Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Seychelles Column - By Christopher Gill

We Need Strong Institutions, Not Strong Men

Recently President of the United States Barack Obama gave a powerful and moving speech before the legislature of the Republic of Ghana as he highlighted the need for Africa to focus on creating strong institutions and not merely attempt to sustain strong men. Obama chose Ghana for the visit and speech because Ghana has been a beacon of hope in Africa in as much as it has moved away from strong man politics and fostered real democracy for its people.

In this speech, President Obama was giving all of Africa, which includes Seychelles, a road map to building a successful society. In President Obama’s opinion, African countries need to build strong judiciary branches, assertive legislatures, and corruption free executive branches of government. Office bearers must serve the people and not live off them in luxury while the ordinary person suffers under a tutelage of corruption, mismanagement and bad ideas that go unchallenged year in and year out.

Obama told us that because many African states have failed to build strong institutions since the end of the colonial era, the change across Africa will have to come from honest citizens. Blaming the colonial past for our failures today will not make things better. Obama says the change he speaks about, must come from the bottom up and it will not emanate from the top down. At the same time, Obama says we are guilty of tribalism in Africa. In Seychelles, this translates into being guilty of political tribalism. One side is the red tribe of communism and cronyism, the other side, the opposition that seeks libertarian freedom from communism.

Somehow good ideas will have to rise above this tribalism in order for Seychelles to rise above its failures under Parti Lepep. Importing Indian and Chinese workers, apartheid-minded relic investors, or Russian and Arab super rich will not solve Seychelles’ problems. Mr. Ramkalawan, Leader of The Opposition has called on the best men and women of the country to join the cause of change. Mr. Volcere Leader of NDP has called on Government to make corrupt officials like former Governor of the Central Bank Francis Chang Leng accountable.

To support honest hard working citizens at the bottom in all African countries, to bring about change in our respective states, President Obama has informed us in his speech, that he will direct the Secretary of State to now have the respective embassies play particularly close attention to allegations of corruption in all African states.

To highlight this, there will now be a section in the Country Reports, dedicated to Corruption allegations, in order to assist the good hard working citizens to rid their countries of corruption, and hence, foster greater transparency and yes, even accountability; that ugly word that we are not allowed to mention in Seychelles today.

President Obama’s Speech Comes at a Good Time

President Obama’s speech has come at a good time when US foreign policy in the Indian Ocean, particularly, the Seychelles was faltering under poor leadership that routinely profess to enjoy “friendly and excellent relations” with a leftist communist government in Seychelles, with the objective of “securing American interest in the region” at the expense of foregoing and ignoring incidences of gross corruption within the same government they enjoy cocktails with.

A couple of weeks before President Obama made his road map speech for Africa, the US Charge d‘Affaires, Virginia Blaser of the US Embassy Mauritius-Seychelles, invited SPPF-Lepep government officials to a cocktail reception on board a visiting US warship. Unfortunately, she forgot to invite the 30 odd US citizens who reside in Seychelles, to attend the same cocktail, as is tradition, when the US Navy calls on Port Victoria. These US citizens have personal knowledge of what happens in Seychelles, that knowledge may make Mrs. Blaser feel a bit uncomfortable and her job a little more difficult.

The US citizens it seems, would know too much of how things are done in Seychelles, to attend a polite cocktail that pushes US interests along as they settle on final security agreements in the region to protect the Seychelles from pirates and to secure a greater sphere of influence for USA.

Mrs. Blaser seems to have forgotten who she works for, and what her country stands for in a moment of attempting to secure what is expedient and easiest for her desk.

Under President Obama’s new instructions, Mrs. Blaser will have to now write and read in the Human Rights Report on Seychelles, the allegations of corruption which may well involve the individuals on her cocktail party invitation list. It is indeed a new day in Africa as President Obama asserted.

In this new day, Mrs. Blaser will be in a position of great contradiction as she now must preside over shedding light on corrupt practices, which in the past, her Embassy ignored and were not brave enough to put pen to paper for fear of destroying cordial relations with communist friends in the region.

Perhaps, Mrs. Blaser may be best utilised by the State Department on another mission, probably in a country like Ghana where corruption is not an issue of the day. There, she can work to preserve US national interests in a country that is not facing failed state status. For far too long, too many people have kept their heads in the sand while they enjoyed the little pompous luxuries, while living off US tax payers money overseas that the US hailed day in and day out as a success, through the likes of Mrs. Blaser, when according to IMF, we are heading for collapse and enjoy the status today of being one of six countries in the world going through a depression. The World Bank lists Seychelles as No.2 in the World Misery Index. Sadly, Mrs. Blaser’s comments while on mission here hide these little details.

