National Assembly |03 August 2023
Debate on TRNUC report gets under way
The leader of government business in the National Assembly, Hon. Bernard Georges, has said he is against the current government bearing responsibility for payment of compensation to victims of atrocities and injustices by the former administration, as a result of the coup d’état on June 5, 1977.
Hon. Georges made the statement yesterday in the National Assembly during the start of the debate on the contents of the Final Report of the former Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC), along with its 47 recommendations, to prevent future human rights violations.
“The causes of those incidents that affected the victims were done by Mr Rene, Mr Michel and others and their party …. and they are the ones responsible. They are the ones that will have to put their hands in the pockets to pay for the compensation,” said Hon. Georges, who noted that compensation to victims will have to come from sales of assets belonging to the perpetrators and not from the taxpayers’ money.
He stated that given the United Seychelles, US is the successor of their past party’s assets, those assets including money paid to the party by the Electoral Commission, should be used as contribution in the reparation Fund, to be set up also as part of the recommendations, to compensate the victims.
He called for an immediate restriction order on physical assets owned by the party to prevent any sale prior to the appointment of a successor body to look into the reparation process.
“The only justice that we can do for the victims is to use assets by those who benefited under the coup d’état to compensate them for their suffering,” he said.
Hon. Georges, who started his deliberation by highlighting the importance of the first three letters in the name of the commission; T - truth, R - reconciliation and N - national unity, said that seeking the truth about the atrocities and injustices was the most important, to pave the way for reconciliation and eventually national unity.
He said those responsible should accept their fault, and sincerely ask for forgiveness to bring closure to families of those killed or disappeared, among others.
He added that while he supports police investigations or that of the Anti-Corruption Commission Seychelles (ACCS), into the perpetrators of such atrocities and injustices, still employed as public servants and would like to see the assembly vote in favour to determine their fate, he does not support the commission’s recommendations to terminate the employment of a perpetrator working as civil servant or prevent them from securing future employment in the sector.
“I am conscious that reconciliation and national unity will suffer with such a measure. I agree that justice needs to be done but if anybody has been found guilty, they should be asked to give back what they have illegally taken before they are punished. We have to balance justice with reconciliation in the process,” Hon. Georges said.
He added that even if some well-known high personalities have done good things for a section of the population, it does not mean that they would not be accused for the many atrocities they committed over the years in the one-party state.
Hon. Georges said given many changes have taken place to ensure there are no future human rights violations, it would be better to allow for government to choose the recommendations to be followed among the 32 drafted on the matter.
For his part, the leader of the opposition, Hon. Sebastien Pillay, said he could not understand why victims of atrocities and justices that occurred as a result of the coup d’état in 1977 would not be compensated by government, which compensated President Wavel Ramkalawan, who was the leader of the opposition and his colleague Jean François Ferrari, for injuries sustained during an incident with the police at the National Library in 2006.
“In its report, TRNUC has not recommended that United Seychelles should pay the compensation,” said Hon. Pillay, adding the commission has clearly stated that the state is responsible for paying out compensation to victims and the state was not a political party.
Hon. Pillay said the intention to seek compensation from the United Seychelles party was part of a plan to destroy the party, so that it does not exist as a tangible political force in the country.
He pointed out that some officials occupying key positions in the current administration have also benefited under the former government and could not therefore point fingers at others still employed as civil servants.
He added that since TRNUC had already consulted the President and Hon. Georges, they were the ones delaying compensation payment to the victims.
Hon Pillay also stated that seeking an apology from a specific group in the country will not bring reconciliation and national unity and that was why TRNUC had singled out the state as responsible for the apology and reparation.
“Going over the report, my conclusion is that we will not attain unity if we want to hold one specific group accountable to all things that happened in the past,” Hon. Pillay said.
Eight members intervened in yesterday’s sitting with six from the majority party and two from the opposition. While majority was in favour of the report and its recommendations, the opposition members were more skeptical about it.
The debate continues today.