Re: Land Tenure in Barbuda
By Everett Christian
On September 14, 2017, I wrote a commentary on the issue of Land Tenure in Barbuda, and, after exposing the myths being espoused by our Prime Minister, I concluded with the following comment “I find it unfortunate that the current tragedy is being used as an excuse to justify changes to the Barbuda Land Act.” The tragedy to which I referred was Hurricane Irma. After a period of just under three years, I again find it necessary to address the very issue, but this time from a slightly different perspective.
The issues I wish to address are economic development, patrimony, environmental protection and national independence. Our political leaders appear to view the above issues as mutually exclusive, rather than all inclusive, and so our Prime Minister is spewing his venom on the Honourable Trevor Walker and members of the Barbuda Council, and openly threatening them for daring to protect the patrimony and ecology of Barbuda, while welcoming development. In one interview after another, I have listened to MP Walker state that his party and the people of Barbuda are NOT opposed to the PLH hotel development. What they have concerns with are:
- The destruction of the sand dunes to construct the golf course. My understanding is that the sand dune in question serves as a barrier to the ocean, during storm surges.
- If the dune is levelled, the Codrington Lagoon and coastal areas would be exposed to flooding during storm surges and hurricanes.
- These storm surges, in turn, are likely to wash fertilisers from the golf course into the lagoon, and damage the mangrove that supports the vital fishing industry and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary.
- As well, the chemicals could also leach into the soil and contaminate the ground water supply that many Barbudans rely on for potable water.
These, to my mind, are legitimate concerns that can, and ought to be addressed, to arrive at a mutually satisfactory compromise. That way, development of the PLH project could proceed full pace, while preserving the environment and livelihoods of the people of Barbuda. What, I ask, is so difficult to understand?
The problem, to my mind, is that our current leaders have no sense of history, and the struggle waged to win, first, emancipation from slavery; second, local ownership of the lands that were once owned by the sugar barons; and finally political independence. And, as the Honourable Marcus Garvey proclaimed, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Instead of using our historical experiences to guide present actions/decisions, our leaders are only too happy to betray and sacrifice our hard-won freedoms on the altar of “Creative Enrichment.” So long that the “price is right,” everything in on the auction block. How I long for the days when people entered politics to serve the citizens, rather than to enrich themselves! How I long for the day to hear my Prime Minister declare to a charlatan that he/she must respect and abide by the laws of the land!
Rather than waging war with and threatening damnation on the people of Barbuda, I wish to suggest that it is long overdue for the Prime Minister to temper his ego and his greed; recognise that he was elected to serve (and not kneel on the necks of) the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and bring all parties together to arrive at a compromise that would facilitate the PLH project while protecting the environment in Barbuda.
This is a time for solutions and not threats!
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