Presidential press conference | 26 June 2020
‘I am not going to form an alliance with any political party for the forthcoming election’
President Danny Faure has said he is not going to form an alliance with any political party to take part in the forthcoming election.
The Seychellois head of state said, in his second press conference for this year yesterday evening at State House, that his vision for Seychelles is very clear and he does not want to interfere with the election process but wants it to take place in calm and unity.
“It is not at all my intention to form an alliance with any political party to take part in the forthcoming election but my vision is to stand in the election and to explain to the people of Seychelles why it is important to have an inclusive government and a government of national unity. But why? As the present captain of the ship who has all the information required, I can see the big problem that has befallen Seychelles following the COVID-19 pandemic. I see more problems coming as we have already entered an economic crisis,” President Faure said.
He pointed out that together with his team they are working hard but he pointed out that if in the coming months there is no vaccine or medication against COVID-19 and the situation remains the same, things will worsen for us. And faced with this and the seriousness of our economic problem, Seychelles does not have time for political games, nor do we have time to pull in different directions. But the only time we have is to understand the scale of the problem and together move in the same direction and the only way to be able to do that is through an inclusive government of national unity that represents all forces and strata of our society.
“This is the only platform that I want for Seychelles. It is the only solution that I see for Seychelles so we can put our country on the road to continue with our progress in the future. I want the forthcoming election to take place in an atmosphere of calm, peace and stability. I assure the people of Seychelles that the platform I have chosen is very clear and it is you the people of Seychelles who will have the power to decide if you believe this is the only solution, after the election to save our country and deal with the very difficult and complex problems facing us,” President Faure pointed out.
He said at the age of 58 if the people elect him, it will be his last term to serve the people of Seychelles as president.
“It is thanks to you that I have become who I am today and I believe that with the experience I have, I will be capable, if the people believe I can, as I will respect their decision if they decide that what I am saying is the best for our country,” President Faure said.
But why did the president not form a government of national unity since he came to power as the National Assembly is led by the opposition?
“When I assumed presidency on October 16, 2016 I made a series of declarations in which I talked about bringing the country together, bridging divisions in the country, stressing that our political beliefs were our strengths, not to see our political diversity as a danger for our democracy but rather as a force. These were my first pronouncements in that direction. I talked strongly about national unity, reconciling our country while accepting that I am leading the government, that the majority was no longer in the hands of the party in power but in the hands of the opposition. I accepted that I was going to work with the opposition, I addressed the National Assembly informing members that the time has come to work together and I have never stopped talking about the need for us to work together. Never at any point in any of my addresses or messages have I not made a pronouncement in that direction. I tried my best for us to be able to work together and I have respected the different institutions and I have never attacked any person in the National Assembly until today and I will never do so as I do not believe in this way of doing things. I would rather attack the policies and say why I believe they are not good for the country but I have never stooped as low as to denigrate anybody. I have always shown respect,” said President Faure. He added that when he took the Assembly to Court this had nothing to do with any personality but was a legal process under the rule of law.
With regard to the cost of parliamentary election, President Faure only stated that the Assembly has the power to pass a resolution and dissolve itself and this applies to the president as well.
Meanwhile, following a question that he refrained from accepting the opposition’s offer to work together when the COVID-19 pandemic struck but now he is calling for national unity and the need to work more closely together, President Faure said when the pandemic struck he drew a line with the health professionals making sure he did not interfere in their work but instead focused on other important matters for the country contrary to other people who wanted to interfere in the work of the health professionals.
He said he did not see any need to set up a COVID-19 committee to address the situation but instead as president he gave his full support to the health professionals while letting them do their job.
“I did not pretend to be a doctor or a specialist, I did not take over the health department but I encouraged the health professionals to meet the press to give information and to educate our people. I did not play politics with the COVID-19 pandemic as I do not believe in doing that. This is not my style,” President Faure stressed.
He reminded the journalists that he was the first to warn the people of Seychelles in March that the COVID-19 pandemic was the beginning of an economic tsunami.
Meanwhile, President Faure has confirmed that answering questions from journalists in his presidential conference is not political campaigning and taking advantage over his opponents. He remarked that political campaigning has started four years ago and continues every day but as the president he answers questions from journalists and this is not campaigning.
Asked why he has still not announced his running mate just a few months to the tentative election date, President Faure said that in the spirit of not wanting to campaign the announcement will be made in the appropriate forum.
But is President Faure ready to take part in a political public debate? Mr Faure said he reserved his right to pronounce himself on his ideas on the political debate but he only said it will be good for the country. But how this will be carried out, he said, is not for him to decide.
