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Economy Justice Politics

True Justice Demands Neutrality

Principled judges are extremely hard to come by these days. Although the expectation is that those who run the justice system, and are responsible for dealing out justice, will only be guided by the truth, that is unfortunately not always the case. One need not look any further than the ongoing miscarriage of justice in the Seychelles, where the country’s courts have been co-opted by the political ruling class and exploited for promoting political agendas.

Sometimes though, even in the most corrupt of justice systems, one can be positively surprised. In the case of Seychelles this was seen with former Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey, who decided to step down from her position in 2020 after only one five-year term. Although she committed to step down after one term before she took on the position, her passionate speech before departing office about judicial independence and the courage required to exercise true independence was an obvious reference to the reasons she didn’t feel she could continue serving in her position regardless. Discussing issues like lack of rule of law and the need to address “outdated, unreformed laws” were similarly instructive.

It would appear however that a similar situation is repeating itself today in the Seychelles justice system, with Attorney General Frank Ally, who has served in his position since 2017, deciding to step down recently. Although the reasoning being given is that this is due to an unfortunate illness being faced by his son who requires surgery, the question being asked by everyone is to what extent this is the actual reason he is stepping down. Of course family illness is a terrible thing and must be a priority. However how much did this actually play a role in encouraging the attorney general that he could no longer fulfil his position? Or perhaps was this a decision that was inspired by the way in which the justice system operates, and a decision that as a principal jurist, he no longer wants to be directly associated with a system so heavily influenced by an authoritarian government.

Interestingly, sources close to the matter have informed Seychelles Watch that it will be British barrister, Steven Powles KC, who will be assuming the position in the immediate term. Aside from the fact that it is an unprecedented choice to outsource one’s attorney general position to a foreigner from the private sector, the fact is that Powles has been prosecuting one of the most high-level cases the country has ever seen on behalf of the government. And while the position of attorney general also includes being responsible for overseeing cases being prosecuted on behalf of the government, additional responsibilities include representing the public’s interest and handling criminal appeals. How one might be able to, on the one hand, prosecute a high-level nationally covered case and on the other hand be entrusted with such serious oversight responsibilities, which are more likely than not to conflict with the case itself, remains unclear.

If one would like to understand why Powles, on a professional level, is unfits to fill the position, one need look no further then past defendants which he has represented. Although designated as an international criminal lawyer, his clients have been some of the worst criminals the international community has known. This has included Isak Musliu, accused of engaging in severe human rights abuses and tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Kosovo, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone accused of rape, sexual slavery as well as chopping villagers’ hands off, along with corrupt politicians the likes of which have included Italian playboy Silvio Berlusconi.

The reasons why such an individual is both not fit to serve as attorney general and is not impartial enough to do so are quite clear. The real question is why the government of President Wavel Ramkalawan does not see it the same way. Time will tell if the government will choose to reverse this quite absurd appointment, but for the time being it continues to be more and more apparent why principled jurists, such as Mathilda Twomey and Frank Ally, chose to put their involvement in the Seychellois justice system in their past.

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Economy Indian Ocean Politics

There Is No Such Thing As “Legal Rights” In Today’s Seychelles

The right of a defendant to legal representation is one of the most basic aspects of international justice. No matter how horrific the crime, every person accused of committing a crime is entitled to having their case heard with the help of an attorney in a court of law. This seems to be true everywhere but in Seychelles, where the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS), under the leadership of May De Silva, has been denying the Valabhji couple, defendants in the case sinisterly named “Operation Black Iron” their right to legal representation.

Of course, the ACCS, and the foreign lawyers which they have employed throughout the course of the trial, such as barristers Michael Skelley & Ed Vickers of London’s Red Lion Chambers, are far too proficient in the technical aspects of the law to directly deny defendants legal representation. Especially in a trial that has been so heavily covered in the international press. Rather they have come up with an intelligent way of doing so while maintaining an airs of innocence.

What they have done is simply make it impossible for the defendants to afford to pay their lawyers. This is by tying up and obstructing access to funds and determining where the defendants might and might not be able to pay their representation from. As committed as they are to the case, lawyers cannot be expected to work for free and their time can be quite expensive especially when dealing with high level cases such as these. The ACCS know this and have been taking advantage of this fact, forcing defendants to let their international representation go and needing to rely, of late, on local lawyers only recently brought into the case.

