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SEYCHELLES: FROM COLONY TO REPUBLIC… (PART ONE)

 

By Jean- Claude-Pascal MAHOUNE

(Anthropologist/Political Scientist)

 

20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THIRD REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES

To fully understand the emergence of the Third Republic of Seychelles one has to delve into the short history of the Seychellois Nation from the first French settlement in 1770 to the British colonisation in 1815, with the Crown Colony status in 1903, Self-Government in 1975 , the Coalition Government and the short-lived First Republic after Independence from Britain on 29 June 1976, the Second Republic in 1977, the re-introduction of the multi-party system in 1993….. and “18 June” declared as the National Day, which we are now commemorating its 22nd anniversary.

 

BRIEF HISTORY

 

FRENCH PERIOD

british

Chevalier Jean-Baptiste Quéau de Quinssy

Monarchy… Revolution…Empire…

– 1756. Seychelles becomes a French possession

– 1770. First French settlement

– 1789. French Revolution not welcomed by the colonists who were mostly Royalists

– 1792. Enouf, the new Commandant, brought a blueprint of revolutionary ideals, such as the abolition of slavery, but was eventually set aside Chevalier Jean-Baptiste Quéau de Quinssy

– 1790. Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Mauritius with Malavois (the first reputed environmentalist) leading them

– 1793. Chevalier Quéau de Quinssy, Royalist, became the last French Governor of Seychelles, replacing Enouf, the ‘revolutionary’

 

BRITISH PERIOD

 

1flag- 1815. Treaty of Paris. Seychelles became a British Colony following a series of capitulations

1903. Seychelles as a separate Crown Colony, with its own Governor, is administered directly from Britain Inauguration of the Clock Tower First British Governor(Seychelles)

– Sir Ernest, Bickham Sweet Escott, the Administrator, became the first British Governor of Seychelles. He had worked so hard for the separation…..stressing the disadvantages Seychelles suffered as Dependency of Mauritius’ (McAteer 2000:195)

 2flagPOLITICAL MOVEMENTS IN SEYCHELLES

sweet Seychelles Progressive Association

1937, a non-white Seychellois lawyer, Charles Evariste Collet, General Secretary of the League of Coloured Peoples in London , approached the Colonial Office with a list of reforms for Seychelles . He wrote:

“….which I consider to be desirable in Seychelles such as compulsory primary education, government schools, bussing for children and provision for midday meals….Collet also proposed a free secondary school with qualified teachers and selected entrance by competition or intelligence test. English would be afundamental subject and physical education was to be included in the timetable.

clock

Inauguration of the Clock Tower

 Holders of scholarships to study abroad would be obliged to serve the Government for a certain number of years after graduation” (McAteer 2008:124)….

 Mr. Collet also demanded that uncultivated land should be taken over, that medicine be free for the poor, that hygiene be taught in schools, that there be an immediate rise in the labourers’ salary with an independent wages tribunal.

 Seychelles Taxpayers’ Association

– 1939. The Seychelles Taxpayers’ Association was created consisting mostly of the more affluent and rich white landlords (“grands blancs”) who were not in favour of reforms.

Collet as Political Leader/Attorney General

– 1943. Mr Collet again presented to the Colonial Office a programme of development for Seychelles.

– As Attorney General and Leader of the Seychelles Progressive Association, Mr Collet, called for…the redistribution of estates, the breakdown of the landowner’s monopoly, the use of Colonial Development and Welfare funds to buy land for the smallholdings and the rejection of a scheme to fuse Seychelles with Kenya.

 

Mr Collet also called for: ….education, including sex education, despite resistance from the Church, the end of racial discrimination and the right to vote for every Seychellois.

 FIRST ELECTIONS ( LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL)

– 1948, a Legislative Council was introduced in Seychelles. Only two thousand (2000) voters that is nine per cent (9%) out of a population of thirty six thousand (36, 0000) were entitled to vote. They had to be taxpayers and literate in English and French.

 DEMAND FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT/INDEPENDENCE

 Landlords(“Grands Blancs”) call for “Independence” (along Rhodesia model)

The Seychelles Taxpayers’ Association issued a manifesto calling for internal

self-government or independence.

– The people feared the worst and the newly formed Seychelles Islanders United Party (SIUP) warned of a return to the days of slavery.

 

Birth of Political parties

mancham

James Mancham

 Seychelles Islanders United Party (SIUP)…..Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP)…..Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP)…..

– 1964 saw the creation of two (2) political parties in Seychelles.

