FLASHBACK: Member of Parliament Hilbourne Frank sues To establish Barbuda’s rights

Front page of the Daily Observer from April 11, 1996.

Thomas Hilbourne Frank, Member of Parliament for Barbuda, has filed suit against The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, in which he claims that he is an inhabitant of Barbuda and enjoys certain property rights over Barbuda, which the Government has taken away.

The Attorney General has been sued on behalf of the Crown in right of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
Mr. Frank claims that in 1976, an Act established the Barbuda Council to administer the system of local government for the island and that the island is subject to the jurisdiction of the Council, which has power to set out in the 1976 Act, including the exclusive right to administer agriculture and forestry in Barbuda.

The Plaintiff seeks to prevent the Government from developing Barbuda, in violation of the plaintiff’s rights and responsibilities. There are three ways in which the law safeguards the position of the Plaintiff. The first is Section 10 of the 1904 Ordinance, which vests all land within the island of Barbuda in the Governor General or on behalf of the Crown, and requires that the land shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Ordinance. The second way Section 11(1) of the 1904 Ordinance, constitutes all persons inhabiting the island of Barbuda as “Tenants of the Crown.” And that the1976 Act, which is entrenched by Section 123 of the Constitution, gives the Council extensive powers and places limits on the powers of the Government. Mr. Frank claims the responsibility of the Council to administer agriculture and forestry.

Mr. Frank also claims that he lives in a house in old Codrington village,which has been handed down in his family for upwards of 100 years. No rent has ever been charged for the house, and his family has never paid rent. He claims that the rights of the people as tenants of the Crown are as follows:-

1. The right to use plots which have been allocated to the people.

2. The right to graze cattle on the half of the island which has been assigned to villages for grazing purposes.

3. The right to provision grounds which have been allotted to him. It is alleged Government has denied the people of Barbuda their rights . He also claims that the Government intends to develop Barbuda regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants, and that the Government has acted unlawfully by ignoring the exclusive rights and duties of the Council to administer agriculture and forestry in Barbuda.

According to Frank, the following projects have been unlawfully entered into by the Government:-
1. The Sovereign Order of New Aragon
2. Sand Mining
3. The Quarantine Station
4. The K. Club
5. Tile Palmetto Hotel
6. Martello Development Limited

The Plaintiff claims:-
(1) A declaration that on the proper construction of the Barbuda Ordinance 1904 (as amended) the inhabitants of Barbuda as tenants of the Crown enjoy the following rights:-
(a) to occupy land in or near the village of Codrington allotted to the inhabitant (and/or family) for the purpose of expecting and maintaining a house as residence.
(b) to graze animals on the land ‘assigned under the Ordinance for grazing
(c) to work provision grounds throughout that part of the island set apart under the Ordinance for provision grounds subject to the obligation imposed on the inhabitants by the Ordinance.

(2) A declaration that except for the land set apart for public purposes, the whole of Barbuda outside the village of Codrington, has been assigned for grazing or set apart for provision grounds.

(3) A declaration that the Crown in right of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda cannot lawfully grant land in Barbuda for development or other purposes which override the rights of the inhabitants of Barbuda as tenants of the Crown.

(4) A declaration that the Government o f Antigua and Barbuda shall not permit further sand excavation at Palmetto Point and shall restore Palmetto Point and make it safe.

(5) A declaration that land in Barbuda (used for agriculture and forestry) can only be developed with the consent of the Barbuda Council.

(6) A declaration that Section 2 of the Barbuda Ordinance(Amendment) Act 1982 which purports to amend section 11 of the Barbuda Ordinance 1904 by adding new subsections (2) to (7) does not on its proper construction give the Crown power to grant any interest in or over any piece of land within Barbuda to any person whether or not that person is an inhabitant of Barbuda which conflicts with the rights already enjoyed by the,inhabitants of Barbuda.

(7) Further or in the alternative, if Section 2 of the Barbuda Ordinance (Amendment) Act 1982 does purport to give the Crown such power, a declaration that Section 2 of the Barbuda Ordinance (Amendment) Act 1982 is unconstitutional and void being in violation of Section  9 (of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda.

(8) Damages

(9) Further or other relief

(10)Costs.

Mr Frank’s suit has been filed by Jeffrey Nesbitt a Barbudan native who practices law in Nevis.

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