Of course this is the perfect move for a government which would like to brand itself as a democracy. The government of Wavel Ramkalawan wants to be seen as a democratizing force for the greater good, despite the gross mismanagement of the economy, destruction of the welfare state, out of control costs, rampant government corruption and spiralling violent crime. And locking up political enemies as well as blocking their ability to defend themselves adequately in court does not sit well with the notion of democracy in any way, shape or form.

The ability to highlight this in the press is probably the last chance at impacting government decisions such as these and encouraging them to consider reversing course. That is of course until the government gets down to restricting press freedom as well. It is difficult to tell what direction political prosecution will next take in Wavel Ramkalawan’s Seychelles.

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Economy Justice Politics

Ramkalawan’s Government Steps on CJ’s Toes, Defies Court Order

Recent developments in the prosecution trial against Mukesh and Laura Valabhji have quite a few people concerned. It appears that the government is, yet again, working to cover up its own illegal activities. The case of the 50 million never ceases to surprise, and has included, so far, allegations of government corruption, human rights violations and absolutely no respect for the rule of law.

Most recently, the Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronny Govinden ordered that a visit to the Valabhji’s property be allowed. It is indeed not standard procedure to prevent access to a defendant’s property, no matter how high level the trial in question is. It appears that despite the court order given by the Chief Justice, the government thought it appropriate to intervene and to deny access to the property.

Why this happened is not entirely clear. Of course the government has not rejected the request outright. They are too cunning for that. Instead, it has delayed the visit under the pretext that the government cannot provide adequate security arrangements for the couple to visit the premises. What security arrangements exactly may be necessary remain unclear. Neither defendant is a flight risk and both have been extremely cooperative in this political show trial. A simple police escort to facilitate the visit would be sufficient according to all professional estimations.

More likely than not the government is looking to cover up something far more concerning, namely, that they have not managed to successfully protect the property of the defendants. The expectation is that the house has been ransacked by either the police or the government, with everything valuable probably stolen. It is also possible that the house currently has squatters or is in such a state of disrepair that anybody who sees it would be shocked. It is in cases like this where the government decides to intervene, defying a court order and delaying the visit in question indefinitely.

Although President Ramkalawan and Chief Justice Govinden have been reported to be cooperating on the case, briefing each other throughout the course of the trial and making use of each other’s respective powers to continue the witch hunt, in this case, the government has gone too far even for the court’s taste. How the court will respond remains unclear but what is certain is that in any law abiding democracy the government must respect rulings by the justice system. Perhaps enough pressure will encourage journalists to look into the state of the house and see what exactly it is the government is trying to cover up.

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Economy Politics Uncategorized

Development Challenges on the Horizon for the New UK Prime Minister

Building and maintaining global relationships, especially for the purposes of international development, is something the United Kingdom prides itself on. The UK has a history of providing aid to countries around the world, but also in facilitating capacity building and providing support for governments that lack the resources to develop themselves. The UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, will have to ensure that their foreign policy agenda is selective when it comes to developing relationships.

The balance of global regimes is shifting towards autocracy. The last year marked the lowest levels of international democracy seen in thirty years, and it seems unlikely to be an outlier. With this trend, an increasing number of countries in the developing world are heading in the direction of autocratic governance that veer away from democratic ideals. The risks of establishing and strengthening relationships with these countries, however, are high. Not only does it strengthen the regime’s hold on their countries to gain official support and recognition, but being associated with countries that are undemocratic also damages the UK’s reputation. In the interest of facilitating the spread of democracy as well as reputational self-interest, the UK’s new Prime Minister must ensure that the relationships they choose to develop cannot be exploited or manipulated into a political risk.

Former Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Liz Truss’s appointment at the start of the month to the highest office in the UK and her experience with foreign affairs only underscores this international development angle. Her stance so far on the United Kingdom’s foreign policy has been to build a “network of liberty” with allies around the world who will work together to fight for and support democracy. Her aggressive stance on foreign policy and her desire for a “perpetual Brexit” are cornerstones to her international agenda, and with the power of the Prime Minster’s office, she is likely to turn her focus to developing and fortifying this network.