– A young lawyer, Mr. France- Albert René, created the Seychelles People’s United Party.

– Another young lawyer, Mr. James Richard Marie Mancham, created the Seychelles Democratic Party.

rene

Albert Rene

– The SPUP wanted independence from Britain whilst the SDP wanted integration with Britain.

– The SDP favoured continued association with Britain on the grounds that Seychelles would not be able to survive on its own

– Mr René, a supporter and a friend of Charles Evariste Collet, resigned as a member of the exclusive ‘Seychelles Club’ in support of his non-white friend.

– Mr. René came up with a welfare programme to improve the standard of living of the ordinary Seychellois.

– The SPUP (Seychelles People’s United Party) in the first publication of its paper, ‘The People’, pledged to create a state where all citizens, regardless of class, colour, race or creed would have equal opportunities and would be afforded with the basic needs of life in a modern society. This included medical care, housing, education and care for the aged.

– The SPUP favoured planned development with a strong central government for social programmes.

 

CREATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES

 ‘Association’, ‘Integration’, ‘Autonomy’ or ‘Independence’?

 

spupUNIVERSAL ADULT SUFFRAGE

– 1967. First time in Seychelles’ history, universal adult suffrage was introduced and an election was held in which the SPUP(Seychelles People’s United Party) won 7,650 votes but only 3 seats while the SDP(Seychelles Democratic Party) won 4 seats with only 7,259 votes.

– 1970 elections for the ruling council, SDP got 53.8% whilst the SPUP got 44.2%.

– 1971, the Seychelles International Airport was opened and tourism became part of the Seychelles economy.

– 1972. A new deep-water port was also constructed.

– 1973 .The SPUP was recognised as an official liberation movement by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

– 1974 election(last general election before independence),Seychelles Democratic Party(SDP) led by Sir James Richard Marie Man Cham won thirteen(13) seats with fifty two per cent( 52%) of the votes while the Seychelles People’s United Party(SPUP) of Mr. France-Albert René won only two(2) seats with forty eight per cent(48%).

 SELF-GOVERNMENT

– 1975(March).A pre-independence constitutional conference, which had been delayed, was finally held in London in March 1975.

– Conference ended with the breakdown in the talks and it was decided that pending a new conference on the country’s independence, the two (2) political parties were to set up a coalition government.

– 1975(September) Seychelles became a self-governing colony with Mr. James Richard Marie Mancham as Prime Minister and Mr France Albert René as the Minister for Works and Land Development.

– 1975(December 20).The United Nations in its resolution (XX1V) requested that a special U.N. mission be sent to Seychelles to organise a referendum

– Other resolutions called for the granting of independence. Britain agreed to set up a Commission to study the electoral system and to report before the Conference in January 1976. Pending a new conference on the country’s independence, the two political parties, SDP and SPUP would set up a coalition government.

– 1975. Self government and Coalition in September. Seychelles became a self-governing colony under a Coalition government with Sir James Richard Marie Mancham of the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) as Prime Minister and Mr France Albert René of the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) as Minister of Works and Land Development.

– United Nations resolution (XX1V) of (20 December 1975) requested that a special U.N. mission be sent to Seychelles to organise a referendum.

Other resolutions called for the granting of independence. Britain agreed to set up a Commission to study the electoral system and to report before the Conference in January 1976.

– At the Constitutional Conference the date of independence was fixed for 29 June 1976.It was decided that Seychelles would immediately become a Republic within the Commonwealth.

– 1976 Independence from Britain

At independence, Seychelles regained its three islands, namely Aldabra, Desroches and Farquhar that the British had previously detached to form the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) like Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago…

 THE FIRST REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES

coalitionTHE COALITION GOVERNMENT3flag

– 1976(January). At the constitutional conference in January 1976, the date of independence was agreed upon and it was decided that Seychelles would immediately become a Republic within the Commonwealth.

New-Picture-(5)- 1976(29 June) .Seychelles became an independent Republic on 29 June 1976 with the leader of the Seychelles Democratic Party, Mr. James Richard Marie Mancham as President and Mr France Albert René, the leader of the Seychelles Peoples United Party as Prime Minister.

– At independence in June 1976 Seychelles regained three islands, namely Aldabra, Desroches and Farquhar that the British had previously detached from Seychelles to form the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

 

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4flagTHE SECOND REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES

SEYCHELLES’ PEOPLE’S PROGRESSIVE FRONT(SPPF)

– The Second Congress of the Seychelles People’s United Party in 1978 saw the formation of a front—Seychelles People’s Progressive Front(SPPF)….which vowed to accept anyone from any party. ….“no matter what they felt before, who believe and accept the principles of that movement [and who] will be able to give a hand and move the country forward into a new age”.

