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The new minister for Barbuda Affairs, Dean Jonas, says he is prepared to extend an olive branch to Trevor Walker, the new parliamentary representative for Barbuda, in order to improve the hostile relationship between the latter’s Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) and the ruling Labour Party.  
Walker ousted the Labour Party-aligned Arthur Nibbs to give the BPM its only seat in the Lower House.
Jonas, who was sworn in on Thursday, said he will be engaging the leadership apparatus in Barbuda, which includes the Barbuda Council, to ensure both sides understand each other’s position.
“We are one country, and we have to operate as one country … and so my plan essentially is to basically understand so that we can all work together and understand what needs to be done in Barbuda.
“We believe that we need to greatly improve on the productivity of Barbuda so that they can be self-sustaining just like Antigua is and join with us as one country to ensure that we build our economy and build both islands,” Jonas said.
According to the second term member of parliament, he “understands the kinds of pressure” Walker is facing from Barbudans, which is influencing the relationship with the Labour Party government.
“I understand the stance that they have taken, and so like I said communication is important in moving Antigua and Barbuda forward. 
“I get along okay with him, and so I will be working closely with the team in Barbuda to ensure that they get what they want.” 
Meanwhile, Walker told OBSERVER media on Wednesday after his election victory that he hoped the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) did well in the general election. The UPP secured only one of the 17 seats.
When OBSERVER media spoke to him again on Friday, Walker said that he was looking to engage the government as early as next week to get clarity on the plans to rebuild Barbuda in the aftermath of September’s Hurricane Irma.
“I want to hit the ground running. This is not necessarily going to be acrimonious; it’s gonna be a situation where a legitimately elected member of parliament and the Barbuda Council, the local government, want to know exactly what the situation is with Barbuda.
“We’re not being rude. We’re not trying to do anything outside of the ambit of what‘s required of us. It’s just that we want to be in the know. We want to assist our people … there’s absolutely no information on a regular basis going to our people.”
According to Walker, should the government not be forthcoming with the information sought they would have to “shift to another gear and do what’s necessary in my view to get that information.”
Prime Minister Gaston Browne for his part also believes that there is an opportunity now to mend fences. According to him, the clashes between the ABLP and the BPM were part of the latter’s strategy to prevent his government from setting roots.
“Strategically that makes sense even though they went too far with a number of issues. I suspect now with a second term that there would be perhaps greater legitimacy of our administration in their eyes and perhaps a little more respect which perhaps will help to maybe help them to curb some of these excesses of the past.
“I engage anyone, even those who offended me, so I expect certainly a greater level of co-operation in the interest of building the nation,” Browne said.
According to the PM, hopefully the BPM would have “learnt from their mistakes. They’ll see the need for there to be some level of basic cooperation between the opposition and the government.”

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