Privy Council’s decision not to award costs means citizens need not be deterred from challenging the Gov’t, Mussington says

There are some serious implications and takeaways from a recent ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council not to have two local Barbudans pay costs to the Government after they lost an appeal in June 2022.

Last year, the final appellate court dismissed an appeal by Barbuda MP Trevor Walker and McKenzie Frank, who had challenged the constitutionality of the Paradise Found Act, 2015, which provides for a resort to be built on the former K-Club property.  

The British court handed down its judgment on June 13, 2022, in a 21-page decision that said the claimants had no realistic prospect of succeeding in their claim under section 9(1) of the Constitution.

The Government was hoping to be awarded costs, which is customary if a claimant loses a case, but the Privy Council did not grant the Administration that usual courtesy.

Had the Court done so, says Barbudan activist John Mussington, the costs that Walker and Frank faced would have been considerable.

Now, Mussington says, the Privy Council’s ruling will embolden others to take on the Government – and not be deterred by the lack of money to defend what they consider to be their rights.

Mussington notes that citizens have the right to challenge Government and to demand information on any development that taxpayers’ money is funding – even private investors utilizing Crown resources.

Referencing a threat issued by Prime Minister Gaston Browne – to bankrupt his opponents using State resources – the Barbuda activist says there should be no reason for such fear.

Walker and Frank pursued their appeal on the premise that the Barbuda Land Act provides the Council with certain procedures that the Browne Administration had tried to by-pass.

The pair contended that the way in which the Government had gone about the project, as well as the legislation, placed them and other Barbudans at a disadvantage.

Incidentally, eight years later, the Paradise Found project is yet to get off the ground.

Meanwhile, the Barbudans have other cases pending before the local courts, with a major one set for November this year.  Mussington says this matter relates to the construction of an airport on the sister-island, and it should be significant not only to Antigua and Barbuda but to the region.