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“I, Davidson Barra; My story with the Opposition, precisely SNP and Regar newspaper, started in the year 2000. It came about in that way:

Frankly it was never in my mind to work with an Opposition newspaper one day. But it happened.
In life, you find yourself without a choice and survival becomes the name of the game. It was the case for me.
From 1992 I started working with a government media house after graduating from the School of Media Studies. My job as a radio presenter was an enjoyable experience and until today I still miss it.
In the late 1990s things started to get sour between me and my bosses due to some internal rifts. It was not anything professional which was dividing us, but it is a shame how petty personal matters can at times take precedence over professional considerations and thus ruin an otherwise good working relationship. It happened that way.
The situation gradually deteriorated and in 1999, I quit work. That same year I took up training at the newly created National Institute of Education (NIE) to become a teacher. Either I was never cut out for the job or the environment where I was posted was not conducive to carve out a career as a teacher.
But whatever the reason, I quit after one year. Unfortunately, this sad situation coincided with a momentous occasion in my life. It was the birth of my second daughter towards the end of the year 1999. I was out of a job and with a family to feed. Both, the mother of my child and I were not working. On top of it all, I had a housing loan to pay with what was called SHDC at that time.
How does one deal with such a situation?
My disappointment with the political party which was called SPPF at that time goes as follows. Most of its top government officials knew me and I knew them as well. From my position as a radio presenter I was able to help a few of them in a subtle way come election times. But after securing victory, all were soon forgotten. We were no longer pals and their telephone numbers were inaccessible all the times or were no longer in service.
I applied for a number of jobs that required a minimum of O-Level qualifications. I have good A-Level and was supposedly acquainted to many who could have been my future employers, but I did not get a single one of those jobs. In fact, I was never even interviewed for any of those posts as well. They knew my situation and they knew me personally as well. But they could not care less. My period of unemployment was by that time over three months. It was getting too long and I had a very small daughter to raise. I had to work. I decided that I would not be a chooser. I would take the first job that anyone could offer me and did just that.

How I joined SNP!

The Leader of the Opposition was an acquaintance of mine. During the time when I was still working as a Radio Presenter I occasionally interviewed him in his capacity as a priest and also an emerging politician. I also knew the (Publisher or Real Boss) of the newspaper for which I was to work for a number of years in a similar way.
In those days, the political party in power, the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front, was overwhelmingly strong. Very few individuals were willing to associate themselves with the Opposition which by contrast was relatively weak. I braved the storm and went to seek employment with the Opposition newspaper “Regar” when I heard they had a vacancy at this weekly publication “Regar”. I had to survive and take care of my family.
Either because they were desperate to get qualified people to work for them or they were showing themselves to be generous, to tell the truth, I was welcomed with open arms. They recruited me instantly and I started work immediately. Where SPPF failed to take care of one of their own, United Opposition which later became SNP accommodated me.
There have always been very understanding politicians at the very top level of the SPPF hierarchy. When you meet with them, your problem is easily solved. But thre are few officials further down the line who make life difficult for others and do not do justice to the principles of the Party.
So, in January 2000, I was recruited as a journalist for this Opposition newspaper.
That was it.

Weekly work procedures

The way we operated was as follows: Every Monday morning there was a special briefing among the main figures of SNP. There were three of them. They included the Leader of the Opposition (Wavel Ramkalawan), the Editor of the newspaper (Roger Mancienne) and its publisher, Jean -Francois Ferrari whom I regarded as (The Real Boss) for many obvious reasons.
During the meeting they would gossip and make a political analysis of what had transpired during the weekend. But it always ended in huge bursts of laughter which bordered on arrogance. It was as though despite being in the Opposition, they were living very comfortable lives and nothing was a problem for them. Politics appeared to be just a game of chance if they won it would have been ok and if they lost it was not a problem either. But they were hoping to one day hit the big jackpot. The Presidency. But obviously it was and is still not an issue for them if such a day never comes. They were living the good life out of being a constant political threat to SPPF which on the other hand did not want to relinquish power at any cost.
After the meeting of the three top guys, then came a second gathering at a lower level.

