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The first year of the National Assembly being dominated by the LDS, has been characterized by various   abuses  of parliamentary privileges, a lot of travelling and chopping down of the 2018 budget allocations.

The National Assembly which is costing the taxpayers over R41 million, compared to just R 26 million in 2016, nevertheless closed twice in 2017.
On both occasions, it was for lack of a quorum- a minimum of 17 of the 33 members, could not be present in the House.
In the first instance, several members, led by the Leader of the Opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan were away visiting the outer islands.
They visited all 14 islands, managed by the Islands Development Company (IDC), as well as the privately-owned D’arros and Aldabra, a World Heritage site, listed by UNESCO.
The travel by IDC plane and also involving the coastguards of the Aldabra and Assumption tours, have clearly  cost  a bundle in public funds.

Assembly closing down twice.

The second occasion for closure was too many members attending foreign parliamentary conferences simultaneously. This year, there has been a tangible increase of foreign travel by members- with delegations averaging five persons or more.  That involves significant expenditure for air tickets, hotel accommodation and travelling allowances.
The LDS- majority Assembly is also costing almost double, the previous one. It has a bloated secretariat, with several lucrative posts, tailor-made for party stalwarts.
These include the Director General for Administration, occupied by Godfra Hermitte, failed LDS candidate for Port Glaud and legal counsel for the Speaker, held by Daniel Ceasar. The latter earning around R50, 000 monthly.
At one of the session’s scrutinizing the 2018 budget, Roche Caiman MNA Audrey Vidot complained that lawyer Ceasar was never available to members who required legal advice, the special advisor was never around and they are compelled to have recourse to Hon. Basil Hoareau and Bernard Georges.
 At that point, Speaker Patrick Pillay stated that Ceasar was consultant to him only and that he was satisfied with his work, never mind about earning over R50,000.

About a dozen committees with extra remuneration.

To the Finance & Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) and the Standing Orders Committee, which existed in the  previous Assemblies, the LDS has added about a dozen more. These include the committee on Islands, chaired by Ramkalawan and the Anti-victimization committee, headed by Speaker Pillay.  
There are seven members sitting on each committee, the majority being LDS. Members earn an additional R2, 000 to R 3,000 monthly for each committee they sit. Some members reportedly sit on five committees, raking in a tidy sum on top of the R 31,000 monthly salary.
2017 began with, for the first time, a touching state funeral for former President James Mancham, who passed away peacefully in his sleep.
 Everyone joined the Mancham family to grieve, except Ramkalawan.  Presumably because the  late President  Mancham  held  no grudges and had got on well with President  James Michel, Wavel asked “why wear  a tie  and  attend the funeral, adding  that Sir  James did not attend the funeral of their loved ones when he was alive.” Ramkalawan left the country at around the same time that the funeral was held, so was not present for the state funeral.
In the National Assembly, LDS Members spent much of their time demeaning everybody else. In their camp they turn on each other. There was a lot of bad-mouthing and back-stabbing taking place.
Speaker Pillay wrote a letter to LDS president Roger Mancienne , offering his resignation, claiming that someone” close to him” was backstabbing.
He even  suggested lawyer Alexia Amesbury as his successor.
The letter got leaked and was taken up by the weekly publication “The Independent”, at which point Pillay claimed it was a rumour and by the time an LDS public meeting was held, all fences were mended.
Pillay was to shoot back into the limelight, with a silent protest at the Victoria Clock Tower, calling on President Danny Faure to step down and hold fresh presidential elections. Pillay claimed he was then backing his supporter Ryan Moncherry, who had begun the protest.
Later on, he changed his tune to be more vitriolic, claiming President Faure was “playing games” and two months after his state visit to Kenya, there was no follow-up. He added that he had wanted to import some cows from Kenya for his farm (at Montagne Posée) and things were not working out as expected.
He suffered a serious slap in the face when fellow LDS leaders refused to join the Clock Tower protest. In an SBC interview, Mancienne said there are other more pressing priorities, such as reforming the institutions.
Mancienne added that LDS did not have the means to force President Faure to step down. He was presumably referring to the 2/3 majority in the National Assembly which LDS does not have.
Posts on social media also reflected badly on LDS. Lawyer Ceasar confirmed that someone was able to by-pass the security system at the National Assembly, as the Speaker’s office has been tampered with and documents displaced or gone missing. There were allegations that the breaking and entering was staged.

