By Rawlston Pompey
If there exist a law that has been declared ‘Supreme,’ then it shall be ‘Constitution Order of Antigua and Barbuda.’ If any law shows inconsistencies, then to the extent of such inconsistencies, irrespective of the ‘Mischief Aimed,’ that law shall be void and the ‘Supreme Law’ shall prevail [CO: 1981: Section 2]. Citizenship, looked at from a constitutional perspective, the related Section states for every ‘Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister’ to gently remind himself of its contents.
PRINCIPAL LEGAL ADVISER
Moreover, if the holder of such office is the ‘Principal Legal Adviser’ to the Government,’ then, he/she is legally-bound to advise those starved of constitutional knowledge. This provision unambiguously states; (a) ‘…Persons shall become citizens at the date of their birth, on or after the 1st November, 1981; and (b) ‘…Every person born in Antigua and Barbuda’ [CO: 1981: No. 1106: Section 113]. These are intended only to provide some understanding of the law, while at the same time, seeking to dispel apparent harbored fears that the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ has lost its validity and applicability to the purposes it was duly enacted.
This commentary, looks briefly at; (a) ‘…The ‘Appellate Judgment’ of the London-based ‘Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC)’ against ‘Appellants Mackenzie Morris Frank and Trevor Myke Walker:’ (b) …Sections of the Barbuda Act: (c) …Barbuda Land Act (d) …Sections of the Paradise Found (Project) Act’ [No. 13 of 2015]; and (e) …Sections of the Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ It also looks at certain adversities encountered and past events on the ‘Sister Island of Barbuda.’ It further looks at the attitude of then ‘Barbudan Leadership’ and a ‘Culture of Litigation.’ Though not necessarily intended to frustrate economic development initiatives, the efforts of the ‘Modern Leadership’ shall be viewed from the perspective of ‘Protection and Preservation’ of the green space on the island, if only for a growing ‘Barbudan’ population and expanding communities.
LAND – SAND – SEA
Constantly facing adversities and crises, including disasters that have been mercilessly descended by nature and man, ‘Barbudans’ have always demonstrated the ‘Will to Survive.’ There has been unemployment or under-employment. These have been accepted as among other reasons for their economic plight. With virtual lack of opportunities for gainful employment, residents depend on the ‘Land, Sand and Sea’ for sustenance. The people have shown great resilience and adaptability to situations over which they lacked human control. None may deny that the existing state of indigence’ and the possibility of dismantlement of a ‘Generational Practice’ of ‘Land Tenure.’ Rightly or wrongly, falsely or truly, many may have harbored the belief that they own the land in Barbuda.
CITIZENSHIP: COLONIAL STATUS
Respecting the ‘Tenure of Land,’ it appears not to be consistent with the status of ‘Citizenship’ constitutionally conferred upon persons born in the ‘Sister Island of Barbuda.’ Looked at from two eras: (i) ‘…Under British Colonization: and (ii) …After the attainment of political independence’ [November 1: 1981]. While the ‘Slave Mentality’ may have reflected minor change in public administrators, the ‘Colonial Status’ of those so born on the ‘Sister Island,’ and are in occupation of residential plots, has yet to adjust to the concepts; (a) ‘Modern civilization; (b) …National identity; and (c) …Social justice.’
HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY
From the perspective of ‘Landholding,’ with no constitutional protection, the overwhelming majority of the ‘Barbudan’ people, have regarded the statutory enactments of; (i) ‘The Paradise Found Act; and (ii) The Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ as intended to deprive them of the collective enjoyment of their considered a ‘Common Patrimonial Legacy.’ These seem to run contrary to the purposes, framers of the ‘Constitution’ intended and included. There are two fundamental ‘Principles’ that state; (i) ‘The people of Antigua and Barbuda assert their conviction that their ‘Happiness and Prosperity’ can best be pursued in a democratic society; and (ii) A desire to establish a framework of ‘Supreme Law’ within which to guarantee their inalienable human rights, liberty, freedom and property’ [CO: 1981: Principles C & E].
