Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission | 14 March 2020
Perpetrators urged to come forward and admit their wrongdoing
To the satisfaction of many who had been concerned about the large number of closed sessions recently, the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission yesterday held 6 open sessions.
The commission’s chairperson, Gabrielle MacIntyre, took the opportunity to thank the witnesses and complainants who chose to give their evidence in open sessions since these are very important because they allow Seychellois to learn more about what happened during their country’s brief history.
“The difficulty with this commission is that people are not coming forward. Normally, a truth commission perpetrators do come forward, tell what they did and why they did it[…] Here in Seychelles, it is a very different situation; it’s such a small country that perpetrators are afraid of coming forward and admitting it, and how they would be treated by people in the society,” Mrs McIntryre highlighted yesterday.
“We are trying to encourage them on the basis that by doing so they could contribute to national reconciliation, have a fresh start and help rebuild but their reluctance is concerning for us. But we are getting more and more evidence in relation to all of their cases and there would come a point in time this year where they would be called to answer.”
Case 0274: Bernard Underwood
Bernard Underwood was the first complainant of the day yesterday and set down a series of harassment and victimisation that he and his family in law went through during the years after the coup d’etat.
Born and raised in Bel Air, Mr Underwood was from a family of seven siblings; his father was a blacksmith and locksmith, and his mother was a housewife.
He went to school at the Seychelles College up until Form 5 in 1976. He was 18 years old at the time he completed Seychelles College and started work at FEBA at Sans Souci as a newsroom radio operator.
On June 5, 1977 – the day of the coup d’etat – he said he did not go to work because a curfew had been imposed for several days.
In the second half of 1977, Mr Underwood said that he met a former school friend who informed him of a vacancy at Aviation Seychelles Limited (ASL) at the Seychelles International Airport.
He was successful in his application and started training with British Airways where he had the opportunity to travel and noted that he really liked the job. This is where he met his wife whom he married in 1979.
Mr Underwood moved from Bel Air to his wife’s family home in Anse Aux Pins.
His father in law, Olaf Monthy, was a great supporter of the democratic party and was among some of James Mancham’s supporters who were arrested for several months.
This was the start of a series of harassment on his in-laws by the regime in power and which later escalated to him personally when he befriended Claude Moulinie, a member of the Movement Pour la Resistance (MPR).
Mr Underwood met Claude Moulinie around 1980/81 who had started work at ASL in the cargo department and who was also living close to Mr Underwood. The two men hit it off.
In 1982, Claude’s family immigrated to South Africa while Claude later followed.
When he finally came back to Seychelles, Claude informed his friend Mr Underwood of a mission he had been assigned with Simon Desnousse and Mike Asher, other MPR members.
Following the deaths of Simon and Mike, Claude was asked to give an apology to the nation for his role in the failed mission and this was broadcasted on the radio. Claude later managed to get hold of a passport and sought political exile in the United Kingdom.
Due to his link to Claude, Mr Underwood started to observe a car – the infamous S1122 – which started following him around.
Mr Underwood told the commission that he recognised and still remembers the two persons who were following him in that car and noted that they had previously appeared before the commission.
One evening while he was enjoying himself at the Katiolo nightclub, Mr Underwood was told that his father-in-law had called to inform Mr Underwood that he would not be able to pick him up and had sent a taxi instead.
Mr Underwood found this to be very peculiar and when he stepped outside, he saw the taxi as well as Philip D’Offay and hence Mr Underwood knew something was up.
“I went back inside and told my friends what was going on and they decided to escort and drive me up to where I had parked my car, and then escorted me all the way home to Anse Aux Pins,” Mr Underwood said.
“This was the point where I realised my life was being threatened so I had to be extra, extra careful,” Mr Underwood highlighted.
Although Mr Underwood was aiming high for a promotion, in 1985, he was told that his file had been vetted by State House and, since he did not pass the State House’s litmus test, Mr Underwood was told to quit before he was kicked out.
He later got a post at the American embassy, which he described as a lifeline for him. He also noted that the harassment and victimisation slowed down when he joined the embassy.
His in-laws, the Monthy family, decided to immigrate to the United Kingdom but Mr Underwood and his wife stayed behind.
Case 0273: Claude Moulinie
Claude Moulinie, who had featured prominently in Mr Underwood’s testimony, earlier yesterday morning appeared before the commission via Skype as a complainant. He is also considered as a witness in a case brought by Olivia Vincent.
