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SEYCHELLES - Message of the Ombudsman for Constitution Day 2020

2020/07/01 12:56:40 AM

Twenty seven years ago today, on 18th June 1993, ‘We the People’ of Seychelles adopted the Constitution that ushered in the Third Republic and its multiparty democracy and Charter of universal Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

Writing our Constitution in our hearts

NICOLE TIRANTOur vision was of a democratic system in which all citizens would participate actively in the sustainable economic and social development of our society, uphold the rule of law and recognise and exercise our individual rights and freedoms with due regard to the rights and freedoms of others. We based our society on the common interest which would provide an adequate and progressive social order where food, clothing, shelter, education, health and a steadily rising standard of living was guaranteed for all Seychellois.   In that Constitution Seychellois declared unswaying commitment to keeping our country politically and economically independent and safeguarding its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Since 2015, 18th June is commemorated as Constitution Day – a solemn occasion to reflect on the chosen path of our nation as we navigate a world of economic and security uncertainties and challenges and build the ramparts needed to protect us from those dangers.

Three major events mark this 5th anniversary today. We emerge, grateful and relatively unscathed in medical terms, from the COVID-19 pandemic that has almost destroyed our economy. We have started organizing the upcoming presidential elections in October and we are preparing to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of our island society started in 1770 by a small pioneering group of people from diverse backgrounds landing on the island to set up the first ‘Seychellois’ community.

As we reflect on the values and symbols that unite and inspire us and consider the effectiveness or otherwise of the constitutional institutions that we deemed necessary in a democratic society and established to guarantee those basic rights, let us be mindful of our colonial history and its contribution to our origins as descendants of different races that make up a people that has learned to live together as one Nation under God. Let us re-engage our nationhood to serve as an example for a harmonious multi-racial society in which justice, fraternity and humanity will be the mainstay of our choice of a democratic society where all powers of Government spring from the will of the people and where our framework of Government would secure for ourselves and posterity the blessings of truth, liberty, fraternity, equality opportunity, justice, peace, stability and prosperity.

Let us renew our choice to place our Third Republic firmly in the hands of Almighty God who we thank for making us custodians of this beautiful but also unique and fragile country.

Some clamour for changes in our 27-year-old Constitution to bring it more ‘in line’ with our present 2020 reality, whatever that reality may be. But as we consider those calls for change, let us first focus our reflection on our chosen path as a nation and on what our Third Constitution means to us. Let us never forget that the Constitution of the Third Republic remains the closest the Seychellois nation has ever been to a truly national consensus. It was a national effort that involved the greatest number of Seychellois in its creation. It was the fruit of consensus building that resulted in the adoption of a second draft by 73.9% of the People in a first-ever national referendum on 18 June 1993.

Let us also not lose sight of the fact that, despite this consensus and our pledge to unity, we have already amended the Constitution nine times over the past 27 years. For example, fundamental constitutional amendments pushed through in 1994, 1995 and 1996 by an absolute majority in parliament, amongst other things, created the post of Vice President and revised the rules on proportional representation to reduce representation in the National Assembly, thereby consolidating power in the hands of the ruling party. A 1999 amendment gave the incumbent president the privilege of calling early elections despite being elected for a five-year mandate, introducing uncertainty in the electoral process. Before we consider further changes, let us first consider whether those changes, which were not considered necessary in 1993, have produced the desired result.

Our Constitution is the blueprint to our very existence as citizens of this Third Republic. It ensures that in the diversity of our thoughts, religious beliefs and political opinions, we speak as one Nation with one Voice. Keeping perfect harmony in that voice depends on our collective effort in ensuring that the different notes sung by the diverse voices of our Nation can come together as one choir. It is our duty to prevent that voice from becoming muffled, stifled by divisive politics and actions that reduce to silence the very provisions that promised us room for tolerance of greater diversity of opinion. Our Constitution is well written on paper. Giving it the life it truly deserves demands that, in the words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “Constitutions have to be written on hearts; not just paper.”

Nichole Tirant-Gherardi


16th June 2020

Editor’s Note:

The Office of the Ombudsman is one of the constitutional institutions set up under the Constitution of the Third Republic. Absent in all previous constitutions it can be likened to a quality controller or internal auditor charged with ensuring that Government functions competently and in line with due process. It is a determinant factor on checking corruption.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints from the public about the conduct of the executive and public authorities in the conduct of their business. The Ombudsman also investigates allegations of fraud or corruption by public officers exercising their functions and complaints of individuals alleging violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. Members of both the executive and the legislature may also request that the Ombudsman investigate actions of public authorities. The Ombudsman can also initiate legal proceedings relating to the constitutionality of a law or provisions of a law.

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