Despite holding a protest demonstration in front of the venue of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in London, U.K., on Thursday to raise awareness to the plight of Barbudans, members of the Barbuda diaspora in the United Kingdom are not confident that the Gaston Browne administration will defer from unilaterally moving to repeal the Barbuda Land Act.
Shortly after the demonstration, Annette Henry spoke to OBSERVER media via telephone from London and disclosed that two days earlier a delegation of U.K.-based Barbudans met with PM Browne and proposed a six-point plan.
Henry said that one of the points called on the prime minister “to think about consultations with Barbudans in changing the Land Act and the amendments … and we came out of that meeting with no commitment at all and we know that it will be [pursued] on the 24th”.
Rationalising that the meeting with the prime minister had given him an
opportunity to keep the considerations of Barbudans in the picture, Henry reiterated that the delegation did not get any commitment from him.
She asserted that the Barbuda diaspora in the U.K. will not stop dissenting “until Gaston is talking to Barbudans on the island and involving them in the rebuilding process, giving the power back to the council so that they are functioning properly, making sure that the councillors are on Barbuda, and if they are not on Barbuda, why are they not on Barbuda because they are being paid to work on Barbuda ….
“We’re gonna keep going until the government takes us seriously. And the attitude that we have been given is not being taken seriously, and people are understanding that this is a really serious matter and Barbudans should be treated as equals in a country that is meant to be looking after them.”
Henry said the protest in front of the Commonwealth Summit was under a branded campaign, “Save Our Barbuda”, in which the protestors talked to people and handed out leaflets about the situation with the intention of “raising awareness of the plight of Barbudans”.
Expressing the view that the people of the Commonwealth listened to an important message, Henry said: “For a tiny little island that a lot of people don’t know about, I think we really represented.”
According to her, the people to whom the protestors spoke were shocked, especially when they heard that while Barbudans are trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma their government is trying to change the law to alter their relationship with the land.
“People can’t understand why a government would do that to their own people without consulting them,” Henry stressed.
Noting that she did not lead the delegation in Tuesday’s meeting with the prime minister, Henry pointed out that she is part of a movement of hardworking people, and it is just coincidence that she has been interfacing with the media on behalf of that movement.
She said that a lot of Barbudans in the diaspora, who are part of the campaign, have talked through the potential impact of the amendments on their families.
She said that the proposed changes will have devastating repercussions on Barbudans “for generations to come and it is unacceptable that a government in this day and age is not taking the wants and needs of its people on board.
“For us in the U.K., we stand by everything we’ve said, which is, we’re going to fight the Land Act once the amendments have gone through because we don’ believe that it’s a just thing to do.
“It means that our children will no longer have the rights as us because I wasn’t born on Barbuda, but my dad was, so therefore, I’m a Barbudan… – because what they’ve changed is what used to be on the Land Act. Because if you had grandparents on the island, you’re entitled to register for land and all of that heritage and culture that we’re used to as being Barbudans. But my son will not have that right – that birthright that I had – and that is a crying shame.”