In setting out his complaint, Mr Moulinie explained that his father was often harassed and victimised after the coup d’etat.
In November 1979, his dad was detained for a month without trial and the detention order had been signed by President France Albert Rene himself.
“My dad was a member of parliament in Mr Mancham’s government and my uncle, Philip Moulinie, was a minister,” Mr Moulinie explained to the commission.
“My father was very outspoken and he would speak his mind and I think that is why he lost his job in March 1982 and he knew then that getting a new job in the Seychelles was impossible.”
Therefore Mr Moulinie’ father left for Durban, South Africa and his mother was left behind to sell everything they had and then re-joined his father.
Meanwhile Mr Moulinie stayed behind with an aunt and later decided to go to Durban and met with Gerard Hoareau who was living there in exile and was his neighbour.
He was later asked to join the resistance – Mouvement Pour La Resistance – but was asked not to discuss this with anyone including his parents.
Mr Moulinie recounted that he undertook training deep in the jungle, where he received physical training, and was taught about ammunitions and well as how to handle explosive and the making of it.
After three months of training, at the end of September 1982, Mr Moulinie went to London where he stayed with Paul Chow for a while.
Mr Moulinie noted that as the MPR plotted ‘Konplo 412’, unbeknownst to them the meetings that Gerard held with everyone involved in the resistance was being recorded through a bug installed in his rooms.
Their mission to destabilise the regime did not include the use of large and numerous explosives as speculated by previous persons who came before the commission, Mr Moulinie clarified.
After coming back to Seychelles, Mr Moulinie was shocked to later learn that Simon Desnousse and Mike Asher had apparently blown themselves up at Anse Forbans.
To save his life, he had to keep a low profile and therefore did not attend the funeral.
Mr Moulinie was never charged for his role in the mission to destabilise Rene’s regime and was rather told to apologise via the radio and was continuously followed.
He received a helping hand from his friend, Mr Underwood, who provided him with a room at their residence.
Additionally, Mr Moulinie did not receive any communication with members of the resistance after he was caught.
Mr Moulinie said that he was offered a job as a spy by Olgivy Berlouis which he refused and he was able to get employment for 18 months.
He later immigrated to the United Kingdom where he still lives.
Case 077: Antoine Lau-Tee
Antoine Lau-Tee appeared before the commission via Skype yesterday as he detailed his complaint from present country of residence, Canada.
In what he described as a political purge, Mr Lau-Tee found himself among a group of police officers in the Seychelles Police Force who got kicked out in May 1981.
With a staunch investigative background and training from Scotland Yard, Mr Lau-Tee had spent most of his career in the Seychelles Police Force in the criminal investigation department (CID).
This however came to a halt when he started investigating in the disappearance of Gilbert Morgan and Police Commissioner James Pillay ordered him to handover the file regarding this case because the President had requested so.
Mr Lau-Tee said that he was thereafter transferred from CID to an administration role, which he occupied until he was laid off without any compensation aside for his three-month salary without notice.
He is seeking compensation for wrongful termination of employment.
Mr Lau-Tee said that he had to leave the country because of victimisation and had to sell everything he owned at a low price, including his house and property which went for R150,000 in order for him to make immediate payment to a car loan he had took with the government.
The transition to life in Canada was not easy, Mr Lau-Tee related: “I had to take the little money I had to take my family and work in an environment that I was not used to; the weather was different and the police force system in Canada was different.”
Luckily he was immediately employed by the Calgary police service in Canada who was impressed with his CV.
Mr Lau-Tee arrived in Canada on July 1, 1981 and started work three months later in October. He retired in 2002.
He clarified that he does not receive any pension from the Seychelles government but he does get a small monthly pension from the British government for his service during the British rule.
The commission affirmed that it will look into just compensation for Mr Lau-Tee.
Ahmed Afif’s presence before the commission yesterday was to reply to the evidence provided by Agnes Mondon raised in the commission’s session on Thursday.
Mr Afif brought along with him a document of around 102 pages detailing information about himself, his career and how he progressed until he came as foreign exchange controller.
It also provided economic information pertinent to the time of foreign exchange restrictions and the legislations which were amended in 2001 to supposedly remediate this fact.
