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National Assembly: International Affairs Committee split over decision to establish new embassy in Port Louis | 06 May 2020

Two committees of the National Assembly, namely, the International Affairs Committee and the Media, Youth and Culture Committee, yesterday presented their reports to the assembly.

The Report of the International Affairs Committee (IAC) on the performance and relevance of the Seychelles Overseas Diplomatic Missions (Majority and Minority) was officially presented by chairperson of the IAC Jean-François Ferrari, who outlined recommendations of the report, stating the decision to establish a new embassy in Port-Louis, Mauritius as unjustifiable and therefore not necessary.

The committee has been working on the report since December 2019, after the assembly voted to freeze R1.9 million allocated to the project under the 2020 budget appropriation. At the time, it was proposed that the committee enter into dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an audit be conducted on all other diplomatic posts around the world.      

Honourable Ferrari stated numerous reasons as to why the decision to establish the embassy is not justifiable, noting the inefficiencies of other diplomatic posts around the world and a lack of harmonisation between them as well as lack of proper consultation and assessments in taking the decision.

He also noted that the department of Foreign Affairs is faced with severe budgetary constraints which are impacting on the work of the department, and that the majority of members, mostly members of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS), have voted to keep the allocation on hold and not to establish the new embassy. He instead proposed that the funds be allocated to the department for day to day running.

It must be noted that Honourable Ferrari intended to also present the findings of the minority report.

Honourable Churchill Gill, representing members of United Seychelles (US), is in favour of the establishment of the embassy.

“Since the Constitution imparts to the President powers, under Article 66 (1) to take such a decision, we feel we should not dictate where and when an embassy should open and it is for that reason that we think the assembly should start the process to release the R1.9 million if the President eventually takes the decision,” Honourable Gill clarified.

The second activity report of the Media, Youth & Culture Committee (MYCC) was presented by chairperson Gervais Henrie. The committee, whose mandate was enlarged to incorporate youth and culture, supervises and analyses policies, legislation and projects initiated by the state across the three sectors.

Over the past year, the committee has organised numerous activities to mark World Radio Day and World Press Freedom Day, among others. Committee members have also actively engaged in discussions with youths and concerned authorities regarding youth and the challenges they face in contemporary society, as well as conducting visits to media houses, the music stadium and International Conference Centre of Seychelles (ICCS).

The committee in the report proposes that clear rules of procedure be established for assembly committees wishing to conduct investigations and oversight, that a budget be allocated to each committee and that a media room be established in the assembly’s precinct. In addition, the committee is proposing more frequent training and development for local media professionals as well as employees of the assembly and the assembly is more present and accessible to both local and international media, through online and digital platforms.

 

Laura Pillay

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