Letter to the Editor-Diplomatic faux pas?


17-July-2013

This (yesterday’s) morning issue of TODAY, for example, carries a leading article under the title of Félicitations which inter-alia states:-

"...L'Ambassadeur d'Offay est la deuxième personnalité seychelloise à avoir reçu cette décoration honorifique de l'état français.
En 2007, Madame Sylvette Pool, en sa qualité de Ministre des Arts, de la Culture et des Sports de l'époque, avait été également élevée au grade de la Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, par décret du président de la République Française..."

Of course, I am duty-bound to my honour and to protocol to bring to public awareness the fact that by decree of May 10, 1976 of Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, then President of the French Republic, in his capacity of Le Grand Maȋtre de la Légion d'Honneur, I was elevated to the high office of an Officier de la Légion d'Honneur in my capacity as Le Premier Ministre du Gouvernement Seychellois. Of course, the French Government was recognising the leading role I had played when I put the French language at par with the English language by getting my administration to accept a policy of balanced bilingualism for Seychelles in a situation when the French language was in a declining position vis-à-vis English.

At the time that I was elevated to the position of Officier de la Légion d'Honneur, I was also presented with a reference book entitled Histoire de la Légion d'Honneur which has throughout history been recognised as the most prestigious award of the French Republic and which always has, as Grand Master, the President en exercise. It appears from this book that whereas the French Government of the day has a certain discretion in determining the number of personalities who are made Chevalier of the Order, by a decree of 1852, there should not be at any time living more than 80 holder of the Grande Croix - not more than 200 of Grand Officier - not more than 1,000 Commandeurs and not more than 4,000 Officiers.

It was indeed, in my capacity as an Officier de la Légion d'Honneur, that I was proud to be present at this year's celebration of the French National Day and also present at the ceremony which preceded it, i.e. the award of the grade of Le Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur to Ambassadeur Callixte d'Offay.

I was of course not happy with the fact that my good friend, French Ambassador Geneviève Lancu, while acknowledging my presence by referring to me as "Sir James", did not acknowledge the fact that I was also an Officier de la Légion d'Honneur.

Mr Editor, may I take this opportunity to extend to the French Ambassador my warmest congratulations for the great ceremony she hosted à la hauteur et grandeur de la France and to finally say to Ambassador Callixte d'Offay how proud I am to have been a witness to his elevation to the high and most honourable position of Le Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. Few people in history has done so much to promote Franco-Seychelles friendship and goodwill as Ambassador d'Offay has done.
Veuillez agréer Monsieur l'Editeur mes respectueuses salutations.

Sir James R. Mancham, KBE
Officier de la Légion d'Honneur

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