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Fisheries deal between Seychelles and EU expected to be signed in February, officials say

A new sustainable fisheries partnership agreement and protocol between Seychelles and the European Union (EU) is expected to be signed during the second half of February, officials said Monday. The Minister responsible for fisheries, Charles Bastienne, tol
Seychelles News Agency

Fisheries deal between Seychelles and EU expected to be signed in February, officials say

A new sustainable fisheries partnership agreement and protocol between Seychelles and the European Union (EU) is expected to be signed during the second half of February, officials said Monday. The Minister responsible for fisheries, Charles Bastienne, told a news conference that negotiations for the new agreement were completed in October, and that Seychelles is now awaiting the EU's final approval before signing the agreement. «We are waiting for the EU council to approve the legal text of the agreement which is a long and thorough process and this has resulted in the delay. That is why it hasn't been implemented and the EU-flagged vessels cannot conduct their activities in Seychelles' waters,» explained Bastienne. The previous agreement expired on January 16 and a new one was expected to have been signed by now. The sustainable fisheries partnership agreement is a longstanding cooperation agreement between Seychelles and the EU. It enables EU vessels to fish in the waters under the jurisdiction of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The French Ambassador to Seychelles, Dominique Mas, told SNA that in the absence of a new agreement, the EU-flagged vessels are not allowed to fish in Seychelles' jurisdiction, so they are leaving to fish in international waters. «If it goes on for a couple of weeks it will not have a major impact on the sector. However, if they take longer to sign the agreement this will definitely have an impact on the fishermen,» said Mas. Forty EU vessels are licensed to fish in Seychelles' waters but there are 27 active vessels, mostly Spanish and French purse seiners. He added that the EU Council is expected to meet in the second half of next month when the agreement is expected to be ready then for signing. The European Union has given Seychelles a provisional date of February 16 or 17 for the council to give its green light for the signing of the agreement. «Immediately after that the vessels will be able to resume their fishing activities,» said Bastienne. Bastienne said once the agreement is signed vessels can resume their fishing activities. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY  On its part, the EU explained that the procedure is a long one and goes through 78 steps. EU's Ambassador to Seychelles, Vincent Degert, said the signing and the ratification could take place between February 15 and 28. As for the ratification of the protocol, Bastienne said the document will go before the National Assembly once everything is signed. «The purse seiners will still be able to fish in Seychelles' waters without the ratification of the National Assembly because there is a provisional application pending ratification. What is important is that the agreement has been signed. The ratification will be done at a later date,» he added. Meanwhile the chairperson of the International Affairs Committee in the National Assembly, Jean-Francois Ferrari, has expressed his dismay over the situation. Ferrari said in a communique that «LDS (Linyon Demokratik Seselwa) as a political party and as a country, we feel let down by both our government and the European Union ... We have become the slave of their crippling bureaucracy.» He added that it has been more than six months since the International Affairs Committee in the National Assembly requested to be part of the negotiations. «We were confident that if we were brought into the negotiations, we would be able to push for a better agreement in time to replace the old one». However, he said, the LDS majority in the National Assembly will ratify the new agreement even if it is far from perfect. «Because we know how important it is for our country and our workers in the fishing industry. Bring the agreement tomorrow and we will ratify it,» he said. Minister Bastienne confirmed that as a result of the delay, the $55 million in access fees that are paid in advance to the Seychelles government will also be delayed.

Britain's Prince Harry expresses 'great sadness' at royal split

Britain's Prince Harry expressed «great sadness» on Sunday at he and his wife Meghan being stripped of their royal titles as part of a historic separation settlement with the Queen. But he said he saw no other way out but to give up his royal rol
Seychelles News Agency

Britain's Prince Harry expresses 'great sadness' at royal split

Britain's Prince Harry expressed «great sadness» on Sunday at he and his wife Meghan being stripped of their royal titles as part of a historic separation settlement with the Queen. But he said he saw no other way out but to give up his royal role in search of «a more peaceful life» with his American former actress wife and baby son Archie. «It brings me great sadness that it has come to this,» Harry told supporters of his Africa-based charity in London. His emotional first remarks since the separation were aimed at calming a crisis that has shaken the very foundations of Britain's ancient monarchy. Harry also confessed to some trepidation at taking the momentous step of resigning from daily duties and charting a new life abroad. He said he had always been ready lose the public money that supported his lavish lifestyle but admitted it pained him to have to give up the military titles and patronages he was awarded after serving two tours in Afghanistan with the British Army. He read from prepared remarks and appeared tense as he sought understanding from a nation that has had a soft spot for him since his childhood -- and which now now appeared confused by his decision to leave his royal life behind. «We are taking a leap of faith -- thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step,» he said. The «Megxit» crisis began on January 8 when the couple's plans to seek a «progressive new role» in North America were announced without Queen Elizabeth II's royal assent. «I know I haven't always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option,» Harry said. - 'Absolutely unprecedented' - The couple lost their right to be called «his and her royal highness» (HRH) -- much as Harry's late mother Princess Diana did when she divorced Prince Charles in another family drama that upset the Queen in 1996. They further agreed to repay £2.4 million ($3.1 million) of taxpayer's money spent on renovating their Frogmore Cottage home near Windsor Castle. «No royal has ever paid back money,» former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter wrote in The Sun on Sunday. «It is absolutely unprecedented.» But Arbiter said it was the loss of the HRH «royal highness» abbreviation that really made Palace history. «Even when Edward VIII abdicated (in 1936) he dropped from being His Majesty The King to HRH the Duke of Windsor,» he said. - 'Lost souls' - Few know what Meghan -- a global star with a huge social media following and A-list celebrity friends such as Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas -- thinks of the British brouhaha about ancient acronyms. The 38-year-old frankly admitted on UK television in October that she «really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip.» But she admitted sadly: «That's not the point of life.» Harry has also talked about still being haunted by his mother's death in a 1997 car crash involving a chasing pack of paparazzi. He and Meghan filed a series of lawsuits against UK media outlets in October -- a step that outraged the tabloids and renewed debates about the royals' role in public life. One of these involved a UK paper that published fragments of a private letter Meghan had sent her estranged father Thomas Markle after her Windsor wedding to Harry in May 2018. Thomas told Britain's Channel 5 over the weekend that he found Meghan's decision to quit the royals «embarrassing». «I think both of them are turning into lost souls,» her father said. - 'The Queen isn't sure' - The expensive lawsuits and the possibility that they might have to start paying for their top-notch security detail raise the immediate question of how they will make ends meet. The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that Prince Charles would probably continue paying his son some money from his private income for the next year. Harry has undisclosed millions of pounds in savings and Meghan has enjoyed a lucrative acting career. She is now also thinking of starting her own line of health and «wellness» products. The Sunday Times asked a royal aide if Harry and Meghan will be able to cash in on the «Sussex Royal» brand they trademarked in December. «That is still one of the areas being worked through,» the royal aide told the paper. «That translates as: 'The Queen isn't at all sure',» The Sunday Times wrote. © Agence France-Presse

New school year in Seychelles brings new steps to state schools' autonomy

The new school year in Seychelles began Monday, bringing with it a new era to public schools as these institutions take steps to become autonomous. The autonomy of the 35 primary and secondary schools form part of the Ministry for Education and Human Resourc
Seychelles News Agency

New school year in Seychelles brings new steps to state schools' autonomy

The new school year in Seychelles began Monday, bringing with it a new era to public schools as these institutions take steps to become autonomous. The autonomy of the 35 primary and secondary schools form part of the Ministry for Education and Human Resources Development's initiative to bring reforms to the public education system. «We are ready to turn to the next phase. We have been talking about schools' autonomy for the last three years and we have agreed that we need to enter in full autonomy,» said President Danny Faure when made the announcement last year. Through this process, these schools will be self-governed with minimal interference from the Ministry. Faure added that «it is important to realise that there are certain norms and practices that will now need to change and that the government will guide them through this process.» The autonomy will give heads of schools, school management teams along with school councils the power to take decisions in regards to minor school reparations, selection, and interview of teachers who will join their schools among others.    Schools will have the power to make decisions for minor reparations among others. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY  «Discipline and teacher management will also be under their responsibility. They would be the ones to establish the barometers for teacher performance and behaviour,» said Jeanne Simeon the Minister for Education. The Ministry will have oversight of the policy under the education act, the implementation and oversight of curriculum, the monitoring of standards as well as the setting of exams. The Ministry will also have the responsibility for the central procurement and the purchasing of equipment and furniture in bulk, construction of new buildings as well as major works to the schools' infrastructures. But the school management and school councils will be accountable for the overall performance. The councils, set up under School Councils (Amendment), Regulations 2019 came into force as of January 2020, will act as the governing body of state schools. Their overall goal is to enhance student performance. But how independent are state schools? Marc Arrisol of Mont Fleuri Secondary feels that this autonomy comes with too many restrictions. «Say I am having issues with staff, staff management and I have taken all measures as per policy but still am not getting the desired change. I will not be able to take action, as still, this lies with the ministry. For me, autonomy comes with authority and power, but I am not seeing this,» said the headteacher. On his part, Steve Hoareau of English River Secondary school told SNA that all decisions taken will have to be in accordance with the Education Act. «But we will need to use procedures in place and we do not expect the ministry to question our decisions. So I see it in that way, we expect less interference from headquarters on the way we deal with different issues, but most important we must follow the law as the law dictates our practices,» said Hoareau. Christopher Lespoir, the chair of the council of the Plaisance Secondary school said autonomy for schools was long overdue. «The Ministry of Education faces a lot of challenges due to micromanagement as everything was being managed centrally. This led to delays and wastage of resources. Now the schools can run their administration, manage their budget as well as take care of repairs and maintenance. But one thing that all schools should be clear on is that autonomy comes with responsibility.» It was also pointed out that public schools in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - lack so much in terms of resources, and it will take time to attain full autonomy.

Soft coral around 2 Seychelles islands suffered less than feared in 2015-17 warming, study finds

Robust fish populations and a thriving marine ecosystem around two of Seychelles' islands could help the bleached coral reefs there, a new study found. The changes in the type and condition of coral cover on the shallow reefs around D'Arros Island and St Jos
Seychelles News Agency

Soft coral around 2 Seychelles islands suffered less than feared in 2015-17 warming, study finds

Robust fish populations and a thriving marine ecosystem around two of Seychelles' islands could help the bleached coral reefs there, a new study found. The changes in the type and condition of coral cover on the shallow reefs around D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll were documented in a study starting after the global bleaching episode in 2015 and just after raised sea temperatures subsided in 2017. The Save Our Seas Foundation said in a communique on Monday that the conclusions were reported in a publication titled 'Post-bleaching mortality of a remote coral reef community in Seychelles, western Indian Ocean.' The publication which was written by Emily Gadoutsis, a student at the University of York, with support of the Foundation was published in the Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science. The study has helped to show that keeping fish populations stable and well-managed and limiting human disturbance around D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll will go a long way towards helping these coral reefs to recover. Gadoutsis showed that nearly 50 percent of the hard corals around D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll were bleached in 2016, when sea temperatures rose around the world. Many coral reefs, including more than 70 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, were devastated in this global event. While the loss of hard corals around the two islands was extremely distressing, Gadoutsis found something surprising about this remarkable region of the Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. «Soft corals survived, and while many hard corals were lost, the nature of the sea floor's cover didn't completely change. In fact, some of the sites surveyed showed little mortality of corals of any kind. And deeper reefs, experiencing slightly cooler temperatures and covered in the kind of corals that are more resilient to temperature fluctuations, lost less hard coral cover to bleaching,» reported Gadoutsis. Sharks are an indicator of healthy coral reefs. A blacktip reef shark patrols a reef around D'Arros Island. (Ryan Daly/Save Our Seas Foundation) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Clare Daly, a co-author of the paper, said that once data from the whole survey region were analysed «we could see that there was actually potential for recovery in this area and that the results were different from what had happened elsewhere. That was motivating; the kind of impetus one needs to carry on with research. It's hopeful.» Coral bleaching is a phenomenon directly linked to the changing climate, the result of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Reef-building corals in the tropics are colonial animals that are very sensitive to changing temperatures. D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll, situated in the most remote reaches of the Amirantes region, have been relatively protected from overfishing, pollution, poor water quality and coastal development. These are all stressors that would otherwise reduce the resilience of the coral reefs. The newly appointed chief executive of the Save Our Seas Foundation, James Lea, said, «In our increasingly warming world, the future of coral reefs might well rely on there still being a few remote and near-pristine wild places left in our oceans: precious places like D'Arros and St Joseph, where the marine ecosystem is resilient to critical events and corals may still have some form of safe haven.» Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 2003, the Save Our Seas Foundation is a philanthropic organisation aimed at protecting and caring for the world's oceans.

