After the Cabinet released a statement to warn the Barbuda Council against leasing land on Barbuda without the prior approval of Cabinet, the Barbuda Member of Parliament, Trevor Walker, has rejected any claim of wrongdoing.
According to the statement issued last Wednesday, the Cabinet sought “to remind all citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, and particularly the members of the Barbuda Council, that a lease of any Crown land is lawful, only if the lease is approved by the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda. Any person who leases land from the Barbuda Council is reminded that without the approval of Cabinet the lease is [void].”
Walker said the Barbuda Council was acting in the best interests of the people of the sister island after his party – the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) – won all seats on the council during the local government elections in March.
“The Prime Minister is saying that ‘you all cannot do anything with land unless you get approval from us’. Well, we don’t accept that,” Walker said.
He added that the Barbuda Local Government Act, which governs the operation of the Barbuda Council, gives the Council exclusive authority to administer different programs requiring the use of lands.
“The Barbuda Council enjoys power-sharing, according to our Constitution, where we have certain responsibilities under the law. The Act gives us exclusive authority, for example, to administer agriculture. You cannot administer agriculture in the air; you have to use land. The Parliament cannot change that provision unless it goes through a constitutional process,” Walker said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, said the Cabinet had received reports that members of the Barbuda Council were leasing lands to people who were not citizens of the twin island state.
“News has filtered down to Cabinet that members of the Barbuda Council have been leasing lands to non-citizens. The Cabinet wanted to ensure that those who are involved in the leasing are aware that the Barbuda Council does not have the authority to lease Crown land to anyone,” he said.
“While they may make recommendations that will come to the Cabinet indicating their wish to lease the land to non-citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, the Barbuda Council cannot provide a legitimate lease.”