Barbudans protest proposed land act amendments

Dozens of Barbudans picketed Parliament after learning the government would be amending the Barbuda Land Act, which would require them to pay for lands.

For over 300 years Barbudans have practised communal land ownership, where the land is held in common by the people and administered by the local government (Barbuda Council) on behalf of the people.

Yesterday, members of the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) and the United Progressive Party (UPP) gathered outside the Parliament to protest against the government’s decision to amend the law.

Trevor Walker, leader of the BPM told OBSERVER media that the actions of Gaston Browne, prime minister, were, “reckless and insensitive.”

“That land was left by our fore parents and we never paid a dollar for that land. So, we are rejecting his (Browne) offer for a dollar, for anything in Barbuda. This is our right. That is what we inherited and no Barbudan with any dignity would accept anything for a dollar for something they already own. We are protecting the patrimony we have had for all these years,” Walker said.

The BPM leader has also taken issue with what he said was a lack of consultation with the Barbuda people.

“The Barbuda Council has local jurisdiction over the island of Barbuda and the people of Barbuda occupy the land. We have lived a particular way and you want to change the way we live, and you don’t have the decency or courtesy to consult with us. It is unacceptable,” he added.

Fabian Jones, former councilman, Asha Frank, BPM member, Joan Underwood, former ambassador and UPP Leon Chaku Symister were amongst those joining the protesters.

Some of the protesters tried to enter Parliament and were turned away because they were not conforming to the stipulated dress code for entering government buildings.

Frank and Walker called on the international community to turn its attention to the “land grab” situation.

Frank added, “We have fought for this land act for over 300 years and it is not going to be pushed aside just like that. The Barbuda Land Act says the people must be consulted and how can they be discussing it in Parliament without discussing it with the people.”

The protesters promised to return today, because it was expected that sessions would resume then. However, Parliament was adjourned to a date to be announced – before Christmas.