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Seychelles : Spotlight on Democracy

2020/09/14 01:39:25 PM

Message of the Ombudsman on the occasion of International Day of Democracy (15th September 2020)

Democracy as a system of government may not be perfect, but it is, for now, the only system that vests power in citizens of any country and enables those citizens to exercise that power through representation through regular free elections, ultimately creating the environment in which fundamental human and social rights can be most effectively protected.

In 1993, the People of Seychelles chose Democracy as our system of governance. We acknowledged that guaranteeing equal and inalienable human rights for all our citizens was the best way to enjoy our dignity as a nation. And a democratic society where all powers of Government spring from the will of the people would be the best way to maintain and protect those rights.

It is to celebrate this form of government widely embraced by a majority of the world’s nations that we devote International Day of Democracy on 15th September each year to honouring and promoting democracy worldwide. 

Since the 2019 coronavirus was declared a global pandemic on 12th March this year, democracies the world over are facing unprecedented hard times and new challenges as every country, including our own, has had to deal with the ‘new normal’ of the social, political and legal challenges that threaten the very existence of our democratic societies as we know them.

This year’s chosen theme for the day, “COVID-19 – A spotlight on Democracy” is a timely reminder that in these difficult times we must remain steadfast in our democratic ideals if we are to continue upholding the rule of law based on the recognition of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. 

As we take the fight to the spectre of community-spread COVID-19 and do everything and more to protect the health of our nation in the coming weeks, let us also focus the “spotlight” on the democratic process and our imminent rendezvous with general elections in October.

The decision to dissolve the Sixth National Assembly on 7th August has effectively removed one of the three arms of Government. In the absence of a functioning legislature to take up its oversight role under the Constitution, the Executive must assume even greater responsibility in ensuring that the emergency measures and responses it implements to deal with any public health situation that may arise in the coming weeks must also guarantee all our citizens the fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly, access to information, so vital to the exercise of the right to participate and vote in a free democratic state.

Protecting public health and defending democracy are two fronts in the same battle. The unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot and must not be allowed to destroy our democratic gains. To this end, the Executive must assume its fundamental and sacrosanct duty to not only protect the population from the pandemic, but also guarantee that democracy can be enjoyed by all our citizens as we approach nomination day and the official launch of the election campaign.

It is in these exceptional and trying times that the Constitutional institutions, including the Office of the Ombudsman, will be expected to assume their constitutional responsibilities to ensure that the Executive remains transparent, responsive and accountable in its Covid-19 responses. We must be ready to challenge any emergency measures that are disproportional and unnecessary and, above all, not in conformity with our Constitution. For Democracy is more than just a system of governance – it is a lens through which we view the world and the place we assume within that world. If we break that lens during an emergency, we may never see ourselves the same way again.

Nichole Tirant-Gherardi
14th September 2020

Honorable Nichole Tirant Gherardi - Ombudsman of Seychelles since 31 March 2017

Office of the Ombudsman of Seychelles

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