By Shermain Bique-Charles
Recent talks of a separation of Barbuda from Antigua are not backed by the sister isle’s former MP and member of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.
Hints at a referendum on removing the Barbuda Council from the constitution by Prime Minister Gaston Browne triggered a stormy response from representatives of the smaller isle who declared Barbuda could survive on its own.
But Arthur Nibbs told Observer yesterday that any move to separate the two islands would cause more harm than good.
“The thought of Barbuda being separated from Antigua is not a move in the interest of the people of Barbuda,” he said.
Barbuda’s current MP Trevor Walker previously said he strongly believed that a permanent division may be just what Barbuda needs to move forward, as residents there are “fed up” with Browne’s apparent disregard for them.
However, Nibbs said, “It is good for Trevor Walker because he is hoping to become premier or chief minister of Barbuda”, arguing that the Barbuda Council cannot meet its payroll without assistance from central government.
Furthermore, Nibbs claimed if there were to be a separation, the current administration on Barbuda lacks the requisite competence to offer quality leadership to its people.
“The fact of the matter is separation for Barbuda is not an option. Antigua and Barbuda is one sovereign democratic state,” he said.
“If we separate, it will be the pauperisation of the island. My first love is Barbuda and I am a firm supporter of the institution of the Barbuda Council but the current composition left much to be desired,” he added.
The Opposition United Progressive Party is also against a split.
The party’s spokesman for economic development Cortwright Marshall said yesterday, “Barbuda and Antigua, in terms of the potential for development, is best being together.”
Marshall believes what should be changed is the relationship between the two islands.
“The world is moving away from secession and what they need to do is strengthen the relationship. But unfortunately, the ABLP demonstrated for many years that they have no interest in strengthening the relationship,” he said.
Marshall added that the long-running debate over land rights lies at the core of divisions.