World powers agree new push for Libya peace

World leaders committed Sunday to ending all foreign meddling in Libya's war and to uphold a weapons embargo at a Berlin summit, as part of a broader plan to end the spiralling conflict. The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France were among global chiefs si
Seychelles News Agency

World powers agree new push for Libya peace

World leaders committed Sunday to ending all foreign meddling in Libya's war and to uphold a weapons embargo at a Berlin summit, as part of a broader plan to end the spiralling conflict. The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France were among global chiefs signing up to the plan to stop interfering in the war -- be it through weapons, troops or financing. But the talks failed to deliver «serious dialogue» between the warring parties -- strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj -- or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce. «We have a very disparate situation in Libya, where ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,» said summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel. «But I hope that through today's conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further.» US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that there are «still some questions on how well and effectively» the commitments can be monitored. But he said he is «optimistic that there will be less violence and ... an opportunity to begin the conversation that (UN special envoy) Ghassan Salame has been trying to get going between the Libyan parties». Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Most recently, Sarraj's troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar's forces. Clashes have killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by both Ankara and Moscow was put in place on January 12. Although Sarraj's government is recognised by the UN, powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar -- turning a domestic conflict into what some have described as a proxy war in which international powers jostle to secure their own interests. International alarm grew in recent weeks after Turkey ordered in troops to shore up Sarraj's government. - 'Small step' forward - For UN chief Antonio Guterres, the Libya conflict had spiralled to dangerous proportions in the last days. «Until now we have an escalation of the Libya conflict with some foreign interference. Now we are facing the risk of a true regional escalation. And that risk was averted in Berlin,» he noted, adding that world powers have made «a strong commitment to stop» the perilous spiral. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the Berlin pow-wow, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between Sarraj and Haftar. «It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in launching a serious and stable dialogue between them,» Lavrov told reporters after the Berlin conference, where Haftar and Sarraj did not meet face to face. Nevertheless, the Libyan parties had taken «a small step» forward, Lavrov added. Pro-Haftar forces upped the ante on the eve of the talks by blocking oil exports at Libya's key ports, crippling the country's main income source in protest at Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Sarraj's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Haftar, saying he needed to drop his «hostile attitude» if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace. - Vested interests - The flaring oil crisis underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the conflict, in which Sarraj's GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar while Haftar has the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Russia has been accused of sending in mercenaries to help Haftar as Moscow seeks to extend its influence in the region -- allegations it denies. For Turkey, the fall of Sarraj's GNA could jeopardise a maritime boundary agreement the parties signed. It gives Ankara extensive rights over the eastern Mediterranean where the recent discovery of undersea gas reserves has triggered a scramble by littoral states. Erdogan has repeatedly urged Europe to stand united behind Sarraj's government, warning that Tripoli's fall could allow jihadist groups like the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda to regroup. Further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for Europe, he has cautioned. Amid the latest apparent ceasefire violation in which GNA forces on Sunday accused Haftar's militia of opening fire on them in southern Tripoli, Sarraj issued a plea for international «protection troops». The call echoed a similar suggestion by the EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell, who stressed that monitors must be present to check that any ceasefire and weapons embargo are respected. With the idea gathering pace, Britain and Italy had voiced readiness to help, ahead of a EU foreign ministers' meeting that will discuss how the bloc can contribute to implementing Sunday's deal. But as Guterres noted, that discussion remains premature. «First, we need to have a ceasefire -- we cannot monitor something that doesn't exist.» © Agence France-Presse

China reports 17 new cases of mystery virus

China reported 17 new cases of the mysterious SARS-like virus on Sunday, including three in a severe condition, heightening fears ahead of China's Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of people move around the country. The new coronavirus strain
Seychelles News Agency

China reports 17 new cases of mystery virus

China reported 17 new cases of the mysterious SARS-like virus on Sunday, including three in a severe condition, heightening fears ahead of China's Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of people move around the country. The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Of the 17 new cases in the central city of Wuhan -- believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak -- three were described as «severe», of which two patients were too critical to be moved, authorities said. Those infected range from 30 to 79 years old. The virus has now infected 62 people in Wuhan, city authorities said, with eight in a severe condition, 19 cured and discharged from hospital, and the rest remaining in isolation receiving treatment. Two people have died so far from the virus, including a 69-year-old man who died on Wednesday after the disease caused pulmonary tuberculosis and damaged multiple organ functions. Authorities said they had begun «optimised» testing of pneumonia cases across the city to identify those infected, and would begin «detection work... towards suspected cases in the city» as a next step, as well as carrying out «sampling tests». Scientists with the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London warned in a paper published Friday that the number of cases in the city was likely to be closer to 1,700, much higher than the number officially identified. Authorities said Sunday that some of the cases had «no history of contact» with the seafood market believed to be the centre of the outbreak. No human-to-human transmission has been confirmed so far, but Wuhan's health commission has previously said the possibility «cannot be excluded». Three cases have also been reported overseas -- two in Thailand and one in Japan. - Screening measures - Although there has been no official announcement of screening measures on the mainland, Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexin said on state broadcaster CCTV that infrared thermometers had been installed at airports, railway stations and coach stations across the city. Chen said passengers with fevers were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions, with nearly 300,000 body temperature tests had been carried out, according to CCTV. Authorities in Hong Kong have stepped up detection measures, including rigorous temperature checkpoints for inbound travellers from the Chinese mainland. The US said from Friday it would begin screening direct flights arriving from Wuhan at San Francisco airport and New York's JFK, as well as Los Angeles, where many flights connect. Thailand said it was already screening passengers arriving in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket and would soon introduce similar controls in the beach resort of Krabi. Wuhan is a city of 11 million inhabitants that serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family. © Agence France-Presse

An artist's exhibition in Seychelles stitches 33 pieces together at Eden Art Space Gallery

A German artist who has been visiting Seychelles since 1996 is showcasing a collection of 80 canvases in an exhibition called 'In Sinus'. Birgitt Lubkemann, or Madam Waye Hive as she is known on La Digue, Seychelles' third-most populated island, spent two ye
Seychelles News Agency

An artist's exhibition in Seychelles stitches 33 pieces together at Eden Art Space Gallery

A German artist who has been visiting Seychelles since 1996 is showcasing a collection of 80 canvases in an exhibition called 'In Sinus'. Birgitt Lubkemann, or Madam Waye Hive as she is known on La Digue, Seychelles' third-most populated island, spent two years preparing for her solo exhibition which opened on Saturday at the Eden Art Space gallery. The exhibition organised by Arterial Network Seychelles is designed as a spectacle of light and sound, including the projection of a short film. The exhibition is open until February 14. SNA met Lubkemann to learn more about the exhibition, which is the first one for the year 2020.   SNA: What is for you the highlight of your exhibition? BL: I am hanging up all these canvases with great pride. But this one, 'The Mother Wall,' is a very special creation for me. I think I can call it a puzzle made up of 33 pieces. It has travelled with me from La Digue to Germany, in bars and restaurants as well as in my sleep. For me, putting together the 33 paintings collectively as a whole has taken me a while. The 33 pieces grow together... stand together, and support each other. Each one is part of the whole story, like each one of us has our own stories. Out of the 80 paintings, there are also two to which I am emotionally attached and would be sad to lose them. The first is my holy ghost 'Spiritual Sanctus,' a small friend who sits behind the canvas when I paint, and then there is 'Aladdin' which is a piece of my soul where my very own colours live and smile at me like the good genie.« Lubkemann planning layout of her exhibition. (Arterial Network Seychelles) Photo License: CC-BY   SNA: How important is La Digue island in your Art? BL: La Digue is this contact to the old rocks, above and beneath the ocean waters, through the waves, through people travelling between them on boats, in planes  La Digue is vital to my work. The island and its people inspire my paintings about life experiences and renewed observations.   SNA: Tell us about the short video on your programme BL: I was taking pictures of a friend at Petite Anse on La Digue on this beautiful day. Always connected to the rocks, the sea and the waves I wanted to capture still photos of my friend in this magical décor. But by accident, I pressed the slow-motion record button on my camera and involuntarily made a video of the surroundings as well as the general ambience around Petite Anse. After viewing the shots I was struck by discovering another form of my special connection to the rocks of La Digue. I called the edit 'The rhythm of the tides'. This video did not only record the afternoon with my friends but found out that it also connected to the creative process of the paintings I was totally involved with. There was rhythm as the planet and its vibrations through waves that hold us together 'In Sinus'-- in perfect harmony».     SNA: You seem enthusiastic and energetic rather than the cliché of the pensive and cynical artist. BL: The reason I am enthusiastic, energetic is that I am not afraid to make mistakes! I refuse to see the negative in people and this has led to inner injuries for sure. But I am strong enough to adjust myself and get up to face the next wall.    This applies to my paintings even though I recognise the familiar lines, waves, forms and colours I have to preserve to discover and express some personal truth. Sometimes I dare use a colour that I don't like at all just to see what comes out. The artist is showcasing a collection of 80 canvases in an exhibition called 'In Sinus'. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   SNA: What does painting represent for you? BL:  I am a learner and will always be. I can lose myself while painting and my brush is a vehicle for this trip back to shared roots and origins. It is a window to the other side, to 'l'Autre rive' as Alpha Blondie would sing it. We live to explore, to find out why we are here. It is impossible for me to think that we are here to be angry and disappointed and waiting for the show to end. You have to jump over the fence of life and see the other side and then give this experience a form, my brush and colours are the gateways to this experience. So, to me the artist is someone who follows this inner urge to create and innovate, to find different angles of seeing the world, to find meaning and come closer to real things. This needs a certain distance from the real world. The secret is finding the courage to jump over the reality fence and come back to wrap up and share what you saw with whatever medium you have, be it music or poetry, and you will know when it's done! So, I am grateful for each and every experience from the darkest shadow to the brightest light, as you need every hue for the full range, for a rich life."