MNAs not ATMs.

According to the Speaker, his office had also been tampered with and the file for “Truth and National Reconciliation” accessed.  He expressed confidence that the culprit will be exposed as the surveillance cameras were on and promised to issue a statement shortly. He never did.
At the same time, the very vocal Stella Afif, wife  of Anse Etoile MNA, Ahmed Afif was also on social media  claiming  that  people were expecting too much of their elected ones. “Some  people think the MNA is the President, the  minister, the DA, a breakdown service, a 24 hour service, an ATM machine etc. She added that people  complain about the MNAs salaries, but expected to get too much from them…. It’s time to change the mindset,” she said.
Another eloquent example of LDS hypocrisy and double standards is the issue  of  pension for MNAs. A good example of that was in late April when a  Constitutional  amendment, containing  provisions to re-instate  pension  for MNAs above 55 was debated just before  the  Assembly  went  into  recess.
The whole issue was played down as if nothing was happening. On the day the constitutional amendment was being debated, Ramkalawan spoke about the issue of “pas baton” or the handing over of the Presidency to the Vice-President. But his lips were sealed on the re-introduction of pension for MNAs.
In the end, with minimum debate and least possible publicity, all hands were raised and the amendment was passed.
Ramkalawan has never been strong on principle. He is known to talk nasty about anything in which he is not partaking, but will quietly collect what personally benefits himself, regardless of what the feelings of others may be on the subject. He is now trying to convince others that pension should be received at 55 and conveniently, he is now 56.
Following  the nomination of Mrs. Myriam Telemaque and Pamela  Charlette as ministers in July, Ramkalawan, for the second time since the 6th National Assembly stated his position regarding  politicians being appointed to the Cabinet.
Ramkalawan said once again, that he had no problems with technocrats being nominated, but against politicians from Parti Lepep.
Such was for instance the case last year when the LDS voted against the nominations of Dr. Patrick Herminie, Marie- Louise Potter and Dick Esparon. Outside of the Assembly, he however failed to convince most people about the logic of his argument.
 The election of Mrs. Charlette proved once again how incompetent Legal Advisor Daniel Ceasar was.
Mrs. Charlette is not the only minister, whose nomination was declared approved by the Speaker, after obtaining 14 votes in the 33 Chamber assemblies. She cannot be blamed for what happened.
After a confusing and contradicting speech, Ramkalawan did not vote for Charlette in the first ballot, before a controversy erupted on social media. However, he ended up voting for her when the second vote was held during an extraordinary session of the Assembly.
But what choice did Ramkalawan have, asked one LDS MNA. He had to accept to take the stick from LDS supporters, to correct the incompetence of Ceasar.
It is recalled that the Leader of Government Business, Charles de Commarmond had early in the Assembly’s sessions told the Speaker that Ceasar has to sit in the Assembly during sessions for him to do his work. Speaker Pillay said he will emulate that, but Ceasar is still nowhere to be found whenever the Assembly meets.  

LDS convention a non-event.

