Presidential election 2020 |15 October 2020
Candidates make case on key issues to woo voters
Seven days before Seychellois voters go to the polls to choose a president to run the country for the next five years, Seychelles NATION presents its readers interviews with all the three candidates ‒ Wavel Ramkalawan of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa, Danny Faure of United Seychelles and Alain St Ange of One Seychelles.
The interviews will perhaps give the candidates the opportunity to try to make an impression on voters and raise their profile in the polls slated for October 22-24.
They come on the eve of the second and final ‘televised job interview’ ‒ the live presidential debate on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) TV tomorrow night.
In the interviews, the candidates make their case on key issues and share how they hope to set themselves apart from the field.
The interviews follow the order in which the candidates appear on the ballot paper.
Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) Presidential candidate Wavel Ramkalawan
‘These elections will bring the first peaceful transfer of power since the birth of our nation’
Seychelles NATION: As we are nearing the final stage of this electoral campaign, what is your reading from your party’s perspective and your assessment of the mood in the country?
Wavel Ramkalawan: Everyone realises the huge significance of these elections because there is every indication that they will bring the first peaceful transfer of power since the birth of our nation. Seychellois believe that we are on the eve of a new era for our country. There is therefore a mood of great excitement and expectation.
Seychelles NATION: How receptive are the prospective voters to your proposed ideas, policies, and orientation? Has the political environment evolved? And how far new medium of communication such as social media are weighing on the campaign?
Wavel Ramkalawan: Because of our work in the National Assembly over the last four years, everyone knows where we stand. We have established the principles that we stand on. People know that we stand for their rights and that we want real meaningful democracy for Seychelles. We have also dispelled a lot of the fear of change that was deliberately exploited by the SPPF/Parti Lepep. We have worked hard to level the playing field in such areas as access to media and in the electoral process itself. If you remember the situation at the beginning of multi-party and even as late as 2006 when we were beaten up by the police, you will realise we have made tremendous progress. Our work on the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) and other National Assembly committees in fighting corruption and bringing accountability and transparency have definitely helped the country. The playing field is still not level in one area and that is in the use of government resources for political campaigning. Even in this campaign you see Mr (Danny) Faure and his running mate (Maurice Loustau-Lalanne) using State House in their PPBs. Abuse is still going on and we have to stop it. The new forms of communication have given people more opportunities to express political views. That has made the political process more open.
Seychelles NATION: Social media triggers a debate on the freedom of speech and its limits. Do you believe there should be no barriers to the expression of the views of the population on these platforms and if not, what are your plans to regulate it to curtail abuses?
Wavel Ramkalawan: First, there should be responsibility. Like every freedom, it has to be exercised with responsibility. We need to build on respect for others and respect for the truth. Before we think about regulating, let us see how we can educate. May be one thing we could do is aim to eliminate the use of fake profiles which allow people to hide behind them. A new culture of frankness and truth need to be established.
Seychelles NATION: How was the 4-year first executive/legislative co-habitation? Has it been in the interest of the nation or not? Do you think it is a viable experience to be re-conducted or must power rest in the hands of one party both at executive and legislative levels?
Wavel Ramkalawan: I think cohabitation has served its purpose and for our part we did our best to use it for the good of the country. At the beginning both sides agreed on a number of things which needed to be done, which included removing ‘pas baton’; setting up the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC); reforming the electoral laws and several other changes. But after we had done the things that we agreed upon, then came other things where we disagreed. It was bound to happen. However, we met our responsibilities. Normally a political party needs to be both in the executive and with a majority in the Assembly. This is necessary for it to advance its plans and it is why we called on Mr Danny Faure to face new elections which he refused.
Seychelles NATION: While evoking the democratic process on an election and as a matter of public service hygiene, do you believe it is healthy that high-ranking officials in the civil service and state-owned companies get publicly involved in campaigning for any party or candidate? What are the regulations and how to combat this practice which cast doubts on the integrity and independence of our public officers?
Wavel Ramkalawan: Our public officers have the right to hold political views freely but should not be campaigning for one side, especially during working hours. The public service has always been abused by the party which has been in power. We have to establish the independence of the public service for the sake of its own integrity and for our democracy. Top civil servants have to realise that their behaviour has a direct implication on public trust and perception. The political role of top civil servants will surely be a topic of discussion as we move forward in our democracy and the transformation of politics.
Seychelles NATION: Can you briefly identify the areas where your party differentiates itself from the other ones and why it should warrant the support of a majority?
Wavel Ramkalawan: First of all, we have shown our steadfast belief in democracy. We have been examples of how the ballot box should be the biggest referee in a democracy. Violence is not in our DNA, and we have always stood for respect of human rights and a strong economy. We have persevered in our belief for a better Seychelles and have fought for positive principles which the people and country have adopted and respected. If today, for example we have presidential debates, it’s because of us, if we are reconciling the country through its terrible past and people are putting closure to their terrible past, again it is our work. If Seychelles is progressing as far as corruption is concerned, again it is because of our work. Victimisation is also slowly becoming a mark of the past. The list is long. All these point to the fact that we stand strong in our beliefs that are in line with the Constitution. We stand out because we are the only hope for honest and efficient government.
Seychelles NATION: How are you personally running the campaign and is a Presidential candidate quite lonely after all despite being surrounded by an army of advisors and supporters?
