General elections 2020 ‒ Presidential debate 2 |17 October 2020
Candidates provide stance in second showdown
By Elsie Pointe, Laura Pillay & Roland Duval
National broadcaster Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation yesterday evening aired the second showdown between presidential candidates Alain St Ange (One Seychelles), Wavel Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) and Danny Faure (United Seychelles).
Again, the debate was presented by freelance journalist Patsy Athanase and moderated by Judge Bernardin Renaud.
The one-hour 40-minute debate showcased three candidates who were more comfortable and at ease with the debate procedures.
In yesterday evening’s debate the three presidential hopefuls provided their stance and debated on seven themes which were explored in eight questions.
The second round of debate was comparatively different than the first round from last Friday, with the candidates gaining an extra 30 seconds to respond to questions instead of only 60 seconds.
Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) additionally extended the debate segment from four minutes to five, allowing the candidates more time to present their case to the Seychellois voters.
The add-ons on the clock were the broadcaster’s reaction to public criticism that the presidential candidates did not receive enough air-time to build on their arguments during the first round.
The themes that were delved into in the second round were the cost of living, climate change and sustainable energy, housing, civil service, health, foreign affairs, maritime security and law and order.
What new concept or new approach will you bring in order to address the issue of housing shortage?
Danny Faure (United Seychelles) observed that many developments have occurred throughout the last decades in relations to housing which in turn has created a desire for many families to have their own homes.
Even with all of the efforts put in providing adequate housing however, Mr Faure stressed that challenges remain in that sector. He noted that around 2,150 families have benefitted from housing development over the last four years.
“In the next five years in my programme we have planned to construct an additional 4,000 houses,” said Mr Faure adding that the next two years will see acceleration in resolving housing shortage.
In response to Mr Ramkalawan, Mr Faure said that he has strived to remove politics from the Ministry of Habitat ‒ a point which Mr Ramkalawan vehemently disagreed with.
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles) described the government’s housing point system as an obstacle race to hinder Seychellois from gaining housing. He noted that people are going through many difficulties such as overcrowding.
He stated that it is unfair for a hopeful homeowner to pay for houses for 22 years without any end result, adding that this is equivalent to the government taking money under false pretenses.
To ensure that these challenges are addressed, Mr St Ange said that his government comprising technocrats will be able to better address housing.
Wavel Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) went straight to the point noting that access to housing has been politicised for too many years. He criticised the point system that he said encourages people to have more children so that they can gain more points to get housing.
Mr Ramkalawan said that the government should not only focus on social housing but provide facilities and access to private loans for people to become more self-sufficient when it comes to housing. He noted that the fact that the government has different types of housing schemes yet people are waiting for over 20 years indicates that something is wrong with these schemes.
“The first thing that would happen in an LDS government would be to remove politics from the ministry [of habitat],” provided Mr Ramkalawan.
Seychellois are apprehensive of military activities conducted by China and India in the Indian Ocean. What will be your policy in relations to these two superpowers particularly on Seychelles’ position on their activities in the Indian Ocean?
Danny Faure (US): “My position is clear, the Indian Ocean should remain a peace zone,” underscored Mr Faure during his response. He noted that his party has a strong history of fighting for and protecting Seychelles’ sovereignty.
He explained that there are no strings attached to the grants and donations received from any of the two Asian superpowers.
In relation to the Assomption agreement with India, Mr Faure acknowledged that he had inherited this situation which he sought to find a solution to, holding discussions with even Mr Ramkalawan.
According to Mr Faure, his government will set up a coast guard base on Assomption to hinder criminal activities in our exclusive economic zone.
Alain St. Ange (One Seychelles) maintained his ‘Friends to all, enemies to none’ position. He said that he had fought to protect Assomption from the grasp of the Indian military with Preserve Seychelles and will continue to do so.
“We need to continue to preserve what we have, let Seychellois protect their country and set up bases managed by Seychellois,” said Mr St Ange.
“Let’s stop playing taking gifts from a superpower because once they enter they never leave, just as in Diego Garcia[…] it would be a disservice to our future generation to allow a superpower to come in. If Seychellois do not vote right, some islands will disappear.”
Wavel Ramkalawan’s (LDS) position, much like his opponents, is that the country’s “sovereignty is sacred”. He noted that there will never be a foreign power with a military base in Seychelles. “That is why LDS brought a full stop to the Assomption agreement between Seychelles and India,” he said.
Seychelles is surrounded by friendly countries, they can help us but our sovereignty is sacred,” he expounded.
