President underscores value of legal affairs dept


03-April-2012

President Michel and Vice-President Faure talking to a member of staff in the presence of Attorney-General Ronny Govinden

Mr Michel, who was accompanied by Vice-President Danny Faure – who is also responsible for Public Administration – and the secretary of state for Cabinet Affairs and head of the civil service, Mohammed Afif, was welcomed and shown around by the Attorney-General Ronny Govinden.

Besides prosecuting cases, the Legal Affairs Department advises the government on all legal issues and drafts all laws.

The President and his delegation went around meeting all staff who were busy with their normal work schedules.

He told the press later that the visit had allowed him and Vice-President Faure to keep abreast of legal issues and the constraints in which the department operates.

“The Legal Affairs department is key to the service delivery of the Government as well as the law reforms we are implementing. There are many constraints in this department and we need to put emphasis on providing the resources needed for delivery of services to the Seychellois people,” said the President, who holds the portfolio for Legal Affairs.

Mr Michel said the main constraint is the shortage of Seychellois lawyers to staff all the divisions.

It appears most Seychellois lawyers prefer going into the private sector, where accelerated development, especially in the private sector, appears more attractive to them, he said.

This means working conditions need to be reviewed so that more young qualified lawyers will be prompted to take up careers in the Legal Department, he said.

Vice-President Faure also underlined the necessity to retain staff through a new scheme of service. He added that the need to guarantee better public service delivery which will also help businesses was also among the issues discussed.

Mr Faure noted a new Registrar General – Leslie Boniface – has just been appointed and it is hoped very soon the necessary framework will be put in place to allow speedier registration of documents. He added that the public is waiting to see results.

“We will also look at the structure of the Registrar General’s Office in order to make it more effective for the public and for the business community. This also needs to be complemented by further judicial reforms, being undertaken by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so that the public has a better service in general,” said Vice-President Faure.

The Attorney-General is assisted by the principal state counsel, David Esparon and eight other counsels, more than half of whom are expatriates.

There are also 12 prosecutors, who act mainly in the magistrates’ courts and include several former police officers, such as the chief public prosecutor, Clement Potter and his deputy, Herman Ally. Another prosecutor present during the visit, Channa Durup, was formerly a Supreme Court interpreter.

Mr Michel was also introduced to the three staff of the law drafting office, headed by Lali Vimala Rathne. There is also one legal draftsperson, seconded to Seychelles by the Commonwealth.

Ms Karen Hoareau is the director of Administration for the department.
One office where the Head of State and his delegation spent considerable time was where two legal counsels seconded to Seychelles by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for prosecution of pirates are based.

The delegation were shown photographs of some of the formidable arsenal Somali pirates are using to prey on ships, including anti-tank missiles, anti-personnel mines and grenades.

It is feared that if used on oil tankers, there is the potential of an environment disaster.

Mr Govinden said shortage of space is a major constraint, adding a more spacious office is necessary for the Legal Department to expand. He also noted that when the courts move to the Palais de Justice at Ile du Port his office will be even further away making it necessary to shuttle back and forth over a bigger distance by vehicles.

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