The government is moving with haste to open up Barbuda lands for Antiguan ownership with its latest announcement to repeal the Barbuda Land Act.
The Central Government and the Barbuda Council have been at loggerheads since 2019 over the sale of land on the Sister Isle.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet met with the Solicitor General, Martin Camacho, who was instructed to write to the Council that any granting of leases or other kinds of permission to occupy land in Barbuda is unlawful.
Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Max Hurst warned residents against any purchase of leases from the Barbuda Council.
“If I steal a car and sell it to you though you paid me good money, it still is not your car because I did not have a title to it. Buyers beware. So that’s essentially what we’re saying to those engaged in what the council from Barbuda was encouraging which is to accept leases from the Barbuda Council”
“They are no good, they have no value and you’re going to lose your money and the land is going to be taken back from you,” Hurst said.
Changing of the law according to Hurst would not significantly improve the management of Barbudan lands by the central government.
But the Barbuda Council said in a press statement this week that residents of Sister Ilse will not stand and allow anyone to take their lands from them.
Chairman of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) and executive member of the Barbuda Council, John Mussington, told the media just this week that “people know and are entitled to their land rights. They will stand and prevent persons from breaking the law and denying them of those land rights.”
He said “Are we a nation of laws or not? Because with the government’s press release…they have never quoted anything, all they’re saying is that they’re going to go and amend a 2018 Land Amendment Act – what does that Act do and does that Act override the Barbuda Local Government Act of 1976?
“The fact of the matter is, the Barbuda Local Government Act of 1976 is entrenched in the constitution and it gives the Barbuda Council jurisdiction over the island of Barbuda, pure and simple.
“So, if the government is going to act and defile its laws, then the response will have to be – in the first instance – we will defend the law in the courts, and even before that. What is the government going to do, come to Barbuda and just send the army to take people off of their land and do as they like with it? Because that’s what’s going to happen.
He said people in Barbuda are in unity on the matter and it is clear from the results of the last general elections.
“Look at it this way, since 2018 Barbudans have voted overwhelmingly at the polls, in [both] Council elections and general elections, about placing persons in parliament and in Council that support their view that the lands of Barbuda belong to the people of Barbuda, and lands shall not be sold.
“So, the statistics in terms of support [are] shown in the election results and especially in recent elections results where, for example, [in] the last general election, we had a voter turnout of 85 percent, and you see the results there.