The LDS convention hailed by its chairman, Roger Mancienne early this year as “a major event to elect its central committee” turned out to be a “non-event”.  As most LDS tralalas, the turnout at ICCS fell far short of expectations.
SNP mouthpiece “Le Seychellois Hebdo” gave it scant coverage, while “Seychelles Weekly” published photos of the occasion, characterized by pockets of empty seats. More members were nominated to the central committee, to join those already there and self-appointed.
In any case, the LDS convention which failed to rally, is hardly surprising, considering that most people have realized that the leaders are out to help themselves, rather than assist in nation-building.
The image of the usually calm and moderate Deputy Speaker Nicolas Prea took a battering, when he launched into an angry tirade against the setting up of an all-inclusive Agency for Drug Prevention and Rehabilitation.
In the end, only two members abstained, as the Assembly endorsed the setting up of the Agency, headed by Dr. Patrick Herminie. It appears that Prea, who reminded the House for the second time that he had a son who had fallen victim to drugs, was getting sentimental about the issue for personal reasons.
Vice-President Vincent Meriton, who presented legislation for the setting up of the Agency, said its secretariat would consist of representatives of organisations and institutions already in the battle against drugs and alcohol.
VP Meriton also noted that prevention will constitute an important component of the war against drugs. He said that for each $1 invested in prevention, there is $ 12 in benefits from savings in health care, reduced criminality and increased productivity.
One of  the  LDS best known strategies  to drag the government, especially President James Michel into disrepute is use of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) to insinuate fraud and wrongdoing.
Several government officials were called into the Assembly to explain contracts signed with the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).  The whole episode was blown out of proportions, all the more so, since Ramkalawan is head of the FPAC.
Among officials who were called to the Assembly were former State House Secretary General Lise Bastienne and former Secretary of State Alain Butler-Payette, who both said they had signed on the contract.
These were for services including intelligence about offshore companies, piracy and other issues.
Though malpractice was often insinuated against President James Michel, the FPAC never called the former President to testify.
 At a public meeting Florry Larue, an LDS defeated candidate went on about the district market being located on land owned by PL, which to her means that it is not accessible to all residents.
Responding, Anse Royale MNA Sylvanne Lemiel noted that President Faure had publicly stated that the market’s site is to be transferred from PL back to the government, which means it is for the public and not any specific party.

President Michel challenges arrogant Ferrari.

President Michel has challenged LDS MNA Jean-Francois Ferrari to come forward with proof that he had ill-acquired wealth and had interfered in the judiciary.
President Michel in a letter to Speaker Patrick Pillay challenged Ferrari to have the courage of his conviction and state outside the Assembly- the defamatory accusations against him, without cover of parliamentary immunity.
President Michel said, this would enable him, once and for all, to address the vicious and persistent allegations against him.
In a follow-up interview with SBC, President Michel said he had been subjected to a smear campaign since a long time.” I chose to remain quiet and exercise restraint. But the recent accusations against me by Jean-Francois Ferrari, was taking things too far.”
Ferrari, who subsequently refused to apologise, knows that he cannot be sued by the former President, because the accusations were made in the Assembly, where he uses his immunity in a despicable manner. He knows there is nothing President Michel can do, unless he repeats what he has already said –outside of the Assembly. Unless Ferrari is bold enough to repeat these accusations in public, where he does not benefit from parliamentary immunity, he is safe.
The scrutiny of next year’s budget, has been characterized by various chop offs of allocations, especially regarding persons or institutions, not to their liking.

Chopping the budget, while helping themselves.

Superintendent Victor Tirant has emerged as a casualty of the LDS vengeance.  Mr. Tirant who gave his wife a contract for producing uniforms has resigned, after LDS decided to cut part of his allocation, just because of that.
LDS has also rejected most of the R4.5 million allocations for the “Paradis des Enfants”, which will force the fun park to close down. The park, with such games as bumper cars, skating rink and electronic toys, was funded by the UAE Government, which LDS MNA Jean-Francois Ferrari called “a poisoned gift”.
Among other LDS casualties are allowances for ministers, including the Minister-Designate, the Office of the Ambassador for Children, shall have to close down.
LDS has also issued an ultimatum to the SPDF: that if one of its officers does not apologise for threatening Ferrari, the party members will squeeze the budget in retaliation.
They were last week challenged by PL MNAs Simon Gill and Basil Hoareau to give up their pension and gratuities, to prove that they care for other and poorer Seychellois, as they claim to. The LDS members categorically refused. They are not to translate their words into action.
In a surprise move, LDS leaders were present for the first time this year at celebrations marking the UAE National Day. Since the party has always bashed the Emirates and Arabs generally, Party Chairman Roger Mancienne found it necessary to issue a statement informing members that “Seychelles needs to maintain good relations with all countries, based on mutual respect. LDS honours all ties of association and cooperation.”
The letter was written on headed paper of the Seychelles National Party (SNP) of which Mancienne, is still Secretary General, besides being also LDS chairman.
A further indication that the rift between the four parties constituting the LDS persists. Far from being a homogenous political organization, with common objectives, LDS is just a kettle of crabs, out to destroy everything that Parti Lepep has accomplished over the past four decades.