Seychelles' courts open for 2021 with more patriotism amid COVID-19
Given the current pandemic, the Judiciary decided not to include the usual reopening events, to adjust accordingly and respect all health guidelines while still moving ahead with its duties for the year. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles' courts opened for 2021 and for the first time without the usual formal ceremonies on Monday in compliance with the COVID-19 prevention conditions imposed by the health authorities, said a top official.
Traditionally, the annual reopening of the courts in Seychelles is done with a church service, procession of judges and magistrates on Independence Avenue in central Victoria, and officers commanding the guard of honour with a brass band outside the courthouse.
Given the current pandemic, the Judiciary has taken the decision not to include these in the event, to adjust accordingly and respect all health guidelines while still moving ahead with its duties for the year.
The Chief Justice, Ronny Govinden, in his address said that he was "conscious that we are living in extraordinary circumstances, where we need to balance the right of access to justice with the right to health. Therefore, even though we will be open for business and all courts will be sitting it would not be business as usual."
The courts were opened under a theme similar to the motto enshrined in the foundations of the International Labour Organisation's original building in Geneva: 'If you desire peace, cultivate justice.'
"Our cry is that peace, which is a concept of societal friendship and harmony and the absence of hostility and violence, can only be founded on justice in its holistic sense as enshrined in our Constitution," said the Chief Justice.
He said that justice can be cultivated first and foremost by the three arms of the state which are the executive, legislative and judiciary complying with all the provisions of the Supreme law of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
"By us abiding by all the democratic principles found in it, including the Rule of Law; the balance of powers; the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, which encompasses embracing socio-economic justice, and upholding the supremacy of the Constitution," added Govinden.
The chief justice said although the judiciary is the third arm of the state, it is an integral part of the Seychelles and as such as of Monday the national flag and anthem of the island nation will have a stronger presence on its premises.
"I have reflected on this subject and after much reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the presence of symbols of the republic cannot infringe our independence... It is for this reason that I have taken the decision that henceforth our eloquent national anthem will be played at the ceremony of the reopening of the Supreme Court. I have also taken steps of having our national flag displayed in all of our courtrooms and tribunals," he said.
In terms of the cases, Govinden said that his office continues to actively monitor the case management and the reduction of the court case backlog, which has seen a year on year reduction.
"During 2018 and 2019 court recording systems have been introduced into all of the Magistrates' Courts and Tribunals enabling better and quicker resolution of matters with the elimination of the need for a handwritten record," he added.
As for the judiciary's vision, the Chief Justice said that last year a reviewing process was done for the Vision 2020 to identify the successes and areas where the Judiciary perhaps did not achieve as much as it would have liked to and to understand why.
A new Vision 2025 with a new strategic plan will be made available early this year which will consist of new strategic goals and objectives.
He concluded his address by saying that the "COVID 19 epidemic has affected our daily routines; our professional activities and our service delivery, let us take this challenge and turn it into opportunities. The necessity for us to adapt to the circumstances that it imposes has brought the best out of us and the organisations that we represent, let us make good use of those new traits and conditions."