by Kendra Beazer
A recent decision in the case Trevor Walker and Mackenzie Frank, vs. The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda has set the precedent for the future of lands in Barbuda. CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP GROUP.
The case concerns two important laws: the Paradise Found Act of 2015, which authorized the government of Barbuda to lease lands for development without approval from the local government or the people of Barbuda, and the Barbuda Land Act of 2007, which establishes that lands in Barbuda are owned in common by the people of Barbuda.
In the recent case, the court affirmed the constitutionality of the Paradise Found Act and set precedent relevant to the Parliament’s effort to overturn the Barbuda Land Act.
Taken together, the judicial ruling opens the door to further lease-based privatization of land in Barbuda and further undermines the interests of Barbudans’ who wish to retain their land in common ownership.
The Prime Minister has now seized the opportunity to convince Barbudans to support the Barbuda Land Amendment Act of 2018, which would give them individual land title for the cost of only one dollar.
The prime minister has not provided a formal proposal detailing who gets the $1 offer. Whether it applies only to Barbudans that already occupy lands or Barbudans that are now applying for land.
Barbudans fear that accepting this offer would open the door for the sale of lands in Barbuda.
They hold that privatization of lands is a custom that they have been historically opposed to. Barbudans fear that their unique way of life and eco-friendly tourism brand will be destroyed.
Any government policies determining the future of land rights in Barbuda should reflect the will of the Barbudan people.
This requires a fair decision-making process, in which Barbudans can engage one another, express their interests and concerns, and work toward a consensus or agreement.
Land policy for Barbuda should be based on this kind of reasoned exchange rather than the Cabinet’s distant view of what is good for Barbuda.
The onus is on the local government to meet with the people of Barbuda to present the Cabinets offer, and to develop a response that accurately represents what emerges from a fair decision process.
Whatever the people agree to should be articulated into policy and then presented to Cabinet.
If the people are being denied the fair process of deliberation, those in authority should be held accountable at both the local and national levels.
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I don’t know how giving Barbuda lands to foreign white people is going to benefit Barbudans and Antiguans for that matter. It may benefit politicians and their friends who want to make money from land speculation over there just like they do in Antigua. Turning Barbuda into a St. Bart, Millreef or a Jumby Bay will benefit Antiguans and Barbudans by providing them with jobs as maids and grounds keepers. My Barbuda is a paradise. Unfortunately, Gaston is a bully.
A people without control of their land is not a people. Barbuda people are totally different to Antigua people mainly because all Barbudans own their land in common and anyone coming to their island must respect that difference. Further communal land ownership confers power to the people which is reflected in their pride, no matter how simple their lives. And that is the beauty in Barbuda people and what is missing in Antigua. Mill Reef, Jumby Bay, and soon the two exclusive economic zones bar local access unless invited. Some hotels are preventing access to beaches using trickery or subterfuge. Barbudans cannot live like Antiguans, and should not be forced to collapse their culture to rich white development unless they collectively choose to do so.
Barbuda is a special place where money hawks like the Antiguan leadership see only the exploitation possibilities, similar to the desires of older men spoiling and deflowering the beauty of young girls and forcing young boys into selling themselves. Antigua is so far gone that it cannot appreciate the beauty and freshness of the last communally run island in the whole of the Caribbean, a treasure, unique, and open to all who care to visit, not to change the people and culture. But just come to breathe nature and beauty not to rape Barbuda!
One thought or two.
Looking ahead from the perspective of Barbuda’s land rights and its development, what if the owner(s) of Paradise Found Ltd.and Robert DeNiro offered Barbudans at home and in the diaspora the opportunity to buy a minority stake? Or put it another way, what if the Barbudans made a request to acquire a minority stake?
What do you think is the collective mindset?
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