~ Red, white and blue candles lit for Paris victims ~
MARIGOT–Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs led a delegation from the Dutch-side government including the Council of Ministers and its staffers to attend the ceremony in the garden of Hotel de la Collectivité at midday Monday on the invitation of President Aline Hanson to remember the victims of Friday night’s massacre in Paris.
The support shown for the Collectivité of St. Martin and all French citizens by the Southern neighbours underlined the solidarity of the island in the aftermath of the terror attacks.
President of the French Republic François Hollande in his decree on Saturday declaring three days of mourning requested all overseas territories to hold a minute’s silence at noon, furthermore authorising employees to leave their place of work to remember the victims.
The brief ceremony included a minute’s silence for the victims of the atrocities. At the foot of the war memorial stood 129 red, white, and blue candles, one for each victim.
Prime Minister Gumbs, President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams and Governor Eugene Holiday joined State representative Préfète Anne Laubies and President of the Territorial Council Aline Hanson to lead the proceedings.
Dignitaries in turn either laid a single rose or a bouquet of flowers at the memorial, followed by a moment of reflection. Likewise the ritual was repeated by members of the Council of Ministers and Territorial Council of St. Martin.
The elected officials stepped up to the memorial a second time to light the candles. Thereafter the garden was open to prominent members of the community and business sector, various personalities and members of the public to place a rose or light a candle.
The Collectivité estimated 150 persons attended the ceremony, mostly made up from the general public who observed from the side lines. Following the minute’s silence, the national anthem La Marseillaise was sung by Tamillia Chance.
Prime Minister Gumbs in an invited comment afterwards, said about the terror attacks: “We condemn these actions, especially when innocent people are involved. The trend of that organisation to train members and radicalise them, and then to commit these kind of acts is atrocious and unacceptable.”
Asked about the implications of three Syrians stopped at the airport and found to be travelling with false passports, he said: “We are awaiting the result of the research before taking the next step but in the meantime they will remain in custody. Once the information is received from the networks we are in contact with, and the process of interviewing them is completed, a decision will be taken on how to proceed. But it is expected they will be deported permanently.
“Security will be stepped up now following those attacks but it won’t necessarily be that visible,” he added. “You don’t want to do too much and appear too heavy-handed. But, when these things happen, St. Maarten is no different to anywhere else. You increase your security and alertness. Citizen’s need to become more alert, to look around them, and report any suspicious activity they might see and hear.”
Gumbs noted even though he has been in contact with his French-side counterparts over the phone throughout the weekend since the attacks on Friday, Préfète Anne Laubies had only just returned from Paris, and Monday provided an opportunity to express sympathy personally to the Préfète and President Hanson.
He was invited along with Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Governor Holiday and the Préfète to have a short meeting with President Hanson on security in her office.
Independent member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever in his reaction, said: “We came here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on the Northern side and with the rest of the world because you must condemn any terrorist or bad act. Hopefully France can find the wisdom and strength to carry on and move forward.
“I would hope we all take a lesson from this and understand we must secure borders. Borders must be secure to minimise the risk of any acts like this happening again.”
Source: The Daily Herald Dutch-side Government stands in solidarity with Collectivité