Attorney says the Constitution protects the Barbuda Council

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Attorney Charlesworth Tabor said he is “amazed” and “appalled”, first by the “reckless” statements of Prime Minister Gaston Browne who, on Saturday, said he would “abolish or dismantle” the Barbuda Council if its members “try to and frustrate” the government’s progress on the sister isle.

Tabor added that he is also “shocked he [Browne] would say something like that because he should know it cannot be done unless you get the consent of the Barbuda Council” since this is enshrined in the Constitution.

“It is in the Constitution; Section 123, which establishes the Barbuda Council. You cannot abolish the Council unless the Barbuda Council agrees, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, the Council would have to give an agreement.”

That Section, which carries the heading ‘Local government’, states that, “Parliament may alter any of the provisions of the Barbuda Local Government Act, 1976, specified in schedule 2 to this Constitution (which provisions are in this section referred to as “the said provisions”) in the manner specified in the following provisions of this section and in no other manner whatsoever.”

And the Constitution then outlines what that manner must be.

“A bill to alter any of the said provisions shall not be regarded as being passed by the House unless after its final reading in that House the bill is referred to the Barbuda Council by the Clerk, of the House and the Barbuda Council gives its consent to the bill by resolution of the Council, notice of which shall forthwith be given by the Council to the Clerk of the House,” it reads.

The Constitution also indicates that any Bill to alter any of the said provisions shall not be submitted to the Governor-General for his assent unless it is accompanied by a certificate under the hand of the Speaker (or, if the Speaker is for any reason unable to exercise the functions of his office, the Deputy Speaker) that the provisions of the section which speaks about the Barbuda Local Government have been complied with.

Tabor said any action done contrary to the Constitution would be wrong and a breach of the rights of Barbudans.

While the prime minister has the option of using a referendum to change the Constitution, during an interview on OBSERVER AM yesterday, he said he does not plan to go that route.

Before saying the above to OBSERVER media, he spoke Saturday on Pointe FM – the radio station he founded – saying he has been “fair” to Barbudans and he would dismantle the Council should its members frustrate his administration, and he reminded listeners “Barbuda is just a constituency.”

After last week’s local government elections in Barbuda, the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) got full control of the Council of nine elected members. The Council also has two non-elected members – one appointed by the Governor General and the other is the Parliamentary representative. In this case, the representative is Trevor Walker, leader of the BPM.

The BPM is the main rival to Browne’s Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) in Barbuda. Last week, mere hours after the election results were announced and the ABLP candidates were defeated, Browne said while the BPM has a majority on the Council, it is still a powerless body.

He said the ABLP administration has the final say in terms of the overall development of the twin island state since it is the central government of Antigua and Barbuda, with control over 15 of the 17 seats.

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