By Carlena Knight
Talks on a separation of the sister isle Barbuda from Antigua will take centre stage when parliament holds a resolution next Thursday.
Observer media recently reported that a letter from the Barbuda Council dated August 31, and addressed to Cabinet Secretary Konata Lee, demanded that the government takes steps toward a separate future for the smaller island. Council members said they are “wholly dissatisfied” with the treatment meted out to them by the country’s present government.
Cabinet notes released to media yesterday dubbed the request “virtually treasonous”.
Next week’s resolution will address the Council’s submission to diminish or extinguish the unitary sovereign and democratic state of Antigua and Barbuda, with topics like economic effect, land and other matters coming under the spotlight.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas said the resolution was a necessity. He further hinted to the magnitude of the possibility of such a move ever occurring.
“I think it’s a debate that must be had. I think the discussion is pertinent to what is taking place in Barbuda. It’s something that will never be off the table. Barbuda represents a third of the land mass of Antigua and consequently we want to ensure that the resources are available to Barbuda … and ensure that we can not only provide services and build infrastructure in Barbuda but elsewhere – but we are not going to deter or shy away from this notion,” he told yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“For Antigua to consider at this stage the giveaway of a third of its resources and to let it walk away, it’s incomprehensible, it’s ridiculous and so I think the government’s position will be well laid out in our presentations.”
Talks of a separation have seen a number of prominent officials adding their views.
Former Barbuda MP Arthur Nibbs, United Progressive Party (UPP) spokesperson for economic development Cortwright Marshall, and professor of sociology Dr Paget Henry have all recently told Observer that a separation is not a good move for either island. Nibbs also claimed Barbuda could not be economically viable on its own.
But Barbuda resident John Mussington, an educator and marine biologist, is adamant that the isle can go it alone.
“Barbuda has a local economy. That economy unlike Antigua is based primarily – and I will put it this way – what brings money into the pockets of more persons and has more significant impact is the fishing industry, the lobster export trade and also the … other economic activities in which the people engage in.
“In 2012, I think my memory is not deficient, a poverty assessment was done in Antigua and you know which community came out on top? The Barbudan community and what that says is we are fairly wealthy people,” Mussington continued.
“When you look at the housing stock in Barbuda, it’s far superior to what you have in Antigua and these are economic indicators, things that tell you how well an economy can perform,” he added.
Calls to Barbuda MP Trevor Walker for a comment were unsuccessful up to press time.