Gibbs: ‘What brings us together is more important than what divides us’ | THE DAILY HERALD

President Daniel Gibbs, assisted by President of the Junior Territorial Council Stevenson Miller prepares to lay a wreath in the garden of Hôtel de la Collectivité on Bastille Day. (Robert Luckock photo)

MARIGOT–The national Bastille Day holiday celebrated Wednesday was once again a low-key affair due to coronavirus restrictions. Missing were the usual parades and marching bands that stoke national pride, instead ceremonies were restricted to the early ecumenical service in the Catholic Church, the wreath laying ceremony and a number of official speeches.

  Speeches were given inside Hôtel de la Collectivité and transmitted live on the Collectivité’s Facebook page.

  There were five speeches; from President Daniel Gibbs, Préfet Délégué Serge Gouteyron, Senator of St. Martin Annick Pétrus, Députée for St. Martin and St. Barths Claire Guion-Firmin, and President of the Junior Territorial Council, Stevenson Miller.

  It was not unexpected that Gibbs would touch on the health situation given development of COVID-19 vaccines, the main talking point in the past year.

  “I am in favour of mass vaccinations but too many restrictive or authoritarian measures can be counter-productive,” he said. “The overseas communities, much more than in metropolitan France, have suffered from restrictions. I am thinking here of course of the people of St. Martin, but also of our compatriots in Martinique and French Guiana who have been particularly affected. These restrictions have thrown thousands of people out of work; thousands of families have sunk into poverty.

  “They are all the more incomprehensible when the demands of the elected representatives, relating to increasing human and budgetary means of the local hospitals, have not been taken into account by the government.”

  He sounded sceptical over the President of the Republic’s announcement of a mandatory health pass starting in August.

  “How would this measure be imposed on restaurants in St. Martin in the competitive context that we have? The friendly island cannot become the island of constraints and controls. I am uncomfortable with the prospect of a “QR Code” for all. France could quickly become China but without the economic growth.”

  He talked of the importance to be united citizens of France and the Overseas Territories under the same flag.

  “Unity is first conceived in diversity. What brings us together is more important than what divides us. What brings us together must be more important than what divides us. St. Martin has taken on the reality and the pride of its multiple belongings: we are at the same time French citizens, European citizens, and fully Caribbean. This unity is conceived in mutual respect.

  “And, although endowed with autonomy and governed by Article 74 of the Constitution,

St. Martin is nonetheless an authentic Collectivité of the Republic.”

  Reflecting on the years 2018 to 2020, he said this was a time of “too many blockages –administrative, financial and even political – due to rigid posturing and fussy mentalities”

  “The people of St. Martin deserve so much better. Thankfully, since December 2020, we have been able to renew dialogue with the arrival of a truly republican Préfet. From now on we must find consensual solutions to the thorny issues that we know and bring points of view closer together.

  “The State can do a better job to accompany us more to promote expertise capacities and to guarantee us a true autonomy of decision making to put at the service of sustainable, united and responsible development.”

  Junior Territorial Council President Stevenson Miller in his address expressed his sympathy for the people of Haiti and the Haitian community in St. Martin following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

  He also congratulated several members of the Junior Territorial Council for passing their Baccalaureate with high marks. It was his last speech before the Council renews in January next year.

  “July 14 is the occasion for us to celebrate the taking of the Bastille and our Republic to reaffirm our attachment to the values that it carries, values which constitute the core of our national unity,” said Miller. “It is also an opportunity to salute all the authorities and organisations that lead and work for our territory.

  “Unfortunately, with the health crisis, the festive part is reduced. Let’s not let this virus ruin our lives, and let’s turn our inconveniences into opportunities. Living with COVID-19 does not mean that it does not exist anymore, nor does it mean that it is less present. Let’s respect the barrier measures and take the necessary steps to stop the circulation of this virus.

  “July 14 represents our motto: Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. Let us have the freedom of expression and action, but let us not forget the respect for others. We are all human. Let’s not let political opinion, slander, property or our egos divide us. Let’s keep this fraternal link between us, this link that has allowed St. Martin to have the nickname: “The Friendly Island”.

  Préfet Gouteyron, meanwhile, hosted a reception in the Préfecture for the main institutions of the territory, reviving a Bastille Day tradition that had been shelved since Hurricane Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic.

  He took the opportunity to pay tribute to a number of invited front line health workers who have been at the forefront of caring for patients with COVID-19. He praised their dedication and courage in a job that put them and their families at high risk of catching the disease. It also prompted him to hammer home his insistence that everyone must get vaccinated.

  The Préfet presented a medal of honour in the bronze category to Marechal des Logis-Chef Benoît Viallefond from the Hope Estate Gendarmerie. On October 25, 2020, Viallefond was by chance at the scene of a car accident where a car had turned over and was in danger of falling into a ravine.

  The driver was in a severe alcoholic state and had injuries to his head and face. Unable to prise the locked doors of the car open, the Gendarme broke a window and removed the driver from the vehicle before laying him on the ground and waiting for the emergency services to arrive. The citation read that his instinctive act to save the driver was “particularly courageous.”

  A fire-works display was due to be held Wednesday evening on the Marigot water front.


Préfet Serge Gouteyron pins a medal of honour on the lapel of Gendarme Benoît Viallefond in recognition of his courageous act in extracting a car driver from his vehicle after an accident. (Robert Luckock photo)


Préfet Serge Gouteyron enjoys a light hearted moment with Junior Territorial Council President and Vice-Presidents during the reception. (Robert Luckock photo)


Elected officials stand to attention for the Marseillaise national anthem in the garden of Hôtel de la Collectivité prior to the laying of wreaths to mark Bastille Day. (Robert Luckock photo)



Attendees listen to the address from Préfet Serge Gouteyron at the reception in the Préfecture. (Robert Luckock photo)

Source: The Daily Herald