Rinaldo (left) and Randy Webster at the road block in Orient Bay Tuesday morning (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT—It was understood urgent meetings were taking place separately at the Collectivité and Préfecture Tuesday morning to head off what could potentially lead to an escalation in the protest if the planned auction of the remaining Webster parcel of land goes ahead today.
News was being awaited to know if the auction will be cancelled or not. Meanwhile, the road block near the Leader Price Supermarket will remain in place until justice is served, the Webster family said.
The complex land inheritance issue referred to as the Beauperthuy succession dates back decades, and even further to the original Beauperthuy descendants. Since 2016, the movement “Our Land Matters” was created to safeguard the property rights of indigenous St. Martiners.
“My father purchased the parcel of land in 1985 and 20 years later the administrator charged with handling the succession took my father to court saying he purchased land that was part of the succession,” Rinaldo Webster explained. “My father has a deed for the land. The people in Orient Bay, their deeds for their houses were done in 1987. Why do they want to cancel my father’s deed and not their deeds?”
Rinaldo further explained that the notary at the time was supposed to have explained to his father that the land could not be sold to him because of problems regarding the land but the notary never did it, saying the land had no issues.
“My father also has all the prescription rights because in French law you have 10 and 30-year prescriptions. He has a building on the property for which he has a building permit and he is the rightful owner. Today there are people interested in all this land, we don’t know why, and they want to remove us, as if we are nobody.”
The administrator, actually a company in France, is assigned by the judge and his mission is to find all the existing heirs, wherever they be in the world, and he has to find all the goods that they have, like land belonging to the succession.
“We know that the land in Simpson Bay where the airport is, was part of the succession but the administrator lost the case against the Netherlands due to the prescription rights. But he (administrator) is now only concerned about French-side land. Right now, the administrator has on his list 255 heirs but some of the heirs may not even be part of our family. Another thing, my grandfather ‘s brother is not on that list, so to me the administrator has not completed his mission.”
“The Cour de Cassation (equivalent to Supreme Court) ruled that the heirs had the rights to contest the sharing of the land of my great grand-father who died in 1861,” he continued. “The heirs in France do not agree that the St. Martin heirs are owners of the land in St. Martin. Pierre Daniel Beauthperthuy had land in France, Guadeloupe and other places but it is only the land in St. Martin that is being targeted.”
Webster said if their land is auctioned off, it sets a dangerous precedent for the all the other remaining parcels of land.
“It’s very dangerous because effectively it’s saying the deed you have is worthless. There is a clear and present threat to all the other families. We know there are investors behind all of this. The administrator is playing a role. Judges could be corrupt. There is so much that is not right with this. It is inhumane.
“So, we are asking for support from the population. The préfet is doing his best for us because he also knows it’s not right. We are asking for all elected officials and the President (Gibbs) to come and talk to the population because we are not taking phone calls at the moment.”
Cédric André from the collective Union du Peuple Travailleurs de Saint-Martinois (UPTSM) said auction or no auction the Webster family are not moving off their land under any circumstances.