– As one of the aims of the Front was to promote and safeguard popular democracy based upon regular elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage the country which was still being ruled by decree had to be given a new constitution.

CHALLENGES

– A constitutional commission headed by a well-known legal expert was appointed and meetings and discussions were held all over the country.

– The vast majority of people and organisations including religious ones sending in their memoranda did not oppose a one-party system which could unite the people of that small nation which had been so divided over the years.

– As the new constitution came into force the new president, Mr. F.A. Rene was confirmed in his position by more than 98% of the votes cast.

 REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES

– Among the first measures introduced by the new president were those aimed at correcting decades of social injustices and to bring about a more egalitarian society

– The gulf which existed between the lowest and highest paid in the civil service was bridged as the new leaders announced huge cuts in the salaries of the President himself and his ministers.

– Many more measures were to be introduced such as the fixing of a minimum salary nationwide and the end of the serious disparities along gender lines.

– As the new government of Seychelles started to implement its programme which had been set out in the SPUP manifesto, since its creation, it had to face enormous odds mostly from the elite in exile who were hiring mercenaries to overthrow the new government set out to create a new society based on socialist principles.

 SECURITY MEASURES

– One of the first moves of the government was to constitute a defence force—Seychelles’ Liberation Army. This was to be followed later by militia forces with volunteers from all over the republic.

– As the new government set out to carry out necessary reforms the enemies of the Seychellois revolution became more aggressive in their plots to overthrow it.

– The plan to provide compulsory secondary education to all Seychellois students in the form of National Youth Service villages was received by ‘well-orchestrated’ student demonstrations supported by a self-styled “Mouvement pour La Resistance” (‘MPR)

– The MPR was based in London and South Africa and was supported by some countries having hegemonic ambitions in this part of the globe.

– As its supporters carried out acts of sabotage and vandalism, the people of Seychelles took to the streets in massive numbers in support of the revolutionary government which decided to take some preventive security measures which included arrests and detention without trial.

– The SPPF, even its enemies agree, had revolutionized society, changed it from …‘a semi-feudal and backward society to a modern and egalitarian one with an enormous stress on equality of opportunity and respect for the old people in the community. Beggars were no longer to be seen in the streets. Adequate old-age pensions had been provided and more jobs were available to all those who wanted to work’.

The establishment of a national social security system was to allow the SPPF party to carry out one of its most important goals, that is, the adoption of a socialist system which would ensure the creation of an adequate and progressive social order guaranteeing the Seychellois people food, work and shelter and a higher standard of living.

– As it embarked on one of the most ambitious social programmes in the developing world, the SPPF government remained very cognizant of the necessity of consolidating the young nation’s economic base.

– The 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone had been declared in 1978 and in 1979 the country was granting licences for tuna fishing.

– The management of fishing activities in Seychelles waters was to be made possible by the creation of the Seychelles Fishing Authority in 1984 and in 1987 a major processing plant, ‘Conserveries de l’Ocean Indien’ was opened.

– A full- fledged tuna industry was to follow as was a prawn industry. Over the years the revenue collected from the fishing industry became on par with that of the tourist industry which fluctuated particularly with the bad publicity generated overseas by the enemies of the Seychellois revolution.

– The SPPF, and its precursor the SPUP, from its creation had always advocated the diversification of the economy to the point of being accused of being against the tourist industry which the President said should be the butter and not the bread only of Seychelles.

– A good social, educational and health base was laid with many bodies and institutions created to cater for the needs of a small island state.

– The mercenary invasion initiated by some Seychelles nationals in exile and condoned by the apartheid regime of South Africa in 1981, for example, not only damaged the international airport but greatly affected the tourism industry.

– The destabilization attempts, however, did not in the least deter the nation from its path of development.

– 1979 Establishment of the Seychelles Island Foundation for the management and conservation of Aldabra and any other island designated by government

– The Seychelles Housing Development Corporation (SHDC) was created in 1981 to help with the backlog of suitable homes for Seychellois families in particular the most needy. The makeshift shelters and “lowcost” housing built before independence were to be relegated to the dustbin of history as Seychellois in their vast majority were to become proud owners of modern houses with all the amenities including electricity and potable water.

