Barbudan islanders resisting billionaire developers bring their legal case to Privy Council

Mussington and Frank

Two Barbuda islanders are bringing a legal challenge to the London-based Privy Council as part of their efforts to halt the destruction of their homeland to make way for a golf course and luxury enclaves for the ultra-wealthy.

The case is seen as a test for access to justice in the Caribbean and concerns the construction of a private jet airport constructed at the expense of pristine forest in the wake of a devastating hurricane.

The case is being brought by Barbudan land defenders, Jacklyn Frank, and John Mussington with the support of the Global Legal Action Network and pro-bono representation from Garden Court Chambers, 3 Hare Court and Sheridans.

The US developers ‘Peace, Love, Happiness’ (PLH) backed by billionaire John Paul DeJoria and Casamigos co-founder Michael Meldman’s ‘Discovery Land Company’ (DLC) are actively involved in the airport project; they contributed 5 million USD for construction as part of their lease agreement, which specifically states a ‘first class airport is essential to the success of the project’. DLC is also behind controversial developments in Loch Taymouth, Scotland and others in the US and Portugal.

In 2017, after Hurricane Irma devasted Barbuda, residents were forcibly removed off island by authorities while US developers were allowed in; swathes of forest were ripped out for the runway that would serve controversial luxury developments.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) will consider the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a legal challenge on the ground that the land defenders lacked standing to bring such a claim.

While the JCPC will decide on whether the Barbudans had standing to challenge the airport construction, it will have ripple effects across the Caribbean in terms of whether communities have a right to protect their homes from colonial style exploitation and abuse by foreign developers.

Antigua and Barbuda are party to the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty signed by 25 Latin American and Caribbean nations, which requires broad legal standing in environmental cases. Last year, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs voiced ‘deep concern’ about the human rights implications of developments, including the airport.

Barbudan’s who have stood up to the central government and developers on the island have been arrested, subjected to legal threats including charges of sedition and labelled by the Prime Minister, Gordon Browne as ‘deracinated imbeciles’.

DLC are also facing community resistance to their projects in Portugal, at three sites in the US, in New YorkLake Tahoe and Montana, and previously in the Bahamas over the decline of a coral reef. A Scottish community group has formed to fight DLC’s “environmentally damaging, gated community” project at Taymouth Castle, which has already breached planning rules.

DLC’s employees include Jack Brooksbank, husband of British Royal Princess Eugenie, who works for their Portugal office. Members of the Barbudan community based in the UK are expected to attend the hearing to express their solidarity.

Jacklyn Frankapplicant, and Barbudan Land Defender said, “The decision to fight against the development of the private-jet airport on Barbuda was not taken lightly. But it had to be done… We, as Barbudans, were not consulted about this development. Our environment, our culture, our history, and our right to be consulted and participate in the future of our Lands have been totally ignored.”

John Mussington, applicant, and Barbudan Land Defender said, “Over 300 acres of land which supported our livelihoods and food security as well as providing critical ecosystem services were destroyed to make way for an airport. … Barbudans only became aware, after the fact, that one of our most critical sanctuaries for the deer and other wildlife, hunting and farming areas was destroyed. This goes against our laws as well as international treaties and expectations that are the norm in any modern society. We will not accept these abuses. We stand against the injustice.”

Jasmine Rayée, Lawyer with GLAN, said: “This case highlights the importance of Barbudans acting as stewards for their island. John and Jackie are bravely standing against the short-term interests of the central government in Antigua and foreign luxury tourism developers, which endanger the fragile ecology of this low-lying island in times of a heightened global climate crisis. The same US-based developers who have cleared pristine forest for this private airstrip are also destroying mangrove vegetation and natural dunes on the coast within an internationally listed wetland.”

Dr Gearóid Ó Cuinn, Director of GLAN, said: “Barbuda is enduring disaster capitalism in its purest form. The two Barbudans taking a brave stand are seeking protection for their community’s right to access courts, their last line of defence from powerful, land hungry developers who are destroying the social and ecological fabric of the island. International law is on their side and potential purchasers of luxury villas should take note of the legal risks and uncertainties they are buying into.”

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  1. As a Barbudan we must remind or inform the unaware Antiguan public that Barbudans voted against joining with Antigua at independence by a two thirds majority. We signed the Barbudan declaration stating we seek to establish a separate territory. These are the basic facts….. Antigua wants to sell its land , we do not want to sell ours. The entire Barbuda Council said no to a forced association. The association with Antigua was and will always be a disaster for the following reasons stated clearly in the UK parliament on Wed 8th July 1981 and explained by the UK parliamentarians so there can be no excuse that our feelings were not known.
    A. Barbudans believe the land will be exploited and natural resources sold. 100mor millions have been sold…. Can you see it here ?
    B. With a combined administration we would never get our fair share of public spending. (Obvious). Attempting forced submission.
    C. The Antigua Government will carve up our land, sub divide, and sell it back to the same people of old, using their administrative might, police force and army. (Currently happening). With promises to a couple of their business partners.

    The letter sent to the UK Minister of State prior to Independence pleaded ‘The bitter experience of our people has been hard earned in dealing with Antigua especially since 1951 and a forced association can only breed long term disruptions’.

    In nearly every vote since then we have voted to keep the land, yet Antigua insists on selling it as they do theirs. So Nothing has changed in 42 years except a more concerted effort by this current Antigua administration to force their will. The Facts are we in Barbuda are beyond self sufficient if we can break away from Antigua exploitation. In fact , left alone, we are a very rich island per capita and totally self sufficient in food security and existence. Is Antigua ? No. You have chosen a different path. And we genuinely respect your choice as you hunt food in the isles of Epicurean, but by return please respect us we will rely on fish & lobster pots, hunting and ground provisions. No one is hungry here.

