Barbuda MP says moves to strip Council of powers are unconstitutional

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Barbuda’s MP has declared that “under no circumstances” will the sister isle’s government sit by and allow Prime Minister Gaston Browne to strip responsibilities from the Barbuda Council.

Trevor Walker said the Council will use the legal system to prevent the PM from following through with plans to amend the Barbuda Local Government Act to remove the Council’s authority to mine sand and sublease land in Barbuda.

Browne stated over the weekend that such responsibility will be shifted to central government after he accused the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM)-led Council of circumventing the wishes of the government.

But Walker said, “The Parliament has no authority to amend the Local Government Act Cap 44 unless a resolution is sent to the clerk [of Parliament] by the Council, and the Barbuda Council will not send a resolution to the clerk.

“Any attempt by the Parliament to do this can be deemed unconstitutional and we are going to immediately take this to court to get that declaration.”

“Section 123 of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda is clear that the Local Government Act for Barbuda cannot be changed unless there is a resolution. If this is how the Prime Minister is going to treat Barbuda then he has to put on the table the future relationship of Antigua and Barbuda.”

The Barbudan MP is also convinced that the latest move by Browne is in response to a recommendation made by the Barbuda Council for the Development Control Authority (DCA) to halt the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project due to environmental concerns.  

The Council is adamant that the multi-million dollar project should not be allowed to continue until all environmental concerns have been addressed.

However, the Cabinet has since issued a directive stating that all matters concerning any project must first come before it before any official makes his/her findings public.

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  1. Hon. Walker, Anguilla is 35 square miles with a blooming tourism industry, second to none among the Leeward islands. Barbuda is 62 square miles, go boldly for secession from Antigua back to Briton, your chances for development and success cannot be any less to that of Anguilla.

  2. Barbuda belongs to the Barbudans. Those of us who were born and grew up in Antigua, let us have no illusions about this: Barbuda is a separate territory with a separate, and different history, from Antigua. Over several hundred years the British colonialists ran an estate system on Antigua. After emancipation – the abolition of slavery – Antigua people were able to acquire their own plots of land and operate individual farming units. As we all know, Barbuda was different. After emancipation in 1834, the Barbuda ex-slaves always had a separate existence from their counterparts on Antigua. In particular the Codrington estate lands there were bequeathted to the Barbuda ex-slaves as communal lands owned in common. The Barbudans continued with the system of communal land ownership intact.
    In the summer of 1963, I visited Barbuda as a member of a School’s Sporting Group to play games with the young people there. One thing that struck me very strongly was that Barbuda lived an existence completely separated from Antigua. The only method travel between Antigua and Barbuda then was by the use of a fishing boat. Barbuda was largely undeveloped then, residents not even having electricity, except for the Coco Point Hotel that had its own power generation system.
    Historically, Barbuda did have a connection with Antigua by producing and supplying agricultural provisions and some slaves to plantations owned by Christopher Codrington on Antigua. The British government saw the wisdom of lumping Antigua and Barbuda together for the purpose of administration convenience. But, the two (2) island communities are actually very different. For most of its modern history, Barbuda has been an isolated, closed community. On the other hand, Antigua has always been open with lots of people moving in and out. Also, the land tenure has been so different: one being divisible, the other being communal.
    After looking at the historical backgrounds and interactions of the people from the two (2) territories, I think the British government made the correct decision to put the Antiguans and Barbudans together in one political union. But, on the other hand, making adequate provisions for differences in background experiences, and cultural traditions is essential. Therefore, the Central Government must show respect for Barbudans’ wish for a more isolated, less dynamic kind of international social experience. For example, if the Barbudans don’t want large hotels, airports etc., together with significant expatriate ownership of Barbuda lands, that also ought to be respected. It cannot be that the Central Government simply impose whatever scale of development it feels like on the Barbuda people, who live on that island.
    At the same time, both the Central Government and the Barbuda local government council need to collaborate – that is, working together – to reduce tensions. In the interest of peace and tranquility in the nation the central government should try to compromise it’s stances on developmental issues; and, the Barbuda council must recognise that, politically speaking, once they agreed to go into independence with Antigua, at this stage, it has become very problematic for them to get out, simply because their population is not large enough for them to meaningfully oppose the central government.
    The only good outcome will depend on collaboration, compromise and cooperation from all the interested parties to the dispute. Failing the application of such good sense great tragedy will likely be the outcome.

  3. Trevor, seek secession, use as precedent ABLP court case against the lease holder of Halcyon Cove to ratify and rescind any lease agreement with which your dissatisfied and move on.


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