PM: “Barbuda needs an urgent culture change”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne hugging Member of Parliament for Barbuda Trevor Walker and other Barbuda residents during a ceremony in Barbuda on Friday.
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Prime Minister Gaston Browne is appealing to the people of Barbuda “to make way for a new cooperative framework and to ensure that there’s a developmental culture based on truth and not myths.”

Browne made that statement Saturday afternoon after claiming that “Barbuda needs an urgent culture change to facilitate growth and development.”

The Prime Minister was speaking in relation to the prevailing antagonism between the Barbudan and Antiguan people.

The idea of that friction resurfaced when a picture taken during a ceremony in Barbuda to hand over 20 homes to families some whose houses had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma began circulating.

The picture showed Browne throwing his arms around Member of Parliament for Barbuda Trevor Walker, and one of the recipients and residents began suggesting that the two parliamentarians were on good terms.

Browne said that the gesture was an olive branch to the Barbudan people that was meted out.

Referring to the Peace Love and Happiness (PLH) development he said: “We believe in consultation too, but when you look at the acrimonious relationship that has been pursued, they make it difficult. Even yesterday[Friday], when we were displaying a level of familial embrace in order to reduce the tensions in Barbuda, instead of embracing that olive branch, what they did – Trevor Walker the representative – was to put out a press release to continue the type of acrimony that exists.

“When yesterday [Friday], even though we had some frank and open discourse, we all came to the conclusion that we should be uniting our efforts in order to move forward as a single country, one nation, one people with a common destiny.”

Walker wrote off the gesture as being “disingenuous” in a social media post early Saturday.

He described Browne’s actions as a photo opportunity, adding that he was “not interested in a false display of camaraderie.”

He accused the prime minister of wanting to “display to the world that the relationship between the two islands is strong as ever” when that is not the case.

“I’m fully aware of others to whom Gaston Browne has done this disingenuous act, which doesn’t reflect reality of the relationship” Walker wrote.

The relationship between the two island representatives continues to dwindle, even more so, as they disagree on the way forward for the PLH development proposed by the Barbuda Ocean Club investors.

Walker argues that the cost of the development on the lives of residents on Barbuda is too much of a risk, while the prime minister and supporting government agencies say the developers are observing environmental and construction regulations.

On Wednesday, during a planned site inspection at Palmetto Point, Walker and a representative of PLH got into an argument that resulted in the MP declaring himself to be born racist and using indecent language to express his frustration.

On Friday, prime minister Browne called on Walker to apologise for his behaviour.

However, in his missive on Saturday, Walker did not offer an apology, but mentioned that the developers were using video footage for the prime minister to use to denigrate elected members and Barbudans on his social media page.

Walker, who said the current administration has no interest in the welfare of Barbudans, maintained that its people will not permit the PLH to continue to destroy its “most precious assets in the Palmetto Point protected area and the Lagoon National Park.”

“These actions and their total disregard and disrespect of the local government has made them not welcome here anymore. No amount of trinkets, inducements and photos ops will change that fact,” the Barbuda MP wrote.

He further used the Facebook platform to call on Browne to use “his power of persuasion which he claims to have” to urge the developers to stop and consult with the Barbuda Council and the Barbudan people.

“It would show that he is somewhat concerned about the people of Barbuda,” he remarked.

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