President’s UK visit lifts Seychelles higher on global recognition ladder-By George Thande, Seychelles Nation reporter in London


25-February-2012

It was the first-ever Guest of Government visit by a Seychellois head of state to the UK and included a visit to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and a first-ever signing in that capacity of an accord at the famous 10 Downing Street.

President James Michel and British Prime Minister David Cameron signed a memorandum of understanding for the creation of the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre in Seychelles.

Mr Michel also visited the UK parliament and observed debate during its famous Prime Minister’s question time.

In the final communiqué of Thursday’s London Conference on Somalia – which Mr Michel addressed – Seychelles is mentioned as the country that is taking systematic and encouraging action in the fight against piracy.

At 10 Downing Street Mr Michel and Mr Cameron held talks that further strengthened ties between the two countries
“This invitation has created an important platform for our future relations,” said Mr Michel in an interview at the Heathrow airport.

“We reviewed the cooperation existing between the United Kingdom with Seychelles and together looked at extra programmes we can later have, for example in education and investment.”

He said the two leaders looked at possibilities whereby the UK can help Seychelles further develop capacity in many areas, for example in reinforcing the police where weaknesses have been noted.

Mr Cameron agreed with the President there is need to improve our force, not only in policing but also helping them use better prosecution methods in piracy cases.

We looked at how we can further collaborate in these and other areas.

President Michel described having an audience with the Queen (see story on page 3) as very emotional adding he conveyed to Her Majesty his good wishes and those of the people of Seychelles on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee this year.

Mr Michel said Queen Elizabeth has vivid memories about the 1972 official opening of the Seychelles International Airport, and even enquired how tourism is doing.

“No doubt she has high esteem for the people of Seychelles to whom she asked me to pass warm regards.
“The Queen also referred to visits made by other members of the Royal Family.”

He said she expressed her wish that Seychellois will continue developing this country in unity and peace”
Car fleet owner Geoffrey Miller – who offered to drive the media around in an official car -- gave reporters the first proof that Seychelles was already renowned, by invoking the country’s name every time they encountered a police cordon during the high security time of the London Conference on Somalia which saw street protests from Somalis who had different views on certain issues.

Winter-cold frozen frowns on the grim faces of tough gate guards brightened up and he got the nod to drive the team whenever he announced the media were covering President Michel of Seychelles.

After seeing the many barriers that the names Michel and Seychelles removed, the experienced driver kept saying “this is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this. Do you think it will be possible for me to meet the President?”

Seeing time was running out as the visit ended, he cancelled other engagements, put on his best suit, embedded himself with the Seychelles media and thus squeezed through the tight security given to Mr Michel and got his prized handshake and a souvenir photo before being politely ushered away.

Mr Michel was interviewed by Zain Verjee of CNN International for a programme that was broadcast worldwide  and will be shown on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).
Mr Michel also gave Zainab Badawi of the British Broadcasting Corporation television an interview that was telecast globally and will also be aired here.

Both interviews focused on Seychelles’ role in the fight against piracy and Mr Michel said he was happy the global community is working together to rid the Indian Ocean of the pirates menace as he had been urging.

He said the London Conference on Somalia was a step in the right direction, stressing the solution to piracy lies in combining shore and ocean patrols with stabilising Somalia as the delegates sought.

During the conference, Mr Michel met key world players like the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, United Nations’ secretary general Ban Ki Moon who commended him for the leading role Seychelles is playing in fighting the scourge.

He apprised them of the situation on a face-to-face basis, underscoring the challenges we face, noting that Seychelles, though in the forefront of the fight cannot successfully deal with the scourge alone.

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