Louis Mussington (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT--Opposition party Movement for Justice and Prosperity (MJP) leader Louis Mussington has taken President Daniel Gibbs to task on his handling of the natural risk prevention plan PPRN, saying installing steering and technical committees now to revise the plan is “wasting time” when this work could have been done during the past two years.
Mussington described this development as a “sham” and called on Gibbs to “stop playing political games with the people.”
“Implementation of the PPRN by the State puts into question our political autonomy,” Mussington stated. “When protocol agreements were signed in 2017 the President received a copy of the draft risks map for St. Martin (carte d’aléas), so he knew what the State’s intentions were then.
“It was clearly outlined in the protocol agreement that revision of the 2011 PPRN would be in a direct partnership between the State and the Collectivité. Coming up with a counterproposal now in these technical committees should have been argued by Gibbs and his technicians with the State two years ago.”
Mussington added that the opportunity is there to take the matter to the Administrative Court within two months, submitting the complaint against the State for implementing a “rushed through” PPRN.
“That to me would confirm his [Gibbs’ – Ed.] political stand in the interest of the country. This is also the time to request the environment competence be transferred from the State to the Collectivité. And there are more responsibilities that can be transferred. But I get the sense the President is on the campaign trail and ignoring the contribution the Opposition can bring, not to him as a person but to the people at this critical hour.”
Mussington was also critical of the vice-prosecutor who allegedly said in a meeting that it is not normal for St. Martin to have the competence for urbanism or town planning.
“It’s an irresponsible and disrespectful statement. We are no longer a Commune of Guadeloupe. We are a fully-fledged Collectivité since 2007 by virtue of the organic law based on Article 74 which gives us these responsibilities.”
On the general recovery situation two years on, he said there was nothing really to get enthusiastic about. But he acknowledged that the Collectivité had done a good job with school reconstruction, although in some cases work is still to be completed. He wished parents and students a successful school year.
“There doesn’t seem to be a plan for the reconstruction of the sports stadiums, the cultural centres and the media library. There could have been a more effective roofing programme, as there are still families without roofs. Unemployment is alarming, especially when skilled foreign labour is used at the expense of locals. I understand the despair of young people and I have to wonder if that is the cause of so many deaths  on the roads this year.
“There is still no Post Office in French Quarter and those residents have to go to Marigot. The state of the roads is deplorable. The companies involved in road works must coordinate better to minimise the inconvenience to motorists.”
He reiterated his call to have a university in St. Martin. “Many students are not prepared for the university lifestyle abroad for different reasons. By having a university here which they can attend for the first two years they will have a better opportunity to prepare for the challenges they will face in France. It would help them to achieve a higher level of success.
“I have also written to the Recteur of Guadeloupe and the Préfète to facilitate the return to St. Martin of bilingual teachers. They both agree that bilingualism must be a reality in St. Martin, which is very encouraging.”
On the administration services, he said the Collectivité cannot afford, from a budgetary point of view, to have the luxury of paying for high-ranking professional civil servants. Recently a Director General of Services (DGS), a Cabinet Director and a Chef de Cabinet were hired.
“The focus should have been more on strengthening technical services and to have the people to study and realise projects so that European funds can be used effectively. We are on the verge of losing nine to 12 million euros of funds because dossiers were not put together correctly or completed on time.”
On the waterfront and cruise-ship pier project, which has been turned over to the Port of Marigot to manage, Mussington said he is hopeful that this has been the right move.
“I sense there is willingness from a technical standpoint, but still questioning if there is really a political push behind it to bring it all to light. It bothers me, because I, like everyone else, want to see it happen.”