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Seychelles: a cradle of consolation for the politically afflicted

Seychelles: a cradle of consolation for the politically afflicted ( A Letter to the Editor by Sir James Mancham, the First President of the Seychelles, addresses the application of Mr. Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of former Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, for political asylum in Seychelles. Sir James Mancham writes:

Dear Sir:

I refer to the recent articles published in Nation and other newspapers in Seychelles concerning the application of Mr. Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of former Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, for political asylum in Seychelles.
I believe, that against the background of my legal training, as the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, who was granted political asylum in UK after I was deposed in an “unconstitutional” coup d’etat in 1977, that your readers may find my comments on the issue to be pertinent and of interest.

I share the view of the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, that perhaps the most important question to consider, is whether the applicant will receive a “fair trial” if he is returned to Tunisia?

There is no doubt that vicious partisan politics still characterize the situation in a politically volatile and divided Tunisia today.

Personally, I remember the series of allegations which were made against me by those who organized the coup in order to justify their violation of our constitution. Forty years later, history, of course, speaks for itself as to the value of these allegations – with our people able to interpret them in the context of the post-coup d’etat realities.

From the human rights standpoint, it must be highlighted that the death penalty is still in vogue in Tunisia, whereas Seychelles abolished it many years ago. Furthermore, human rights organizations have recently accused the Tunisian authorities of torturing and maltreating many who are now under arrest including friends and relatives of Mr. El Materi.

In considering the position of the sovereign Republic of Seychelles on this issue, the Seychelles government should not overlook our traditional reputation as “un berceau de consolation des affligees politiques” – “The cradle of consolation for those politically afflicted.”

Branded a “terrorist” leader, Archbishop Makarios arrived here on a British warship for a life in exile which was abruptly terminated by an invitation for him to come to London where an agreement was struck which ended in the charismatic “terrorist” leader becoming “His Excellency, the founding President of the Republic of Cyprus.”

Chief Prempeh of Ghana who had been forcefully deported from his native land for “treasonable behavior” spent enough of years here for him and his family to become fluent in the Creole language before they were paraded back home to their kingdom in Ashanti. Then, we had a Sultan from Malaysia and a former Prime Minister of Egypt, who both, in their own way, added color to this chapter of our history.

And just a few years before our independence, another British warship dropped here Mr. Afif Didi from the Maldives, who easily integrated into our community. Regarded as an “undesirable at home,” Mr. Afif Didi, in Seychelles brought-up a family who provided us with a Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, a Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), a popular doctor, as well as today’s Chief of the Cabinet.

Who knows what additional value Mr. Al Materi could bring to our community besides the headlines which are currently keeping Seychelles in the news?

Yours faithfully,
James R. Mancham

PHOTO: James R. Mancham


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