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National Assembly: Mixed responses to Sona |27 January 2021

The National Assembly yesterday morning resumed its sitting under the speakership of deputy Speaker Gervais Henrie for members to provide their responses to the state-of-the-nation address (Sona), delivered by President Wavel Ramkalawan on Friday January 22, 2021.

Hon. Audrey Vidot, United Seychelles member for Roche Caiman, in her response said that Friday’s address was somewhat harsh and disrespectful towards the assembly and general public.

The new administration, she said, does not seem to have any concrete plans for the country and economy for coming months, asserting the necessity to reconcile the two political parties in the interest of national unity.

Similarly to leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Sebastien Pillay who pronounced himself on the Sona in Monday’s session, Hon. Vidot proposed that the Sona failed to inspire a sense of national unity among citizens, but has instead served to highlight differences between citizens.

“The President missed his opportunity to tell us his plan to reduce the cost of living, as he was shouting before the elections. The cost of living in Seychelles remains high, and has soared even higher with the devaluation of the Rupee as compared to other currencies used to import goods. Reducing the cost of living has always been a priority for President (Danny) Faure, but it has not been as easy as LDS (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) was always trying to portray, when they came with their campaign. Now, in order to escape any blame, everything will be blamed on Covid-19,” Hon. Vidot remarked.

United Seychelles (US) member for the inner islands, Hon. Rocky Uranie, shared a similar view that the President failed to inspire the masses, but instead used the opportunity to disrespect the opposition and citizens backing US.

Relating the address to his constituency, Hon. Uranie noted that the majority of the labour force on La Digue are actively employed in the tourism industry, noting that now that job opportunities on the island are even more limited, citizens are in need of financial assistance, whether through the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR) and other employment schemes, to meet basic living costs and financial obligations such as loans.

In concluding, he posed a question to the Seychellois public to assess whether they were touched by the President’s address.

Hon. Andy Labonte, LDS member for English River, spoke at length about the shortcomings of the previous administration, distinguishing President Ramkalawan’s first address from those of his predecessors, as honest and truthful.

Acknowledging the relevance in the President’s message to call the nation to take up employment opportunities, Hon. Labonte launched the call to be hardworking and responsible in discharging their functions in employment.

He further elaborated to express support with regard to the announced measure relating to the 15,000 plus gainful occupation permits (GOP), to allow for the Seychellois labour force to be prioritised in employment.

On the other hand, LDS’ Hon. Naddy Zialor referred to the Sona as a “wake-up call to all Seychellois, to get out of their comfort zone”.

Addressing drug traffickers directly, Hon. Zialor asked that they consider the destruction to their fellow brothers and sisters and the youths of Seychelles and stop such illegal activities, as advised by President Ramkalawan during his Sona.

With regard to the Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS), Hon. Zialor enlightened the assembly, as a former employee of the department of Employment, as to the terms of the scheme, which makes provisions for citizens to be referred from the welfare system and to be on the programme only for a temporary period, while they opt for other employment options.

He noted that there has been too much abuse and a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude with regard to the administration of the scheme, therefore backing the President’s announcement to restructure and therefore reduce dependency on the programme.

Honourable Churchill Gill, United Seychelles’ elected member for Baie St Anne Praslin wasted no time in addressing the Air Seychelles debt saga, proposing that the company’s dossier be provided to the Financial and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the assembly for careful consideration and better decision-making with regard to the sinking national carrier.

Hon. Gill further proposed that the government pronounce itself on how it seeks to sustain all those who were benefitting from programmes such as FA4JR and URS after the discontinuation of such programmes, implemented initially with the aim of providing citizens with some form of relief during the pandemic and economic downturn.

Hon. Rosie Bistoquet from LDS, who is herself experienced in healthcare, focused her response mainly on the Covid-19 pandemic and response to the public health threat, congratulating President Ramkalawan for efforts to put in place the national immunisation campaign.

Hon. Bistoquet went further to note that the proposition put forth by US to impose a lockdown and subsequent vaccination campaign is not feasible, especially in economic terms, as any lockdown would result in a total shutdown of all economic activities.

During the afternoon session and under the speakership of Speaker Roger Mancienne, Hon. Sathyaranayan Naidu was first to take the floor, once again echoing similar sentiments to MNAs from his side, who are of the view that the President, on Friday, accomplished his duty by telling the public the truth with regard to the state of the nation.

With regard to the economy, Hon. Naidu remarked that the Covid-19 pandemic and decisions taken by the previous US administration have resulted in the crisis which the country is faced with, and that it has taught leaders invaluable lessons to promote industries such as agriculture and fisheries, through which the country can safeguard food security.

Further along his response, Hon. Naidu spoke about the need to educate the nation and instil in them the good values emphasised by the President, including hard work, responsibility and transparency to inspire the upcoming generations and avoid the pitfalls of the past.

Among the other members who responded to the Sona were elected US member for Anse Royale Sylvanne Lemiel who provided numerous reasons as to how the Sona failed to inspire and motivate citizens, business owners and entrepreneurs, farmers and contractors among other sub-groups within the population, instead serving to instil doubt and uncertainty among the nation.

Hon. Clifford Andre, elected member for Anse Aux Pins, Hon. Egbert Aglae and Hon. Terrence Mondon also had the opportunity to voice their responses, before the sitting was adjourned for the day just after 5pm.

As expected, Hon. Aglae sided with other US MNAs in saying that the Sona has left many unanswered questions and doubts as to the immediate future, especially for Seychellois who were being assisted through state-funded programmes.

With regard to the announcement that URS is to officially end in February, Hon. Aglae shared his view that such a decision should be based on in-depth discussions with stakeholders, also enquiring of government’s plans to replace foreign employees in key sectors.

He further questioned the efficacy of the national immunisation campaign, praised as the solution to once again kick-starting the economy.

The assembly will resume its sitting this morning.


Laura Pillay

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