Grain D’Or dancers perform in front of elected officials prior to the official Victor Schoelcher Fête ceremony on Sunday. (Robert Luckock photo)
GRAND CASE--Territorial Councillor Jean-Raymond Benjamin, in his address at the Victor Schoelcher Fête official ceremony on Sunday, said new projects planned for Grand Case and St. Martin in general gave him hope and optimism for a brighter future for residents.
However, he warned that come September and October there will be more inconvenience for motorists in Grand Case when the Boulevard will be dug up again for installation of water and drainage pipes, and which will necessitate using some alternative streets to bypass this essential work. Electricité de France (EDF) are in the process of replacing a defective cable. In November, the road will be covered up for the start of the tourist season.
“I’m counting on the cooperation of residents who have land to help us out while this work is going on, to open some back roads and passages to allow the traffic to flow,” he said.
The official ceremony was particularly low key this year, situated under a marquee next to empty ground where the former Cultural Center once stood. There was only one troupe in the parade, the Grain D’Or dancers. This ceremony and the Bastille Day ceremony were marked by no champagne toasts, evidently a cost-cutting measure.
In a short address earlier, the representative for district council two Jean-David Richardson raised his concern about an unexplained rise in the mortality rate since Hurricane Irma and called on authorities to pay keen attention to the health and well-being of inhabitants.
President Daniel Gibbs, in his address, said he was looking forward to credits from the European Union (EU) in the period 2021-27 which will permit underground networks to be completely renewed in the territory. He added he has been recently working on this during meetings in Paris and Brussels.
He disclosed that development of the sports field and car park will be finalized very soon. New projects for Grand Case include a new multi-purpose cultural centre and a Maison des Associations planned for 2020. The new cultural centre construction will take the form of a public space for the promotion of graphics and culinary arts.
“The operational and implementation aspects of these projects are taking more time than I would like but, trust me, they will be completed before our mandate is up. Unfortunately, in 2019, after all that we have been through St. Martin and its people are still suffering in the eyes of a few who do not always appreciate the reality of the territory and its history.
“Today, more than ever, the challenges in St. Martin remain numerous. The social and economic recovery must continue. It should be strongly emphasized that the infrastructure deficit we have in contract with France are actually delays that must be bridged.
“To touch a St. Martiner’s land is to touch him at his very core because that is often all he has; that is why it is important to have the necessary time for the consultation process (PPRN) to be discussed and above all to take into account the point of view of the inhabitants.”
Gibbs paid tribute to Victor Schoelcher and other abolitionists who were “great men who fought and suffered so that today the reason that brings us together is more important than what divides us. Division is the enemy,” he said.
Other speeches were given by Députée Claire-Guion Firmin and Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher.