Interview: Seychelles’ new President Faure wants to sit down, talk and resolve issues
The Seychelles President Danny Faure. (State House)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The newly inaugurated president of Seychelles Danny Faure says he is taking his task as the new head of state very seriously and has called for unity, true reconciliation and dialogue to move the country forward.
Faure, 54, was sworn in as Seychelles’ fourth president last Sunday, taking over from the former President James Michel whose resignation took effect on October 16.
SNA sat down with the new president to find out what he expects of the team he has chosen, his priorities, and vision for the people and the country.
SNA: Good day Mr President. Firstly, what is your sentiment after being sworn in to office as Seychelles’ new head of state?
President Faure: I feel that I been given a serious task and it’s a task that you cannot fool around with. As you know I am recently divorced, I only have four children and all of my love will go to the people of Seychelles. I will not be getting married again, there will not be a first lady, so it's only going to be myself and all the love I have for my work, for Seychelles and its people. I am still very young, I am 54, so it’s a sacrifice that I am making for the people.
SNA: What is your plan and vision for Seychelles as you take on this new task?
President Faure: I believe that we should be more united. I want us all to feel proud when we walk around in town. We are proud today, but I want everyone to feel this liberty. Even if you support another political party, that should not be the first thing one looks at. We should look at the person and not label one another, we should see each other as brothers and sisters. There’s too much labelling in Seychelles today, because we are divided. If we get rid of this labelling and see everyone as Seychelles’ children, we will be able to accomplish greater things for the country.
SNA: You started off making some senior appointments. Should the people expect more appointments including changes in government?
President Faure: Yes. I await the parliament’s approval of the list [of names of the vice president and ministers] which I submitted to the speaker of the National Assembly this morning [Tuesday] in line with article 63 (1) [of the constitution]. I did not comment on the list because I wanted to show respect for the constitution and the speaker’s independence. I have submitted the letter and he will have it on the order paper, and this will be discussed. It’s then that I will announce the names of the people who have been appointed and to which positions. What I’m saying to the assembly is take your time and decide. As it is written in the constitution the speaker will inform me of the members’ decision and from there I will reshuffle my government. The ministers will then work as per the changes made to the government structure.
SNA: Are you confident that the National Assembly will approve the team you are presenting to them?
President Faure: I have a feeling that I will receive the support of the assembly, because they realize that I have been upfront, honest, and I have explained what I would like to do, not for myself, but for the country and for the good of the Seychellois people. I am conscious that I only have 14 members on my side and that I need three more because 17 are needed to approve the team. Nevertheless, I believe that I will get the support of the assembly for the team that is needed to start working for Seychelles.
SNA: What if it’s not approved?
President Faure: I am not contemplating ‘if it’s not the case.’ I cannot be saying what will I do if it doesn’t work out? My starting point has been to seek the support of the assembly because I believe that what I have presented to the people of Seychelles is a work plan that needs a team to deliver. I believe that when the people of Seychelles have listened, they have understood where I am coming from -- that we are coming to fix things, we are coming to improve on things for their well-being. But we need tools, we need a team to do this.
SNA: Has it been an easy task choosing your team, and what are you asking of the future Vice President and the ministers?
President Faure: We need to reflect the values of good governance we need to believe in transparency and accountability. I have set the bar very high, and I have shared with them the principles which I believe in.
SNA: On Tuesday you became the first Seychelles President to address the assembly in the way you did to present your programme other than through the State of the Nation Address – why this decision?
President Faure: As you know I started [my political career] in the assembly. I could have delivered the address somewhere else, but chose to show respect for the institution, although we [Parti Lepep] do not have a majority in the assembly. I have colleagues in the assembly, I called them by names. I reminded them that we were once colleagues, but we have all matured, now we have grey hairs, while Seychelles is still the same. One day we will leave this earth but how do we want to leave Seychelles – that’s the question. I want to leave behind a more united Seychelles. I do not want your children and grandchildren to live in division, but instead live in a Seychelles where we have different political affiliations but remain united. We should not use political affiliations to create tension, because when there is tension there is no productivity, no work gets done, we feel stressed, we are miserable and get sick. Why should we allow politics to divide families? I would like to see politics that is not centred on insults.
SNA: In your inaugural address and again in the assembly you spoke a lot about unity and the need for true reconciliation. How do you envision leading this process and how far are you willing to go?
President Faure: I am ready to bring Seychelles to the path of unity. For example, I told the speaker of the assembly that I am ready to sit down and see how we can deepen the process to ensure true reconciliation, where we will have closure. I did one thing on Sunday during my inauguration. I said that our party [Parti Lepep] has been in power for 39 years and some brothers and sisters believe the government is responsible for the sufferings, so I take responsibility for this and I apologized. So the next step now is bring closure, let’s move on, we cannot carry this forward into the future.
Other countries are looking to the future and if we do not tackle the future we won’t grow and will stay as we are today. We need to tackle these issues, there will be tough issues but I am prepared to sit down and talk about it. Out of this we will have consensus and when we have consensus we move forward. For now we are stuck in the politics of the past and we want to carry the politics of the past forward, with the sentiments of the past and this is difficult. Sentiments need to be healed, you heal it by talking about it, I want to see you cry and you see me cry, we are human beings after all. So this is the process that we need to go through. I’m not responsible, you’re not responsible, we are a product of our time, but we cannot keep referring to it, we have to move on.
SNA: In your inaugural address you stressed on being a child of the SPUP and said that we have not yet achieved all of the vision that SPUP had for Seychelles? Should we expect to see a change in the politics of your government?
