In the National Assembly Stricter law, harsher penaltiesapproved against firearms, ammunitionpossession |22 July 2021
Individuals found in possession of firearms and ammunition can in future expect to face the full force of the law now that the National Assembly has approved amendments to the Firearms and Ammunition Act to allow for a stricter law and harsher penalties for those found guilty.
Since it was promulgated in 1973, the Firearms and Ammunition Act has only been amended twice until now ‒ the first time was in 1976 and then in 1980.
Internal Affairs Minister Errol Fonseka presented theFirearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill for National Assembly members’ consideration and approval in its session yesterday morning. He was accompanied by lawyer and consultant legislative counsel with the Attorney General’s Office, Stephen Knights.
Debates, sometimes heated and emotional by Assembly members went on for the whole day before they voted unanimously in the late afternoon, 32 in favour to approve the amendments.
“Maintaining peace and order among the public is a priority of this government. Through these amendments to the legislation, we want to send out a strong message to everyone out there in our country that the authorities will not permit or allow any person who is in possession of, have intentions of using arms and ammunition in our territory to do so. Guns and ammunitions do not have any place in a civilian societyand if there are any out there, we need to immediately prevent their future use after the bill is approved,” Minister Fonseka stressed.
“Violence related to arms and ammunition is a threat to the fundamental human rights of everyone, specifically, our right to life. Notwithstanding the fact that Seychelles has high levels of safety and security, the government seeks to maximise the protection of human rights, creating the safest possible environment for Seychellois and visitors to this beautiful country,” Minister Fonseka remarked.
Minister Fonseka stressed on the importance of avoiding at all costs the possession of arms and ammunition, unless by authorised personnel.
As per the object of the bill, the term of imprisonment and monetary penalties for the unlawful possession or control of any firearm and ammunition will increase and become harsher respectively. Any person in possession of any firearm or ammunition contrary to the laws of Seychelles will now run the risk of being liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and liable to a maximum fine of R1million.
With the amendments, the law will better deter any unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition by imposing harsher penalties. For instance, under Section 9 of the Firearms and Ammunition Act of 1973, if a person unlawfully manufactures any firearm or ammunition in Seychelles, that person is liable on conviction to a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of R10,000. Now the penalty will increase to R500,000 and imprisonment to 10 years.
The bill seeks to make consequential amendments to Section 84 of the Penal Code by increasing the terms of imprisonment and monetary penalties thereunder. For example, under section 84(1) of the Penal Code, any person who unlawfully carries or is in possession of any firearm, ammunition or explosive is liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years. It is being proposed that the penalty is changed to 15 years.
Minister Fonseka also informed the Assembly that the President of the Republic intends to make a proclamation to prohibit the carrying, use, or keeping of firearms or ammunition throughout Seychelles, following the approval of the bill.
A person who unlawfully has in his or her possession any firearm or ammunition will be given an opportunity to hand over the firearm or ammunition to the police. The bill introduces a provision that makes it clear no proceedings can be instituted against any person who delivers up any firearm or ammunition within the period specified in the proclamation. Further, the bill gives the commissioner of police power to destroy the firearms and ammunitions delivered during the period of amnesty. Thereafter, any person found in possession or control of any firearm, ammunition or explosive will be subjected to the harsher penalties that this bill seeks to impose, Minister Fonseka highlighted.
Throughout the deliberations, members on both sides of the house supported the amendments but they did not miss the opportunity to highlight incidents and occurrences over recent years in which arms and dangerous weapons were used.
Hon. Wavel Woodcock, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) member for Grand Anse Praslin alluded to the incident at the Bel Air Store on June 25, 2019, whereby two Indian nationals were attacked and one shot. Hon. Woodcock also referred to the incident whereby two citizens were caught with explosives recently.
Hon. Regina Esparon, LDS elected member for Glacis, highlighted the fact that many citizens may already be in possession of arms and weapons, as has been highlighted in the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) by former army officials. It is believed that citizens may have weapons as a result of the interception of the Malovessel, carrying 80 tons of weapons bound for troubled Somalia in 1996. Hon. Esparon also said the amnesty programme is a good onetowards ensuring the security of the nation against any malice or acts that could destabilise the country and place the lives of citizens at risk.
Similarly, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly,Hon. Sebastien Pillay proposed that more information be provided as to the amnesty programme and the processes for the disposal of seized arms and ammunition.
“I think the minister should quickly start work to harmonise certain components of the lawso it suits our situation today, whereby the world has evolvedand the role of our defence forces has also evolved,” Hon. Pillay stated.
Similarly, Hon. Churchill Gill,United Seychelles’ elected member for Baie Ste Anne Praslin had various related questions for the minister, among which that an exercise be carried out to determine the quantity of weapons and arms in Seychelles, including those of the defence forces and other law enforcement authoritiesand that the exercise goes further to make clear to citizens the different punishments for such offences, and the processes to be carried out by the authorities once a weapon is found or intercepted.
Concluding debate on the bill, the leader of government business, Bernard Georges briefly outlined the provisions related to offences and specific sections of the law which provide for harsher punishments for perpetrators, during the first phase of amendments.
Section 4 makes provisions for the possession of arms and ammunition, while section 9 relates to the manufacturing of arms. Among the other sections which he cited are section 10 which dealswith licensing, section 11 which provides for persons found guilty of an offence to turn over the firearm and section 12 which relates to the trade in arms.
Among other sections which are to be amended are:
‒ Section 14 relating to licenses for persons authorised to deal in firearms,
‒ Section 15 outlining the roles and responsibilities of places of dealing, ‒ Section 17 outliningthe responsibility of keeping a register of transactions,
‒ Section 18 as to how firearms and ammunition should be stored, and
‒ Section 21 which states that arms cannot be modified or transformed. The amended bill also makes provisions for the reporting of stolen or lost arms, their seizure by customs and enforcement agencies, arms and ammunition transportation, and a section which prohibits minors under the age of 12 and 14 to be in possession, or to even use a firearm.