TENANTS OF THE CROWN
Instructively, some 5 years after the ‘Paradise Found Project’  had been given legislative approval, the ‘Principal Barbuda Act’ was amended [1904: Chapter 42: Sections 4 & 5]]. Enacted the ‘Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ [No. 7 of 2018]. This came some 11 years after the enactment of the ‘Barbuda Land Act.’ The Act states: ‘All persons inhabiting the ‘Island of Barbuda’ shall be, and are hereby declared to be ‘Tenants of the Crown.’ Inserting a ‘Restrictive Clause,’ it further states; ‘Such persons shall neither hold nor deal with any land situate within the said island, save and except as herein appears by the provisions of this ‘Act,’ and subject to any ‘By-Law’ made by the Council in that behalf’ [Section 5: No.7 of 2018].
In developing the point, more specifically on the ‘Land Tenure and Occupation,’ this is what ‘Slavery and Colonialism and Independence and Sovereignty’ says of those born on, and are in occupation of land in Barbuda. Firstly, the Act originally vested ‘Crown Land in the Governor.’ Then in a ‘King Albert Edward Decree’ [1904-1910] the inhabitants were declared to be ‘Tenants of the Crown’ [Sections 4 and 5: Chapter 42]. It is instructive to note that for the several centuries long enacted ‘Barbuda Act’ the ‘Inhabitants Status,’ then thrust upon the ‘Descendants of Slaves’ has never been disputed, denied or legally challenged by those then, or generationally, subsequently born on the island.
In fact, ‘Hansard’ could never show that the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ had been; (a) ‘Tabled in Parliament: (b) …Repealed; or (c) …Replaced; or (d) …Amended with Deletions or Insertions; and (e) …Duly given Royal Assent.’ Research, however, has revealed several seemingly ‘Forgotten Amendments’ to the ‘Principal Barbuda Act.’ There have been ‘Re-insertions of Sections 4 and 5.’ To all intents and purposes, the enactment has been ‘Shortly Titled; Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ [No. 7 of 2018], repeated that which existed in the ‘Barbuda Act of 1904’ [Chapter 42]. Ironically, the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ was passed under the ‘House Speakership of Chanlah Codrington’ and ‘Senate Presidency of Mackenzie Frank’ [November 15, 2007]. The latter appeared not to have remembered its passage.
Undoubtedly, the time immemorial communal apportioned an occupation of land on ‘Barbuda’ has been a long ‘Generational Practice.’ Such practice has spanned over four centuries. The inhabitants of Barbuda, hold sacredly such occupation and tenure. They have always fought to preserve it, virtually free of commercialization and privatization. It now appears to be on the threshold of ending. They have long held issues over the ‘Sand-mining Operations’ that were seen as exploitative. The ‘Barbudan Leadership’ have always argued that while revenues substantially flowed into pockets of the operators, that which flowed into the ‘Barbuda Council’ was hardly beneficial to the people. The revenue derived, had been woefully negligible.
FALSE SENSE OF BELIEF
Whether or not on ‘Mainland Antigua or Sister Island Barbuda,’ through an approved acquisitive process, be it private entities or Government, the ‘Constitution’ anticipates that people may legitimately own and occupy land within the nation. The ancestral off-spring and inhabitants of ‘Barbuda’ appeared to have shared a ‘False Sense of Belief’ that ‘Land in Barbuda’ had been bequeathed and owned by those that came before, those that came after, and shall continue with future generations. Those in occupation still feel, with or without ‘Freeholding,’ the land belongs to all Barbudans. They may have been listening to the ‘King for Barbuda- Bold Face’ and ‘King Short Shirt- Antigua is for Antiguans.’ Whether or not such belief would be dispelled, they shall now listen to the recently delivered ‘Appellate Judgment’ by the ‘London Privy Council’ (JCPC).’
Consequent upon the ‘Appellate Judgement,’ authored by ‘His Lordship Andrew Burrows and Her Ladyship Vivien Rose,’ the five-member Board unanimously concurred that that they shall advise ‘Her Majesty’ that the Appeal shall be dismissed’ [UKPC: 25: Paragraph 61]. Reasons inferentially drawn, suggested that the ‘Appellate Justices’ may have been saying to the appellants that our interpretation of the law was different to that of the ‘Judge Alone Hearing.’ The five-member Board of the ‘London Privy Councilors’ determined that from the language of the law, ‘Owned in Common,’ the Appellants had no ‘Realistic Prospect’ in succeeding in the Claim under the constitutional provisions referred [CO: 1981: Section 9 (1)].
