President Danny Faure’s live press conference | 21 August 2020
‘I am not using the president’s office to gain political mileage’
By Elsie Pointe & Marie-Anne Lepathy
President Danny Faure yesterday stressed that his recent series of visits, some in which he made declarations in the media, were not designed to gain political mileage over his opponents in the upcoming general elections.
Rather it has been part of his efforts as head of state to ascertain that ministries and agencies are working accordingly, especially given the difficulties the country has to overcome.
President Faure made these remarks yesterday evening during his third and last press conference for this year wherein seven media houses were present.
Over the last two weeks, the head of state has visited the Agency for Social Protection (ASP), Ministry of Family Affairs, employment department and the Seychelles Employee Transition Scheme (Sets).
“Given that we are going through a difficult period I also have to ensure everything is going well in the public service. The places I have visited are in line with the priorities we have established.”
“I created Sets a month ago to address the issue of redundancies and it was therefore important for me to visit Sets as I had promised,” President Faure explained.
In regard to his tour of the employment department a few days ago, President Faure explained that recent statistics show that youth unemployment has surged above 20% which is why it was important for him to visit the department in question.
Around 121 youths have yet to be placed in employment.
As to why he decided to speak to the media during these recent presidential engagements – an action which is unusual during his visits – President Faure said: “The only difference is that I wanted to speak directly to the Seychellois public to ensure that they understand and appreciate the roles of these organisations.”
“I am not taking advantage. I am the president of the republic and as such I have certain responsibilities.”
President Faure however highlighted that he will not hold any press conference as from the moment the Electoral Commission announces the nomination date and during the official campaigning period.
“The country is going through economic difficulties and for us to move forward it is important that the representatives of the nation are able to put partisan politics aside to work together for the better of the country. This is what I am looking for in the National Assembly,” said President Faure yesterday.
The president yesterday noted that he had expected to receive the complete support of the 6th National Assembly in dealing with Covid-19 and its impacts, but this had disappointingly not been the case.
“Given the difficulties we were in, I as the president of the republic expected to receive their complete support because the revised budget was devised to sustain the country in its most difficult hour.”
“Only 10 persons voted on this budget and this is not normal,” he added.
President Faure is the first sitting president, since the return of multi party, to head the executive in a system of cohabitation with an opposition majority in the National Assembly.
He dissolved the 6th National Assembly on August 6, 2020.
Although there have been some good to the cohabitation system, President Faure said that the 6th National Assembly had brought about instances of abuse.
“It becomes an abuse when the ministry of finance has to stay there to answer questions for over three hours and during this time he is not able to conduct his other duties […] Sometimes four ministers are called and when this happens, it is a direct abuse.”
Referring to when opposition members blocked the nominations of three new ministers in April 2018, President Faure said: “Believe me, if the National Assembly had given me the ministers I had asked for, today the government would have been further than where it is now.”
President Faure explained that Seychelles need leaders who place the government institutions above themselves and in that light thanked Speaker Nicholas Prea who he said had demonstrated an extraordinary maturity and discipline while undertaking his work.
President calls for mutual respect
President Faure was yesterday asked about his stance on the racist attacks on LDS candidate for St Louis, a Seychellois of Indian descent.
A question to which his response was: “As the president of the republic I will not comment on any candidate that is standing for election. But as president of the republic I will have to remind people of our Constitution’s preamble which states that we should be proud that we are descendants of different races who live in a harmonious multi-racial society. We should not divert from our preamble. We should respect everyone, and I have never insulted anyone since I became president.”
“But I have been attacked because of my country of birth, as if I had any say in where my parents chose to give birth to me. I have been told to go back to Uganda, I have been insulted for the colour of my skin and in the National Assembly my personal name has been used instead of being referred to as the president of the republic. These actions have accumulated and the public has learned from it, thinking it’s the correct norm of behaviour which is not correct. Every action has a reaction.”
