(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles is remembering and mourning a former politician and Catholic priest who has been credited for his endeavours to bring democracy to the island nation. Gabriel Hoarau, who passed away last weekend, was laid to rest on Thursday.
His funeral service was held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in the capital of Victoria. Gaby, as he was affectionately known, was 82 years old.
Gaby was a strong ally of Seychellois who were exiled in the United Kingdom after the coup d’etat in June 1977 when a one-party state was established by President France Albert Rene. Together with the likes of Gerard Hoarau – not related to Gaby – he set up the ‘Mouvement pour la Resistance’ (MPR- Movement for Resistance) in the early 1980s. The party was then changed to Seychelles National Movement (SNM).
The London-based party was very active and openly criticised the then President Rene. In 1985, Gerard Hoarau was assassinated at his home in Edgware, north London, allegedly because his party was seeking to overthrow Rene’s government.
In 2018, Scotland Yard announced that a 77-year-old man has been arrested in County Antrim in the northeast of Northern Ireland in connection with Hoarau’s assassination. The suspect, arrested on conspiracy to commit murder was taken to a police station in south London but no new information was revealed.
Following Hoarau’s death, Gaby took the helm of the party. Ralph Volcere, a fellow member of the party who was also in exile, told SNA on Wednesday that he met Gaby in the early 1980s. “When I was growing up, I had heard of Gaby, but it was when I was in exile in 1982 that I met him, when Gerard founded the Seychelles National Movement, Gaby was an executive member of the party,” said Volcere.
Volcere added that Gaby remained with the party for the next 8 years. Upon their return to the island nation in 1991, Gaby, as the party leader, participated in the elections and in 1993 formed an alliance with two other opposition parties to form the United Opposition (UO) at the return of the multi-party system. Gaby removed himself from the political scene in 1998.
Volcere said that it is Gaby’s strong leadership at the helm of the party that has marked him. “Gaby was very frank, if there were things that were misleading, he would tell you frankly there and then. With Gaby you always know where you stand,” said Volcere, adding that “Gaby was too frank, – a no nonsense person who always wanted things done the right way. That is why he could not stay in politics.”
He said that these ways were inculcated in Gaby due to his theology studies. In fact, Gaby was not only involved with politics but started his life journey with the Roman Catholic church when he was ordained priest in June 1964, following studies in Switzerland. Gaby was 24 years old.
With the church, Father Hoarau was very active and is remembered for his work with the most vulnerable population of the island nation. Reportedly, clothes brought from Switzerland were brought to the islands through Gaby and were distributed to the needy of the country. These clothes were referred to as ‘Lenz Per Hoarau’ (Father Hoarau’s clothes), a term still used today.
Even though he left the priesthood, Gaby did not stray far from the Catholic Church, and over the years he remained active. He was the editor of the Roman Catholic fortnightly newspaper “L’Echo Des Iles” for many years and a founding member of the Christian Union, “Societe du Logement” and the Bible Society all under the Catholic Church.
Gaby was also a member of the island nation’s first Constitutional Appointment Authority and a devoted member of the Choral and Music Society of Seychelles, since its creation in 1997, and participated in many concerts, locally as well as on the international scene.
Volcere said that Gaby came across as a tough and unapproachable person, but in reality, was very compassionate, caring and sacrificing a lot for others. “Once you get to know him, socialising over a few drinks, Gaby was likeable and very funny, nice to hang out with.”
The former exile stated that what will also stay with him, was how in tough, challenging and dangerous times, Gaby remained loyal and supportive to his fellow Seychellois who were seeking justice.
“One remarkable thing he would do, while we were in exile, was to spend as much time as he could with us. Gaby, who was living in Belgium at the time, would drive all the way from Belgium, boarding the ferry at Calais, France and came all the way to Hounslow, London, where the exiled Seychellois were living. This was a long, difficult trip and he did it monthly and never missed it,” Volcere had said in an interview with the daily newspaper – Seychelles Nation.
Gaby is survived by close and long-time companion, Jeanne Hoareau, and his nephews and nieces. His last older sibling – Sister Cecile Hoarau from the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny – passed away last year on January 3, at the Convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny in Victoria. She was 86 years old and had spent 60 years as a nun.