We have to be fair

Since Seychelles gained independence in 1976, the country has known four Presidents. There have been James Mancham, Albert Rene, James Michel and now presently in power is Danny Faure. We have known the legacies of three of them who have ascended to power and already left it. President Faure is still in his first mandate and therefore, we have to wait a while longer to know what he will be remembered for. But despite the fact that there have been some clouds following the Presidencies of all three former leaders, they have also contributed significantly to the development of Seychelles.  The country must never forget it and therefore Seychellois should be fair to them and not only search for their weaknesses. Fairness and gratitude is also a virtue of democracy and the strength upon which a nation is built.

In the case of James Mancham as the first President, though regarded as a playboy during his younger days in politics, no one can dispute the fact that he was a pioneer of the country’s tourism industry. He probably did more than any other Seychellois in the field.  President Mancham pushed for the building of infrastructures which were to set the country on a viable economic path. In addition to that, he died as an apostle of peace and national reconciliation.

France Albert Rene, who came after him, was regarded as a Dictator by some people. But his so-called dictatorship, has transformed the social fabric of the country for posterity. Today all Seychellois know that they can aspire to become somebody in life, despite being born in circumstances considered as disadvantageous.    They can prevent themselves from becoming the exact carbon copy of what their parents or ancestors were, if they so wish and show the necessary will to change their fortune. And Mr. Rene did more than most to solidify our Creole identity.

As for James Michel, a certain segment of our population started a campaign to demonize him soon after he left office in 2015. It is true that during his tenure of office, he frustrated the ambitions of many politicians in the opposition. But is that a good reason why he should be black-listed? Definitely not! What he did good for the country far outweigh the things his critics and former political rivals are still holding against him today.

When they talk about him having been responsible for the country losing millions of US dollars during his time as President, they must also remind themselves that he left office having secured USD 500 millions as reserve for Seychelles in the Central Bank.

Also during the Presidency of James Michel, many Seychellois sea-farers out to get their daily lives, were caught and held hostage by Somali pirates who were running riots in the waters of the Indian Ocean then. It was not President Michel who advised them to go out there on those fishing trips. They went on their own free will. But it was President Michel who found ways to get them all back to the country safe and sound. No Seychellois held captive by the Somali pirates were ever abandoned and left to die by the government of President James Michel. So no relatives of those captives were left to grieve a loved one killed as a result of those criminal activities by the pirates.  Many families need to be thankful to him. How did James Michel manage to negotiate their return back to the country is a question his critics need to ask themselves?

It must also be remembered that not too long ago, three of our Seychellois brothers were on death row in Egypt. They were destined to be hanged sooner or later by the Egyptian authority which has a zero tolerance policy on drug trafficking. It would have been painful for all Seychellois to learn that they have met with such a fate, despite the knowledge that the activities they were engaged in were wrong. It would have been heart breaking for members of their families as well.  It was through intense negotiations conducted by the government of James Michel with the Egyptian authority, which eventually saved all three from capital punishment. Today there are talks of them even returning to Seychelles to serve the rest of their sentences. President, James Michel, obviously must have been the main person behind those negotiations.  How did he succeed to persuade the Egyptian authority to change its position vis-à-vis the three Seychellois?  It is another question people need to ask before they criticize the presidency of James Michel.

Fairness in judging what our past leaders have done right to make the country better during their time in office is as important as holding them accountable for what they may have done wrong, if not more. It is based on their achievements that future generations will draw inspiration and try to improve on them. Regrettable, it is one area in which few politicians like to concentrate their efforts today. The so-called politicians with modern visions feel a lot more comfortable talking about others rather than work to establish a legacy of their own.

Independent

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