Our islands – our heritage
by Wavel Ramkalawan
Leader of the Opposition
On Saturday the Islands Committee of the National Assembly visited Farquahar Atoll. This was the first visit the Committee undertook as part of its mission to cover as many islands as possible in order to make assessments and recommendations to the National Assembly and to the government on how we see the future of the islands. Accompanied by the Chairman of the IDC Board, Mr. Patrick Berlouis, the CEO, Mr. Savy and a board member, Mr. Patrick Lablache, the 7 member Committee made its way to the most southern atoll of the archipelago.
As we circled over North Island, it was obvious that cyclone Fantalla had hit that island mercilessly. Only a few coconut trees were still standing. Casuarina trees were all on the ground. The same disaster was repeated on South Island. As we landed, one could only feel sadness to see such a beautiful island in such a state. I had been there in 1993, and there was nothing of these memories of the lush vegetation, the village and the manager’s residence that was still in existence – except the cross next to the pier. Yes, the cross had survived the 350 km per hour assault of Fantalla. It had conquered, and as a Christian, I felt proud of being a follower of the cross.
The destruction brought home the fragility of the beautiful nature we cherish as Seychellois. What is referred to as paradise can in fact be destroyed at the blink of an eye. Thus the need for us to protect and preserve what we have and ensure that we make the most of them.
The reconstruction of the infrastructure has started, but obviously it will take some time before the island is operational again. As the country seeks to put in the effort to restore it, it is very important at the same time for all stakeholders, principally the people of Seychelles to feel part of it.
After the visit, I personally believe there are certain things that need to change in the way things are done.
Above all transparency needs to become the operative word. The secrecy of the past has to disappear. The people of Seychelles need to know what is happening. This is one of the main purposes of this Assembly Committee. For example, all developments happening have to be made public and our people need to know how they can participate in the development of the islands or how they can visit and enjoy these beautiful and peaceful places. The people need to feel that the whole territory of Seychelles belongs to them. When this happens, I also believe we shall all feel part of its protection for the future generations.
On Farquahar, we were given detailed explanations of the redevelopment of the island, the plans for economic exploitation and the preservation of its beauty. The strategic location of the atoll was clearly understood by all of us. It is so close to Madagascar and the fauna is so rich, that automatically, it could easily become subject to over exploitation.
I realize that there are a number of issues that the Committee will raise that will not please everyone. Already the mention of sea cucumber harvesting has raised some eyebrows. What all of us have to realize is that given that this is one activity that is happening in our waters, the concerned authorities will have to address the sustainability of this activity. I am not an expert, and this is where the SFA will have to come in and tell us where the country stands in relation to this resource. After all, like all other marine resources, it is finite, and without proper supervision, it can disappear. We just have to bear in mind that West Africa has over exploited its tuna and today all the purse seiners have moved, leaving their ocean empty.
I stress on the fact that the islands are part of our heritage and we all have a share in its development and future. May this first visit be the start of a most exciting adventure as we redefine how our islands will help boost our economy while the people of Seychelles enjoy what was given to them by the Creator himself.
I look forward to the task given to us by the National Assembly.
Source: LSH 2-24-17