Mrs. Blaser has brought absolutely no pride to America on her watch in the Indian Ocean. The beacon of freedom and the torch of liberty have certainly dimmed since her arrival, and has left our region as dark as ever.

Call In Bill Gates

To add insult to injury, is Mrs. Blaser aware that the Four Seasons Hotel Group is partly owned by US Microsoft giant Bill Gates and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia? Is Mrs. Blaser aware that the group’s hotel in Seychelles was granted tax concessions that allowed it to import over 70 luxury vehicles at substantially reduced tax rates to the detriment of our taxi drivers and other operators in the tourism trade who do not benefit from such soft tax concessions?

Is this a fair and level playing field in which the free market can flourish as little local operators must unfairly compete with interests held by two of the richest men in the world?

Is it right and proper for American interest companies in Africa to enter into negotiations with corrupt governments of the day and invest under tailor made concessions? Does that not open the door for corruption in Africa? Will you be there for them when the concessions are cancelled and rendered null and void?

The Plantation Club Hotel & Casino Debacle

The Plantation Club Hotel debacle is a scenario that has perplexed the general public. The majority shares in the hotel were owned by the Davison, a reputable American family. Their major error in judgement was to offer a nominal percentage of shares to the communist Government of Seychelles back in the 1980’s when they were building the hotel, probably having done so under duress since most private hotels in Seychelles had been acquired illegally by the Albert Rene SPUP government soon after the deplorable Coup D’Etat of 1977. I am not defending the Davisons for their business practice, but I must say, I saw the railroad job they received in open court and watched it play out on the government controlled Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). It was shocking, shameful and made a mockery of the Seychelles judiciary branch!

Davison has alleged that members of the SPPF-Lepep government had received money to manhandle the Plantation Club Hotel out of the grips of the Davisons family. Now, has Mrs. Blaser entered that into the Country reports let alone look into the allegations of corruption in the Executive and Judiciary branches that have clearly mistreated and swindled an American investor? I doubt it. Meanwhile, an “Arab investor” amazingly became the beneficiary and bought the hotel and quickly turned it into a brothel and playground of rich Arabs.

Well, what you put off in 2008, you can now give due attention to in 2009 according to President Obama. If not, I am most certain the US State Department will receive a briefing over and above Mrs. Blaser’s desk.

To be on point, the US Embassy has said little of this ram rod, railroading and was living testimony that Seychelles does not have a strong judicial system, but rather, it is a judiciary that bends to the will of forces, that determine its salary. The recent salary outcry adds testimony to that fact.

The Charge D’ Affaires for the US Embassy has been publically quiet about these democratic credential issues and seems to have approved by simply remaining silent and not ever making a public statement of concern over the matter and the role of the Judiciary in the affair of the Plantation Club.

Imagine how US citizens doing business in Seychelles will feel to see the huge investments of Plantation Club Hotel disappear through liquidation while the US Embassy in Mauritius remains dead silent over the affair?

As the winds of change blows over the Indian Ocean, and drones are sent out to attack the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, perhaps the US State Department and the US Embassy can send us a drone Charges D’Affaires programmed by President Obama himself. That should improve things quickly, and American taxpayers can save money on the cocktail parties for communists let alone pay for five star hotels.


May God Bless All Freedom Loving Seychellois and Our Beloved Seychelles!


Anonymous said...

Excellent column. United States should not give Seychelles a penny unless Michel does away with the corruption. But how can you put Albert, Mukesh, Leopold and most of the Ministers in jail? It would only mean admission of guilt. Michel himself has a lot to answer when it comes to misuse of public funds since he was the Minister of Finance and knew about all the corrupt deals. That is why he is not able to put Changleng behind bars. As for the US Charge D'Affair, they simply pay ignorant and turn a blind eye so that they get what they really want for their own country. They really do not care about the Syehcelles people or the plight for freedom of press and liberty for the Seychellois people. Might is always right in their eyes but let us hope Obama changes that.

Anonymous said...

If Police can be charged with murder, then Chang Leng can be charged with corruption charges that involve making public funds vanish.

Once Michel prosecutes, then the People Le Pep Parti Opposition should support Michel, he will need your help.

President Michel is too courageous to let the Chang Leng fiasco at Central Bank go unaccounted for, even if he and Chang Leng are close friends.

Michel was part of it all very likely,but he can put a stop to it!

President Michel will show you he is a man of courage. Watch!

Anonymous said...

I think the US did report on Plantation Club and other issues.

Anonymous said...

Of course they reported a little line here and there, what did they say to the public after the report?

Is diplomacy and hyprocrisy the same thing ?

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