New ‘Miss Seychelles the National Pageant’ plans winners to be more involved in communities, charity

The Miss Seychelles beauty pageant is back this year and the new organisers are planning the event for June. The contest is expected to be held every two years to allow winners to be more involved in communities and charitable activities. Stephanie Duval o
Seychelles News Agency

New ‘Miss Seychelles the National Pageant’ plans winners to be more involved in communities, charity

The Miss Seychelles beauty pageant is back this year and the new organisers are planning the event for June. The contest is expected to be held every two years to allow winners to be more involved in communities and charitable activities. Stephanie Duval of the newly formed organisation Beauty Empowerment Seychelles (BES) told SNA on Monday that the absence of Miss Seychelles over the last two years is one of the main reasons the group has decided to bring back the pageant. “The legal name that has been registered for the pageant is ‘Miss Seychelles the National Pageant’,” explained Duval, adding that “the pageant is different from the previous ones because training has been carefully structured and will be conducted by the most respected people in the relevant fields.” According to Duval, who is the chairperson of the group, the public can expect to see a super progressive behind-the-scene team.  "And as for the contestants, the finest that Seychelles has to offer in terms of personality, beauty, and brains.” Duval explained that the team behind this year’s pageant includes former beauty pageant contestants and winners as well as those who have experienced in organising pageants such as the Miss Seychelles Plus. The legal name that has been registered for the pageant is ‘Miss Seychelles the National Pageant’, (Miss Seychelles the National Pageant, Facebook) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  The Miss Seychelles beauty pageant is the oldest pageant organised in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Its first edition was held in 1969, and throughout the years the event has been inconsistent and not organized annually as it was supposed to be. In 2012, after an absence of three years, the pageant was relaunched by the Seychelles Tourism Board as the Miss Seychelles... another world Beauty Pageant. The aim was to highlight the high standards of feminine beauty and elegance found in the islands. In 2017, when it was last held, the pageant was organised by the Creative Industries and National Events Agency (CINEA). Its chief executive Galen Bresson told SNA that it is best that the private sector takes the lead in the organization of such an event. “In any event, we look at its benefits, unfortunately in this case, we cannot see that, yes it brings emancipation of the women but what it really does for the country?” explained Bresson,“ it does not bring prominence to the country.” Bresson added: ”When we went to China, Miss Seychelles lost her visibility and became a Miss World contestant, just adding to the numbers and when we look at the voting trend it is more on a digital platform. Looking at our voting capacity it is so farfetched that we will ever be able to get anywhere in the Miss World.” The chief executive said that as the pageant itself has a commercial value locally, the private sector is best to push that aspect forward. The venue of the Miss Seychelles the National Pageant is yet to be revealed but Duval said organisers are targeting up to 15 participants aged 18 to 26. “We want to empower them so that they can empower those around them and help make positive changes in their respective communities.” remarked the chairperson. “Contestants will leave the pageant enlightened and enabled to make their dreams come true. The journey will be an unbelievable one for the contestants as there is a freshness of ideas that will certainly make this pageant stand out,” said Duval. Potential contestants can email secretariat.seychelles@gmail.com to register. The winner will compete in an international pageant, however, discussion on which International pageant it is going to be is still ongoing.

Record 45 million need urgent food aid in southern Africa: UN

Roughly 45 million people in southern Africa are in urgent need of food aid as a result of drought, flooding and economic hardship, the UN said Thursday. «This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to g
Seychelles News Agency

Record 45 million need urgent food aid in southern Africa: UN

Roughly 45 million people in southern Africa are in urgent need of food aid as a result of drought, flooding and economic hardship, the UN said Thursday. «This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,» World Food Programme (WFP) regional director Lola Castro said in a statement. The agency warned that it had secured only $205 million (184 million euros) of the $489 million it requires, saying families across the region were already skipping meals, taking children out of school, selling off precious assets and falling into debt to stave off agricultural losses. In southern Africa as a whole -- where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the world -- people are experiencing the worst drought in 35 years, according to the UN. Low growth, rising population, drought and floods have combined to worsen food insecurity in the region. «If we don’t receive the necessary funding, we'll have no choice but to assist fewer of those most in need, and with less,» Castro said. The worst-hit countries were Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Nearly half of Zimbabwe's 15 million people live in a state of chronic food insecurity, according to UN figures. Wildlife has also suffered, with over 200 elephants having starved to death in Zimbabwe in just three months last year. Twenty percent of the population in drought-stricken Lesotho and about 10 percent of Namibians are also suffering from food insecurity. In October, Zambia's Red Cross flagged that drought had left an estimated 2.3 million people facing «severe food insecurity». Zambia was long known as the region's breadbasket but a recurring drought has cut water reserves at the hydroelectric dam of Kariba, the main source of energy of Zambia. Across the region, women and children are bearing the brunt of the difficulties. Meanwhile, experts have forecast more hot and dry weather in the coming months, auguring another poor harvest. The situation could decline further as the dry season may last longer than usual, affecting the annual cereal harvest in April. The WFP plans to provide lean season assistance to 8.3 million people in areas that are grappling with crisis levels of hunger. It called on the international community to accelerate both emergency assistance to millions of desperately hungry people in southern Africa, and long-term investments to enable the region's vulnerable to withstand the worsening impacts of climate change. The European Commission said on Thursday it was mobilising a humanitarian aid package of €22.8 million to assist with emergency food needs and support vulnerable people in Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. © Agence France-Presse

President of Seychelles says Mohamed bin Zayed University of AI will ‘help and benefit small countries’

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, the world’s first graduate-level, research-based AI university, will «help and benefit small countries,» Danny Faure, the President of Seychelles, told Emirates News Agency, W
Seychelles News Agency

President of Seychelles says Mohamed bin Zayed University of AI will ‘help and benefit small countries’

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, the world’s first graduate-level, research-based AI university, will «help and benefit small countries,» Danny Faure, the President of Seychelles, told Emirates News Agency, WAM. «I am impressed by the UAE’s initiative to establish a university of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, which will bring together students from all over the world,» he said in an exclusive interview. «It is very good that the UAE has taken this initiative because small countries such as Seychelles will benefit from it,» added the president who was in Abu Dhabi this week along with many other world leaders to attend the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). Although Seychelles has an institution for science, technology and innovation, the president thinks that it is not practical to emulate the UAE’s initiative in his country. With an area of 455 square kilometres and a population of around 95,000, Seychelles is a tiny African island nation in the Indian Ocean. «Given the size of my country with limited human resources, instead of trying it our own [Artificial Intelligence education], I think we rely on a country like the UAE. Our excellent bilateral relationship gives us the opportunity to have a partnership with the UAE to allow our students to benefit from this novel initiative,» he said. The top students from Seychelles will come and seize this opportunity, he added. Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), will open for students in September 2020. The university aims to drive excellence in knowledge creation, transfer and use AI to foster economic growth, while positioning Abu Dhabi as a hub for the international AI community. AI-driven transformation has the potential to generate 133 million new jobs globally, as well as contributing significantly to economies and societal development, according to Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, and Chair of the MBZUAI Board of Trustees. Talking about bilateral relations, the President of Seychelles revealed that the UAE pledged support during his visit to build the first rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Seychelles. «The UAE is a strong partner. We enjoy excellent relationship between our two states and of course our peoples. The UAE is a natural partner because it believes in the vision we have for our country,» he said. «Any programme or project we put before the authorities here, the UAE is always supportive.» The Seychelles’ coastguard is receiving support from the UAE to protect its borders, he revealed. The UAE also invests in real estate, renewable energy and tourism sector in Seychelles. «The good relationship with the UAE has helped Seychelles to develop similar ties with other Gulf nations,» Faure emphasised. The 57-year-old politician, who was appointed in 2019 as the African Union Champion on Blue Economy, said, «Most of the African countries now only realised that we have oceans. Their impression was they only had lakes and rivers.» The works done by Seychelles convinced African leaders around two years ago that the small country could be the best place to become a blue economy, he said. The blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem, according to the World Bank. Seychelles will be presenting the first comprehensive strategy on Blue Economy for the African continent in February, the president explained. About Africa’s united efforts for prosperity, Faure said, «Our countries have been fighting each other before. We are a young continent. Now only we have a clear vision: Africa 2063. There is an overall consensus to work harder and develop our environment,» he said. African nations started taking environment seriously just 20 years ago, he added. «We spent a lot of money and time on wars. I think the time has come to work for resources, energy and real development that touches people’s lives.» The president, who attracted global attention for delivering the first live speech from a submersible under the Indian Ocean in April 2019, said it made an impact in terms of raising awareness on ocean conservation. «When we destroy oceans, we destroy humanity, that was the message I wanted to give.» About Seychelles nationals living and working in the Middle East, the president said they started coming to the region in 1950s, beginning with Lebanon and Bahrain. Following Bahraini royal family’s visit to Seychelles, some people got jobs in Bahrain and the relationship further strengthened when the royal family bought properties in Seychelles, he said. He added that the relationship with Lebanon was also excellent but most of Seychelles citizens had to go back home during the Lebanese civil war. Go to link to see the interview: http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302816406

Limited land, technical support for farmers in Seychelles limits agricultural output, official says

Limited access to land, technical support to farmers and becoming self-sufficient remain Seychelles' greatest challenges in the agricultural sector, said the outgoing Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative. Patrice Talla Takoukam spoke afte
Seychelles News Agency

Limited land, technical support for farmers in Seychelles limits agricultural output, official says

Limited access to land, technical support to farmers and becoming self-sufficient remain Seychelles' greatest challenges in the agricultural sector, said the outgoing Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative. Patrice Talla Takoukam spoke after a farewell visit to President Danny Faure at State House on Friday «Seychelles being a small country has many challenges when it comes to agriculture,» he said. «It is important for Seychelles to continuously allocate land to farmers so that they can continuously produce for the population, thus, ensuring food security.» Tatoukam said that access to land is not the only issue and that «it will depend on if the land is ecologically good for agriculture because if the land is not good, there will be no output, hence, a waste of money.» The FAO representative said technical support and assistance is also important for farmers to able to produce more. «A perfect environment is needed that will facilitate local farmers to reach the local market. More importantly, it is important to look at the need of the younger farmers, and by that, I am talking about providing proper incentives for them to stay in the sector,» he said. In July last year, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a new policy that will facilitate graduates from the Seychelles Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture with access to parcels of state-owned lands for agricultural development. Seychelles becoming self-sufficient in certain areas in agriculture was another topic discussed.  Patrice Talla Takoukam paid a farewell visit to President Danny Faure at State House on Friday. (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY «The level of importation is having an economical and nutritional impact on the population. We can reduce importation and inject that money to develop agriculture, which will, in turn, ensure quality of agricultural output. It is much safer to eat what you produce,» said Takoukam. The visit of Takoukam in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, was also an opportunity to talk about the different projects the island nation received support from FAO. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is supporting Seychelles with the drafting of a National Forest Policy. The $275,000 project is expected to be implemented over an 18-month period. It will include training, forest policy analysis and public consultations. The FAO last year pledged a sum of $148,000, to help Seychelles put a pest management system in place to fight against the invasive Euproctis caterpillar (hairy caterpillar) through a 24-month project. This will include laboratory equipment and technical assistance from experts to build the capacity of local staff to handle the scientific work associated with the caterpillar. It will also cover the cost of developing a database for insects, pests and others related to the hairy caterpillar and designing stronger and more effective methods to control populations of the species. The caterpillar starting affecting inhabitants in February 2015 when people reported developing an itchy skin rash after coming in contact with the species.

