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Is the Commonwealth an unreliable partner for democratic Seychelles?
I was taken aback when I heard the Minister of External Affairs, Mr Jean-Paul Adam, in an SBC news item, say that the Seychellois Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms “can serve as a foundation to develop human rights in Seychelles” during his speech to a gathering of officials, diplomats and a Commonwealth representative to mark the signing and ratification of the new Commonwealth Charter by our government and Assembly. Actually this is not the first time that I’ve heard him mouth those words which has spurned me to write these lines this time.
By this statement as well as his intervention at another conference which you reported in your front page article “Campaigning for Human Rights” (Today – issue Wednesday, 13 March 2013) in which he is quoted as saying that there is a need for our Country to adopt “a strategic action plan which is truly representative of Human Rights in Seychelles – one that is the right fit for Seychelles (sic)”, Mr Adam demonstrates not only his ignorance of and responsibility under the Constitution of our country under which he owes his job, but also the principles that human rights are universal and are inalienable.
The Seychellois Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, as enshrined in our Constitution, establishes these rights as inherent to all human beings living in Seychelles or anywhere in the world. Indeed, of the 24 articles of the Charter, 22 apply to every person or everyone whereas two apply to citizens of Seychelles only. Of these, one of them (Article 24) says that only and all citizens who have turned 18 can 1) take part in the conduct of public affairs, 2) can be registered as a voter, 3) can be elected to public office and 4) can participate in public service. Foreigners when in Seychelles do not have or enjoy this right. Whereas Article 25 bestows and protects the right of all citizens of Seychelles to leave and to return to Seychelles unimpeded and not to be expelled from Seychelles as I was on 29th July 1980.
It appears that Minister Adam has been inculcated with a false sense of what fundamental rights are in a truly democratic society. Under the one-party state constitution human rights were expressed as a goal or intention of the one-party dictatorship to eventually get there (rather like a rainbow). You could say it was a human right that was a “right fit for Seychelles” at that time (no pun intended), whereas the United Nations treats fundamental rights as inalienable rights – in other words all human beings are born with them even if many of its members have long records of abuse of human rights.
The Commonwealth Organisation let our people and country down when it refused to accept the credentials of the legitimate and legally elected head of state of our country at the Heads of Government meeting in London shortly after the coup d’état in June 1977 with the connivance of the British Government at the time. To add insult to injury the then Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Marxist former Attorney General of British Guyana, Shridath Ramphal attended the celebration of the first anniversary of the coup d’état (as well as on each subsequent occasion of a number of years) to honour and praise the illegal regime and its members. I know because I was there. That is why I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth is not a reliable partner to rely on to protect our fundamental rights. Nonetheless I note and is pleased that the Commonwealth of the 21st Century has adopted fundamental rights recognition and protection as part of its charter and on recent occasions have imposed sanctions on regimes that come to power through coup d’état.
Mr Adam seems to have little or no understanding of the significance of the oath of office he was obliged to take when taking office as a Minister, as well as the other obligations contained in the Preamble of our Constitution which binds all of us to “uphold the rule of law based on the recognition of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution …” By relegating our Charter of Fundamental Rights to a mere “foundation” in order to “develop fundamental rights and freedoms” in Seychelles, Mr Adam is not only espousing arrant nonsense but as a Minister of the Government has, in my view, committed an impeachable offence against our constitution because he is making us out to be in the same league as North Korea, Cuba and the People’s Republic of China in so far as democracy is concerned.
Human Rights is a foreign policy issue for Seychelles only in so far as we as a country that protects the human rights of its people through the Constitution in a charter and other laws, should promote those same principles and protections that our Charter affords us to other peoples and countries where these are deficient or absent. A good opportunity would be if we get elected to the UN Security Council.
Promoting human rights should be the singular mission of Mr Adam as our chief diplomat whenever he graces the red carpets of such countries as North Korea, Cuba etc. Indeed, in conformity with our new foreign policy of “friend to all and enemy of none”, these should be perfect moments to pass on worthy advice to our close friends that democracy and the protection of fundamental human is good for their people too.
Member of the Constitutional Commission (1992-93)
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Join date : 2008-06-02
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