FALSE SENSE OF HOPE
Notwithstanding the apparent unanticipated ‘Privy Council Judgement,’ those so aggrieved continue to feel betrayed and deprived. Their dreams, hopes and aspirations have all been shattered. Before the ‘Privy Council Judgment, the ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Appellate Justices’ had ruled against the ‘Litigants Mackenzie Frank and Trevor Walker.’ They may have been saying to them; (i) ‘Let no one exploit your ignorance; …Let no man bring further imperilment to your finance.’ And advisedly; (iii) …Let no man cause further judicial visitation upon this Judgment.’ These may have been intended to dispel any existed ‘False Sense of Hope.’ Such ‘Hope’ may have been reinforced by the ‘First Instance Court,’ then under judicial consideration of ‘Her Ladyship, Madame Justice Rosalind E. Wilkinson’ [ANUHCV: 2016/0289].
DEPRIVATION OF LAND
Without a ‘Land Certificate’ confirming legitimacy of ‘Title,’ nothing brings ‘Tragedy’ to the understanding of people than a harbored belief, based upon illusions or figment of imagination. This appeared to have been the experiences of litigants/appellants ‘former Barbudan Senator and Chairman ‘Mackenzie Frank’ and Barbuda Member of Parliament and of the Barbuda Council and Local Government, ‘Trevor Walker.’ Shocking as the ‘Judgment’ may have been, there may still be no need for an enlightened Barbudan to continue to harbor feelings of deprivation of land not so bequeathed and/or personally owned. The primary issue presented for ‘Appellate Consideration’ was whether the enactment of the ‘Paradise Found (Project) Act-2015’ deprived the ‘Appellants’ of a personal right or interest enjoyed pursuant to the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ [Section 3: No. 23 of 2007].
Not infrequently there have been ‘Frictions and Feuds’ as there have been ‘Fights.’ This has often been the case with ‘Lease of Acreages’ that have often been seen as far exceeded the development prospect of extended and future projects. The ‘London Privy Council Law Lords and Law Lady’ were required to interpret the protection provisions contained in the Constitution’ [Section 9]. From their judicial interpretations, they found neither ‘Constitutional Entrenchment, nor Protection.’ For academic understanding, in litigious proceedings ‘Freehold’ had often been supported by documentary proof. This was particularly so when ‘Ownership and Title’ seem to have constantly at variance.
That all shall now understand is that the ‘Appellate Judgment’ has made land ownership and title, ‘Settled Law.’ The ‘Privy Council Decision’ has not only wounded the ego of the ‘Appellants,’ but also catapulted the island to the threshold of ‘Privatization and commercialization of Barbuda land; Profitization on Leaseholds; and land speculation.’ It has been the knowledge that under the guise of ‘Foreign Direct Investments (FDI),’ those that have acquired land on mainland Antigua had been accused of this latter practice. Though they anticipated public dissent, yet the three ‘Appellate Justices’ may very well have been imploring the ‘Appellants’ not to cause insults to their intelligence.
Research has shown that in common law jurisdictions, ‘Freehold’ is a common mode of ownership of ‘Real Property’ or land. This also include immovable structures attached in the property’ [Wikipedia]. The land in Barbuda, has always produced rifts between the ‘Barbudan and Antiguan Leadership.’ Consequent upon the need for improved relations, both the ‘Central Government and members of the Barbuda Council’ had seemingly adopted a functional approach to issues that appeared to have been factionalized the people and keeping them apart.
COMMUNAL LAND OWNERSHIP
Seeking to bridge the gap and to maintain national peace and orderly and responsible behavior, the ‘National and Barbudan Leadership,’ seemingly with consensus and mutual respect and an agreed approach to the tenure of ‘Land on Barbuda.’ Thus, such necessitated a ‘Legislative Framework.’ Such shall encompass; (a) ‘…Communal Land Ownership; (b) …Title to …Land; (c) Purpose and use: and (d) …Leasehold.’ These may have been evident by the enactment of the ‘Barbuda Land Act.’ The enactment states; (i) ‘…All land in Barbuda shall be owned in common by the people of Barbuda: and (ii) …The title to all land on Barbuda shall vest in the Crown on behalf of the people of Barbuda.’ [Section].
