The deteriorating relationship between the Barbuda Council and the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) developers may be affecting the upcoming general elections, according to the Barbuda Council.
Councilman Devon Warner is concerned that the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) government will use the developer’s presence on the island to gain political advantage.
And, because the council believes that the investors have been swayed by the current government, to ignore the authority of the council and the decisions made by Barbudans, Warner said the local government agency has therefore been monitoring the electoral list to ensure that only persons who qualify to vote will do so on election day.
“You know what elections are like in Barbuda. Elections can be lost or won by a vote so we are monitoring the movement of people coming into Barbuda to work at PLH, and we are monitoring the movement at the electoral office, making sure that these workers who come to work then go back to Antigua, or [those] coming for two weeks then heading back do not end up on the voters list,” Warner explained.
A national of Antigua and Barbuda must have resided in a particular constituency – this case in Barbuda – for at least six months to be eligible to vote there.
Warner said the electoral list is also filled with voters who have not lived on the island for years, and a change is well overdue.
“We have people on our voters list who have not been back to Barbuda for five years, but every election they come back. They come back every five years for the general election. We have police officers who have been transferred back to Antigua for years but they are still maintained in the Barbuda voters list. I have put it to my political leader and chairman of the party that we must go to the Electoral Commission and ensure that these people are removed because you cannot be in a community for years then expect to come in and vote. It makes no type of sense,” Warner stated passionately.
Meanwhile, the relationship between PLH and the Barbuda Council continues to put a damper on development prospects for the island.
PLH intends to build a golf course and luxury villas at the RAMSAR designated Palmetto Point, but Warner claims that there is “too much at stake”.
The council, he said, has employed an environmental scientist to work on its behalf, “because Barbudans are quite aware of the waterways that run through that area, that is why that area that is being developed now was never touched because all those waterways. All those wetlands within that area being desecrated now was never touched by sand mining.
“We have employed an environmental scientist to work on behalf of the Barbuda Council and we also had one of the most prominent … a gentleman by the name of Dr Thomas Guru visited Barbuda, went to the site and did his studies and reported back to the council,” Warner stated.
Warner said that Dr Guru recommended that the golf course should be built elsewhere on the island.
The councilman also stated that there is “a lot of bad blood” between the council and PLH developers over money owed to the local government.
He alleged that the council has not received the money owed and correspondence between both parties have not been constructive.
He also explained that there was very little consultation with Barbudans, and that the PLH development has had little to no effect on the economy of Barbuda since at least 80 percent of its workforce are not Barbudans, do not reside on the island, and therefore all the money generated by the workers is spent elsewhere.