Assembly rejects motion to annul Statutory Instrument (S.I) 45 of 2023 |14 September 2023
The National Assembly has rejected a motion by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Sebastien Pillay, to annul Statutory Instrument (S.I) 45 of 2023.
The S.I, the Elections (Delimitation of Electoral Boundaries Committee) Regulations, makes provisions for the amendment of the Elections Act, to repeal and replace an advisory board with a technical committee to review the delimitations of electoral boundaries.
In presenting the motion, Hon. Pillay remarked that United Seychelles (US) is especially concerned with the way in which the S.I, along with a number of other regulations, are being introduced and implemented, despite inadequate consultation, either with concerned authorities, or with the general public.
For this motion, the basis of his arguments was whether the Electoral Commission of Seychelles, as the democratic institution, is delivering its functions impartially, and that it works in a transparent manner, independent from any state interference.
As example, Hon. Pillay stated that President Wavel Ramkalawan, during a public meeting at Anse Etoile, informed constituents that the district will soon be divided into two districts. He questioned how the president came to know such information, considering that the committee is yet to take any decisions related to boundaries.
The Electoral Commission is the national body with the mandate to organise, oversee and regulate electoral processes in Seychelles.
“Through this motion, the United Seychelles side will prove that the Electoral Commission is not working in an impartial manner, and there is not enough transparency and independence in its role as a state institution, which is part of the fourth pillar of democracy in our country,” Hon. Pillay said.
As per his arguments, the Electoral Commission failed to take into consideration the perspectives of all political parties regarding the composition of the technical committee.
The major issue, he said, was that the committee is chaired by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission, presently Danny Lucas.
“This is not acceptable, reason being that there is no way to cross-check, or to verify that decisions taken by the chairman are not taken in the interest of other entities, which I believe have an influence on the Electoral Commission.”
The technical committee was inaugurated by the Electoral Commission in July, and is operational.
It constitutes representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Land and Housing (MLH), the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, as well as a representative of Geographic Information Services (GIS) within the MLH.
Supporting the motion, Hon. Wallace Cosgrow questioned whether the committee will be able to deliver on its mandate within the six-month time frame, which will last up until the end of the year.
He urged Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) members to understand and concur that the legislation and implementation are problematic, in the spirit of transparency and democracy.
Hon. Cosgrow proposed that the commission, following consultation, return to the drawing board and present a more representative law.
However, Hon. Sathyanarayanan Naidoo moved a motion for the Assembly to adjourn the debate to allow for the Electoral Commission to appear before the house, to explain the rationale behind the S.I.
This was followed by another motion by Hon. John Hoareau for the Assembly to resolve itself into a committee.
Article 112 and 116 of the Constitution, imparts powers to the commission for the continuous review of electoral boundaries, and if necessary, to re-adjust them. In the event that the population increases, the commission is to consider creating additional electoral areas.
As explained by Hon. Gervais Henrie, the Electoral Commission, in its post-2020 election report, recommended the revision of electoral boundaries. In 2022, cabinet gave its seal of approval for amendments to the Elections Act, to provide for this.
The National Assembly approved the amendment in March 2023.
The provisions of the regulation were outlined by chief electoral officer, Manuella Amesbury, Commissioner Wendy Didon and senior legal officer Florry Benstrong.
They explained the role of the committee is to help with the process of delimitation of electoral boundaries, ahead of the next elections in 2025.
The process includes gathering information through census, population analysis, as well as consultation with political parties and the public through public meetings and invitations for submissions, among others.
Once the committee concludes its mandate, the commission will decide which of its recommendations to adopt, to present to the public. Following this phase of consultation, it will present a final report for the approval of the legislature and executive.
The final report will be presented in January 2024.
The only record of a delimitation held by the Electoral Commission dates back to 2015, when there was a similar exercise, in order to have Ile Perseverance recognised as an electoral district.
In wrapping up the motion, Hon. Pillay said the majority acted in such a way as to waste the Assembly’s time, as US were not seeking any clarifications on the committee.
The motion was rejected by 20 votes. Eight members voted for the annulment.
Hon. Pillay had intentions of forwarding two other motions calling for S.Is to be annulled, including S.I 51 of 2023, pertaining to harbour dues and harbour fees, and the second relating to postal and courier fees.