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Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission – Hearing Number 127 | 25 November 2020

More victims talk about their suffering, ill-treatment under the ex-regime

 

Former police Inspector Eric Chang-Waye, affectionately known as ‘Titi’, was in front of the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) yesterday as complainant giving evidence regarding his unfair dismissal from the force in 1981.

After being relieved of his duties as head of the Dog Unit and transferred to General Duties, Mr Chang-Waye was dismissed from the force without any valid reason and was refused a testimonial (reference letter) from his superior.

Harold Michaud was the second to appear before the TRNUC in open session yesterday, giving evidence in case 0102 filed by Albert Napier in relation to unfair dismissal by the Seychelles Breweries on August 31, 1978.

In his complaint Mr Napier claimed that the witness (Mr Michaud) was the other shop steward – representatives of labour union – who along with him was unfairly dismissed by the company.

Mr Napier claimed that the management decision was supported by the National Workers Union in spite of the two of them being members of that union and the actions taken were in compliance with the constitution of the union.

 

Case 286: Eric Chang-Waye

Mr Chang-Waye joined the Police Force on August 13, 1964 as a constable, signing a five-year contract where he underwent several specialised police training, including law and discipline.

He began his policing career doing general duties, until 1969 when he was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which was divided into two sections, precisely HQ which was administered by David Ashford and Central which was under the command of Antoine Lau-Tee.

In 1971 Mr Chang-Waye was promoted to Corporal where he was in charge of a team of four constables.

In March 1972 he was selected in a group of five to attend dog training in England and while over there he was recommended to be promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Once back in the country, in August 1972, the Dog Unit within the Police Force was set up and its main tasks included prevention and operation patrols, tracking, searching, recovering of articles on crime scenes, locating prisoners and missing persons and crowd control.

In June 1973, Mr Chang-Waye was promoted to the rank of Inspector, assuming the responsibility for training and care.

In 1979 Mr Chang-Waye was called by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Max Fontaine, who informed him that from then on he had nothing to do with the dog unit anymore and he was forced into general duties where he was given the charge of the Mont Fleuri Police Station.

One day, Superintendent Ange Esparon showed him his letter of dismissal and even after going to see Olivier Charles, who was in charge of the workers union, the latter told him that there was nothing he could do since it was a government-related issue

On the same day, he saw Superintendent Lau-Tee who told him that he had also been sacked from the force too, before he (Mr Chang-Waye) received his marching orders.

Mr Chang-Waye was refused a testimonial from the Commissioner of Police James Pillay and was warned that if he ever set foot into any police station, he will be shot.

All together, 14 senior officers were sacked from the force on that day.

Following his dismissal, Mr Chang-Waye got a job from Georgie Sicobo as a storekeeper at Imprimerie St Fidèle where he spent 14 years, before being promoted to the post of accountant in 1995. A post he kept until 2012.

On the day of the coup of June 5, 1977, Mr Chang-Waye said he was on night duty and that even if he was on patrol, there were no indications whatsoever that a coup was about to, or was taking place.

It was only on the following day that he learned about the event when he was asked to report for duty and was ordered to go and pick up Felix Hoareau who was then detained at the Union Vale Prison.

Mr Chang-Waye said he was ordered to pick several other individuals on that particular day.

He added that after the coup, he was stopped and searched by the army on his way to work even if he was a high ranking officer.

About his termination, Mr Chang-Waye said he does not really know the reason behind it since he never talked, or manifested any political view, other than refusing to attend the political science classes that were being given.

Mr Chang-Waye also gave some evidence on Case (055) filed by Carlette Ball in relation to the disappearance on August 13, 1977 of Hassanali Umarji, a well known businessman in Seychelles.

He said he attended the scene of the crime with his dog on that particular night, but could not pick up any scent.

This, he said, indicated that the victim was taken away in a vehicle.


Case 0102: Albert Napier

In his evidence Mr Michaud confirmed that the case did happen on August 31, 1978. He explained that there were two work shifts at that time – 7am to 3pm and 3pm to 11pm.

He said Mr Napier worked the morning shift, while he did the late shift.

He explained that upon arriving on the premises, the afternoon shift workers asked their colleagues who were working earlier if they had been paid and they said no.

Mr Michaud explained that even if some of the workers were still outside talking prior to their afternoon shift, there were no intentions whatsoever to do any strike or to refuse to work.

It was around that time that personnel officer Andre Bedier came out and ask the workers in an aggressive way if they will work, or not.

He then ordered those who had finished their shift to leave the company’s property.

Mr Michaud further explained that after getting changed to start his shift, he noticed that most of the workers were still outside and were not willing to work since they had not been paid.

He then got into the same bus which had brought them to work and headed back.

The following day when he returned to work, he was told by the security personnel that he was not allowed on the company’s premises and was handed a dismissal letter, stating that he had attempted to make strike on more than one occasions.

He, along with Mr Napier, then arranged to meet with their union where France Bonte as the secretary reassured them that everything will be ok and not to bother about Seybrew anymore, as they will get a new job.

Being let down by the union, Mr Michaud and Mr Napier decided to go and see a lawyer, but the fee was too high and they could not afford it.

He asked a friend who worked at the Radio Television Seychelles (RTS) at that time to interview them so that the people would know what was really going on, but he refused to do so.

Both of them found it difficult to find a job after that and decided to get an appointment to see former President Albert Rene.

The two of them, along with Georges Constance, met with the former President who told them to sort themselves out and that their issue is of no importance to him.

After a while he got job at Bodco, only after receiving a supporting letter from a certain Mr Labiche at National House. As for Mr Napier who was still unemployed, Father Guybert found him a job in Africa.

Mr Michaud concluded that he and Mr Napier never instigated any strike and were victimised innocently.

 

Roland Duval

 

 

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