Chinese economic growth hits three-decade low

China's economy grew last year at its slowest pace in three decades, hit by weak domestic demand and trade tensions, but while officials warned of further headwinds, separate figures Friday suggest the downward trend is bottoming out. The 6.1 percent rate i
Seychelles News Agency

Chinese economic growth hits three-decade low

China's economy grew last year at its slowest pace in three decades, hit by weak domestic demand and trade tensions, but while officials warned of further headwinds, separate figures Friday suggest the downward trend is bottoming out. The 6.1 percent rate is a sharp drop from the 6.6 percent the year before and marks the third straight drop, though it met the government's target and analysts said leaders were unlikely to open up the stimulus taps just yet. The reading was also in line with AFP analyst forecasts. And while the world's number two economy had been gradually losing steam over the first three quarters, growth held steady at 6.0 percent in October-December -- the same as the previous quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Ning Jizhe, commissioner of the NBS, said momentum remained generally stable through the year and said the same could be expected in 2020. «However, we should also be aware that the global economic and trade growth is slowing down,» he said at a news conference, adding that there were more sources of instability and risk, with the economy facing «mounting downward pressure». The figures were released days after Vice Premier Liu He and Donald Trump signed a much-vaunted «phase one» pact that marks a truce in their nearly two-year-old trade war. The agreement will see the US slash import duties on Chinese goods worth billions of dollars, though levies remain in place on two-thirds of more than $500 billion of products.   - 'New normal' -   The World Bank said in a report this month that weakening exports from China had compounded the impact of a slowdown in domestic demand. Policy uncertainty and higher tariffs on exports to the US also cast a pall on manufacturing activity and investor sentiment, it added. Other data released Friday showed while industrial production and retail sales slowed over the year, both indicators outperformed in December, with the NBS pointing to a particularly strong showing in consumer spending. «The latest ... data provides a very positive start to the Chinese New Year for China’s economy,» Rajiv Biswas, of IHS Markit, said. «The outlook for 2020 is for continued robust growth, boosted by the phase one trade deal with the US and the continued positive impact of government monetary and fiscal policy stimulus measures.» But analysts note that China's slowdown is structural, as it becomes a more developed economy and faces demographic challenges such as a shrinking number of people of working age. The NBS said China's birthrate fell to 10.48 per 1,000 people last year -- the lowest since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.  Faced with an ageing population, Beijing relaxed its one-child policy in 2016 to allow people to have two children, but it has not led to more births. Still, Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, told AFP that Beijing considers the slowdown part of a «new normal» and that major easing is unlikely, given the improving global outlook and the US trade deal. He noted policymakers likely want to keep their powder dry, aiming for a stabilisation rather than reigniting growth, adding: «What they don't want to see is a too-rapid slowdown.»   - Stabilisation in 2020 -   Analysts and officials are expecting the economy to level out this year. Kuijs noted the trade deal bodes well for exports, as well as sentiment on business investment and consumption. It also reduces the risk of escalation and «severe decoupling» in other dimensions such as restrictions on companies and finance. But UOB economists Ho Woei Chen and Peter Chia said in a recent note that the deal is unlikely to catalyse a strong rebound in growth for China as the bulk of US tariffs remain in place. Tommy Xie, head of Greater China Research at OCBC Bank, said more supportive state policies such as tax incentives have helped stabilise national growth. But he noted a tailing off in the growth of infrastructure investment, which could prove problematic. With property investment slowing, the strength of China's growth this year will depend on whether infrastructure investment is able to offset this decline, he said. Last month, the NBS said China would revise its historical regional GDP data under a unified accounting mechanism to be introduced early 2020. This is expected to close a discrepancy between national and regional figures and enhance the credibility of government statistics, according to state media. Economists have long suspected that Chinese economic data is massaged upward, often noting that full-year gross domestic product hits Beijing's targets with suspicious regularity. bys/lth/dan

Asian markets rise as China, US finally put pen to paper on deal

Asian markets fluctuated Thursday as details were released of the China-US trade deal signed in Washington, with analysts saying it would allow investors to turn their focus to the global outlook and earnings season. After years of painstaking on-off talks b
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Asian markets rise as China, US finally put pen to paper on deal

Asian markets fluctuated Thursday as details were released of the China-US trade deal signed in Washington, with analysts saying it would allow investors to turn their focus to the global outlook and earnings season. After years of painstaking on-off talks between the economic superpowers, US President Donald Trump finally put pen to paper on an agreement that lowers tensions between the two and provides a major boost to the global outlook. Equities have been rallying since last month's announcement of a deal to de-escalate a long-running stand-off that has jolted growth around the world and fanned fears of recession in some countries. The pact -- the first part of a wider agreement -- includes pledges from Beijing to boost purchases of US agricultural goods and other exports for two years, protects US technology, and provides enforcement mechanisms allowing Washington to impose penalties that Beijing cannot respond to. In return, the US has cut tariffs on some Chinese products and cancelled others that had been lined up, though levies remain in place on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars, which Trump said will stay in place until the next phase of talks is complete. The president hailed it as a «momentous step», while Beijing cautiously welcomed the «hard-fought agreement» but warned of uncertainties ahead owing to the countries' fraught relationship. Still, Wall Street ended with healthy gains, with the Dow and S&P 500 hitting records, but Asian markets swung through the day. Tokyo finished 0.1 percent higher, while Sydney rose 0.7 percent, Singapore put on 0.5 percent and Seoul jumped 0.8 percent. Wellington and Bangkok also rose. Shanghai finished down 0.5 percent, Hong Kong was marginally lower, Taipei dipped 0.2 percent and Mumbai was off 0.1 percent. Manila and Jakarta also fell.   - 'Peak tariff' -   «Given the amount of speculation by the markets and commentary by officials ahead of Wednesday's signing, it is unsurprising markets have not rallied too strongly upon final signing,» JPMorgan Asset Management strategist Hannah Anderson said. «In the US, investors largely seem to have accepted this pause in escalation and gotten back to focusing on fundamentals, like what the ongoing earnings season tells us about the outlook for the US equity market. Asia investors are likely to take the same approach.» But, she added, while the agreement was a big positive, «we should all be aware that headlines about trade, particularly US-China trade, are going to be a constant feature of 2020». There was also a concern that with the deal already priced into markets, there were few catalysts to drive stocks higher, while «phase two» negotiations -- expected to be the toughest -- are unlikely to start in earnest until after November's US presidential elections. «Market expectations for a phase two deal are negligible,» said AxiTrader's Stephen Innes. «The main benefit of the deal is that the US and China frictions are unlikely to worsen in the coming months, so we have reached a peak tariff of sorts, and this will allow traders to return focus on other things.» Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK added: «Given that it has taken nearly two years to pick off the low hanging fruit of a phase one deal, it does stand to reason that phase two is likely to take much longer.» The easing of China-US tensions provided a broadly positive mood on trading floors that benefited higher-yielding or riskier currencies. The Chinese yuan extended recent gains by 0.1 percent while the Indonesian rupiah and Australian dollar were up 0.3 percent each. The safe-haven yen dipped against the dollar and gold was flat. Hopes for a pick-up in demand as the global economy improves also helped oil prices rise, with both main contracts posting healthy gains, though signs of increasing US inventories kept the commodity anchored.   - Key figures at 0710 GMT -   Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 23,933.13 (close) Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 28,760.83 Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 at 3,074.08 (close) Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3037 from $1.3038 at 2200 GMT Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.51 pence from 85.52 pence  Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1151 from $1.1149  Dollar/yen: UP at 109.96 yen from 109.90  Brent Crude: UP 42 cents at $64.42 per barrel West Texas Intermediate: UP 41 cents at $58.22 New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 29,030.22 (close) London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,642.80 (close) dan/fox

Seychelles Maritime Academy renews agreement with Sri Lankan nautical college

The Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College (CINEC) will continue to manage Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) following the renewal of an agreement on Tuesday. The third three-year agreement was signed by the Minister for Education and Human R
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles Maritime Academy renews agreement with Sri Lankan nautical college

The Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College (CINEC) will continue to manage Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) following the renewal of an agreement on Tuesday. The third three-year agreement was signed by the Minister for Education and Human Resource Development, Jeanne Simeon, and the president of CINEC, Captain Ajith Peiris at the Ministry's headquarters. The two institutions first signed the first agreement in September 2013 which allowed the Malabe, Sri Lanka-based institute to assume the management of the Academy. The main objective was to strengthen the Academy's institutional capability. The Academy offers cadets certifications across varying levels in Navigation and Seamanship, Fishing Science and Technology and Marine Mechanics, in addition to several other short courses. In thanking the Seychelles' government for placing confidence in CINEC to continue the management agreement, the College's President said since the partnership began in 2013 the local institution has benefited immensely. «We are quite happy with the progress we have made in Seychelles, bringing in some direction to the maritime industry, with the training and also the professionalism that we have brought for the seafarers of Seychelles,» said Peiris. The chairperson of the governing board of the Seychelles Maritime Academy, Conrad Benoiton, said many young Seychellois have benefitted under the agreement. This includes 93 young mariners who are now working on the Seychelles tankers operated by the Seychelles Petroleum Company (Seypec). Some students enrolled on a chemical tanker familiarization course run by the Maritime Training Academy onboard the Seychelles Petroleum Company’s deep-sea tankers. (Seypec) Photo License: CC-BY Ten young cadet officers have started a three and half year programme on the tankers, while eight persons have enrolled on the Seafarers experience programme where they spent 36 months on a ship, before taking up a full-time post on a vessel. «Quite correctly, CINEC has played a significant role in the educational marine sector but we also have now emphasised our position with the fisheries element of the sector within the maritime academy,» said Benoiton. CINEC's president said that like Sri Lanka, which earns over $300 million per year through maritime activities, the maritime sector of Seychelles also has great potential. «In Seychelles although the number of seafarers is less, I still think they can contribute a significant amount to the country. So I think we are fortunate and happy to be a part of this exercise». Benoiton added that this will target prospective young students who would like to take up scientific studies in the sector. CINEC has assisted Seychelles to make the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) white-list in 2015, only two years after signing the agreement. In October 2015, the Academy was officially certified as ISO 9001:2008, an international standard that defines good management practices.

Children of radio host murdered in Seychelles in 1986 plead for anyone with information to come forward

The children of the late Marjorie Baker, a Seychellois journalist who was murdered in 1986, have appealed to anyone with information about her death to come forward. Juan Salamon and Myrna Rose-King made the plea during their testimonies before the Truth, Re
Seychelles News Agency

Children of radio host murdered in Seychelles in 1986 plead for anyone with information to come forward

The children of the late Marjorie Baker, a Seychellois journalist who was murdered in 1986, have appealed to anyone with information about her death to come forward. Juan Salamon and Myrna Rose-King made the plea during their testimonies before the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission this week as they recounted the events which they said may have led to their mother's death overnight Sept. 5-6, 1986. Salamon and King, who were accompanied by their aunt, Fleurange Mchan, at the Commission's Headquarters, in Perseverance, said they wanted justice for their mother. Baker was found dead in her car, and the autopsy report said there were seven stab wounds to her body. «We were living during a difficult time in Seychelles and we could not come forward to seek justice and speak about her murder. We thank God that we can have the chance to talk about this tragic event today and we hope that with God's grace, we can learn more about what led to our mother's death and who was responsible,» said King. Baker – a mother of three – was in charge of Seychelles' only radio station at the time of her death and was a renowned producer and presenter. She was the person on duty on June 5, 1977, and was the one who was on air to announce the coup d'etat. According to her children and sister, she was closely linked to the late President France Albert Rene. Baker's sister alleged her sister may have been killed after she learned of a plot by some army officers to overthrow President Rene. Fleurange Mchan alleged that her sister's death may be due to her knowledge of an army plot. (Thomas Meriton, Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY Mchan, who was working as a police inspector at the time in the Criminal Investigation Department, learned about the plot and leaked the information to her sister, not knowing that she would be seen as a threat. Baker's colleague and also former partner -- Douglas Cedras -- was convicted of her death. In a 16-page letter, purportedly written by Cedras in November 1986, and read out before the Commission by Baker's son, Juan Salaman, Cedras confessed to luring Baker to the site where she was to be picked up by three men. Cedras wrote that the men had threatened to kill him and his family if he did not do as he was asked. He said the sole purpose of the meeting was to scare Baker, as they felt she was passing on information to former President Rene. He wrote that things escalated when they met with the three men late on September 5, 1986, and that when he left and he was dropped off at his home at Glacis and Baker was still alive. Cedras wrote that he was framed for the murder as the knife used to stab Baker was his and had been planted on the body. Baker had three children, an older daughter Betymay, a son Juan who was working in the United States at the time of his mother's death, and younger daughter Myrna Rose King. King was the only person living with her mother at La Louise at the time of her death. She told the Commission that on the fateful day, she received numerous phone calls late in the afternoon from a man who wanted to speak to Baker. «The person was very arrogant and sounded annoyed when I told him that my mother was not home yet. When she reached home and I told her about the phone calls, she didn't comment on the matter,» recalled King. The family said they recognised Cedras' part in the murder of Baker but does not believe he was the one who murdered her. They have appealed to anyone with information about what transpired to come forward. «We believe there are people out there who might know what happened that night and who are responsible for our mother's death. We are appealing to you to please come forward,» said King. Cedras, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for Baker's murder, received a presidential pardon seven years after the murder. He died in 2014. The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission is listening to complaints and grievances related to the coup d'etat. It has a three-year mandate.

