2nd Live Presidential Press Conference for 2022 |21 June 2022
President paints glowing picture of country’s economy
• Addresses several other issues of national importance
“As a result of the good economic decision it took 18 months ago, Seychelles is today being praised the world over. Our economy has grown the fastest in Africa during 2021. Today the IMF is using Seychelles as an example for other small island states because we have surpassed the expectations the international institution has set.”
President Wavel Ramkalawan made these glowing remarks yesterday evening at State House at the start of his 2nd live press conference for this year.
“Our economy has picked up and today more than 140,000 visitors have landed on our shores meaning that more dollars have entered into our economy securing jobs for workers, small businesses mostly hotels among others can continue to employ more people,” President Ramkalawan said, noting that more businesses are looking to employ foreign workers.
But he noted that among the challenges that remain is for STC commodities to be sold at the same prices on the three main islands.
“I am calling on all merchants to sell all STC commodities at the RRP prices. The government is following the situation and if things do not improve, the government and the STC will have to take certain control measures to ensure that STC commodities are sold at the recommended prices,” President Ramkalawan stressed.
Other issues that were raised during the conference are as follows:
Government decision on a salary increase
On the above issue President Ramkalawan has said the government is still assessing the situation and he is expected to make an official announcement before the end of the month.
Reward of R100,000 for information on vandalism in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
President Ramkalawan has said that the money will come from the Contingency Fund. He said on the matter the police are still conducting their investigation and evidence are still being gathered and the media will be informed in due course.
GICC’s presence in government projects
President Ramkalawan has said that when still in the opposition he has always believed that the GICC could make significant contributions in the development of the country.
He explained that there are two ways that all government projects are funded: through budgets and grants both of which have reduced considerably because of the economic situation.
He noted that the government has taken the decision to work with the GICC on different projects through a new form of funding and he stated the refurbishment of the National Library as an example where the GICC has taken a loan for the project and during the 10-year-period that it will be paying, periodically the government will contribute an agreed sum of money.
Furthermore he stated that because of the neglected state of the library, taxpayers have had to fork out R32 million to pay compensation to workers of the institution following the fungus infestation.
“Projects agreed and carried out with the GICC will be carried out in this manner,” President Ramkalawan noted.
President Ramkalawan further noted that the original sum quoted for the project was R120 million. He has called on other companies to come forward and help the government deliver on its project using this method of funding.
He noted that other government projects lined up include the Carnegie Library, the Lenstiti Kreol, the SRC House, among others.
As for projects being funded from the budget, President Ramkalawan pointed out that the normal tender process will apply.
TRNUC’s compensation committee
President Ramkalawan has said the law established the TRNUC and he is not aware of any compensation committee as per the law. He said he is waiting for the commission to submit its report before making it public. But he noted that the TRNUC made certain recommendations in its periodic reports for instance in the case of Brian Victor where it asked for assistance for his medical fees and this was granted. Asked if the government will consider extending the mandate of the TRNUC, President Ramkalawan noted that up until now there has not been any requests from the TRNUC but that this will be considered when the request will be made.
Two perpetrators who have come forward responding to amnesty requests have lost their jobs
The President said we have to bear in mind that workplaces have to see how their image is being projected in relation to the jobs being done by their employees who have been seen as perpetrators by the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) after they have been found to have committed some serious crimes. He said he believes that those in charge of these workplaces might have seen that the presence of those people will send a bad message for their organisations.
“If something is working changes are not required and I am satisfied with my team. It is devoted and working well,” President Ramkalawan has said.
He went on to note that the retreat that he carries out every now and then with his cabinet are very important and has helped a lot to address different issues even though many people are unhappy with that method of working.
STC’s plan to install photovoltaic on the hypermarket’s roof
The media has learnt that the plan will not materialise because the roof has been badly constructed and will not be able to hold the PV panels but the STC is exploring other possibilities for instance installing a roof over its car park among other options.
Closing of STC retail outlets a bad decision?
“No it was not a mistake but the right decision. On one hand the private sector asked for business opportunities but unfortunately it is abusing consumers. STC was giving the private sector the possibility to do business but this has not worked as expected,” the President said.
He noted that the STC has had to open a retail outlet on Praslin while certain arrangements have been made with at least one merchant to sell its RRP goods at the same prices as on Mahé.
With prices that are continuing to increase President Ramkalawan noted that even the IMF is calling on governments to assist their most vulnerable citizens.
