Georgie Prudence, one of three independent candidates contesting Seychelles' parliamentary elections, says his objective is to bring in diverse opinions that will benefit the country’s democracy and economy.
Prudence, 54, is contesting the vote in Mont Buxton, a central district of the main island, Mahe, alongside candidates from three political parties contesting the Seychelles' parliamentary elections set for September 8-10.
He speaks to SNA about his determination to become a neutral voice in the national assembly and his assurance of having the support of Mont Buxton voters.
SNA: Firstly Mr Prudence, why stand as an independent candidate and not affiliate with a political party?
GP: I have a degree in political science and for the longest time I was affiliated with Parti Lepep [the ruling party]. I have done a lot of work for that party but up until now I do not feel appreciated for the work done. That is why I have decided to stand as an independent candidate. I also feel that my experience as a politician can bring some diversification to our democracy. More diverse opinions will in turn be better for our economy. This is my objective as an independent candidate.
SNA: It’s been only a few weeks since you registered as an independent candidate, how do you expect to lure supporters in your corner?
GP: I am dedicating most of my working hours, although I am self-employed, to do ground work in my district [Mont Buxton]. I am keeping in touch with the people and listening to them. I am not promising anything but I have given them my word that if elected, I will work for to represent their interest in the National Assembly. As a new comer in the field of parliamentary elections I appreciate the support I have been getting from the people in my district.
SNA: Do you have a manifesto. What are your proposals?
GP: I do not have a manifesto at present, but will be working on one soon. However, my principles are clear. What I would like to tell voters in Mont Buxton is that I am not going to implement a project more than once. I believe that we need to have better planning among the different agencies involved in carrying out a particular project. In the past we have had to wait for a long time for certain projects to start and there instances where money have been spent but the project has never seen the light of day. We also have projects that have started and are still ongoing for more than 15 years. For me it doesn’t matter if I get to implement one project per year, as in five years I would have implemented at least five projects, which will not have to be redone.
SNA: How have you seen the pre-campaign period?
GP: I do not think that it has been fair, in the sense that those who were aware of the date of the elections had the advantage of starting their campaign beforehand. I believe that when the referee blows the whistle at the starting line, we should all start the race together.
SNA: You are contesting this election against well-established political parties and other independent candidates on the political. How do you find your chances of actually winning a seat in the National Assembly?
GP: That is an interesting question. If I was not confident, honestly, I would not have made this move. I have made this decision because I am confident and feel that the people of Mont Buxton are behind me. My confidence lies in the fact that I have been a resident of Mont Buxton my entire life and I have worked hard for the district. I have been present during different circumstances be it natural disasters, cleaning up, emergency and also during the good times.
Furthermore, I have been around working with Parti Lepep for many years and this visibility and popularity is still there. Therefore, I am very confident that I am considered as the ideal candidate because I am not affiliated with any political parties.
I am aware that it would be very difficult for me to work as an independent candidate, but I do not believe in the word impossible. If I have a voice and the issues that I put forward as the district’s representative in the assembly are acknowledged, I will be more than satisfied.
SNA: Going into an election can be costly. Do you have any financial backing or you are self-funding your campaign?
GP: Georgie Prudence is standing as an independent candidate for Mont Buxton with zero financial support at his disposal. I would be very happy to receive some support but up until now this has not happened. I have paid for everything from my deposit to register as a candidate, printing of posters for billboards, my political spots for radio and television and other campaign materials that I need for this election. The only financial support received was from one of my supporters who offered to pay one third of the printing cost for my billboard posters.
SNA: What difference could an independent voice make in the assembly?
GP: An independent voice is not corrupt and is not influenced by any tendencies. An independent voice, I believe, is the strongest voice in the assembly. My role in the National Assembly is to be fair. I will not be taking any sides, otherwise I would have stayed with Parti Lepep or I would have crossed the floor. I prefer to be neutral. It is very difficult but I have decided to take on the challenge and I am determined to do what is best for Seychelles and for our democracy.
I hope that the other two independent candidates perform well and I hope to see more independent candidates in future elections to move forward our country’s democratic process.
However, let me reiterate that independent candidates should not stand alone. If elected as a member of the National Assembly, the first motion that I will put forward is to have a budget that supports the financing of independent candidates for their political campaigns which is not the case at the moment. It is as if they are telling me to stay away and not to participate, without considering that I might have what it takes to be part of the country’s progress.
That is why we are in a situation where we are looking everywhere for teachers, nurses and other medical professionals. If we paid attention to the education and qualifications of our intellectuals this would have made a significant difference to the economy instead of seeing a lot of foreign exchange leaving the country. The amount of foreign exchange going out of the country today is more than what is actually coming in. So, as an Independent candidate in the National Assembly, these are some of the issues that I will try and address, if I get elected.
SNA: What is your message for the Seychellois voters?
GP: People should not be afraid because they will cast their vote through secret ballot. Do not be afraid to express your opinions, go into the elections and make your choice. Vote peacefully, go home and wait for the results. Whoever win let them celebrate in peace and most importantly respect each other’s opinions. I believe that the Seychellois nation is highly respecful, it’s in our culture, so let us practice this respect for one another.
SNA: What is your expectation/prediction for the elections?
GP: I believe that it is going to be a very tight battle compared to previous elections.
The Vice President of the Union of the Comoros, Mr. Djaffar Ahmed Said Hassani, also in charge of the tourism portfolio, recently received Mrs. Anne Lafortune, Seychelles Principal Secretary for Tourism, at his Office in Moroni, Comoros.
