Polluted water incident at La Misère |03 October 2019
Assembly votes for minister to renegotiate with UAE government compensation for affected residents
The National Assembly yesterday unanimously approved an urgent motion tabled by Honourable Waven William, the member for Grand Anse Mahé, calling for the government to give the Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the mandate to renegotiate with the owner of the building at La Misère for compensation payments to finally be made to the residents and persons affected by the contaminated water at La Misère in 2009, during the construction of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s palace complex.
During his intervention, Honourable William noted that Minister Loustau-Lalanne made a commitment to the victims of La Misère and Petit Barbarons and to the assembly during last Thursday’s session, noting that the assembly are in support of the renegotiations and he urged all members to support the motion.
The motion was seconded by Honourable Bernard Georges who stated that the compensation payments are long overdue, noting the health implications and expenses incurred by residents caused by ingesting the contaminated water.
Honourable Georges, who sat on a committee established to sort out compensation for the residents, noted that the committee comprised France Bonte and himself as lawyers and representatives of La Misère residents and that the committee held meetings with then Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Joel Morgan for negotiations.
Honourable Georges further noted that a form was drawn up to allow residents to detail their medical expenses, future foreseeable medical expenses as well as the expenses to change all pipes and fittings in their house and submitted to the minister.
“I drafted the form along with France Bonte, a resident of La Misère. A sum of R650,000 was proposed by the residents and I said that the stated amount was very high. A letter was then drafted by the committee, to the minister along with the schedule and a claim was made based on a sum of R650,000 per head except for children and this was sent to ASCON Ltd and they sent a delegation to Seychelles and in a meeting, they said the sum was too high.
“It must be noted that just before that, we had a meeting with President James Michel at State House who said what happened was inacceptable and that he would strive to get the negotiations until the committee was disbanded and negotiations left to the government,” Honourable Georges pointed out.
Mr Georges noted that each household was then awarded R250,000 and that he was informed by several residents that they were dissatisfied and that R250,000 was not fair and there is a court case pertaining to the matter that will be heard on November 11.
Leader of government business Charles de Comarmond also supported the motion noting that the negotiations need to be transparent as the issue is in the public interest and there has been too much speculations about the matter recently.
Honourable Jean-François Ferrari, the member for Mont Fleuri, also intervened asserting the need to finalise compensation together with the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) stating that it is unfair for compensation payments to be funded by taxpayers.
Honourable Sebastien Pillay and Honourable Simon Gill both warned against politicising the compensation issue but both still expressed support for the motion.
Honourable Pillay proposed a committee be established, comprising La Misère residents, while also acknowledging that the new process may open a floodgate of cases even by persons not necessarily affected.
“The ultimate solution we want to see is that there is acceptance on the part of those who were responsible. I bring 100 percent for the people of La Misère to find a solution to the problem,” Honourable Pillay said.
Honourable Simon Gill pointed out that he too has lost his sister, who was residing at La Misère, presumably from health complications caused by the contaminated water and that he too is rooting for the residents to be compensated.
Honourable Waven William concluded the motion by launching an appeal to the residents of La Misère currently protesting against the decision to fund compensation claims from state coffers, to discontinue the protestation and from barring employees from entering the Sheikh Kahlifa premises. He instead advised them to attend a meeting scheduled for this Saturday in which the Ministry of Finance and Attorney General will address their queries and hear their concerns to decide on the way forward.
Speaker of the assembly Nicholas Prea thanked all the inhabitants of La Misère for being patient for years while the court trial continues.
He too, urged the residents of La Misère and Petit Barbarons to be more respectful and to be forthcoming with the government who has accepted responsibility and based on President Danny Faure’s vow to take action to remedy the situation.
Speaker Prea concluded by addressing rumours that he has benefitted financially from the negotiations. He emphasised that he refused the R250,000 compensation paid to households and further noted that for the past 8 years, he was acting in good faith in relation to the court case and stated explicitly that he has never accepted any money or benefitted from the negotiations.
The motion was approved after a unanimous decision.