing they needed to do was to fully understand the provisions of the Constitution.

“We have completed doing that with Chapter 3 and we hope to now do the other parts of the Constitution, for example the Legislature and the Executive,” he said.
He said Chapter 3 which is about human rights has taken a lot of time and the committee should now go through the rest of the law.

“We are going through each section and then discussing it,” he said.

Review team to hold public meeting

Mr Chang-Sam nevertheless said there has been very little response from the public and the committee is considering calling a public meeting to solicit the views of Seychellois.

“We would like people to come and talk about certain proposals we have and the provisions of the Constitution in general,” he said.

“People are not responding or offering changes because they are not aware of what is in the Constitution. They cannot give their views. They talk about certain aspects and make reference to the Constitution for example with regard to personal rights, say those which have to do with their neighbours but not the more national issues.”
He said what people now need to do is come forward and listen to our proposals and comment on them.

Having completed the study of Chapter 3 of that law the members of the Constitution Committee Review have come up with proposals which they are considering presenting to government.

Before doing so, however, the committee wishes to meet with members of the public to discuss their points of view on the team’s proposals.

Maitre Chang-Sam said once discussions on the Chapter are finished, the committee will embark on studying the aspects talking about the government like the executive, the ombudsman office, the Constitutional Appointments Authority, the police and the judiciary.

School managers and teachers (picture above) learning about the Constitution this month in a session led by, (picture below), Bernard Adonis, Marie-Antoinette Rose and Maître Brassel Adeline

“These other parts will be covered quite fast because they all have a relationship with the part talking about rights,” he said, adding his committee has until April 2009 to submit its report and he is confident that will be done.

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