Arrogant boss sits on table, pulling white hairs

This time it was to discuss what articles will feature in that particular week’s issue of the newspaper.
This meeting always respected a pattern. In came the Editor with a notebook. Then came the Publisher (The Real Boss), always sporting arrogance. He would sit on the table with his legs crossed and pull overgrown hairs or white ones out of his nose with his bare hands. Even if he was not the Editor or the Leader of the Opposition, he was the real Boss. His attitude never failed to make the statement plain for anyone to understand.
He has always been the care-taker of the Arpent Vert apartment where the newspaper is based.
So, whilst the Editor went through his list of assignments for the week, the Publisher (The real Boss) would sit on the table looking condescendingly at all of us who had gathered for what seemed to be a mission we all participated in on equal footing. From atop the desk, he would jokingly cast crude and despicable remarks about everyone, including other party stalwarts or financial backers. He was one for jokes. But under this veneer of “joie de vivre”, there was also a man with dictatorial and arrogant attitude who believed he was born to be above everybody else.
In a meeting of grown-ups and very educated people, one cannot sit on a table, even if it happens to be your own or located in a building of which you are the caretaker. It is disrespectful. Even the so-called Editor did not like it judging by the sudden flush in his countenance when that happened. But he was unable to discipline his Publisher (The real Boss) on the issue. Though more educated and civilized than The Publisher, the Editor was willing to play second fiddle to him. Probably he had an exaggerated degree of respect for the family name.

What kind of friends?

SNP had an army of so-called friends. But they were not real. They were rich people who used SNP as banks where they could invest their money. In case of a Ramkalawan presidency they expected to reap high dividends out of their close association with him or their donations towards SNP.
They would make these donations and thereafter behave like Gods in the Arpent Vert compound. They would also treat employees from humble family backgrounds, but who were more intelligent than them, as though they were mere slaves. I myself was personally insulted on the eve of a very important election over a take-away lunch. It was very irritating and shameful. But this opportunist guy was to learn that he had made a big mistake. That was how it happened.
I was the journalist responsible for all the Party’s (Political Broadcast) or PPB as we know it.
The 2007 National Assembly election campaign had started. The time was around noon. There was supposed to be candidates coming every now and then to record their programmes. But they were not coming soon enough. Therefore I decided to go in town and have my lunch. I informed the Publisher (The Real Boss) of my intention because I was aware that my presence at the office would be needed anytime since I was the only person with a radio and television background. I had to be there when a PPB is recorded.

Being mean over a takeaway lunch

In most cases I did the vocal presentation of the candidates myself.
It was at this moment that he (The Publisher and Real Boss) told me that I had better not leave the office because a candidate might come at any moment and it would not be helpful to the party if no one was around to record their (PPBs). He told me that instead I would get one of the lunch-boxes for free because he had already sent someone to buy. It was a fair and reasonable proposal. I understood his point and therefore I did not leave the office. When the lunchboxes came, I went to the person who distributed them to those who were working with the campaign. The person was also in charge of the Opposition’s overall election campaign. He was normally nowhere to be seen at Arpent Vert during normal times, but only appeared when there was an important occasion such as an election and ruled the roost at the request of the official Big Boss.
Being a man who for many years had affiliated himself with the biggest humanitarian organization in the country, it was surprising the inhumanity within him. He asked me if normally lunch was paid for me by the party. I answered No! And I explained the circumstances to him.
Normally, I paid for my own lunch, but since I was doing a particular job during the election, therefore I asked to stay in the office to receive the candidates whenever they arrived. Furthermore, I explained to him that it was (The Publisher or Real Boss) who had offered me one of the lunch-boxes he had bought. He could not understand whatever I was telling him. To him, a box of take-away was too good a privilege for the likes of me. My temper rose and a very nasty verbal exchange followed between the man who passes himself as very respectable and I. It culminated in him offering me one of the lunch-boxes with a warning that the same would not happen the next day. I did not take it.
Feeling humiliated, I instead advised him on what he could best do with the lunch-box. To think that most Seychellois have been misled into believing that there is something good about him!
It was a shameful and dangerous scenario to occur on the eve of an election. And to believe that we were there “Pour menm Rezon.” Really Shameful! But I started to see the light. I was surrounded with wolves in sheep’s clothing and swimming in a shark infested water. But there was more to come!