Mr Afif also provided tables in which the commissioners could find the names of everyone whose money were seized by the police and brought to the Central Bank, the currency, the amounts, their equivalent in Seychelles Rupees, and what happened to these money.
These had been Pierre Laporte, Dr Peter Larose and Patrick Vel.
“It is sad for a supposedly disciplined police officer to say ‘if you want to know where your money went to, then go to Ahmed Afif’,” Mr Afif said, stating that he has nothing to hide and that the documents he has kept for over 19 years are indicative of that.
Mr Afif took the opportunity to ask forgiveness for taking part in ‘a mistake’ which created a system that restricted people’s freedom.
He however noted he is glad that he still formed part of the executive team which worked to repeal these restrictive laws later on.
Terrence Labrosse appeared as a witness in case 149 brought by Rodrick Larue and Maryse Eulentin concerning the murder of their son, Dharmendra Eulentin.
His body had been found in the sea off providence on March 8, 2007.
Mr Labrosse started off by stating that he was well aware of Jemmy Marengo’s reputation in regards to some murders prior to that of Dharmendra’s.
He noted that he was also targeted to be murdered at one point.
He implied that Dharmendra started hanging around Jemmy and he tried to warn Dharmendra that he was not running around with good company.
“I heard that Dharmendra was involved in a small drug business with Jemmy. This is why some people are wondering why he removed money from his account, why he brought his own rope[…]unfortunately he had no idea what was going to happen to him,” Mr Labrosse stated.
“On the Tuesday morning, two days before Dharmendra’s body was discovered, my brother and I went to get out the fish trap in the sea and we encountered Dharmendra and Nelson in a boat talking to Jemmy and Marc Pool[…] we didn’t think much of it,” Mr Labrosse told the commission.
Two days later, on Thursday, Terrence and his brother found Dharmendra’s body in the sea during low tide.
Terrence told the commission that he found Dharmendra with his pants half off, his private parts “swollen” and although his lower body could be seen, his head was still in the sea.
He did not know if it was Dharmendra and did not approach the body much, and instead went to report his discovery to the nearest police station.
Mr Labrosse and his brother took the police officers to the gruesome scene, left their names for any other inquiries and went back home without suspecting or knowing that the body they had just discovered was that of their friend, Dharmendra.
It was later that they found out.
According to Terrence, his brother had seen Dharmendra on Tuesday evening and had asked him if he wanted a ride but Dharmendra had replied that he was waiting for something.
Mr Labrosse said that he assumes Dharmendra was killed that very evening.
Mr Labrosse also spoke of an instance when he was informed by Ricky Hermitte, that Jemmy had sent him (Ricky) and Dharmendra to Cerf Island to steal from former Chief Justice Vivekanand Alleear.
He further alleged that Ricky’s death also had something to do with Jemmy.
Steve Jardine was called before the commission in relations to the complaint made by May-Paule Carpin in case 0203 since he was the person who informed that she had been suspended from her post as principal tax officer in November 2002.
He was the former tax commissioner at the time.
Ms Carpin has related that her suspension followed the publication of an article in the Regar newspaper on November 15, 2002 about the granting of business tax exemptions to the Manchams.
Ms Carpin had said that she was wrongly suspected of leaking this information to the press.
The release of that information was a breach of secrecy since details in regards to a tax payer should remain confidential.
“This was about 17 and a half years ago, a lot has happened between now and then. I do recall the incident of the letter being published in the Regar newspaper[…] and I believe the letter bore my signature as the commissioner of tax,” Mr Jardine told the commission yesterday.
He noted that, in those days, most of the files, notes and records were paper documents, and those files were available to staff in various areas depending on the work being undertaken.
As to how the letter got into the hands of a media house, Mr Jardine said that he did not know and was never able to found out.
“That letter was posted to the client. I’m assuming the client’s lawyers had access to it, I’m assuming his accountant had access to it because it involved the lodgment or non-lodgment of returns. I’m sure a number of people outside of the office had potential access to the letter.
“I do not recall the specific facts in regards to Ms Carpin and I do not have access to her file to review the matter and hence I am not confident enough to give evidence under oath in that regard,” he said.
Nonetheless Mr Jardine stated that he had never been given orders to suspend any of his staff during his tenure as tax commissioner.
The commissioner noted that it would have to wait for receipt of the file in order to bring Mr Jardine back for further questioning.