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Barbudans defy order to vacate Gravenor Bay

By Carl Joseph

“We are not moving! So if you want to bring the army, bring the police, bring whomever you want to bring, but we are not moving from up there!” said a heated Devon Warner as he received a notice to vacate a portion of land on Barbuda.

Warner is one of 11 Barbudans to receive the notice ordering them to vacate 987 acres of land at Gravenor Bay, said to be leased by Gravenor Virdee Development since 2015.

Collectively, more than 100 people are affected by the order. Presently there are scores of tents and other structures maintained by the people of Barbuda who use the area for businesses such as food, drink and souvenir stalls, and recreational purposes including a ‘glamping’ site.

The notice, dated 25 February 2020 and undersigned by attorney-at-law for the Crown, Joy Dublin, states, “You are hereby required to quit, vacate and deliver up to Gravenor Virdee Developments Ltd. possession of the portion of the said premises of which you are in unlawful occupation before the 27th March, 2020 or within 30 days of the date of service of this notice upon you.”

“This is not about BPM. This is not about ALP. This is about Barbudans enjoying a piece of Barbuda and we’re not giving it up for anybody… Nobody whatsoever,” Warner proclaimed.

Warner sits on the Barbuda Council as councilman with responsibility for the Lands and Marine Affairs. He said that this notice violates a land use agreement signed in 2016 when the then Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP)-controlled Council led by David Shaw acceded to a petition signed by over 300 Barbudans for the lands to be used as a campsite.

These lands, Warner said, have been used by the people of Barbuda for over 60 years for recreational purposes.

“The Labour Party Council guaranteed us that nobody would use that land other than the people of Barbuda,” Warner explained.

A fisherman by profession, Warner said that he also does quite a bit of business there.

“I sell lobster and fish and so on to the yachties that come into that area,” said Warner.

Warner told OBSERVER that he, in his personal capacity and as a member of the Council, will be seeking immediate redress on the matter.

“I am going to be sending a copy of the notice to my lawyer and then I will be taking advice from my lawyer personally and from the Council,” Warner disclosed.

There is to be a meeting of all the Barbudans affected by the notice on Saturday.

Minister of Legal Affairs Steadroy Benjamin – from whose office the order came – did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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