Pension fund controversy

According to the law, an employer has a responsibility to contribute towards the pension of all his employees. At SNP it was not the case. What determined whether your pension contribution got paid or not was how you behaved whilst you were employed by them or thereafter. One of my journalist colleagues, John Lablache thought that the newspaper was remitting his monthly pension contribution to the Pension Fund.
He later discovered that it was not being done. He confirmed that though pension contributions were deducted monthly from his meagre salary, nothing was being paid into the Fund on his behalf.
There was a big fuss over the issue. The controversy ended with Lablache banging the door and taking up employment elsewhere.
I myself started to work with the newspaper in January 2000. I left in 2011. It does not take a mathematician to understand that there is an accumulation of 10 years’ continuous service. Under the law, 10 years of continuous service guarantees any employee an automatic pension at retirement age or in the event of invalidity. However, a letter was maliciously written by the Editor of the newspaper to the Pension Fund after I quit in 2011. It purposefully stated that I took up employment with the newspaper in 2003, instead of 2000.
It was deliberately done just to deny me of my rightful pension because I had left SNP to join SPPF.
It was spite and cruelty of the darkest brand!
How could someone be employed in 2003 when he was the sole journalist behind the 2001 Presidential Election and 2002 Legislative campaign? My voice could be heard all over the place. It was an injustice and vengeful politics, that is the characteristic of SNP. Once I tried to get SBC to help me get those recordings to make my case before a Court of Law. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the co-operation of those who could have helped me.
To tell the truth, I have never been an official member of SNP. But I was officially employed with Regar from 2000 to 2011.

Disappointment turns more sour

During the course of my employment with Regar, I noticed a lot. We were supposedly a group because apparently we all had the same purpose, or so we thought. But it was not the case.
I was personally there because SNP could not find anyone else to work for its newspaper at that time. The SPPF Government was overwhelmingly strong and no one wanted to risk their livelihood for the cause of any other political party. Only those who could survive without the help of the government who were normally prepared to do so. Many of my colleague workers with SNP fell into that category, except me.
But, I did not have any choice. I had to work and accept whatever risks there were. I had to take care of a household and cater for my girlfriend and our newly born daughter.
The SNP bosses had attitudes which always puzzled me. Since I was one of the very few people who were willing to work for them, as politicians they should have used that to score plenty of political points. Instead they preferred to consolidate the accusation against them that they were “Grand Blancs” and supported the wealthy. They could have shown that this was not the case by turning me as the envy of other journalists employed by the government. Knowing fully well that I came from an SPUP-SPPF family, it would have been even more convincing.
Really, I should have been made the envy of journalists employed with government media houses. It would have shown the difference between how the Opposition treated workers as opposed to the government. But there were no real politicians at Arpent Vert so they did not see further than their noses. Greed can also make people ignore even what they can see.
Instead I found myself under constant threat because I was an Opposition and SNP.
SPPF was by far the stronger political force in the country compared to SNP. So, I expected to be bullied by SPPF activists. How dare you to join the Opposition when your colour is black and come from a poor family? It was a question that was being screamed at me every day. It was unconceivable for someone like me to support the Opposition. Even doctors sometimes make this mistake. They know the disease but do not, necessarily know its cause.
I was unable to access government facilities and services because I was looked upon as an enemy wherever I go. But the Opposition never considered that I was one of a kind. One who could openly challenge the system even if all the odds were against me? They instead thought I was living like most of them do. They could defy the system during a whole lifetime and still survive comfortably. But I could not. I was basically living from hand to mouth and dependent on whoever could pay my next salary.
As one of the few journalists it employed and coming from a very humble background, the Opposition should have used my employment with Regar to make its political point, but it failed. I should have been one of the happiest journalists in the country. But I was in fact one of the most miserable. One day I asked myself a question. If the Opposition could not take care of one man, how then could it be expected to take care of a country with over 90,000 inhabitants?

Arrogance and racism

It has always been said that many political figures in the Opposition are either arrogant or racist. I was led to believe those statements were not true. I took it that they were only political jargons propagated by SPPF to discourage people from voting another political party, since its support base consisted mainly the less vulnerable. But I was mistaken. Both arrogance and racism existed at Arpent Vert.
I will recount a story which until this day is most disturbing and distressful to me.
On a Monday morning, one young woman from Corgat Estate presented herself in front of the office where I worked. She wanted to see the (Real Boss) who occasionally saw those who were in need of assistance. The young woman carried two small children around her waist. She only wanted to obtain some money so she could buy milk for them. After a long conversation, which I did not know what was being said, (The Publisher or Real Boss) gave her some money. I do not know how much. But the young woman appeared to be satisfied and left with a smile. No sooner than she had left the Arpent Vert compound, the Big Boss who we all know his name, came out of his hiding place. “Mwan mon pa entertain sa bann gr..nn”, to quote his own words. He went on to add this horrendous remark. It went like this:
“Premye keksoz gran lendi bomaten nek zot vin rod larzan Arpent Vert, akoz zot pa al vann zot f..s?”
Yet, there was no problem when one fine day, I saw him at Wharf hotel waiting to see the Indian millionaire. I am not insinuating anything bad but he was definitely not mistreated.
Truly enough there were some people, young men able to work who came and begged for money almost everyday at Arpent Vert. It would have been understandable if such a nasty remark was made against one of them. But in the case of the young mother who was carrying her two very young daughters around her waist and seeking for some help, it was heartbreaking. If someone had told me the man could do such a thing, I would not have believed. But I was there. I heard and saw what took place that day.

