By Elesha George
Barbuda MP Trevor Walker believes that Monday’s overwhelming election victory over the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is an unquestionable sign that the majority of Barbudans reject the government’s policies – and the treatment meted out to them by the party’s leader, Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
“The vision for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party vis-a-vis Gaston Browne and the vision for the majority of the people are inconsistent, or else you would not have had the results you had on Monday,” he told Observer.
“The B has been removed from the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party. That was the final nail in the labour party’s coffin and I just suggest to those persons who supported the labour party to please turn a new page because that era in our history has ended,” Walker touted.
He described the election as a referendum on the labour party and the controversial Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project.
One of the major issues that has driven a further wedge between central government and the Barbuda Council is that they do not agree on the way PLH is attempting to create economic activity.
The government has supported PLH’s plans to build accommodations that will attract high-end visitors to Barbuda, even as the Council expresses persistent concern about how developers’ practices have already affected the environment.
Both PLH and the government have argued that the project is providing jobs for hundreds of Barbudans, but Walker told Observer, “You cannot alienate assets of over a billion dollars, which, for example is what PLH has now in terms of land – over 700 acres – and just give the people some jobs and think that we are going to be okay. It’s not okay.”
He said that they had to convince the people that voting for the BPM was “the only buffer” between creating the type of eco-friendly development Barbudans want as opposed to subscribing to what the government wants.
The MP believes that the administration brought this upon themselves by excluding Barbudans from development plans, insulting and belittling them, and by doing what he referred to as “the unforgiveable sin”.
“I don’t think that there’s anything else that he and his government could have said about the Barbudan people,” Walker continued.
“He went to the parliament, he cut the Council’s budget allocation to half when we needed it most after the hurricane, when we were trying to recover. He did everything to us that in our view was just abusive.
“But the most egregious thing he did was after 2017, to go to the parliament and commit the unforgivable sin which is to repeal the Barbuda Land Act.”
The government declared that it was unconstitutional for lands on Barbuda to be the sole property of Barbudans. The legal change gave way for Antiguans and other residents to own land on the sister island, breaking what some say is a centuries-long understanding that lands there are owned in common by the Barbudan people.
Looking ahead, Walker said the Council has promised a different kind of approach – one that does not focus on fighting with the government but instead making the island economically viable.
The Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) now holds all nine elected seats and the two appointed seats on the 11-member Barbuda Council.
Nico Antonio, Mackenzie Frank, Melanie Beazer, Wayde Burton and Nadia John walked away victorious with convincing leads against their opponents – the ABLP’s Alvin Tyrone Beazer, Wesley Beazer, Hesketh Daniel, Mackiesha Desouza, and Kelcina George.
Ordrick Samuel ran as an independent.