President Faure: Some people have asked me why I said that. SPUP [Seychelles people’s United Party] was created on the basis of brotherhood, this country belongs to us and the fruit of the country will be shared among us. But today we have poverty, this is not SPUP. SPUP was created to fight poverty. Today we have a population living below the poverty line and it’s not normal that on one side you have wealth and this situation on the other. That was not SPUP. The vision of SPUP is that we will have shared prosperity, shared risks, you take the risk but at the end of the day we all feel happy. So I want to go back to those basic principles and the purpose for which we were created -- for the good of mankind -- the Seychellois people and have this in the context of an economic development plan to uplift our citizens. There again civil servants may have lost this human touch, we see people as a name on a file or as a statistic. I said on Tuesday that people can no longer become a name and a statistic, she’s a person, she’s got feelings and I need to listen to her, discuss, then we go forward.
SNA: Among all the issues you have pointed out so far what are your priorities as you take over the presidency?
President Faure: My priority is to change all these laws so as to establish structures that would legally cater for good governance and accountability. This is my priority and I believe that by March next year all the laws will be in place so we can have the proper structures.
SNA: What will be the difference between President Faure and his predecessor President Michel?
President Faure: I come from one era and President Michel comes from another era. In all the places I have worked I always give people their space and do not interfere in their work. We set tasks and agree on how it’s going to be done. If you do not work you will be in trouble. Secondly, I love team work, I like to lead a team and I believe in team building. So, I will mobilize people for us to deal with the big issues of our time from all walks of life. But when we win, we’ll all win together, it’s not about me, it’s about us about the country.
Many people will try to see the difference between myself and [former] President Michel and I believe yes and no they have reasons to do so. I would like to tell them not to do that but rather encourage me to continue to look to the future. I would like to tell the Seychellois people to look ahead of us, let us move ahead because the country has a lot of opportunities to offer but we need to put our minds to it.
In that sense we need to develop the capabilities our children at school. Soon I will visit Anse Royale School where I myself studied, to talk to them and let them know that even from under a coconut tree somebody can get to State House. But there are three basic principles to follow – obey your parents, study hard at school and stick to what you want. We have a lot of capable people in Seychelles but we need to tell them that it is good to take risks, as it allows you to grow. When one is afraid to take risks he becomes a slave of his ambition. We have to break away from that and I want to create a system where people have pathways to go further.
SNA: You have taken over the mandate won by President Michel. Although constitutional the decision is being challenged. The opposition is calling for an amendment of the constitution so that new elections can be called. What is your position on this matter?
President Faure: My appointment as president is in line with the constitution and I hope the people will give me the opportunity, to do what they would like to see for Seychelles. We recognize that the country is politically divided, so we want to unite the country. I’m saying that I want to embrace this unity. The people feel that we should have dialogue. When you look at the assembly everyone is living in one room in a single house, they were not on good terms with one another but now they are together and need to take live together. This gives us the chance to talk, to understand each other’s traits, appreciate one another and work together. It’s the people’s decision, I do not know if we realize that the people of Seychelles have said ‘look we are tired, sorry you need to go and work. We cannot ignore this, we need to sit down, have dialogue and resolve issues. That’s the message.
[Editor's note: In a press statement on Wednesday following a meeting between President Faure and leaders of an opposition coalition, LDS, State House said: "The two sides agreed that the necessary Constitutional amendment should be undertaken by March next year. The text of such an amendment, as well as its implications for the timing of a future Presidential election, would be the subject of discussions at future meetings."]
SNA: What is your call to the people of Seychelles as your start off on your presidential journey?
President Faure: I bring a message of hope for everyone. We have two choices -- either remain as we are pulling in the opposite direction or we stop to sit down and talk. When we have dialogue we understand one another. During the last election, I said in a political programme that [Wavel] Ramkalwan once slapped my brother and has never apologized to him. On Tuesday I saw them talking to one another and I embraced both of them and asked my brother whether Ramkalawan had apologized to him. Both of them laughed. I said to them that I felt happy to see them chatting, it made my day. I got back to my office and said you know what something is happening in this country. If each one of us do the same as Wavel and Barry it would make your day, you will feel relieved and want to do what is good for the country. This is what we need to be doing.
SNA: You have inherited the presidency at a time where your party Parti Lepep is facing a challenge in terms of the hold of power - were you ready for this cohabitation?
President Faure: Politically speaking, we now have a balance of power -- cohabitation, there is no longer this central power. We [Parti Lepep] have a diminished power in the assembly and have authority over the executive. The authority that is at State House however, cannot do everything without the assembly. So now we have to talk.
SNA: You said at your inauguration that you draw your inspiration from the former President France Albert Rene. Did he influence your decision to join politics and did you aspire to one day become president?
President Faure: He remains my inspiration. In 1974/1973, I heard on the radio that President Rene would be passing through my district at Les Canelles, Anse Royale. I left what I was doing at home and ran up to the shop and for the first time I saw him, he waved at me. And that night I heard him speak on liberty. I was an altar boy at the time with Father Lafortune and had a vocation, I wanted to become a priest. After two years I took a decision and asked to see Father Lafortune and told him that I had a problem and did no longer desired to become a priest. I said Father, God wants us all to experience heaven, I believe I can bring heaven to earth. He asked what are you saying to me? I replied – all the things the bible are saying can be done here on earth. So I said I am going to study. We remained great friends up to today. I never realized that I would be president but I believe that we should not only be praying to go up, we can do good things down here. It’s a belief that I have.