By Shermain Bique-Charles
The Barbuda Council is demanding documentation to support recent claims that more than 300 residents have indicated an interest in obtaining official ownership of the lands they currently occupy for EC$1.
The request comes on the heels of statements by former Barbuda Council member Tyrone Beazer who told the Observer AM show last week that the names had been presented to Prime Minister Gaston Browne – a claim the PM verified.
However, chairperson of the Barbuda Council Jackie Frank claimed yesterday that there is no proof that such signatures exist.
“We were given this information but it wasn’t being supported by any documentation. The concern is, if this information is picked up by other international media houses, is it even accurate?” she told Observer.
The government offered Barbudans the chance to buy their land in 2017 after the passage of Hurricane Irma and amid controversial changes to the Barbuda Land Act 2007.
Many Barbudans have long maintained that they already own their land communally and that the 2017 legal amendment introducing the freehold sale of land overturned a centuries-old tradition and threatens their cultural identity.
Frank said the Barbuda Council has yet to receive any proof that these residents actually signed anything confirming their interest in a purchase.
“Where did that information come from? What is it based on? This is what we are challenging,” Frank added.
In a statement yesterday, she said, “Were the signatures verified as actually belonging to living Barbudans? Have any Barbudans actually signed any contract to obtain a $1 title deed for Barbudan land?
“Since the 2018 general election, the people of Barbuda have overwhelmingly voted ‘no’ to changing our land system.
“There have been six elections to date and the last one was a clean sweep taking all the seats on the Barbuda Council.
“The individual who made the assertion on the morning show was a Labour party candidate in the last council election and he was soundly defeated. That should put a huge question mark on his credibility,” Frank added.
Beazer told last Thursday’s radio show that he was one of the persons registering names of Barbudans who were interested in the offer.
“I took the names up by the prime minister; me myself collect over 300 names,” he said.