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Charville appeals to François Hollande to understand ‘crisis’ facing St. Martin

MARIGOT--Independent Councillor and President of True Hope for St. Martin Jules Charville says he hopes President François Hollande will understand that behind a bright façade the community of St. Martin is in "deep suffering," and despite the change of status, "our ill-prepared community, with no support to adjust to new circumstances has lost its footing.

"The crisis affecting our community since July 2007, is unprecedented," Charville stated. "It has had continued painful and disastrous consequences for the economy of our territory, for the preservation of activities and jobs, social stability, for protection of a large number of families from precariousness and poverty.

"St. Martin is suffocating under difficulties and handicaps that some of our elected officials and parliamentarians before us have not failed to point out on various occasions, including the former Minister of Overseas Territories Victorin Lurel on his last visit here."

He listed a number of causes including an organic law "totally inappropriate for our civil society and for our geographic positioning;" a State administration and organisation blind to St. Martin's specific situation; steep inland and sea transportation costs; an educational system inappropriate to social, sociological and linguistic realities; an unusual migratory situation, and catastrophic economic situation and undeveloped cooperation with neighbouring islands."

Charville pointed out that in terms of economic recovery, to help local businesses to grow and create jobs, St. Martin and St. Barths were never allowed the benefit of the "Plan Corail" which was set up by the Government to assist and support SMEs and micro-enterprises which had been heavily affected by the 44-day general strike of 2009, in Guadeloupe.

"To this day, the Tax Credit for Competitiveness and Employment CICE is not applied to our territory because of Article 74 and our jurisdiction over tax matters," he said. "We then asked your government to conduct a study on the possibility of a (total) waiver of social charges for at least three years."

On education and training, he said young people are forced to leave the island and their families at an increasingly young age, after obtaining their high school diploma (between ages of 17 to18) due to lack of choice and lack of local availability of training options.

"We demand the establishment of preparatory classes (not private) that can deliver on- site preparation, during one or two years, to students preparing entrance exams for schools for higher education (in science, literature, economics, business and sustainable development, etc.) and engineering schools.

"But, more fundamentally, we would like English, our mother tongue, to be acknowledged and become the language of education for our children; French becoming a second language and no longer being the compulsory pathway to knowledge and education, which impedes access to education to our young Anglophones who are de facto condemned along with a great part of the population to a form of illiteracy, because of 'the language barrier'."

With regard to crime and juvenile delinquency, he noted the increase in the number of Gendarmes did not result in a drop in crime, violence, insecurity or juvenile delinquency.

"St. Martin needs resources to prevent crime and violence among young people, to heal the roots of this evil. The construction of a new prison as advocated by some or joining the army (RSMA) is only a false and short-sighted solution. Thus, we ask for increased means and specific aid for school, for training and for apprenticeship for our young people.

"For our youth, for our citizens and for a life together, free of the violence that is increasingly becoming part our everyday life, we ask, Mr. President, that in spite of the large flow of business that you have to deal with you take a moment to reflect on the fate of this community and of its island, which lies 7,000 km away from Paris and who's only aspiration is to live peacefully and be to the whole world what it was only 30 years ago, a paradise."

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