Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Time Is When!

The National Assembly on Tuesday this week discussed the 13th month salary issue, a topic that has captured the attention of workers in the private sector. After damaging reports in this newspaper and on social media that he was trying to kill off the 13th month salary proposal to protect his ‘big business’ friends and financial backers, Wavel Ramkalawan, the leader of the opposition tabled an emergency motion summoning the new Minister of Employment Wallace Cosgrow to come and give details to the Assembly about the impending Bill. During the discussions on the subject, it was abundantly clear that Wavel Ramkalawan and all opposition MNA’s who intervened in the debate were against the idea of the 13th month salary which they had previously claimed was their idea.

The high profile members of the opposition were all struggling to support the idea of a 13th month pay cheque which their supporters see as a big let-down.

In their deliberations, National Assembly members, Wavel Ramkalawan, Sandy Arrisol, Ahmed Afif, Jean Francois Ferrari and Bernard Georges all came across as being against this proposal. This did not go down well in their constituencies. Afif, Georges, Arrisol and Ferrari represent the four poorest districts. People in their districts were angry listening to their interventions. One man from Les Mamelles who voted for the opposition said, “I cannot believe that the people I voted for are more interested in helping the rich than helping the poor”.

MNA Ahmed Afif of Anse Etoile, who represents the poor sub-districts of La Gogue and Maldives, was also reluctant to give his support to the thirteenth month salary proposal. Afif alluded to the fact that this additional payment to private sector workers will have an impact on inflation. He believed that it will release too much additional cash in the economy. What Afif failed to understand is that the 13th month salary is not new money that will create inflation. It is simply a redistribution of existing money from the rich to the poor.

Many Seychellois workers are now asking a simple question; why is the LDS opposition protecting the rich at the expense of the poor? Ramkalawan, Ferrari, Georges, Afif and Arrisol have given the Seychellois people a glimpse of who they will look after when they come to power. It seems that the rich and powerful are in for a good time!

LDS Members Of The National Assembly Protecting Their Rich Friends

Wavel Ramkalawan playing games with private sector workers.

Last week the Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, had the following motion on the order paper:

With the aim to reduce costs of living in Seychelles and fight poverty, which continues to impact on the population, this National Assembly is appealing to STC and all other retailers to take it upon themselves to import essential commodities for sale at the lowest possible prices.’

 It is important to note at this stage that there was no mention of the 13th month salary for private sector workers anywhere in his original motion for last week order paper. And that he was appealing to STC and other merchants only to address the high costs of living - not the government. If the Honorable Gentleman was genuine in doing something about the high costs of living he could have asked for an increment in salary for all the workers to meet the high prices in the shops and the exorbitant prices of fish, legume and fresh vegetables.

It was clear that Ramkalawan is playing a political game with the livelihood of the private sector workers, especially, to protect business people with whom he has close dealings. However, after our front page article last week, which challenged Ramkalawan’s commitment towards people employed in the private sector, he had sleepless nights over the weekend and on Monday this week he was quick to have the order paper revised to include a Private Notice Question (PNQ – item 4 on the order paper) for the Minister of Employment, Mr. Wallace Cosgrow.

We bring you the PNQ below, which was in four parts:

1. Why is it that the Government of Parti Lepep has not come forward yet to place the bill for the 13th Month salary before this Assembly?

2.: Will all businesses, meaning small businesses and big businesses will all have to give their workers the 13th month salary?

3.What are the criteria being used by Government to implement the 13th month salary for workers in the private sector?

4.: According to your analysis and discussions, what effect will the introduction of the 13th month salary have on the private sector and the economy of the country in general?

A closer look at the questions will clearly reveal that Wavel Ramkalawan was trying to kill two birds with one stone. On one hand he wanted to please private sector workers by asking - where is the bill for the 13th month salary?

However, in the other three questions that followed - Wavel cast doubts on the justification to award the 13th month salary to private sector workers. This was done with one thing in mind to protect and please the business people that the LDS have close links with; businesses that gives money to the LDS. The thousands and thousands of workers who voted for the LDS in the National Assembly elections doesn’t matter anymore now until the next election.

It was clear that Wavel had one leg in the train and the other still on the platform and the train was about to leave the station. He was playing a game, which he has now lost because this newspaper called his buff and he took the bait – he should have remained silent and not react to our front page article like the leader of government business, who also came under attack in that same article.

