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Address on the occasion of the celebration of Australia Day by Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles, 30th January 2012

07.02.2012

Your Excellency, Ms. Sandra Vegting, High Commissioner of Australia,         

Vice President, Ministers, Chief Justice, Members of the National Assembly,  CEO of WHL energy,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and wonderful privilege to be able to offer our warmest congratulations, on behalf of President James Michel, to the Government and People of Australia as they celebrate their national day.

This evenings gathering is particularly special as it is the first time that the Australian High Commission to Seychelles is hosting their event here with us, and for that I would like to congratulate High Commissioner Vegting for such a wonderful initiative, and also thank the management and staff of La Plaine St Andre for offering an incomparable venue for these celebrations.

Australia Day is an event celebrated by Australian communities around the world and has become a renowned celebration of the freedom, values, and spirit of the Australian people.

With over 25,000 Seychellois estimated to be living in Australia, it is home for one of the largest diaspora of Seychellois outside our islands. 

We are both oceanic nations, in the sense that our way of life is often defined by our relationship with the sea.  

It seems fitting that the world’s largest island and Africa’s smallest, should share such ties.

We not only share an ocean, but we share values, not least of which is the importance of investing in people. Over the years Australia has generously supported this ambition of Seychelles by providing opportunities for Seychellois professional to enrich their education and their country through the pursuit of higher education.

Not only has Australia hosted hundreds of Seychellois undergraduates over the years, more recently the Australia Development Scholarships at Masters Level programme,  have provided yet another opportunity for our young professional. Just recently, 10 young professionals were awarded such scholarships, for which we would like to extend our profound gratitude.

Our two countries also share an affinity for sports, though granted, not nearly on the same scale. However, as was demonstrated by the recent Indian Ocean Games, the spirit of competition and sportsmanship runs deep through our small population. Australia has recognised this shared love and has been supportive of this area of our development.

We thank the Australian Government for the recent donation of 20,000 Australian Dollars towards a multi-purpose sports complex for Ile Perseverance. In a time of many economic challenges around teh world, the Perseverance project expresses our desire to continue to invest in our people’s future- in our children’s prospects.  We thank Australia for sharing this belief.  Hopefully, the talents of many more Indian Ocean Champions will be fostered there.

Seychelles and Australia do indeed share very close ties.

And over the course of recent years we have seen a deepening of this extraordinary friendship, punctuated by landmark moments.

We had the visit of the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Mrs. Quentine Bryce in April 2009 -- the first visit of its kind.

In 2011 we had the State visit of President Michel to Australia – the first Seychellois President to do so.

We also had the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting hosted in Australia last year. One of the most successful CHOGMs to date and I would once again like to congratulate Australia on that achievement.

But in addition to this, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Australia Government for having championed the plight of Small Island States at this forum.  This CHOGM has firmly placed a number of critical SIDS related issues on the Commonwealth and World agenda whether it be sustainable development, renewable energy and the fight against climate change but also in finding a true long term solution for piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Seychelles is greatly encouraged by partners like Australia, who have shown a deeper understanding of the issue, as not only a problem for a small group of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but have seen it for the global problem it is.

The announcement made at CHOGM last year, that Australia will be hosting one of the most significant piracy conferences of 2012, is a testament of this.

We also look forward to the visit of the MHAS Melbourne later this year- an illustration of the importance that Australia places on the security of this region.

As I said before- Australia and Seychelles share much more than a geographical body of water.

We share a commitment to protecting and enhancing that shared ocean as indicated by the recent visit of Parliamentary Secretary to the Pacific Islands, Richard Marles.

Mobilising the wealth of natural resources, as well as the energy potential of our oceans is critical to SIDS development.  This concept of a blue economy can revolutionise the concept of sustainable development in an island context.  His visit has reinforced our shared commitment to the environment and its protection for future generations in the context of cooperation with SIDS.

Australia is one of the world’s leading countries in areas of environmental protection and marine research, and I believe we have much to learn from one another.  I am very pleased that tonight we will hear of several projects that help support environmental projects in Seychelles.  I am also pleased to note that Seychelles will shortly be benefiting from technical assistance from Australia to improve the water safety on our beaches through training of lifesavers.

We also look forward to benefitting from Australia’s extensive experience on issues of island states and regional cooperation, particularly among Pacific island states, as we look to strengthening the Indian Ocean Commission.

The IOC, of which -as you all know- Seychelles has recently taken Presidency of, has a very important role to play in the region. But we need the support and encouragement of partners so that we may reach our full potential. In addition to being a vital organisation for the region, I believe we have an equally important contribution to make to the wider international community. Island states in particular have a lot to offer the world.

We are the barometers. We may be the first to feel the negative effects of a volatile global climate, but we are also among the first capable of change, success and progress.

We offer the opportunity to provide the change that can beat climate change.  We offer the opportunity to illustrate how small changes can have a big impact.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Recent surges in world fuel prices, continually remind us of the importance of energy security.

We are very pleased to have WHL with us tonight.  They have shown their belief in Seychelles by investing in the search for oil.

The Seychelles Government has consistently committed itself to best practices in the management structure it has established for a potential oil find, as well as its commitment to ensuring that any exploitation that takes place is both environmentally sound, and economically sustainable.

We like to think that is one of the main reasons WHL has chosen Seychelles. 

We also look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government and the private sector from Australia and beyond, to develop energy security in Seychelles through sustained investment in renewable energy projects.

It is clear to us, that even while we are on the cusp of one of the most important oil finds of this region, we cannot neglect the importance of establishing locally available low cost energy technology.

Once again we thank WHL for their partnership in this exciting venture which further cements the close ties between Seychelles and Australia. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

During its history, Australia has become renowned for its ability to adapt and transform itself to meet the challenges of the age.

From the very first ship to reach its shores in 1788, till today, the Australian people have embraced transformation and growth, and I have no doubt that the next 200 odd years will only strengthen those values.

The world economic crisis, the threat of climate change as well as the continued menace of piracy challenge all nations in profound ways.

Both Seychelles and Australia have expressed a determination and desire to combat these challenges through innovation and partnership.

So in honour of that spirit, I would like to propose a toast on behalf of President James Alix Michel:  To the Peoples and Government of Australia and Seychelles. May the seeds of friendship sown between our two peoples continue to flourish and bear fruit.

Thank you.

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