President Faure added there should not be any racist attacks during the campaigning period but also did not miss to remind politicians of past instances where they should have stood up against similar derogatory attacks.
He stressed that leaders have a great responsibility to speak out against racism.
Declaration of assets
With Judge Bernardin Renaud recently appointed as the public persons (Declaration of Assets, Liabilities, and Business Interests) commissioner, President Faure revealed that he, as well as the vice-president and other top government officials have been given a time limit to declare their assets.
He noted that he will do so as prescribed by law but in reply to further query by a journalist revealed that he “does not have a house” and does not have all the riches that some fabricated rumours have alleged.
He also said that he does not have an overseas bank account.
“My house is at Mare Anglaise. I have been divorced for three and a half years and I have had to divide my assets. The house I am living in right now belongs to my children. I do not have a house until I decide to build one and I certainly do not have any home or villa on Eden.”
“I do not have what people say I have.”
“As president I have not given any land to my children, I have five children and I have told them that they should go through the system created by the government like everyone else,” said President Faure while adding that he does own a land parcel in Anse Royale.
As one of the presidential hopefuls in the upcoming elections, it was not surprising that President Faure was asked to comment on the election and the presidency.
President Faure mentioned that if he is re-elected as president it would be his last mandate but also stated that he will still be active in assisting his country even if he is not elected as president.
“I have once said and will repeat that every candidate who goes in an election does so with the aim of winning the election, but at the same time we are in a democracy which is evolving quite well. If the Seychellois people do not choose me as its next president, my decision will be to remain in Seychelles. I am 58 years old and I would like to have an active role in the society, I will not be here to fight with any institution but I will be the first to raise an alarm when I see something going wrong.”
“Nonetheless I prefer to be in this seat here to make the necessary decisions,” he added.
16,000 young people receiving government support
During yesterday evening’s press conference President Faure also answered questions about the current economic situation affecting our country and the number of young people without formal employment and the different schemes in place to absorb them, taking care of them and giving them a job and financial support until the economic situation improves and those who have trained in specific fields could get the job they have trained for.
Ease of doing business: government putting freeze on GOP, private sector unhappy
Government has done a lot but there is still much to be done to improve the ease of doing business. With regard to the government’s decision to freeze GOP of foreign workers who are outside the country for more than three months after the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, President Faure said this is to ensure all Seychellois get a job. As a person has been out of the country, so it is fitting that we give the job to a Seychellois.
President Faure said although the decision will not make everybody happy, it is in the interest of every Seychellois.
Launch of a new national airline, a new local competitor for Air Seychelles
President Faure said he has no details on the new airline but with regard to Air Seychelles he said it is facing financial difficulties like other airlines worldwide. Air Seychelles is receiving financial support to pay its staff. But with regard to the new airline, he said we will wait to see how things develop but he affirmed that in a small economy like ours there will always be the opportunity for dialogue between different stakeholders.
Are government entities making their employees redundant?
The president said there are 550 Seychellois employees who are being made redundant based on employment statistics but there are no redundancies in government. We have mechanism which is supporting businesses, we are in direct contact with commercial companies in the country and I am satisfied that we have in place structures and mechanisms that are monitoring the job and employment situation in general.
Food security, local production
President Faure said the high-level food security committee created after Covid-19 has a great task ahead working with local producers to ensure food security in the country. He said during the past three months a number of policies have come before him for review. He said he is aware that farmers would like the government to do much more to assist them but in view of the economic situation the government is doing what it can with the means it has. He commended the initiative for agricultural development on Coetivy and he expressed the hope that farmers will seize the opportunity to consider agricultural production there.
Risk allowance for health workers working in Covid-19 situation
President Faure said the issue will be discussed when he meets with key health officials today (Friday). But he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continue giving support and assist our health professionals.
Corruption allegations at the PUC
Based on procedures in place the PUC board has received the complaints and the PUC will conduct its own investigation. President Faure stated that he is also aware that an official complaint has been filed with the Anti Corruption Commission. He said there are institutions in place that are responsible to carry out investigations in such cases and they should be left to do their job and decide what will happen.
