"The text of the Natural Risk Prevention Plan will be corrected", says the Minister

The message of the minister

Since last Thursday, Saint-Martin has been hit by a number of roadblocks and violent incidents which have not only paralysed the island but also placed some people in danger. First and foremost I would like to stress that violence in whatever form – destroying property, setting fire to cars, throwing projectiles – is unacceptable.

It is unacceptable that the hospital cannot function properly. It is unacceptable that children cannot go to school. It is unacceptable that whole families are unable to leave their homes.

Demonstrating is a right, but it must be exercised without violence. I appeal for everyone to behave responsibly.

We must also resume the dialogue.

I am aware of the protesters’ chief demand. I know that the Natural Risk Prevention Plan, the PPRN, is widely criticised.

I believe it is necessary to recall what the Plan is for. Above all, it is intended to protect the people of Saint-Martin. It is intended to make Saint-Martin less vulnerable. A little over two years after Hurricane Irma, it is intended as a response to future threats.

Responsibility also means taking unpopular decisions if they are in the general interest. That is what holding political office can involve.

I was on Saint-Martin on 8 September 2017, the day after Hurricane Irma. I saw for myself the damage it caused. I met most of the families of the 11 victims and saw many of the injured. I saw, like all of you, the trauma it had caused. I also saw the tremendous resilience of the people of Saint-Martin, their attitude and their dignity in the face of adversity. All those things count!

The consultations on the draft Prevention Plan showed many things to change and improve. I therefore tell you that the text of the Natural Risk Prevention Plan will be corrected. There is still room for discussion. I should like those who expressed their point of view during the public enquiry to be heard, those who are worried by the Plan to be reassured.

To that end, I can tell that tomorrow, we will be sending a team of three prominent personalities led by Dominique Lacroix.

He is familiar with the island and its key players, since he was deputy prefect of Saint-Martin from 2007 to 2009. This team will be on the island as of January 2020.

A local dialogue support committee made up of local personalities with acknowledged competence in the matter will aid it. I have asked the President and members of the Territorial Council to take part. Senator Arnell has already agreed to do so.

Going beyond the Prevention Plan, I should like the organisation and conditions of State representation on Saint-Martin to be the subject of an institutional review with the aim of better supporting the Collectivity in the exercise of its responsibilities.

In particular, I have heard President Gibbs’ request for environmental responsibility to be transferred to the Collectivity. The government is willing to work on the matter. The impact for the Collectivity needs to be precisely measured.

I have also heard that many demands concerned the social situation, especially the poverty experienced by many Saint-Martin residents.

These matters involve the powers and responsibilities of the Collectivity.

If the Collectivity so wishes, the government is available to support in helping reduce poverty. Like everywhere in France, it is a priority.

Saint-Martin must not continue to suffer the consequences of disruption. I am thinking of the hoteliers, the shop-owners, the employers who for two years having been working for economic recovery. I appeal for everyone to behave responsibly.

Together, we have faced trials that would have discouraged many. Let us now, together, take the path of dialogue and healing.

Estelle Gasnet