President’s Australian visit timely


I have read with great interest your leading article (Tuesday August 23, 2011) - "President starts visit to Australia on a high note."

I am glad that President Michel is currently, officially visiting Australia and that he is eager to promote a more active and positive relation between Seychelles and Australia beyond what has existed over recent years.

You have pointed out that President James Michel's state visit to Australia is the first by a Seychellois Head of State. This is correct. However, I am certain your readers would like to know that in early 1976 as Prime Minister of a Seychelles on the road to independence, I was invited to pay an official visit to Australia by the Australian Government.

An official reception greeted my arrival at Perth Airport, an airplane of the Royal Australian Airforce was to take me across the huge island continent to Canberra to be officially hosted by Governor General Kerr and to have discussions with the Australian Government. From Canberra, I went to Sydney where I stayed at the Australian Prime Minister's official residence, Kirribilli House, where I met with then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser who positively responded to my request for some aids by agreeing that the Federal Government of Australia would provide a subsidy to the Australian Rice Growers Association so that Seychelles would import its annual rice requirements at a price it could afford.

Of course I wanted to develop as close a tie with Australia as possible because it was the home at that time, to an estimated 10,000 Seychellois, who had immigrated there before our airport was opened, in search of a better future.

After the Second World War, Australia saw a rapid decline in British influence as she turned politically more and more towards the USA and economically more and more towards Japan and South East Asia. These developments gave the impression that Australia considered herself a Pacific Ocean Nation. I was therefore eager to remind Australian leaders that the waves of the Indian Ocean washed the coast of its great Western State, an area sparsely populated, yet so rich in minerals and other natural resources.

In these circumstances, I consider President Michel's official visit at this time to be most opportune and believe that it augurs extremely well for the future of Seychelles/Australia goodwill and friendship.

James R. Mancham

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