President Wavel Ramkalawan held his final live press conference for 2022 at the State House on Tuesday evening.
Journalists from media houses in the western Indian Ocean island state discussed a variety of issues including the government’s plans to introduce a new tracking system to avoid hikers getting lost.
Visitors continually keep getting lost on the island of La Digue, which is costing the government dearly, “it is costing the police department, fire brigade and the military’s budgets” as well as setting up rescue teams to find them, said the President.
Government will be working with the Department of Information Communication and Technology to introduce a new system through which people going on the trails will be given a bracelet with satellite links.
“Hopefully when the visitors are going on the trails, they will agree to take one of the bracelets with them,” explained Ramkalawan.
Ramkalawan also revealed plans of “acquiring thermal cameras used on drones” using the hikers body heat “to better focus on where to look for them at night”.
Press freedom and freedom of expression
When asked of the recent issues concerning treatment of the press in the country, Ramkalawan explained that there is no conflict between the government and the media.
“We have a very good relationship with the media,” he said, detailing that he had a meeting with members of the Association of Media Practitioners of Seychelles (AMPS), right before its peaceful protest held late last month.
“We have a very good relationship,’ he stressed.
However, he went on to say that in the spirit of freedom of expression, everyone must recognise that they will be criticised.
“It has come to a point in this country that we need to know what freedom of expression really means, and how we should express ourselves,” he said.
Seychelles Independent uninvited to press conference
Still on the subject of freedom of expression, Ramkalawan also gave an explanation as to why The Seychelles Independent newspaper editor Ralph Volcere and journalist Joanna Nicette were not invited to the press conference.
“In our latest meeting with AMPS we talked about defamatory comments on social media – which is a concern for both parties,” he said.
Ramkalawan said that this is because the publication is considered “like another form of Facebook” where there are many defamatory remarks published.
“I took the decision that I would not entertain another format like Facebook,” he said.
He said that these were steps to moving towards “a more serious media”.
The Seychelles Independent has been present at all presidential press conferences since the new administration took office in October 2020.
SNA spoke to Ralph Volcere on Wednesday, who said the paper “totally rejects the allegations of calumny and defamation on its part and challenges the President and any others who have articles that are defamatory to come forward.”
Volcere said that so far there have been no complaints at the Seychelles Media Commission, where such matters are discussed.
“The President took an arbitrary decision in not inviting us to the press conference which we see as a violation of our right to expression, to have an opinion and goes further to violate our right to earn a living.”
Volcere and Nicette will challenge this decision, the editor said.
Mayoral elections postponed to 2025
Ramkalawan said that both caucuses in the National Assembly have made proposals and are discussing “whether we need an election at this moment that we are in as is proposed on the Bill or we can use the same format until the next elections in 2025. Then we will hold elections for the President, the National Assembly as well as for the Mayor of Victoria.”
Moratorium on foreigners buying land will not be lifted
Foreign nationals in Seychelles are currently not permitted by law to buy plots of land in residential areas due to a moratorium.
A journalist noted that the director-general for the Seychelles Intelligence Service, Benediste Hoareau, recently raised a warning that the foreigners owned large plots of land in the country. Ramkalawan reaffirmed that his government would not lift the current moratorium “so that Seychellois would be able to purchase land and that it would also drive down the costs” of owning property.
Revision of the Employment Act
The government plans to pass the new Employment Act as of next year.
“There will be extensive consultations as we work on it, as this is probably one of the most important laws we will pass,” said Ramkalawan.
He went on to explain that it will have an impact on everyone and hoped that “everyone gives their input.”