Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission | 09 November 2019
Commission hears more complaints
In his complaint in the first case yesterday before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC), Roger Mancienne talked about the impact of the coup d’etat in Seychelles and the imprisonment and hardship he along with other people suffered following the coup.
He said the coup had impeded the development of Seychelles as it was the obstacle that had prevented the country from becoming a strong nation. He refuted the fact that the changes and developments that have happened in the country was the direct result of the coup as some people have been made to believe.
He noted that the oppression and human rights abuses do not justify the coup, adding that changes and development of the country would have happened even without the coup.
He said that the even if there were some issues, such as land issues, which was one of the justifications for the coup, things would have fallen into place as people were starting to be better educated.
He said the coup completely dampened the ‘joie de vivre’ of the Seychellois people which is still being felt today.
Mr Mancienne told the commission that because of the coup, he was arrested at his work place at the Ministry of Education in November 1979, with explanation and imprisoned along with almost 90 other people at the Union Vale prison. Even though without physical violence, he said he was threatened at gun point and verbally abused during the five weeks he spent at the prison.
He noted that it was a pity that there were innocent people who had no political connections but were also imprisoned for no reason at the pleasure of the president. He said the sole aim of the imprisonment was to psychologically force them to leave the country while also some were told directly to leave.
Mr Mancienne called on the commission to record and to investigate the cases of imprisonment and other human rights abuses even for those who might not come forward to put their cases. He said that because of the imprisonment, he was dismissed from work and was refused employment at mostly everywhere he applied. He said his dismissal from work had an effect on his pension because he has no record of continuous employment.
Mr Mancienne called on the commission to look into the matter with the authority as there are other people also in the same situation. He said he was constantly followed and arrested from time to time by the state because of his political belief. He noted his family was also victimised where they were denied a housing loan and his wife was removed from her post as the director of the Seychelles Polytechnic.
Mr Mancienne said the fear and the oppression climate caused by the political victimisation in employment, business and acquisition of properties, imprisonment, forced exile murder and disappearances, had a profound effect on the nation where the quality of life being enjoyed before the coup had deteriorated. He added that the coup resulted in people living in fear and mistrust
while also impeding the development of the country, which at one point was on the verge of economic collapse.
Mr Mancienne said that those who said they have benefited from the system have benefited in a way they should not have benefited. He said he was not against the use of Creole in the education curriculum but its integration should have been well planned instead of it being forced into the education system at that time, the same like for the National Youth Service, which he said was forced on the population and which could have been good for the country had it been well planned.
Rolly Sinon came as a witness in case 007 of Angelin Labiche, who claimed he was imprisoned with him at Grand Police Prison while waiting an investigation against him (Labiche) in relation to a drug plantation at Barbarons. The commission had gathered no evidence that Labiche was actually imprisoned and had spent eight months and five days there.
Mr Sinon, who was an army private, confirmed to the commission that Mr Labiche was in fact in one of the compartments of the cell block which at that time was occupied by six prisoners. He said he was serving his sentence there even before Labiche was brought in. He said that Labiche finished his sentence before him.
Dr Maureen Kirkpatrick was called to the commission in relation to case 0049 of Hester Gresle who claimed that she was the doctor who was treating her husband who died prematurely because he was prevented to follow further treatment overseas.
She said that the husband was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumour of the small intestine and was due to return to South Africa for his follow up and she was told by the family that he was prevented to fly back and as the treatment was not available here, he died at the Victoria Hospital.
Dr Kirkpatrick noted that had he been permitted to go on his follow up treatment, his life would have been prolonged.
Dr Kirkpatrick, who was working at the Anse Royal hospital on the day of the coup d’etat, said that she had the opportunity to examine the body of Davidson Chang Him. She said Mr Chang Him had small entrance wound down the left lower back and a larger exit wound at the front.
Dr Kirkpatrick noted that during the time of the coup, they were not allowed to do post-mortems on either Chang Him, Berard Jeannie or on Francis Rachel who all died of bullet wounds.
Amoosavaly Carolus was the complainant in case 024 where she put three complaints before the commission. One was for the violation of right to education and work employment to her daughters, the other for her demotion and reduction salary and also for not receiving a pension from government for years of service and the third for the inability to purchase the land the family had been living on for so many years.
She said that after the closing of private schools after the coup d’etat, the government had established the zoning system whereby you had to automatically go through the National Youth service if you wanted to further your education.
After sending her son to NYS, Mrs Carolus said that she decided not send her daughter to NYS but rather send her to continue her studies in Mauritius from her savings. She explained that following the visit of the Mauritian Foreign Affairs Minister to Seychelles in 1988, it was announced in Mauritius in the newspapers that all private secondary schools were not to accept foreign students, especially Seychellois students.
Upon her daughter’s return, she was not allowed into the Seychelles Polytechnic as she had not passed through the NYS, noting that there were others who maybe had connections who were allowed in.
