TRNUC learn more on disciplinary structures within SPDF | 06 June 2020
At the start of its hearing session yesterday, the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) through its chairperson, Gabrielle McIntyre, expressed its condolences to the families and friends of Davidson Chang-Him and Berard Jeannie who were killed on June 5, 1977, and also Francis Rachel, who despite not being the subject of a complaint, lost his life on the day of the coup d’état.
Major Alain Pierre was the first witness to appear before the commission to give evidence concerning disciplinary measures in the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) following claims that such harsh measures were imposed on army personnel without due process during the one party state and further.
Explaining what were and are the disciplinary procedures applicable in the army, Major Pierre claimed that he was surprised to be called in to answer the question in relation to disciplinary measures during the one party state era as he was born in 1979. He said he joined the army after the late former President France Albert Rene left office. He also said that he is not the legal officer of the SPDF, but only a military director of human resource. He further said that as he was not the chief of staff of defence forces, the correspondent should have gone to the chief of staff and not directly to him.
In response, Mrs McIntyre told him that the reason he may have been chosen by one of the commission’s investigators to come before the commission was probably because he was dealing with complaints as he was in charge of human resource.
To start, Major Pierre decided to give evidence on disciplinary structure within the army, which he claimed has not really changed much since then. He explained that the SPDF is not a normal company and its personnel are not civilians as they are mentally groomed, treated and managed differently.
“Therefore, the disciplinary measures they have to endure are different from disciplinary measures civilians endure,” he said, noting that disciplinary measures are given through a chain of command and line of communication.
He claimed that apart from physical disciplinary measures of extra duties or extra fatigue, other disciplinary measures in the army include dismissal, reduction in rank, forfeiture of service, confinement in barracks, detention, fines not exceeding three months’ salary, stoppage of not more than 21 days leave and warnings.
In cases of severe offences, he said the disciplinary acts are compiled through a chain of command to be forwarded by the duty officer for further compilation to the disciplinary office. From there, the compiled cases will either go through the junior disciplinary panel, the senior disciplinary panel or through court marshal for very serious cases. He said that he sits on both the junior and senior panels.
He noted that all unit commanders are allowed to administer administrative punishments (for lesser offences) in his or her unit and could include cancellation of passes, extra duties or extra fatigue. He said that punishments though have to be approved first by the disciplinary panels. Major Pierre stated that an offender has 14 days to appeal to the disciplinary panels against the verdicts taken against him/her, further to writing to the next change in command and to the commander in chief about his/her grievances. He said that a soldier has to seek approval for everything including to get married or to have a child (female soldiers) among others. He explained that the reason for seeking approval is that the country has to be ready for deployment whenever an incident arises and that a soldier cannot receive a salary paid through tax payers’ money to just sit down in time of need.
Major Pierre remarked that all alleged extreme punishments before the commission are not in accordance with the Defence Forces Act. He also added that it’s also against the Defence Forces Act to use another soldier to beat another soldier.
He further remarked that though some amendments have been made to the Defence Forces Act in the past few years, most of the rules and regulations have practically remained the same. He stated that the SPDF is in the process of revising some of the rules and regulations in the Defence Forces Act in regards to disciplinary measures.
Giving an overview of the different ranks in the army, Major Pierre also said that despite gaps in the past, the army now has a set of criteria for promotion. He said that promotions above cadet officer rank are commissioned by the President.
Major Pierre claimed that the SPDF has moved away from the revolutionary allegiance style for entry or for seniority in the army which is now a vacancy based organisation. He stated that the army is prepared to provide the commission with any files available and in its original state.
In cases of deaths in the army, he said that the commander in chief has the power to appoint a board of enquiry to investigate the deaths among other investigations in relation to the army activities. He claimed that life in the military is very simple as a soldier only needs to “follow the orders” and noted that soldiers are trained to kill.
Case 0135: Dean Morel
In open session through Skype in Australia, Dean Morel, the son of Alton Ah-Time who disappeared on September 13, 1984, said that he still wants to know what happened to his father on the day of his birthday (Morel’s). He claimed that his father got a phone call from someone and left and never came back.
He said he was only two years old at that time when he and his mum from La Louise last saw him (Ah-Time) at his residence at Beau Vallon when they went to visit him. He claimed that his car was found the following day by one of his uncles in the area where the H Resort & Spa has been built. He claimed that human remains and bullet casing found in 2015 in the area were more or less in the location his father’s car was stationed.
Mr Morel further claimed that the lady (a certain Patricia who was working at the H Resort & Spa and who found and talked about the human remains on Youtube), was fired for doing so. Still a child at the time of the incident, he said that his uncle told him how his father and other members of the family were victimised by the state, were constantly watched by state spies and sometimes beaten up.
He said the family would like to put closure to the case and asked those who have any information to come forward to help the family achieve it.
Before Mr Morel’s second part of the hearing in close session, Mrs McIntyre told him that the commission had received information from the state spies who followed his father around who told them that they were ordered to do so until asked to stop the surveillance and his father disappeared.
She also told him that somebody who witnessed what happened to his father that day has come forward and he (Morel) would get answers in the close session that followed after. Mr Morel left for Australia at the age of seven.
Meanwhile, Dr Guy Ah-Moye was called in as a general witness to shed some light on evidence provided by Dr Maxime Ferrari that during the one party state Dr Ah-Moye ran a radio show during which former President France Albert Rene stated that “we do not need to run a referendum as the people have made it quite clear that they want the one party state”.
He said that sometimes after the coup d’état of June 5, 1977, he was approached by his friend Yvon Savy who suggested that they do something to kind of moderate the one party system as to what was happening in the country and therefore making it less uncivilised as it was the case in other countries.
He claimed that he never talked to Mr Rene or his coup associates about the intended programme other than in secret with Mr Savy. He noted that it was not his intention to draw up support for the one party state as the broadcast radio show with Radio Seychelles turned out to have been. He claimed that he did not listen to the programme and presumed that it must have been edited before being broadcast as the radio was controlled by the state. He said the broadcast was programmed at a public meeting at Le Palme Theater, Mont Fleuri, in front of 30 to 40 self-invitees.
Dr Ah-Moye claimed that no one stood up to demand multiparty democracy during the programme as they were very afraid of Mr Rene. He said most of the people who intervened spoke of the one party system in a civilised manner. He said he was sorry if people were led to believe that the purpose of the meeting was to draw support for the one party state with selected people.
“I can categorically deny that,” he said, noting that this was not their intention.
He alleged that he was a socialist at that time and had wanted people to vote for their representatives and land be distributed among the people. He even launched a magazine to portrait his socialist ideology. He said he fought for the people in the old days because they were very hard workers and very poor.
Dr Ah-Moye claimed that former President James Mancham, being a rightist, would have concluded the housing programme in the country slower than former President Rene did. He said the reclamation project is one great achievement of Mr Rene. He presumed that Mr Mancham, whom he knew very well, would have put only upper class people on the reclamation land other than poor people.
Commenting on claims that he injected patients with psychiatric treatment injections because they did not support the government, Dr Ah-Moye said that in Seychelles at that time, there were no regulations in relation to psychiatric patients and if the police and the doctors thought you had to be admitted, you would be admitted. He said it was his job as a psychiatric doctor to help them.
Dr Ah-Moye claimed that he attended to many psychiatric patients at the Seychelles Hospital and he has no recollection that he assisted the person who claimed before the commission he was injected by him even though he was not a psychiatric patient. He said that he or the other doctors never victimised patients because of their political beliefs or injected them purposely with psychiatric treatment injections.