President Danny Faure’s press conference ‘Drug traffickers must be stopped’ |23 August 2019
The military police unit within the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces needs to be beefed up so that it can work in close collaboration with the police to fight criminality and put a stop to drug traffickers, President Danny Faure has said.
Mr Faure was speaking yesterday during the third presidential press conference for this year at State House.
“The commissioner of police (Kishnan Labonté) and I have had a number of meetings regarding the fight against criminality in the country. Some of the measures taken include the rotation of regional commanders and residents have said they have started seeing some positive changes. We also talked about having the right resources.
“We need to beef up the military police unit within the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces so that it can work in close collaboration with the police to fight criminality, starting with Perseverance,” said President Faure.
He added: “Soldiers who have only recently left the force are considered to be on reserve and we are studying the possibility to call them up to be part of the military police.”
The president touched on the issue of thefts against visitors and said this is not acceptable and he called on all tourism establishments to beef up their security personnel.
“It is also the role of the government to have the presence of police officers where needed. There is work for everyone in Seychelles. We have created more than 2,000 jobs in the last year. We have to respect other people’s property,” he said.
On the issue of drugs being sold in public, President Faure said this is not normal and that we should all take our responsibility.
“It is not acceptable for drug traffickers to go about their business in public. We have to put a stop to those drug traffickers. In the past a lot of young people were sent to prison but not the drug traffickers. We have to stop buying stolen goods and at the same time, when people come forward with information the police have to pursue their investigation,” President Faure added.
The president said the methadone programme being run by the Agency for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (Apdar) is giving a clearer picture of the drug situation in Seychelles because it is enabling drug users to receive the help they need.
He also added that the cabinet of ministers has only recently approved a five-year master plan to fight drugs in Seychelles and noted that not only Seychelles is being affected by this scourge but all Indian Ocean and East African countries as their presidents shared the information during the 39th Ordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit held last weekend at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Answering a question about the judgments made by the court in almost similar cases involving the Anti-Narcotics Bureau where an entire family (mother, father and son) have been jailed for fighting against their officers, while another couple have been made to only pay a fine, President Faure explained that his office and the executive do not give orders to the judiciary.
“The executive does not give orders to the judiciary about any cases whatsoever. It does not write the ruling of the courts. The final decision about any case rests with the judiciary. As human beings we all have our opinion on decisions taken in all cases that interest us,” explained President Faure.
Coastguard facility on Assomption
The Seychelles Coast Guard will build a facility on Assomption island and not Astove island as proposed by the Preserve Seychelles team, President Faure explained.
“This is because it is not ideal to have this facility on Astove. The best place to have this facility is on Assomption island and with time Seychellois will understand why this is the case and that is it good for Seychelles as a whole. The Preserve Seychelles representatives who went to Astove and Assomption islands also had the chance to visit the radars and talk to the media personnel on the island of Assomption. They also got to note that the number of foreign workers on the island are there to build the new airstrip,” said President Faure, who noted that he had a very good meeting with the Preserve Seychelles executive committee members but will not agree with some of their propositions for varying reasons.
Giving out information
Once again, President Faure called on all ministries, departments, agencies and others to be forthcoming with information when approached by journalists.
“Leave the door open to journalists and give them the information they need,” he said.
Candidature, Vice-President and election
With regard to his candidature, President Faure said he is waiting for the United Seychelles (US) congress to be held this upcoming Saturday to pronounce himself as to if he is confident that he can win the next presidential election to be held in 2020. He reaffirmed his standing as a candidate for US stating that he firmly believes in the party’s principles dating back to 1964.
“That is where I am from, where I intend to remain and I will die there,” President Faure stated.
President Faure also announced that he is “taking it one step at a time” noting that he will divulge his Vice-President in due time once Congress has endorsed his nomination.
Several journalists asked questions about the various compensations to be disbursed by the government to persons affected by natural disasters, residents affected by polluted water at La Misère a few years back as well as other instances in which compensation has been promised and questioning whether the country can afford such huge sums.
With regard to compensation for those affected by natural disasters, President Faure noted that a committee has already been established to oversee the processes and that cabinet has already approved the terms of reference. He further stated that the government has implemented a financial structure and that work is ongoing to sort out the money for the concerned ministry to address the cases.
President Faure also revealed that a decision has been taken by the Department of Risk and Disaster Management of Seychelles (DRDM) to make use of digital technologies to disseminate important information such as alerts to ensure that the majority of people are informed.
As for compensation for those affected by water pollution at La Misère, President Faure confirmed that all that remains to be done is for a decision on the financing mechanism for the compensation to be finalised.
While he reassured the public that the government is respecting the decision to pay compensation, President Faure noted that a budget needs to be appropriated and that not all compensation can be disbursed this year on account of the volume of cases before the government.
SPTC recruitment of foreign workers
Asked about the recruitment of foreign drivers, more specifically Malagasy drivers, by the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC), the only public service transportation provider in Seychelles, President Faure noted that he is yet to receive any formal complaints about Malagasy workers at SPTC.
“The decision to employ foreign drivers is a decision of my cabinet following a request by SPTC in the face of problems it was facing. After examining this request, we gave it the go ahead to recruit foreign workers, and if there are indeed any issues, I will take up with the concerned ministry,” President Faure stated confidently.
He vowed to continue to support SPTC as the government has done in the past.