Her international development agenda also leaves a lot to be desired, with many charities criticising it as a missed opportunity and as a “neo-colonial approach to aid spending”. International aid distribution is already an important issue, with countries like the Seychelles and Rwanda providing case studies of the possible shortfalls of this type of relationship-building. The government of the Seychelles is undergoing a negative transformation with the leadership of President Wavel Ramkalawan. Elected in 2020 on a platform of cleaning up corruption and drugs, Ramkalawan had been heralded as a wave of change for the small island nation. The President’s landmark action so far has been a national corruption trial to persecute those responsible for the alleged embezzling of part of $50 million worth of aid money. The instigation of this trial set new expectations with the international community that under this government, Seychelles will move towards greater economic strength and become a safe and secure destination for aid and foreign direct investments.

As this trial progresses, however, aspects of it from prisoner treatment to the credibility of evidence are showing a different side to Ramkalawan’s government. Complaints about prisoner treatment from those detained by the government revealed that their detention facilities did not meet human rights standards, and only after the Seychelles Human Rights Commission investigated did the government promise to make changes. The Seychelles constitution was amended after the corruption trial began, in order to expand the government’s power to conduct the trial in the style they wanted. The anti-corruption body in the Seychelles has been accused of intimidation by the defence lawyers, and the detainees were placed on no-fly lists despite posing minimal security risks. Several detainees have also consistently been denied bail, despite the government admitting that concrete evidence in their cases is lacking. While all of this continues to take place, the European Union is providing €300,000 for an anti-corruption project in Seychelles, intended to build capacity with technical aid and national awareness.

The other case is Rwanda, the poster child for international development projects. It is a clean, organised and efficient state, transformed from a country disfigured by genocide to one of the most orderly in Africa, all under the helm of President Paul Kagame, who receives endless praise from Western leaders for his incredible successes. Economically, the country is strong, and international aid is well invested with a visible impact. His regime and governance style, however, are clearly autocratic. He shuffles his security team constantly so as not to allow a military coup; he has advisors beaten over disagreements; his current term lasts until 2034, and he may change the constitution again to further extend it. With so much evidence of the improvements he has made, however, President Kagame remains a respected and well-liked leader in the international community.

It is clear to see that the firm governance of leaders like Ramkalawan and Kagame, coupled with aid funding, has allowed these countries to transform. This governance, however, comes at a cost and national leaders cannot continue to ignore that. The risk of developing relationships with autocratic countries is that as the economy improves, the leader’s credibility amongst his people increases and his international legitimacy grows. This reinforces his belief in his actions and expands his ability to act as he sees fit without repercussions.

The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom plays a crucial role not only in the future of the UK, but also in the future development of the global south. Developing and establishing international relationships is a difficult and intricate task, and must be done with the utmost care. Economic development is not the only hallmark of growth and prosperity for a country – social issues, equality and human rights are all equally important. The pursuit of economic growth and democracy cannot come at the expense of human rights, and the UK has a duty as an international leader to ensure it plays no part in encouraging or supporting leaders that do not share these values.

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Economy Politics Uncategorized

Colonial Legacies Continue To Build The Modern British State

The nostalgia with which many reflect on Britain’s colonial legacies is not surprising. Tony Blair famously stated in a 1997 speech, “I value and honour our history enormously,” and that the country’s history of empire should be the cause of “neither apology nor hand-wringing”. The post-Brexit world has only encouraged this sentiment, which seeks to reinvigorate the spirit which once allowed Britain to rule more than half the world.

Although the empire that is seen by many as a product of the British state, an often overlooked aspect of Britain’s successful domination of the globe is the role of laissez-faire capitalism, outsourcing and public-private partnerships. The most well-known of these in the British context was the English East India Company, which by 1800 commanded a force larger than that of England. Ruling approximately one fifth of the world, philosopher Edmund Burke famously referred to this as, “a state in the disguise of a merchant”.

While Britain continues to focus on its post-colonial narrative, tearing down or renaming close to 70 statues of slave traders and colonialists across the country, colonialism in a different guise perseveres. Identified quite accurately as an, “incomplete process of British decolonisation” by University of London law lecturer Kojo Koram when discussing his new book, ‘Uncommon Wealth: Britain and The Aftermath of Empire’, Koram expressed how colonialism continues to inform both symbolic issues, such as monuments in public spaces, as well as more practical concerns.

Building an empire was after all, in its essences, a material project aimed at extracting resources and supporting the Empire’s foreign policy concerns. In this regard, not only is decolonization incomplete, it is being promoted in a different guise in ostensibly now independent locales employing private public partnerships. This can be seen quite prominently in the Seychelles Islands, in the role that British Queen’s Counsels have been playing in the country’s justice system.

