By Carlena Knight
Despite exhausting all legal options, Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker says Barbudans “will not be playing dead” and giving up on their fight for communal land ownership on the sister isle.
Walker was one of two who brought a case against the Attorney General arguing that lands in Barbuda are owned in common. But on Monday, London’s Privy Council, the country’s final appellate court, ruled in favour of the Gaston Browne-led administration.
For many onlookers, a ruling like this would mean that the Barbudan people must now bow in defeat and conform. But Walker told Tuesday’s Observer AM radio show that “they are not going to subject themselves to purchasing land in Barbuda”.
“All I can tell you and the world is that Barbudans are not going to lay down and play dead and pretend that nothing happened before this. We are not going to play dead,” he pledged.
“Legally, yes, that has happened, but should we not protect our historical heritage and right that almost over 300 years we have accumulated? Should that just go away like that?
“Do you think it would be fair for us to just say, oh well it’s over, the 13th of June 2022, everything is over, it’s a new dispensation? Would you accept that?” Walker asked.
“We cannot throw away our history. We cannot throw away the way we have survived, and no reasonable government, no reasonable institution locally, regionally and internationally, would think that all of a sudden, things have changed in Barbuda,” he said.
A town hall meeting was due to take place on the sister isle last night to map the way forward.
Walker also responded to comments made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne regarding the matter.
On Monday, Browne encouraged both Antiguans and Barbudans to move past the land saga and work together towards the betterment of the twin island nation.
But yesterday, an emotional Walker was firm in his stance that the Barbudan people cannot trust the words of the PM, claiming he has shown on multiple occasions that he has no genuine interest in the wellbeing of the Barbudan people.
“The underlying thing for him is that he wants to sell land. Should we trust what he said? So, I am supposed to as a Barbudan, and an average Barbudan, is supposed to today trust Gaston Browne and what he said in terms of working together when we know he is after one thing, and one thing only, and that is to get the lands of Barbuda? That’s all he’s after.
“We don’t trust him,” Walker stated.
On Monday morning, the country’s final court of appeal concluded that the claimants – Walker and Mackenzie Frank – had no realistic prospect of succeeding in their claim under section 9 (1) of the constitution, ruling that the Court of Appeal had been correct to strike it out previously.
Walker said the news was “extremely disappointing” for him and fellow Barbudans, who have practiced communal land ownership for centuries.
Many on the sister isle have long fought to protect what they view as their land rights, along with Barbuda’s environment. But in light of the Privy Council ruling, the stage appears set for the government to surge ahead with plans to transform it into a high-end tourist destination.