President of Seychelles makes first-ever state visit to Bahrain

Seychellois holding diplomatic, special and official passports will not require visas when travelling to Bahrain after the signing of a visa waiver agreement during a first-ever state visit of President Danny Faure. According to State House, the visa waiver
Seychelles News Agency

President of Seychelles makes first-ever state visit to Bahrain

Seychellois holding diplomatic, special and official passports will not require visas when travelling to Bahrain after the signing of a visa waiver agreement during a first-ever state visit of President Danny Faure. According to State House, the visa waiver agreement is the first phase of expanding cooperation for this category of passport holder which will promote further development of bilateral relations between the two countries. Further discussions on the second phase to extend the visa waiver for general passports holders is ongoing.   The President is on a two-day state visit to Bahrain from January 15-16. On the first day of his visit on Wednesday, Faure held bilateral talks with King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa. «This is the first state visit by a President of Seychelles. Today is a historical day for my country and a turning point in the relationship shared between our two nations. Thirty-six years since we established diplomatic relations, I am here to further cement the warm ties between Seychelles and the Kingdom of Bahrain,» said Faure. During discussions, the two leaders acknowledged the extent of development which the two island nations have accomplished during the past decade in the common pursuit for prosperity of their people.  «I am certain that this visit will yield more possibilities for cooperation between Seychelles and Bahrain and I look forward to the results,» added Faure.  Bahrain and Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, signed other agreements which included a general cooperation agreement and one for cooperation in tourism. The Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) and the Central Bank of Bahrain also signed an agreement through which sponsorship of two scholarships to the CBS by the Bahrain Islamic Banking and Finance (BIBF) Training Institute were confirmed. Bahrain has also pledged to further support Seychelles in its maritime security efforts through the donation of two boats for Coast Guards.  Seychelles and Bahrain established diplomatic relations on 4th May 1983. 

EU states launch process disputing Iran's nuclear compliance

Three EU countries on Tuesday launched a process charging Iran with failing to observe the terms of the 2015 deal curtailing its nuclear programme, a move that sparked anger and threats from Tehran at a time of growing tensions. Russia also condemned the Eur
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EU states launch process disputing Iran's nuclear compliance

Three EU countries on Tuesday launched a process charging Iran with failing to observe the terms of the 2015 deal curtailing its nuclear programme, a move that sparked anger and threats from Tehran at a time of growing tensions. Russia also condemned the European move, warning it risked causing a «new escalation». Britain, France and Germany insisted they remained committed to the agreement, which has already been severely tested by the US exit from it in 2018. A US State Department spokesperson said Washington fully supported the three countries, adding «further diplomatic and economic pressure is warranted». But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also indicated he might prefer a new comprehensive accord negotiated with US President Donald Trump instead of the 2015 deal. The decision to begin the so-called dispute mechanism process comes as tensions soar between the West and Iran following the killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani in a US air strike, and the admission by Tehran days later that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner. The foreign ministers of the three European nations said Iran had been progressively scaling back its commitments under the deal since May of last year. «We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran's actions,» to begin the dispute process, their statement said. In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said it saw «no reason for such a move». «We do not rule out that the thoughtless actions of the Europeans could lead to a new escalation around the Iranian nuclear accord,» it said in a statement.   - 'Accept the consequences' -   The 2015 nuclear deal signed in Vienna -- known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) -- has a provision that allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission. If the issue is not resolved by the commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council, which could reimpose sanctions. The first meeting of the process -- set to include the European nations, Iran and the other parties to the deal, China and Russia -- would take place in Austria by the end of the month, a diplomatic source told AFP in Vienna. Iran intensified sensitive activities to enrich uranium, which can be used to make a nuclear weapon, in response to Trump's pulling out of the deal. Its latest step in January to forgo the limit on the number of centrifuges used in uranium enrichment prompted the Europeans to trigger the mechanism. But Tehran lashed out at the European countries and appeared to threaten unspecified retaliation. «Of course, if the Europeans... seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences,» the foreign ministry said in a statement.   - 'Back to full compliance' -   But the three powers said they «once again express our commitment» to the deal and expressed «determination to work with all participants to preserve it.» «Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA,» they said. The accord aimed to restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions, which Western powers feared were aimed at developing weapons, in return for sanctions relief. The three countries said they would not join «a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran» championed by Trump. But Johnson said he would be willing to work on a «Trump deal» to replace the JCPoA, which was negotiated by the administration of former president Barack Obama. «That's what we need to see. I think that would be a great way forward,» Johnson said, noting that «from the American perspective it (the 2015 deal) is a flawed agreement.» British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied that Johnson's remarks represented a shift, saying London backed the nuclear deal while also wanting a wider pact that would go beyond Iran's atomic drive to cover all contentious issues.   - Johnson 'contradiction' -   The European Union's diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said it was «more important than ever» to save the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal «in light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East.» Borrell told the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg that «the British prime minister said things in contradiction with the letter signed by the (EU) foreign ministers.»  «Failure to preserve the deal will only add to tensions in the region. Imagine for a second what would be the situation today had Iran nuclear weapons -- and they would have been able to obtain those without JCPoA», he said. Tensions between Iran and the United States last week climbed to their highest levels since the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran that followed the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the pro-American shah. Iran has vowed retribution over the United States' killing of Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. And while Iran's attack on Iraqi bases housing US troops was seen as a relatively measured retaliation, Iranian forces mistakenly shot down over a Tehran suburb a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 passengers and crew on board. Analysts said launching the deal's dispute resolution mechanism gives Europe the advantage of taking control of the process, but warned that the move could also backfire. bur/lc/pvh/spm/bgs/dw

Seychelles hosts meeting with EU, African states on economic partnership

Seychelles is for the first time hosting negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the Eastern Southern African States that are focusing on the implementation of an interim economic partnership. The two-day negotiations started on Tuesday at the Inter
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles hosts meeting with EU, African states on economic partnership

Seychelles is for the first time hosting negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the Eastern Southern African States that are focusing on the implementation of an interim economic partnership. The two-day negotiations started on Tuesday at the International Conference Centre of Seychelles in Victoria. The chief negotiator of trade agreement for Seychelles, Charles Morin, told reporters that one aims of the negotiations is to look at the progress that member countries have made. EU and Eastern Southern African States interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) was signed by Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe in August 2009. Last year, Comoros became the fifth country to sign the agreement. In his opening address, EU Ambassador Haymandoyal Dillum said that the relation between the signatory states and the EU is of great strategic importance for the economic development of each member state. «At a time where there seems to be a growing tendency for protectionism particularly in international trade, our relations have remained steadfast in our commitment to each other is indeed refreshing. There is a need to consolidate this partnership,» said Dillum. Seychelles' chief trade negotiator said that the talks are also «looking at the different assistance and support that the EU has given us and the member countries as there are certain challenges faced while implementing the agreement.» Since ratifying the interim Economic Partnership Agreement in May 2010, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has met fully 42 percent, substantially 36 percent and partially 20 percent of the provisions and commitments made. «There are certain sectors in the agreement to which we are facing difficulties to implement. In that case, we are voicing our concern to see how EU can assist us so that we can reach the Agreement's expectation,» said Morin. One area that Seychelles is encountering difficulty and gaining support from the EU is the fisheries sector, the second pillar of the island nation economy.   «In the Agreement EU has come up with an issue that before fish is being exported to the European market, it is necessary for the exporter to produce a catch certificate. The issue is that sometimes it takes too long for the operator (fishing boat) to give a catch certificate to the exporter. There are certain cases whereby the fish has been shipped, but the certificate has not reached the EU, and this leaves a burden on the importer, which has to pay several port fees,» he said. Seychelles will get 10 million euros from the European Union under a new contract signed in November last year to support the implementation of the current Economic Partnership Agreement. Another issue for Seychelles is related to trade barriers, and Morin said that along with member states «we have identified some issues that will be brought forth during the negotiations and we hope to find solutions.»  Other areas that will be discussed in the meeting will be free movement of goods which includes rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, customs and trade facilitation, public procurement, intellectual property rights, trade and competition, agriculture, dispute avoidance and settlement and others.

Dance performance by Gansu Troupe to highlight Seychelles-China day celebrations

 VAs citizens in China prepare to welcome their New Year and celebrate the spring festival on January 25, the Chinese community in Seychelles is gearing for the 7th edition of the Seychelles-China day. This year the celebrations will include a dance perfor
Seychelles News Agency

Dance performance by Gansu Troupe to highlight Seychelles-China day celebrations

 VAs citizens in China prepare to welcome their New Year and celebrate the spring festival on January 25, the Chinese community in Seychelles is gearing for the 7th edition of the Seychelles-China day. This year the celebrations will include a dance performance by the Gansu Dance Troupe as well as a Chinese bazaar. The celebrations on Friday, January 17 and Saturday, January 18 are a joint partnership between the Chinese Embassy, the Chinese Association, and the Creative Industries and National Events Agency. This year the celebrations will include a dance performance by the Gansu Dance Troupe(Chinese embassy)Photo License: CC-BY “The Seychelles-China Day has become a significant platform for people-to-people and cultural exchanges between our two countries, and effectively strengthened our mutual understanding and friendship,” said the Chinese ambassador, Guo Wei. The ambassador spoke at a recent press conference at the International Conference Centre (ICCS), where it was announced that the official opening of the event will be held on Friday evening.   The celebrations from January 17-18 are a joint partnership between the Chinese Embassy, the Chinese Association, and the CINEA. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY “On Saturday, January 18 the Gansu Dance Troupe will give a cultural performance at the ICCS auditorium at 3 pm. For this event, tickets are free and as the ICCS can hold only 585 people, tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis,” explained Galen Bresson, the chief executive of the agency. The Gansu Dance Troupe was founded in 1961. It hails from the Gansu province, located in the northwest of China and well known as the home of grottoes art, cultural heritage sites, and magnificent natural scenery. Gansu is also the key area of the ancient Silk Road, which was the most important trading hub connecting China and western countries. After the public show, there will be the Chinese bazaar which will be held at the ICCS car park. The bazaar is a joint effort of the Chinese community in Seychelles and will offer locals culinary delights as well as other artifacts from mainland China.   The Chinese bazaar is a joint effort of the Chinese community in Seychelles and will offer locals culinary delights as well as other artifacts from mainland China. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY “We pride ourselves as a nation in having all four cultures – African, European, Indian and Chinese – intermingling to bring about our unique identity. On Saturday, January 18, we shall celebrate the fusion of one of the essential ingredients of this Seychellois melting pot, more specifically the Chinese culture,” explained Robert Chong Seng from the Chinese Association. He added that ”in order to make this experience enjoyable, again this year we changed the timing of the bazaar from lunchtime to an evening and night market.” Chong Seng is calling on everyone to come and share a magical food experience with Seychelles' Chinese,  a community of around 2,000 in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. The ambassador added that “the opening of the China Day indicates the up-coming Chinese Spring Festival, which is the grandest festival in China. During the Spring Festival, reunion is the most important theme just like what Christmas means to Seychelles people.” The opening of China Day indicates the up-coming Chinese Spring Festival, which is the grandest festival in China. (Chinese Embassy) Photo License: CC-BY Wei explained that according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the year 2020 is the Year of the rat, which ranks first on the Chinese zodiac and represents a new beginning. Small but dynamic, the rat symbolises cleverness, wisdom and strong vitality. “On the occasion of the New Year, I hope you can experience the happiness and joy of the Chinese Spring Festival and the cultural interactions between China and Seychelles,” concluded the ambassador.

