Préfète Labies out of place with remarks about press conference

POSTED: 09/19/16 9:19 AM

St.martin—“France via the Préfète does not recognize or take into consideration the reality of this territory or give value to the Treaty of Concordia which dates back some 400 years ago and which was signed by France and Holland,” the former president of the Collectivité Alain Richardson says. He stated that the Treaty of Concordia is a binding legal document that supersedes national law.

The former president was reacting to statements made by Préfète Déléguée Anne Labies who considered the press conference that was held with members of the French media corps at the Chamber of Commerce in Concordia last week with MP Leona Romeo-Marlin last week as illegal.

“When one reads the statement that was put out by the Préfète that indicates it was totally illegal and goes on to say that she will be paying keen attention to things such as these, it means that France is making an effort to pull St. Martin fully under its wings in the sense of a French setting,” said Richardson. He pointed out that it seems as though France will do this with utter disregard to the Treaty of Concordia or any other binding document.

He mentioned that as a political leader this statement by Labies “sends again another clear message that we must resist this and dispute. This kind of attitude has no consideration to the ties that bind the people of this island and also is intended to “send a wedge between the peoples of both sides of the island.”

He noted that there are some 1,700 people residing on the French side who have dual citizenship and vote on both sides of the island. These persons are among the voters in the September 26 elections and they are enough to secure two seats in the parliament on the Dutch side and thus remain an important part of the electorate.

Richardson said that Marlin-Romeo hosted the press conference at the Chamber of Commerce in Concordia and that the objective was to give information to the media. He finds the Préfète “out of place or she went out of her way in condemning this event.” He indicated that because it was information brought to the press, it is a known fact that a democracy is as strong as the voters who can make a wise decision based on the information that they receive.

He questions how could this meeting be deemed “illegal, “when this information could be shared through the French media. He maintains that if this is considered illegal, then the radio and television stations on the southern side of the island that interview candidates should be stopped. They should isolate the people on the northern side by closing the wave links which would prevent the people from listening to what is said.

He describes this as “a ridiculous approach” by the powers that be. He condemns the fact that there is a blind eye by the State of France and the Préfecture on the practices, the history and the heritage of the island.

“I understand that there cannot be billboards and the type of propaganda materials that are displayed on the Dutch side but the right to information and the rights of the voters that reside on the northern side of the island to know, to hear and to discuss with the candidates must be considered and respected.

Richardson pointed out that it was only recently when there was an election in the Dominican Republic there was a voting station on French St. Martin. He could not say if this was done through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France but nationals of the Dominican Republic were allowed to vote and elect their candidate in that country.

However, he said, the historical reality of the island is that the candidates on both sides of the island during an election engage the people to bring to their attention the issues and in some cases facts so that they can make a proper decision on the candidate they will vote for.

Richardson concluded that although the Labies could be within her rights to speak according to the French law, “she must take into consideration that there is a treaty that binds us on this island.”

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