Repairing past wrongs: 51 Seychellois qualify for return of land scheme
The return of land scheme was launched in 2021. (Gerard Larose)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Fifty-one Seychellois applicants for the return of land scheme have met the criteria to have their lands returned, said a top official on Tuesday.
The return of land scheme was launched in 2021 in which the lands acquired or purchased by the state from 1977 to 1993 that are still undeveloped are returned to their previous owners.
This period in Seychelles' history is known as the one-party state era, following the 1977 coup d'état led by former President France Albert Rene, which ended when multi-party democracy returned to the islands in 1993, although Rene continued to rule until 2004.
The director for projects at the Department of Land, Chantal Renaud, told reporters on Tuesday that 51 applicants have qualified to have their land returned.
"We had a total of 156 total applicants among which 81 were rejected due to lack of the required documents or the land did not meet the scheme's criteria," she said.
"After that, we evaluated the remaining applicants and disqualified a further 14 as we found that the land had already been developed or it was not owned by the government, which left us with 51 qualified applicants," said Renaud.
The 51 qualified applicants will have further negotiations and evaluation after which they will get their land back.
Renaud said that there were none of the people whose applications were disqualified contested the decision as the department had explained clearly to them the reasons why.
Under the scheme, undeveloped lands not earmarked by the government to be used in the public interest were considered for return to the owner or heirs.
Lands identified for housing projects, those being used for agricultural places, and those on which planning approval has been granted, were not part of the scheme.
"At the moment, we cannot say just how much the total size of land that will be returned is, as it is only now that site visits will be conducted, along with negotiations, but most of the land is on Mahe," Renaud.
She added that once the land is returned to their previous owners, they will remain under their current land use plans and any lease contracts in place for a particular piece of land will have to be honoured or re-negotiated.
The department reiterated that under the scheme, there will not be any compensations paid to the previous owners, as according to the Minister for Land and Housing, Billy Rangasamy, this exercise was a way of repairing the wrongs of the past.
"For now, we cannot say when all the lands will be returned, as this will depends on the negotiations and other factors, I want us to be able to complete the more straightforward applications, as soon as June of this year," said the minister.