– 1981.Kreol is declared a national and official language alongside English and French

– The SPPF government was even more relentless in carrying out its social programme despite other incidents such as another foreign orchestrated ‘army mutiny’ in 1982 in the wake of the defeat of the foreign mercenaries.

1982-Aldabra is declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO-the first coral atoll ‘designated as such’

1982-Seychelles Polytechnic comes into being.

1983,Television under the name.RTS(Radio Television Seychelles)

– In 1984 the Seychelles Marketing Board was created with the aim of redressing and protecting the economy while protecting the consumers.

The SMB was to ensure that the people of Seychelles would no longer be pawns in the hands of unscrupulous merchants who could starve them to death if they so wish or even keep their elected government hostage.

– It could be safely said that the SPPF government had already carried out, in the first years of liberation, most of the promises it made to the people of Seychelles. This dismayed even more the handful of hardcore opponents and elite who were totally opposed to the social development of Seychelles and improvement in the lives of the working people.

– A modern public transport system, the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) developed since 1977 was functioning efficiently after some teething problems at the start.

– After the creation of the Development Bank of Seychelles in the same year the Central Bank was established in 1982 and inaugurated in January 1983.

– This was the same year that the People’s Assembly was elected showing once more that the people of Seychelles were free like in any other popular democracy to exercise their right to choose their representatives.

– In the following year Mr.F.A. Rene was re-elected President with 92.6% of the votes cast and was unanimously elected his Party’s Secretary General.

 

THE THIRD REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES  – MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM RE-INTRODUCED

 5flagHistorians may agree to disagree that the Third Republic of Seychelles had to be built inevitably on the foundation stone of the Second Republic

– The SPPF, even opponents agree, had united a bitterly divided country at the time of independence in 1976?

– It was said that the prerequisites for a viable multi-party democracy did not exist when the level of literacy was very low and gross social and economic disparities resulted in political divisions and social tensions?

– The one- party system was justified as a requirement to achieve national unity and obtain consensus on the development of Seychelles in the interest of the whole society?

– The one-party system, it was agreed, had produced tangible results economically. The GDP per capita had increased from less than US$1000 IN 1977 to nearly US$5000 in 1990 and on the social side there was a more equitable distribution of income and access to basic services. The standard of living of the people was one of the highest in Africa?

– The SPPF government had succeeded to provide free compulsory education to all its citizens. The literacy rate had risen to one of the highest in the Third World.

– International organizations praised the country for the enormous strides in the health sector offering free services to all. The infant mortality rate had declined from 32.3 in 1976, the year of independence, to 11.9 to become comparable to that of developed countries as had life expectancy.

– On the Human Development Index Seychelles was placed the highest in Africa and the developing world.

 OPPOSITION MOVEMENTS

– 1991 .Opposition groups such as the ‘Seychelles Democratic Party’, the ‘Seychelles National Movement’, the ‘Seychelles Freedom Organisation’, the Rally of the People of Seychelles for Democracy”(RPSD) and the ‘Crusade for Democracy” formed the “United Democratic Movement” in Munich.

– The “united” movement was divided from the start over the leadership issue and it was reported that some delegates walked out in protest.

– Following a resolution at an extraordinary congress of the SPPF in December 1991, the Secretary General of the SPPF President France- Albert Rene announced at a press conference that the People’s Assembly would be voting on a motion to amend the constitution of Seychelles allowing the registration of political parties and the election of a constitutional commission.

– This would move the country to a multi-party system which would guarantee in the conjuncture more stability and national unity. As the change was the deliberate choice of his party and not the result of a referendum.

– Mr. Rene promised to stay in politics and wait for the new constitution which would determine his political future. He had been serving his last term under the constitution of the one- party republic.

– In order to ensure an orderly and peaceful transition from a popular democracy to a multi-party system a Constitutional Commission had to be set up.

– Political parties had to be registered and an election held to determine their number of supporters for a seat on the constitutional commission. Though there were in all seven (7) political parties the two (2) with most supporters were the SPPF and the SDP.

– Several inter-party meetings were held to discuss ways to give each party equal chances to carry out their campaigns making use of the media in particular and avoiding clashes amongst supporters. The parties were free to start publishing their own papers and most did.

– It was apparent that the newly formed political parties were convinced that they would give the SPPF a crushing defeat in the first elections. They were not only insisting on the presence of foreign observers from numerous international organizations but were even requesting for the presence of foreign warships on Election Day.

