TRNUC wraps up hearing sessions for 2019 | 16 November 2019
- 9 complainants and witnesses give testimonies
The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) yesterday held its last session, 30 in total, for 2019 where nine complainants and witnesses gave their testimonies and stories.
The first session was held behind closed doors and it was followed by case 0128 of Charles Sinon who as a complainant, alleged that he was maliciously imprisoned for two months and four days after the coup d’etat.
He said that it all started on the evening of June 5, 1977 when he was warned by a lady who came to his house at Corgat Estate, that he was going to be arrested. He said he had to escape the same night through the forest with his wife and three children to go to his mother in law’s house at Bel Air. He further said that he stayed there for four days where after he left via the same route to go back to his house at Corgat Estate.
The day he was arrested, Mr Sinon said that he was having some drinks with his friend when suddenly a police van came and a police officer told them that he had orders from police commissioner James Pillay to arrest them.
He stated that upon arriving at the Central Police Station, Commissioner Pillay who was on the balcony, ordered that they be sent to the Union Vale Prison. He noted that at the prison, he met a few people who had already been arrested and he spent two months and four days there. He said that upon his release, he was evicted from his job as a government VIP driver. He claimed that he was never given a job in government again among other places where the owners were advised not to employ him.
Mr Sinon said that no one ever told him why he was arrested but learned later that it was for security reason. He noted that on several occasions he was harassed by the police where he was put in jail and also had his house searched on several occasions on the pretext of looking for arms. He said that he was a Democratic Party supporter but was not involved in resistance activities including dealing in arms. He also said that he was followed mostly everywhere by state security officer Jemmy Marengo among other state security people.
He claimed also that once after the coup there was an attempt on his life where he, as a driving instructor, was approached by a police officer to teach four soldiers to drive but he had to fetch them at Sans Soucis. He stated that he didn’t go even though the police officer tried many times to get him to teach the soldiers to drive as he knew that this was a set-up as they wanted to kill him.
Mr Sinon said that despite the continuous harassments he didn’t go into exile even though his brother who was living in England and was on holiday, tried to force him to do so at the orders of President Albert Rene.
He stated that people were even scared to meet up with him for fear that they would also suffer the same fate like he did. He said that the events turned his life into a nightmare and has affected him until today.
Selwyn Knowles, who was a student colleague of Simon Desnousse, volunteered to share with the commission what he knows in relation with Simon’s death.
Simon was said to have been blown up in a car along with a South African (Mike Asher) while making a bomb on October 19, 1982 at Anse Forbans.
Mr Knowles, who was working at the post office at that time, said that the day before it was announced that Simon had been killed, the latter came to see the post master and he heard the postmaster, who has since passed away, tell the security guard not to let him in.
He further said that as he knew Simon, he came out of his office to greet him shortly and also heard the security guy say that the poster master wants him (Simon) to come to his place at 8pm that night. He said that Simon told the security guy to tell the post master that he had come to collect ‘the thing’ and then left.
Mr Knowles stated that it was the following day that he learnt that Simon had been killed in a bomb blast. He said that he did not tell anybody that Simon had come to see the post master prior to his death nor had a conversation with the post master on Simon coming to see him at his office because of the atmosphere in the country at the time.
Mr Knowles said that the post master worked in close collaboration with the state security as he gave them permission to search parcels in the post office.
Mr Knowles said that from his own analysis, especially through the photos he collected from an issue of the Seychelles NATION newspaper, the way the two bodies were, back to back, in the back seat of the car, looks like they were placed in that position.
He said that what happened to Simon was deplorable and noted that if he was doing something wrong there were other means the state could have used to punish him, like imprisonment but not the way it was done.
Mr Knowles said that somebody, who is already dead, claimed he saw something happening to Simon on Stevenson Delhomme Road. The commission then urged other people who could have seen that one incident on Stevenson Delhomme Road or others to come forward and tell the commission.
Speaking of the death of Sony Elizabeth and Michael Hoffman and survivor Brian Victor who were involved in an incident at Sans Soucis on July 22, 1983, Mr Knowles said that both Elizabeth and Victor were employees of the post office and likewise he knew Hoffman a little.
Mr Knowles said that he bought a car from the post master and from time to time he would lend it to Victor as he also had previously borrowed cars from other colleagues. He said that one day the post master warned him to stop lending his car to other people, without making reference to whom.
He noted that one or two weeks after, Elizabeth and Victor got involved in the incident at Sans Soucis and that clicked in his mind that the post master knew something about it. He further said that because he lent his car to Victor, he was followed by the state security. He claimed that at that time he was not involved in any resistance activities whatsoever until to this day even though he has his own political opinion.
On Andrew Pouponneau, the soldier who disappeared on August 18, 1982, Mr Knowles said that he was among a group of rebel soldiers who were trying to escape capture and had come into hiding in the area around where he was staying at Forêt Noire.
He noted that he had a conversation with them and encouraged them to turn themselves in or else they could be shot and killed. He alleged that following the conversation, among other rebel soldiers, who had ran away, three of them, including Pouponneau, were later taken in an army jeep and driven away. He said that he learned of Pouponneau’s disappearance after. He said that two of the soldiers who were with Pouponneau have died of natural causes thus the other ex-rebel soldier who was also with him is still alive.
