The Story of SeyLII:
SeyLII the freeway to Seychelles Legal information
From a disorganised library that was not attended and managed, valuable documents and records for reference took hours and sometimes days to retrieve. One had to work extra hours in an endeavour to restore the loads of information which was at the verge of being permanently lost. However as documents were in paper based format it frequently made it a slow and cumbersome process to access records on which to base judgments in new cases coming before the courts.
The Seychelles Judiciary is one of three Constitutional Pillars of the country and in establishing the Seychelles Legal information Institute (SEYLII) to provide free access to Law to its stakeholders has enhanced its vision, “To be a centre of judicial excellence, independent and inspiring public confidence”.
Publishing legal information in the form of judgments means, transparency in the task of protecting rights and freedoms of all. There are generally restraints on the ease of accessing the law by the Judiciary and the relevant stakeholders. We keep printed volumes of legislation and law reports some of which are incomplete making it cumbersome in terms of costs and time. Over the years the judiciary has accumulated valuable records of information which could be beneficial to everyone if made easily available.
Digitising these records and placing them online would maximise the benefit of all as with everyone having law readily available on their fingertips. This would not only help in the availability of the information but at productivity and management level. Judges as workers of the law will be mindful of time and quality of their work as they will appreciate that their work is used globally. In this age of technology, the obvious answer to this ever-growing problem was to digitize and computerise all archives and make them accessible. This was my fundamental objective, to provide better access and information through the new information highway by having all judgments, Acts and Subsidiary Legislation computerized so that they can be accessed by all. It has seemingly been only a vision when an attempt to put it down on paper did not pass because the view of the authorities was overshadowed by amongst other things, financial constraints.
The year 2010 was a breakthrough after a judicial reform speech by the President. The Honourable Chief Justice Frederick Egonda Ntende was appointed and after assessment of the situation then used his experiences and relations with AfricanLII and eventually all efforts resulted in the birth of SeyLII and the fulfilment of digitalized law environment dream. These brought about an incredible move by the Judiciary of Seychelles in meeting this objective. I had a meeting with AfricanLII Coordinator Kerry Anderson and Tom Bruce from the LII at Cornell Law School.
Meetings were so insightful and though I continued to forward some content to SafLII to do the uploading for us, it was after I had attended the training in Johannesburg, South Africa at the AfricanLII offices where I got to learn how I had to do it on my own. This marked the first independent breakthrough for Seychelles. I also met with other Coordinators from other Lii’s and together we were able to merge synergies to help each other grow in our respective stations. The training covered the uploading of data; allocation of Medium Neutral Citations, management of LII’s and content development amongst other things.
After that training, I was able to prepare a project proposal for the successful implementation of SeyLII and though I have not reached the end result but we are working towards a certain direction as SeyLII as we now have a website (http://www.seylii.org/) where all legal content could be accessed. We are however challenged by insufficient human resource, lack of active partners for SeyLII and Sustainability measures to ensure perpetual existence of the initiative. Despite the challenges we have been able to launch the SeyLII website and the case management system of Seychelles on the 07th March 2012.
This was a remarkable event because it saw notable figures in attendance namely, Former President of Seychelles Mr James Mancham, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Francis MacGreogor, Judges Hon.Bernadin Renaud, Hon. Burhan, Hon.Gustave Dodin , The Secretary of State Mr Barry Faure from the office of the President, Attorney General Mr Ronny Govinden, Ambassadors, Ministers, Mr Peter Sinon and Mr. Bernard Shamlaye amongst many others….
In conclusion, the positive feedback we have received from the legal fraternity since embarking on this project is encouraging our strengths to work even harder in satisfying the demand. With the support of the Head of Judiciary, the Honourable Chief Justice, forces are working together in ensuring a sustained and efficient Seychelles Legal Information Institute.