UAE to fund, design $ 3.6 million drug rehab centre in Seychelles

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to fund and help design a drug rehabilitation centre in Seychelles, State House announced on Tuesday. The announcement came during a visit by President Danny Faure of Seychelles to the UAE's National Rehabilitation Centr
Seychelles News Agency

UAE to fund, design $ 3.6 million drug rehab centre in Seychelles

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to fund and help design a drug rehabilitation centre in Seychelles, State House announced on Tuesday. The announcement came during a visit by President Danny Faure of Seychelles to the UAE's National Rehabilitation Centre. According to State House, the cooperation and assistance from UAE will include the training of Seychellois personnel who will staff the Seychelles' Rehabilitation Centre once it opens. At the launching of the Seychelles National Drug Control Master Plan 2019-2023 in December, Faure said that in line with plans to rehabilitate addicts, a modern rehabilitation centre initially to be built at Cap Ternay will now be built at Bon Espoir, Montagne Posee. The centre will be financed by the United Arab Emirates government at a cost of $3.6 million. The head of state of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, visited UAE's National Rehabilitation Centre which is an accredited institution with the United Nations World Health Organisation. The centre also provides strategy and policy advice to several countries in the Middle East and Africa. State House said that the compound houses the centre's administrative arm, premises to allow for the administration of approximately 600 out-patients, rooms to cater for 200 in-patients, a state of the art laboratory for advanced testing of various types of drugs, and several other services. On Monday, Faure attended the official inauguration of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi by the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the presence of several heads of state. The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is a global platform for accelerating the world's sustainable development, particularly in the areas of energy, water, and waste.  The event was inaugurated Abu Dhabi's, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the presence of several other Heads of State. After the inauguration, Faure held bilateral talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on areas of continued co-operation between the two countries.   Following his participation at the World Future Energy summit in Abu Dhabi, Faure will proceed on a two-day state visit at the invitation of the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, as part of efforts to further strengthen the long-standing excellent bilateral ties between the two nations.

Seychelles Tourism Board to focus on low-tourism months, concerned about flights from Germany

The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) will focus on increasing the number of visitors in the months of May, June, and September, which are seen as low-performance months compared to the rest of the year.   The board announced the new focus on Tuesday during t
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles Tourism Board to focus on low-tourism months, concerned about flights from Germany

The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) will focus on increasing the number of visitors in the months of May, June, and September, which are seen as low-performance months compared to the rest of the year.   The board announced the new focus on Tuesday during the board’s marketing review for 2019 at the Eden Bleu hotel. Tourism official also raised concerns about the impact that a lack of flights can have on the German market, currently the top market for Seychelles. Addressing the partners from the tourism industry at the meeting, STB’s Chief Executive Sherin Francis said that even though 2019 was a strong year for Seychelles' tourism industry, there is room for improvement. Tourism officials also need to concentrate on better promotion «of our smaller establishments receiving lower occupancy” added Francis. The Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Didier Dogley reminded everyone that even though the industry has done very well there is a need to strategically strengthen Seychelles’ marketing capacities to sustain and grow in key markets. “More importantly, according to the Central Bank of Seychelles, we also registered provisionally a 6 percent growth in revenue.  This has been achieved following a constant and gradual increase in numbers of visitors and receipt over the past five years,” said the minister.   STB’s chief executive Sherin Francis said that even though 2019 was a strong year for Seychelles' tourism industry, there is room for improvement.  (Vanessa Lucas, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY It was revealed at the meeting that the latest figures for 2019 show growth in terms of income coming from the tourism industry, amounting to $576 million. However, Dogley had concerns. “The news that Eidelweiss and Air France will only be operating winter schedules is of concern as is the plight of Condor, which has applied for a bridging loan and whose own future performance is destined to affect that of our German market.” At the end of 2019, 72,500 Germans visited the islands. In general, an increase of 10 percent was recorded in the European market with an increase of 18 percent for Germany. The American market has also shown a significant increase of 9 percent in 2019. There has been a decline in some markets including in France, Austria, and Asia. Despite a decline in the number of visitors from South Africa in 2019, it remains the main African market with 11,909 visitors.   Tourism officials also need to concentrate on better promotion »of our smaller establishments receiving lower occupancy.” (Vanessa Lucas, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY Throughout 2019, the board had put emphasis on its marketing efforts across the globe with the support of its offices and partners where 73 PR events, 188 joint trade promotions and 92 trade and consumer events were held. “2020 is a very prominent year for us. As a country we feature in the Dubai 2020 Expo and also celebrating our 250th anniversary, as we market the country to our diverse audiences,” said Francis. Statistics released by Seychelles’ National Bureau of Statistics last week showed that tourist arrivals for 2019 had increased compared to 2018 with 384,204 visitors coming to Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka seeks Seychelles' support for application to Indian Ocean Commission, outgoing High Commissioner says

Sri Lanka has sought the support of Seychelles in its application to become an observer member of the Indian Ocean Commission, the outgoing High Commissioner said on Monday. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Tikiri Herath Gunathilake, told SNA that he has ma
Seychelles News Agency

Sri Lanka seeks Seychelles' support for application to Indian Ocean Commission, outgoing High Commissioner says

Sri Lanka has sought the support of Seychelles in its application to become an observer member of the Indian Ocean Commission, the outgoing High Commissioner said on Monday. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Tikiri Herath Gunathilake, told SNA that he has made a request to the government of Seychelles and awaits confirmation.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed it has received the request which is being processed. Seychelles currently holds the presidency of the Indian Ocean Commission. The Indian Ocean Commission is an intergovernmental organisation set up in 1982 and comprises of Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, and Reunion, a French Overseas Department.     The outgoing High Commissioner said although he is leaving he is happy and proud to have spent four and half year in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. «One important thing for me since I have been here is that I have a wonderful hobby and that is taking photographs. I have now 250 more photographs because every day I took pictures. I am leaving for Sri Lanka and my first idea is to exhibit these photographs of Seychelles.»   Gunathilake said during his tenure he made several major accomplishments in the areas of healthcare, medical tourism, maritime security, the Blue Economy, and especially education. «One of my remarkable and valuable achievements is getting a plot of land of 3,000 square metres land capacity from the Seychelles government to set up the Sri Lanka High Commission building complex. This is opposite the Supreme Court,» he said. The highlights of Gunathilake's tenure was the three-day visit of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in October 2018 which came after the state visit of President Danny Faure to Sri Lanka in 2017. Last year Sri Lanka gifted Seychelles two NOS wave rider inshore patrol units to assist the Seychelles Coast Guard with maritime security matters. Some of the initiatives taken are ongoing and this includes establishing a Sri Lanka-Seychelles joint commission. This week representatives of Future Holdings will be coming to Seychelles. Future Holdings is a tourism investment consultant and business matchmaking company who offers a comprehensive one-stop solution for tourism Investments in Sri Lanka.   Gunathilake told SNA that said he is happy to have achieved everything he had planned during his tenure. Last week he paid a farewell visit to Vice President Vincent Meriton, who is in charge of the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Meriton expressed his deepest appreciation and gratitude for the persistent support and assistance readily provided by Sri Lanka. «We wish you great success in your next journey and we hope to welcome you back to our shores in the near future,» said Meriton. High Commissioner Gunathilake was accredited on October 6, 2015.

Trump trial possibly days away as Democrats meet

The trial of President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction could open within days as House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi convenes Democrats early Tuesday to discuss sending impeachment charges to the Senate. Pelosi appeared ready to mov
Seychelles News Agency

Trump trial possibly days away as Democrats meet

The trial of President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction could open within days as House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi convenes Democrats early Tuesday to discuss sending impeachment charges to the Senate. Pelosi appeared ready to move ahead after holding onto the articles of impeachment since they were passed on December 18 to pressure the Republican-controlled Senate to agree to subpoena witnesses with direct knowledge of what Trump is charged with: illicitly seeking help from Ukraine for his reelection campaign this year.  But with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell refusing to agree up front on the witness issue, Pelosi is now expected to forward the case without a deal and see the president placed on trial by next week. Pelosi's House Democratic caucus is expected to discuss the schedule for a full vote in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, on forwarding the case. They also have to decide who will comprise their team of impeachment managers to argue the case against Trump in the Senate, the upper chamber. Once the House forwards the charges, the Senate has to begin trial proceedings within one day. On the first day, senators will decide the rules of the historic trial.  Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will then be sworn in to preside; in turn he will swear in the 100 senators to preside as judges and jury over Trump's fate. Republican Senator John Cornyn told The Hill news website that he expects all that could happen within this week, and that opening arguments in the trial could take place as early as Tuesday, January 21, after Monday's federal holiday. «That's what it feels like right now,» Cornyn said. Trump's Republican party hold a solid majority in the Senate and are expected to exonerate him.   - Battle over witnesses -   But the witness issue remains a point of contention. Democrats want at least four current and former top Trump aides to appear at the trial, after Trump barred them from testifying in the House impeachment investigation. They also want documents related to the charges that Trump refused to hand over to the House probe. The witnesses and documents, Democrats believe, could deliver more concrete evidence that Trump abused his powers for personal political gain and obstructed the Congressional investigation. «In the Clinton impeachment process, 66 witnesses were allowed to testify including 3 in the Senate trial, and 90,000 pages of documents were turned over,» Pelosi said via Twitter Monday. «Trump was too afraid to let any of his top aides testify & covered up every single document. The Senate must #EndTheCoverUp.» But McConnell, backed by the Republicans' 53-47 Senate majority, says he won't agree on the issue before the trial opens. McConnell cites president Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999, when the contentious witness issue was put off until after opening arguments were made. Then the two sides agreed to allow three witnesses against Clinton to be deposed. But in that case Republicans held all the power in Congress against a Democratic president.   - 'Mock trial'? -   In this case, with defendant Trump's own Republican party in control of the Senate, which sets the rules for the case, Pelosi has little real leverage outside of public pressure. Democrats are hoping that three or more Republican senators break ranks to insist on the witnesses. «House Democrats have already done enough damage to precedent, to national unity, and to our institutions of government,» McConnell said in a statement Monday. «The Senate will not be sucked into this precedent-breaking path.» Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, accused McConnell of organising a cover-up. «The Senate's constitutional duty now is to try that case to the best of our ability, with honesty, with integrity, with impartiality, and with fairness,» he said Monday. «Without these things, a Senate trial would become a farce -- a nationally televised meeting of the mock trial club.» pmh/bgs

China set to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe

China's foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday pledged to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe despite a spat over bilateral aid figures in November. The two countries butted heads after Zimbabwe's government said it had only received $3.6 million in aid from Be
Seychelles News Agency

China set to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe

China's foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday pledged to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe despite a spat over bilateral aid figures in November. The two countries butted heads after Zimbabwe's government said it had only received $3.6 million in aid from Beijing in 2019 -- 40 times lower than the figure claimed by China. Yi met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo on Sunday during the final leg of an Africa tour that also took him to Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi. He did not mention financial assistance, but hailed China and Zimbabwe's «win-win cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, and mining» and vowed to explore new areas of cooperation. China's relationship with Zimbabwe dates back to the liberation struggle of the 1970s, when Beijing supported some of the top guerilla leaders. After the end of white-minority rule in 1980, China was one of the first countries to establish a diplomatic mission in the capital Harare. Under former president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe adopted a «Look East» policy after a fallout with the US and the EU over rights abuses and controversial land reforms. Beijing remained one of Mugabe's most powerful allies and a major trade partner, even as the West shunned him over human rights violations. The relationship has continued to thrive under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over when Mugabe was toppled by his army generals in 2017. China has funded and provided loans for many infrastructure projects across Africa in recent years, including the new parliament and a school of intelligence in Zimbabwe. «China has so far helped Africa build more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums and more than 170 schools in the past close to five years,» Yi told reporters in Harare. He then had dinner with Zimbabwe's Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who spent months in China last year for medical treatment. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's opposition parties have criticised China's influence and accused the government of giving away minerals and other natural resources in exchange for aid. They also claim Chinese companies abuse and underpay local workers. Zimbabwe's economy has been reduced to tatters by decades of mismanagement under Mugabe, who died of cancer in September last year. Mnangagwa has so far failed on his promise to redress the situation. Years of rampant hyperinflation have rendered life unaffordable for most and basic goods such as bread and fuel are hard to come by. © Agence France-Presse

