Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission – Hearing number 94 | 28 July 2020
TRNUC gathers evidence from more witness and experts
Four more witnesses yesterday appeared in open sessions in front of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission, giving evidence in different cases and also sharing their knowledge regarding past events and practices.
The first witness to appear before the commission yesterday was Patrick Lablache, special advisor and consultant for reclamation works within the Ministry of Habitat, Infrastructure and Land Transport and he gave evidence in three cases, namely case 0116 brought by Antonio Savy, case 045 filed by Clive Delorié and case 073 registered by John Cruz Wilkins.
The second witness yesterday was Emilien Rosette who was giving evidence in case 0180 filed by Cyril Lau-Tee.
Army major Charles Mellie was the third person to be quizzed by the commission yesterday in relation to the state security unit at State House which he was a member, starting in 1986.
The commission also hosted ex-army lieutenant colonel Frank Marie who was the personal bodyguard of ex-President France Albert René.
As a general witness, Mr Marie was giving evidence in the attempted coup by ex-Defence Minister Ogilvy Berlouis in 1986.
Case 045: Clive Delorié
In his complaint, Mr Delorié claimed that his father Robert Delorié, a former minister, was not compensated for his share in the islands of Providence and Cerf owned by the company Providence Group and Fisheries Limited, of which he was a major shareholder. According to Mr Delorié, the islands were sold by the company on September 15, 1980 to ex-President France Albert René and he never received anything from that sale.
Mr Delorié further claimed that his father was entitled to own five acres of land at Bel Ombre as part of an agreement made over the sale of a large family property on December 7, 1970 and he said the property was acquired after the 1977 coup d’Etat and the promise of sale was forfeited by the acquisition.
Mr Delorié complained about the fact that the government did not honour the agreement that had been made with his father and his aunt with respect to the plot of land.
In his reply, Mr Lablache firstly stated his ministry does not know Clive Delorié and that the he does not even have a file with them.
He claimed that he only met Mr Delorié about three months ago when he came to see him in his office.
Regarding the Providence Island issue, Mr Lablache said it is beyond the right of Mr Delorié since it was owned by a corporate body (Providence Group and Fisheries Limited) which sold the island to the government, while his father was a shareholder among many others.
He explained that when a corporate body decides to sell something, as a son, or daughter of a shareholder, one does not have the right to claim any share since it is not a personal property, unless the parent, through a testament, transfers the share.
Mr Lablache explained that since it was the corporate body which sold the company, Mr Delorié, as the son of one of many shareholders, does not have legal right to claim any share.
Based on the complaints that the company was forced to sell the islands, Mr Lablache said, as per the documents, a fee of R1.5 million was proposed for the islands which was later negotiated to R1.8 million.
Regarding the family property, Mr Lablache said what he recalls is that Mr Delorié sold his property to Claude Grand-Jean with condition to spare half an acre to his relatives.
The condition, he said, was between Mr Delorié and Mr Grand-Jean and whatever misunderstanding which might have happened should be dealt with between them and not with the government.
Case 073: John Cruz Wilkins
In his complaint, Mr Cruz Wilkins claimed that in February 1980, the government compulsorily acquired parcel 196 at Bel Ombre where his father W.H Cruz had built up the Cruz Wilkins Expedition as part of the treasure hunt project initiated by himself and his friend who owned the property.
Mr Wilkins claimed that following the acquisition of the property, the promise of sale to his father for three acres of parcel J196 was quashed and the Cruz Wilkins family was offered two thirds of an acre of the parcel, this being the land around and inclusive of the house they were living in.
Mr Wilkins claimed as a consequence of the acquisition they lost all rights to their treasure hunt project which was later licensed to another prospector.
Giving details to the commission, Mr Lablache said the mother of Mr Wilkins, Yvette Cruz Wilkins told them that there was a promise of sale between her and the property owner to buy three acres of the property, including her house.
That, he said, was on February 22, 1980.
He explained that the promise of sale could not be found on any record, therefore on the date of acquisition; Mrs Wilkins had no rights, whatsoever to receive any compensation.
She was acknowledged as tenant on the property and despite having 90 days to so, she never submitted any claim for compensation.
Mr Lablache explained that the government agreed to sell her part of the property, including the part on which her house was built – J499 (2438 square metre) – for R25,000.
