The Barbuda Land Rights and Resources Committee (BLRRC) has released a public statement denouncing the government’s attempt to manipulate public opinion regarding the distribution of lands on the sister island by the Barbuda Council.
Recently, the Attorney General, Steadroy Benjamin, cautioned Barbudans against participating in “illegal acts.” This warning followed reports that Barbuda Council members were urging people to occupy lands and fence them off as their own.
Benjamin described these actions as “malicious, misleading, and wrong” and declared that the government would not hesitate to uphold the law.
The Privy Council had previously ruled that lands in Barbuda belonged to the Crown and, therefore, the Council had no right to encourage people to occupy them.
However, the BLRRC disputed these claims, stating that the government was insinuating that Barbudans had been acting unlawfully for decades by allocating their Council land to build their homes and sustain themselves and their families.
The committee’s statement added that “Barbuda has long suffered as a result of the irresponsible actions of the central government administration that claim they do not need the consent of the Barbudans to dispose of Barbuda lands and believe that billionaires and tourists – not Barbudans – represent the future of Barbuda.”
Lionel Hurst, the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, shared similar views to Benjamin on behalf of the Cabinet. He argued that Barbudans should not comply with the instructions of an illegal act that the speakers at the recent meeting held by the BLRRC were encouraging.
Keisha Thomas, a Barbudan who attended the meeting, stated that the gathering was crucial, and the fact that people “can come together under one common goal and discuss the issues openly, without prejudices, shows that there is still hope.”
Thomas called on all Barbudans to unite “regardless of association – young and old, red and blue, on-island and diaspora, from shop owners to council workers—our fate rests in our hands.”
She emphasized the importance of securing their lands and land registration certificates, saying that these would be their lifeline.
Barbuda lands have long been a contentious topic between the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party administration and the Barbuda Council.
Concerns have been raised that changes to the Registered Land Act in August could reduce the Barbuda Council’s decision-making power over land-related matters.
The BLRRC claimed that the 2015 Gravenor Bay development project, which includes “building casinos and turning the salt pond into a mega-yacht marina,” has yet to materialize, but it poses a potential threat to Barbuda and its delicate ecology if it were to be realized.
“We will not be intimidated and will use all legal means available locally and internationally to expose and resist this shameless land grab supported and encouraged by the administration for the benefit of the international disaster capitalists,” the press statement said.