Oil exploration concerns
Oil exploration in our waters has long before now been conducted in our waters and we have to be realistic as Covid-19 has clearly shown us. He noted that Seychelles strategy is to conduct the explorations in order to know what it has to bring to the table at international forums making us stronger.
“Our strategy is to do the exploration without going through the exploitation phase,” he said.
Updates on Air Seychelles
“The new government has helped resolve the national airline’s issues with Etihad as well as its bond holders. Today Air Seychelles is conducting chartered flights approved by government and no employees have lost their jobs even though salaries have been adjusted in some cases but the government will not inject more money into the airline’s operations.
Meanwhile he noted that work is underway to separate ground handling from the aviation component of the airline’s activities.
Weaknesses in police investigations in Frenchman Thomas Debatisse murder case
President Ramkalawan said the statement is subjective. Some people said there were weaknesses while others do not agree. What the government is doing to improve the efficiency of the police force, President remarked that currently there is an ongoing debate as to whether we should continue with jury trial noting that some people are saying that trial by jury is not constitutional. He said a debate on the matter should be started.
100 people receiving social assistance does not reflect reality
One of the areas that had suffered from abuse was the welfare assistance and the government with help from the World Bank reviewed the system. President Ramkalawan has said that definitely more people need assistance but it is not surprising that some deserving people have been left out but work is ongoing to continue reviewing the system.
Continued complaints on internet service providers
While the president agrees that such complaints are still rampant, he also remarked that there has been some improvement in services provided by Cable & Wireless and Airtel where they are offering their clients better packages. But he noted that the DICT remains in talks with the two main providers exploring ways to continue improving their services and tackle the different shortcomings in their services.
Investigation in Minister Derjacques’ affiliation with law firm dealing with Travizory
“There has been a lot of allegations but allegations are not accusations. Our country functions on the rule of law but until now in spite of all the talk on the issue, not one person has brought concrete evidence to show that corruption has taken place. I will not accuse somebody without evidence,” President Ramkalawan stressed. He further stated that people can also take their evidence to the Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation. He said it is time for people to stop talking without providing any proof of what they are stating.
Asked why there are secrets surrounding the Travizory contract, President Ramkalawan stated that the document contains certain clauses that cannot be divulged but members of parliament can view the document in the Speaker’s office.
President’s visits, plans to buy private properties
President Ramkalawan has clarified his visits to two private properties belonging to Cable & Wireless – one at North East Point which he said has the potential to be turned into a halfway home while the other property is the one where the manager of the same company used to live. He said the idea was to explore the possibility to see if it could be transformed into an official residence for the president.
This he said would address the different security matters each time a new president is elected into office.
IMF austerity measures
President Ramkalawan has said that the IMF did not impose any IMF austerity measures on Seychelles. The institution came to provide us some financial assistance and support to better address our economic situation.
Deplorable state of certain wards at Seychelles Hospital, health centres, issues with school dental services
The President said that the result of the sad state of those health infrastructure is that they have not been well maintained by those who were in charge in the past including the government.
He stated that plans are underway to renovate the casualty unit, the labour rooms, the operating theatre and the sterilisation room and mortuary at the Seychelles Hospital which will include a forensic section.
These will be followed by the construction of a new casualty unit, a new and much larger ICU and new operating theatres.
He added that there are also plans to tackle fungus in some of the health centres and clinics.
He further added that the Ministry of Health will incorporate a maintenance contract in its strategic plan so as to maintain and build infrastructure in an acceptable standard.
The Ministry of Health has plans to renovate the mortuary.
He noted that those health facilities on Praslin and La Digue are also included in the renovation plan. Meanwhile the President has said thatthe school dental service is still available for children but the programme was relaxed a bit as a result of Covid-19.
He noted that the programme is gradually getting back to normal.
Sports tourism, state of our sports facilities
Our sports facilities are in a deplorable state but the government has already contracted out the work to refurbish the Palais des Sports. Work has already started and roofing materials will soon arrive in the country.
We are also in talks with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) through the Seychelles Football Federation to seek support to redo the football field as well as the tracks as the two renovations must be done together and we hope that the refurbishment works will start soon.
“By 2023 the two facilities must be completed so we can reach the level we want,” said the President.
At the swimming pool work is underway and some equipment are about to arrive in the country, while renovation work has already been programmed for the five tennis courts and at the same time there is a project for Anse Royale with the first part of the work expected to tackle the indoor sports facilities before moving on to build a sports complex there.
On Praslin and La Digue, talks are also underway to repair facilities there as well.
