TRNUC hears three complainants and a witness in yesterday’s session | 16 January 2020
The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) yesterday heard testimonies from three complainants and a witness.
Case 271: Ayub Suleman
Ayub Suleman was before the commission yesterday as a complainant in his case 271, claiming that he was unlawfully arrested and imprisoned for being in possession of some papers with written statements ‘President Albert Rene is a tyrant’.
He noted that the arrest happened on October 9, 1986 at the Adam Moosa family shop in Victoria. He was brought to his residence where a search was carried out and some papers confiscated. He claimed that it was the second arrest mounted against him by the State.
Mr Suleman said he was then put in a cell at the Central Police station under the guard of the army and after 40 days, he was sent to the Long Island prison. He further said that his daughter was also arrested and incarcerated at the police station for a few days in connection with the papers.
The private businessman stated that while in jail at the police station, he met Douglas Cedras, the famous radio presenter, who at that time was being accused of a murder and as he (Suleman) was not allowed to communicate with his daughter, Mr Cedras was the only bridge of connection between him and his daughter.
On explaining his case further, he said the papers retrieved from his residence had the statement ‘President Albert Rene is a tyrant’ written on it.
“All who have passed before the commission so far have said and proven that former President Rene was a tyrant. So, I was arrested for nothing, and now I think I will have to sue the people who arrested me for nothing,” said Mr Suleman, who was first arrested in 1979 on the grounds that he was acting against the government of the time.
He claimed that the reconciliation process did happen 43 years ago where there was a unity coalition government in place after some bitter politics that was followed by a series of wild fires and bombs by the opposition at that time.
Mr Suleman also claimed that the monopoly on import and retail business by the State through the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) had affected his family business (import/export) that was flourishing at that time. He noted that price control and the setting up of the import permit and the pipeline (foreign exchange control) resulted in many shopping businesses that were flourishing to regress. He alleged that the measures were only in favour of SMB that was being managed by Mukesh Valabhji.
Speaking about Case 005 of Carlette Ball in relation to the death of her husband Hassanali who disappeared on August 13, 1977, Mr Suleman said that he met Hassanali in front of his shop (Hassanali’s) at 4.30pm on the same day he disappeared. He alleged that Hassanali had told him that the State was after him and he (Suleman) had advised Hassanali not to go out at night at any time.
Mr Suleman noted that if he had known that Carlette’s sister had asked for the car to be brought to her, he would have advised Hassanali, who was in fact his cousin, not to make the trip. He said he presumed that Hassanali had not told his wife that he was being targeted as she would have told her sister about it and she (the sister) would probably not have asked to borrow the car following the threats on her brother in law.
He stated that after years of so many rumours in connection with the disappearance of his cousin, he is leaving it in the hands of the Lord Almighty and the truth will come out some day. He presumed that Hassanali was targeted following rumours that he was importing arms for an attempted coup.
Mr Suleman said that in his point of view the reconciliation process will be difficult as suspects involved are constantly lying to the commission. He also stated that he was not totally in favour of closed door sessions but he noted though that he was appreciative of the reconciliation process going on.
The chairperson of the commission, Gabrielle McIntyre, explained that the commission understood the frustrations surrounding the closed sessions but noted that some suspects and others are afraid that there will be retaliation against them or that they would be humiliated on social media.
Mrs McIntyre said that at this point in time, it is hard to have any sympathy for perpetrators because they are not taking their responsibility to explain the circumstances surrounding the violations they are alleged to have committed.
She noted though that many people, including those who supported the government, have told the commission that they were scared of the regime and to play safe they did and executed what they were ordered to do. She said now is the time for those people to take responsibility for what they had done while also explaining why they did it. She said that through accepting responsibility for the actions they were forced to take, they might win people’s sympathy.
“As long as they continue to deny and lie, it’s very difficult to have sympathy for them. This is a golden opportunity to avoid court proceedings and many many years in jail,” she said.
Case 092: Patrick Barallon
Seventy-two-year-old Patrick Barallon, who lives in Australia, complained to the commission that he was unlawfully arrested and illegally detained on orders signed by former President Albert Rene and then forced into exile.
