By Elesha George
The day for Barbuda to be recognised as a lone democratic state has not yet come since parliamentarians voted against a resolution that would start the process to allow Barbuda to separate from Antigua.
Despite talk of secession, a parliamentary session that lasted all of three days proved that breaking up is hard to do.
Ten (10) government MPs registered their votes on Monday, September, 28, 2020, in the absence of both opposition members – one of whom – Barbuda MP Trevor Walker – had raised the issue of secession with the Cabinet secretary.
Walker, who represents the sister isle, made contributions on Thursday in favour of the resolution. Opposition leader, Jamale Pringle also spoke that day but declined to support the resolution on the grounds that the United Progressive Party (UPP) could not support a division between the two islands after having done so much during its tenure to strengthen ties.
In August, the Barbuda Council formally wrote to the government to request the start of the “necessary steps to discuss a separate future for Barbuda and its people.”
Among their reasons were the repeal of the Barbuda Land Act of 2007, the derogatory name-calling by the Prime Minister in reference to Barbudans, threats from the Prime Minister to remove the Barbuda Council by way of referendum from the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, permission given by the government of Antigua and Barbuda and its agencies to allow the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) developer to destroy a RAMSAR site with impunity by constructing a golf course on wetlands in the Palmetto Point area, and the withholding of funds transfer grants, subventions and lease payments from the Barbuda Council, which as a result, caused the Council to fail to meet its financial obligations.
The prime minister, who addressed the Council’s claims in parliament, said that his name-calling had been taken out of context and that his intention was to create a government-appointed Barbuda Council. He also denied giving permission to PLH developers to destroy the protected site, and said that he will be settling millions in outstanding debts to the Council by year’s end.
In bringing an end to the debate on Monday, prime minister Gaston Browne concluded that the Barbuda MP, contradicted himself during his presentation, did not present conclusive evidence of land ownership in common for the Barbudans, and did not make any compelling arguments for secession.
“If we had to conclude, there is no legal, any moral arguments to support secession. I mean how can Barbuda survive on its own with about a thousand inhabitants and without the necessary revenues to sustain itself?” he queried.
He also highlighted that Walker had been the only one inclined to vote for secession.
“There is absolutely no justification for any form of secession,” the prime minister said.
Walker said last week that even if the MPs voted against the resolution, the fight would not end there and that he would continue to stand for what he believes in.