The collectives met with Préfet Serge Gouteyron and education and training officials on Wednesday. (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT--A resumption of the meetings between the collective of collectives and Préfet Serge Gouteyron took place on Wednesday in the Préfecture following the cancellation of the December 1 meeting.
By all accounts the meeting was cordial, constructive and respectful on both sides, a welcome change from the walk-outs and antagonistic remarks of the previous meetings that perpetuated tension and stalled progress in the negotiations.
There was little reference to the violent protests of the week before and the injuries to Gendarmes, however collective member Cédric André said the protests were an “expression of suffering” by the youth, that got out of control.
The collectives did not take responsibility for the violence which was condemned by the préfet. It was acknowledged there is a lot of work to be done now to restore and maintain stability. The Gendarmerie noted on Wednesday that Tuesday night had been very calm in Sandy Ground.
The four-hour meeting started right on time and discussed education and training. Préfet Gouteyron opened the meeting by highlighting the various projects and financing that are being put in place for Sandy Ground and French Quarter. The Collectivité and the Préfecture have noticeably in the last few days been publicising the efforts made in areas of youth employment and training.
Gouteyron was joined by Vice-Recteur of St. Martin and St. Barths Michel Sanz, Chargée de Mission Evelyne Fleming and another education official, and also officials specialised in training. The collectives had the opportunity to ask questions, express their views, make observations and suggestions. Collective member Lenny Mussington said education was a major concern for the collectives.
Aside from education and training, culture was also brought up, the current lack of cultural centres and the importance of exposing children to culture and the arts.
The meeting was open and transparent on both sides. Education officials provided statistics and figures to the collectives as well as noting areas where there are failures and areas of successes in the education system. The collectives had also done their research in their own time preparing for the meeting.
“Everyone came out of the meeting very satisfied,” said Evelyne Fleming. “It was very fruitful. “We are now going towards a collective way of thinking.”
The meeting concluded with documents being exchanged on both sides. It will now be up to the collectives to propose the next meeting date to the préfet and to decide the subjects they want to discuss.
The collectives have said they are working “point-by-point” towards signing the agreement protocol.