ENTRENCHMENT: BINDING THE CROWN
Even with such ‘Good Will Gesture,’ an apparent fundamental ‘Legislative Default,’ whether or not due to inadvertence or ‘Legislative Negligence,’ speaks the omission of ‘Constitutional Entrenchment.’ of This was of vital importance to the statutory provisions relating to ‘Tenure of Land’ and attendant rights. This shall have provided guarantee and protection under the ‘Constitution Order’ [1981: Section 9]. The Legal Drafters appeared very careful in inserting into the ‘Bill’ these particular Sections: (30) ‘The Act Shall bind the Crown; and (31) …It is the Government’s intention to amend Article 123 (3) of the ‘Constitution’ to specify the Act and the ‘Barbuda Local Government Act’ in that Article and the Second Schedule of the Constitution and in no other way’ Barbuda Land Act.’
The ‘Barbuda Land Act’ has made it clear that with such ownership; (i) ‘…No land in Barbuda shall be sold.’ Conversely, in an individual capacity. Ensuring that the status quo of ‘Commonality of Ownership’ prevails, the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ states; (ii) ‘…No person shall acquire the ownership of any land by prescription or otherwise;’ Section 5 (1) & (2)]. Then some ‘11 years later,’ for apparent reasons of political expediency, ‘Parliamentary Gymnastics’ saw a spectacular feat being pulled off by ‘Legal Affairs Minister, Steadroy Cutie’ Benjamin.’ Envisaging ‘Constitutional Reform,’ Section continues; ‘…Until the Constitution is amended in accordance with Subsection (1), no amendment shall be made to this Act without the consent given by the Council and the people of Barbuda’ [BLA: Section 31 (2)].
To all intents and purposes, political or otherwise, such ‘Reform’ was ‘Legislatively Ambushed.’ Legislators shining brighter than the ‘Midday Sun’ befuddled the brain of ‘…Member of Parliament Trevor Walker; Former Senator and Barbuda Council Chairman, Mackenzie Frank and former Attorney General Justin L. Simon QC.’ Interestingly, nine particularized Sections speak to certain administrative matters. These include (a) ‘…Common Ownership; (b) …Rights of the Barbudan people; (c) …Powers and duties of the Barbuda Council; (d) …Residential land; (e) …Future development of land in Barbuda; (f) …Existing Leases; and (g) …Creation of a Land Registry on Barbuda’ [BLA: 2007].
PROJECT DEVELOPMENTAL HURDLES
After a decade in operation, and ‘Project Developmental Hurdles,’ a majority in the bicameral Chamber, overwhelmingly voted its passage in both ‘Houses of Parliament.’ Consequently, the very Sections that provided ‘Common Ownership’ was amended. The enactment Shortly Titled; ‘Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ now states; (i) ‘…All land within the Island of Barbuda is hereby vested in the ‘Governor General’ on behalf of the Crown. In the ‘Hurricane Amendment’ to the ‘Principal Barbuda Act’ [Chapter 42], not only has Parliament empowered the Crown to have ‘Freehold of Land in Barbuda,’ but also made ‘Barbudan Tenants of the Crown.’ [Barbuda (Amendment) Act’ [Sections 4 & 5: No. 7 of 2018].
CONTENTIOUS LAND LEASES
A disruptive communal life, bedeviled by ‘Contentious Land Leases’ and a controversial ‘Tourism Development Project,’ these have provoked the ire in the ‘Barbudan Leadership.’ Rightly or wrongly, these have all been considered by ‘Barbudans’ at home, as well in the Diaspora’ as; ‘Tragedies of Epic Proportions.’ Though appearing more fearful of man, than of the natural disaster, the evacuees adapted to conditions very well. This was said to have emerged from the compulsory evacuation of Barbudans, that speaks to a displacement to communities in places far removed from communal life obtained on the ‘Island of Barbuda.’ For these and other reasons, their troubles appeared to have multiplied ten-fold with one of the most devastating ‘Force of Nature’ this century-Hurricane Irma’ [September 6, 2017].
Residential and communal life had drastically change to conditions speaking to squalor and misery. Indigency, lack of disposable income and treatment not only provoked expressions of discontent, but also breathed contempt in the returning Barbudan residents. Housing, unemployment and several unresolved issues, some discussional and some litigious with principals of the contentious ‘Paradise Found Project’ appeared to have caused distress to some, more than the trail of destruction left by ‘Hurricane Irma.’ Fully aware and mindful of existed conditions and their indigent position, knowing from where the next meal and a stipend were coming, many evacuees took the conscious decision in extending their stay on mainland Antigua.