Mr Ramkalawan added that Seychelles should be able to identify and fight threats such as illegal fishing and drug trafficking, and only seek the help of foreign powers when it needs assistance.
What policy and strategy will you put in place to address the high cost of living within the first 100 days of your presidency, a primary concern for many citizens?
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles) promised to within the first month in his presidency reduce the general cost of living, in the interest of the general population. He highlighted a disparity in wealth and noted that the cost of living presently is too high, and that efforts to reduce cost of living, most notably on foodstuffs, are imperative, so as to ensure that the population have more left of their pay packet on a monthly basis.
Wavel Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa ) noted that LDS is concerned with cost of living and as such will ensure that the business mode of the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) needs to be reviewed, proposing that it imports directly and eliminates middle men, which contribute towards higher cost of goods.
Mr Ramkalawan also noted that loans, utilities and internet access are also overpriced and should be reviewed. Government needs to look into and make accessible to the population opportunities to make cost-savings.
Danny Faure (United Seychelles) drew attention to the role of the STC, which he said is to remain. Finalising the process to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) on all foodstuffs is among one of the priorities of US to address the high cost of living as well as other schemes targeted towards supporting persons who are renting properties.
In addition, Mr Faure vowed to take into account the cost of living during the 2021 budget allocation, and through policies aimed at “anchoring the cost of living”.
What will your government do to address the issues and challenges within public administration, a main concern for many citizens?
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles) pointed out that public administration is the backbone of any government, asserting the need to remove politics from the system. Under One Seychelles leadership, a technocrat government will be at the head of the country he says, and the party’s priorities are to adequately remunerate civil servants, giving due recognition to them and make available to them the resources needed to work effectively and efficiently.
Wavel Ramkalawan (LDS) similarly to Mr St Ange, highlighted the important role of public administration within the country, although he stated that civil service needs to be reformed, to function somewhat similarly to a business organisation with customer-oriented service. In addition to reforming the system, Mr Ramkalawan proposed a civil service school, whereby citizens interested in pursuing a career as a civil servant can access training and development courses in preparation for their careers. Furthermore, he noted that chances for career progression is a necessity and must be meritocratic, so as to attract the best civil servants.
Danny Faure’s (US) response centred on the notion of a national unity government, which he says is necessary to avoid the delays and unsatisfactory service within public administration, as was the case over the past four years. Reassessing the linkage between the National Assembly and executive branch of government is essential, Mr Faure said so as to address the delays. Mr Faure too touched on the subject of improving salaries for civil servants.
Law and order: What will your government do to reinforce maritime security and surveillance of our vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ)?
Alain St Ange (One Seychelles) strongly voiced the need to improve working conditions and to empower police forces and military forces, a key priority for One Seychelles he said, in a bid to improve maritime security and surveillance of our territories. One Seychelles will keep both the police and military as elite forces and who are well respected and well paid. He also vowed to empower the air forces to facilitate surveillance of drug-related activities and illegal fishing.
Wavel Ramkalawan (LDS) pointed out that maritime security is of utmost importance to LDS and also asserted the need to reinforce the coast guard forces and give them extra powers to handle situations related to maritime security. Mr Ramkalawan further noted that under the LDS leadership, the priority is to ensure there is a good surveillance and radar system in place so the coast guard and air force can work together to tackle major problems including drug trafficking and illegal fishing. He also proposed the use of drones and other modern technologies and approaches of surveillance.
Danny Faure (US) stated that Seychelles has achieved many milestones over the years in terms of maritime security and surveillance, making reference to the REFLECS 3 centre, which allows for better monitoring, together with other partners working to maintain security within the region. Candidate Faure expressed the need for a firm strategy and robust maritime security policies to protect the Seychelles territory.
What is your plan to cut cost on fuel consumption in energy production and the introduction of renewable energy, such as solar energy?
Mr Faure (US) said the country has played a leading role in encouraging the practice and usage of renewable energy, while bigger countries also need to do more to help smaller countries, or small island states.
In terms of Seychelles, Mr Faure said there are policies and strategies as well as a policy on Vat regarding equipment as well as a bank scheme where those interested can benefit. This, he said, will start at housing estate level where an agreement between the PUC and the PMC will ensure that all houses will be equipped with solar panels, while other people who wish to have the facility can also benefit.
Mr St Ange (One Seychelles) said renewable energy is something that should be encouraged and it is strange that in 2020, no state buildings or properties are equipped with solar panels. He explained that a firm decision should be taken so that all state properties are equipped with solar panels.
