Supreme Court of Seychelles says family seeking return of Coetivy Island is too late
The Supreme Court of Seychelles on Tuesday dismissed a case seeking the return of Coetivy Island to its former owner — the Delhomme’s family.
The family’s lawyer, Frank Elisabeth, told the press after the court’s ruling that the judge dismissed the case because according to the law a case must have been filed within 20 years.
The case was heard before Justice Ellen Carolus.
“According to the judge, this means that as soon as the first installment was not made in February 1980, the Delhomme family should have brought the case within the timeframe of 20 years, but they did it 40 years later,” he said.
The claim before the courts was made by Alain Hoareau, an adopted son of the late Andre Delhomme, one among the former owners of Coetivy Island.
Hoareau said that he is very disappointed with the ruling and that “all the suffering that we have been through under the regime of Albert Rene has not been taken into consideration today. Justice does not exist in Seychelles. Even our plea for the outstanding balance was dismissed by the court. As the victims, my family works out empty handed.”
Elisabeth said that he will advise his client to go for an appeal to rediscuss the interpretation of this point in the law.
Coetivy island is situated 290km south of the main island of Mahe and several projects have been outlined to take place on the island which is managed by the Islands Development Company (IDC).
The deal to purchase the island was made in 1979 by the government of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, at the time and the owners under an acquisition agreement.
Elisabeth said that “the government did not fully honour the contract after the transaction was made to purchase the island in 1979. There was a balance of 4 million rupees ($245,000) to be paid. The government made a deposit of 2.5 million($153,000) and the rest was to be paid by installments, but they never did,” said Elisabeth.
The lawyer representing the government, Stefan Knights, said that there is an inventory of a person’s asset when he dies including the different bank accounts that the person had.
“The obligation would be on the family to check in those accounts if the payment was made. If not, the family could have used those accounts as evidence to the court. He who asserts must prove. We are the defendant in this matter. The plaintiff should have come with evidence,” said Knights.
Elisabeth disagreed that in the law there is a principle that says he who asserts must prove. “In this particular case, it doesn’t work in the concept of debt. The burden of proof lies on the government to prove that they have made the payment.”
Seychellois whose land was taken by the government from 1977 to 1993 had until June last year to lodge their claims with a Land Compensation tribunal, which was set up in August 2017. The establishment of the Tribunal was in line with a Court of Appeal ruling of December 7, 2012, in which the government was invited to set up a Tribunal, to deal with compensation cases as opposed to taking cases to Court.
Meanwhile, Coetivy is being used for a rehabilitation programme for up to 30 inmates under an agreement between the Islands Development Company (IDC) which manages the island and the Prison Services.
A prawn farm on Coetivy is also expected to be relaunched and will be managed by a Seychellois team.