Seychelles’ President, Wavel Ramkalawan has given his assent to the 10th amendment of the Constitution which is to alter the provisions of the Constitution relevant to the Defence Forces.
This gives the right to the Seychelles Defence Forces to enforce domestic law in relation to public security, environmental protection and maritime security.
Effectively, the amendment gives the fifth function to the military and enables it to work alongside the Seychelles Police outside of states of emergency.
Before signing the new law, President Ramkalawan thanked all the people working on the 10th amendment of the Constitution.
“An amendment that provoked lots of debates from all strata of society. I am happy that there were several consultations on different levels. Since my election as President and having two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly, I always said that anytime there is a change in the Constitution, there will be proper consultations and debates. Consultation does not mean that everybody agrees but the final decision rests with the government.”
As President of the Republic, he also reassured the population not to be afraid of this new amendment.
“Firstly, the amendment changes the name of Seychelles People’s Defence Forces to Seychelles Defence Forces. This is a chance to show how our defence forces are progressing. Today Seychellois are proud of their defence forces. I want to reassure the public that the changes will also include new symbols for the SDF. Secondly, this amendment in the Constitution makes clear what is the role of the SDF and its power regarding public security, protection of the environment, and maritime security among others. The defence forces are not replacing the police; it is the police that ensures peace and security in the country and the defence forces have other responsibilities. But whenever it is necessary, the police force can invite the defence forces to assist and it should be legal and follow all the laws of the country.”
President Ramkalawan reiterated the fact that a member of a defence force has to follow a legal order from the Commander in Chief or his superior and also, and he has to use a reasonable amount of force.
“The country is going through some difficult times and we need to return peace and order for the community,” concluded Mr President.
Attorney General Frank Ally explained that the “Constitutional Review Committee of 2008 recommended that article 163 of the Constitution be amended to crystalize the functions and powers of the Defence Forces. The Constitutional Review Committee on page 56 of its report recommended that — “. . . given the vast extent of the EEZ of Seychelles and our limited resources, [it is recommended that] article 163 (1) be amended to allow the use of the Defence Forces to police and enforce our laws in those waters where Seychelles has jurisdiction. The Defence Forces could thus be used [to] protect the waters against pirates and to prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs into Seychelles.
“In this regard, the government is seeking to make it clear in the Constitution that the Defence Forces can exercise powers to enforce any written law in relation to matters such as public security, environmental protection, maritime security or maritime zones.
“Mostly everyone in Authority has spoken about this amendment. They reassured the public that there is nothing to fear. It is not a Constitutional amendment that has been passed and we will find the officers of the SDF patrolling the streets. They already are doing some work enforcing the law when they arrest a boat in our EEZ,” shared AG Ally.
To recall, when the Defence (Amendment) Bill was published in the Official Gazette on May 5, 2022, the Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi, voiced concerns about the 10th amendment of the Constitution of Seychelles – as did a non-governmental organisation the Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (Arid). One of the reasons for concern expressed by Tirant-Ghérardi is that the separation of civil policing from the role of the military occurred for fundamental reasons that Seychelles valued as a cornerstone of the Third Republic democracy.
The ceremony was attended by Vice-President Ahmed Afif; Speaker of the National Assembly Roger Mancienne; Chief Justice Rony Govinden; Attorney General Frank Ally; the leader of Government Affairs in the National Assembly Bernard Georges; the Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi; the Commissioner of Police Ted Barbe; and the Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier Michael Rosette