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.
United Seychelles (US) Presidential candidate Danny Faure
‘When you vote, do so with a clear mind and make a good choice’
Seychelles NATION: As we are nearing the final stage of this electoral campaign, what is your party’s perspective and your assessment of the mood of the country?
Danny Faure: We are proud that Seychelles is able to go ahead with this important milestone in its political calendar. It is a testament to the brave men and women working on the frontlines of Covid-19 that we are able to run our elections despite the public health situation. I sincerely thank the health authorities, the department of risk and disaster management (DRDM) and all those involved for their hard work and devotion in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks is also owed to the Electoral Commission for their planning and preparation in carrying out elections through this unprecedented situation.
I believe that the Seychellois people are looking forward to exercise their democratic right and civic responsibility. Party supporters and I are confident that they will make the right choice. They must be congratulated for their conduct throughout this election campaign. Our people have understood the importance of the health considerations and found innovative ways of campaigning outside rallies and large events. I am proud of our people’s maturity.
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?
Danny Faure: The political environment has evolved tremendously. Citizens are more discerning and weigh many factors when making decisions. I thank the supporters of my party for their fidelity and their unwavering belief in our party’s principles and policies. I appeal to other Seychellois who are not necessarily traditional supporters of my party but who appreciate the work we have done over the last four years and the proposals I have put forward to join me in this election.
I believe that a majority of people agree that we must come together to address the challenges that we face; to work together to rebuild the economy, resume our development and steadily rebuild our national reserves. A majority of Seychellois want unity and stability; want to remove partisan politics in public affairs as well as in daily relations among ourselves. A Government of National Unity bringing together able and dedicated Seychellois irrespective of political affiliation and who are ready to work together is the way to achieve these. There will be no “ek nou, pa ek nou” and no “pil lo li”.
A Government of National Unity will help greatly in our nation pursuing agreed common positions on many important issues with less temptation for an opposing party to oppose simply to play the game of partisanship or to hamper the government. It will help to make politics the noble undertaking that it should be: to serve one’s country and people. Importantly, I believe that reducing partisanship will interest young people to join politics and this is a good thing for our democracy.
On the subject of social media, it has become another way for people to express their opinions and for candidates to reach out to voters. My own party introduced an app for supporters as well as the general public. But more traditional methods such as going door to door to people’s homes remain an important means of meeting people and listening to their concerns and aspirations.
Seychelles NATION: Social media triggers a debate on the freedom of speech and its limits? Has it been in the interest of the nation or not? Do you think there must 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?
Danny Faure: Social media has been a great boon to freedom of speech and the exchange of information. It can be a most useful tool for communication. But it is a double-edged sword, as it can be put at the service of useful and positive purposes or can used for bad or even criminal uses. As in the case of other forms of expression that is public there must be limits. It is not right to insult people, to spread lies, to defame or create discord through social media or any other form of public expression. There are existing laws that cover certain infringements. Additional legislation is necessary to deal with specific issues relating to infringements through social media and this is in the process of development. The intention is not to curb freedom of expression but to prevent or punish the abuse of that freedom and to protect the rights of other people.
Seychelles NATION: How was the four-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?
Danny Faure: Yes, from October 16, 2016 to August 7, 2020, we had a situation where the executive was held by one party and the legislature was controlled by another party. When I became President in October 2016, I started my work with the full intention of respecting the wishes of the Seychellois people and working with the National Assembly. The approach I took helped to diffuse a situation that had become quite tense and to install dialogue with the legislature and greater openness and transparency generally.
I think that this was well-appreciated by the public and initially by the opposition as well. Despite the National Assembly early on voting against the endorsement of three persons I intended to appoint as ministers on the grounds that they were politicians, for a time things worked rather well. For example, we managed to introduce more accountability through the extension of Programme and Performance-based Budgeting in government ministries and agencies, the work of the Office of the Auditor General and the National Assembly playing its oversight role. But, as you know, after some time they declared the co-habitation dead and co-operation from the National Assembly was not forthcoming. It may be recalled that when I presented three non-politician young professionals for endorsement as ministers, the National Assembly voted against without even due consideration of the merits of the candidates. My government soldiered on. In the Cabinet reshuffle, I took the health portfolio.
You ask if it would be good for the experience of co-habitation to be reconducted or not. I will say that what is needed for the effective conduct of government affairs and the good of the country is a National Assembly that is serious and reasonable and fulfils its role as one of the three arms of government as provided for by our Constitution. A National Assembly that holds the executive to account and legislates in cooperation with the President. The guarantee of such a National Assembly lies in the party that supports me having a working majority.
