a bid to underscore the national importance of fortifying moral values and improving social challenges, President Wavel Ramkalawan yesterday undertook his first meetings with the Seychelles Interfaith Council and the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles.

Both meetings at State House were described as “most encouraging” by the president as well as by the Seychelles Interfaith Council (Sifco) and Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (Ceps).

Following the meetings, held separately, President Ramkalawan said that his first official encounter with the two organisations provided the needed momentum and hope for change in regards to the social issues that plague the country.

“In the meetings, we looked at the society and in my inauguration speech I did mention that I was going to call on religious leaders to help in giving our people a new understanding, in helping rehabilitate moral values and morality in the country.”

President Ramkalawan also noted that Sifco and Ceps both expressed their eagerness to be consulted during the law making process, particularly when it comes to legislations that have social implications.

“Sifco was not really consulted when the country was looking at the issue of domestic violence; they wished that they had this opportunity. And the same was repeated by Ceps,” said the president.

“Tomorrow when I meet with the Speaker, the leaders in the National Assembly and the Attorney General, these will be taken up so that all of these groups can have an input as we go through the process of lawmaking,” added President Ramkalawan.

In his meeting with Sifco, the head of state and the religious leaders discussed education, how to instill moral values in children at a tender age, and building strong families, all with the overarching goal of creating a better society.

Presently chaired by the outgoing Catholic Bishop Denis Wiehe, Sifco comprises various denominations and faith-based organisations that work in tandem to promote interreligious dialogue and universal living values.

Sifco spokesperson, Marion Gendron, stated that yesterday’s first consultative meeting with the president was an opportunity to explore the new government’s plans in regards to education, discipline, drugs, and morality, and how Sifco can work together with the government to improve social and spiritual behaviour.

“We also discussed morality in the country and the development of a national strategic plan geared at improving universal values such as love, generosity, honesty and so on,” said Mrs Gendron.

The interfaith council also welcomed the announcement that the president, also an ordained priest, will henceforth oversee religious affairs. In the previous government it was the office of the vice-president that had undertaken this task, meeting up with Sifco at regular three-month intervals.

President Ramkalawan yesterday also requested that Sifco reconsiders the feasibility of its initial plans to create a common house of worship, since each religion has its own rites.

“Instead the president noted that he will assess the individual demands of each denomination and explore ways to help them individually,” said Mrs Gendron.

With regard to the civil society, President Ramkalawan and Ceps addressed the construction of the Ceps House, the half-way house for battered women and training of volunteers to help the population to better care for themselves in the midst of Covid-19, among others.

Present at the meeting were Ceps’ chief executive Michel Pierre, deputy chief executive Julie Florentine, chairperson Jude Fred and members on the Ceps board.

“The meeting went really well. The board brought forward various issues to the attention of the president. We discussed our memorandum of understanding with the government and how we will continue to work together, and I am happy to say that we will continue under the auspices of the Office of the Vice-President…” noted Mr Fred.

He stated that they spoke of the national projects President Ramkalawan touched on in his inauguration speech and the civil society’s role in moving the country forward.

“The president has a vision to assist the civil society and NGOs accomplish their goals. It was an opportunity for us to also bring ideas and propositions to help the country overcome the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

President Ramkalawan immediately referred some of Ceps’ concerns to the relevant ministries or authorities to be dealt with yesterday, and Mr Fred added that “once these issues are resolved, many NGOs will be able to function more efficiently in the years to come”.

The new president will continue with his series of familiarisation visits and meetings in the coming weeks.