COMMENTARY: Antigua government sends military and police to Barbuda

Bernard Wiltshire

A political and constitutional crisis is brewing in our sister island of Antigua & Barbuda. The Antigua Government has sent its armed forces to Barbuda in an effort to break the resistance of the Barbudan people and impose its will in the ongoing conflict over the land rights of the people of Barbuda. I recently reported in a previous article that the Antigua Government of Gaston Browne had forced through all three readings of the Crown Lands (Regulations) (Amendment) Act in the Antiguan Parliament in one day, the effect of which was to end, at a stroke, the long fought for and cherished right of Barbudans to own the island as communal property.

Arguing that Antigua and Barbuda is a unitary state and that all the land in any part of this state belonged to all the people of Antigua and Barbuda and not just to Barbudans, the new law  repealed the 2007 Barbudan Land Act under which all the land of the island of Barbuda was vested in the people of Barbuda in common ownership.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda have  also justified their present policy and action on the ground that they needed to drag Barbuda into the 21st century by opening it up to foreign investment with the promise of jobs and economic “develoment”.  No matter that the Barbudans had shown at the last general election and more recently in a Council by-election in April of this year that they did not want that sort of development. In partucular, they do not want to lose their system of communal land ownership, rightly seeing in this the foundational glue that keeps their community together. An attack on it therefore is an attack on their very existence as a distinct community.

This is what globalization is all about: sweep away all national and community identity if they stand in the way of business and money. Nothing is sacred; nothing is sacrosanct. Everything is for sale. The market is heaven.

A couple of weeks ago, PM Gaston Browne started getting more aggressive. He threatened to make the Barbuda Council, the local government of Barbuda, redundant, if it stood in his way. He followed this up with an illegal demand that the Council hand over the keys of their fisheries complex to Antiguan officials. On the council refusing, Browne has now despatched his army and police forces to Barbuda to enforce his will on Barbudans.

Dominicans are urged to lend support to the people of Barbuda. The Kalinago people in particular should be concerned at the willingness of a Caribbean government to end by unilateral legislation rights enjoyed for decades or even centuries, especially with regard to land, for which their ancestors fought and on which their very survival as distinct communities depend. This is precisely what the Barbudans are now facing and we Dominicans can respond by writing to our Prime Minister urging him to raise the matter with his counterpart in Antigua. We could also, as sister Caribbean people and as members of the OECS, wirte to Prime Minister Browne in Antigua opposing his policy towards Barbuda and urging him to speedily restore the people’ s rights there.

Today it is Barbuda; who will it be tomorrow?

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  1. Charles Andrew
    July 4, 2018

    As a Dominican with Antiguan citizenship I stand I solidarity with the people of Barbuda..The Barbuda people did not buy into the Bribry during the march general election and the council election.Pm brown made it clear he was treating them nicely in other to get their vote.The Antigua labor party collected millions in aid for the recovery effort and cannot give proper account..Took the people’s money repair the nurses hostel and Barrymore hotel when the money should be spent in Barbuda. now the people are forced to return to Barbuda and the nurses hostel is going to be used as a home for the people of fines institute.barbudans always have problems with the labor government as long as they are in power..Antigua do not have more land to sell to foreign investors so now Barbuda is the bread basket according to mr.brown himself. Politicians make millions selling Barbuda sand and Barbudas don’t benefit as they’s time barbuda go it alone , they were forced into independence.

  2. langsort
    July 4, 2018

    a people get the government they deserve,,, gaston is an extremely corrupt leader and will stop at nothing to continue to line his pocket like our skerrit

  3. Leroy
    July 4, 2018

    Completely agree.But there is too much talking and not enough walking in the Caribbean. It is just too easy to sit at a keyboard and type fancy words such as neocolonialism. It is less easy to actually do something about it. We voted for these people so we are just as much to blame. There is a plague of apathy when it comes to greedy and corrupt leadership in the West Indies. Where are the leaders who are willing to stand up and protest ? We are allowing ourselves to be exploited not by colonizers this time, but by our very own people., while we all have our heads buried in WhatsApp.