It’s been a tough but interesting four years during which I have gained very useful experience both nationally and internationally where I have made useful connections at the highest level. I am glad that the Seychellois people generally have given me their encouragement and support.
When we look back, we realise that the opposition has been campaigning for these elections since the last one. We can see that they have been manoeuvring to make government fail, encourage the public to feel dissatisfied and generally hamper the work of the executive. Too often, sessions of the National Assembly were used for partisan politicking with a lack of courtesy and consideration for others. This may have pleased the radicals and extremists in their ranks but set a bad example, especially for our young people. The opposition never voted for any budget, including the R1.2 billion budgeted for financial assistance in a year where so many jobs and businesses need support. Here, I have to thank the United Seychelles’ members of the National Assembly (MNAs). Without their votes, there would have been no budget. Clearly, the overall intention of the opposition in the National Assembly was to try and position themselves for power. We could say that that is politics. But it’s of the partisan type and not for the good of the country.
For my part, it was my duty to focus on working for Seychelles and the Seychellois people. Even at one point, at the risk of being misunderstood by supporters in my own party, when I said I needed to concentrate on working for all Seychellois and not being involved in the work of the leadership of the party.
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?
Danny Faure: Public Service Order 121 allows a public servant to participate in political parties and can even become office-bearers in a political party. However, such activities should be done outside of official working hours unless the employee is on leave. They should not use their position for advancement of political views or those of a particular political party or person. They should not use their office for political purposes or the promotion of political propaganda.
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?
Danny Faure: Allow me to refer you to the Constitution of United Seychelles and specifically to its values and guiding principles and what we stand for. These are spelled out in the preamble and can also be seen in my manifesto for these elections. You may wish to compare our Constitution to that of other parties.
As stated in the preamble to our constitution “we are ready to work with all forces in society in order to build a Seychelles where power, wealth and opportunity are justly distributed, where we are conscious of our rights and duties as citizens and where we live in peace, unity and solidarity”.
We have traditionally been the party of the masses, of less well-off people. But it is clear that we are also a party supported by people from all walks of life and who know the importance of unity, stability that are essential for development. Through our policies, many young people from modest backgrounds have made their way in life and have become professionals. A majority of them are faithful to their roots. We believe that those of us who do well in life should not forget their origins and should reach out to others and give them a hand to help them raise themselves up too. We are the party with compassion, with the heart, the party of aspiration and hope for all.
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?
Danny Faure: In recent months I have become more directly involved in the election campaign. I am grateful to the party leader and the leadership of the party at central and district levels and to all members who are campaigning with us. Especially young people. It’s a real pleasure to see their excitement and eagerness to be involved. As President of the country I have to continue my duties as head of state on a day to day basis, at a time that is more critical because of the urgency brought about by the pandemic. It is my responsibility and I make sure I discharge it fully. Of course, this means more work for me, being involved on two fronts. But it can be no other way and I am up to it.
Do I feel lonely? Being President can be a lonely affair as in that position you have the ultimate responsibility for decisions. The four years have been a good experience for me. And when I feel lonely, I look inward to my true self and upward to seek guidance.
Seychelles NATION: What attributes do you see in your running mate?
Danny Faure: I have an excellent running mate, a person I get along very well with. A trustworthy and capable man with a wealth of experience and a capacity for hard work. Maurice (Loustau-Lalanne) gets on well with all kinds of people. We have seen him in the National Assembly listening to members, explaining, exercising much patience. He is a technocrat. He has not arrived to the position of vice-presidential candidate through politics or wanting to do politics. He has no political ambitions. He has answered the call to give a hand in addressing the urgent need of saving our economy and addressing the other challenges of the present times. He will make a great vice-president especially in the current situation and the few years ahead. He is a true Seychellois patriot who cares about all Seychellois and our country with its exceptional natural environment and biodiversity.
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?
Danny Faure: Thank you for raising the severity of Covid-19 and its economic and social consequences. Some say that I am using the pandemic as an excuse for everything but it is the reality that we face. Up to early March the economy was doing very well and we expected 2020 to be a record year in terms of economic performance.
As you know my government has already put in place several measures to support businesses of all sizes and to ensure that workers and their families do not suffer extreme hardship. We must ensure that our economy does not sink and can bounce back as the health situation worldwide improves. We shall evaluate the measures put in place and continue to support workers and businesses.
It has taken Seychelles a long time, some 50 years, to grow its tourism industry. Many Seychellois have invested in this sector and it will remain a major pillar of our economy. We must support and nurture it and Seychellois involved in it directly or indirectly realise the importance of ensuring that we give visitors good service and value for money. And operators will find ways to maximise spending by tourists while they are here.