He said at the time of his arrest at the age of 32 he was working as an assistant manager at Barclay’s Bank. He also noted that he was the treasurer of the Rovers Football Club, headed by Robert Frichot with Gerard Hoareau as head coach.
Mr Barallon, now an Australian citizen, alleged he was arrested because of his affiliation with his close friend Mr Hoareau who was also lodging at his residence at Anse Etoile and eventually assassinated in London.
He said it all started on November 15, 1979 while representing the bank at an executive accounting conference at the Coral Strand Hotel when he got a call from somebody at around 3pm who informed him that some members of the Rovers Football Club had been arrested. He said that upon returning home with his wife, who had come to fetch him, he was later in the evening arrested.
Mr Barallon noted that he was shocked to see so many friends and acquaintances at the Central Police Station court yard while being guarded by armed men with AK47 who might have included, he said, also some Tanzanian soldiers.
In a sarcastic tone, Mr Barallon said he was not expecting “to spend four months’ holiday in a five-star environment”, referring to the Union Vale prison.
He claimed that they were badly treated at the prison, there were no sanitation facilities and they had to sleep on a mat, without a pillow, placed on wooden pallets. He noted that the food was not healthy and not hygienically prepared either. As a result of malnutrition and depression, he said he was hospitalised for a month and a half at the Victoria Hospital. Mr Barallon said he was discharged from the hospital and consequently from prison on March 15, 1980. Upon being released, he immigrated to the United Kingdom to take up a post at the Barclay’s Bank’s branch office before returning to Seychelles to be reinstated in his current post.
He alleged that upon seeing former minister Ogilvy Berlouis upon his return to Seychelles, he advised him that it would be better if he left the country for good and from there he made arrangements to immigrate to Australia where he is living until now. He noted that prior to leaving the country in March 1981, he worked for Barclay’s Bank’s branch on Praslin for a while where he was constantly followed around by government agents.
Mr Barallon said he recalled while in prison that his house was searched for unknown reasons and at that time he had never done anything wrong to President Rene other than being only a bank official and also affiliated with a football club which to him was a passion and not a sin. He noted that it was only while in Australia that he decided to join forces with other Seychellois to form an opposition group, in view of what he had endured from the Rene regime.
He also alleged that two days before his arrest, there was an attempt on his life while returning home around 8.30pm in his car, from a cocktail party at the Pirates Arms with his wife. He said that half way down the driveway to his house he came upon a banana tree trunk that had blocked the path and upon going to remove it, his wife alerted him of human movement and soon after a big boulder came crashing against the car. He later assumed that the attempted attack on him was meant for his friend Mr Hoareau who was residing with him at his residence at Anse Etoile.
Mr Barallon also recalled that after the coup, he was advised by his superior on the orders of coup leader Mr Rene, to change the mandate signatories of the past government to that of the present bearing the signature of Mr Rene. He note that upon arrival at the rendezvous at the Central Police Station, he met up with Mr Rene and many of the coup associates including the leader of the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) Paul Berenger who’s presence he still questioned, only four days after the coup. He called on the commission to make their own enquiry as to why Mr Berenger was present with the coup organisers that day.
He said though he was very friendly with James Mancham, he was not involved in politics as it was part and parcel of his working condition at the bank. He claimed that while in Australia on the day his friend Gerard Hoareau was killed, he got a visit from the federal police who advised him to be careful as there was information that a hit squad was coming to get him and Robert Frichot. He noted that from there he was under constant protection of the federal police. He also said that his Seychellois passport was not renewed until late in 1992.
In his deposition to the commission, Mr Barallon have asked to be compensated for the loss of his career with Barclay’s Bank and for the mental and physical trauma he endured in detention and forced exile. He noted that he was not asking to be compensated for financial gains but was following what had been written out in our constitution as introduced and approved by Mr Rene himself that the person held liable to arbitrarily detain someone at his pleasure be personally responsible to pay compensation to the victim.
