Firm resistance against PLU at French Quarter meetingPOSTED: 10/19/15 12:28 PM
FRENCH QUARTER—The residents of French Quarter who attended the meeting on the Plan Local d’Urbanisme (PLU) claim the plan is an effort by the Collectivité of Saint Martin to reclaim their ancestral land. They said that they are prepared take to the streets at whatever cost to ensure that their rights are maintained at a meeting in the community center in French Quarter this week.
Apparently, there was no information given to the people of French St. Martin about the state of affairs, even though this was discussed in closed door sessions since 2013. Even though their local political representatives had known about this, they never came to the people to advise them what would be the consequences, which “shows the level of disrespect that they have for the people,” said one resident.
When one of the organizations went to seek clarity on the issue, they were told that they should go to the internet where they will find all the information. According to Territorial Councilor Hugh Charville, when he and others tried to access the document on several occasions, they were unable to open it.
The representatives of the different social organizations which included the Souligia Grass Roots association, The Hope for St. Martin and the United Front were among those that attended the session said that all the political representatives were given special invitations but they never came. Vice-President of the Collectivité and Senator Guillaume Arnell who is known as the representative of the French Quarter people also never showed up to the meeting.
Historian Daniella Jeffry gave an historical background on how the land was acquired by their ancestors and explained that since these lands were bought and occupied by their heirs for centuries they should not be bought again. She stated that the most that the people should pay is one symbolic Euro and not pay again taxes for the land. She mentioned that the land was already paid for by the freed slaves who came to the island centuries ago.
“We are that stupid,” said one resident that attended the session. She said that if anything or any changes that is happening on French St. Martin, it must be first brought to the people before being implemented. She cautioned that the political representatives feel that they could only use the people for votes and as a result, she is waiting to see who will vote for these politicians again in any other election.
Charville indicated that on October 1, 2015 the government released the English version of the PLU and noted that they were notifications of the document. This is customary prior to that and the government has refused to print the document so that the people could not be aware of the situation and how it will affect them.
Technicians in charge of the office that is authorized to give information about the PLU were visibly upset because Charville had informed the people via one of the radio stations. Since he was on radio there has been an influx of people demanding the correct information and visiting the offices of the PLU. “It is obvious that this information should not have been sent to the people,” Charville said.
“If we continue to have a deaf ear and continue to accept everything that is being pushed down our throats it will be very difficult for our children tomorrow,” said Ras Jah Bash who is the president of the United Front for the defense in the interest of St. Martiners. He considers the present predicament of the people as robbery and described the purchasing of the land again as “taking advantage of the people.
He pointed out, because “we are in a colonial setting we are submissive and would prefer to let things happen rather than fight for it.” When the PLU was first presented all of the technicians that were present were persons who do not understand the traditions, know the culture, the customs of the people and what happens after a storm where the people come together and help each other, he said.
Ras Jah Bash called on the people to refuse to accept this PLU and also criticized the representatives of the Department of Urban Development and the Cadastre and demanded that the people of French St. Martin be properly represented. He further issued a call for the people to be ready to block the roads and stop the system from functioning to send a clear message to the political representatives that they cannot “push things down people’s throat.”
Meanwhile Member of Parliament Daniel Gibbs and members of the Chamber of Commerce on the French side are calling for the postponement of the PLU. Citizens only have two weeks in which to send in their concerns and objections before it is passed.