All eyes and ears, so to speak, are now on the bill that will be placed before the National Assembly in two weeks. If the PL Government delivers on its promise to private sector workers to present the bill then it will be left to Wavel and co to do their bit to award the 13th month salary to private sector workers. This newspaper has done its part to force the issue back onto the national agenda before 2016 ends. Now, it is up to the National Assembly to deliver. We wonder who is going to have the last laugh on that matter. Will Wavel bury the 13th month salary to please his friends in business or will it be a Happy Christmas for the private sector workers?


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Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bernard Georges speaking like a Saint

Listening to Bernard Georges speaking in the National Assembly on Wednesday morning one would be forgiven to think that this man is a saint. Bernard said that he has been amongst those who had their hands in the mud fighting the system for social and political equality. In fact Bernard has done very little in that direction when compared to the Editor of this newspaper, who put his life on the line to fight the system and had to defend and fight many legal battles to stay out of prison, because of his political work.

We would like to remind the Honorable Member for Les Mamelles that he is up to his neck in mud and muck - it has nothing to do with fighting for the interests of the people, democracy, justice or freedom for the Seychellois. Bernard Georges was prepared to play his game with the system to get ahead and stay out of prison because of his illicit activities in his clients’ accounts. What was Bernard Georges doing launching President Michel’s book at State House in 2014 and WHY? The Chief Justice has tons of complaints on her desk about the attorney. We are prepared to accord Bernard Georges a break and not go into his past to humiliate him again. However, the Honorable Gentleman must also realize and accept that he cannot throw stones when he has been living all his life in a glass house.


Broken Promises by LDS

The 13th month salary for the private sector is being literally killed off by both the Government and the LDS. It is about a year since former President Michel brought in legislation to reward public sector workers for their hard work and devotion with an extra month salary at the end of the year. It was also promised at the time that legislation would be introduced to compensate private sector workers as well. This provided businesses with anticipation time. In six weeks 2016 will come to an end and still no legislation in sight for the private sector workers to benefit from the 13th month salary.

In fact, when the 13th month salary was first spoken about in 2015 both Government and the LDS said that it was their proposal and they fought over who was stealing the idea from each other.

It was kindergarten stuff; little boys fighting over a candy bar or over who should stand at the front of the class. Be it as it may former President Michel ploughed on with introducing legislation to award government workers the 13th month salary, with a promise that same will be done at a later stage for private sector workers. We know that the legislation is ready. Why is it not before the elected representatives?

During the National Assembly election battle the rhetoric was deafening about which party will deliver the 13th month salary, judging by the results of that election the LDS got the upper hand. The workers trusted them more to deliver for the workforce. They have so far “Let Down Seychellois”, in the sense that they have hardly spoken about the inflated cost of living. The ordinary working man/ woman is finding it extremely difficult to put food on the table to feed their family; prices are too high in the shops. The LDS majority in the National Assembly is fighting over creating numerous senseless committees and allegedly accepting ‘cash for motion’ to protect the interest of big businesses and their rich friends. The poor people’s interests have conveniently been placed on the backburner by the LDS majority.

This week the leader of opposition tabled a motion to appeal to STC and other merchants to sell essential commodities at the lowest possible price, too little too late. What about the 13th month salary for private sector workers? Why is it not included in your motion, Honorable Ramkalawan?

This newspaper sincerely believes that it is the private sector workers that generate the wealth of this country through their hard work - it is time to show them some gratitude. It is them that produce the income for the businesses to be able to pay taxes – the same taxpayers’ money that pays for the salary of all government workers and all the National Assembly employees including the MNAs. The National Assembly Members benefits the most (more than any other sectors) out of the hard work of private sector workers, which produce the funds for taxation. Why are they (LDS) not making a case for the private sector workers to be awarded the 13th month salary in 2016 like government employees?? This was a promised made by former President Michel.

The National Assembly Members (MNA) get monthly (SCR 31, 000) remuneration, with duty free cars, a yearly gratuity of SCR 100 000, this is followed by another hefty gratuity at the end of their five year term of office; SCR 1.5m for Honorable Ramkalawan and his counterpart. This is an unfair situation when the ordinary worker has to wait twenty years for a meager gratuity of about twenty thousand rupees or less.