He claimed that Mr Rene has large properties and different companies in Seychelles, including a large property also in Australia to his knowledge, where funds for compensation to his victims can come from. He noted that the property in Australia, with other shareholders, has been sold recently and called on the commission to investigate through the forensic account. He also called on perpetrators still alive to come forward and seek redress for their wrongdoing.
Case 005: Carlette Ball
Ex-police officer Patrick Lablache was named as a witness in case 005 of Carlette Ball in relation to the disappearance of her husband, Hasannali at St Louis on August 13, 1977. Lablache was the first police officer to arrive at the scene where Hassanali was supposedly kidnapped.
Mrs McIntyre said that the commission have requested the police file on the incident but have received nothing from the police so far and he (Lablache) could maybe help share some light on the investigation.
Mr Lablache said that a contingent of seven police officers, including himself as the driver, were on patrol at Pointe Conan around 7pm when they were directed by radio to go to St Louis. He said when they arrived at the scene, there were a few people around. He noted that the front of the car was facing towards Beau Vallon and upon verifying the car, it looked liked it had been abruptly stopped, the ignition was still on, the head lights were still on, the driver’s door was wide open and three shirt buttons were on the floor of the car while a brown pair of slippers were outside on the tarmac at the side of the car.
He said it was only after fifteen minutes that forensic police officer Paul Bedier arrived on the scene. He assumed, from his experience, that the person in the car was brutally dragged out of the car due to evidence of the three buttons on the floor and also from some blood he had noticed inside and outside of the car. He called on the commission to ask Mr Bedier regarding the blood sample if it was recorded or not. He further said that he entered his statement in the occurrence book at the Central Police Station.
Mr Lablache said the following day he and his colleagues who were at the scene were told by Ogilvy Berlouis, who were present at the police station, not to disclose the case any further even to other police officers and he noted that the incident was never investigated.
Shedding some light on what happened at the Police Mobile Unit on the day of the coup on June 5, 1977, Mr Lablache told the commission that he heard, from his room, the first shot which he presumed killed police officer Berard Jeannie. He also alleged that coup member Francis Rachel was killed inside the compound and not outside next to the fence as mentioned by other witnesses as he (Lablache) had witnessed where Rachel had fallen upon waking up from his sleep.
He noted that he and roommate Justin Sophola managed to escape to the Mont Fleuri cemetery and later to his sister’s residence further up before being rounded up and sent back to the unit. After, he added, they were sent to the Central Police Station where along with other police officers they spent two days. He noted that upon being brought back to the barrack, he managed to catch a glimpse of Mr Jeannie’s body who had been shot in the head behind a table.
Mr Lablache claimed that after the coup he was transferred as the personal driver of a senior police officer but he had wanted to do something else. He said that his resignation letter was refused and torn and as a result of him showing signs of frustrations, two months later, instead of the management reconsidering his offer to resign, he got an eviction letter.
He alleged that he had to move to Praslin and worked as a taxi driver until today and was constantly followed around and he had to stop working at night. He claimed that he was also detained for eighteen days following a fire incident at the Praslin domestic airport and was also arrested along with other persons on the grounds of being involved to destabilise the country through trying to declare Praslin as a separate republic and for which they spent forty-eight days in detention at the Anse Etoile police station.
As he had also claimed to the commission that he was victimised by the State through eviction from the force, arrest and revocation of his license once, all for no clear reasons to him, Mr Lablache will be given a case number to further have his case investigated.
Case 0232: Rene Quilindo
Ex-police officer, Rene Quilindo, living in England, was back to the commission in a rescheduled session on Skype in case 0232, to continue with his complaint in relation to the victimisation he endured during the one party.
He appeared before the commission on January 10, 2020 and because of time constraint had to be rescheduled to yesterday where he continued with his explanation on his situation during his nine-month detention at the Union Vale prison from 1979-1980 and also accounts on his second arrest in 1984 following his participation in a demonstration in Victoria, among others, and eventually being forced into political exile in March 1986.
Mr Quilindo is seeking compensation for his length of service in the police force, the time he spent in detention and justice in the death of one of his cousins, Joyce Quilindo, who was shot and killed by the militia, among other people who were also victimised by the regime.