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France

Islanders attend slain unionist's funeral

©

Video by FRANCE 24 , FRANCE 3 , Kate WILLIAMS

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-02-23

Over a thousand people attended a mass in memory of trade unionist Jacques Bino, killed by gunfire on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Speaking on French radio, Bino's sister urged the population to remain calm.

A funeral service was held on Sunday in Guadeloupe for trade union representative Jacques Bino, who was shot dead on Tuesday in his car. French Prime Minister François Fillon said on Thursday that the crime had been committed by “delinquents”.

 

 

French ex-presidential candidate and socialist Ségolène Royal arrived on the island on Saturday in order to be present at the memorial service. She called on the government, which she said had “abandoned” the French overseas department in the Caribbean, to find a solution to the crisis. Representatives of the ruling conservative party UMP accused her of political opportunism.

 

 

On Thursday, thousands of demonstrators turned out in Paris, and in several other cities in mainland France, in a strong show of support for Guadeloupe’s current protests against the high cost of living, even as a one-month blockade has brought daily life on the Caribbean island to a total standstill.

 

In Paris, about 10,000 people demonstrated according to police, and 30,000 according to organizers, most of whom were native to the Caribbean islands. A number of well-known French personalities turned out, such as the socialist politician Harlem Désir and Guadeloupe actress Firmine Richard. 

 

“The government has to bring clear solutions to the table when negotiations begin again,” said Désir to AFP reporters, “both for the 200 euro wage rise and on the need to deflate high prices.”

 

Demonstrators alternated between chants and cries in the French creole language of the islands, raising their fists to shouts of “Down with colonization”, “Two-hundred euros, yes we can!” and “Life is dear under those coconut trees”.

 

Negotiations suspended until Monday

 

The ongoing negotiations between the umbrella union LKP, employers and representatives of the French state were suspended on Friday night until Monday morning.

 

Elie Domota, the leader of the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), described employers’ concessions to raise workers’ pay by between 50 and 70 euros a month as “insufficient”, and far from the 200 euros mark demanded by the unions. He conceded nonetheless that employers seemed “ready to give more”.

 

Some shops opened on Saturday, bringing respite to the famished islanders. Meanwhile security forces are busy dismantling the last of the blockades built by protesters. Long queues of cars were seen to be piling up in front of gas stations, as these also opened up for business.

 

 

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement while on the sidelines of the French agricultural fair in Paris on Saturday, saying that “the worst of the crisis is behind us” but “a lot remains to be done”.

Many accuse the “békés”, descendants of the original white colonizers, of continuing to rule the island. For Martine Charles-Angèle, from Martinique, “apartheid is a reality in the Caribbean”.

 

Date created : 2009-02-22

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