On Saturday, August 13, 2011, a group of specially-invited guests attended the premier screening of “Seychelles Global Citizen” – a 1-hour-and-20-minute documentary on the “Life and Time of Sir James R. Mancham” – the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, produced and realized by Mr. Benjamin Boultbee of BBI Media Ltd., Brisbane, Australia.
The documentary is a journey through the past starting with Sir James as a child growing up in “Les Seychelles de la belle époque” and focuses on major developments in Seychelles at the time of Sir James’s leadership of the islands, as a lawyer, as Chief Minister, as Prime Minister, and as founding President.
It shows the road Sir James had to navigate through along the confusing period of Cold War politics and his reasons for not initially wanting independence from Britain.
The documentary brings out that the Colonial power, Britain, which Sir James held in respect and affection, finally came out as being rather “perfidious.” Sir James had won 3 elections – calling for closer links with UK in order to secure for Seychelles a status akin to that enjoyed by La Reunion Island with France today. With no encouragement from the British to move in this direction, Sir James finally asked, “How many times can a man ask a woman to marry him?” before finally deciding to also opt for a policy of independence.
The documentary certainly projects Sir James’s side of the story in the rivalry over the constitutional issues between himself and Mr. F.A. Rene – founder of the pro-Independence SPUP Party. Of course, as history and the documentary recall, Mr. Rene became Prime Minister in a coalition government, which the British encouraged to bring about before Seychelles achieved nationhood as a republic on June 29, 1976. Less than one year later, Prime Minister Rene staged a coup against his President while he was in London attending the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sir James lived 15 years in exile – thriving as a promoter of joint-ventures and transfer of technologies. At the end of the Cold War, President Rene invited former President Mancham to return to Seychelles to contribute his share towards “the return to multi-party democracy,” but the documentary brings out that Sir James could in no way win the elections organized under the constitution of the third republic, as more than 20% of the population who were mostly his supporters had left the country to live in exile in UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, and were not given a vote.
Sir James returned to Seychelles on April 12, 1992 as the “Apostle of National Reconciliation” – a policy which constituted the base for Seychelles to move away from the one party dictatorship to free enterprise and to the relative calm and harmony, which prevails today.
Against the background of his reconciliatory stand, Sir James became active in several peace-orientated international organizations like the Universal Peace Federation, World Future Council, European Center for Peace and Development, Global Peace Festival Foundation, the World Entrepreneurs Forum, and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
Last year, Sir James won the International Jurists Award for his unique contribution to world peace. A few months ago, he was part of a panel of 3 of the Wise and Elders of the African Union who went on a pre-election mission to Egypt. Sir James himself was selected by COMESA (Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa) to be its representative as an elected member of its committee of elders. On November 24, 2011, Sir James will be in Manila, Philippines, to collect the Gusi Peace Prize Award 2011 for Statesmanship.
In a few words, the documentary is the story of an island man who became the founding President of his nation, lived 15 years in exile, returned as the “Apostle of National Reconciliation,” and became universally acknowledged as a “world statesman” working for peace.
In this documentary, the Most Reverend French Chang-Him – the retired Anglican Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, and Mr. Justice Francis MacGregor, former Speaker of the National Assembly in Seychelles and current Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal, and other prominent Seychellois citizens pay tribute to Sir James and acknowledge the role he has played to keep peace and harmony in Seychelles. Not surprisingly, the documentary ends with a photo of Sir James shaking hands with Seychelles’ current President James Alix Michel, who, a few days ago, hosted a special luncheon at State House to commemorate Sir James’s 72nd birthday.