New court building opens


CJ Egonda-Ntende and Justice MacGregor unveiling the plaque marking the official opening of the Palais de Justice

The new judiciary building houses the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal of the Seychelles and is a US $6 million project funded by the People's Republic of China and built in partnership with the government of Seychelles.

It was opened by the President of the Court of Appeal, Francis MacGregor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Fredrick Egonda-Ntende.

Other guests present to witness this milestone in the history of the Seychelles judiciary were the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Seychelles, Shi Zhonjun, and a large number of dignitaries from the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the State as well as members of the legal profession, and chief justices of Tanzania and Uganda.

Following the ceremony, President Michel and other guests toured the state-of-the-art facilities, and were briefed on the way the new systems would impact the courts' proceedings.

"On this historic day, we are deeply grateful to the People's Republic of China for the construction of an emblematic building for our justice system, which together with the National Assembly building, the Anse Royale Hospital and the Au Cap school, are concrete examples of the fruits of the special relations between Seychelles and China. This Palais de Justice is part of our strategic plan for the modernisation of the judiciary and it gives me great pleasure to see this vision become a reality. It has the potential to become a centre of excellence, and if used well, will help to speed up court proceedings," said President Michel following his tour.

The Palais de Justice, with more than 5,000 square metres, has 10 court rooms that host a range of advanced technology including security video surveillance, internal broadcast and PA systems, electronic information and video panels for visitors and staff, video and audio recording and playing systems for court proceedings, computer systems connected to outside servers, and ability to connect to video-links from international locations.

Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende described the opening of the Palais De Justice as a “momentous occasion”, turning what was a dream into reality.
He thanked President Michel and his government for negotiating this gift and the support they have provided to the judiciary in order for it to engage in an exercise of renewal and reform to meet the legitimate expectations of our people.

Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende also thanked the people and government of China whose gift and friendship have made this possible.

Guests touring the state-of-the-art facilities in the court room

“We have adequate capacity now to hold people who have been brought to court involuntarily, holding them in dignity and some degree of comfort, away from the public glare that was the norm at our former location… We have provision for attorneys and government state counsel to be able to interview their witnesses and clients in confidence, apart from their own robbing quarters. Later on we intend to provide witness rooms where witnesses can wait in private for their turn to be called, and protect them from some members of society who do threaten witnesses. We also have adequate capacity to ensure that the public who come to the courts need not suffer the elements of nature as has been the case at our former location, during either the waiting period for a matter to commence or the start of their business at the court house,” said the chief justice.

He added that now that the court has moved into an adequate work environment the hard work must begin to ensure that the hope raised in the court users by this new development is not frustrated.

We need to re-double our efforts in serving the public which is the only justification for the existence of the Judiciary, he said, adding that “our challenge is to ensure that our work processes, services and professional conduct of all players in the administration of justice, and not just judicial officers and judiciary staff, rises to the same level.”

“We have come a long way. However there are heights yet to scale! I call upon you all to support the judiciary scale those heights! Yes we can, as others have done, with all your support! ,” noted the chief justice.

The inauguration of the Palais de Justice was an “exceptionally unique moment in history” for court of appeal president Francis MacGregor who added that it was the first inauguration in the living memory of Seychelles of a superior court building.

“This building is a symbol of justice, but it’s not the building which brings justice, it’s the judges who took the oath to practice their work without fear, favour or malice,” he said, before pledging on behalf of his colleagues to do justice to this great new house by dispensing justice as expeditiously and as fairly as possible.

Chinese ambassador Shi, who together with chief justice Egonda-Ntende signed the handing over certificate, said the Palais de Justice is the second big project donated by his country to Seychelles, adding that since Chinese set foot here 150 years ago they have been playing a great role in society.

CJ Egonda-Ntende and Ambassador Shi signing the handover certificate

Earlier last week, the Chinese-built Anse Royale hospital was inaugurated and Mr Shi said many people may wonder why China does all this for Seychelles.

“We are friends, we are brothers and sisters because the biggest developing country shares the same vision and dream with one of the smallest developing countries,” he said after having urged workers in the judiciary to work hard and efficiently and to make new contributions to the social development of Seychelles.

The new building was blessed by representatives of the Seychelles Interfaith Council after Messrs Egonda-Ntende and MacGregor had unveiled the plaque.