President Ramkalawan said he does not have the portfolio for any ministry so he is free to look at all the work that is being done. He gave as example the work to ensure a flood free Victoria, work he said that should have been done a long time ago.
He said he has a direct interest in a whole lot of projects in different districts and he will continue to give an idea and make his contributions wherever necessary.
Pollution, compensations for residents of Baie Ste Anne Praslin, Fair View, La Misère
President Ramkalawan said some compensation have not been paid yet in view of the country’s economic situation. He noted that some residents of La Misère have already been paid part of their compensation while the remaining part is yet to be paid along with some others related to the fungus situation. He stated that when funds become available, the residents affected by pollution caused by the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) electricity station at Baie Ste Anne Praslin, will be compensated. With regard to the pollution incident at Fair View, the President said that the case is before the court and government will pronounce itself when the court delivers its ruling.
The law on sexual crimes against children, more support for agencies fighting crimes against children
President Ramkalawan said cabinet has seen the first draft of the law but that the Attorney General’s office has set up a committee to seek for more public consultation on the law before it comes into force. He noted that government is supporting all affiliated agencies in their fight against crimes against children and others.
Support, closure for families who have lost loved ones, possibility to exchange accused Egyptians for locals
The President stated that the two Egyptians caught in illegal money dealings at automated teller machines (ATM) recently have not been found guilty yet and in the event that they are found guilty the possibility for an exchange for the three Seychellois in Egyptian jails can be considered.
He added that he will be attending a COP meeting in Egypt soon and he hopes to have talks with the Egyptian President on the matter. With regard to families who have mysteriously lost loved ones, the President said we should bear in mind that there are a lot of things that our loved ones are involved in that members of the family know nothing about until something happens. He added that in some instances members of the family know about the missing incident but they do not come forward. He stated that for an investigation to take place, information is required. He called on parents to not only ask what government can do to look for their loved ones but to take their responsibility to know the activities their children are involved in.
On the magnitude of the missing USD 50 million, fake news to discredit those involved in the prosecution
President Ramkalawan stated that he has received no report from the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) with regard to the missing USD 50 million which a journalist said has now become a USD 900 million case according to ACCS commissioner May De Silva.
“This is the first time I hear such a statement. But if it’s true that it has reached USD 900 million and we can get back this money it will help us solve so many problems in the country,” said President Ramkalawan.
With regard to fake news, the President said he has been a victim of fake news as some people had tried to discredit him by saying that one of his sons is a drug dealer and his other son is a pilot when he is an aircraft engineer.
He added that through fake news he was accused as the person who initiated the USD 50 million case for political reason when it was in fact former President Danny Faure who initiated it, resulting in a court case.
Not doing enough to curb the cost of living
On the issue of cost of living, the President said the comment is a political one as the cost of living is rising everywhere in the world. He noted the cost of living is not happening in our country only and that we are going through the same experience as other countries.
He added that he is working for all Seychellois and not for a small group of people.
President Ramkalawan has called on everyone to report to the authorities any illegal workers in the country. He added that we should also start observing the rule of law and if something is illegal it is illegal and we don’t insist on doing it or condoning it.
Government shares in IOT, abuse of workers
The President said that government still owns 40% shares in the tuna canning factory and that government will look into cases of abuse if there are any. He has also appealed to workers in such situations to take their cases to the relevant authorities.
Review of law on access to contraceptives by teenagers, stance on legalisation of abortion
President Ramkalawan has stated that a debate is ongoing to address access to contraceptives for teenagers while the legalisation of abortion is a moral decision that each individual has to take based on his or her consideration.
Anti-Narcotics Bureau (ANB) closing down, return of land acquired during one party state
President Ramkalawan said the ANB will no longer exist as is and it will be part of the police force. ANB officials will as from July be enrolled at the Police Academy to be trained as police officers.
As per the police strategic plan, well-trained police dogs and their trainers will be involved in drug detections. He said the drug fight is still a commitment of the government but the tools are missing and the government is working to increase the tools it requires in this fight.
With regard to the return of acquired land, he stated that government is in the process of a vetting exercise to see who will qualify for their land to be returned to them or be paid compensations.
The President has admitted that the stadium was not a priority of the last years and it has been used as a health centre, but this will now be reviewed.
“But there will need to be a consultation with the people of English River as it is a problem and for me it is a project that should have never been built in this location,” President Ramkalawan said.
By Marie-Anne Lepathy & Patrick Joubert