Gov’t responds to Gemma Handy’s article in UK Guardian


Response to the Guardian article Of Monday 4 December 2020 By Gemma Handy

The Gemma Handy article, appearing in the Guardian Newspaper of this date, is captioned: “Barbudans ‘Fight for Survival’ as resort project threatens islanders’ way of life.”

First, there is no “fight for survival” by Barbudans. The political party which has controlled the ten-member Barbuda Council since its inception, forty-four years ago—except for one five-year period—may be seeing the end of its dominance. The Barbuda Council now employs more than 90% of workers on the island, paying amounts that are below the minimum wage; and, the Council is fighting to keep alternative employment sources from arising. A resort project which employs hundreds of Barbudans and pays far more than the Council could, threatens the Council’s grip on Barbudans’ lives and livelihoods. That must be the threat to the islanders’ way of life of which Handy writes.

The resources to pay the Council’s employees come each month entirely from the Treasury of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. When there was sand mining, the Council attracted additional income to compensate workers; all the sand that can safely be mined has been exhausted and so too the recompense earned from its sale. The hotels that paid the sales tax which the Council collected, have been destroyed and are no more. The sums of money which the Council pays its workers come from the Treasury and those amounts are never enough. When the leaders of the Barbuda Council weigh the employment potential of the planned projects, against the state’s resource flow to the Council, the leaders choose to keep reliance upon government’s monthly subventions and to oppose the projects that may likely end their grip on employment opportunities.

Today, the population of Barbuda has precipitously declined as 600 of 1,800 Barbudans choose to remain in Antigua following the September 2017 hurricane. Many of those remaining in Antigua were tenants in homes, rented from Barbudans who live abroad; the diaspora members have built rental homes for additional income which left many residents of Codrington, Barbuda, as tenants. The Barbudan tenants had no home to return to, in the wake of the devastation, and rental homes are not being repaired by use of the scarce resources available. The landlords are reasonably expected to rebuild their houses from the income earned over the years from their tenants.   If there is a fight in Barbuda, it is not for “survival” of the Barbuda people and way of life, but survival of a system of control over the lives of impoverished workers and residents of Codrington. Gemma Handy has it wrong!

There has never been a time when land in Barbuda was “communally-owned.” The record is clear; Barbuda’s slaves were treated the same way that Antigua’s slaves were treated: Niggardly. The owners were paid a sum of money in compensation for the slaves’ liberty; and, the men, women and children who were emancipated had to find ways to support themselves. The Barbudans roamed almost freely on the sparsely populated island, and fished in the waters surrounding the island. They never owned either land or sea. The Courts of Antigua and Barbuda have ruled that all land that is not privately-owned is the Crown’s (the state’s). Barbuda was never privately owned; unlike estates in Antigua, it was leased by the Crown. Handy misleads again with her false claim of communal ownership.

It is also the case that the evolving Barbuda project which has been employing scores of eager young men and women from the village of Codrington, Barbuda, is doing what the majority of Barbudans want. Like all people everywhere, the youth wish to be productive, to earn meaningful incomes, and to experience the standard of living which Antiguans enjoy. They voted 82 “yes” to 2 “no” to approve the project.

The Barbudan politicians have now become environmentalists—conveniently. The opposition press in Antigua, an employer of the writer of the article, has lent full support to the Barbudans in the hope of generating negative press at home and abroad. Imagine, at a time when attracting foreign direct investment (FDI)—the source of economic growth everywhere in our region—is near impossible, the very largest project in our Eastern Caribbean region is under threat from those who wish the Antiguan and Barbudan people more misery. They are unkind and uncaring, interested only in keeping their positions of authority by any means they deem necessary.

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  1. When Lennox Linton got himself at the wrong side of the political divide he was escorted to the airport without the time to say goodbye to his family on a one way ticket to Dominica. Perhaps Ms. Handy needs to be given the same treatment as Linton. I never understand how foreigners can come here and get entangled into our politics. Whichever side they take is irrelevant. When you are a guest certain rules apply to you. You have no voting rights and you stay out of our politics.

    • @SIDELINES:I see this brought out all THE GASTONITES AND HIS MINONS.Is Gemma Handy a Citizen of Antigua and Barbuda as Yida. Do you really want Antigua to escort her to the Airport?Then what would happen.When England begins to pick up Antiguans in that country and repatriate them to Antigua.Your economy is turmoil at this time.It would go into a deeper latrine hole then.There are many ways for pay backs.

      • yes when her work permit comes up for renewal we will deny it. We have Antiguans that can do the job and are as qualified.
        You think an Antiguan reporter can go to Englnd and within month cry down the government there. I think not.
        So we should be fraid what England will do to us if we touch one of their subjects but we don’t care what Dominica would have done to us when we shipped out Lennox Linton eventough it was a breach of a Caricom treety regarding free travel of journalists.
        Strange how you think. Bow done for the whiteman but don’t give a damn about the blackman

        • Note I have no problem in what is written, I have a problem who is writing it. Foreignors think they can come here and disrespect our government and because of politics depending on which party you back it will be condoned. Sad stage of our nation. Politics divide us.

  2. Predictable neo-liberal neo-colonial nonsense i’m afraid. Why should any external entities have any jurisdiction over the affairs of ANYWHERE?? Nobody has ever “LEGALLY” held land in common, because this british legal system (on which ours, and most of the world is based) has been designed precisely to privatise resources and justify stealing land from indigenous communities. Almost every society in the caribbean and americas and africa practiced communal land stewardship before european colonisation. “Because the crown says so” is not a good enough argument. Will we raze these precious islands to build playgrounds for the rich, just for the crumbs they might throw us?

    • Guy what’s the purpose of an asset/talent? You seem to like the idea of burying it. This government, unlike its processor recognizes, it needs to be utilized so that all can benefit. Your fear is it will be lost? You have no confidence in yourself/your nation? Well that’s your issue, while the dogs bark, this wagon moving forward

      • Thank you for the response tenman! The larger issue is that this economic system does not recognize LIVING ECOSYSTEMS as valuable, even tho ecology is the basis for ALL economies. We must cut the tree to sell the 2×4, we must pave the beach to sell the hotel room. In essence, in our current system, things are more profitable dead than alive. We are seeing the effects of this play out world wide through climate change, deforestation, species extinction, top soil erosion, human poverty etc. So instead of treating these islands as “assets” we need to treat them as living beings and remember how to live as stewards of the land. The Barbudan system of holding land in common is one of the most effective and proven ways to do this, trying to balance the needs of the community with the needs of the land thru democratic participation. Whenever/wherever land is privatised, it inevitably becomes the property of those with capital who have no vested interest in maintaining social/ecological balance. This has been proven again and again and again from Antigua to India to South Africa.

        So in answer to your question, I have the utmost confidence in the people of these islands, I simply believe that the BARBUDANS should be the ones to decide what happens in their community, NOT anti-democratic external capitalists and governments.


  3. Observer severing staff and begging people money to keep them afloat. Yet they boast and brag of hiring the ex-ZDK “British trained” journalist as their “Editor” while the regular pickeyhead employees have been kicked to the curb.

    • Always a black and white issue with some of you.Many of us have replaced whites in upper positions of Managements in this Country.What do you say about that,Hypocrisy. Sets of Hypocrites.

  4. Go to hell Gemma handy keep your seasoning out of our pot you demonic looking edomite don’t come here and get involved in our passa passa why don’t you write an Article about our reparations that England and the US owes us for kidnapping and enslaving our people for 400yeArs you demon!

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