Only becoming an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1976, the Seychelles has remained particularly reliant on its former colonial overlords. This has become especially apparent throughout the course of an ongoing, and extremely questionable corruption trial, which has been functionally led in its entirety by British barristers and investigators. Employing KC’s Steven Powles and Edmund Vickers to lead the prosecution, the two have been responsible for overseeing the prosecution of nine arrested for a mix of allegations. Patrick Humphrey a former British police officer was tasked with leading the investigative side of the case.

Despite the involvement of internationally recognized criminal lawyers with an expertise in human rights, allegations of human rights violations have run rife. Concerns have been raised regarding impartiality, intimidation tactics have been leveraged against the defense and unconventional legal mechanisms, such as changing laws ex post facto to facilitate retroactive prosecution have been employed. All this, coupled with accusations that the case is essentially a politically motivated one, used by the incumbent President Wavel Ramkalawan to rid the country of supporters of the former government has raised more than a few alarms.

One would expect a seasoned former police officer as senior as Humphrey to ask more than a few questions regarding the methods employed to investigate the case as well as the nature of evidence found. This has included weapons, which to date cannot be conclusively tied to the suspects having any wrongdoing. Shockingly, British High Commissioner Patrick Lynch has not expressed any concern over the involvement of British lawyers in the case. This is despite regular comments by the High Commissioner commending UK-Seychellois cooperation on issues like police reform and tackling serious crime.

EU Ambassador Vincent Degert has similarly been noticeably silent. This is despite the instrumental role which the EU has played in funding ACCS anti-corruption efforts, and the role which EU ambassadors are expected to play in ensuring things such as freedom of the press and human rights. This is even more the case when EU funding is being directly allocated towards state bodies that act in stark contravention of international human rights standards.

Although their focus should be on addressing issues of democratic backsliding, these international experts have been recruited to the government’s ranks to lead the prosecution. Naturally, the support of international professionals are instrumental for establishing the legitimacy needed for the ongoing miscarriage of justice to go on unimpeded. When such actions are placed within the context of colonial history, it becomes apparent that they are in good company.

Colonial lawyers played a central role in propping up despotic local regimes that were deemed friendly to British foreign interests in the days of the Empire. Take the story of Sir Frank Clement Offley Beaman as a prime example. Educated at The Queen’s College, Oxford, he became a judicial advisor to the Indian Civil Service in 1879 working his way up over the course of the subsequent 28 years to High Court Judge, a position to which he was appointed in 1907. His position attained was a product of the relationship he established with the local government and the way in which he used legal tools in support of both the caste system and opposing women’s emancipation.

A similar example is evident in the case of Mr Dinsha Davar. A London educated barrister, Davar was a member of the same Middle Temple Inn of Court as Mr Powles and Mr Vickers, an Inn which seems to have a sordid history of members supporting neo-colonial endeavors. Davar saw the opportunity to be appointed a high court judge and having become close with the Maharaja of Baroda State, Sayajirao Gaekwad III, fervently employed the law to fight political enemies of the Maharaja, famously sentencing Indian nationalist and anti-colonial activist Bal Gangadhar Tilak to six years of hard labour.

It is unclear if the motivation of Mr Powles, Mr Vickers and Mr Humphrey are monetary, securing longer term local positions of power, as is widely (albeit controversially) practiced to this day in former colonies such as Hong Kong, or a combination of the two. Irrespective of their personal interest, British colonial legacies continue to shape the future of the Seychelles justice system and not for the better. A state in the grips of neo-colonialism can never be the master of its own destiny.

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Economy Indian Ocean Politics

India & China Influence in Seychelles

India and Seychelles have strengthened their military collaboration with the delivery of equipment and joint training. Allowing India to ensure its presence in the area with the development of its military base in the archipelago.
In addition, the Indian High Commissioner stated that India will assist Seychelles with the construction of a coast guard radar system and other defense issues. After a request from Seychelles’ President and Minster of Defense Wavel Ramkalawan.

Since 2018, the two countries have signed a lease agreement for the island of Assumption for 20 years. The Indians set up a military base there. It is located 370 km northeast of Mayotte. During a handing over ceremony for three ceremonial weapons and ammunition as well as a wave-rider boat gifted by the Indian government, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, a former chief of army staff of the Indian Army, spoke about the radar system donation. Onboard the INS Gharial, the vessel that delivered the firearms and ammo to the island state, the guns and 500 rounds of ammunition were handed over.

