The opposition, which since the switch to multiparty rule has always maintained that voting rights for non- resident Seychellois was not its priority, has suddenly, 25 years later come out for voting rights for the diaspora.
Presently, a Seychellois who has lived in Seychelles for at least three months may register as a voter. But, according to LDS leader Roger Mancienne, this constitutes an obstacle for Seychellois working abroad, because they cannot take three months off work .
Until now, Seychellois who are studying abroad, or left Seychelles just a few years ago appear on the Voters’ Register.
Currently, electoral laws state that one must reside in an electoral area in order to vote. As Laura Valabhji, lawyer of Parti Lepep said the LDS proposal boils down to preferential treatment to Seychellois who live overseas and come to the country simply “to vote then go”.
People living in districts are those who can vote. So, how do we determine which district people who live abroad belong to?
The questions arise whether the criteria to register as voters should include those who pay taxes, who own land or hold passports.
Mrs Valabhji said opening such a door will mean that a person who hasn’t lived in Seychelles for a decade, votes, then goes away, and couldn’t be bothered about the living conditions of the country.
She also said that it is unfair that people who live here, need to prove that they live in an electoral area- yet those from abroad come and choose where they register. It creates a big discrimination!
According to Mancienne, without Parti Lepep in power for so long, many Seychellois would not have left the country.
Even within the Mancienne family, there are those who emigrated to Australia long before SPPF came to power in 1977.
The bulk of the diaspora presently live in UK, Australia and Canada. Smaller numbers are also found in France, Germany, South Africa and Kenya.
During a recent state visit to Kenya, President Danny Faure met some members of the Seychellois community living there. Several have emigrated to East Africa, notably Kenya since several decades.
It will be remembered that prior to independence and more especially before the international airport opened our islands to tourism, there was hardly any development in Seychelles, besides picking coconuts and vanilla planting.
This state of affairs compelled thousands of our countrymen to emigrate; notably to East Africa and Australia. Later some also went to UK and South Africa.
In many of these countries, the Seychellois community are now in their fourth generation. Many have never been to Seychelles.
However, many have also returned to their land of origin to take up the new opportunities now available. Many have business ventures at Providence and elsewhere. Some are doing so well that they have diversified in the auto, tourism, printing and newspaper business.
Those Seychellois residing, working and contributing to the country’s economy, of course, have every right to vote and decide their future.
It is another story, to give the vote to those residing abroad and coming to Seychelles, only occasionally to “vote and leave.”