    The general populous consensus is we want genuine independence, complete self determination, immediately, 42 years ago was none to soon. This may not have been so under a different administration, but our hand is forced and we are sure many Pan Africanist friends will help us on our new path. If you need recent affirmations …..look at the last vote in 2023, which was again, a two thirds majority – Our Land, Our People, Our Culture, Our HOME. Please stop misleading the Antigua public that we need you. We are tired of tyranny and your attempt to sell us back into a private island economic slavery. DLC / PLH and whomever are NOT welcome here, they do not like us as a people, Barbudan employment is simply to stop revolt, they are trying to fence us from our coast line, beaches and places of beauty, can you imagine, in 2023 ! Next they will want our salt pond and the last of our beach coast, Gravenor Bay to Spanish Point, no, no, no.

    They are interfering with our hunting lands and have zero respect for us, the free roaming animals are confused as are we by 15ft Guantanamo Bay fencing everywhere inhibiting centries of free movement. We are and want to remain emancipated. Just because we are a peaceful people you mistake that trait for weakness as you flex your steroid muscles. But we have natural strength, lasting strength, which you continually underestimate.

    We love our Antiguan brothers n sisters but the government must stop bullying us and respect Democracy, we have a different local administration as entrenched in the constitution, the Barbuda Local Government Act 1976, look it up. If there is any doubt we can vote AGAIN tomorrow, the social consciousness on our island stems from a separate independent history. This forced marriage did not work, we have tried, so lets divorce before real animosity takes a turn. We humbly suggest you look at your own constitution and break free from your current masters whom you seem to emulate their old behaviors of imperialism. Please stop trying to give away our land to fraudsters, the old/new neocolonialists, to your friends, for they will find themselves embarrassed on the wrong side of history. Your plan is not sustainable, ours is proven, sustainable, live within your means.

    With respect, with time, we can be good friends as neighbors, but never in bondage.

    • @ Gulliver @ EarlsTown, Two Foot Bay, Wa’Omoni
      Am an Antiguan born and bred but never set foot on Barbuda. I must say though, that I do admire the love and bond of Barbudans have for their land. How I wish our two-bit politicians here in Antigua had the same love of, and bond with Antigua. If only, if only. You are right when you say Antigua has been sold out and fenced off. There is apparently a law that forbids fencing off of beaches but it is rarely or ever enforced. The question is, why? Well, a discerning five year old could easily give you the answer. I wish Barbudans well in their effort to regain control of what is theirs by birthright. Fight the good fight and keep the faith. Do not forget the condescending and derogatory words directed to you by our esteemed Marvelous leader: you were cast as “deracinated imbeciles”. I implore you not to ever forget those words. That is what and how he thinks of you. A spit on your face and a bunch of numbskulls. Never forget. Again I wish you all well and give a resounding Hear, Hear to your comment. Good luck.

  2. I love the grit and determination of the Barbudan’s to keep their land for the indigenous population and not Kowtowing to the money men that want to make Barbuda a rich playground.

    Gaston Browne seems to be doing his utmost to destroy and dismantle everything that Barbudan’s hold dear to them – their beautiful island!

    And all simply because they didn’t vote for him🥸


    • … and why is Prime Minister Browne still holding on to the coat tails and travails of the current right-wing leaning UK government? Why? why? why?

      Gaston madder than mad!

  3. When will this nonsense of these crackhead Barbudans stop. The Privy Council has already determined that the land is the Crown, therefore you have no standing in telling the crown what they can and cannot do with their land.
    The PM must stop playing softball with you guys. Just because the monies come from the tax payers he doesn’t pursue collecting the cost of all these legal fees. Mr. PM please enforce the law. You are guilty of preventing justice from taking place. The former PM stopped Guiana Island from proceeding. He took his case all the way to the Privy Council and lost. The government was awarded damages in the amount of one million dollar. And to date you have not insisted that the former Prime Minister pay this money to the Treasury. This is not fair and not right. You cannot decide who should pay and who should not. In the ABIB case you did the same thing. The tax payers had to come up with over $300million while the Directors who had Fiduciary responsibility went scot-free. And all because you decide that their should be no investigation into the wrong doings that took place and that had many became millionaires. All you said was that if this goes to court half of Antigua’s top families would be in jail. Well I am with you on lots of things, but not on this. It is not your call who shall go to jail for the crime they commit. You did the same thing in the John Ash case. You could have revoked his diplomatic status but no, you saw that perhaps even the former Prime Minister would be implicated and you did nothing. Then the same thing again with the arrest of Asot Michael in England. And again you refuse to remove the diplomatic status. You probably think you are doing a good thing, but I can tell you your enemies are hating you more for having helped them. Cause they now feel they owe you one. And they don’t want to be in debt to you. Stop protecting others for the sins they have committed let justice take its course and do not stand in the way of justice. It makes you technically an accessory to the crime.

    • The Sideline, are you saying that the Barbudans does not have the right to defend their homes and livelihood? Nonsense, they have every right if it does not, and will not benefit them as a people. Who wants to become strangers in their land, much less to be barded by fortress walls and gates? I guess you’re probably a beneficiary from such abuse of your brothers and sisters on Barbuda? But karma is very real. Wake up. Fools die for lack of wisdom. Again, karma is very real and alive.

      • Absolutely correct @ TKB, a wise and erudite comment.

        From the Sideline doesn’t give a damn about the indigenous Barbudan’s who are only looking out for the interest of their country, their children, and children’s children futures.

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