By Theresa Goodwin
Barbuda Council members have formally written to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda demanding that the government take steps toward a separate future for the sister island.
Member of Parliament for Barbuda Trevor Walker also hinted yesterday that the Council will be engaging in talks with a London-based constitutional lawyer to discuss how this could be achieved.
He said the authority will be fighting to the end to get this done despite claims from a government official that the letter addressed to the Cabinet, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Governor General Sir Rodney Williams and others is baseless.
“Win or lose or draw, we are making a case that the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda is abusive. People are not being paid, people are not getting money and a lot is happening,” Walker told the Observer AM show on Thursday.
In the letter addressed to Cabinet Secretary Konata Lee, Council members said they are “wholly dissatisfied” with the treatment meted out to them by the country’s present government, led by PM Browne.
They claim that since the passage of Hurricane Irma in 2017, the government’s neglect has intensified and they have no other recourse but to make their plight public in the hope that their concerns will be addressed and taken seriously.
Grievances listed include changes to the Barbuda Land Act 2007, “derogatory name calling” by the Prime Minister in reference to Barbudans, threats to remove the Council through a referendum, the alleged withholding of funds transfer grants, subvention and lease payments from the Council preventing the body from meeting its financial obligations, and giving Peace, Love and Happiness developers leases without the knowledge and consent of the Barbudan people.
The government is apparently yet to reply to the letter dated August 31.
However, Information Minister Melford Nicholas addressed the matter during the post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday when he replied to a question posed.
The minister claimed the letter was without merit.
“It’s an ongoing issue, we are at significant differences. The Barbuda Council often assumes that it has equal authority and equal powers as the state government,” he said.
“Until they are prepared to accept their subordinate role in the governance of Barbuda, we are not going to get very far. But, as I have said, even in Parliament, the tone of the dialogue needs to change and there needs to be a commitment to change that,” Nicholas said.
The letter from the council also prompted a response from PM Browne, who wrote on social media yesterday that, “the BPM’s deracinated elements continue to promote divisiveness between the Antiguan and Barbudan people”.
Browne later added, “I wish to draw their attention to the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda which emphatically states, Antigua and Barbuda is a unitary sovereign democratic state. Trevor Walker and his BPM cohorts need to find constructive work to advance Barbuda, instead of continuing their idle mischief and divisive rhetoric.”