‘My country has become a ship without a rudder and captain’

Dear Editor,

  I’m not the only one to be saddened by this situation. Even in the middle of a storm, a captain (however challenged he may be) never abandons his ship. It is one of the main tenets that has made the navy what it has been for centuries.

  However, Daniel Gibbs, who has been captain of the Saint-Martin “ship” since April 

2017, seems to have done just that – given up and abandoned the people he opted to serve, long before the end of his mandate.

  From the onset, in April 2017, the members of the President’s Cabinet and his Communication Services have been serenading the population of his commitment to them as President: “President Gibbs is at work, he holds perfectly in check the Territorial Council, his majority and the administration.”

  As the President and his Cabinet began their term, a pattern emerged. Disagreements or concerns raised with President and the Cabinet were received with dismissal. The messaging was clear – any criticism of the President and his administration decisions was motivated by pettiness. People with personal agendas fuelled by their dislike of him. No more than “jealous enemies” that used social media, the press and rumours, to plant their seeds of disharmony. 

  And yet, what are the damages caused to the socio-economic development of the Collectivité to its roll-out of cultural activities beneficial to the Saint-Martin population?  More pertinently, what about the general population and the key stakeholders that are keen to help transition Saint-Martin from the devastation of September 2017? 

  Let’s start with looking at what solid and sustainable foundations there are, in order to highlight the culture of neglect and failures the current administration “gifted” us. 

  Mismanagement has been prevalent during President Gibbs’ tenure. Post [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma, his quarrels with the French justice, for which he will soon have to face scrutiny given the failures of his own administration. 

  Questions on lack of cohesion and cooperation among stakeholder groups. For example, tensions between the members of his majority, his Vice-Presidents and himself.  It appears that the Leader of Team Gibbs (or at least what’s left of it), is completely weakened and is judged by its base as: weak governance; mismanagement of the Collectivité; of abandoning outright campaign promises of 2012 and of 2017.

  On the above, I challenge him to demonstrate otherwise.

  Since the start of his mandate, Mr. Gibbs’ personal matters were his priority. What was important and beneficial to him took precedence over all else. The obligation to the office, was eclipsed by the management of his personal political career.

  Mr. Gibbs has completely neglected to commit to progressive measures to ensure efficient and effective management of the Collectivité, an approach that has eroded the already fragile infrastructure of the island, after Irma, resulting in adverse effects on the everyday lives of the citizens of Saint-Martin.

  The repeated strikes and protests, Caisse Territorial des Oeuvres Scolaires (CTOS), natural risk prevention plan PPRN, transportation professionals (bus and taxi, street vendors, etc.), as well as the very disturbing resignation of a Vice-President, the public criticism made by the Senator (member of the majority), are clear warning signs of this downward spiral. 

  In my opinion, no longer are there elected officials in charge of Saint-Martin, which I now call a “country adrift”. And I too regret that so much public money has been spent and wasted with so little results in five years. All of that for this?!

  To me it is clear that President Gibbs persists in disavowing and rushing forward impetuously each time a situation arises (or even, more often than necessary). And the last proof was brought to us by the Senator who denounced the failure of Mr. Gibbs to respect the commitments made to the population during the last electoral campaign.

  According to her, it was more a question of trusting elected officials chosen by the voters, and of giving administrators less important prerogatives than those of the vice-presidents. Here in Saint-Martin, we are not yet a monarchy, under a regime of “absolute rule”, even if some dream of it! 

  Besides, I wonder how can we therefore grant certain prerogatives to individuals who are not legally identified in the chain of the institutions of the Collectivité?

  The very new and recent controversy surrounding the vacancy of the post of Vice-President left by Steven Patrick worries many citizens and many professionals, including those in the construction sectors who foresee even more burdensome bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in order to obtain building permits and the realization of some minor repair and home improvement work.

  Some of them deplored the chaotic situation long before that. It is not worthy of a territory which, barely 10 years ago, asked its people to opt for a new status and for a new governance that is more responsible.

  I appeal to the responsibility of each of you to forge new paths together.

Jules Charville

Territorial Councillor