By Carlena Knight
“Barbuda land is not for sale.” Those were the words of Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker yesterday as he announced campaigners had won a legal bid to take their communal land ownership battle to London’s Privy Council.
Speaking on the Observer AM show, Walker was responding to the recent announcement by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that Antiguans will soon be able to purchase land on the sister isle.
The Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) leader said, “We have never sold land on Barbuda. Barbudans have never purchased land. I didn’t purchase what I live on and I am not going to buy it from anybody because no one has the right to sell it to me.”
In 2017, Browne offered Barbudans the option to buy the land they occupy for EC$1. Figures recently announced by Cabinet suggest around 100 of the island’s current circa 1,200 inhabitants have indicated an interest to do so.
Walker and BPM founding member Mackenzie Frank first took legal action against the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP)-led government following the passage of the Paradise Found Act (2015) which nullified critical aspects of the Barbuda Land Act 2007 which speak to land ownership.
The government initially lost its case in the High Court but then appealed to the regional court, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), which ruled in its favour in June of this year.
Yesterday, Walker revealed that the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal had on Wednesday granted campaigners’ application for leave to take their fight to the Privy Council, Antigua and Barbuda’s court of last resort. They will be represented by Justin Simon QC.
“The fact of the matter is, if we are not buying as Barbudans, we will not allow anyone to buy land,” Walker vowed.
“It is as simple as that and what I will say to the Prime Minister and the government is this – the matter is before the court.”
There is an additional legal wrangle, first filed in 2018, regarding the repeal of the Barbuda Land Act (2007) with a trial set to begin on Wednesday.
“The trial itself is coming up next week, so respect that whole process and see what the court says and what the final adjudication is on that whole matter. Don’t just come now and try to do it in this kind of way. I just think that they are not adhering to the principals of a due process,” Walker declared.
He added that those striving to retain Barbuda’s centuries-old practice of communal land ownership were prepared to take this case all the way to the Privy Council too.