Polluted water incident at La Misère | 07 October 2019
Affected residents advised to accept compensation from government
Residents affected by water pollution at La Misère are being urged to accept to be compensated with money from government budget for now while a committee is set up to liaise with government and other parties for further negotiations.
These are some of the resolutions taken during a public meeting for La Misère residents held on Saturday afternoon near the La Misère Chapel with the Minister for Finance, Trade and Economic Planning, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the Attorney General Frank Ally and the La Misère Appointed Committee for the residents who have been affected by contaminated water represented by the member of the National Assembly for Grand Anse Mahé, Waven William, and the residents’ representative lawyer and member of the National Assembly for Les Mamelles, Bernard Georges.
The aim of the meeting was for the residents to be updated on matters taken following their request from staged protest that tax payers’ money will be used to pay for their additional supplementary compensation and also for Minister Loustau-Lalanne to show proof of how much money was paid into government coffers for compensation payment.
Addressing the residents, Minister Loustau-Lalanne said government received a sum of US $8.5 million in two portions – first a US $1 million portion followed later by a US $7.5 million following negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) construction company Ascon. The money was transferred to Nouvobanq. He noted that as per the local final compensation settlement, R250,000 were disbursed per household in 2011. Three hundred and ninety-three (393) households were identified for payment but only 392 households took the money.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne, who has been mandated by the National Assembly through an approved motion put forward by Honourable William to re-negotiate the compensation with Ascon, the contractor of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s palace complex, as the residents were not satisfied with the R250,000 compensation, said the government, who has accepted full responsibility for what happened at La Misère, is committed to paying some sort of compensation to all those affected.
He noted that government has decided to pay as compensation to those affected, R50,000 to each adult, R15,000 per child under seven years old at the time of the incident and R25,000 per student and teacher at both the La Misère primary school and the Seychelles Tourism Academy.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne further said the payment, which amounts to R75 million, will be made in two portions with the first half portions (R25,000, R7500, 12,500) as per head compensation to be made in January 2020 and the second portion in January 2021.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne made clear that new claimers who may have been missed out on the first payment will after thorough investigation be paid their compensation in 2022.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne said that it is only today, October 7, that he will know if he will be given the go ahead to conduct the negotiations with Ascon.
The residents, who were still reluctant to take the money as it will come from government coffers which they are against, were advised by Honourable Bernard Georges to take the compensation payment from government while waiting for the negotiations between Minister Loustau-Lalanne and the Ascon representatives in UAE, noting that negotiations make take time or may turn out to be negative.
He told the residents to bear in mind that if Ascon decides not to pay, so will government and the situation will backfire on them as they have decided not to accept the payment from government and there will be no one else to pay them compensation.
Honourable Georges noted though that there is a court case on the matter scheduled for November 11, 2019 where a ruling will be given in case an outside settlement has already been reached.
Mr Ally gave a history of the settlement agreement and on President Danny Faure’s acceptance on behalf of government of full responsibility for the water pollution incident which was followed by his announcement in the state-of-the- nation address that government will pay for the supplementary compensation.
AG Ally added that pending further investigations, new claimers will also be compensated.
He noted that the children who were under seven years old at the time of the water contaminated incident and have now become adults, will be paid the amount allocated for children, meaning a sum of R15,000.
Honourable William told the residents to analyse the compensation situation carefully and to take the advice given by those who know very well what negotiations and signing of contracts is all about.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne also told the residents, who were affected by diesel that spilled in the river at La Misère around the same time as the contaminated water incident, that an agreement is nearing completion for compensation to be paid to the 120 residents affected.
Speaking to Seychelles NATION on the phone a few hours after the meeting, a resident, Eddie Westergreen, who is part of the protest organisers, said they will continue with the protest today as they are still not satisfied with the response from the government officials in the meeting.