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President Wavel Ramkalawan back after UAE visit | 18 December 2020

‘James Michel ready to testify about missing US $50 million’

 

Former President James Michel is ready to testify and declare whatever he knows about the missing US $50 million.

President Wavel Ramkalawan made these comments in the News Extra programme on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) TV last night.

President Ramkalawan met former President Michel at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday. The two were pictured in the VIP box at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which took place over 55 laps of the 5.554-kilometre Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island.

Speaking to journalist Marie-France Racombo after his return home yesterday following a five-day working visit to the United Arab Emirates, President Ramkalawan said: “The Formula 1 race is a great pride for the UAE and it is a time when they invite different world leaders over, but because of Covid-19 pandemic apart from me there was no other world leaders there. And former President Michel was also invited. It is no secret that Mr Michel has been living in the UAE for sometime and he has a very good relationship with the royal family and it was no surprise therefore that he was also at the event. He congratulated me on my win in the presidential election and also the peaceful transition. He even told me that through his James Michel Foundation he will continue to work for Seychelles.”

President Ramkalawan also said he “touched on the issue of the missing US $50 million with Mr Michel who has assured me that if he is summoned he will give his full cooperation and give details about the missing US $50 million as he was the minister responsible for finance at that time. I know that the Ant-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) is investigating this case and hopefully we will have an answer soon”.

Mr Ramkalawan noted that as president he will greet all Seychellois and he did the same thing when he met former President Michel.

“I want to make it clear that I was not elected President of Seychelles to judge any one and take the law into my own hands. There are many institutions in the country and they have to do their work. Mr Michel was called before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) before and if it believes he should be called again it will do the necessary,” added President Ramkalawan.

While in the United Arab Emirates, President Ramkalawan also had talks with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to discuss prospects for expanding bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation to serve the mutual interests of the two countries and their people.

They also tackled a range of issues of mutual interest and exchanged views on them.

President Ramkalawan expressed his thanks and appreciation for the continuous support provided by the UAE to Seychelles to improve the efforts of the health sector in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also praised Sheikh Mohamed's directive to provide 50,000 doses of vaccine against the Covid virus for the people of Seychelles.

The president also met Seychellois living in the UAE, visited the Seychelles embassy, Masdar City which is considered a pioneer in sustainability and a hub for research and development, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Abu Dhabi Port (Khalifa Port). He also had talks with the president of Amsa Renal Care, Abdullah Ajmal. Amsa is the main organisation that provides renal dialysis treatment in Seychelles and through the discussions, President Ramkalawan successfully negotiated a reduction in the cost of treatment from US $250 to US $175 per session per patient.

The president said he was amazed to see how fast containers are cleared at the Abu Dhabi Port. “This is a new and modern port. It takes just 15 minutes to clear a container. We need to look into the possibility of acquiring a scanner to scan the containers and also an onshore crane.

President Ramkalawan has also called on all parastatal companies who can pay a bonus to their employees to do so and this follows the discontent of Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) workers following their disagreement on the way their bonus was to be paid.

He said that as soon as he learned about the discontent he instructed Vice-President Ahmed Afif to intervene in the PUC employees’ protest to find a solution.

The president has called on companies like Seychelles Trading Company (STC), SBC, l’Union Estate, Seychelles Petroleum Company (Seypec), Islands Development Company (IDC) and others to pay a bonus to their employees at the end of this month.

The president said while the PUC employees have understood that there would be no 13th month pay, PUC being a parastatal in its functions as a commercial entity, had already put aside a sum of R7 million for the bonus and should therefore pay their employees. He urged other companies that had already put aside a sum from their budget to do the same.

“I personally will from my own pay a bonus to my close employees as a sign of gratitude,” President Ramkalawan said.

To note, it is alleged that staff of the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) were also planning to strike over their year-end bonus.

Meanwhile, President Ramkalawan said he has discussed a wide range of dossiers with the UAE leaders, namely the drug rehabilitation centre which he said the UAE insisted should be near a hospital. President Ramkalawan said as soon as he leaves quarantine he will visit the former Mont Royale centre at Mont Fleuri to assess the possibility for it to be transformed into the centre. Other topics include 20 scholarships for Seychellois students which he said are all sitting there and had not yet been claimed, a potential cooperation between UAE and the Seychelles International Airport, provision for training of police dogs to sniff out drugs and other illegal items as well as training of the local police force.

He added that the UAE remains committed to funding the hospital on La Digue.

With regard to criticism that he is courting the same UAE which in the past as the leader of the opposition he criticised, President Ramkalawan said his criticism at that time was directed at the pollution at La Misère and it was justified because things had been done without proper control.

He said that he was right to point out the problems as today it is the government of Seychelles which is paying compensation to the affected citizens.

He noted that the UAE government knows that he criticised them but he was received as a head of state by them because they know he was right when he criticised them. He noted that it is not because he went there that the UAE can do what they want here because we have laws and regulations to be followed in this country.

Asked if he discussed the agreement between Etihad and Air Seychelles, President Ramkalawan said the dossier was not on the table, but explained that Air Seychelles is in huge financial difficulties after defaulting on its bond and its future is under consideration.

The national airline owes more than US $50 million to its debtors, even after receiving some discounts off its debts.

According to the president, the government “does not have the money to bail out Air Seychelles”, adding that negotiations are ongoing between Air Seychelles and Etihad Airways.

“We seriously have to relook at the future of Air Seychelles. I have already talked with the Minister for Transport to find out whether we should separate Air Seychelles’ domestic operations from ground handling and so on. There is a lot of reflection being undertaken …” said President Ramkalawan.

In regards to the 50,000 Chinese-developed vaccine being donated by the UAE government, President Ramkalawan said that the Ministry of Health is very happy with it since it has been developed using the conventional methods which include using a killed or inactivated version of the pathogen that causes a disease to provoke an immune response, such as those used to make flu, polio and rabies vaccines.

In total, Seychelles has secured three donations of vaccine including 100,000 Moderna vaccines from an unknown investor and 200,000 from a second investor.

Additionally, a group of Seychellois is ready to give R3 million to go towards the vaccination initiative.

President Ramkalawan was accompanied on the UAE visit by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde and the third secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Jonathan Pool.

Elsie Pointe, Marie-Anne Lepathy and Gerard Govinden

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