MARIGOT: The Honorable Prime Minister of St. Maarten Silveria E. Jacobs and members of the Council of Ministers consisting of Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran, Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson, and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport drs. Rodolphe Samuel attended their first official working meeting together with President Louis Mussington and the elected representatives of the Territorial Council of Saint-Martin at the Hôtel de la Collectivité on May 5. This first formal meeting was organized in a joint effort to create a strong working relationship from the beginning of the new Territorial Council’s tenure, and to discuss matters of cooperation common to both parts of the islandsuch as the COVID-19 situation, disaster preparedness and the Q4 binational meetings.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs rendered an update on St. Maarten’s COVID-19 situation. Fourth Vice-President of the Territorial Council Michel Petit also rendered an update on Saint-Martin’s COVID-19 situation with both territories sharing similar public health protocols such as optional mask usage and encouragement of precautionary measures. However, both territories are now experiencing the endemic phase as citizens move towards a life of normalcy.
Disaster preparedness was also a key point of discussion in light of the upcoming hurricane season which begins on June 1. The need to inform each other about the possible actions to be taken in the event of a major hurricane, was discussed. Prime Minister Jacobs took the opportunity to give a brief introduction of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and its structure comprising various Emergency Support Functions. “We have a responsibility before, during, and after a disaster, as such, each ESF has their individual plans for different types of disasters. Additionally, St. Maarten has 12 shelters,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
Second Vice-President Frantz Gumbs explained that the Territorial Council shared the responsibility of disaster preparedness with the State of France. However, the management of any crisis then goes back to the state as a crisis is a matter of security to the territory. Prime Minister Jacobs then informed of the intention for a key person from the Government of St. Maarten to attend disaster meetings on Saint-Martin at the Prefecture of Saint-Barthelémy and Saint-Martin and a key person from the Prefecture to attend similar meetings of the Government of St. Maarten. In this manner, public announcements and measures taken would be synchronized as much as possible.
Quadripartite cooperation, within the framework of the Q4 binational meetings, was widely discussed, in particular the need to establish more sustained cooperation between the two national States, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, and the territories of Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.
The question of the delimitation of the French and Dutch borders was one of the subjects of the last quadripartite discussion which will be discussed in upcoming Qmeetings to be held later this year. Any agreements made will then be ratified either as an appendix to the Treaty of Concordia or through the implementation of an appropriate treaty. The elected officials also discussed the police force’s cooperation and subjects such as the progress of the tax system reforms undertaken by the two territories at their own level.
Finally, the elected officials discussed education and the need to maintain and strengthen the actions initiated jointly. President Mussington and Prime Minister Jacobs insisted on the need to communicate more regularly on these joint actions undertaken within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.
This French and Dutch cooperation meeting was the first of many to come. The elected representatives of the two territories agreed to be part of sustained and structured cooperation and look forward to the benefits that this renewed working relationship will bring for the population of the entire island.