Mrs Carolus said that her daughters had difficulty finding jobs before two managed to get jobs later in government following multi-party democracy in 1993.
Mrs Carolus further complained that following her retirement as a post-secondary school teacher after 40 years from 1954, she worked at the school meal centre and was later asked to cook food for the Tanzanian soldiers who were in Seychelles. She said she refused because the facility was supposed to cook food for children and the army was supposed to cook food for soldiers.
She said that she was transferred back to teaching in 1983 but in primary level with the same salary. She noted the promise was not kept and her salary was cut by R4383 leaving her with R3559 with no explanation.
Mrs Carolus said that she wrote to different people in authority, including the president, but with no answer up to now. She said she wants to know as to why she is not getting a pension. She further said she had seven children and her youngest was seven years old when her husband died in 1975. The only means of supporting her family was from her monthly salary.
As for the parcel of land at Anse Royale which was acquired after 1977, Mrs Carolus said that she requested to buy the land in 1984 but was refused and was offered another plot in 1992 with the promise of compensation for her existing house and loan for building a new house. She said she received no compensation or the loan. She noted that it was only in 2020 (since 1984) that the government decided to sell the family the land for R91,000 while other people bought land for less than that amount. She said the government tried all these years to punish her and her family for no reason and she presumed that it was because her late husband was a supporter of James Mancham’s Democratic Party.
Robert Ernesta, as a general witness, was before the commission to explain why he was named by Roch Jeannie as having been part of the coup d’etat and also on the involvement of the North Korean soldiers in Seychelles during the one party state.
He said that Mr Jeannie presumed he was part of the coup because he lived in the area where the coup started and also talked with him about the death of his brother Berard who died on June 5, 1997.
Mr Ernesta said that when the coup took place, he was 17 years old and he was living with his uncle who was a policeman. He said he was able to witness what happened at the police unit after the coup plotters had already left the place at around 5am and he went down to have a look. He also said that he saw the dead body of Jeannie who was leaning backwards against the wall.
Mr Ernesta said that the allegation that the North Koreans soldiers came to Seychelles to teach soldiers how to torture people was untrue.
He explained that during the events of the mercenary attack and the army rebellion, former President Rene lacked trust in the local army through the possibility that event might repeat itself and also wanted to re-establish his credibility among the people. He said the President went to North Korea and recruited 50 Korean army officers to infiltrate the local army and teach them how to idolize him (President Rene) just as they (the Koreans) do with their own president. He said that those Koreans were acting like his protégé and that was it.
He noted that it was the Russian ambassador to Seychelles who advised President Rene to get rid of the North Koreans noting that we could have been a target for the Americans who had their tracking station in Seychelles at that time.
In his complaint, Ramesh Naidoo in case 0094, said he was innocently charged.
Mr Naidoo, who had worked in the customs division for ten and a half years, said that one day in 1990 he reported to his superior the discovery of two Maserrati cars imported under false declaration of value by Mukesh Valabjhi and Glenny Savy but the cars were on the road two days later.
He said a week later he was called up to see Dobin Samson in charge of state security who wanted to know about his friends and why he had reported the incident. From then on he was intimidated and had to resign from his work for constantly being followed around by state security agents.
Mr Naidoo further said that after his resignation he was one day arrested by the police following a break-in at customs division by two persons and five charges were laid against him even though he had nothing to do with the break-in. He noted they searched his house and found two faxes that Paul Chow had sent for distribution among the local resistance.
He was sentenced for eleven and a half years for trying to destroy papers covering up tax invasion by Khrisna Mart. He said among the three of them charged, one of the two people who were involved in the break-in turned into state witness, given immunity and worked with the state to charge him with the break-in. He said he did only four years upon appeal as four charges against him were dropped.
Mr Naidoo, who was an opposition, said that he was victimised after his release from prison and the state took part of his land in 2004 to 2005 at Point Larue and built a road on it without his permission. He noted he was never compensated. He noted that as he considers Mr Valabjhi as the one responsible for his imprisonment, he wanted him to pay any compensation owed to him.
Before the start of the commission yesterday, Martin Aglae, who was named along with David Pierre by Roger Teeroomooljee in his complaint in case 187, as the two persons involved in stealing equipment at the resident of Gerard Way-Hive, a former police commissioner, among other allegations, was given the chance to comment on the allegation. He said the allegations were unfounded and he categorically refuted them.
Mr Aglae said that with him and his partner entering in the security business, they purchased some equipment from Mr Way-Hive, the payment of which was to be settled later. He noted that Mr Way-Hive wanted to re-possess his equipment not because they had stolen them as claimed by Mr Teeroomoojee but because of defaulting on payment. He said he never recalled having to deal with Mr Teeroomooljee about the incident.
He presented the commission with a list of allegations made towards Mr Teeroomoojee of his involvement in thefts and anti-social behaviour since 1977, even before, he, Mr Aglae said, was even born. Mr Aglae said that he wanted Mr Teeroomoojee to talk on those issues before the commission and to further ask for forgiveness.