Opening of the airport has brought economic improvement
1592 visitors have arrived in Seychelles since the reopening of our airspace. We expect the figures to improve during the coming weeks and months but on the economic front the situation is still difficult.
“Based on reports from the CBS we are also observing increasing pressure on demand for foreign exchange but we have to be careful and ensure that the reserve which we have all worked hard for during the past 12 years to amass is spent carefully,” said the President.
President Faure went on to explain the role and responsibility of the CBS when selling foreign exchange while at the same time ensuring the price does not escalate but remain stable as this would result in serious difficulties for our country.
He also called on the responsibility of everyone to ensure we safeguard the reserve.
He said the economy must pick up for foreign exchange to come in but for that to happen we must all adopt a new code of conduct in this new reality and new normal to better deal with the situation.
“If we are not careful we will not help the situation,” President Faure stressed.
FA4JR criteria change, public criticism, government commitment
Five months after the setting up of the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR), President Faure said if he had not taken this decision the country would be facing a catastrophic situation today with all those Seychellois who have lost their jobs.
“I will never regret the decision I took and if there has been a most difficult moment in my presidency it is these past five months but I am happy I took the decision. It is true that its implementation has not been easy as there were no text book rules to follow. There have been lots of criticism but we have managed to help our fellow Seychellois,” President Faure said.
With regard to what will happen after December, President Faure said it is important that the financial structure remains in force but as the economic situation of the different organisations gradually improves they should move away from the system to allow it to continue helping those still facing difficulties.
The social protection safety net as well as the URS should also be maintained to continue helping the most vulnerable citizens of our society.
Creation of different institutions
Some of these institutions have been created under the provisions of the Constitution while others have been set up under the umbrella of good governance, transparency and accountability. President Faure noted that the biggest challenge these institutions faced is to recruit the necessary competent manpower and financial resources. He said the country has received technical support from the EU through its bilateral cooperation and one of the institutions in particular that has benefited is the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Reluctance from the police to provide timely information on internal investigations, other matters
President Faure said based on the number of complaints received from the public he had discussed the matter with the police commissioner and the attorney general. He noted that while he is aware and understands the context in which the police are operating, he also believes the police should be able to strike the right balance on their work and giving information to the public in a timely manner.
Meanwhile with regard to some persons missing in the country President Faure said based on intelligence report received from a friendly country, Seychellois involved in drug trafficking and responsible for transporting drugs from Iranian vessels to our shores have been seized by Iranian vessels at sea and taken to Iran until drug money is paid.
He has called on any family members in touch with them to take their responsibilities to alert the local police. Meanwhile for those Seychellois who are evading the travel measures in place to find their way out of the country through different means, President Faure noted that this is a very dangerous risk as they can bring in Covid-19 to our communities without the authorities knowing.
Police officers from Botswana
They were here for national security purposes and they have completed their task and submitted a series of recommendations to improve the country’s national security.
President Faure said he has thanked the President of Botswana for the technical assistance for which Seychelles has not made any expenses except to take care of the officers while they were here.
94 naturalised Seychellois not 1000
President Faure has clarified that there are 94 naturalised Seychellois who have joined the voters’ register and not 1000. With regard to the new immigration law, President Faure stated that he wished he could have completed the new law during his mandate but there have been a lot of challenges and delays and now it will be the responsibility of the Seventh National Assembly to complete and pass the new immigration law.
This being his last press conference before the election processes start, President Faure has availed of the occasion to thank all the media houses for their representation at the different press conferences.
He said he is happy to have been able to open up government for media scrutiny and has called on journalists to continue the good work of informing and educating the people.
He has also called on all journalists to play their important role in line with media laws and regulations and he has called on all citizens of Seychelles to seriously exercise their right and duty and take part in the forthcoming election process while at the same time respect each other and remain a united people and preserve our unity and harmony.