The LDS majority in the National Assembly must fight for the workers of this country, all the workers; private and public sector. Why are they not doing it when it comes to the 13th month salary? Whose interests are they trying to protect?? Is it the interests of big businesses and their rich financial backers?? Are they trying to protect the likes of VCS, P&J, Eden Island Company, Vijay Construction, Cable & Wireless, Airtel, Seybrew, Pilgrims Security, etc……?

These are the questions at this stage of the conversation for the populace to reflect upon. We will have more on the matter next week and in all editions for the rest of the year 2016. After much reflection and soul searching The Independent newspaper is backing the 13th month salary for all the Seychellois workers! They deserve it!


Friday, 4 November 2016

LDS: Letting Down Seychelles

Paying for the services of a prostitute is not a prudent strategy. As an irrational one-time gesture this can barely be passed off whilst as a strategy it has grave consequences. The results of such an action are emotional satisfaction and financial blunder. Both these results LDS: Letting Down Seychelles were on display this week in the National Assembly.

In the first instance, emotional satisfaction was gained by LDS in the rejection of Dr. Patrick Herminie ministerial appointment on political grounds. It was a victory of grand emotional value but a Pyrrhic victory at most. Which candidate that was presented before the National Assembly can aspire to the professional expertise, qualifications and abilities displayed by Dr. Herminie? Not liking the man is an emotion that should never ever be allowed to cloud any rational argument. This is especially so when the argument is objective and seeks to address issues that have national, regional and international repercussions. Worse still is the fallacious illusion that the candidate’s political beliefs are a threat to the nation. Winning the battle to lose the war is on the cards - LDS will reap the fruits of the seeds of strife it has sown. The bitterness of the same can be seen in the LDS reaction when the rejected Minister, in fact all the rejected Ministers, was given super-Ministerial status: Secretary of State!
The new Secretary of State, Dr Patrick Herminie 

The second issue of financial mismanagement was aired in the manner that the Supplementary Budget of October 2016 was discussed and approved. LDS has time and time again publicly criticised the financial policies of the Executive arm of Government. Also not sparred have been the previous incumbents of the Parti Lepep dominated National Assembly. At a time when financial and fiscal prudence were lauded as campaigning issues by LDS; when given an early opportunity to rise to the occasion they failed. The failure was abysmal and a fresh “banbara” thrown on to the beach on an exceptionally hot day would have performed much better.

Given that the supplementation sought was for expenditure incurred in the 2015 Budget LDS made a significant error. The above appointments and those that they are now crying foul over, would not have gone through had they scrutinised the budget.

Another important fact is that all government finances are open to public scrutiny – by Gaston, Alois and Troukler - our own Tom, Dick and Harry! Scrutiny will commence in the form of the Auditor-General’s report. Given that LDS agreed to the extra expenditure: what happens if the expenditure is not above board?

 Common opinion made following the public debate on the supplementary budget is that it is cheese cake. A very rotten cheese cake that is fit for maggots and vultures. Given that LDS is the majority in the National Assembly they also form the majority feeding on the cheese cake. The supplementary budget was passed by a majority.

It follows on from the above that LDS as the majority that approved the budget will have to burden a larger share of the blame should the supplementary budget not bear up to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. This shows that the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) to be chaired by our own gospel-preaching “Kok Plastik” millionaire already has his work cut-out. How will they save face from a situation of their own making?

Chasing prostitutes are some people’s idea of fun but as a lifetime habit it leads to chaos and dereliction. The writing maybe faint but it is on the wall – it hints at failure and Letting Down Seychelles.


Afif contradicting himself again

The MNA for Anse Etoile, Ahmed Afif, who was once Principal Secretary for Finance, could not let the chance of scrutinizing the ministerial nominees last week, to show how savvy he is on financial and taxation issues.

Quizzing Dr Peter Larose - who has since been appointed Minister of Finance, Afif let out that he is against the new Progressive Income Tax System.

In the past, the opposition, notably the SNP has always advocated such a system and in fact when Government announced the new mechanism, it was quick to scream that “another of their ideas had been stolen”.

Yet, last Wednesday, Ahmed Afif told the National Assembly that the new tax laws would return the country to the old complicated system that the IMF had criticised at the start of the economic reform programme, which was in October 2008.

