Barbuda consultation too contentious: PM

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (OBSERVER media photo)

The prime minister said that any attempts to consult with the Barbuda people over the Land Act issue would be futile given the resolute stance of the Barbuda member of Parliament.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate to repeal the Barbuda Land Act, PM Gaston Browne responded to calls for consultation with Barbudans before moving forward.

The call for consultation was made  by Trevor Walker, member of Parliament for  Barbuda, and Jamale Pringle, leader of the Opposition.

However, Browne said that the government could have consulted Barbudans but did not, because raising the subject would have caused contention.

“How do you consult under those circumstances when you are being threatened and we are not stupid, we know that at any time at all we call a consultation about land reform in Barbuda that they will mash up the meeting. We know that based on how they have indoctrinated the Barbudan people that there is no

way that you can have a rational discussion about land reform with Barbudans. It would not have happened,” he said.

Browne said that he and his minister wanted to discuss it when Barbudans were invited to a meeting at the American University of Antigua campus last year after Hurricane Irma.

He said there were approximately 1,300 Barbudans gathered there, however, discussing the land issue proved to be a challenge.

 Browne added, “Just about a week ago or within the last two weeks in this honourable house, the member for Barbuda threatened myself and other members here saying any attempts to make any changes to the Barbuda Land Act can’t happen; over his dead body. He said it would be war.”

The Bill that will repeal the Barbuda Land Act of 2007 is the Crown Lands Regulation Amendment Bill 2018. It was passed in the Lower House on Thursday and must now be debated by the Senate.

One of the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) government’s positions is that the prohibition on land ownership stipulated in the 2007 Land Act is a barrier to a real estate and property market which could add to the economy of the sister isle.          

The ABLP has also repeatedly argued that freehold ownership is more useful for Barbudans who will be able to seek loans to rebuild their homes.

Meanwhile, the Barbuda People’s Movement, which controls the Barbuda Council and whose leader is MP Trevor Walker, has argued that the people of the sister isle have enjoyed preferential use of the land for 300 years and the government has no right to change this.