HARSHNESS OF LIFE
When the ‘Harshness of Life’s’ realities visited upon the evacuees, including eviction and suppression of electricity at a particular ‘Fort Road Shelter,’ it sparked complaints of unlovability, unlivability and intolerability. Many evacuees then opted to return to the island. Most found themselves living in conditions adverse to that previously enjoyed on mainland Antigua. Reduced to ‘Tent Accommodation,’ life became the primitive norm. They were without basic amenities and inaccessibility to essential utilities. Returning to ‘Community Life,’ many were said to have faced challenges of monumental proportion.
BRUTISH AND TERRIFYING
As shelter situation changed, many ‘Barbudan Evacuees’ saw conditions rapidly deteriorated. Then ultimately, living conditions became a nightmare, as life became troubling, ‘Brutish and Terrifying.’ While their physical beings had been on mainland Antigua, their hearts, thoughts and mind had wandered back over to the only place considered sacred and holds everything life has to offer. There was enough land for every Barbudan. They had peace of mind. They could go out of the Codrington village community into the bushy interior to hunt wildlife of the Fallow deer; wild pig; land turtle and crab; guinea fowl and whistling duck. On special holidays they could set up weekend camp into the hinterland.
KNIGHTS OF NEW ARAGON
None may also deny that the persistent stymied efforts of the inhabitants, and open resistance to project developments and certain forms of investments, that whether real or imaginary, they believed may have brought grievous harm to the quality of life. History will show, and posterity will know, that modern day Barbudans have successfully resisted the ‘Knights of New Aragon,’ then known by the people as the ‘Sovereign Order of Aragon’ . The group of ‘Mega-Rich Investors’ were said to have intended investment of millions in a ‘Gated Community.’ This was to encompass land running from ‘Coco Point Barbuda’ in the south, northward to the ‘Highland’ at ‘Two-Foot Bay.’
ARTHUR NIBBS/TYRONE BEAZER
This was clearly not the investment desirous on a land that had potential for conflict with both the investors and Central authority. Though not necessarily tribal in nature,’ this was considered a ‘Precursor to Tribal War.’ The ‘Knights of New Aragon’ were said to have comprised several billionaires and multi-millionaires. They had strenuously opposed to such project. Even the youthful and apparent resolute and energized native Barbudans ‘Arthur Nibbs and Tyrone Beazer’ had dropped hints of over-running the law enforcement agency. There had been persistent calls for ‘Secession’ before the nation attained political independence [1978-1991-Law Enforcement Tenure]. Talks of returning the personnel back to mainland Antigua were not taken lightly.
In defending mode, these youthful patriots had made it expressively clear that they were against any such ‘Sovereignty: …Order: or …Aragon.’ Through the years, the fiercest ‘Land Defenders’ have all been deceased, leaving their names, firmly etched in the annals of Barbudan history. Likened to the overwhelming majority of Barbudans, they were ready to lay down their lives for anything that was worth fighting for. That which was then at stake, was the ‘Generational Patrimony.’ Individually, they may have been more exposed to endangerment to themselves, than of threat posed to the ‘10-member Law and Order Contingent, then posted on the island. Though ‘Prime Minister Gaston Browne’ was not yet around, the ‘Contingent’ had heard ‘Bigger Dogs’ than these two barked.
Prior to the attainment of political independence, one administration had provided the islanders with the ‘Barbuda Local Government Act’ [1976: Chapter 44]. This allows for ‘Internal Governance.’ Though such gesture appeared to have not produced the desired objective of improving relations between the ‘Sister Island and Mainland Antigua.’ Conscious, when relations between the ‘Central Government of Antigua and the Barbudan Council and people’ appeared to have been seriously strained, the then ‘Baldwin Spencer-led administration’ sought to approach the discounted inhabitants with ‘Terms of Endearment.’ The intendment was the restoration of the people’s trust and confidence in the ‘Central Government,’ while providing an avenue for them to pride themselves not only in their own pride and development, but also in nation building.
PATRIOTS AND FORERUNNERS
The most notable ‘Patriots and Forerunners’ in ‘Barbudan Land Affairs’ and fighters for equal opportunity and administrative treatment of ‘Sister/Brother Islanders’ to those on ‘Mainland Antigua,’ have been unrelenting in seeking to maintain some level of internal autonomy. The ‘Indomitable Defenders’ included; (i) ‘Claude Earl Francis [1971-1975: 1976-1978]; (ii) Sir Mc Chesney George [1960-1971]: (iii) Sir Eric Burton [1980-1989]; and (iv) Sir Hilbourne Frank [1989-2004].’ These leaders have exemplified themselves as the fiercest ‘Land Defenders.’ They have held parliamentary representation for the island and its inhabitants. They have also distinguished themselves in persistent fights with the ‘Central Authority.’
