Letter to the Editor: Seychelle-China Day Celebrations

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Letter to the Editor: Seychelle-China Day Celebrations Empty Letter to the Editor: Seychelle-China Day Celebrations

Post  Sirop14 on Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:06 pm

Letter to the Editor: Seychelle-China Day Celebrations

‘We should not forget about Seychellois-Chinese contribution to national progress’

Warmest congratulations to all those who have worked to make the special Seychelles-China Day celebrations part of the Seychelles calendar from now on. Indeed I had the pleasure and privilege of attending this historic event on Friday January 31, 2014 at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort & Casino which ironically I opened in 1974.

I certainly enjoyed the galaxy of artistic performances from China depicting talents vested in an ancient and very refined civilisation and commensurate with the ever growing image of China in today’s global village. Sadly, however, there was no attempt to inform and to educate the people of Seychelles as to the enormous contribution of members of the Seychellois-Chinese community to the history and progress of our island nation.

When I personally became the first Chief Minister in the British Colony of Seychelles, the Chief Justice was Sir Georges Souyave, the Commissioner of Police was Mr Maxime Ah-Yave, the Chief Surveyor was Mr Guy Ah-Yave, the Secretary to the Treasurer was Mr Joe Laye-Sion.

From an historical perspective the first Seychellois ordained priest was Father James Chang-Tave, the first Seychellois who became a bishop was Father French Chang-Him, the first Seychellois to become a Chemist was Mr Philip Fock-Heng, and the first Seychellois to become a leading physician in the UK was Mr Guy Ah-Moye. Sadly, these names were never remembered and also lost in the mist of the past were the names of such noteworthy Seychellois-Chinese as Affoy, Ah-Cheen, Ah-Kong, Ah-Lock, Ah-Shung, Ah-Weng, Chang Lai-Seng, Chang-Leng, Chang-Sam, Chang Tak Hue, Chang-Tive, Chong-Seng, Chow, Chung-Faye, Chung-Loye, Fayon, Hissen, Kim Koon, Lai-Hue, Lai-Lam, Leong Kee, Leong Pon, Low-Nam, Low-Tee, Pon-Waye, Long - Wing, Ah - Ki, Low - Fat, Low -Meng, Ah- Tim, Ah-Wan, Ah-Thew and a list of others who were prominent players in the sphere of commerce and trading. Even today we have such personalities as Shamlaye, Fock-Tave, Weeling among others who are serving under the banner of the Third Republic.

I believe it is pertinent to highlight this special feature of the Chinese within the context of the overall Seychellois image because I know that the favourite food of prejudice is ignorance.
It is interesting to note what Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke, who became the Governor of Seychelles in 1946, wrote in his memoir “Footprints” which was published by the Sino-American Publishing Company of Hong Kong in 1975 concerning the briefing he obtained from the Secretary of State for the colonies in London about the need to be cautious in dealing with inter-communal relationship in the Colony.

“I had been warned to expect conflict of this kind and the hope of influencing a harmonious integration had to be pursued by carefully considered steps and in various areas of public life. To the Legislative Council I nominated deserving people of different creeds and colours and of both sexes, among them an intellectual and charming lady, Madame Lanier, the wife of a ‘grand blanc’ who was President of the Taxpayers and Landowners’ Association. To my Executive Council I added Mr Arrisol who was of pure African descent and an employee of one of the most influential French businessmen. I cultivated friendly working and social relations with the Chinese community, led at that time by Richard Mancham whose son was destined to become Chief Minister, and with the Indian community under the leadership of Mr Bujor Wadia (MBE).”

As head of Hong Kong medical department during the Second World War, Sir Selwyn dedicated himself to helping those in captivity, mostly Chinese, until he himself was imprisoned in solitary confinement for nine months, suffering appalling privations. After nine months of recuperation leave in England in 1946, he was appointed as Governor of Seychelles, and after serving Seychelles he became the principal secretary in the Ministry of Health in the UK.

Sir Selwyn was invited to be a guest of honour at the first Seychelles festival in 1972. It is interesting to note what he wrote about that period in his memoir:

“There were now political factions, unknown in my time, claiming to represent a speedier course towards independence status than that which was being charted by Mr Mancham and his Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) founded at the end of 1963. But Mr Mancham had been successful in carrying with him the majority of the islanders – or of such as gave the matter any thought – in his plans for steady development and a rising standard of living. What pleased me more particularly was that Mr Mancham, the son of Seychellois-Chinese heritage, had been able to achieve so much in the line of communal integration to which I had committed myself on the day that I first set foot in Seychelles. His resolve and inspiration were manifest in the growth of amity, respect and tolerance among the several races of ‘these islands of love’.”

It is at the request of the Seychellois-Chinese community that the government of Seychelles agreed to name the Victoria Market after Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke.

James R. Mancham


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