MARIGOT–President Daniel Gibbs in his Bastille Day speech as expected focused more on urgent matters at hand such as reconstruction of the island, the schools, the youth, and less on the significance of the Fête Nationale.
The ceremonies this year were scaled back; no fireworks and the usual buffet for the dignitaries was omitted, although the champagne remained.
He called this year’s Bastille Day celebration a special one, as the island and the population still bear the scars of Hurricane Irma, but said the population deserves the public holiday and encouraged everyone to enjoy the festivities.
He gave a warm welcome to Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher attending her first Bastille Day celebration in St. Martin, as her predecessor did three years ago on the same date.
He had a special word for students who have made it through a difficult year with success.
“The examination period has come to an end and I would like to offer a word of support for all our students and extend my warmest congratulations to our young graduates. We are all aware of how difficult this year has been for you, and your diploma today, or more simply your passage to the next class, is undoubtedly more valuable – at least in my opinion – than for any other student in France,” he said.
“Your teachers and the entire educational community, who have given many hours and energy to ensure that you have the best possible school year, also deserve our gratitude.
“I also wish to say how proud I am of our youth, mobilised in very dynamic associations such as Pélicarus, which mobilises strongly for our young people and in particular our students of Jeunesse Soualiga, whose work is recognised and appreciated even in Paris. Congratulations to each and every one of you for your involvement; you are our best ambassadors!
“Youth is, and remains, at the heart of the priorities of our majority and I hear and understand of course – because I myself am a father – the impatience of parents, who want their children to be able to study in the best possible conditions.
“The major works had to be postponed for obvious reasons of organisation of school time. Today we are ready and we will take advantage of these two months of summer break to carry out some 10 million euros of rehabilitation work included in our budget.
“The detailed calendar of achievements will be made available to the population and we will keep our deadlines so that the September school year can start in the best possible conditions.
“Similarly, we have launched our sports facilities rehabilitation programme: the sports hall at the Jean-Louis Vanterpool stadium will be ready for the start of the September school year and will be able to host school sports.
“The football stadium will be operational, with field repairs and roof repairs to the bleachers. The island’s sports facilities will be delivered between September and November. Finally, the Galisbay Omnisports hall must be demolished, an undertaking that we will start tomorrow.
“With regard to reconstruction, the work ahead is immense: it will take us three years to rehabilitate public lighting and two years to bury our electrical and digital networks. These are just two examples, but I would like everyone to realise that the reconstruction of St. Martin is a long-term project and that, like any local authority in France, we are facing budgetary difficulties, administrative delays and constraints in terms of standards and procedures.
“In order to come out of this situation stronger and to put St. Martin back on the road to development, I want to be able to count on our assets: I am thinking of the soul of the Saint Martinois, which is founded on the values of respect, fighting spirit and solidarity.
“The conclusions of the fourth quadripartite meeting on 28 June will enable significant progress to be made in the field of reconstruction after Irma, but also in terms of knowledge and control of flows and the fight against organised fraud.
“But we must go further with cooperation between Saint Martin and Sint Maarten, renewing the 1648 agreement and equipping it with content that will enable us to implement shared solutions effectively, responding to common and solidarity-based problems.”
Other speeches were made by Junior Territorial Council President Ashille Brooks, Senator Guillaume Arnell and Préfète Sylvie Feucher.
The Dutch-side Council of Ministers attended the official ceremonies.