INDIGENCE TO AFFLUENCE
Those fights were specifical to keep that which they have, for reasons of ‘Generational Practice,’ collectively considered their ‘Patrimony- 62 square miles of un-spoilt land.’ In recent history of the ‘Barbudan Leadership,’ for reasons of self-interest and wealth accumulation, some have sowed ‘Seed of Treachery.’ As the fighting spirit of those leaders continue to be felt on the island, among the modern leadership have been those that have skillfully exploited the people’s ignorance. Given electoral mandates, as the Barbudan electorate wallow in squalor and indigence, opportunism and selfishness have seen some leaders lifted themselves from ‘Indigence to Affluence.’
FREEHOLD – RIGHT TO TITLE
The inhabitants appeared not have made ‘Freehold,’ nor ‘Right to Title’ issues of grave concern. Yet on the issue of internal autonomy, local governance; land prescription; occupation, use and lease,’ these have always prompted the Barbudan Leadership to cause visitations by the Courts. That which has been a long-established precedence has been the extant case ‘Civil Appeal of Hilbourne Frank v Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda.’ The Appellate Judges of the intermediate Court, ‘Their Lordships, Justices Sir Dennis Byron; Satrohan Singh; and Albert Redhead’ had all concurred that ‘Sir Hilbourne’ had no ‘Locus stand’ [CIV APP: No.1 of 1999].
LEARNEDNESS AND SHREWDNESS
None may harbor doubts as to the legal ‘Learnedness and Shrewdness’ of the ‘Intermediate or Appellate Justices’ of the ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).’ None may question the competency of the three-member panel of ‘Judges’ in the persona of; ‘Their Lordships, Justices Mario Michel and Sydney Bennett QC and Her Ladyship Madame Justice Gertel Thom.’ Though adverse to the ‘Appellants.’ These ‘Appellate Justices’ first told the Appellants ‘Harbor no further illusions and cause no further distress to yourselves. For, had this ‘Judgement’ been visited by the ‘London Privy Council’ or the ‘Trinidad and Tobago-headquartered Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ),’ the ‘Judgement’ would have been the same.
COMMONALITY OF OWNERSHIP
Even with statutory ‘Commonality of Ownership,’ The ‘Privy Council’ ruling finally brough end to the long-harbored beliefs that ‘Land in Barbuda’ was bequeathed and that ownership and title reside in the islanders. Firstly, the ‘Appellate Justices’ of the ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) had not concurred with its esteemed Justices, ‘Her Ladyship Justice Rosalind E. Wilkinson.’ Either for reasons of misinterpretation of the statutory and constitutional provisions or grave misdirection to herself. Incidentally, in the ‘Court of First Instance,’ the learned Justice ruled that the ‘Appellants’ enjoyed a personal ‘Claim of Right,’ contingent upon ‘Commonality of Ownership.’ This, the Justice believed enjoyed guarantee and protection under the Constitution [CO: 1981: Section 9 (i): ANUHCV: 2018/0006: June 30, 2020].
That which may have also added to their misery may have been lack of commonality of understanding of the functional role and responsibility of the ‘Central Government.’ At the ‘Apex Court,’ four ‘Law Lords and a Law Lady,’ judicially removed any harbored beliefs from the heart any mind, not only of the ‘Litigants/Appellants Frank and Walker’ and their learned attorneys, but also those of every ‘Barbudan man, woman and child at home, and in the Diaspora. Their Lordships and Ladyship’ agreed that ‘Land Rights’ claimed by the appellants have never attracted the protection of ‘Property Rights’ contained in the constitutional provisions [CO: Section 9]. In fact, at the ‘Intermediate Court,’ the ‘Board of the Judicial Committee’ supported the appellate ruling of Justice Bennett [ANUHCV: 2018/0006: Paragraph 54].