Chairing the Commonwealth leaders’ meeting an honour for Seychelles
President Faure has said it was an honour not only for him but for Seychelles to chair the first Commonwealth leaders’ virtual meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
“I was impressed by the subject being discussed which was the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the different countries and nations as they are all facing the same problems,” President Faure said.
“It is clear that all countries – large and small economies – without exception have been hit hard and are facing the same dilemma with the small island states which are most vulnerable and which depend a lot on tourism. At the same time all those countries are facing a double crisis especially small countries in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean which are also facing the problem of climate change. But we are continuously calling out for the economic super powers to explore ways to see how best they can help our countries. So for me to chair the meeting of Commonwealth leaders, it was a real honour not necessarily for me but for Seychelles,” President Faure said.
Resignation of Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey
With regard to the imminent resignation of Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey, President Faure has confirmed that he has received a letter from her Lordship stating her desire to step down in September. President Faure said he expects to meet her soon to discuss the matter.
Layoffs, economic aid and the future
“I have been true to my promise of not taking my salary for the months of April, May and June,” said the president when asked about the promise he made when the pandemic started.
He added that this decision was taken by him and he has not influenced his cabinet to do so.
On the subject of layoffs in the private sector, the president noted that “I did not want to see any workers being made redundant; I wanted the private sector to be conscious that we cannot be like other countries and I gave the guarantee that the government will help businesses that have been affected”.
He remarked that after deliberation with the minister for finance they decided to be more diligent on how to use the money that had been allocated to help these businesses as it is taxpayers’ money, and this led them to come up with a structure through which these businesses fall under and also a set of criteria on how to allocate the money by looking at the cash flow of these businesses to see if they have any reserve.
President Faure noted that 85% of the applications have been approved seamlessly but 700 or so faced difficulties. Following that, they met with the finance minister to allow them to appeal and look at some of the criteria that needed changing.
The new criteria will come into effect in July, said the president, but one important thing to note is that these businesses need to sustain Seychellois workers only as they will not be given financial assistance for foreign workers.
President Faure also added that the private sector is being sustained and that the salary of people in the public sector will not change as it is taken care of in the budget already. However, if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and continues into next year then the government will have to adjust salaries of people working in the public sector and possibly consider a leaner public service, but he stressed that this has been done in a way that will not affect families.
He further added that we will have to start making sacrifices as the economic crisis that we are facing has changed the way the government is operating.
The government is currently meeting with principal secretaries and chief executives to brief them about the situation and to take the necessary measures.
Air Seychelles and its economic forecast
The president also talked about the financial state of Air Seychelles and noted that for the time being the government is taking it upon itself to pay the workers of the airline.
He noted that he cannot talk about the finance of the local airline and that discussion is underway between the finance ministry and the board of Air Seychelles.
Batswana and South African police officers and police brutality during COVID-19
When asked about the work of the Batswana police officers who arrived in the country recently, the president stated that they are being used for capacity building and the commissioner of police has not yet given him a report about their activities.
Regarding the eight South African workers who are being paid over R1 million monthly, the president noted that they were brought into the country to fill certain key positions in the police department and that after their contracts expire they will not be renewed, meaning the positions will be given to local police officers.
As for the huge pay, the president noted that it is because of their qualifications.
Concerning police brutality during the lockdown period, President Faure stated that he has met with the police commissioner regarding these cases and was informed by him that there is a structure in place for the investigation to be conducted.
He added that recently he met with the Human Rights Commission chairperson Justice Bernardin Renaud who gave him his input. The president added that on July 2 there will be a meeting between the commissioner of police and members of the Human Rights Commission to discuss these matters.
President Faure noted that it is important that members of the public are educated about the functions of the Human Rights Commission as some cases that they reported to the police should have been reported to the commission.
Burial of Patrick Derjacques
Mr Derjacques’ body was discovered in different parts some months ago and his family has not yet been able to bury him as the police are still withholding the body.
The president noted that he will discuss this issue with the commissioner of police and get back to the family of Mr Derjacques.
Cost of living
One of the factors that has pushed prices up is the exchange rate, the president said, adding that not all prices have been affected as the prices of the 20 essential items are still fixed by the Seychelles Trading Company (STC). He noted that they won’t be able to set a fixed price for commodities as the exchange rate is not stable and we will face more difficulties if it goes up.
He also called on businesses not to use this situation as a way to make money on the back of consumers as the Fair Trading Commission is monitoring closely as well as associations that have been set up to deal with price gouging in local shops.
He implored the public not to attack merchants but rather bring their concerns forward.
Importation of methadone
Responding to a question about the rather huge importation of methadone, President Faure said the Agency for the Prevention of Drugs Abuse and Rehabilitation (Apdar) is stocking up the medicine and this is how it is packed. He added that security measures are being taken to make sure that methadone is being transported without any issues.
Marie-Anne Lepathy/Christophe Zialor