May 3 is date for Privy Council hearing of Barbuda lands matter, an optimistic MP Walker announces

Trevor Walker, the Member of Parliament for Barbuda, has revealed that the Privy Council – the country’s final appellate court – is set to hear the case surrounding land use on Barbuda.

During an Observer AM interview on Thursday, March 17, Walker said the matter will come up for hearing on May 3.

The MP has always expressed optimism that a ruling will be handed down in favour of the Barbuda people.

However, the Gaston Browne Administration is hoping the Council will rule in its favour, paving the way for the Government to take full control of lands on Barbuda and do as it pleases.   

Walker and McKenzie Frank are claimants in the matter.  The two initiated the case after the Administration passed the Paradise Found Act in 2015 to facilitate a tourism-development project.

Both men believe the legislation contravenes certain sections of the Barbuda Land Act, in particular the section that addresses the ownership of the lands on Barbuda.

Ownership of Barbuda lands has always been an issue between Antigua Labour Party (ALP) administrations and nationals of the sister-island. 

Only recently, the Government issued a warning to the Barbuda Council to desist from issuing leases – which, it claims, are being handed out to family and friends.

But former Council Chair Jacklyn Frank said the Council’s authority to issue leases resides in the Barbuda Local Government Act, which, itself, is enshrined in the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda.

She says that, traditionally, the practice has been part of the island’s land-tenure system.  This, essentially, is what the Privy Council is being asked to rule on, due to the Administration’s decision to repeal the Barbuda Land Act.

Frank says that any contention with lands usually has to do with leases issued by the Central Government without any form of consultation with the Council.

Accordingly, she believes that certain actions taken by the Government are intended to erode the legal authority of the Barbuda Council and stifle its work.