Financial Services Authority looking into standing of Seychelles-registered firm that trades with Iran

Seychelles' Financial Services Authority (FSA) has launched an investigation into the financial transactions of Power Anchor Limited, a Chinese offshore company operating in Seychelles, a top official said on Monday. The offshore company is directly linked t
Seychelles News Agency

Financial Services Authority looking into standing of Seychelles-registered firm that trades with Iran

Seychelles' Financial Services Authority (FSA) has launched an investigation into the financial transactions of Power Anchor Limited, a Chinese offshore company operating in Seychelles, a top official said on Monday. The offshore company is directly linked to Pamchel Trading Beijing, a steel manufacturer, which trades with Iran. The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran's steel and iron manufacturers last Friday, after Iranian airstrikes against two US military installations in Iraq. One company which was directly targeted was Pamchel Trading Beijing, which the US said has bought tens of thousands of metric tons of steel slabs on a monthly basis since August 2019 from Iran's Mobarakeh Steel.  The trade sanctions are both primary and secondary, meaning that they would apply to third parties doing business with Iran. FSA's chief executive, Steve Fanny, told SNA that the two companies are directly linked. He said the offshore company, Power Anchor Limited, registered in Seychelles, which receives money on behalf of Pamchel Trading Beijing, thus falling under the secondary sanction. «When sanctions are in place we need to ensure that no transaction is taking place that would damage Seychelles' reputation. In this context, Seychelles can be liable under the secondary sanction if it receives money from Pamchel Trading Beijing that comes from any transaction with Iran,» he said. Fanny said that since the announcement on Friday, FSA has started an investigation into the financial transaction of Anchor Power Limited, to ensure their dealings do not affect our jurisdiction. «As a regulator for Power Anchor Limited, we have to investigate what is happening, establish the facts and see whether any transaction is taking place that is linked with Iran. We will be conducting this investigation between now and the coming weeks. If they are found to be dealing with Iran then we will have to proceed with legal action against the offshore company,» said Fanny. Under the law, FSA can file a court case seeking to dissolve such companies that do not comply with sanctions imposed by a country. Fanny said that this is a complex situation and FSA will ensure that it follows all legal procedures before taking any action against the company. He told SNA that an outcome is expected in a month's time. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said the US imposed the various sanctions against Iran to «cut off billions of support to the Iranian regime.» The new measures are expected to crack down on Iran's few remaining sources of export revenue and squeeze the nation's economy to force its leaders back into negotiations for a new nuclear agreement. Other than the Chinese trading company, sanctions have also been imposed on a Chinese shipping vessel and an Oman-based supplier for facilitating and engaging in business with the Iranian metals sector. Tensions between the US and Iran escalated leading to the January 2 U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Philippines on alert as volcano spews ash, lava

Lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning shot from an erupting volcano south of the Philippine capital on Monday, grounding hundreds of flights amid an alert for a possible «explosive eruption». Homes and streets across the region s
Seychelles News Agency

Philippines on alert as volcano spews ash, lava

Lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning shot from an erupting volcano south of the Philippine capital on Monday, grounding hundreds of flights amid an alert for a possible «explosive eruption». Homes and streets across the region surrounding the Taal volcano, which exploded to life on Sunday accompanied by a series of earthquakes, were coated in fine grit and at least 10,000 people had sought refuge in evacuation centres. «You could not sleep anymore, because every time you closed your eyes the house would shake,» restaurant owner Lia Monteverde told AFP, saying the quakes came minutes apart. «All of us didn't sleep at all. We just prepared to leave.» Taal sits in a picturesque lake and is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation where earthquakes and eruptions are a frightening and destructive part of life. The activity is due to the Philippines' position on the Pacific «Ring of Fire», where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface. Schools in the region around Taal, government offices and the Philippine Stock Exchange were closed as a precaution on Monday. Aviation officials said they were working to resume flights at Manila's main international airport, which was shut down Sunday due to the risk posed to planes by the volcanic ash. Some 240 flights have been cancelled so far, snarling plans for tens of thousands of people travelling through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. «I'm disappointed because this (delay) means additional expense for me and it's tiring to wait,» said stranded traveler Joan Diocaras, a 28-year-old Filipino who works in Taiwan. «But there's nothing we can do.» - Alert level raised - The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock, but by early Monday «fountains» of lava had been spotted on Taal, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. Authorities raised the alert level to its second-highest level on Sunday, saying an «explosive eruption» could happen in «hours to days». Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano, but said it was unclear if Taal would «sustain its activity». Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, which is located 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Manila. Apart from the ash, some particles up to 6.4 centimetres (2.5 inches) in diameter, larger than a golf ball, had reportedly fallen in areas around the lake, Phivolcs said. Taal's last eruption was in 1977, Solidum said. Two years ago, Mount Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tonnes of ash, rocks and lava in the central Bicol region. The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people. It spewed an ash cloud that travelled thousands of kilometres in a matter of days and was blamed for damaging nearly two dozen aircraft. © Agence France-Presse

Increased visibility online led to tourism growth in Seychelles, STB says

Increased visibility online and an embrace of international sporting events led to a 6 percent increase in tourism arrivals to Seychelles in 2019, surpassing the goal set by the Seychelles Tourism Board, said a tourism official. Figures released by Seychelle
Seychelles News Agency

Increased visibility online led to tourism growth in Seychelles, STB says

Increased visibility online and an embrace of international sporting events led to a 6 percent increase in tourism arrivals to Seychelles in 2019, surpassing the goal set by the Seychelles Tourism Board, said a tourism official. Figures released by Seychelles’ National Bureau of Statistics show that visitor arrivals for 2019 increased to 384,204, compared to 351,235 in 2018. According to the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), the growth is a result of its marketing strategy of increased visibility online. Sherin Francis, the chief executive of the board said its marketing strategy and collaboration with partners are bearing fruit. “Our mandate is to market Seychelles, which we are actively doing with the support of our partners. Aside from our traditional methods, we are now actively present online,” said Francis. She added: "Throughout our participation to international events around the world, our teams are still concentrating on pushing Seychelles to potential holidaymakers for months that are considered low season for the destination.“ “In the two past years, one of our strategies was to increase our visibility through collaborations with prestigious sports events held on our shores and this has opened our beautiful islands to another audience altogether.” (Vanessa Lucas, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY Francis explained that the increase has exceeded STB’s set target, which was 4 percent. “In the two past years, one of our strategies was to increase our visibility through collaborations with prestigious sports events held on our shores and this has opened our beautiful islands to another audience altogether.” Germany continued to lead the tourism market for Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – with around 70,000 visitors. Second was France followed by the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Italy, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. Daniella Marie from Copolia told SNA on Wednesday that it is good news that more tourists are visiting the islands. “However it important that when they do come, they also spend not only on accommodation but spend more on other services such as restaurants, taxis, water sports, and touring. This will ensure that more Seychellois can benefit,” explained Marie. According to Marie more is also needed from the business sector with the support of the government. “Take for instance last weekend we had the long New Year break, but we still had the cruise ships in the port. But sadly all were closed in town and there was nothing for the visitors to see or do. And that has to change,” said the former marketing executive. But despite the growth, tourism officials say there is still a lack of rooms in hotels during some months of the year. This has been an issue since 2017, where for several months – March, April, October, November, and December - some establishments were closed for sales as they were fully booked. Researching the issue, SNA found out that whilst there is the current moratorium on the construction of large hotels, small tourism establishments keep opening on all the three main islands. But despite the growth, tourism officials say there is still a lack of rooms in hotels during some months of the year. This has been an issue since 2017, where for several months – March, April, October, November, and December - some establishments were closed for sales as they were fully booked. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Information from the Seychelles Licensing Authority shows that 73 new establishments – guest houses and self-catering apartments – received licenses last year. In total there are 731 such establishments – 463 on the main island of Mahe, 167 on Praslin and 96 on the third most populated island of La Digue. Speaking to SNA, Lydia Bastienne of Mamila Charters and Watersports, who also has experience with guest houses, said that it is true that those small establishments do well with bookings all through the year. “But what can also be observed is that visitors hardly spend here apart from their accommodation and other basics. Yes they say it is expensive here and it is true, but there are some activities such as fishing excursion which they used to love but currently is not doing too well,” said Bastienne. Bastienne added that the tourism ministry should work closer with local tourism actors and also look at other initiatives that could entice more visitors as for now, the emphasis is on the sun, the sea, and the beach.

Mia, Elijah named Seychelles' best artists at Cable Tunes Awards

Mia and Elijah were named the Best Female and Best Male artists at the Cable Tunes Awards 2019. The two artists received their awards at a ceremony at Berjaya Beau Vallon Hotel on the northern side of the main island Mahe on Saturday evening. Upon receivi
Seychelles News Agency

Mia, Elijah named Seychelles' best artists at Cable Tunes Awards

Mia and Elijah were named the Best Female and Best Male artists at the Cable Tunes Awards 2019. The two artists received their awards at a ceremony at Berjaya Beau Vallon Hotel on the northern side of the main island Mahe on Saturday evening. Upon receiving her award, Mia thanked God for her talent and for being beside her always. She said the award represents the hard work and devotion that she puts into her music.  Mia won the Best Female Artist award. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY «I thank everybody who has worked with me, and this includes my crew, makeup artist, video producer just to name a few,» said Mia. Mia, whose real name is Mina Telemaque, is a newcomer on the music scene. She launched her debut album 'Prezan' with the Relations band in 2018 which immediately made her a household name in the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. She won the 'Best Female Artist' of 2018 at the Takamaka music awards. Elijah – a well-known singer with a number of local hit tracks — not only nabbed the award for Best Male artist, but also the award for 'Best Performance.' He gave an electric performance at the award ceremony with his dancing crew.   Elijah won the Best Male artist and also Best Performance Award. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY «I am very happy to have won the award. It shows that people have appreciated my work and what I am doing in general as an artist,» said Elijah. The Best Male Artist said the shows that he has worked hard during the 2019. Another remarkable artist at the ceremony, Richie B, won the most prizes -- Best New Artist, Best Single with the song Mon pa'n vole, monn pran, Best Video Clips with Oule Goute, and Best Collaboration with Bend down low Ft X tra Big). Richie B won the most prizes at the Cable Tune awards 2019. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Richie said that «this is only the beginning for me. The year 2019 was not easy and this year would mean more work from Richie B.»   Other winners at the Cable Tunes Award were Mercenary once again for Best Selling artist; Yhoni and Maria  for Best Duo; Xtra Big for Best Album; and Salim Ally for Best Video Producer. Cable Tunes is a mobile phone service award offered by Cable and Wireless Seychelles in support of local artists. Clients purchase local songs made into ringtones and get the chance to vote for the artist of their choice for the award ceremony at the end of each year.  