  4. Ibo France
    July 4, 2018

    Caribbean people are much too docile and submissive. This aggressive stance by PM Browne must be rebuffed by the power of the people. Some of these preposterous actions by our politicians are done because of their superficial knowledge of our history. This ostentatious display of military force to subdue the aspirations and rights of the Barbudan people must not be allowed to succeed. This is a cause worth making the fighting for. Barbudans, by their votes and actions, have soundly rejected ALP’s overtures. The voice of the people is the voice of God. The entire Caribbean region, and those in the diaspora, should raise their collective voices in unison in support of the patrimony of the people and in rejection of this intimidation by the State. Look around the Caribbean, the pirates and neocolonialists are coming again, this time as investors. They are land grabbing and controlling our fragile economies. Our leaders act like conduits to their nefarious plots. Barbudans, stand firm!

  5. July 3, 2018

    Neo-Colonialism is not the termed development presently taking place in Antigua/Barbuda, NEO-Liberalism is the in thing with underdeveloped states, Antigua inclouded. The soil have been turned, investments are on the table waiting to be signed, yes, jobs for Antiguans, serving jobs with no real benefits, while the pockets of the Politicians are filled. The affected people of Antigua/Barbuda will not win this Political battle, the word DEVELOPMENT will take front and center.

    • Me
      July 5, 2018

      Development, a “next level ” pseudonym for subjugation.

  6. new-colonial rule
    July 3, 2018

    That Neo-Colonial dispensation in the Caribbean is alarming, to say the least. people are becoming, more and more heartless. Imagine it was just last Year that Barbuda was severely struct by hurricane Irma. Millions of dollars damage. Barbudans are still struggling to rebuild. Yet witness the behaviour of Browne’s ALP Gov’t.

    In Dominica, we witnessed the Skerrit’s DLP Gov’t go to Parliament, changed the Law regarding our National Parks to give, free of charge, a foreign co., Range Development, 15 acres of land of the Cabrits National Park. Land belonging to Dominicans.

    Lack of understanding of Historical backgrounds and Resilience of Caribbean people, those “leaders,” “political parties,” all fall in the same trap of oppressing their own. In this new dispensation, unfortunately, it is the sons and daughters of Kalinago and Black Freedom Fighters, who are engaged in the enslaving. Sad but true. The fight against injustice continues.

    • out of south city
      July 3, 2018

      The colonisers have done such a great job on our minds that our leaders, in turn , are doing the same thing to the citizens. It is such a sad state of affairs. Before these people came on the scene, we were not so divided as a people. There was not such hatred, jealousy and envy among us. They reprogrammed our minds to be like them. That’s why, we MUST re-programme our minds, so as to find ourselves again.

  7. RasB
    July 3, 2018

    Although at first glance, this article seems to be about an internal mater; on deeper reflection there are some features which are quite disturbing. (a) The repeal of the 2007 Barbudan Land Act, (b) the willingness to use force in an issue that can be resolved through sensible dialogue, (C) Demonstration of Mr Brown’s ill-thought and unpleasant behaviour which has raised its head on several previous occasions in these Caribbean islands. Is this type of behaviour common practice in the Caribbean? I note that the Dr Skerritt led administration (a) attempted to do the same, i.e rush through a bill of national importance in a single sitting of parliament (b) attempted to use force to intimidate his people when he started arresting members of the opposition on trumped up charges, none of whom has to date been found guilty of any misdeeds and (c) The incoherent rumblings by the Doctor, No need for opposition, No constitution, No law etc. etc. Are these the preclude of a more general plan?

  8. Uncle
    July 3, 2018

    I support Bernard on this. It is extraordinary people like Browne denying people the right for self determination our forefathers, in the not so distant past, fought so hard for. What is the difference between Gaston Browne and colonial oppressors now? Nothing!

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