Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission – Hearing number 90 | 22 July 2020
Three witnesses in open session
The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission yesterday heard evidence from three witnesses in open sessions, while four others gave evidence behind closed door.
Case 021: Benjamin Pierre-Louis
Ex-police officer Robby Félicie was the first witness in open session in relation to Case 021: Benjamin Pierre-Louis who had said he was severely beaten by army and police officers from the Police Mobile Unit (PMU) at the Grand Anse police station on September 21, 1986.
Mr Pierre-Louis had alleged that Mr Félicie was one of the police officers on duty at the police station at the time he was assaulted. He had claimed that he was taken from his home at Baie Ste Anne, brought to the Grand Anse police station where he was assaulted and later flown to Mahe under police escort for medical treatment. He had further claimed that the assault was politically motivated and there was no case against the perpetrators. He said he was later advised by a leading army officer that he’d better leave the country for his own sake.
In his evidence, ex-police officer Félicie acknowledged that he was stationed at the the Grand Anse police station but denied he was ever present when he (Benjamin) was assaulted. He claimed that he was either off duty or on annual leave that day.
He added that it was only the next day that he heard that Benjamin had been beaten by army and PMU police officers. He insisted that he was never a witness when Benjamin was assaulted.
Case 039: Luc Chang-Ko
Dr Rolph Payet was before the commission through Skype direct from Geneva, to give evidence in relation to Case 039: Luc Chang-Ko, an ex-senior meteorological aviation forecaster in Seychelles who had claimed that he was victimised by having his work contract terminated in mid-October 1999 because he was a candidate for the United Opposition Party in the 1998 parliamentary election.
Mr Chang-Ko had also claimed he was later unable to find work in the country because of security clearance further to the authority preventing him from obtaining consultancy contracts with the United Nations agencies as it had been informed that should he be a participant, Seychelles would not participate as there would be a conflict of interest.
As one of the director generals of the then Ministry of Environment, Transport and Policy Planning, the commission wanted Dr Payet to respond to allegations made by Mr Chang-Ko regarding the non-renewal of his contract.
Dr Payet, who sympathised with Mr Chang-Ko on the challenges he went through in his career, categorically denied that he played a part in the downfall of his (Chang-Ko’s) professional and personal life.
On claims that he (Payet) arranged to replace him (Chang-Ko) at an overseas conference in Argentina, Dr Payet said that the replacement was not his decision as he was only asked to accompany the country’s high level delegation at the conference for discussions on how Seychelles can better respond to climate change adaptation. He claimed that as a university graduate, he had the competency and capability at that time to discharge the responsibilities invested in him by government. He also claimed that he was tasked by the government to work on restructuring the ministry for effective coherence and for harmonious budget spending, another allegation made against him made by Mr Chang-Ko.
Dr Payet added that he does not remember or found evidence of an email from the United Nations on matters that through him, Seychelles had asked for Mr Chang-Ko not to obtain consultancy contracts from the United Nations agencies. He said, though, it is normal for a government to form part in the selection of a consultant in projects that the country will get involved in. He denied having sent any request to international organisations to block Mr Chang-Ko’s consultancy applications so as to prevent him from finding work.
With regards to the non-renewal of Mr Chang-Ko’s work contract, Dr Payet said his contract was being managed by the public service commission and not by the principal secretary or the director general of the department. So he called on the commission to address the question to the public service commission that manages work contracts for senior officials in government.
Case 093: Henri Barallon
Francis Anthony was the last witness of the day to appear in open session in Case 093: Henri Barallon who had claimed that he was harassed and intimidated by army officers and by members of the state security in either 1987 or 1988.
Mr Barallon had further claimed that he was harassed by a Daniel Houreau and had identified Francis Anthony as the person who once fought Mr Hoareau at La Misère.
In giving evidence in relation to the claim, Mr Anthony said he was at Mr Barallon’s house when he supposedly had a confrontation with Mr Hoareau who had passed by in a pick-up truck following a political rally.
Mr Anthony added that Mr Hoareau did not confront Mr Barallon that day as he (Anthony) was the one involved in an argument which had involved his girlfriend (Anthony) who played for Mr Hoareau’s basketball team. He claimed that it was on that day that he got to know Mr Hoareau.
He stated that never recalls of ever having seen or heard of a confrontation between Mr Hoareau and Mr Barallon or had known that he was being followed by state security or about his possible political involvements. He claimed that he is a friend to both Mr Barallon and Mr Hoareau who later apologised to him for the incident.