– Several tactics were used to harass the police and the army. The Commonwealth observers had to caution the parties to avoid incidents such as the nonsensical parading of a so-called ‘SPPF cow’ in Victoria on a busy Saturday and hurling insults at the President and his supporters.

– The first constitutional elections were held on 27 July 1992. The SPPF and the SDP were the only two parties with over 5% of the votes. The SDP won only 33.7%. This was a crushing blow to the Opposition particularly when the international observers declared that the election was free and fair.

– The SPPF therefore won fourteen (14) seats, with its 58.3% votes, on the constitutional commission while the SDP won 8 seats. This was surely an indication of things to come in future elections.

– No political party contested the result of the election though anti-SPPF elements started to use tactics which they believe could bring down popular support for the SPPF. The Retailers Association, for example refused to sell rice, the staple diet of the people. The Seychelles\ Marketing Board which the opposition wanted to be disbanded had to come to the rescue of the people by distributing rice in the districts.

– The first draft of the constitution, however, came short of being endorsed by 60 % of the eligible voters who perhaps could not accept that it had been hastily written to speed the transition. The smaller political parties surely believed that time could be a factor which would allow them to increase their support.

– The second draft was put to the vote and accepted by 73% of the electorate. As soon as the Director of Elections proposed the dates for the Presidential and National Assembly elections the political parties started campaigning and all were aided by public funds

– Three (3) political parties joined forces under the name, “United Opposition” but the SDP and the ‘Parti Seselwa’ failed in their negotiations to field candidates together.

 

FIRST MULTI-PARTY ELECTIONS

– The first multi-party presidential and general elections in Seychelles after the 1977 coup d’état was held in July 1993.The SPPF won a landslide victory. The people of Seychelles had once again expressed their total confidence in Mr. France-Albert Rene and his party losing only one seat to the Opposition.

– In July 1993 the Commonwealth fully endorsed the election result praising the transparency in the electoral arrangements and the freedom with which political parties could operate.

– The SPPF government was more determined than ever to carry the Seychelles into the 21st century. The new constitution, said to be one of the most modern, has brought in new institutions and the citizens could have redress when they feel that their rights are infringed upon.

– As far as the economy is concerned the State tries to respond to the citizen’s demands for freer enterprise. Countless small businesses have sprung up with the sponsorship of SIDEC (Seychelles Industrial Development Corporation) giving soft term loans and training to young entrepreneurs in particular.

– With countless new actors around, and Seychelles elevation to the ranks of a middle-income nation thus making it more difficult to get foreign assistance, the SPPF government has to face new challenges in this globalization era.

– The worldwide trend to increase the role of NGOs is certainly helping the nation to face the demands and challenges of a modern Welfare State.

 SECOND MULTI-PARTY ELECTIONS

– In 1998 the people of Seychelles were called again to the polls. They gave another resounding victory to President France Albert Rene and his SPPF party losing only one (1) seat to the Opposition represented in the National Assembly by the Seychelles National Party (SNP) leader, Reverend Wavel Ramkalawan.

wavel

Wavel Ramkalawan.

– The Presidential election, the second in the Third Republic, was held in 2001, one year earlier than scheduled.

– In the absence of a DP candidate (the ex-President, Mr. J.R.M. Mancham chose not to run) the SPPF presented the current President, Mr. F.-A. Rene as its candidate and as Vice-President, Mr. J.A Michel whilst the SNP chose an Anglican priest, Father W. Ramkalawan and a lawyer, Mrs. A. Georges.

– The SPPF candidate won the election by over 50% to serve his third???? term in the Third Republic.

– The National Assembly election followed in December 2002 with a total of four (4) political parties taking part. The SPPF won 18 out of the 25 seats with an additional five (5) being proportionately elected members while the SNP won seven (7) seats with an additional four (4). The DP and SDA did not win any seats.

– Reverend W Ramkalawan from the SNP became the new leader of the Opposition.

 President F.-A. RENĒ steps down

michel

James Michel

– On 14 April 2004, the President of the Republic, Mr.France Albert René decided to step down as President allowing the Vice President, Mr. James Alix Michel, elected under the Third Republic’s constitution to succeed him. He in turn appointed as his Vice President Mr. Joseph Belmont and First Designated Minister, Mr. D. Faure.

– Mr. FA René retained the leadership of his political party, the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF) launched in 1979, to replace the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) which he had created in 1964.

– He had served the Republic as the first directly elected President since the election of 1979 and subsequent ones.

 

SOURCE: PRIVATE ARCHIVES

©Jean-Claude, ’Zan Klod’, Pascal MAHOUNE

 

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