‘Relationship between Antigua and Barbuda even worse than 40 years ago’ – MP Trevor Walker

Member of Parliament for Barbuda, Trevor Walker. File photo.
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By Orville Williams

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As the twin-island nation prepares to celebrate its 40th year of independence, there remain concerns about the strained relationship between the two islands and how underdeveloped Barbuda has been in comparison to the mainland.

During an appearance on Observer AM yesterday, Member of Parliament for Barbuda Trevor Walker decried the state of the relationship, claiming that nothing much has changed in the last 40 years.

“This year, of course the 40th year of independence of Antigua and Barbuda, I think most Barbudans – including myself – have nothing to celebrate. The relationship [between us and the central government] has deteriorated to a point where it has become really toxic.

“Back then … the situation wasn’t much different [but] it’s worse now. Barbudans, over the years, have always felt left behind, have always felt neglected and the underlying thing for us is that we have always felt exploited, especially our resources.”

The idea of breaking free of British rule swept across the Caribbean in the mid-to-late 1900s and many countries who were brave enough to go through with it experienced a positive change in their socio-economic fortunes, albeit after periods of adjustment.

According to Walker, while Antigua readily felt the many benefits of independence, the same could not be said for Barbuda, with the exception of a single decade.

“Barbudans never really, other than the [period] 2004 to 2014 when there was a change in government, had anything to celebrate.”

That period he spoke of was when the United Progressive Party (UPP) wrestled leadership of the country from the Antigua Labour Party, which had been in power since independence, before losing that control in the 2014 general elections.

Only then, he explained, did Barbuda experience any kind of meaningful development.

“[Before 2004], we’re talking about the years when 300 million was taken out for sand and we didn’t get anything. We’re talking about neglect of roads; we never had any roads in Barbuda – paved or otherwise – before 2004. A secondary school was never built on [Barbuda], separate from the primary school, prior to 2005.

“And then today, you have a situation where in 2018, this government struck us at the core, basically telling us we don’t own the land anymore. They actually went to the Parliament and passed a law that says we’re tenants of the Crown, a law that the British had over 120 years ago.”

Along with the aforementioned issue of land ownership, the central government remains at odds with the Barbuda Council and Barbudans in general, over claims of millions owed, the development of the island – in regard to the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project – and that impact on the environment, as well as the Barbuda Council’s authority on the island.

A combination of these and other issues culminated with a request from Walker last year to start the process of separating the two islands, so that Barbuda could stand on its own. That request was, however, rejected at the Parliamentary level.

Looking ahead to the future of Barbuda, Walker said one of the biggest concerns is that the island does not follow the same path as the mainland in its development.

“I speak for the majority of the people, we don’t want Barbuda to move forward the same way Antigua has, I want that to be categorically clear.

“You realize the issues Antigua has now? Barbudans don’t want Barbuda to go in the same direction as Antigua.”

He also assured that the Barbuda Council is trying its best to stand up for the people, and sent this message to his fellow Barbudans.

“I just want to say to the Barbudan people that we have to be a bit more resilient and we have to have a little bit more patience.”

Antigua and Barbuda will celebrate its 40th year of independence on November 1.

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