National Assembly adopts Commonwealth Charter


12-March-2013

This was through a motion tabled by the leader of government business Marie-Antoinette Rose.

The motion read: that this Assembly adopts the Commonwealth Charter, which brings together the values and aspiration that unite the Commonwealth.

The Charter, an historic document, brings together, for the first time in the association's 64-year history, key declarations on Commonwealth principles.

The Charter comprises altogether 16 values and principles: democracy; human rights; international peace and security; tolerance respect and understanding; freedom of expression; separation of powers; rule of law; good governance; sustainable development; protecting the environment; access to health, education, food and shelter; gender equality; importance of young people in the Commonwealth; recognition of the needs of small states; recognition of the needs of vulnerable states; and the role of civil society.

The special sitting yesterday was part of activities the Assembly had organised to celebrate Commonwealth Day this year. It was attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Paul Adam, British high commissioner Lindsay Skoll, the acting head of the Commonwealth human rights unit Karen Mckenzie, members of the National Youth Assembly, among other guests.

The speaker of the Assembly Dr Patrick Herminie started the proceeding by reading Queen Elizabeth’s Commonwealth Day message for this year.

This was followed by Ms Rose presenting the motion to the Assembly. A motion which she said is in recognition of the Commonwealth’s commitment to Seychelles and also a reaffirmation of our commitment to this important association.
“As we celebrate Commonwealth Day, let’s thank the nations of the Commonwealth for having come together and built this distinguished association of independent and equal sovereign states,” said Ms Rose.

She noted that this motion is a renewal of both the executive’s and legislative’s commitment to uphold and promote the values of the Charter.

“It’s a public pronouncement and engagement towards the 54 nations of the Commonwealth that Seychelles is committed to continue to strive towards greater human development in all its aspects, be it social, political or economic,” Ms Rose stressed.

She further noted that the values which are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter are the very same values on which our nation was built.

“It needed a nation-building period, to equal opportunities for all citizens of this country irrespective of class, creed or gender,” she said.

But Ms Rose added that we must never forget that it also needed the strong support of countries which believed and shared our values and in turn extended a helping hand to us.

Ms Rose pointed out that in today’s challenging and ever changing times, small Seychelles would not have attained so much were it not for the helping hands of others.

“Many of those helping hands that have built and continue to build a more modern Seychelles, come from many Commonwealth friends,” she pointed out.

But Ms Rose further noted that in spite of all our records of achievements to show the world, we also understand and accept our vulnerabilities and the fact that we still have a long way to go, a lot more to do, to achieve, to complete and to share with future generations of the Commonwealth.

“This is why by adopting the Charter we are telling the world that Seychelles is ready to be an engaging and leading partner in combating the scourges of our time that still threatens the principles of the Charter and that of the United Nations,” she added. 

Ms Rose’s remarks and views were also echoed by other members of the majority party who intervened after her.
For his part, the leader of the opposition in the Assembly David Pierre stressed on the particular importance of this day being “the first time in its 64-year history that the Heads of government belonging to the organisation have agreed to adopt a Commonwealth Charter”.

“This is special because the Commonwealth is finally presenting a single document that sets out basic values that the people of the Commonwealth believe in and which they expect their government to support and to protect,” said Mr Pierre.

This marks a new era in the Commonwealth as the leaders are committing themselves to upholding democracy and human rights, promoting tolerance and respect, providing access to health and education and food and shelter and recognising the role of young people in promoting these and other values, Mr Pierre said.

Mr Pierre added that our Constitution provides for the basic fundamental rights of every Seychellois citizen, but noted that this does not mean that we should be entirely happy with the status quo as it is apparent, for example, that there are laws relating to our rights which are outdated and need to be reviewed and amended.

He said we need to strive to build stronger democratic institutions, like our election management body, which is the Electoral Commission and our Parliament, to state just two examples, in this country but also across the Commonwealth.

“Today I am happy to say that I share the Commonwealth way which, based on this Charter, is to seek consensus through consultation and the sharing of experience and ideas through dialogue. This is how the opposition in the House engages with government and this is the way forward and the Commonwealth must be commended for that,” Mr Pierre added.

He expressed particular encouragement by the level of emphasis placed on good governance because, he said, when respected by countries of the Commonwealth, every society belonging to any particular country within the organisation, including ours, can expect that its leadership will understand the needs for a greater level of transparency and accountability where government is answerable to its people.

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