MARIGOT--President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs’s Bastille Day speech, his first as President, touched on the traditional topics from the symbolism of Bastille Day, paying tribute to the work of associations, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, teachers, and those who contribute “time and energy” to the smooth running of the Collectivité, to encouraging students going abroad to be model ambassadors for the island.

However, the main thrust of his speech, during a longer ceremony than usual due to the Collectivité’s 10th anniversary celebration, was on the current developments within the administration under his tenure.

On education he said the Territorial Council on June 19, 2017, voted on the motion to obtain a Vice-Rectorat for St. Martin. “We cannot accept the decision by the State to give us a simple academic director,” he said. “It’s time to get out from the guardianship of Guadeloupe which is penalising us in this crucial area of education.”

He added he intends to adopt a development plan for teaching of the French language which will finally take into account the specific culture and language of St. Martin.

His congratulatory message to students now that exams are over was to remind them: “You are the image of our territory. Let your work and conduct make us proud of you. Your families, elected officials and the Collectivité are relying on you.”

He reiterated his regret that 10 years after the accession to Article 74 the Collectivité is still operating as a Commune with “a lot of legal uncertainty.”

“I have made the commitment to enhance and modernise our administration. I want well-trained staff who are effective and enjoy their work; our services will be restructured. Come September, we will have a new Human Resources Department and a new Director General of Services (DGS) and these developments will drive the administration’s needs.

“A tax audit will enable us to develop a simple, clear, coherent and fair tax policy starting in October. Our 2017-2018 tourism strategy is well advanced. I will do a complete presentation of this strategy in September to the Territorial Council. I should add that agriculture will benefit from three million euros up to 2020 from European funds.

“On urban planning – we will fine tune our Plan Occupation de Sol so that it is perfectly consistent with regulations. More staff will be devoted as quickly as possible to expedite the procedures to deal with the some 300 outstanding ‘50 pas géometriques’ files.”

Lastly, he thanked everyone who participated in the recent two-weekend clean-up campaign.

Other speeches were given by Senator Guillaume Arnell, Préfète Déleguée Anne Laubies, Députée of St. Martin and St. Barths Claire Javois, and President of the Junior Territorial Council Chelsea Jighai.

Former Mayor Albert Fleming, President of the Economic Advisory Council Georges Gumbs, representatives from the District Councils, and members of the clergy were among the audience.

Following the speeches a retrospective film for the 10-year anniversary made by the audio-visual department of the Collectivité directed by Natson Paul was shown to the audience. It traced the development of the Collectivité from its installation on July 15, 2007, to the present day.

The film, dedicated to the late Collectivité President Aline Hanson, gave a time line of the events leading up the change of status and beyond, giving an honest account of the difficulties, disappointments, the wrangling with the State, but also expressed optimism for the future.

Dutch-side dignitaries present for the occasion included Governor of St. Maarten Eugene Holiday and his wife, Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams, Minister of Justice and Acting Deputy Prime Minister Raphael Boasman, representative of the Government of The Netherlands in St. Maarten Christopher Johnson, and Parliamentary Secretary of Anguilla Cardigan Connor who represented the Chief Minister.

Of note also the presence of Paul Martens, Head of the Disaster Management Section and Fire Department from the Dutch-side Ministry of General Affairs with colleagues.

Following the church service wreaths were laid at the war memorial in the garden of Hotel de La Collectivité by Préfète Anne Laubies, President Daniel Gibbs, Senator Guillaume Arnell, Députée Claire Javois, and a member of the St. Martin War Veterans Association.

The Bastille Day Parade on Boulevard de France featured marching squads of Gendarmes and Firemen, scouts and guides from both sides of the island, Les Explorateurs Drum Band from French Quarter, SXM Majorettes, and the Grain D’Or dancers.

The weekend promises a full schedule of activities, sports and musical entertainment on the Marigot waterfront to celebrate the anniversary.

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