“It sends a clear message that Labour is no more. We don’t want no more (Antigua and Barbuda) Labour Party in Barbuda; the people have spoken and I think that is a message to be sent.”
Those were the words of Nico Antonio shortly after midnight on Tuesday, moments after it was confirmed that she was among the five Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) candidates who took a clean sweep of the Barbuda Council elections.
The five BPM winning candidates were Antonio, Mackenzie Frank, Melanie Beazer, Wayde Burton, and Nadia John.
The retired litter warden told Observer she is embracing her new role on the local government body.
“I just want to thank almighty God as it would not have been possible without him…and to thank the people of Barbuda for bringing us through,” she said.
“It was a bit tense but I knew I was going to come through…my pastor told me this is what God said and it has come to pass,” Antonio added.
The BPM already held the four other elected seats through Sharima Deazle, Jackie Frank, Devon Warner and Calsey Beazer-Joseph.
The BPM also holds the two appointed seats on the 11-member council through Barbuda MP Trevor Walker and Senator Fabian Jones. It means all nine elected and the two appointed seats on the Barbuda Council are now all held by members of the Barbuda People’s Movement.
The ABLP’s Alvin Tyrone Beazer, Wesley Beazer, Hesketh Daniel, Mackiesha Desouza, and Kelcina George contested the election for the ABLP, while Odrick Samuel ran as an independent.
Former nurse Nadia John, who won her seat, said it is evident that the Barbuda people are in support of the BPM party.
“They are hoping that we carry on the fight against the government and all that they are trying to do to us here in Barbuda,” John said.
“The task ahead is going to be a tough one given the Covid pandemic and our financial constraints,” she added.
Another victorious candidate, retired teacher Melanie Beazer, said her priority is now striving to get council workers up to date with their wages which are weeks in arrears.
“(My priority is) for people to get paid number one. Going all those weeks without money, we have to really look into paying the people,” said Beazer.
Mackenzie Frank said the council is keen to work with the ABLP-run central government.
“What has been done today is indeed historic. There was a time before in the late 70s when there was an all BPM council and at that time our great fight was to separate from Antigua, but now our greatest task is to rebuild the economy of the island and we are looking at the central government to come and sit around the table,” said Frank.
Ahead of the election the parties have clashed on several issues, including unpaid council wages dating back several weeks, issues over land, and different views on how the enormous Peace, Love and Happiness project should proceed.
The campaign however had a low-key nature with Covid restrictions preventing any mass rallies or events.
Chairman of the Free and Fair Elections League Elouise Roberts said one concern had been noted about influencing which the group was not prepared to speak on yet, but which would be included in its final report.
Meanwhile, the BPM was congratulated on its success by leaders of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP).
Political Leader Harold Lovell said, “The results of the council elections demonstrate resounding confidence in the BPM and an absolute rejection of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the Antigua Labour Party.
“It is clear that the support previously enjoyed by his administration has drastically diminished, as the people have become tired of his abusive, base and insensitive leadership,” he added.
Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle said, “Barbuda today; Antigua tomorrow.”
Prime Minister Gaston Browne was also asked for his comments.
“I have accepted that development and political gain are incongruent in Barbuda,” he told Observer.
“When the investments mature and they start to benefit significantly, they will thank us in the future for prioritising development over political gain,” the PM added.
A total of 3,645 votes were counted, indicating a turnout of almost one in three of the sister island’s population.