The current situation has made us all even more aware of the importance of food security. Several factors contribute to food produced locally being more costly than what is imported. We must work with producers to address this and to increase the amount of food that we produce ourselves. Government is already encouraging more young people to engage in food production and is making more land available. As consumers we are becoming more conscious of consuming the products of our land and sea.
Fisheries is another pillar of our economy for which we work to maximise its benefits while ensuring its sustainability. We must ensure that Victoria retains its status as the most important tuna port in the region and continuously improve its infrastructure including in processing and cold storage and bunkering facilities. Value addition and the export of new seafood products will continue to be encouraged. Seychellois are already engaged in long lining and government will work with the private sector to increase Seychellois investment in fisheries. Government will boost the country’s research and development capability to ensure best practices in the sustainable exploitation of marine resources as well as obtaining sound information on market and export possibilities that would be useful to private sector investors.
Aquaculture is an emerging activity. The production of renewable energy will be boosted. As a country we must explore and put into practice ways of reducing waste or turning what is seen as waste into usable products. We need to be innovative and think and source new possibilities in the production and sale of new services and goods. Digital technology provides opportunities.
Whether it’s in tourism or fisheries or other natural products, it is very important that we ensure the quality of our products if we want to enter foreign markets. We must respect approved processes and ensure standards. Seychelles must retain its reputation as a special destination in tourism and attain a similar reputation for other exports.
The current difficult situation also provides us with an opportunity as a country to evaluate and act on the question of foreign workers in our country. When the economy was doing so well our private sector needed foreign workers. It is now time to reassess. We must encourage and support all our people of working age to be in gainful employment. The Seychelles Employee Transition Scheme (Sets) is doing a great job and we will learn and adapt from its experience to realise the goal of full employment and improved productivity.
Seychelles NATION: What will be your first priority during the 100 days if you are elected as President during these tough times? How will your willingness and drive bring about the implementation of your plan?
Danny Faure: As part of my priorities in the first 100 days I will continue to work to save the economy, to safeguard livelihoods and ensure families have food on the table; that our medical services take care of our health and other services continue to serve our people. A priority will also be to form the government of national unity and start the work of rebuilding our economy.
When elected, I shall be serving our country as President for the next five years and it will be my last mandate. I want to strengthen the work I have done in the last four years for good governance including accountability and transparency. I want the country to have strong institutions to guarantee our democracy, to ensure law and order and to make government efficient and effective. I want our people to enjoy peace, stability and prosperity; our young people to have opportunities and to be empowered to take the opportunities; our working women and men to enjoy good working conditions and improved salaries so they can provide for their families and save for their futures; our elderly to live a comfortable life and to guide those younger with their wisdom. I want all Seychellois to enjoy rights and freedoms while respecting others, to feel that they live in a society that is fair, that we care about each other and that we are proud to be what we are. I want Seychelles to be respected in the world.
I am determined to work for these goals and I shall dedicate my time and energy to fulfilling them.
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?
Danny Faure: In my team there will be Seychellois who are able, hard-working, who can co-operate with others and are loyal to Seychelles and to the goals that we set to accomplish. People who are prepared to dedicate themselves to address the challenges of the present situation and to help Seychelles recover and build back better. They will work not for partisan interests but for what is really best for Seychelles. They will bring to the collective different experiences, knowledge in various fields and a common determination to address problems and find solutions in a focused and professional manner.
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 with your team?
Danny Faure: I have good experience in government and I have learned much, especially in the last four years as President. By nature, I am a very simple person. From an early age, I have felt the desire to serve, to be of service to people. To my country. I have been fortunate to have been able to do this, with some errors along the way, but with more achievements, I think.
I want those around me to also be hard-working and dedicated. Each person has his or her own personality and that is normal. I want to lead by example and all team members will know that they are expected to do their part and to give a good example to those for whose work they are responsible. Each person has to fulfil their own responsibility.
Seychelles NATION: What is your last minute message to the nation on the eve of this important democratic rendezvous?
Danny Faure: Choosing the President of the country and your representative in the National Assembly is not just a right. It is a duty and responsibility that must be carried out seriously. Your vote reflects your own worth and dignity as a person and a citizen of the country that gives you this right. Use your vote wisely. Vote for the person who, in your considered view, will seriously work for the district and take it and Seychelles forward.
Seychelles and the world are facing serious challenges. A lot is at stake. It is important that the president who is elected is a person who will waste no time in addressing the problems and applying solutions. A person who has the ability to bring together the best Seychellois for the job of saving the economy and safeguarding livelihoods and working with them. Experience counts.
Let us maintain the peace and stability that is so important for our country and its economy. When you vote, do so with a clear mind and make a good choice.
Let us do what is best for Seychelles.