MARIGOT–A renewed Territorial Council of St. Martin destined to govern the territory for the next five years was installed Sunday, with Daniel Gibbs voted in as President during a formal ceremony at Hotel de La Collectivité, opened by outgoing first Vice-President Guillaume Arnell on behalf of the absent Aline Hanson.
It was expected that Gibbs, as head of the Team Gibbs list, would be President but it still had to go to a vote from the 23-member Council. He received 18 votes, but there were four blank votes and one invalid vote.
Less clear was who would take the four Vice-President positions, but these were voted in order from the four on the list immediately after Daniel Gibbs. Thus Valerie Damaseau is first Vice-President, Yawo Nyuiadzi second Vice-President, Annick Petrus third Vice-President and Stephen Patrick fourth Vice- President. Votes were unanimous.
The ceremony encountered several delays midway as officials worked out the complex calculations (number of votes cast divided by seats available) to ensure seats distributed conformed to the Electoral Code protocols.
Former Director of General Services (DGS) Pascal Averne supervised the election in the absence of State services. Due to the national election in France, Préfète Anne Laubies and her services are not allowed to attend public functions while campaigns are in progress.
Youngest and oldest Council members, Jean-Sébastien Hamlet and Maud Ascent-Gibbs read out the votes at the ballot box.
Composition of the seven-member Executive Council was also voted on earlier. This council comprises Gibbs, Damaseau, Nyuiadzi, Petrus, Stephen Patrick, Marie-Dominique Ramphort and Louis Mussington, the latter the only member from the Opposition.
The Gibbs majority party has 18 members while the Opposition has five. The Opposition comprises Mussington, Jules Charville, Marthe Ogoundélé Bernadette Davis, and Alain Richardson.
Finally, with the respective Council positions filled, it was the moment for the sash of office to be draped over the shoulders of Daniel Gibbs. The honour went to former Mayor Albert Fleming, a long-time Gibbs supporter. The pair shook hands and hugged each other as outgoing first Vice-President Guillaume Arnell also offered his congratulations.
Then it was the turn of Gibbs to place the sash of office around the shoulders of his four Vice-Presidents.
The Council then retired to the conference room to vote on the Council’s first agenda point; giving President Daniel Gibbs the authority to make executive decisions on behalf of the territory on issues such as finance, budgets, tourism, infrastructure etc. These were divided up into two separate votes; both motions were carried by the majority.
In his first speech as President, Gibbs vowed that “no battle would be waged alone.
To win, our young Collectivité needs energy, talent and competence,” he said. “And with the willingness of everyone that is how St. Martin will win. As historic as this win is, we accept it with much humility. There is no more rejoicing as there is considerable work to do.
“The fiscality of St. Martin has become totally counter-productive; it must change. I will not be a President of a superficial economy. I will be a President of real down-to-earth projects that can support the population, and where entrepreneurs can be supported and reassured by just measures.
“We will implement fiscal measures that are clear, just, competitive and transparent to benefit entrepreneurs and investors. It’s one of the major reforms planned in the next 10 months. It will include implementation of a Small Business Act, specific to St. Martin for our businesses.
“We will totally revise our tourism policy. We have lived too long using tired clichés. We are going to change the image of St. Martin to attract a higher spending public by developing our hotel potential and all infrastructures necessary for tourism development. This includes renovation of Marina Royale, increasing the capacity of Fort Louis Marina, realising the cruise ship pier and a terminal, and building a hotel and apartment complex in Marigot.”
Other priorities he added include improving the road network, opening new links, and diversifying to the economy to develop traditional sectors of agriculture, fishing, as well as developing new technologies and renewable energy.
He also addressed worrying statistics of unemployment and the 40-million euro debt of Revenu Solidarité Active (RSA).
“I’m convinced that the way to beat unemployment efficiently is to create an economy that is dynamic and competitive and implementing better training programmes for our youth; 80 per cent of those with no employment have no qualifications.”
Addressing the Dutch-side government dignitaries on cooperation he said: “I do have a much higher idea of cooperation than what we currently have. With respect to our traditions, our cooperation deserves more than a hug and hand shake in French Quarter on November 11. Let us give this cooperation a reality, let’s get back to shared destiny and a common future.
“That’s why I would like to obtain a favourable response from you, policy makers, on a United St. Martin Congress, French and Dutch, as soon as possible. Cooperation and European affairs will be one of my main projects. These matters are crucial to the future of our territory and must be reconsidered in good understanding by the heads of our respective executive bodies.”
On security, he said there needs to be police sub-stations in Sandy Ground and French Quarter. “I want all districts of the French side to have quality, public services.”
Dutch-side dignitaries attending the ceremony included Governor Eugene Holiday and his wife, Prime Minister William Marlin and wife, and President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Anguilla was represented by Chief Minister Victor Banks. Also present was the President of the General Council of Guadeloupe Josette Borel-Lincertin, who presented Daniel Gibbs with a gift on his election.