The Seychelles Principal Secretary for Tourism who was on Comoros Island representing Minister Alain St.Ange, the Minister for Tourism and Culture, at the third edition of Indian Ocean Food and Culture Festival, an event held in collaboration with the Vanilla Island Association of which Seychelles is a founding member, met with the Vice President to discuss possible tourism cooperation between the Seychelles and the Comoros. The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the possibility of signing an MOU between the two countries as well as the continued cooperation of the Indian Ocean Islands within the concept of their Vanilla Islands grouping.
The Vice President, who has only recently been appointed, mentioned during the meeting that Comoros looks up to the Seychelles Tourism industry and is impressed with the advancement of its tourism development, and through an agreement, he is hoping to receive some technical assistance from Seychelles. He firmly believes that the Comoros has the potential to further develop its tourism industry and improve its tourism products and is making this a top priority during his mandate.
The Vice President has expressed his intention to have an official visit to the Seychelles for further discussion with the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Alain St.Ange. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture will be extending to the Vice President an official invitation for the 31st edition of the Creole Festival to be held in October 2016.
During his time in Seychelles, the Vice President will also take the opportunity to meet with other ministries, as he also holds the portfolio for Economy, Planning, Industry, Energy, Handicraft, Investment, Private Sector, and Land Affairs.
A greater participation of the Seychellois people is what an opposition coalition -- Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) is proposing to voters as it prepares to contest upcoming parliamentary elections set for September 8 to 10 in Seychelles.
LDS with a line-up of four women and 21 men is among three political parties fielding candidates vying for the 25 directly elected seats in the National Assembly.
LDS was formed mainly by members of four existing opposition parties -- the Seychelles National Party (SNP), Lalyans Seselwa (Seychellois Alliance), the Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy (SPSD) and the Seychelles United Party (SUP).
The Leader of LDS Roger Mancienne talks to SNA about changes his party would like to see in the National Assembly as well as LDS’ confidence of winning a majority.
SNA: Firstly, what is LDS proposing to the Seychellois voters?
RM: There is much talk about change. Change represents a new vision for a government. A government that is more open to the people, where there is more participation in the National Assembly, allowing the institution to fully play its role within the system.
In the past, the assembly was more of a "symbolic" institution, which should not be the case. The Assembly should be a place where exchange of ideas takes place, to then find the best compromise for the Seychellois people.
We want to see an assembly that is independent from the executive system and that can allow for the people’s contribution.
SNA: LDS is a coalition of four main parties which independently contested the first round of presidential elections in 2015. How did LDS manage to combine the four parties’ ideas into one manifesto?
RM: It was not too difficult. There were differences of opinion, but we agreed on the key points. We have tried to focus on what we have in common, find a compromise and have been able to come up with a manifesto. It was not that complicated.
SNA: ‘Fer li ou lasanble’ [Make it your assembly]. Why this theme for the party’s campaign?
I have spoken about participation and the fact that the National Assembly should be the voice of the Seychellois people and where there is more involvement.
There are two possibilities. One is that members of parliament can directly represent the interests of the people and remain open to the proposals of the population.
But we also have another proposal where individuals and organizations may also take part in the debates. For example if you have a community that is involved with a particular legislation then it may also come to express its views to the assembly.
There is also the possibility of transforming the assembly into a committee where it shall hear the different points of view.
SNA: Should LDS wins a majority in the National Assembly how will it work with the government?
RM: We do recognize the responsibility and authority of the executive, as well as its role and duties. However the possibility exists for the assembly to play a complementary role in governance. I believe that if there is mutual respect, we are ready to respect the role and responsibilities of the government on moving something forward.
SNA: During the last parliamentary elections in 2011 the main opposition boycotted the elections. Does LDS believe in voters’ confidence in the opposition?
RM: Our absence in the National Assembly was part of a strategy. That does not mean the entire strategy has worked because we were looking for something. Our absence was aimed at pressing for electoral reforms. The strategy has worked, but on the other hand when you are not in the assembly, you do not have a voice, you are away from the public eye. However, we continued to work through our publications, and in the districts. Generally speaking, we do not think the absence has affected us, I believe it has allowed us to take a step back and come back with a different approach.
SNA: If LDS wins a majority what would be the first decisions/measures taken?
RM: The first thing we will do relates to the functioning of the National Assembly and this will come before starting with our programme.
We will have to explain to people what is expected of them and how we will work. As you already know we want the assembly to have more weekly sittings.
There will be a specific day to consider new bills....a day will be set aside for motions and another for questions raised to the government.
SNA: There’s been a sudden rise in the number of people coming onto the political scene and forming political parties. How does LDS view such development?
RM: Political commitment is something positive, but the situation we are facing today in Seychelles is that we have political manipulation because other parties are not frank.
The honest and sincere participation is normal, because we have the freedom of expression. But we must not do so in a way that sees a group controlling other smaller parties, because this is what’s happening.
SNA: What is your prediction for the upcoming parliamentary elections?
RM: I am convinced that we will do very well.
SNA: More than two-thirds?
RM: No, I do not think [we will win] more than two-thirds but most certainly a majority.
SNA: What makes you so sure?
RM: We believe that since the 2015 [presidential] elections, we have surpassed an important milestone of 50 percent [support] of the Seychellois population. With the important work that we have done, I think we’ve reached even higher and we believe we will have a comfortable majority in the National Assembly.