DISHEARTENING AND DEVASTATING
As has been in the past, today, relations over the ‘Ownership, title-holding, control, disposition and tenure of land in Barbuda,’ appear starved of harmony. Litigious proceedings continue. Apparently, gravely and ill-advisedly, some have been instituted in the persona ‘Mackenzie Frank and Trevor Walker.’ These have seen the delivery of a most ‘Disheartening and Devastating’ ‘Judgment’ by the London-based ‘Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC). While there was still another accessible judicial avenue for redress, they shall have been minded or advised to divorce from their minds any erroneously harbored hopes.
None may deny that the project was troubled by the obstructive tactics employed by the litigious-minded ‘Barbudan Leadership,’ the principals, may also have been heartened by the expeditious way the ‘London Privy Council’ had disposed of the hearing. Buoyed by expedition was one thing, yet an adverse ‘Appellate Judgment’ could see ego wounded and ambition shattered. hopes dashed and aspirations shattered. Though not necessarily peculiar to the ‘Sister Island of Barbuda,’ in one fell swoop, many centuries of ‘Generational Practice’ of the ‘Tenure of Land’ ended.
GUIDING APPELLANTS BELIEF
The Judgment, bringing no judicial relief to the appellants, their attorneys, and no hopeful news to the rest of the inhabitants. The five eminent British Jurists and Board Members of ‘Her Majesty’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC),’ convened the appellate proceedings. Then in just one day, expedited the hearing [May 3, 2022]. Then less than two months later, delivered the ‘Judgement [June 13, 2022]. That which shall be clearly understood by all a sundry, the ‘Appellate Decision’ shall now guide the appellants belief that not only that ‘Ownership and Title to Land in Barbuda,’ have been restituted to the ‘Governor General’ on behalf of the ‘Crown’ as amended [Barbuda (Amendment) Act: No 7 of 2018; Barbuda Act: Chapter 42: Sections 4 & 5].
Instead, the ‘5-Member Privy Councilors appeared to have directed their attention on the ‘Locus Standi’ and persona of the Appellants ‘Mackenzie Frank and Trevor Walker.’ The former, a ‘former Senator and Chairman of the Barbuda Council,’ while the latter a currently serving ‘Member in the House of Representatives.’ By virtue of such status, he is accorded statutory membership on the ‘Barbuda Council.’ This is provided in the ‘Barbuda Local Government Act’ [Section 4: Chapter 44].
Then seemingly, for the avoidance of misunderstanding or confusion, Parliament identified and specified certain Sections of the ‘Barbuda Land Act’ that speaks to ‘non-Application’ to the ‘Paradise Found Project’ [Sections 6: 17: & 19: No. 23 of 2015]. That which is incidental to the project and given circumventive and legislative waivers have been; (i) ‘…Negativing Cabinet approval by Cabinet: (ii) …Obtaining the consent of a majority of people on Barbuda for major developments in accordance with this Section [Section 6]. Instructively, from an operational perspective, the principals of the contentious ‘Paradise Found (Project),’ are legislatively grounded to act independent of these governmental administrative Acts.’ In effect, this provides autonomy only to the project owners/operators. As far as national sovereignty is concerned, the non-applicability of the referred Sections, suggests that the principals may operate an ‘Autonomous Sovereignty,’ governed only by its own law.
Whether or not by prescription or bequeathment or otherwise, owners of land shall show documentary of proof of the issuance of ‘Certificates of Title.’ In the litigious proceedings, likened to the ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC),’ Board members of the ‘London Privy Council’ had divorced themselves from administrative rumblings. They strictly focused on the ‘Legal Issues,’ then under appellate consideration. The ‘Board’ gave acute appellate consideration and disposed of them and dismissed the ‘Joint Personal Frank/Walker Claims’ regarding: (a) ‘…Deprivation of land; and (b) …Unconstitutionality of the Paradise Found Act.’ An administration, whether or not forced by economic necessity, runs the risk of its of inviting the wrath of its citizens.
From an economic perspective the ‘Constitution’ anticipates that forced by ‘Economic Necessity’ or for public use, the ‘Government’ of the day, might be so challenged as to compulsorily acquire privately-owned property. In the instant situation, for improved relations, functional cooperation, national unity and stability, rational conversations shall not only result in rational decisions. These shall also be tempered with reasonable actions. Therefore, not only shall there be dialogue at all levels, but also commonality of understanding by the parties involved, showing mutual respect, amicability of agreements, based upon consensus, and speak to issues, taking into consideration the people’s concerns, and the overall national economic and security interests. ***