By Shermain Bique-Charles
Comments allegedly made by the Prime Minister that he is considering a referendum on removing the Barbuda Council from the country’s constitution have reignited talk of a separate future for the two islands.
Earlier this week, Gaston Browne appeared to use his Facebook page to put the Barbuda Council on notice that he was mulling a national poll on axing the body.
It is not clear how serious the PM’s comments were and repeated attempts by Observer to reach him for clarification were unsuccessful.
But the issue sparked a stormy response from Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker who told Observer radio yesterday that the time may be ripe to look into a permanent separation for the smaller isle from its larger sister.
Walker said that may be just what Barbuda needs to move forward, claiming many Barbudan residents are “fed up” with what they see as Browne’s constant disregard for them.
Walker explained that a power sharing agreement between Antigua and Barbuda was made in 1980, when there were talks about a unitary state in the run-up to independence. But he said “if the prime minister is saying that he is not willing to go down this road then all I am saying is, let us go our own way”.
The MP then cited several examples of other nations around the world splitting up and going their separate ways, such as Anguilla from St Kitts and Nevis in 1980. This, he said, should be the reality for Antigua and Barbuda.
“Reality is, if it means you are going to cut the umbilical cord of the nation then we are willing. I should be putting it to you sir, that we should be looking at a separate future. Anguilla did it. There is also a provision in St Kitts and Nevis for that as well. The Scottish people have that enshrined in the British law for a separate future,” Walker said.
Walker expressed confidence that – were the islands to separate at the constitutional level – Barbuda could successfully operate on its own.
“We will be much better off than to operate under a prime minister that threatens to lock you up, abuse you and scandalise your resources – we can’t live like this. He doesn’t want us in his constitution -at the end of the day, what do you have to lose,” he said.
Walker says for many years the relationship between Antigua and the smaller isle was far from cordial.
“Our population is small. But I don’t think people understand the type of air that exists today between Antigua and Barbuda,” he added.
According to Walker, even the international community has expressed concerns about statements by PM Browne.
“I have gotten calls from persons within the British and American diplomatic circles who are very concerned with the prime minister’s attitude towards Barbuda. So I put separate future on the table because my own impression is that certain countries will not just allow us to just wither and disappear,” he added.