National Assembly approves two bills within two days |06 December 2023
The National Assembly yesterday approved the Data protection bill with 22 members voting in favour, while seven abstained.
The bill was presented on Monday by Vice-President Ahmed Afif, who emphasised the importance of protecting personal information.
Mr Afif said that sharing personal information was a normal occurrence to access services and carry out transaction. However, if not careful these information which are being manipulated daily could be wrongly used and destroy a person’s life.
He said it was therefore important to come up with a legal instrument to protect such personal information.
According to Mr Afif, the Data Protection Bill 2023 is derived from a 2004 draft bill that was proposed but never came into force for so many reasons, including the language used which it was felt was not easy, the Bill did not cover all aspects of information, some definitions were not clear, and it was not in line with good practices, among others.
“Detailed work had been done on the 2004 Bill and as a result we have in front of us a Data Protection Bill which is in conformity with international best practices for the protection of personal information and its contents have addressed the weaknesses observed back in 2004,” said the vice-president.
It should be noted that the initial bill did not make provision for officers that would look into the protection of personal information, and the amended version caters for data protection officers. The law will be enforced and implemented by the Information Commission.
The second bill approved by the National Assembly yesterday was the Citizenship (amendment) Bill 2023 presented by the Minister for Internal Affairs, Errol Fonseka.
He explained the Bill was to “rectify or reinforce certain criteria associated with the acquisition of Seychelles citizenship”.
An amendment proposed was under ‘meritus’ where a person who has done an exceptional service to the country can be considered for citizenship at the recommendation of the Citizenship Committee submitted to the president, who will have the veto power.
At present, this was being done under the discretion of the president and according to Minister Fonseka since October 2020, no person has been granted citizenship as such. “What we are proposing will allow only the committee to make the recommendations,” he explained.
Another amendment relates to the naturalisation of a foreigner married to a Seychellois. At present for the person to be naturalised, the marriage must be over 10 years and the person must have lived in Seychelles for five years. The amendment proposed 15-year marriage or more and the person must have lived in Seychelles for two years.
Thirdly, under Registration, criteria under section 5.3 will be abolished and replaced with a new provision. It would allow a foreigner to apply for citizenship by registration if the Seychellois partner dies during their marriage. Minister Fonseka explained this would apply if they would have celebrated their 15 years of marriage, had the partner been alive and if the person was not remarried, has lived in Seychelles for not less than two years or five years before the partner’s death.
Another amendment is that a person who has renounced citizenship will not have to sit for a citizenship exam but only reapply.
Three provisions that are being abolished are students, investors and priority workers. “We want to state that through these three categories there is a possibility for them to get a permanent resident permit,” explained Mr Fonseka, which would allow them to enter without a visitor’s permit and access employment without a GOP and remain in the country for a ten-year period at once.
Twenty-two (22) members voted in favour of the bill.
It should be noted that yesterday morning’s sitting was attended by the newly formed political party, Seychelles National Alliance Party (SNAP). Speaking to the local media, the party’s member, Cyril Lau-tee, said they wanted to get a first-hand experience of a session before the assembly goes into recess.
It also followed several negative comments about the assembly’s work.
“We are here to interact with the members, to see how it goes and we will have our report after,” he said.
The National Assembly will today take Revenue Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023.