President Ramkalawan returns from official visit to Qatar |24 March 2021
‘It was a very fruitful mission’
President Wavel Ramkalawan and his delegation returned home yesterday from a three-day working visit to Qatar, upon the invitation of the Amir of the State of Qatar, His Highness, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The President, who along with the delegation departed on Saturday morning onboard a privately chartered Qatar Airways flight arranged for by the Amir, arrived in Doha on Saturday afternoon where they were greeted to a red-carpet welcome, and have over the past three days engaged in discussions with the government of Qatar, with the aim of strengthening relations between the two states going forward.
“Basically, it was a first connection between the Republic of Seychelles and the State of Qatar, since it was the first time that a head of state of Seychelles had visited Qatar on an official visit,” President Ramkalawan told journalists on his arrival yesterday.
“All in all, I would say it was a very fruitful mission. We have established the links, now it’s a question of the two countries seeing how we can move forward. And as you know, Seychelles has a policy of being friends to everyone and enemy to none, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of any country, any state and we do not expect them to interfere in ours. This is the bottom line,” the President said.
Over the course of the three days, the President engaged in discussions with the Amir with regards to budget support for Seychelles, the construction of an isolation centre at Victoria Hospital, and the possibility of having a health centre at Anse Royale, while the Qatari government conveyed their interest to be granted fifth freedom, allowing airlines from the state to use Seychelles as a travel corridor, to other African countries, in the interest of both states, in addition to discussions on the possibilities of investing in the Seychelles.
“On their side, they talked about Seychelles granting them fifth freedom, and this basically means the possibility for Qatar Airways to be able to use Seychelles as a travel corridor to go to other parts of Africa especially, to carry both passengers and cargo. This will be discussed with the aviation authorities, and personally, I have already started talking to them, and they feel that this in fact will help Seychelles, because there are certain African countries where we do not have any links, but at the same time, it is very important for us to be able to protect the routes that our national airline undertakes, for example South Africa. We have to be careful about protecting the South African route, about protecting the Mauritius route when it reopens,” President Ramkalawan stressed.
“We also talked about investment and I will expect that soon there will be a delegation from the State of Qatar coming here to meet with the Chamber of Commerce, to meet with government, the entrepreneurship ministry headed by Mrs Devika Vidot, so that they look at all possibilities. They have the funds, we have some of the facilities, so we will see how it can be a win win situation for both states,” President Ramkalawan added.
To conclude his official visit to the State of Qatar, President Ramkalawan and his delegation visited key sites in Doha. The selected locations primarily represented areas of interest through which Seychelles could obtain new knowledge and adopt best practices applicable for the local setting.
The delegation visited the Doha, Hamad International Airport to observe the new travel measures being implemented in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to ensure the safety of airport staff, passengers and the country. In view of the forthcoming re-opening of Seychelles on March 25, such insight on new safety measures and new procedures are crucial for the country.
The President toured the newly refurbished medical facilities integrated within the airport where testing, admission and isolation can take place with limited disruption in the arrival and departure of passengers.
Following the onsite tour and discussion, the Qatari government has confirmed its willingness to support Seychelles in this domain to further upgrade safety measures at the Seychelles International Airport.
The Presidential delegation also visited the Qatar National Museum where modern applications are being used to preserve and display historical information. President Ramkalawan also visited the Msherieb Downtown Doha traditional museum depicting the creation of the Qatari nation through bondage and slavery from past to future.
“The visit to the museum was basically for us to see how in the cultural field, Seychelles can improve and place emphasis on our culture. As you are probably aware, Seychelles needs to encourage cultural tourism, so maybe this will help along those lines, and visit to the museum dedicated to slavery, a scourge that has affected humanity and which we all pledge never to see happen, but of course there are modern day practices which can be termed slavery, human trafficking and the treatment of foreign workers, for example in our country. These are all elements that we need to seriously ponder on,” President Ramkalawan added.
The delegation also had the opportunity to visit the Al Bayt Stadium, the host venue for the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2022. The new infrastructure incorporates both a modern but yet sustainable concept featuring strong elements of the Qatari tradition and culture. In line with the newly signed memorandum of understanding in Sport, the visit to the Stadium post FIFA World Cup as potential for exchanges and training possibilities between Seychelles and Qatar can be explored.
This official visit and the signing of the two MoUs opens a new era in the bilateral relations between Qatar and Seychelles, one related to sports, and the other to defence. Further MoUs are expected to be signed sealing avenues for cooperation between the two states, but such was not possible due to time limitations.
“I have invited the Amir of Qatar to visit Seychelles and he has responded positively, and we are hoping that in the second half of the year, we will have an official visit from him. So basically, wonderful visit, friendship continues to be the bond that ties us with other nations, and we are looking at the region and hoping that those who are closest to us will be our sincere friends, and will help Seychelles in its development, both economic and human development,” President Ramkalawan concluded.
Accompanying President Ramkalawan on his visit were First Lady Linda Ramkalawan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde, and Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade Naadir Hassan.
The accompanying photos show highlights of the visits to key sites in Doha and the delegation’s return to Seychelles yesterday.
Laura Pillay/Press release from State House