Mr St Ange said since the burning of fuel for energy production creates a lot of pollution, his government will identify and encourage local firms who specialise in the field to venture into the area so as to, other than cost cutting, help in dealing with the issue of climate change.
Mr Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) said the abundance of sunshine makes it appropriate to venture into renewable energy, precisely solar energy through the introduction and usage of solar panels. He explained it is not acceptable that a European country like Germany is not only ahead of us, but the first in the world when it comes to solar energy.
He noted that the people must be educated and encouraged to venture into solar panels, or solar energy.
This, he said, will automatically lower the utility bills of most families and encourage the culture of ‘Green Environment’.
He also spoke about modernising the country’s waste management whereby several waste elements can be recycled and used for energy production.
He further added that household plans should feature renewable energy accessories before receiving approval from the planning authority.
The health service is a huge concern for the majority of the population. Generally, the primary healthcare is quite reasonable. However, there is a huge concern when it comes to specialised services to detect and treat illnesses quicker. The government spends a lot of money to send Seychellois overseas for medical treatment. What is your plan to address those concerns?
Mr Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) said at present there is huge frustration and lack of confidence when it comes to the local health service and it is for that reason that a lot of people are seeking overseas treatment.
He saluted all the local health professionals who he said are doing a very good job in delivering the care.
He said we need to back the primary healthcare and reinforce the services provided by the clinics at district level, whereby recommendations or requests from practitioners at district level are followed promptly and the patients receive the necessary appointments, or treatments.
He explained that an LDS government will focus more on the two main illnesses which are presently increasing locally, notably cancer and cardiovascular-related diseases through specialised oncology and cardiology centres for quicker treatment locally.
Mr Ramkalawan also noted that our local health training facility should be boosted in order to better feed our local healthcare with more professionals.
He also added that too many qualified professionals are being posted into managerial roles instead of giving much needed services.
Mr Faure (US) noted that a lot has been done and there is a lot to be done when it comes to the country’s healthcare.
He said there are at present around twelve Seychellois students studying abroad to bring their contributions to healthcare.
Mr Faure added that when it comes to special treatments, Seychelles has made a huge step forward in doing surgeries locally, compared to several years back when all the treatments were being done abroad.
He however noted that there are four areas whereby the country is not equipped to handle, notably birth defects, radiotherapy, heart surgery and detachment of retina which has to be carried out abroad.
He also added that to depoliticize the selection process for overseas treatment, the exercise is being carried out by a board of professionals.
Mr St Ange (One Seychelles) said the healthcare service should be up to the standard to cater for every Seychellois, while all local professionals should be recognised for their abilities and experiences.
He also explained that everyone should have equal chances when it comes to overseas treatment, while those who take the initiative to go on their own should be reimbursed, either in full or partial refund.
Mr St Ange also noted that when recruiting foreign workers for the local healthcare, it should be ensured that they are compatible with the local practices and culture.
Many people believe that the police force is not up to the expected standard. Not all officers show real professionalism in their work. The population is expecting much more from them. If you are elected, what is your plan to elevate the police force in giving a better service and also to respect the dignity of the citizens?
Mr Ramkalawan (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) said, like in many other services in the country, there is a frustration and members of the public are confused on where to go to be assisted and do not have trust in the force.
He however acknowledged that there are some officers who are doing an extraordinary job.
He explained that the primary target is to transform the existing police force into a police service, so that the officers know that the primary aim is to offer a service to the community and to ensure that peace and order is maintained at all time.
“A professional, friendly and efficient service,” he explained.
Professionalism should be their first element, along with proper training and promotion based on merit.
This, he said, will boost up the personnel’s confidence and ensure that they deliver a good service with initiative.
Mr Faure (US) explained that under his watch, Mr Kishnan Labonte was appointed as Commissioner of Police with loads of experience after previously working in the legal system and the police force.
He noted that an audit was carried out and all recommendations were sent to his office. He further added that from the recommendations, several revisions, including salary and restructuring of the police academy were carried out.
A new forensic station was also set up, while the police force will be part of the President’s portfolio given that he is elected.
Mr St Ange (One Seychelles) explained that a high standard and respect for the people from the force are the two major expectations of a police force.
He commended the work of the whole police cadre while noting that their salary band is far too low for the work they do.
Mr St Ange further added that for the general population to receive a better service, the welfare of the police force should be well looked into, in terms of salary and necessary resources.