Debate continues over Barbuda’s land ownership

Aerial photo of Barbuda by Photo by Observer media
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By Carlena Knight

Deputy Chairman of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) Mackenzie Frank is refuting controversial claims made recently by fellow Barbudan Ricardo Nedd on the ownership of Barbuda’s lands.

Nedd told Observer radio that his research into Barbuda’s history revealed the island did not belong to the Barbudans but to central government.

The 27-year-old said that sections of the Barbuda Ordinance Act state that “the people of Barbuda were hereby declared to be tenants”.

The Act further says that all land on the island is vested to the Crown and, according to the University of Salford student, despite the notion that some Barbudans have that England is the Crown, due to the country gaining independence, it can now be understood to mean Antigua.

However Frank, while speaking on the Observer AM show on Thursday, is not only refuting those claims but is advising Nedd to do more comprehensive research.

Frank referenced the Codrington Papers, saying the compilation of letters and other documents which date back to 1684 would give a greater understanding of the ownership of Barbuda.

“The Codrington Papers are a collection of papers, memorandums, plans that Codrington had for the people of Barbuda,” Frank said.

“In that collection there is a description of how the Barbudans utilised the law of the land during slavery. These letters give you a clear picture of the way in which the Barbudans were used on the land and this is really where I think Ricardo Nedd has gone wrong.

“He has never consulted the Codrington Papers because to the best of my knowledge he says that he did some research at the museum but I don’t think the museum has that much material on Barbuda and I think that is one step he needs to take now.

“He needs to look at the Codrington Papers and make a proper assessment because he is making an assertion that all the land in Barbuda belongs to the government of Antigua; there are certain documents in the Codrington Papers that he needs to look at,” Frank added.

When Observer media reached out to officials from the national museum and the National Archives, neither body could verify or deny Frank’s claims as they were unsure of such a document within the Codrington Papers.

Meanwhile, legal expert and former Attorney General Justin Simon added his voice to the ongoing dispute.

Simon said he was inspired by Nedd’s comments to provide a wider view for public education, understanding and a better appreciation of why some Barbudans consider themselves as the true owners of the land.

He said the 1901 Ordinance was first replaced by the Barbuda Ordinance 1904 and is now reproduced as the Barbuda Act, Chapter 42 of the Laws of Antigua and Barbuda.

 Interestingly and importantly, section two provides that all legislations of Antigua with respect to Barbuda are automatically repealed in so far as they are inconsistent to the provisions of the 1904 Act.

Simon, after referencing section four and five of the Ordinance of 1901, noted that because land in Barbuda was considered Crown land and could only be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Barbuda Act solely, no other law including the Registered Land Act, Chapter 374 which was passed in 1974, could apply to Barbuda.

The latest comments add more fuel to the longstanding dispute over the sister isle’s land which has been the focus of a number of legal battles.

Most recently is the case brought by Frank and Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker against central government. That is now set to go before the Privy Council after the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) ruled in favour of the central government in June.

The government first lost the case in the High Court and appealed the decision to the ECSC.

Additionally, the government’s repeal of the Barbuda Land Act passed in 2007 is currently being challenged in the High Court having been filed on October 18 2018.

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