Barbudans have always protected their right to use the lands of Barbuda freely and in common, and this right was enshrined in law under a UPP government led by Baldwin Spencer, through the Barbuda Land Act 2007. This law held all land on Barbuda in common for Barbudans and their descendants, wherever they may live in the world. It means in practice that anyone of Barbudan descent can use - free of charge - up to three areas of land on Barbuda to build themselves a house, for agriculture or for business, according to Council regulations, which have areas designated for each. In practice this means most Barbudans own their own homes and many young Barbudans have started to build both a home and a business in their twenties.
This right to use the land in common, and to self-determination for Barbudans, has been firmly established since the end of slavery when Barbudans refused to be moved off Barbuda to Antigua. In 1981, it was central to the establishment of a separate and independent Barbuda Council at the Antigua and Barbuda Independence talks in the UK. The freedom to use the whole island for fishing, hunting and agriculture has sustained the small population through difficult times since then, and is the main reason Barbuda is a wonderful example of a sustainable lifestyle, and is not over-developed or lost to foreign investors now.
But the issue of common land has also been used to hinder our economic development, when it is not in the interest of Central Government in Antigua to develop Barbuda on our own terms. This progressive land-rights legislation only applied to Barbuda, and not to Antigua; Antiguans are not entitled to free land here or on Antigua, so most Antiguans have little interest in Barbuda's development, and when asked many say they have never even been to Barbuda. Most of us believe they are not well informed enough to decide our future. In fact, Barbudans contribute to the Antiguan economy on a daily basis; buying most of our essential goods and services from Antiguans and paying hundreds of dollars directly into their travel, accommodation and other businesses.
Since the change of Government in Antigua in 2014, we are now returning to the bad old days of control of Barbuda resources by Antigua Labour Party Government ministers. The Land Act was challenged to remove the powers of the Barbuda Council and to monopolise all potential economic benefits from the acres of prime Caribbean 'real estate' on Barbuda. Prime Minister Gaston Browne's Paradise Found Act was designed specifically to allow his new economic envoy De Niro, and partner James Packer to take large areas of land on Barbuda, in addition to their apparent acquisition of the K Club lease, where work has still not started to this day.
With the tactical appointment of sycophantic Barbudan politician Arthur Nibbs as Minister for Agriculture and Lands, the Land Act has been repealed, removing rights that had existed on Barbuda for hundreds of years and escalating a land-grab in the immediate aftermath of a major natural disaster, under the pretence of 'helping Barbudans return to uninhabitable Barbuda' after all were forcibly evacuated and made to wait months to return to their homes.
The Barbuda Land Act was already a response to historical attempts to undermine the long term security and identity of the people of Barbuda, and there have been endless attempts in the past to corrupt and mislead people into giving the land away. Robert Vesco and the Knights of New Aragon, Ed Joiner, Dave Strickland and the llamas, Bruce Rappaport and Allen Stanford in Antigua. Poor leadership and failed projects have kept Antigua in the world's top ten of corrupt administrations and left Barbuda an economic backwater, dividing both islands politically and continuing to prohibit genuine positive development on Barbuda.
But Barbudans have been successful in their struggle. In the past extensive (and expensive) litigation over many years eventually stopped the Antiguan Labour Party Government under Lester Bird's leadership from continuing to mine sand and give away leases to land on Barbuda. John McDonald QC worked with Sir Hilbourne Frank to represent Barbudans in their struggle for land rights throughout this time, and with Mackenzie Frank drafted the original Barbuda Land Act. So we start the same story again, as these and other attempts to take Barbuda land are currently challenged in the courts. If you are really interested in a list of all the laws relating to Barbuda look here
In spite of this many people of different nationalities live and work happily and have families here on Barbuda; Syrian, French, Italian, English, American, and Caribbean nationals from Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba and more. Non- Barbudans could easily and cheaply lease land from a Barbudan resident or from the Council, according to the procedures that were listed in the Land Act, and many have. As a result Barbudans have a unique opportunity to enrich their lives through leasing or renting out a house or a business as is common in other parts of the world. The promotion of leases as a constructive way forward to develop Barbuda land without losing it forever has been continually and systematically overlooked or ignored by our leaders over the years, coupled with missed opportunities to establish a port of entry on Barbuda, and invite small scale sustainable tourism projects that employ local people.
Support for Barbuda
We need a thriving local economy for businesses who invest in Barbuda and then they will benefit from what Barbudans have already established and protected themselves. Since Hurricane Irma various initiatives have encouraged this and the extensive repairs that were necessary are continuing slowly as they begin to understand the situation better. The Red Cross, UNDP, Wait Foundation (ICF) and many others including individual fund-raisers and volunteers have brought relief to Barbuda. We have backyard farming intitiatives, water harvesting projects and many small businesses are benefitting from international support.The recent establishment of local NGO's to continue this work into the future means that it will be sustainable, as most organisations who gave directly to Barbudans can see evidence of the results of their efforts. Sadly this has not been the case with aid that came via Antigua, who were unscathed by the hurricane but accepted millions of dollars of aid on our behalf. They are still unable to provide any written account of the funds that have been received.