In the midst of the social crisis in the West Indies, the government opens a debate on the institutional question of greater autonomy for Guadeloupe, and is immediately accused of letting go, or of retreating in the face of the demonstrators, by the right-wing opposition. In a televised address Friday evening, the Minister of Overseas Overseas Sébastien Lecornu explained that “the question of autonomy” was asked, “in hollow”, by local elected officials themselves during discussions with the government to try to find a way out to mobilization, to multiple demands and punctuated by violence.
“According to them, Guadeloupe could better manage itself”, and “they want less equality with the Hexagon, more freedom of decision by local elected officials”, reported the minister, assuring that “the government is ready to talk about it, as long as these debates serve to resolve the real problems ”of Guadeloupeans. His remarks provoked an immediate volley of criticism from the right and the RN.
“The unity of the Nation” called into question
The candidate for the nomination of the Republicans for the presidential election Xavier Bertrand lambasted this proposal of “less state”. What is “at stake is the unity of the Nation”, warned his competitor LR Michel Barnier, while for Eric Ciotti, also in the race for the nomination, “with Macron, the Republic gives way and recoils in the face of violence ”. The RN candidate Marine Le Pen accused the government of being “ready to let go of Guadeloupe” to “try to buy the radical separatists”.
Others believe that he is mistaken in advancing an institutional response to a deeply social crisis. This “creates confusion” and “does not solve social problems”, said Yves Jégo (Agir), former Secretary of State for Overseas France, on LCI on Saturday, urging instead “a new deal economic ”in the West Indies. But a government source, citing “the precedents” of the crises of 2009 in the West Indies and 2017 in Guyana, estimates that the “announcements of tarmac” during ministerial visits “cost millions and do not solve anything”.
A political response to the crisis
Government and majority, however, refute any suggestion of “abandonment” of the archipelago. It is a question of “building a response adapted to each one”, because “each overseas territory is unique”, explained in a tweet Saturday the president LREM of the commission of the Laws of the National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet, by saying ” stop cartoons ”.
Victorin Lurel, socialist senator from Guadeloupe and former president of the regional council, did not hesitate on Wednesday in the Senate to demand “a political response”, not just “material and financial”. “The question of trust will have to be asked sooner or later to the elites and to the Guadeloupe people, that of wanting to live together: do you want, yes or no, to remain in France as a whole. We will have to drop the masks, ”he said.
A different case from Martinique
Sébastien Lecornu’s remarks raise the question of the degree of autonomy. He took great care to mention only Guadeloupe, both an overseas department and a region, two overlapping institutions, which may complicate relations with Paris, and not Martinique, the only territorial authority since the 1st. January 2016.
According to the government source, the government has in mind the statute of French Polynesia, with broad autonomy in accordance with article 74 of the Constitution, in particular in matters of health management, social protection and economic development, while relying on on local funding.
The example of Polynesia
Polynesia has an Assembly: It votes laws and elects a president who makes up its government. If the missions of the State are limited to the sovereign field (defense, security, justice, currency), such a model does not prevent it from “remaining united”, underlines the government source, especially in the event of a crisis.
For the government, opening this debate could make it possible to place elected Guadeloupeans in front of their responsibilities. “It is also up to local elected officials to go to the end of the debates that they can initiate on issues such as autonomy”, insisted the Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts Olivier Dussopt on Saturday on LCI, denying any attempt to win time in front of the demonstrators.