The firearms will be used on “important national occasions such as the National Day,” according to Michael Rosette, chief of the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF). Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, also received a wave-rider boat, bringing the total number of wave-rider boats in the coast guard’s fleet to three.

Seychelles Coast Guard personnel have been taught to use the newest addition of radar technology to the fleet, which will aid in the island nation’s coastal surveillance. Suhag stated that India and Seychelles have a positive relationship with “many shared fields of concern,” such as terrorism and illegal and irregular fishing.

Military soldiers from the Seychelles and India participated in the 10-day Exercise ‘Lanmitye’ last month, in which they simulated counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism, and anti-piracy operations. Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has a long history of defense and security cooperation with India. Maritime security, anti-piracy operations, air surveillance, training, and capacity building are all part of this.

The Indian Ocean is critical to global trade, security, and geopolitics. From the Strait of Malacca and Australia’s western coast in the east to the Mozambique Channel in the west, the Indian Ocean is a large theater. It stretches from the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.

It is quickly establishing itself as the site of competition between India and China. China has used unjust and predatory economic tactics to achieve its geopolitical objectives in the region, most notably by acquiring access to military bases and critical ports.

Four nations in the IOR, namely Djibouti, Laos, Maldives, and Pakistan, are “exposed to above-average debt” to China, according to data from the Center for Global Development. When the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are viewed in the context of China’s acquisition and development of a military facility in Djibouti, it becomes evident that China is surrounding India in its backyard.

One of Narendra Modi’s first international tours after being elected Indian Prime Minister in 2014 was to Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, and Mauritius, where he launched a new “SAGAR” policy (Security and Growth for All in the Region). The Modi government’s goal was to boost India’s economic and political might, improve communication, and protect islands from a variety of security challenges, including climate change. It is also clearly trying to foster regional solidarity as a means of deterring China’s continued growth.

All this is part of India’s plan to counter China’s growing influence and power in the region. However, one must ask themselves what is Seychelles losing out in doing business with India?

Categories
Economy Indian Ocean Politics Transparency

Time to Put an End to Democratic Backsliding in Seychelles is Now

Recent charges levied in a still developing high profile court case in the Seychelles came as no surprise to many. Specifically, conspiracy to commit offences under the Seychelles Prevention of Terrorism Act were levied against ex-President France Albert Rene’s wife Sarah, his son Leslie Benoiton an officer of the Seychelles Defence Forces, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne a former public servant, Lekha Nair former director general of the Ministry of Finance, and a politically tied businessman named Mukesh Valabhji and his wife Laura. This came as no surprise not because these individuals are necessarily guilty, but rather, no surprise because the case is yet another example of the extent to which Wavel Ramkalawan’s government will abuse the country’s justice system in its pursuit of political enemies.

Arrested in November of last year, Rene, Benoiton, Loustau-Lalanne, Nair and the Valabhjis were charged in December with being responsible for, or benefiting from, US $50 million donated from by the UAE to the Seychelles in 2002. The funds, donated to the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), which Valabhji was the Director of at the time, were earmarked for helping the country cover food imports it was struggling to pay for. This was as a result of an explosion in its foreign debt and a severe dwindling of its foreign reserves. There were US $11 million in receipts for the purchase of both food and petrol, as intended with the gift, for the Seychellois people made from this account using the funds. New evidence produced by the prosecution shows even more receipts to pay SMB debts.

In functional democracies, the guilt of suspects is usually for a court of law to decide. What is however, becoming more and more apparent in this case is that there is a political motivation behind the trial. Current President Wavel Ramkalawan and his Vice President Ahmed Afif appear to have made it a goal of theirs to rid the country of any and all political opponents, starting with those associated with the former government.

Serving in the opposition for the majority of his political career, Ramkalawan and his party successfully unseated President Danny Faure and his United Seychelles (US) party in October 2020, ending the US party’s continuous rule of the island since 1993. It was not long however, before the new government, under Ramkalawan’s leadership, began consolidating power through arresting “political opposition” members. Ramkalawan indeed needed to solidify his rule vis-a-via a real or perceived opposition.

This decapitation of anyone powerful formerly affiliated with the US party and former President René began with Mukesh Valabhji but by no means ended there. Other measures employed to alter the country’s history and solidify Ramkalawan and the party’s rule included, for example, renaming streets whose original names did not serve the current leadership’s political agenda.