Afif said that: “The IMF said at the time that our tax system was too complicated and advocated a more equitable system by applying a flat rate of 15% across the board”.

Afif went on: “That made payroll easy and was a much fairer system.”

So that, according to Afif means that the low-income earners of just R5,000 per month should pay the same tax rate of 15% as those earning over R80,000 monthly.

In February this year, the Finance Ministry announced a new system to replace the old one - with a flat rate of 15% - which had been in force since 2010.

Under the new progressive tax system, no tax at all is applied on the first R8, 555.00 -whatever the salary.

A rate of 15% is applied on incomes of between R8555 and R10, 001. Incomes are then taxed progressively higher until R83, 333 monthly when tax is 30%.

However, the progressive tax system does not apply to expatriate workers.

Commenting on the new system, Finance Principal Secretary Patrick Payet said “it is a fair system as workers earning up to R35, 667 monthly will see an increase in the amount of money they take home, after their personal income tax has been deducted”.

Payet said that over 90% of Seychelles workforce will benefit under the new system.

Seychelles’ workforce is presently 46,000, of which 25% is expatriate labour.

Government stands to lose up to R 400 million yearly with the new tax system. Payet said Government plans to offset that by reviewing its process to make them more efficient. It shall also review the Business Tax and Customs Services to ensure the right tax rates are applied.


The stage is being set for national acrimony

The National Assembly is fast becoming the major source of rancor for the population. Many people who voted for change now doubt their decision. The National Assembly is descending along the path of what could easily be termed a dangerous situation. There is no way to know how it will end!! There is a real possibility for things to get out of control and instead of healing old wounds fresh ones will open up and the healing process stretch over a longer period.

There is no doubt that many many crimes against the people have been committed during the one party era and also several years into the Third Republic – and the truth is that thousands of people in one way or another is responsible for these crimes. So, how are we going to handle this very precarious matter? The way that the National Assembly Members are going about this business is like trying to put out a fire by throwing benzene at it. This will create a most volatile condition.

When the Editor of this newspaper was placed under political detention in 1982 under the orders of former President Rene – Philip Boulle was one of the detainees as well; Mr. James Pillay was the Commissioner of Police – Volcere was taken to his office one morning at around 10.30am, he was already drunk – he was red in the face like a bottle of Johnny Walker. He told Volcere that if it was up to him: “en larivyer disan ti pou koule” (a river of blood will be made to flow) – he pointed to a gun on his desk and said that he will not hesitate to use this gun if he had to…. He also pointed to a red telephone on his desk and said that if he lifted the receiver and make a call all the people involved will disappear.

“Gerard Hoareau, you want to see Gerard Hoareau, you will never see Gerard Hoareau again”, he said. Gerard Hoareau we know was assassinated in London on the orders of Albert Rene. Volcere was finally taken back to his holding cell at the Victoria Police Station and subsequently transferred to the Glacis Police Station for prolong custody.

One evening at around 10pm Bernard Racombo who is now working as driver/bodyguard to former President James Mancham came to fetch Volcere in a police van from the Glacis Police Station – on the way down to Victoria he warned Volcere, who was only 22yrs old at the time that they were waiting for him at the police HQ. When Volcere got there he was taken into an office where Ibrahim Afif and the police chiefs were waiting and Volcere was forced to give an interview to Afif. Part of that interview was broadcast over ‘Radio Sesel” to humiliate Volcere.

The father of Flory Larue was also in the police force at the time. He too persecuted his fair share of people – one of the sons of James Pillay, was also a police officer at the time, he too had his fair share of allegations made against him.

We have recounted this story here to provide a sample of the situation back then. In 2016 Patrick Pillay (brother of James Pillay) is Speaker; Stephan Pillay (son of James Pillay and brother of Jeff Pillay) is the MNA for Au Cap. Ahmed Afif (brother of Ibrahim Afif) is also an opposition MNA – so how do we reconcile this situation? How does Volcere get closure?

Of course the truth must be told, it will help to make sure that these kinds of things never happen again. Volcere is at peace with himself. He is already reconciled with the Pillay(s) and the Afif(s) he considers them to be friends and he is not looking for any compensation or retribution in any manner or form.

Note: The incidents recounted above are only a little fraction of what Volcere had to endure under the SPUP/SPPF/PL regime. He has forgiven them in the spirit of national reconciliation.