As our Government strives to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of our Nation, in the midst of COVID-19 related restrictions and a very tight budget, many Seychellois are discussing the notion of Nationality on social media. Such discussions follow in the wake of racial slurs being published to Facebook, typically by careless politicians or their devout followers. Unabashed displays of racism such as these, on a public forum, over and above the fairly recent instances of physical abuse and victimization of individuals of a particular ethnicity, indicate strongly that Seychelles is still deeply divided by nationality and skin colour.
Back when I was Minister for Tourism and for Culture, and was pioneering the largest annual Carnival of the region and hosting it on our shores, I would proudly describe to the gathered press that the Seychelles Nationality comprises a melting pot of cultures. To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt: “We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions – bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and quality. Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities.”
The concept of ‘Nationality’ has been steadily eroded and diluted over the years. It is no longer enough to simply have citizenship. One is seemingly rated on an obscure set of criteria to determine just how ‘Seychellois’ that individual truly is (are your grandparents Seychellois? Do you speak Creole? Were you born here? What is your skin colour? Hair colour? Your religion? Blood type?). There are so many excuses to divide the Nation, most of which are politically-based, but one main reason to unify us all (and it is enough to trump all reasons to the contrary): we are stronger together. Our strength lies in our diversity. Seychelles is only as strong as the collective strength of its people. We were all Seychellois until ethnicity and race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us. It must always be borne in mind that we are not orange first, green first, red first etc; we remain Seychellois first.
However, not only are Seychellois divided by nationality and skin colour, we are also divided by educational attainment and economic status. With more than 40% of our population living below the poverty line, and a staggering number of youths grappling with unemployment, the segregation between the haves and the have-nots is becoming more apparent. For far too long this Country has been governed in the interest of the few. Case in point, while thousands have been made redundant due to businesses not receiving any or adequate support from Government once COVID-19 crippled our tourism industry, MNAs are continuing to benefit from their very early pension (at 55 years, which they were quick to establish for themselves soon after being elected into office) – on top of that, the Country can afford to pay out SR27.849 million in total as gratuity to all members of the National Assembly.
Ordinary citizens have been forced to pay a heavy and unjust price for the fact that our Government has long deemed it fit to cater to the needs of the privileged and the powerful. Our Government has failed to establish comprehensive, coordinated approaches to improving support for the most vulnerable students (i.e. those living in poverty and/or abusive households and those who have special needs). It is incumbent upon every society to create constructive conditions for the youth so as to receive education. To ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and the workforce, we must address the needs of students in low-income communities and low-performing schools, and ensure that educational institutions are adequately funded and resourced.
In Seychelles, there appears to be some unfettered discretion regarding who is awarded a Government scholarship, where in the world they would be permitted to study, and even which field of study they would be permitted to pursue in order to qualify for the funding. This is particularly so if the field of interest is one that is not being offered by the University of Seychelles. This discretionary power leaves the decision-making by the relevant authorities vulnerable to acts of nepotism and preferential treatment (will the child of someone who is influential or privileged be preferred for a scholarship to study abroad over a student who has worked hard to achieve the best possible grades and has actually earned the scholarship?).
250 years later, Seychelles desperately needs real change. With both green and red camps making the election pitch for “national unity”, despite all their recent actions contradicting the notion, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that voters no longer trust politicians whose actions do not match their words.
One Seychelles did not enter the race for higher office to split the opposition vote. We came to change the culture of local politics, and to bring REAL CHANGE for Seychellois by taking the reins and saving our crumbling tourism industry, and our weak agriculture and fisheries sectors, by doing what no other political party can and that no other party has proposed: we shall be giving effect to a technocrat-led government, comprising qualified Seychellois at the helm of their respective departments and ministries who have been selected on the basis of MERIT, and not nepotism or favor-giving. These technocrats hail from both sides of the political divide. Political persuasion shall no longer taint governmental appointments.
An Avan, Seychelles.