Senior Council Anthony Astaphan said the Barbuda Council do not have the authority to close the borders to the island of Barbuda.
“Barbuda is not a separate state. The Barbuda Council has no authority over the ports or airspace of Barbuda”, the lawyer said.
The Council announced that passengers will not be allowed to enter Barbuda as of the 26thof March 2020 from 11:59pm.
The announcement said the restrictions would last for 14 days and could be extended by the Council.
However, Astaphan, who represents the state in several legal matters, told state media the Council’s notice is “another astonishing assumption of power, which they don’t have, in my view”.
“I looked at the legislation and I saw nothing in the Local Government Act that gives the Barbuda Council the authority to restrict travel to and from Barbuda”, the lawyer said.
Asataphan pointed to the ongoing dispute between the Council and the Central government over the ownership and management of the lands on Barbuda.
“From 1999 to 2002 myself and Sir Clare Roberts had to take to court, all the way to the Court of Appeal, the Council’s claim that they were the owners of the land and that they had the right to own the land and the Court of Appeal made it absolutely clear”, he said adding, “this was a case that considered manuscripts and transcripts and proceedings of the legislative and various other institutions going way back to 200 years and the court of appeal ruled that under no circumstances could the Barbuda Council even come close to owning land”.
“We still have the dispute today about the ownership of the land and the 2007 (now-repealed Barbuda Land) Act did nothing to change the fundamental principle that the lands in Barbuda is vested at the crown”, the lawyer insisted.