Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission – Hearing number 95 | 29 July 2020
Commission listens to two complainants, a general witness in open session
Evidence from two complainants and a general witness were the highlights of yesterday’s open sessions of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission hearing number 95.
In the first session yesterday, the commission listened to ex-police inspector Rehman Adil Mohamed who complained about his unlawful arrests, detentions and forced exile.
Another ex-police officer Winsley Cedras was the second person to appear before the commission yesterday as a general witness, giving evidence of victimisation and ill practice in the police force.
On behalf of his late father Pascal Larue, Patrick Larue was in front of the commission to complain about the former’s ordeal and sufferings during his unlawful arrest and detentions.
Mr Larue also gave evidence on his own unlawful arrest based on a mistaken identity.
Case 0106: Rehman Adil ‘Bill’ Mohamed
The first witness before the commission yesterday was ex-police inspector Rehman Adil Mohamed better known as Bill who was also the chief bodyguard of former President James Mancham when he was the Chief Minister in the Seychelles Legislative Assembly.
Mr Mohamed’s complaint was based on personal victimisation, including unlawful arrests, detentions and forced exile following the 1977 coup d’Etat.
To begin his testimony, Mr Mohamed, who joined the police force in 1962, said due to his good connection he received a tip that empty bullet casings had been found on a certain island and he immediately alerted Mr Mancham who in return called France Albert René to inform him about it.
Mr René convinced him not to believe in stupidities and asked him where he got the information, to which Mr Mancham revealed that it was Mr Mohamed.
Following the 1977 coup, Mr Mohamed who was working in the special branch unit was demoted to general duties, before being asked to hand in his resignation by commissioner of police James Pillay in November 1978 due to pressure from above.
From then on Mr Mohamed remained unemployed until 1980 when he was offered a job as a shop assistant by Andrea Low-Ken in his shop at Le Niol.
He explained that everyone was reluctant in offering him a job in fear of victimisation.
In 1979 through a tip-off from Kenneth Payet who was the driver of the commissioner of police, Mr Mohamed became aware that his name featured on a to-be-arrested list.
One afternoon while having tea with his family, police sergeant Clement Potter served him with a detention order signed by Mr René and arrested him.
After a body search, Mr Mohamed was locked up, along with some other 30 detainees, before being transferred to the Union Vale army camp (UVC), where they were placed in groups of three to five per cell.
While in detention, Mr Mohamed said two soldiers went to his home and told his wife that the army was planning to take him behind the Ste Anne island and execute him by slashing his throat.
This, he said, was a tactic to inculcate fear in the people at that time and that it really affected his family.
After five months in detention without any formal charge against him, Mr Mohamed was released and employed by Yakub Mohammed Adam Chaka as sales representative with Chaka Bros at their showroom in Victoria House.
Mr Mohamed was arrested for a second time on November 25, 1981, which was the day of his 38th birthday and also the day of the mercenary invasion.
At a roadblock at Radio Seychelles, Union Vale, he saw army major Raymond Bonté who informed him that he had been ordered by the commissioner of police to arrest him and that mercenaries had landed and were killing people.
A land rover being driven by inspector Chang-Waye drove him and his colleague to the Central Police Station where he was detained and served with another detention order the next day.
He was detained for a month, before being transferred to the Mont Fleuri police station where he spent two more months, before being taken to the UVC once again.
Among the various torture methods sustained, they had to sleep with bright lights on in the cell. They were also ordered to lie down every day at noon with their feet and hands in the air, while being struck with a wooden stick if they failed to comply, or put their feet down.
Mr Mohamed was then released under the condition that he leaves the country, which he did, leaving his family behind. They joined him one year later and while in the UK, all his properties and assets at Harrison Street were acquired.
He spent 13 years in exile before coming back following the re-introduction of multi-party in 1992 as one of Mr Mancham’s bodyguards.
General Witness – Winsley Cedras
Ex-police officer Winsley Cedras was the second person to appear before the commission yesterday as a general witness, giving evidence on ill practices within the police force, including his own victimisation, leading to his imprisonment following an incident which he claimed was a set-up to tarnish his character.
