St. Maarten and St. Martin celebrate “everlasting cooperation”

POSTED: 02/16/12 1:33 PM
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Prefet Delegue Phillipe Chopin and President of the Territorial Council Frantz Gumbs sign the declaration of intent between St. Maarten and St. Martin during a ceremony in the Dr. A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall, while Secretary General to the Council of Ministers Cassandra Janssen and the Prime Minister’s Policy Advisor Emilia Liburd look on. 

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says a clause for evaluation and termination was left out of the declaration of intent signed by officials from the Dutch and French side on Wednesday afternoon, because both sides believe in “everlasting cooperation”.

Wescot-Williams signed on behalf of the government of St. Maarten, while President of the Territorial Council Frantz Gumbs signed on behalf of the Collectivité de St. Martin and Prefet Delegue Phillipe Chopin signed on behalf of the French government.
“Of course any party at any given moment can terminate this agreement. If one side or the other feels the need to end it, then they just have to approach the other for a discussion on that termination, but it may be a deliberate exclusion because you would notice that partners from both sides spoke of an everlasting cooperation,” Wescot-Williams said.

The agreement signed on Wednesday gives a formal structure to cooperation between the two sides and builds on an agreement between the Commune de St. Martin and the Island Territory of St. Maarten that was signed in 2006. Wescot-Williams called the absence of a signature from a representative of the French government “missing link” that has now been added.
“This is another leap forward. We have identified the areas of agreement and the areas of priority. Now the cooperation, commitment and dedication to continue this dialog is needed going forward,” Wescot-Williams said.

Gumbs said he was privileged to sign the letter of intent and hailed it as symbol that St. Maarten and St. Martin are an “inseperable couple”. He also believes the agreement “renews the everlasting intention to improve the working relationship.”
“Some may take it further and others will judge if this was a historical landmark. It is better to go step by step and side by side, instead of going in totally separate directions. Going side by side does not mean we are trying to be the same. It means we reply to calls of help and we think twice about every decision and ask ourselves two questions: How good is this for my side and how bad is it for the other side,” Gumbs said.
Later he’d add, “There is no real need for a letter of intent to convince me we need each other, but there must be a formal structure as we both have ties to larger entities. This guarantees that our efforts improve the lives of our people.”

The prefet delegue considers the declaration one step in a process that “holds a promise for the future. He also communicated the French government’s support for the agreement.
“The road will be difficult but we have a duty to succeed for the welfare of our citizens who would not understand why in the 21st century, leaders of two friendly countries sharing a common territory, are not able to agree on such cooperation. I am happy to state here, on behalf of the French government, that France encourages the idea of a local joint committee, which lays the groundwork for the prospect of cooperation between St. Martin and St. Maarten,” Chopin said.

The declaration covers security, healthcare, social welfare and labour, education and professional training, transportation of persons and goods, urban planning and environmental protection, economic development, disaster management and civil protection and structure for cooperation. Parties have agreed to meet at least once a year at the political level, that technical working committees will meet every quarter and they encourage ad-hoc dialog between stakeholders and/or concerned agencies.

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