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“The People”, turned 55 on 17 August, becoming the oldest publication in our islands.

From its launch in August 1964, this newspaper had goals and purposes for the entire population.
Its strapline has remained “Fearless in dignity”. The logo adopted 55 years ago when SPUP started the struggle, depicted a sun, rising above the sea. This symbolized the emergence of a new day for the Seychellois society.
The newspaper’s “battle horses”, focused on policies that were meant to benefit the worker by way of better and fairer salaries; the fishermen- better boats for improved fish catches; the teacher, increased training opportunities learning openings to every child.
This newspaper also encouraged the gardener to diversify agriculture. This, it stated could be done by producing a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, while contributing to food security.
On national level, this paper, as our Party advocated reform of land ownership to allow every family to have a home of their own.
Similarly, such land reform was aimed at ensuring the farmer till his own land, while the artisan can run his/her own workshop.
Real democratization of the national economy, our publication stated, is to allow all and everyone to participate in our country’s economic development and to share in fruitful dividends.
In its first issue of August 1964, the Party’s founder and leader, France Albert René outlined the revolutionary role of the newspaper.

“The People” is launched

He wrote: “The Seychelles People’s United Party is proud to present to the people, a newspaper that will never shirk from constructively criticizing every action or policy, that is not for the benefit of the people of this country.”
He went on “This newspaper will strive to educate politically, economically and socially so that we will stand and fight for progress and constitutional reform and will struggle by all constitutional means, to guide the people to achieve their right to freedom.”
55 years down the line, all three Presidents from the Party have been closely involved with “The People” in their time
Initially, Mr. René penned most the editorials and articles himself, though the first editor was Rifned Jumeau-one of the Party founders. A shopkeeper of Mont Fleuri, Mr. Jumeau, was in these early days also a strong orator at Party public meetings.
Part of the challenge was to keep the articles fresh and to maintain the interests of readers. As one example, Mr. René used his considerable writing skills and imagination to come up with a weekly exchange of correspondence between two young people.
The characters in the correspondence had pseudo-names Jeanne living at Baie Ste Anne, Praslin and Marcel, from Mahe. In the 1960s, such correspondence was introduced to illustrate the political situation of those early days.
“A dear Jeanne and Marcel Letter’ was this year re-introduced in “The People” a popular feature on page 2 of every issue.
Soon after its launching “The People” headlined on the education of our children, the need for improved health care as well as an adequate for the elderly. The newspaper also focused on fisheries, tourism and bases in the Indian Ocean. That was between 1964 and 1967.
A bold editorial appeared in the issue of December 16, 1970, entitled “No Compromise”.

No compromise on independence

It said: “There is no further possibility of a political compromise in Seychelles. The war is a war to the finish.” The editorial, by Mr. René called for total independence of Seychelles from British rule. It pointedly stated: “If the struggle for the people of Seychelles, should cost me, my own freedom or my life, then it is worth it.”
Another strong battle cry of “The People” was the Indian Ocean- zone of peace. As such, the newspaper wrote that three Seychelles islands: Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches, which had been detached by the British to constitute the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) must be returned before our independence.
The paper was commenting on a motion at the Legislative Assembly on December 18, 1974. It said that the whole idea of establishing BIOT was in order for the NATO countries to have a permanent presence in the Indian Ocean. This, it said, has in recent years posed a serious threat to the principle of international détente.
“To spend millions on developing naval and air bases, while millions of children are dying of hunger. These are scarcely ideals to which the people of Seychelles can hardly subscribe.
“The people noted then that the US had spent $ 65 million on BIOT and projects expenditure of a further $ 161 million.

Independence: “It is midnight”, writes James Michel

Mr. James Michel soon after joining the Party officially in 1974, became involved with “The People”. It was agreed by the SPUP leadership that he should assist in writing and producing the paper.
Mr. Michel, who had left his job a Cable & Wireless and taken part in a strike for improved working conditions, said he was free to write most of the content and also design the layout.
He was helped in the publication’s production by Sylvette Pool and Rita Sinon, who did the typing. Norcy Chung-Loye helped with the printing.
Upon independence on June 29, 1976, Mr. Michel was very proud that a poem he had written in French and which had been published in “The People” was quoted by Mr. René, then Prime Minister in his speech. The title Was: “Il est minuit” or “It is midnight”, as our new nation’s flag was raised.
President Danny Faure was also involved with “The People” as a young student, he contributed articles and poems to the publication. That was done in support and promotion of SPUP/SPPF ideals.
Danny Faure also helped with newspaper’s distribution in the early days.

Living up to motto “Fearless in dignity”

Over the years, “The People” is read by both sympathizers and adversaries of the Party. It it obvious that, Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan is one of the avid readers.
In May this year, he raised quite a few eye-brows when he brandished a copy of this publication in the National Assembly. Ramkalawan read rather passionately from it, quoting excerpts. That was the issue of May 31, which carried a lead article entitled “ A MASTER STROKE”.
The Opposition Leader was seemingly peeved at the forceful article: “One bold decision from President Danny Faure, has knocked the opposition clique out of its illusion that the road to the next presidential election was going to be an easy ride for them. It left their leader in the Assembly so stunned and disoriented…….
That was an article about President’s Faure’s proposals to request the Electoral Commission (EC) to hold a referendum on whether Seychellois residing abroad, should be registered as voters and subsequently vote in elections here.
In view of the fact that Ramkalawan has always advocated the vote for the Seychellois diaspora, to whom he has gone as far as promising retirement benefits, it was a surprising riposte.
“The People” was cursed for spelling the truth. It was just one of many abuses, suffered in its 55 year existence.
This newspaper is sure that Ramkalawan’s outrage will not be the last. It shall, however persist in its struggle against the decadent forces within our small nation.
It shall always live up to its motto “Fearless in dignity” and remain assertive whenever provoked!

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