Daniella Jeffry launches Saint-Martin: Destabilization of the French Caribbean

POSTED: 05/25/11 1:14 PM

“They have created a new society whereby the locals are left out”

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Thursday Daniella Jeffry launches her book Saint-Martin, Destabilization of the French Caribbean at the Philipsburg Jubilee Library. The content of the book is as disturbing as its title. Jeffry says that she is very concerned” about the future of her community and about the values that have been lost.

“Saint-Martin was a balanced society. Everybody was happy but the island’s rapid development has created a new society. It is not based on family values any longer, but on making children. That has become a source of revenue. I call that institutional prostitution.”

How the state promotes the disintegration of family life is best illustrated by this example. Mothers without a husband or a live-in partner receive a state-allowance for the upkeep of their children, up to €900 per month. But as soon as a partner – husband, boyfriend – moves in, the allowance stops.

“That breeds criminality and juvenile delinquency, Jeffry says. Saint Martin used to be a happy society and there was no criminality. And crime and tourism don’t go well together.”

The turning point for the island, Jeffry writes in her book – that, by the way, is simultaneously published in the French and the English language – occurred in 1986 when the French state implemented the tax exemption Law. That led to almost uncontrolled development. “In 1977, long-standing islanders from Saint Martin formed the majority of the population, but by 1987 they had become a powerless minority pushed aside in the name of development and progress,” Jeffry writes in the introduction to her study.

In the nineties crime was in the hands of criminals from the outside, Jeffry observes. “Now our criminals are the young people who were born from the social system that was created for them.”

The author sees things on the French side of the island far darker than those on the Dutch side. The presence of the Dutch is not as widespread as the presence of the French in Saint Martin,” she says. “Instead of improving the local society they have created a new society whereby the locals are left out. They feel like we don’t exist.”

Jeffry estimates that local islanders represent no more than 20 percent of the current population. The attitude towards the locals hurts, she says. “We don’t exist, but you don’t build a society on numbers; it is about values and traditions. But they have pushed us aside. There is no connection between the traditional Saint Martin society and the mainstream society anymore. But I refuse to live according to their standards, and there are a lot of others like me.”

Jeffry says that the most precious that has been lost under pressure of the influx of European French and citizens from French colonies are family values. “The black side of our population came from Haiti. They get social benefits so they can survive. And our politicians are applying the politics of France. This is still a colonial system with the French Republic. They should have looked at the Saint Martin society as it was created since 1840. There should have been another form of development, one with more respect for the people’s culture.”

Jeffry is not optimistic about the future, because it seems hard to turn back the time. “The situation is reparable,” she ponders, “But whether that will happen depends on the European element, not on the locals.”

Jeffry’s book deals with the island’s development between 1977 and 2007. It describes the rapid growth of the population between 1977 and 1990. In those thirteen years it quadrupled from around 7,000 to over 28,500. By 2006 the number had grown to 35,000 – illegal residents not included.

Jeffry details the beginning of modern times for Saint Martin and the social impact of massive European immigration, the uprising of sandy ground residents against an attempt by the state to appropriate their land, the demographic developments and what she calls the “societal deception.”

In this last part of the book, Jeffry sets off the traditional Saint Martin society against the Ne w Society of immigrants, she delves into the resulting societal disintegration and ends her study with the following question. “We are faced with a challenge today: the Saint-Martin society or the communitarian-based society?”


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