Seychelles’ President to participate in World Future Energy Summit this week

The President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, will be attending the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, State House said on Saturday. Faure leaves the country on Sunday to attend the summit taking place from January 13-16 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitio
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles’ President to participate in World Future Energy Summit this week

The President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, will be attending the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, State House said on Saturday. Faure leaves the country on Sunday to attend the summit taking place from January 13-16 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.   The annual World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi is the leading global industry event and exhibition for future energy and sustainability. The summit which brings together government and business leaders, specialist exhibitors and around 33,500 visitors from 170 countries, showcases pioneering technologies and ground-breaking thinking in energy, energy efficiency, water, solar, waste and smart cities. Following his participation at the World Future Energy summit, Faure will proceed on a two-day state visit at the invitation of the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, as part of efforts to further strengthen the long-standing excellent bilateral ties between the two island nations. Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, and Bahrain established diplomatic relations in May 1984. Faure will be back in office on 17 January.

Wimbledon or French Open in 2020? Teen Seychellois tennis player focused on advancing career

Qualifying for the Junior Grand Slam tennis tournaments is Seychellois player Damien Laporte's 2020 goal. In order to find himself on the grounds of Wimbledon or the French Open, the 17-year-old told SNA that he will be playing a lot of tournaments in the be
Seychelles News Agency

Wimbledon or French Open in 2020? Teen Seychellois tennis player focused on advancing career

Qualifying for the Junior Grand Slam tennis tournaments is Seychellois player Damien Laporte's 2020 goal. In order to find himself on the grounds of Wimbledon or the French Open, the 17-year-old told SNA that he will be playing a lot of tournaments in the beginning of the year to gain as many qualifying points as possible. Laporte, who was on a short holiday in Seychelles in December, is a member of the Academia Sánchez-Casal, an internationally known high-performance training centre in Barcelona, Spain. The Seychellois tennis player said 2019 was a successful year. «My biggest achievement this year was winning my first ITF (International Tennis Federation) singles title. I was very happy as I finally made my breakthrough in the singles discipline since I had won three ITF doubles titles previously,» he said.

India suffers hottest decade on record

The last decade was India's hottest on record with the national weather office calling the impact of global warming «unmistakable» and extreme weather killing more than 1,500 people last year. India, home to 1.3 billion people, is at the forefron
Seychelles News Agency

India suffers hottest decade on record

The last decade was India's hottest on record with the national weather office calling the impact of global warming «unmistakable» and extreme weather killing more than 1,500 people last year. India, home to 1.3 billion people, is at the forefront of climate change suffering devastating floods, dire water shortages and baking temperatures. The southern city of Chennai last year declared «day zero» as taps ran dry. Temperatures between 2010 and 2019 were 0.36 degrees Celsius (0.65 degrees Fahrenheit) above the long-term average, the hottest decade since records began in 1901, the Indian Meteorological Department said on Monday. Extreme weather also claimed more than 1,500 lives last year, the seventh-hottest, the IMD said. They included 850 people killed by heavy rain and flooding and another 350 in summer temperatures of up to 51 Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit). Lighting and storms claimed another 380 lives. India's five warmest years on record all fell in the last decade, with 2016 the hottest. Eleven of the 15 warmest years were also during the past 15 years, the IMD said. The average for 2019 would have been higher were it not for record cold in northern India in December. Last year also saw eight cyclones form over the north Indian Ocean, below the record of 10 last reached in 1976, including five over the Arabian Sea, equalling the previous high of 1902, the IMD said. «The impact of global warming on India is unmistakable,» IMD chief Mrityunjay Mohapatra told the Times of India. «The past year had extreme weather during all seasons.» The United Nations said in December that the past decade was set to be the planet's hottest since records began. Each of the last four decades has been hotter than the preceding one. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles' Chief Justice says she will step down from Supreme Court at the end of mandate in 2020

The Chief Justice of Seychelles' top court said Friday in an address to mark the opening of the 2020 term that she intends to step down at the end of her mandate. Mathilda Twomey, who was sworn in as Chief Justice in August 2015, started her address by sayin
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles' Chief Justice says she will step down from Supreme Court at the end of mandate in 2020

The Chief Justice of Seychelles' top court said Friday in an address to mark the opening of the 2020 term that she intends to step down at the end of her mandate. Mathilda Twomey, who was sworn in as Chief Justice in August 2015, started her address by saying that «this is my fifth speech for the opening of the court, my first alongside my brothers and sisters from the Court of Appeal, and my final as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.» Twomey said that when she was asked to take up the position she did it on the condition that it would be for a five-year period and that the court would get all of the institutional support needed to make the changes required.   «And so this year I am going to honour my commitment and step down from the position as Chief Justice, and concentrate my efforts as Justice of Appeal. I believe that change is important, it brings with it fresh impetus. Another Chief Justice might have different ideas for new reform and maybe make further improvements to our judiciary,» she added. Twomey also announced that the President of the Court of Appeal, Francis MacGregor, will be retiring after 12 years at the helm of the apex court.  Twomey issued a challenge to judges and attorneys in her address to hold each other accountable and have each other's backs. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY The court opened under a new theme -- 'Commitment and Courage' -- to reflect the ability to make decisions and stick to them -- a banner under which the Supreme Court will function as it reconvenes in the new year. «In 2020, it is my hope that each and every one of us will commit ourselves to being brave and courageous and meet our duties and obligations head on. This is particularly important as 2020 is an election year and we have seen that the courtroom becomes an important place to resolve political disputes,» said Twomey. She said that courage and commitment need to be constant, especially for judges as this is what it takes «to wake up every day, and know that you will be tested, personally, professionally and intellectually. We are servants of an institution – not individuals. Commitment is also essential. Commitment to the law, to our colleagues and ourselves.» As is custom every year, the re-opening of the court started with the traditional religious service at the St. Paul's Cathedral of the Anglican Church. The service was followed by a procession through the island nation's capital led by the chief justice.  The ceremony proceeded to the Palais de Justice at Ile du Port, a man-made island on the outskirts of Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. It included an inspection of the guard of honour at the entrance of the Palais de Justice by the Chief Justice. The ceremony included an inspection of the guard of honour at the Palais de Justice. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY The judiciary will soon release its report for 2018 and 2019 which will give all the details of court performance during the past years, and the strides made towards eliminating the backlog. Reflecting on the past two years, Twomey said the Courts have reduced the remaining backlog by close to three-quarters from 400 backlogged cases pending on January 1, 2018 to 112 cases on December 31, 2019.  «Presently, in the Supreme Court, the average age of the cases on the Civil cause list is 389 days, down from 499 at the beginning of last year. In the Criminal division is 328 days down from 427 the year before,» she said. Across the Judiciary, 4,239 cases were filed in 2019 and 4,043 were completed. This excludes statistics from the Family Tribunal which had 1,170 cases filed in the year, and 722 cases completed and which does not include cases that remain open for review. Another area that will be addressed is the Supreme Court Practice Directions that are not functioning as planned. «I will continue to ensure that Judges and lawyers are held accountable through the correct channels. We will look to formalise the structure of our judicial and legal practitioner's training,» she said. The judiciary will also review the functioning of the judicial committees and specifically to address ongoing difficulties with the use of technology and digital case administration system. She said a new website will be launched this year to improve public access to the courts and ensuring that the judiciary is complying with the Access to Information Act. Twomey issued a challenge to judges and attorneys at the end of her address. «Judges, I challenge you to hold each other accountable and have each other's backs. Apply the rules and play by them. Attorneys, I would honestly recommend that you consider getting more support. We see on a daily basis that those working in partnerships or chambers are better able to make their deadlines and hearings.» She said that most importantly if there is a wrong in the system, not to turn a blind eye «even if you might feel that you are compromised because you appear before that judge because the complaint is against your lawyer or colleague and even if it might affect a future appointment.» «The enemy to »courage« is indifference, and to »commitment« is exhaustion. We must actively guard against both,» she added.

DR Congo measles outbreak kills 6,000 in a year: WHO

Measles has killed more than 6,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January, the world's worst outbreak and nearly triple the toll in the country's Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. DR Congo declared its latest measl
Seychelles News Agency

DR Congo measles outbreak kills 6,000 in a year: WHO

Measles has killed more than 6,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January, the world's worst outbreak and nearly triple the toll in the country's Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. DR Congo declared its latest measles epidemic in June, and last September the country launched an emergency vaccination campaign to counter the outbreak. In 2019, more than 18 million children under the age of 5 were vaccinated across the DR Congo, the WHO said in a statement. Around 310,000 suspected cases were reported during the year, it said. WHO said an additional $40 million in emergency funds was needed from donors for a six-month immunisation plan for children to help curb the epidemic. Efforts to halt the spread of both Ebola and measles are hampered by a lack of access, weak health care and unrest across the country, especially in the east. Measles is a highly-contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections. The rapid spread of measles in DRC has garnered far less attention than the Ebola epidemic that has also been raging in the east of the country since August 2018. That outbreak has killed more than 2,230 people. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles' lawmakers to strengthen anti-money laundering, terrorism financing legislation

A new, stronger bill on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism will be tabled before the National Assembly for approval in February, a top government official said. The secretary of state for finance, trade and investment, Patrick Pa
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles' lawmakers to strengthen anti-money laundering, terrorism financing legislation

A new, stronger bill on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism will be tabled before the National Assembly for approval in February, a top government official said. The secretary of state for finance, trade and investment, Patrick Payet, said this is part of a phased approach to strengthen the domestic framework of the local Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). «We have to ensure that our law is strong so that it allows the Registrar General which registers these companies and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to work together to spot these suspicious organisations, and investigate them,» added the secretary of state. As a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, Seychelles needs to be compliant and ensure that the country's regulations are in line with the financial action task force of the group. There are 40 recommendations under the financial action task force that member countries have to commit to, and Payet said that «unfortunately in Seychelles' case, half of those are either partially compliant or non-compliant.» «If we are not careful and vigilant, non-profit organisations would use our country as a transit route to launder their dirty money, to be used for criminal activities or terrorism,» said Payet. Last December, France added Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, to its blacklist of tax havens for not providing adequate information on some French offshore entities operating in the island nation's jurisdiction. While Seychelles has taken steps to improve frameworks in place and ensure robust regulation and legislation, there are still some challenges posed by the current systems that need to be addressed. One of the key challenges is the fact that the tax laws of Seychelles and the International Business Companies (IBC) Act do not oblige IBCs to have their accounts audited. A national committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Committee set up last February has recommended several reforms to address the challenges. The committee drafted a proposed law in April last year and met with the National Assembly in July as part of the consultation process on the review of legislation to strengthen the AML/CFT legal framework. The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill 2019 is the first that will be tabled before the National Assembly when it begins sitting in February. Payet said that under the proposed law, non-compliance will result in severe penalties for the banks. Seychelles is also seeking a new rating from the financial action task force. «We have been doing a lot of work to address the deficiencies and we will ask the organisation to rerate us. Usually, this takes roughly six months and hopefully, by September we will see an improvement in our rating and we would have been able to comply with the remaining 20 of the 40 FATF recommendations,» added Payet. 

New virus behind China's mystery pneumonia outbreak: state media

China believes a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck 59 people is due to a new strain of virus from the family of pathogens that includes SARS, state media said Thursday. The infection was first confirmed on December 31 in Wuhan, a central Chinese
Seychelles News Agency

New virus behind China's mystery pneumonia outbreak: state media

China believes a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck 59 people is due to a new strain of virus from the family of pathogens that includes SARS, state media said Thursday. The infection was first confirmed on December 31 in Wuhan, a central Chinese city with a population of over 11 million, and initially sparked fears about a resurgence of the highly contagious flu-like SARS. Experts have «preliminarily determined» that a new type of coronavirus is behind the outbreak, state broadcaster CCTV reported Thursday, citing lab results. «A total of 15 positive results of the new type of coronavirus had been detected» in the lab, CCTV said. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement Wednesday that a new coronavirus could not be excluded as a possible cause of the disease. China ruled out SARS, which killed hundreds of people more than a decade ago, in a statement on Sunday. Wuhan's health commission said on Sunday that seven of the 59 patients were seriously ill but that none had died. All patients received treatment in quarantine. Eight patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, state news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday. © Agence France-Presse

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