Speaking to the press soon after his two-hour budget address on Friday 9th December, 2016 in the National Assembly, the Minister for Finance, Trade and Economic Planning, Dr. Peter Larose explained that the theme for the budget is ‘Inclusive Development – Opportunities for All’ which simply means that everybody’s welfare will be taken care of – explaining that ‘It is a people’s budget, it is an all-Seychellois budget, inclusive and where nobody is left behind.’
Of course in order for his budget to take effect it had to be approved by the National Assembly where at the moment the Opposition Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) has a comfortable majority (19 seats) over the ruling Party (Parti Lepep) (14 seats) which means that the legislature could in fact paralyzed the functioning of Government and withhold funds to pay for essential services and to keep a functioning civil service. Thus the ‘business as usual’ atmosphere could disappear and be replaced by a period of uncertainties with many hanging question marks. For those in favour of internal stability and peaceful changes, this is of course a disturbing situation.
Today (Saturday 7th January, 2017), the Government has been given some comfort by the National Assembly approving some allocations that could apparently cover cost implications of various sectors for a period of at least four months. Therefore, nobody can accuse the LDS of strangling the Government. Yet the situation remains precarious as the National Assembly has now decided to take a break and resume debates only after the President would have delivered his State of the Nation address on the 14th February, 2017.
In the past by the end of each year, the Government would have obtained budget approval so that against this background the President had before him essential parameters enabling him to deliver a comprehensive State of the Nation address. In the search of national reconciliation and unity, the question must be asked whether it was an enlightened and wise decision to adjourn debates on such important sectors as Tourism, National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and SENEA for consideration and further debates only after the State of the Nation address.
I have personally, like most Seychellois, over recent weeks spent several hours listening to the debates in the National Assembly over a whole range of issues and have been surprised by what I have learnt with respect to misfeasance, malfeasance, corrupt practices, negligent performance, lack of transparency and accountability in the context of the governance of the Nation. There is no excuse for that and President Faure is right in his determination to put things right under his presidency. However, the Opposition should also accept the fact that they have contributed to the accumulation of the ‘ugly picture’ by boycotting the National Assembly for almost five years. The National Assembly is an institution within a democratic structure not only to legislate but also to provide checks and balances over Executive actions on a year to year basis mostly through the process of the budget session. In our situation, the last four budgets adopted by the Government took place in an atmosphere of no check and balance as no member of the Opposition was there to provide the check and balance which the Constitution expected from them – of course it being accepted and recognized that at all times the sois disant Opposition Leader Mr David Pierre was no more than a good actor discharging the role of Leader of Opposition.
A Constitution can create many flaws and reflect many deficiencies despite the good faith and goodwill behind those who drafted it. In fact, no Nation is totally at peace with the Constitution under which it is at this time operational. This is no more better reflected than in the current awkward political situation prevailing in the USA since President-elect Donald Trump started to question various instruments of State policy. In fact, many people are thinking about ‘upsetting’ his election by trying to find a constitutional way for new elections. If after all these years of democratic functioning, the USA is facing such a disturbing time, it should not be unexpected that our young Nation is itself facing such political quagmire at this juncture of its history.
In the Oxford Dictionary, there is a word called filibustering. Filibuster is defined as ‘the obstruction of progress in a Legislative Assembly especially by prolonged speaking.’ Three years ago, I was visiting Washington D.C. when for several days the Obama Administration was paralyzed for lack of funds over several days because one member of Congress opposing the Presidential budget demand, made a speech lasting, if my recollection is correct, more than 48 hours. He was for several hours speaking in a Congressional Hall which had been vacated by most other Congressmen but under the prevailing Congressional rules and regulations, nobody could stop him from making his address for as long as he wished. To think that such farcical situation can arise within the context of the US Constitution where one Congressman could strangled the Federal Government and deny it the funds required for functioning is ridiculous and ludicrous, and this under a Constitution which has supposedly endured the test of time.
No doubt Donald Trump is getting considerable support from those who wish to see him operating outside the established system. Sadly and worryingly, Mr Trump has not been able to tell us more about his alternative system.