Seychelles tourism industry frustrated: Assumption Island may soon have a military base 

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Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) is one of the two first underwater films shot by Jean Yves Cousteau, and this one was filmed on our very own Assumption Island, Seychelles. The underwater world of this island became the dream location for this Cousteau film. He was to have filmed at Aldabra, but the underwater turbulence compelled him and his team to anchor the “Calypso” just next door at Assumption.

While reputed filmmakers appreciate and distinctly remember the beauty of this island, some of our own Nationals may need some reminding. The Government of Seychelles have entered into an agreement with India to erect a Military Base on Assumption Island. Peaceful protests to this agreement are still rampant in the town of Victoria, with many Seychellois gathering weekly to sign and circulate petitions to dissuade the Government from going ahead with this agreement, especially given that the UNESCO world heritage site, namely Aldabra, is a mere stone’s throw away from Assumption Island. It would appear that approximately 8 out of every 10 Seychellois oppose the proposed military base on Assumption Island, and the 120,000 thousand plus signatures already recorded on the petition opposing that base speak for themselves.

The continued battle to preserve Assumption Island has been construed by a cynical few as political manoeuvring. They are lacking the ‘grandeur d’esprit’ to accept that Seychelles still has a very large number of committed and patriotic Seychellois determined to do all what is necessary to protect their islands. It needs to be pointed out for all to appreciate that NO ONE is pointing a finger at India – the effect would be the same regardless of which super power contracted to erect a military base on one of our islands, especially one so close to Aldabra.

The Government of Seychelles actively promotes our Blue Economy in the media, but little is being said about the impact that the erection of a military base on Assumption Island and the increased vessel traffic in the area would have on the coral reefs surrounding the island. Seychellois divers are doing all they can to educate the Authorities, the National Assembly Members and the population as a whole, that Assumption Island is worth protecting; we cannot afford to damage any more reefs in our territorial waters (Mahe is a prime example of where extensive construction and reclamation projects have been relentlessly carried out, all but destroying snorkelling opportunities around the island).

Aldabra, the unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, is but 20 odd nautical miles from Assumption Island, and increased Military traffic cannot be seen as a plus to this protected Atoll. The risks of oil spillage so close to Aldabra are sure to increase.

A referendum on the matter is being called for to give the People of Seychelles a say before our small Nation throws away its Non Aligned principle which resulted in Seychelles being the “friends of all and enemies of none” since 29th June 1976.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.