Greed

One day a delegation from the international media group “Rapporteur Sans Frontieres” came to pay our newspaper a visit. The aim was to congratulate our team for the good work being done in promoting freedom of the press and democracy in the country. After a long meeting, as a token of appreciation and to encourage us for the good work we were doing, they handed out a cheque to the Editor. Based on what was said whilst handing over the cheque, it was clear that the “Rapporteur Sans Frontieres” delegation expected that in some way all members of our team would see a direct benefit from that donation. But it was not to be.
Altogether there were four of us who were part of the “Regar” team at that time. The Editor obviously knew how much was given, since the money was handed directly to him. So did the Publisher (The Real Boss) because he was privy to everything that happened at Arpent Vert. The remaining two of us, a colleague journalist and I were just totally ignored. We never knew how much was given and what the money was used for. But we knew that there was this money because it was given in our presence. We hoped and hoped that at some point there would be a mention of it and we would see a gesture of appreciation for our contribution as well. Nothing ever happened and it was the end of the story.
During the “Radio Freedom” protest in front of the National Library in October 2006, I was not amongst those beaten.
But I was the journalist at the National Assembly who witnessed all that took place that day.
Later on, I was in the group who walked the streets in Victoria to protest against what had happened.
Sometime after the protest there was an enquiry and court cases. Each time there was a hearing, most of us at Arpent Vert, myself included, attended as a gesture of solidarity. The cases ended up in the official Big Boss, The Editor and (The Publisher or Real Boss) all three receiving considerable sums of money as compensation. There was complete silence over how much each received. But we learned from SBC news that compensations were between R 75,000 and R100,000. No one was offered a bottle of lemonade to celebrate with them their victorious legal battle. But they are still calling everyone to remember the occasion every year and they take photos at the entrance of the National Library building.
A successful businessman was in the habit of sponsoring household items and cash to the party every now and then. His contribution increased each time there is an election. Over many years, I was the journalist behind all of the party’s political broadcast before its candidates went into election. Not once was I offered anything that the businessman donated for “free” as a gesture of appreciation for the work I was doing. They knew the sort of social background I came from and therefore needed all the help I could get. But they were simply not interested. I was being paid a salary to work for the newspaper. That was all!
So, that was it. It is how I interpreted their behaviour. We could only expect a meagre salary, nothing more. With them, there was no caring and sharing.
Many people left Arpent Vert in disgust because of one thing in particular. The Trio of the official Boss of the political party, the Editor of the newspaper and it’s a Publisher (The Real Boss) did not know the meaning of the word gratitude. You were a hero today and nobody the next day.
As soon as someone new whom they believed could help them win elections came along, then they dumped the old faithful ones, however hard they may have worked, and whatever the sacrifices they have consented to.
I can easily mention the name of some of the former employees of Arpent Vert who today do not even want to hear the name of their former employers. They include journalists, candidates, bodyguards, secretaries and others. Some who were true believers of the party’s political ideology today do not know what to believe anymore. They are the ones who will never support United Seychelles or any party which stems from SPUP.
So, now they prefer to attend all religious gatherings and praise the name of the Lord from morning to evening. It is difficult for one not to become a Born Again Christian after a spell at Arpent Vert.

