By Elesha George
Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker has dug in his heels, after the recently sworn in Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs announced that the government intends to commandeer the Barbuda Council building.
“There is no other government but the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The local council is an agency of the government, like it or not, operating in Barbuda. They must comply with the directives of the government,” Minister Samantha Marshall declared while making her contribution to the budget debate in Parliament on Thursday.
Marshall said that her newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Knacyntar Nedd, would occupy the space which currently houses the Barbuda Council.
“We’re not violent people, but come!” MP Walker dared, as he quizzed the minister as to whether or not the Central Government owned the building in question.
Walker, who sits as an ex-officio member of the Barbuda Council and serves as its Vice Chairperson, rebutted that if Marshall attempted to take control of the building, they would “refuse” to give her the keys.
“The building is already occupied by the workers of the Barbuda Council and if we have to do what we did with the [Fisheries Complex], we will do the same thing,” he remarked.
After Hurricane Irma destroyed the island on September 6 2017, the council members moved into the retrofitted colonial building in Codrington where they now carry out their daily functions.
However, Marshall explained that the Barbuda-born senator would be on the sister isle “very often” and so gave public notice to the Walker that he would have to “surrender the building” to allow Nedd to carry out her duties.
In addition, Marshall said she plans to accompany Nedd and the ministry’s permanent secretary to Barbuda “to meet with the local council and to assist them in having a full understanding and interpretation of the law” as it relates to the limitation of the powers of the Barbuda Council.
Walker responded, telling Marshall that he knows the Barbuda Local Government Act “inside out” and that he “didn’t need a lawyer to tell him about that”.
In July 2018, Barbuda Council members reclaimed the keys that controlled the water and electricity panel at the Barbuda Fisheries Complex, while a number of Barbudans formed a human chain around the building to protect their alleged right to operate there after Hurricane Irma.