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Martinique, Guadeloupe, France: MP Letchimy Against Minister Guéant

Bloggers and mainstream journalists around the French-speaking blogosphere have been buzzing once more about French Minister of Home Affairs, Claude Guéant. He is notorious for suggesting extreme right-wing policies about national identity, religion and immigration, as confirmed by this headline [fr] from French mainstream information website Le Monde:

Claude Guéant, habitué des polémiques

Claude Guéant, serial controversy-maker

which covers different ideas developed by Guéant like:

La ‘croisade’ en Libye

‘Crusade’ in Lybia

or

Pas de ‘signes religieux’ pour les “usagers du service public”

No ‘religious symbols’ for ‘users of public facilities and administrations’

One of his extremely controversial ideas regarding the visas delivered to foreign graduates in France has been discussed here on Global Voices.

With the tense atmosphere of the upcoming French presidential elections, every word uttered by front-rank politicians from all parties are closely examined and judged – no surprise, then, that this sentence from Guéant in a meeting organized by a right-wing students’ union on January 6, 2012, has unleashed a fury among the public opinion:

Toutes les civilisations ne se valent pas…

All civilizations are not equal…

The reactions have been numerous and varied, some agreeing and others vehemently disagreeing – even in his own political family – but to this day the most memorable response has come from Serge Letchimy, a left-wing MP from Martinique, French West Indies, who condemned Guéant's words and ideas in a letter published on his own blog [fr] and read before all the MPs:

Vous nous ramenez, jour après jour, à ces idéologies européennes qui ont donné naissance aux camps de concentration, au bout du long chapelet esclavagiste et colonial.
Monsieur Guéant le régime nazi, si soucieux de purification, si hostile à toutes les différences, était-ce une civilisation ? La barbarie de l’esclavage et de la colonisation, était-ce une mission civilisatrice ?

You bring us back, day after day, to these European ideologies which gave birth to the concentration camps as a conclusion to a theory started with slavery and colonialization.
Mr Guéant, was the Nazi regime, obsessed with purification and hostile to differences, a civilization? Was the barbarity of slavery and colonization part of a civilizing mission?

Here [fr] is the video showing Letchimy reading his letter, the content of which caused a wave of indignation among the right-wing MPs and members of the French Government, who left the benches of the French National Assembly under the pretext that Letchimy was outrageously associating the Minister with the Nazi regime. They later asked for official apologies, to show their support to Claude Guéant.

However, his words visibly inspired a movement of opposition against the Minister of Home Affairs among French West Indian and French bloggers and readers alike. In a post at Montray Kréyol [fr], renowned Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau explains why Letchimy's ideas deserve to be defended.

M. Letchimy a donc vu juste et a dit ce qu'il fallait dire comme il fallait le dire.
Et il a fait honneur non seulement à la Martinique mais à la France et à son Assemblée Nationale toute entière. Car enfin, sans lui, le « célébrant des civilisations supérieures » serait venu, se serait assis, aurait écouté je ne sais [quelle] politiquerie, et serait reparti sans que rien ni personne ne lui trouble la conscience.

Letchimy got it right and said what needed to be said just how it needed to be said.
By doing so, he honored not only Martinique but also France and its whole National Assembly. Indeed, had he not spoken, the “celebrator of the superior civilizations” would have come, sat down, listened to political questions and left the place, with his conscience unquestioned by anyone or anything.

On No apologies, no disciplinary measures, full support to Mr Letchimy” and “Petition in support of Serge Letchimy” [fr].

Coincidentally or not, this controversy took place a couple days before Claude Guéant visits Martinique and Guadeloupe, in order to launch the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in the Overseas regions of France. Grabbing the opportunity to show their ideological and political opposition to the Minister, two Guadeloupean political personalities, a left-wing Minister of Parliament and a Senator, released a statement [fr], published by Caraib Creole News:

Nous avons été informés de votre prochain déplacement en Guadeloupe et nous sommes au regret de vous faire savoir que nous ne pourrons vous y recevoir.

We have been informed of your upcoming visit to Guadeloupe and we regret to let you know that we will not welcome you here.

They conclude their statement with a reminder of a similar decision made by the late Aimé Césaire in 2005.

En décembre 2005, afin de marquer son indignation suite au vote d’une loi reconnaissant « le rôle positif de la présence française outre-mer », Aimé Césaire avait refusé de rencontrer le ministre de l’Intérieur de l’époque, Nicolas Sarkozy, en déplacement en Martinique. Nous avions alors tous, outre-mer, salué la portée de son geste.
Nous choisirons par conséquent, en toute modestie, de lui emboîter le pas.

In December 2005, in order to signify his indignation after the vote of a law acknowledging “the positive role of the French presence overseas” Aimé Césaire refused to meet the then Minister of Home Affaires, Nicolas Sarkozy who was visiting Martinique. In the overseas regions, we all recognized the importance of this decision.
We will therefore, with all due modesty, follow his path.

The conclusion is worth noting since Aimé Césaire was the political mentor of the MP Letchimy and his letter to Mr Guéant was highly inspired by Césaire's “Discourse on Colonialism“.

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