Wavel Ramkalawan: I am directing the campaign as its presidential candidate but I have a team alongside me that take on responsibilities. We have committed candidates and activists. We have many people collaborating in our efforts. I am not lonely because the people around me are also friends and colleagues. For me the campaign trail is never lonely because I meet with many people who express their friendship including people who could be my mother or grandmother who hug me warmly. I also have my family who give me a lot of support. Furthermore, I always feel safe as I know nobody will hurt me. The Seychellois are my best friends and they know that I share their joys and pains. I love my people.
Seychelles NATION: What attributes do you see in your running mate?
Wavel Ramkalawan: My running mate Ahmed Afif is an experienced administrator with expertise in financial management. He is calm and has a great sense of humour that has really bonded us together. We can both laugh at ourselves and discuss serious issues. Ahmed has a great personality and the four years that we have worked together have proved that we are compatible. That is why it was not a difficult task to choose a running mate after the party accepted my nomination. In the National Assembly he has shown great judgement and leadership. He is a team player and brings great strength to our team. Together we will stand strong for Seychelles and her children.
Seychelles NATION: The country is facing an unprecedented economic situation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. What are your proposals to get out of this precarious situation? How should Seychelles re-invent itself on the economic front?
Wavel Ramkalawan: We have outlined our strategy in our manifesto, which is to protect the health of our people and re-open our economy. We need to reopen tourism and diversify our economy going forward. While tourism will remain the mainstay of our economy for a number of years more, we want to push fisheries to become the mine that we exploit in a sustainable manner. Our blue economy will probably become the number one income earner over the years. For this reason, we want to have a minister dedicated to fisheries, so that the person can give all the attention to this industry, encouraging more Seychellois entrepreneurs while opening up international markets. I see many possibilities there.
On the other hand, agriculture will become another key sector with its own minister and will be in a position to cut on imports and promote self-sufficiency. Our plan is to be self-sufficient in the production of chicken, pork and a couple of other livestock products, while we position ourselves in producing the vegetables and fruits that we need. Cash crops like cinnamon and vanilla must also be exploited. I also see honey production as another area where we should launch ourselves.
The financial sector and small industries should also be on the table for greater exploitation and encouragement. The possibilities are vast and we should think outside the box, given that we have a very intelligent population.
Seychelles NATION: What will be your first priorities during the first 100 days if you are elected as President during these tough times? How will your willingness and drive bring about the implementation of your plans?
Wavel Ramkalawan: The first priority will be re-opening tourism with the measures in place for the safety of residents and visitors alike. We have to let the euros and dollars flow into our economy. We will be a government that takes the difficult decisions. Emphasis will be put on the civil service to run the country like a business. Their efficiency will give our people hope and will bring everyone on board the new Seychelles. We will also be putting emphasis on encouraging everyone to play their part in the rebuilding of our country. Our people have waited for answers for too long. Unblocking the backlog as far as housing and lands are concerned will be given top priority, while easing the procedures for running a business will be implemented. We have to hit the ground running. Already I am talking to our traditional partners and I must admit that I am looking at the future with much hope for our people. If in the first 100 days, I start eliminating the present frustration, I will be the happiest person. We need to give people confidence that our country is moving forward and that they have a part to play in its progress. Bringing everyone on board is key. Then, counting our dollars and rupees to see how best we can manage.
Seychelles NATION: What are the main features that you will be seeking in your team that will help you deliver the results that you are imposing to yourself?
Wavel Ramkalawan: Work hard, keep a clear conscience. Lead by example. Everyone called to be part of the team must pull together and be good servants of the people. There will be no place for arrogance and self-praise. Leaders are employed by the people and I expect this approach to lead all of us in our work. Sacrifice will have to be the hallmark of our watch. I will not accept excuses and we have to be a government that delivers. Those dragging their feet do not have a place in this new government. Greater responsibilities will also be given to the members of the National Assembly (MNAs), so that they can lead at district level. Much will be expected of them. I do not want to receive 100 letters per week from the people complaining about the lack of service. I want to receive letters expressing satisfaction in the way the various leaders have delivered.
Seychelles NATION: How can your experience help you to avoid the potholes of power and how will you inculcate the basic principles of hard, dedicated, and continuous work within your team?
Wavel Ramkalawan: I started on this road not with the intention of becoming President but to speak up for people who were victims of power, responding to their thirst for freedom and democracy. I have not taken shortcuts. Many on my team have done that also and others have joined because they identified with what we have done. We will continue to be ourselves. Humility in leadership should be a value our team adopts. The excitement on changing our country for the better through democratic elections should be the greatest reward we cherish. After all, our administration will be the first democratically elected presidency.
Seychelles NATION: What is your last-minute message to the nation on the eve of this important democratic rendezvous?
Wavel Ramkalawan: The time has come to turn the page. We need to make a fresh start based on the truth, respect for people’s rights, honesty in managing public affairs, and justice. In this 250th year since the first settlement, Seychelles is being given another chance to start anew. Let us reconcile our people and may unity be our brand. We have been blessed with this mixture of cultures and we are indeed the rainbow nation. I thank the Almighty for his blessings on our land. I firmly believe that we can live in harmony and be a real example to the world. I truly believe that as we walk ahead together and enter into this transformation, Seychelles will truly be the land for all her children. May the Almighty bless our people and our motherland.