Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) | 14 February 2020
More witnesses talk about death of Simon Desnousse and Davidson Chang-Him
The hearing session of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) yesterday heard three witnesses in open session, in Case 022 of Olivia Vincent, in relation to the death of her brother, Simon Desnousse, who allegedly was blown up in a car at Anse Forbans in October 1982, along with South African bomb expert, Mike Asher.
But before the start of the hearing of the case, Sonny Monthy, the son of Davidson Chang-Him, was before the commission in open session; but without showing his face in public in his Case 317, to complain on the hardship he encountered after the shooting to death of his father at the Central Police Station on June 5, 1977.
Mr Monthy, a former mechanic, now residing in England, claimed that he did hear the gun shot, and the sound of somebody giving a last breath, the day his father was killed, as he was present at the Olian Cinema, Premier Building, along with his brother. He said that it was just a little later after the gun shot that somebody who was passing by, informed them that his father had been shot and killed. He further said that he did see the transport that came out from the police station after the shooting incident but he was not aware if the body of his father was inside.
Mr Monthy, who was nineteen years old at that time, said that it was later that he learned it was Philippe D’Offay who killed his father. He noted that as he did not like the system and to avoid confrontation with the authority, he left the country to settle in England on political asylum in 1987, where he claimed he is still residing until today.
According to him, the state at that time was brainwashing the population and that got him very frustrated which in the end it prompted him to get engaged in activities against the government where he produced audio cassettes he distributed, targeting President Albert Rene. He noted though that he never had any trouble with the police or state security but was only prevented once by the state from buying a house.
Mr Monthy explained that the loss of his father really affected him as he had just started to know his father as they were not living together due to the fact that he was born to another woman other than the woman his father was living with.
He suggested for government to create a fund, including with funds from the perpetrators, for all those that suffered under the one party state. He also proposed for some kind of symbolic gesture to be put in place at the police station in remembrance of his father. He also suggested that those involved in the coup be held accountable and as punishment they, along with their children, are not allowed to held posts in government.
In reply, the chairman of the commission, Gabrielle McIntyre, noted that though she understood his sentiments, it will be unfair for the children of any perpetrators to bear the sins of their parents.
Case 022 - Olivia Vincent
Seychelles NATION photographer Louis Toussaint was the first witness to give his testimony in relation to case 022 - Olivia Vincent concerning the death of her brother Simon Desnousse.
Mr Toussaint was called to appear because the commission had gathered evidence that he was the photographer who was at the scene of the explosion and who took the photos that appeared in the Seychelles NATION newspaper.
Mr Toussaint said that he was not the one who took the photos as he was not present at the scene. He further said though that he presumed it was a Jurian Palmyre who might have taken the photos as he presumably thinks that he (Palmyre) accompanied Seychelles NATION journalist, Ronald Jumeau, who had previously admitted before the commission that he (Jumeau) was at the scene.
Ferley Etienne was the next witness in the case who was called in on allegation that he was a coup member of June 5, 1977 and that he also spied on Simon Desnousse from his residence as he lived close by.
He refuted all allegations against him and noted that on the day of the coup d’etat in June 5, 1977, he was working at the Coral Strand hotel and further said that though he was living in the same district as Mr Desnousse, his residence was very far away from his (Desnousse’s). He also claimed that he did not even know Mr Desnousse other than knowing his sister.
Mr Etienne noted that he also suffered like all those who suffered and said that from his opinion the perpetrators should not be pardoned but should be made to pay for all the suffering they inflicted on their victims. He claimed that though he was a Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) supporter, he also was arrested at gun point and imprisoned for three weeks on the grounds to being a threat to the state.
Commenting on the coup, he said as a supporter of former President Albert Rene’s party, he was aware that a coup was going to take place because Mr Rene had once before the coup, told him over a drink at the Pirates Arms that he would cease the broadcast of the BCC once he took over the country. He noted that both the late Gilbert Morgan and Mr Rene were planning a coup and both knew of each other’s intention but from his opinion, the race between them was who will make the attempt first.
Mr Etienne claimed that he had no knowledge of how his one-time boss at the Coral Strand, Gilbert Morgan, disappeared but he presumed he was killed to give way for Mr Rene to conduct his own coup d’etat.
He also claimed that Mr Rene had also asked him to get his wife, Emmy Etienne, who was second in command at the Radio Seychelles, to see him for arrangements of programmes to be broadcast about the coup which did not materialise upon seeing his wife because he (Mr Rene) had realised that his wife was a full democratic supporter.
Mr Etienne presumed that his affiliation with some army personnel as friends, with whom he had been friends before they were inserted in the army, could have prompted people to allege that he was a spy and working for the state.
He stated that he had not filed any complaint to the commission because he had forgiven all those who did wrong to him during that time.
The last person in the case, Guynemer Corgate, was called to affirm or deny allegations that he knew the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Desnousse.
He said he did not know the lady who made the allegation and furthermore he did not know Mr Desnousse at all. He further said that the only Desnousse he knew was the father, Ernest Desnousse and two of his uncles. He claimed that on the day Simon was killed in 1982, he was working at the fish section at SEYCOM thus he knew nothing about events surrounding the killing of Mr Desnousse.
On explaining his presence during the coup of June 5, 1977, Mr Corgate who claimed that he was a Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) supporter at that time, said that though he was not part of the coup, he did join the army on that day. He said that he was called at 6am on the morning after the coup and was picked up and was posted at the Central Police Station.
He said he was present and saw everything when Mr Chang-Him was shot. He stated that firstly from stories he overheard that day at the police station, Mr Chang-Him was supposed to be in possession of a pistol he had obtained from a Andre Uzice who was not in the country. He said that a search was mounted to find him which was in vain.
Mr Corgate claimed that Mr Chang-Him was later in the afternoon among a group of people who were arrested following a commotion at the Bel Air-St Louis road junction where after upon arrival at the police station, he was asked by Phillip D’Offay to put his hands up and to march in front of him.
He said he does not believe that Mr D’Offay intentionally wanted to shoot Mr Chang-Him but he blamed him for engaging his gun in firing mode. He alleged that Mr Chang-him would have been alive hadn’t he not committed the mistake of grabbing the barrel of the gun.
“That’s when the bullet went off,” he said noting that it was Dr Maxime Ferrari, who was in the commissioner’s office along with Albert Rene, who came down to examine his body while he, Mr Rene, stood on the balcony shaking his head in disbelief.
He stated that from his observation, Mr D’Offay was more shocked than everybody else and he had to be transported home.
Ferley Etienne (Photo: Jude Morel)