The final straw

There was a point in the year 2010 when there were only three of us working for the newspaper.
There was the Editor, (The Publisher or Real Boss) and I. Every day the official Boss of the party would come from above our heads where his office was located to share with us the political news of the previous day. Since there were so few of us, I had then thought that my presence was now being valued more than before. There were quite a number important occasions linked to one of the bosses and his family during the year. Be it a wedding, anniversaries or house baptism. They took place mostly during the weekend. I got to know about details of those celebrations the following Monday. I was never invited to any of them. But some of the workers who were doing less important jobs than I was doing, were always on the list of invitees. It was at that point I realized just how irrelevant I was to my superiors. Despite having spent long hours at the National Assembly as the journalist who represented the newspaper and the political party, all those efforts counted for nothing.
Despite being the voice behind the party’s political broadcasts (PPB) during all elections, that also counted for nothing.
Despite being the only member of the newspaper team who had to walk, wherever I went and on a number of occasions being insulted by SPPF activists, that also counted for nothing.
But the stroke that broke the camel’s back came in December 2010 during the festive holiday. Even if I was then the only journalist who was not one of the bosses at Arpent Vert, no one did anything to make me feel that they appreciated what I had done during the whole year. I remained at home doing nothing in the hope that sooner or later I would get a call and something would be forthcoming which would brighten my festive season. But no call ever came.
It just happened that one day I decided to go to the office to check my e-mail and see if a message of any sort had come in. It was also a way to convey the message that I still existed to my Bosses and probably my physical presence would have jolted their memory and made them understand the end of the year is the time when we show appreciation to those close to us either in the family or in workplaces. But I was met with faces which conveyed no special expression of any sort to go along with the supposed jolly Christmas season.
As I paraded around in the compound like a stray dog, I noticed a commotion in the stairs that led up to where the office of the official Boss of the party was. Those people were drinking beers and having some fun. It was (The Publisher or Real Boss) who was entertaining them. He came to me and said that it was a gathering for staff members of the newspaper and that I was free to join in and partake in drinking a few beers as well. It dawned on me that if I had not by chance decided to check my e-mail, I would have missed that as well. I would have only known about the gathering when I came for another year of hard work in January 2011, had I not accidentally came to the office. I have had enough!
At that point I decided that at the first occasion, I will have to abandon the ship. I have spent an entire decade for the newspaper and SNP. The appreciation for the service I was rendering it and the political party as well were sinking lower and lower in my esteem- with each passing year.
It was in January or early February that I decided to tender my letter of resignation. The Editor called his (Publisher) for an urgent meeting. After quite a while they summoned me inside the office. I was instantly offered an increment of R1500 on my salary. It was a tempting offer, but I had already decided to leave and my mind was already made. But one big question remained. Where had the money come from suddenly?
They could have encouraged me with at least one third of it during all those years I was in employment with them. People have to be tested in order to know what kind of stuff they are made of. But unfortunately, I was on that day not testing anyone. I just wanted to leave and did just that.
But my over 10 years’ experience working with the Opposition has been politically fruitful and enriching. So very much indeed. I now know who is who in the sphere of Seychelles’ politics. Often politicians within the SPUP, SPPF, Parti Lepep and United Seychelles are painted as the political villains in the country. However, I have personally known many of them at the top of the hierarchy who are very humane such as former President James Michel and President Danny Faure- whose intentions are very noble with regards to the well-being of the Seychellois nation.
By contrast, I have also known politicians in the Opposition whom their daily prayers are incantations of love, freedom and democracy. But there is not a single bone reflecting those noble virtues within their bodies.
What is the biggest threat to our nation today are wolves within sheep’s clothing. We must be able to identify and keep a close watch on them. They have hidden agendas motivated by greed and thirst for power at all costs.
The objective of Opposition politicians is not to serve the people but themselves. We are already seeing examples of it since LDS won the 2016 National Assembly Elections. The manner LDS has voted down the budget of DICT is eye-opener to all!
Never did Ramkalawan spare a thought for the well-being of the 72 hardworking personnel of the department. He thinks only about his selfish needs and his ambition to become President.
As the President remarked at his State House Press conference last Thursday, the LDS move can paralyze the entire country. The immigration, customs, planning, licensing, civil aviation and many more areas can come to a standstill.
President Faure has taken over the dossier and will be helping DICT and its employees.
Wavel Ramkalawan and his party LDS see a problem in everything. But luckily President Danny Faure has a solution to all the challenges they throw at him. He always remains cool and reflect the strength of his Party, United Seychelles.
I am ashamed to have ever been associated with the Opposition. Recenlty, somebody from Australia came before the Truth Commission to call one of our compatriots, pig. We all felt that insult and that made me realise that racism still persists among a few in Seychelles. Former President René was therefore right to stage a coup in 1977. He broke the neck of an apartheid regime that was taking shape in our country.

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