EDITORIAL: There is always a solution

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The Barbuda situation is a mess, and it is getting messier every day. Most recently, a group of residents from Barbuda and members of the diaspora from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada are appealing to global leaders gathered in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to hold their peer, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, accountable for what they describe as “hostile actions his government has undertaken against the Barbudan population and failure to uphold both basic democratic values as laid out in the Commonwealth Charter and human rights standards of the 21st century.”
That action and those words are strong indicators of how far the Barbuda situation has devolved. We could get into the demands of the group but more important to us is, why can’t we all just get along? Why are we fussing and fighting in front of the world and damaging our brand? Saying that may seem like we are being superficial and making light of the situation in Barbuda, but we are not. Our point is that we are one nation, with a supposedly singular goal, yet still, we cannot find common ground and develop a plan for the way forward that appeases most (cognizant of the fact that you will never please all).
Judging from the election results for the Barbuda constituency, it is clear that the people of Barbuda were not happy with the way things were going. In response, Barbudans were warned that major changes were coming. The prime minister reiterated his position that the amended Barbuda Land ACT, which his administration had passed not long before the election, was “unconstitutional,” while admitting that the government was simply “pampering” Barbudans “primarily to get their vote.” He punctuated his statements by adding, “That is the raw truth.”
If you are asking yourself how a prime minister can reveal that his administration sought to manipulate the outcome of an election through the passage of a self-described unconstitutional law, then take steps to modify the law immediately after the March 21 general election, then the answer is: “only in Antigua.” Yup! As unsatisfying as that answer is, it is the only one that fits.
Now we have a situation where the Barbudans (seemingly most of them anyway) have dug in their heels and indicated that they will fight to the end, coming up against a prime minister who loves a good fight. What is missed by everyone in the ring and cheering from ringside is that regardless of who wins the fight, there is no real winner, and Antigua and Barbuda, our little bit of paradise, will definitely be the loser.
This brings us back to the question that we posed earlier: Why can’t we all just get along? This impasse is simply a reflection of poor diplomacy or rather, the lack of diplomacy that exists in our politics today. As we have already pointed out, diplomacy is all about the art of compromise. For both sides to get what they want, they must be willing to concede something. In this case, no one is willing to concede anything, even when staring the facts squarely in the face.
And speaking of staring someone in the face, has there ever been a serious face-to-face meeting to discuss Barbuda? Has the prime minister and the attorney general ever sat down with a representative from Barbuda and their legal counsel to have a frank discussion? ‘Without prejudice’, of course! Or, has the communication between the two sides been across the floor of parliament, a courtroom or through the public media?
Maybe the parties should relax their guard a bit and enter a mediation session to lay their cards on the table and have a third party help guide them to a solution. We are not saying that it will work, but having participated in professionally-run mediation sessions before, we can tell you that they are productive, even if you do not reach a resolution. And, in case you are wondering, there are some skilled mediators in Antigua who can assist, so there is no need to import any high-priced mediators.
It is often said that just because you don’t see a solution, it doesn’t mean that one does not exist, and we feel that is applicable in the Barbuda situation. No one wants to see a solution other than their own, but we believe that if all sides stop listening to the image in the mirror and their array of cheerleaders, while taking the opportunity to listen to the other sides, a solution might become evident. That may be a naive way of thinking, but we are okay with that.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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