The political motivation behind the arrests can be further seen by looking at those arrested and examining their positions under the former President and party. Those arrested include the former head of the armed forces, the ex-President Rene’s wife Sarah and son Leslie, plus former director general of the Ministry of Finance, a public servant bodyguard together with Mukesh Valabhji and his wife Laura who were overt supporters of President Rene and his successors. A more recently arrested suspect (number 7 in the political witch-hunt) was the former financial controller of the Seychelles Marketing Board Ganeshan Ratnasabapathy.

Interestingly, those associated with the current President who served in key positions at the time the funds went missing have not been arrested. These include current Vice President Ahmed Afif, who was the head of foreign exchange at the central bank at the time and who clearly oversaw and personally approved the transfer of the funds to their desired destination. The role of Afif in the affair indeed is quite peculiar, as even if not guilty, one might expect an investigation to have ensued to at least determine the extent of his guilt. No such investigation ever took place.

The latest development of levying charges against Valabhji under the terrorism act is a new development, and one which should be concerning to those following the delicate democratic transition the archipelago nation has been undergoing. Although not employed previously, these charges allege Valabhji to have stored weapons at his home, with the aim of committing terrorist acts. Found after the couple’s arrest, one can only question the origins of this “weapons cache”.

The President has abused the judicial system at the expense of his country’s own military weapons caches to win a cheap political victory. The weapons seized were imported and registered to the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) and were knowingly stored by the government and the armed forces at certain locations after a previous coup attempt stole weapons from the country’s main armory. These weapons were stored at Mukesh Valabhji’s residence at the request and authority of the government now ironically charging him with conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The implications of this case go far beyond what will become of Mukesh Valabhji, his wife Laura, and now 5 additional defendants in the case. Serial violators of human rights do not begin as such. They begin by testing the waters and gauging what the international community’s appetite is for their crimes. Indeed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad did this when he pushed then President Obama’s chemical weapon “red line”, graduating to the eventual mass murder of civilians.

At a time when the decline of democracy across the African continent is being exacerbated, countries where the future of democracy can still be salvaged must be addressed. With a Council on Foreign Relations report identifying that, “More Africans live under fully or partially authoritarian states today than at most points in the last two decades”, the time to put an end to democratic backsliding in the Seychelles is now.

With authoritarian regimes, and particularly those dependent on foreign support and mindful of the need to maintain positive foreign opinion, the Seychelles is an optimal case study of a country where international organizations must be more active. The IMF is one such example, approving a 32-month extended arrangement for the Seychelles for US $105.63 million, or 323 percent of Seychelles’ quota only 6 months ago.

Non-contingent international aid is an extremely dangerous contributor to democratic backsliding. Conversely, if employed correctly, and as has been found in empirical research, conditional aid can have a powerful effect on ensuring democratic futures. The case at hand should be understood within this context.

As stated by Valabhji’s lawyer Frank Elizabeth “issues may seem petty, but they must be addressed in the utmost urgency as it seems the police does not seem to understand the human rights aspects of the case”. The obstruction of due process alleged by lawyers involved is unacceptable behavior by a country claiming to be a democracy.

Not adequately addressing these issues only gives the current government the reassurances it is looking for, namely that the violation of justice and democratic rights are acceptable. As long as you mask it under perceptions of a seemingly democratic nation and prolong due process, one can continue being the recipient of international largesse while trampling on the rights of its citizens, all the while ignoring the fact that as former Prime Minister William Gladstone so aptly put it, “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

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Economy Indian Ocean Transparency

Seychelles Condemns Pirate Attack Off The Coast of Hodeidah

The Seychelles government is profoundly worried by the recent attacks on the UAE-flagged vessel in the Red Sea, as Seychelles has long been at the forefront of the battle against piracy in the Western Indian Ocean.

Somali pirates operate in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, principally. Attacks have occurred around 1,000 nautical miles off the Somali coast, primarily targeting tankers and dry bulkers, which bring in tens of millions of cash for pirates.

The Gulf of Aden is bordered on the north by Yemen, on the east by the Arabian Sea, on the west by Djibouti, and on the south by the Guardafui Channel, Socotra, Somaliland, and Somalia. It connects to the Red Sea in the northwest through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, and to the Arabian Sea in the east. Its waterways are among the most perilous in the world for piracy.

In recent years, pirates have moved their focus from hijacking oil tankers to the more lucrative kidnapping of sailors for ransom, according to Noel Choong, the head of the Kuala Lumpur-based IMB piracy reporting center.