Jeffery Marie was called to the commission in respect of case 0010 of Roy Beehary who had claimed that he was taken to the Grand Police Prison and tied to a pole and beaten under his foot and other parts of his body during a drug and gun interrogation in which Mr Marie was involved.
Mr Marie said that he had never beaten any civilian at Grand Police as he was only involved in arresting and handing over the people arrested to concerned persons at the Grand Police. He noted that he probably was involved in arresting him.
He said that he knew that Mr Beehary was beaten up as it was part of the procedure for interrogation and Mr Beehary himself had also once showed him his injuries.
Mr Marie, who was a staff sergeant and state security officer, said that it was Robert Ernesta who gave orders as to what should happen to the persons who have been arrested. He said that he has witnessed many civilians who have been beaten.
He said he could not remember who beat the civilians at Grand Police as there were around 100 soldiers involved in the operation there. He said that Mr Ernesta is in a better position to tell who the person or persons who beat Mr Beehary.
During the session, Mr Beehary, who was following the hearing, clarified that Mr Marie arrested him but was not involved in beating him.
Mr Marie said that even though he does recognise that human rights violation did occur, he thinks the country has been spared from situations like what happened in Afghanistan and similar countries where murders and other atrocities happen almost every day.
Hensley Joubert was the complainant in case 0178 where he gave an account of incidents that happened before and after the coup d’etat in 1977 including being arrested and detained on several occasions.
During his presentation he also paid tribute to his brother David Joubert who was a minister in the coalition government but had to live in exile in England after the coup. He noted that his brother was not compensated for the time he spent as a minister.
Concerning the bomb incident at Reef Hotel in the colonial days, Mr Joubert claimed that he and another colleague who were on duty as security officers, heard the explosion and upon searching the place they found that it had occurred at the door of one the hotel rooms and the damage was not significant.
He noted that to his surprise when the case went to court, he and his colleague as the first two persons on the scene were not chosen as witnesses and learned later that the colonial administrators did not want to press charges for reasons best known to them.
Mr Joubert said that after the bomb incident he left the Reef Hotel and joined the police force in 1972 and was later placed at the Police Mobile Unit (PMU), Mont Fleuri.
Giving his opinion on the shooting of Berard Jeannie, he said from his experience with guns in the police force and also of his knowledge of the PMU and its surroundings, it was impossible for Jeannie to have been shot in the forehead from outside other than being shot at close range.
He said that Mr Rene had his own personal ideological agenda based on jealousy, greed, fear and slavery thus to enrich himself, his family and friends. He noted this was why he spent his time planning the coup when he was in the coalition government and he does not believe that Mr Mancham had suggested to him to be Prime Minister for life.
He said that on several occasions he was arrested and detained and was advised by people who knew him to leave the country which he did by taking asylum in Italy.
He said that he was among police officers who were detained on June 5, 1977.
Cyril Lautee was the last person before the commission in its last session in case 0022 of Olivia Vincent in relation to the death of Simon Desnousse where he gave some evidence surrounding his death and that of South African Mike Asher.
Mr Lautee, who was an active supporter and sympathiser of the resistance movement at that time Mouvman Pour Larezistans (MPR), said that on the night of October 19, 1982, around 11.30pm onwards while driving off the secondary road leading to the main road, after abandoning a search for crabs in the marsh at Anse Forbans, with one of his friends Jules Payet, he witnessed a passing convoy of six cars among which he remembered was a blue Honda Accord (S48) he said belonged to a Basil Savy who housed Mr Asher, S1122 belonging to the state security, the car of Simon’s father (a reddish Daihatsu), followed by car S666 he said belonged to Macdonald Marengo and which was followed behind by a red Peugeot S1394 he claimed also belong to the state.
He said the convoy drove towards Takamaka while he drove to Anse Royale where he stayed wondering where Simon’s father, his uncle, was going at this time of the night in that convoy. He noted that he did not rack his brain and the following day somebody came to his place and told his father that he had heard he was going to be arrested because he was at the place where the two persons were making bombs.
Mr Lautee said that a family friend, who was in the militia, gave the exact detail of what he and Mr Payet were doing and the exact position they were in. He said that it clicked in his mind then that there was somebody somewhere who was watching the area and if he and his friend had stayed there longer they would have also been killed.
He stated that it was clear to him that it was the state that was responsible for killing his cousin and South African Mike Asher and not that they were blown up by a bomb they were supposed to have been making. He said that other means could have been used to punish his cousin if he had been doing something wrong.
Mr Lautee also said that his friend Jules Payet also disappeared and there is no information about him. He said that he will give more details on his relation with Mr Payet who was also an opposition activist and also of his involvement in activities to destabilise the system that led to his exile, which he will shed light in his next testimony scheduled for January next year.
The vice-chairperson of the commission, Michael Green, said that the commission has credible evidence as to who killed Simon and Mike but it is waiting for the person who committed the act to come forward to admit the killing and seek an amnesty as he could face prosecution for murder.
In closing the session, the chairperson of the commission, Gabrielle Louise McIntyre, expressed her deep appreciation to all the people who are coming forward and providing information in relation to cases the commission has been requesting. She also called on the suspects to also come forward and to be frank and to admit what they had done.
Mrs McIntyre also said that the commission might have to accommodate a session in December for some people coming from overseas but other than that, the TRNUC will resume its session on January 6, 2020 for a period of two weeks. She said that in the meantime the commission will investigate the 50 active cases.