In his testimony yesterday, which was his 52nd birthday, Mr Cedras claimed that despite being well educated, he felt victimised by his former superior, based on observation made by other colleagues, regarding his behaviour towards political activities.
He explained that he never showed his political affiliation or belief publicly and due to that, he was considered as being against the system, therefore turning him into a threat, or enemy.
Mr Cedras said his nightmare began in 2012 when he was working at the police command centre on a 7pm-7am shift.
On that particular day, a call came in at around 10pm from the Anse Etoile police station asking for assistance in relation to some issues involving someone in custody and family members.
He explained that upon noticing that assistance was not available, he took the initiative to leave the command centre and drove to Anse Etoile to try and assist the woman police constable (WPC) who had made the call.
To his surprise, when he reached Anse Etoile, everything was settled and the situation was well under control.
Mr Cedras said he was surprised the next day when he was called in and charged with neglect duty.
He was suspended on half salary and to make ends meet he used his car to make trips – pirate taxi (taksi pirat) – and it was during one of those trips that he got involved in an incident which resulted in him being sent to prison for four years.
On the morning of November 17, 2012 while on one of his trips, Mr Cedras was asked to stop by a shop while one of the two people he was carrying in his car went in to supposedly buy cigarettes.
He explained that suddenly, the guy rushed out of the shop and asked him to leave as soon as possible since there were problems in the shop and that his car might get damaged.
Without thinking, Mr Cedras started the car and sped off only to see passengers counting money on the back seat.
Being a police officer, Mr Cedras reported the incident at the Anse Royale police station and to his surprise he was arrested and charged for being an accomplice.
He explained that even if during the trial, the complainant, the accused and other witnesses cleared his name he was still convicted for being an accomplice, spending four years in jail, including the time on remand, before receiving a presidential pardon in 2016.
He said the accused admitted that he committed the action on his own free will due to heroin craving.
He said during his remand period he was kept at the Mont Fleuri and Central police stations and also at the high security section of the Montagne Posée prison.
Mr Cedras said the conviction was the perfect opportunity to tarnish and get rid of him once and for all, even if the evidence against him did not hold water.
Being a well-trained officer, he explained that since robbery is an opportunity crime, if he really had the intention to commit robbery, he would have planned his move and waited for the perfect opportunity instead of attacking a shop for a few hundred rupees in broad day light with people roaming about the street, let alone shopping.
Mr Cedras, however, noted that despite the fact that the incident has put an abrupt end to his cherished career, those who orchestrated it have not managed to break him down mentally, as he is spiritually strong.
He said during his time in prison he composed and recorded songs and wrote poems and also gave academic sessions and training to inmates who were interested to learn.
Case 0138: Patrick Larue
Patrick Larue’s complaint was divided into two parts. In the first part he talked about his father’s ordeal after being arrested, while in the second part of his intervention he talked about his unlawful arrest based on mistaken identity.
In April 1978, his father Pascal Larue was arrested at their residence at Quatre Bornes, Takamaka, and escorted to the police station, before being taken to the Anse Royale police station.
He was then detained at the Union Vale prison without any charge, before being released four months later.
Mr Larue said the detention period seriously affected his father, both physically and morally.
He developed severe gastric problem due to the bad prison diet and also some mental condition, including hallucinations.
Mr Larue said his father was a fervent supporter and activist of the Democratic Party and his detention was just a malicious act on behalf of ex-President France Albert Rene.
Regarding his own complaint, Mr Larue said himself and some close friends were mistakenly arrested in relation to an illegal assembly in town.
Mr Larue said he was mistaken for a Lau-Tee and based on the security clearance, he found it difficult to get a job following the incident.
During that time Mr Larue said he practised several artisanal jobs for his survival before joining the Seychelles Breweries for a long career.
In 1993 with the re-introduction of multi-party, Mr Larue joined politics and stood as candidate for Parti Seselwa in two parliamentary elections.