MARIGOT–Opposition party Movement for Justice and Prosperity (MJP) in its New Year message says the Collectivité’s elected body should be cautious when the French State talks about a “partnership” and be ready to question decisions made for St. Martin if they risk impacting the cultural and specific realities of the territory.
MJP President Louis Mussington said that in an upcoming meeting with Préfet in charge of reconstruction, Philippe Gustin, in mid-January, MJP will seek to understand what the State really has in mind when it talks of “reinforcing” State services in St. Martin.
“We will make sure that whatever development is implemented, it does not rule out the cultural heritage of this land,” he said. “And decisions that are made must be guided by the common understanding that we are not part of metropolitan France, part of the French Republic yes, but we have specific issues that are protected under our existing organic law, where autonomy is concerned for St. Martin and where our specifics are respected and guaranteed under Article 63-11. Whatever decision is made must reflect the strong reality that St. Martin is a separate entity governed by the content of the organic law.
“When you look at the protocol signed after the hurricanes between President Daniel Gibbs and the State, you get a sense of higher supervision,” Mussington added. “It’s more critical now than ever that there be a strong cooperation between the leadership of this country and other professional voices to stand firm as a unified body to resist, with a common approach, certain measures that could be implemented directly by Paris.
“The protocol also talks of cooperation between both sides of the island which we agree should be strengthened. Cooperation is evident now at State level between Paris and The Hague. But there is more to developing joint infrastructure projects through development programmes such as INTERREG using EU funds. What about tourism, education, culture and sports development? Those are areas we will also be focusing on.”
He said a re-organisation of State services was nothing new but the Collectivité should pay close attention to the areas where the State wishes to implement improvements and services, to ensure no important areas are left out.
“MJP will be looking out for education which deserves much more support and autonomy; the Rectorat annex for St. Martin for example that we continue to advocate; youth and sports (repairing sports facilities); a statistics office in St. Martin and the need for improved health care and social services. On the latter, the hospital should offer more services in 2018. It’s unacceptable that patients still travel to Guadeloupe for Chemotherapy.”
Mussington stated the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma offers St. Martin in 2018 many opportunities to reconstruct “a fair and just society founded on the pillars of solidarity, equal opportunity, unity and harmony and supported by a strong sense of responsibility.”
On the immediate future, he said: “Our team believes strongly it is of critical importance that elected officials pay serious attention to the state of struggling families from French Quarter down to Sandy Ground and come up with a clear plan of action to getting their lives back together. Many are faced with despair and don’t know which way to turn for support.”
He added he was pleased to see tourists coming back to the island, albeit gradually, but was concerned it appeared the Dutch side is currently getting the lion’s share of the cruise ship tourists.
“I would like to know what our managing team for tourism is doing to attract our visitors to Orient Beach and other beaches, to get some economic activity going. I think it was irresponsible to say there would be no tourism business for two years because the major hotels are out of businesses. Clearly, we are getting back in business quicker than anyone thought. We need to attract those cruise ship passengers onto our side as well and make sure they have a wonderful time. And we need to focus on converting cruise ship passengers to stay-over tourists and convince our repeat visitors to come back.”