One law and policy consultant is suggesting that a legal reform of the Barbuda Local Government Act is the way forward in addressing the issues the Barbuda Council faces regarding inclusivity in policy and decision-making for the sister isle.
For many years, central government and the Barbuda Council, headed by the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM), have clashed over development on the smaller island.
The most recent example of this is the vast Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project.
MP for Barbuda Trevor Walker has frequently accused the Gaston Browne administration of abusing its power and not including Barbudan officials in discussions and policy-making regarding development.
It is because of these comments that consultant J’Moul Francis is recommending a legal reform which would give the Council some much needed power and influence and could, in his opinion, begin to mend the hostile relationship between the parties.
“As it stands, the current relationship, more so the current framework under the Barbuda Local Government Act, is more of an administrative body. They collect taxes, duties they administer, which is vague,” he said.
“They do have a legislative function where they produce by-laws but those are basically internal with some minor external aspects so, going forward, I think a more wholesome approach would be to introduce a system of enhanced delegation of powers that would go beyond just the current administrative framework to include decision-making and regulatory powers regarding people, property and activities that focus on the broad and long-term needs of Barbudans, especially economic development,” Francis explained.
His sentiments were echoed by political activist and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader for the St Peters constituency, Chaneil Imhoff.
Imhoff said much legislation is outdated and needs to be modernised.
“I think a lot of the systemic issues that we have here can be improved with proper and clearer legislation because a lot of our legislation goes way, way back; some even before my parents were born and have not been updated since,” Imhoff shared.
“With modernised legislation, decentralisation of government and clearly defined roles, regulations and responsibilities, I think we can be able to begin to see this relationship improving from that aspect.”
She further mentioned that a lack of communication is another factor that is causing the rift in the relationship between the two islands. She says that until this is addressed firstly by the people of the respective islands then the political side of it will not change.
Meanwhile, however, social commentator, Carlon Knight, does not believe that any sort of amends can be accomplished with the current crop of leaders in both the ABLP and BPM.
“Much of this has a lot to do with the personalities that are involved in the current impasse, and on both sides things have been said and certainly I don’t think some of the prime minister’s comments have been helpful in bringing about a solution,” Knight said.
“I do not see it happening practically. I think the prime minister will continue to do what he thinks is best for his government and Trevor Walker, now emboldened with a clean sweep of the Council, will continue to act in his interest and lead the Barbudan people the way he deems best and you can expect to see more friction on the horizon unless we get some sort of resolution with the characters involved,” Knight added.