Despite purchasing the land, Mrs Wilkins insisted on bringing a case to the Constitutional Court in 1995 which was dismissed.
She had the right to appeal but did not do so.
Case 0180 – Cyril Lau-Tee
The second witness before the commission yesterday was Emilien Rosette who was giving evidence in case 0180 brought by Cyril Lau-Tee.
In his presentation, Mr Lau-Tee mentioned the name of Mr Rosette as being an adopted brother to his family and also an informant giving information onto his contacts in the army and the special branch about his various attempts to sabotage activities of Mr Rene’s government after June 1977.
A particular incident mentioned by the complainant was Mr Rosette giving information about his plan to block off the Ste Anne National Youth Service (NYS) water supply pipes on Cerf Island.
Mr Lau-Tee also claimed that Mr Rosette recorded his conversations and passed on the recordings to the intelligence services and was also instructed by Dobin Samson and William Cesar to blow him in his car.
To begin his testimony, Mr Rosette noted that most of what was told by the complainant was not true.
Mr Rosette revealed that the NYS sabotage plan was not to block the water pipe, but to rather inject poison into the waterline, so being a conscious citizen, he alerted the authority.
He added that he was supposed to start a fire at the NYS while being a student there under the order of Mr Lau-Tee.
Commenting on the allegation that he was assigned the task of blowing up Mr Lau-Tee’s car with a grenade, Mr Rosette said it is all fabrication.
Mr Rosette also explained that being a young man at that time, he was being sucked into the sabotage activities of Mr Lau-Tee, but managed to get out and start a new life.
He noted that other than reporting on the poison incident, he had no ties whatsoever, being an informant for the state security, or the army.
Charles Mellie – State security
The third individual to appear before the commission yesterday was army major Charles Mellie who was identified as a person who was recruited to work within the intelligence unit at State House.
Major Mellie was called by the commission as the intelligence is being implicated in a large number of complaints, especially in cases of disappearance and also where people were being followed and threatened.
When quizzed by the commission regarding his job description at State House since February 1986 when he joined the unit, Major Mellie, then a sergeant, said his initial job was a typist under the command of Rolly Marie and Dobin Samson.
When asked about whether he is aware of the implication of the state security vis-à-vis human rights violation s in the country, Major Mellie, who left State House in 2016 to take a new post at the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) headquarters at Bel Eau, said he was not aware of such practice since information were distributed hierarchically and since he was only a sergeant when he joined the unit, he missed out on some of the most critical information.
Regarding the security clearance – or vetting which is the process of performing a background check on someone before offering them employment – which has been a major issue over the years, Major Mellie said it was standard procedure and the outcome was based on one’s criminal history and political affiliation through the district agents.
He explained that in the early days it was the president who was responsible to give or reject clearance, while later on it was the state security unit which was responsible to determine and make the final decision.
Frank Marie – Attempted coup in 1986
Former bodyguard of ex-President France Albert René, Frank Marie was also questioned by the commission yesterday in relation to the attempted coup in 986 by the Minister of Defence Ogilvy Berlouis, supported by some high ranking officers.
Following the incident, Mr Berlouis along with three high-ranking officers, namely Majors Rolly Marie, Phillip Lucas and Raymond Bonté, were stripped of their ranks.
According to Mr Marie, in 1986 while attending a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Harare, Zimbabwe, ex-President Rene told him that he had received an urgent message from Seychelles that Ogilvy Berlouis and Rolly Marie were plotting to overthrow him.
Mr Marie said ex-President René borrowed the private plane of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi called Air India One and returned to Seychelles the same day.
He said from the airport, they went straight to State House incognito while the high ranking officers were waiting for them at the VIP lounge.
Something which Mr Marie said was very strange, since it was not a practice, or routine for the officers to come and meet the president at the airport.
In contrast to reports that ex-President René was disguised as an Indian woman wearing a sari and met at the airport by the Indian high commissioner then taken to the commissioner's residence, Mr Marie said they were met at the airport by Major Claude Vidot who drove them to State House before going to L’Exile and the ex-president was wearing his normal clothes.
Two days after his arrival in Seychelles, ex-President René called Mr Marie in his office and asked him to disarm the officers who were called one by one to receive their marching orders.
According to what he heard, Mr Marie said there were gossips that the coup was initiated after ex-President René was extending his stay in power, compared to what was initially agreed upon.