US criticizes Seychelles' Public Order Act
Principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs, US Ambassador Robert Jackson (left) and US ambassador to Seychelles Shari Villarosa (Vidya Gappy, Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The US government is concerned about the new Seychelles Public Order Act (POA),according to a declaration of US Ambassador Robert Jackson to Seychelles journalists at a press conference, yesterday.
The principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs in the US Department of State currently on a working visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago said the POA, which came into effect in January, should either be amended or repealed.
“(….) The Act is very restrictive. We would like to see it amended,” said Jackson. “We think it is a move in the wrong direction because these restrictions are not only anti-democratic, but they also make it difficult for non-governmental organizations and even for international organizations to work with partners who are doing very valuable work.”
This is the first time a foreign diplomat has openly criticised a Seychelles government law or policy, in the last ten years.
Jackson was leading a round-table session together with the US ambassador to Seychelles Shari Villarosa and political officer Maroof Ahmed on the current foreign policy of the US as well as elaborating on the support that his country is bringing to the Indian Ocean archipelago.
On her part, Villarosa said she has had discussions about the POA with senior government officials but did not give details of her meetings.
The Seychelles government has not responded to the statement of the US officials.
Meanwhile the meeting also addressed questions pertaining to the 2013 Human Rights report on Seychelles recently published by the US Department of State.
Jackson affirmed that the US stands by the contents of the report despite the fact that the Seychelles government has rejected its validity.
“We feel that it is balanced and accurate and we think that the criticisms are unfounded,” said Jackson.
In a statement issued last month following the release of the report,the Seychelles Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the US report is based on incomplete information compiled without due objectivity and does not reflect a genuine valuation of the current human rights landscape in Seychelles.
The MFA statement issued an invitation for US officials to visit the Indian Ocean archipelago and assess the situation on the ground.The US ambassador Jackson said yesterday that his country is open to dialogue with the Seychelles government about the contents of the report.
With regards to the US engagement with the Seychelles, the US team talked about training especially for police officers as well as self-help funds made available to civil society organizations.
The upcoming US-Africa summit in August to be hosted by US President Barrack Obama was also highlighted as a venue for cooperation.
Seychelles President James Michel has been invited to the summit that will coincide with the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) meeting where democracy and governance, peace and security and trade within the region will feature highly on the agenda.