Presidential presents and gifts
In response to a question regarding whether the President receives gifts and if he opens gifts himself, President Faure explained the protocol in such instances stating that while he can receive and accept presents, all gifts need to go through a mandatory security procedure as per protocol norms. Furthermore, he noted that all gifts are registered and recorded and as per the system put in place by him to allow for transparency and accountability, all presidential gifts are displayed for the public on October 16as has been the case for the past two years.
“I want to make it clear that the President does not receive money from any individuals. If someone wants to make a donation to the state, they are referred to the appropriate ministry,” President Faure clarified.
Referendum allowing Seychellois living abroad to vote
Earlier this year in May, President Faure proposed a referendum allowing Seychellois nationals overseas to vote in national elections. However, the decision has been much contested by the National Assembly.
“The population knows my position on the referendum. To be able to have a referendum, it is important to have a legal structure, regardless of the topic. What is missing today is a legal structure and that is what we were proposing recently for us to have, but there were many debates in the National Assembly and we are awaiting them to, after the recess, continue their work and discuss this so the country can have a legal structure for any referendum in Seychelles,” President Faure stated.
Regulations for medical cannabis
With regard to the 24-month timeframe set by the Constitutional Court for regulations to be passed allowing citizens to access medical marijuana, President Faure remarked that the concerned ministers – Minister for Health Jean-Paul Adam and Designated Minister Macsuzy Mondon – have conducted several meetings in which they are working on the regulations as per the advice of the Attorney General and that these regulations will be gazetted in the near future.
Executive powers and cohabitation
Addressing numerous questions regarding executive powers amid differences in opinion between the executive branch and legislative branch of the government, President Faure asserted that he is a tolerant President but that he exercises such powers only when he feels that it is necessary to “move things along”.
“I have a good working relationship with the speaker of the National Assembly. We may have differences in opinion but our professional relationship is good. Therefore, when I say the president needs to use his executive powers, this does not mean that the other branches are not doing their jobs,” he said.
President Faure further illustrated the roles of the three branches of government emphasising that the executive branch of government does not interfere with the decisions of the courts.
“There is a common perception that the President is involved with the courts’ decision but I think it is important that we explain to people how the three branches of government work. We do not interfere with the work of the courts of magistrates. President can have his own opinion and be frustrated with certain decisions but does not interfere,” he said firmly.
Alcohol and tobacco regulations, sugar tax
President Faure reaffirmed his position on the sugar tax and alcohol and tobacco regulations implemented recently, asserting his wishes for a healthy population.
“What is saddening sometimes is that we do not talk about the effects that cigarettes have on public health, we do not talk about how much it is costing us as a nation but we are mostly talking about those in the business, which I understand but I think we need a balance. Government will maintain its position on the sugar tax because we are concerned with the obesity epidemic in the country especially among youths and children today,” President Faure stated.
He further stated that such policies and regulations should be considered as a “package” in the Ministry of Health’s efforts to take care of our people.
Due diligence for foreign businesses
Following a video circulating on social media platforms whereby the chief executive of BitMEX, a cryptocurrency exchange registered in Seychelles, stated in an interview that the cost of bribery in Seychelles is cheap and the recent halt in the Ocean Alliance Conservation White Flag projects which was to be initiated on 40 Seychelles beaches, President Faure urged the public to act in the interest of Seychelles stating that circulating manipulated videos implicating his administration in activities that are somehow corrupt is catastrophic to Seychelles in general.
“BitMEX, it is important that you know he registered in Seychelles which means he runs a legal operation. He should not have made such a remark because no one comes to buy our country or the president. We are not here to be sold, we have dignity and I am happy that the Financial Services Agency (FSA) reacted on this and asked for an explanation and his lawyer communicated with us,” President Faure said.
“What is even worse is an attack on our mother, our country, our financial system which employs 2500 workers and contributes around R50 million to the budget. FSA alone employs 133 workers and this is an attack on the livelihood of those workers, of the 2500 financial workers and the people of Seychelles,” he said, referring to individuals who have manipulated the video of the interview by BitMEX’s CEO to suggest corruption by President Faure’s administration.
With regard to the Ocean Alliance White Flag project, President Faure noted that there has been no monetary exchanges between Seychelles and officials responsible for the project stating that Kristijan Curavic, who is behind the White Flag project discussed the ongoing legal issues with the ministries concerned and that they are awaiting the courts’ decision in Malta before the government decides how to proceed.
Performance of public sector
In response to criticism of poor performance in the public sector, President Faure acknowledged that performance is a challenge for his administration attributing it to the fast pace of development in the local economy over recent years and noting that it takes time to build up the competencies of public service workers. He seized the opportunity to encourage all leaders and managers within public service institutions to continue striving hard to deliver good service both in the public and private sector and to consistently communicate with the public.
He also urged all in-service employees from institutions providing essential goods and services to be considerate of the importance of their job and to not “hold up the country”.
Referring to an incident recently whereby the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) did not meet the required number of firemen to authorise landings due to their alleged dissatisfaction with their scheme of service, President Faure reassured that the SCAA has decided upon a scheme for the firemen and that such will be announced once the final review is completed.
La Digue power outage
President Faure expressed his apologies to the people of La Digue as well as the operators of tourist establishments for the power outage on August 14 which resulted from a damaged undersea cable. He noted that two generators are being transported to La Digue and proposed that a $9 million loan with the Abu Dhabi Fund of Development be used to fund a third undersea cable to connect Praslin and La Digue so as to avoid similar situations in future.