Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission hearings | 18 September 2019
Former taxi driver recounts his experiences under the one-party rule
Maxime Tyrant’s only alleged crime was to have unknowingly picked up some of the mercenaries involved in the failed take-over coup in 1981 in his taxi.
He was never tried for anything but was arrested and beaten for his supposed role in the mercenary attack, even though he affirmed that he had no idea he was picking up a mercenary.
He was released three months after his arrest.
According to him, the foreigner dubbed mercenary had requested that Mr Tyrant drives and shows him around Mahé but that they did not talk much during the tour.
This was around 15 days before the mercenary attack.
Thereafter, the one-party government of the time began to torment and terrorise Mr Tyrant and his family to the point where he fled the country for a while, he told the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission during the public hearing yesterday.
“I could not work and I could not walk in the streets so I had to leave the country. It is only then that I had some peace, but then I wanted to come back to Seychelles because I did not want to go into political exile. This is where I wanted to live, where I had my home, where I had purchased my land,” Mr Tyrant told the commissioners.
He spoke of one instance where “if my wife had not been with me in the car, I probably would have been gone – passed away.”
Mr Tyrant also claimed that if he had chosen not to come back to Seychelles, the government would have taken all of his belongings and property which they had threatened to do so at previous occasions.
But just by coming back to Seychelles did not mean that everything would go back to normal for Mr Tyrant, according to his testimonies.
Not only was his taxi application denied but he found it extremely hard to get a job.
“When I came back to Seychelles, I requested for a job with the government and I was unsuccessful so I applied for my taxi patent.”
Will Confait, a certain Mrs Contoret and another man allegedly squarely told him that he would not receive his taxi permit.
Mr Tyrant had been a taxi driver for 15 years.
He then saw vacancy looking for a driver for Joe Albert and went to see him for the position.
“Joe knows me well; we had played together as friends. He told me to go next door to Gerard Albert who asked me if I held license number 7. I told him no and he urged me to get one then come back for the position.”
Mr Tyrant went to do just that but only to go back to Joe Albert to find that the vacancy had already been filled.
“I sat home and tried to figure out what I should do. I decided to go into fishing because I had no other choice. But I could not stand being on a boat, I am not a boat person at all.”
“I sat down with my wife and wondered what I should do in this country. I couldn’t steal or do any other dirty business as they were observing you wherever you went.”
“My life was not easy, not all,” he stressed.
Later in life, Mr Tyrant met President Albert Rene and asked why he was arrested and persecuted, and demanded why he could no longer drive a taxi to earn his living.
“He [President Rene] said he knew nothing aside from the fact that I drove the mercenaries. I said that I did not know if that person was a mercenary, he had not declared it out loud. It’s like if you came up to me, asking me to take you some place. Of course, I’d do it but I wouldn’t know if you are a mercenary.”
Mr Tyrant also recounted an exchange he had with James Michel, who had yet to become the president of Seychelles.
In 1977, the year of the coup d’Etat, Mr Tyrant stated that he heard the radio announcement of the death of Berard Jeannie and even with curfews in place, Mr Tyrant decided to go see his body.
Back then you could not walk securely on the main roads, there was a jeep that would pick you up and take you to jail if they caught you outside at a certain time, Mr Tyrant explained.
“I put my shirt on top of my head, cut through the beach path and swam all the way [from Anse Aux Poules Bleues] to Anse à la Mouche,” he recounted.
At Anse à la Mouche, he was sitting down on a wall with some others when James Michel supposedly came out of a car armed with a gun and asked what they were doing there.
“I replied that we were not doing anything wrong, that we were just sitting down and that we would soon be going to the see the body (of Berard Jeannie). But he [Michel] told us to stand up and go home or else he would shoot us with the gun.”
“So I got up and went to where the body (of Berard Jeannie) was. Where I had to stay the whole night and had to wait until 8am to be able to just walk on the road. I had to take the same beach path as before because of the military jeep.”
Mr Tyrant spoke of a daunting time in our history when Seychellois did not have much liberties and when even talking to one’s family members was not advisable since nobody could be trusted.
Yesterday’s hearings of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission also included the testimonies of Patrick Walter Tirant, Lizelle Marie-Anne Tirant and Helene Hoareau who all spoke in closed sessions.