The Seychelles government strongly condemns the recent pirate attacks off the coast of Hodeidah on the civilian cargo ship RWABEE.

Such flagrant acts jeopardize regional security and put the safety of the region’s population at risk, in addition to posing major challenges to sea commerce and international trade.

All parties are also urged to follow international law and seek peaceful solutions to the crisis, according to Seychelles.

Seychelles demands that the vessel and her crew be released immediately in light of the circumstances.

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Economy Politics Transparency

Something Smells Fishy!

The Seychelles Tuna Fishing Scam

Huge, industrial fishing vessels operate in the Seychelles national waters yearly, looking for a fish known as “blue gold”: tuna. The most sought-after tuna is the yellow fin tuna, but fishers also catch big-eye tuna, skipjack tuna, and swordfish – all of which turn a healthy profit in the international market.

Undeniably, the fishing industry fortifies the Seychelles’ economy. In 2019, the small East African archipelago nation exported about 6,600 metric tons of fish and crustaceans, which brought more than $13 million into the country, according to a local news report. Fisheries is the second most important sector after tourism in the Seychelles, contributing to 20% of the GDP and employing 17% of the population, according to the World Bank. Yet conservationists have long been sounding the alarm that fish stocks, particularly yellow fin tuna (Thunnus albacares), are over harvested.

To address over fishing, the Seychelles decided in 2017 to join the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), an enterprise born out of global discussions about how to deal with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the waters around Africa, particularly by commercial fleets operated by foreign nations.

Philippe Michaud, a consultant at the Seychelles’ ministry of fisheries, said the country joined FiTI because doing so aligned with the government’s implementation of the “Blue Economy,” a national initiative focused on making fishing and other ocean-related activities more sustainable.

According to Michaud, “I think FiTI should contribute in making people more aware of the problems, because we’re not running out of fish, because we can buy fish every day, we think that it’s going to go on forever. So, we need to mobilize all the different stakeholders and say, ‘This is a problem.’”

In December 2021, the Seychelles released its second report to FiTI, which detailed the government’s efforts to increase public access to certain information about the management and direction of its fisheries. This includes an online registry of large-scale fishing vessels operating in Seychelles waters, and information about what they need to pay to cast their nets and lines in these waters.

While the waters surrounding the Seychelles yield prolific catches, a lot of this fish isn’t being caught by Seychellois themselves, but by fishers from places like China, Taiwan and member states of the European Union.

One of the most contentious issues facing the Seychelles is the overfishing of Indian Ocean yellow fin tuna, which some experts say is being driven by EU-controlled vessels operating under Seychellois flags. According to a Mongabay investigation conducted last year, the Seychelles’ entire purse seine fleet — that is, vessels that use circular, wall-like netting to trap species like tuna — was fully controlled by European interests.

The Seychelles’ second annual report submitted to FiTI, which covers 2020, shows efforts made by the government to increase transparency around many aspects of its fisheries, including its foreign interests. For instance, the government has now published summaries of the license agreements for local and foreign fishers on the Seychelles Fishing Authority’s website.

Although this move seemingly towards transparency should be positive, there are limitations to the information in these reports. For instance, to date nothing has been revealed about how these agreements are negotiated with the EU; the entire industry rests on hidden agreements between the Ramkalawan government & EU member states. Additionally, the Ramkalawan government has attempted to explain away this lack of transparency under the nebulous guise of ‘national security’.

Yet the report shows it isn’t just the EU putting pressure on the Seychelles’ fisheries — it’s also vessels from Taiwan and China. Last year, the Seychelles government published a registry of the 180 large-scale vessels authorized to fish in the country’s EEZ; 66 of them operated under the Taiwanese flag, while eight operated under the Chinese flag. The report also notes that some agreements between the Seychelles and Taiwanese and Chinese fishing interests have not been published due to confidentiality clauses. There’s also insufficient data regarding ​​catches, landings, transhipments, discards, and fishing efforts for the industrial longline fleet, which is largely operated by vessels from Taiwan and China.

What this boils down to is that opaque foreign interests are making huge amounts of profit from Seychellois waters, permitted & facilitated by the government. Why all the secrecy?

The only logical conclusion is that political forces are profiting from these contracts via kickbacks or other underhanded payments. If this wasn’t the case – why has the government in Victoria gone through the motions of window-dressing, presenting reports touting ‘increased transparency’ while at the same time blocking the release of the most critical records.

Something smells fishy in Seychelles.