In about fourteen days, a final ruling will be made in the prolonged legal battle over land in Barbuda, and MP for the area Trevor Walker, believes that the stakes have never been higher as they are now for the Barbudan people.
The Barbuda Council continues the fight to maintain communal land rights on the sister isle, while the central government continues its push to end the practice.
The matter has been before the courts for some time and will come before the country’s final appellate court on May 3, and Walker is adamant that a ruling in their favor will finally give Barbudans full control over their territory.
“When we win this case, the central government will have to pay us all those monies that they collected on our behalf. All those who are on our island, who are here illegally or on terms that are not legal will have to come to the table. Nobody will be able to dictate to us as to what happens in Barbuda. They cannot send over people to do land registry without our consent. That is what is at stake. We will be able, or we would be in a position to determine what happens to Barbuda going forward when this case is adjudicated and we win this case,” Walker said.
He added that based on current events, Barbudans have been losing control of their island, and this is an area in which they would lose even more if the case is won by the central government.
This is why he is continuing to admonish his fellow countrymen to take this matter seriously.
“If we think that we don’t care about this case, whether we win or lose, and that an institution like the Barbuda Council cannot be highjacked, then we are making a grave mistake. Our institution, the Act which was passed to give us a local government is under siege right now, if we lose this particular case. This is something that we have to think about because at the end of the day if we don’t have control, and I am one that thinks that Barbudans should have control over Barbuda [then all is lost]. Period!
“Nobody is saying that we don’t live in a globalised world, but why should we allow and want persons to dictate what type of development you have? To sell your land when they want, to be able to determine who goes on the Barbuda Council as per what they decide they want in the laws,” Walker queried.
The case was filed in Court by Walker, who is the leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM), and founding member of the BPM Mackenzie Frank, and was mounted against the Gaston Browne-led administration following the passage of the Paradise Found Act 2015 which nullified critical sections of the Barbuda Land Act 2007.
That Act speaks to the ownership of land on Barbuda.
However, Frank and Walker claimed entitlement to Constitutional relief on the basis that they are Barbudans within the meaning of the Land Act and that the land in Barbuda is owned in common.
Barbudans have practiced communal land ownership for centuries; the 2007 Act codified it into law.
Efforts to overturn the practice have invoked a stormy response from many Barbudans who feel it will destroy their unique way of life and erase their cultural identity.
Walker has remained confident that the judgement will go in their favour.