Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:30
By Colin Sampson
The Barbuda Land Rights Committee is taking decisive steps to end the Barbuda Council’s apparent determination to force through approval of a controversial land development. Sir Thomas Hilbourne Frank, chair of the committee, made this pledge on Friday during an appearance on the Colin Sampson Show.
The Land Rights Committee was established by the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) to spearhead the defense of the patrimony of the Barbuda people. Ironically, the committee is now taking the field in opposition to a Barbuda Council numerically dominated by the very party that created it.
The Barbuda Land Rights Committee has clearly stated its intention to seek a court injunction restraining the Barbuda Council from proceeding any further with the matter. In addition, a petition is being prepared for circulation and submission to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who carries the portfolio of Minister of Barbuda Affairs.
A meeting of the re-energized committee is being held between Saturday and Sunday, with a public meeting planned for mid-week. Secretary John Mussington has been charged with drafting the petition, which will be ready for circulation early in the week. The committee intends to be able to submit the signed petition to the PM by the end of the upcoming week.
In an intriguing political twist, the BPM majority on the Council is clearly divided on the issue. This rift was recently highlighted when deputy chair Fabian Jones spoke out strongly against what he sees as an illegal action by the Council, chaired by Kelvin Punter. During a “consent” meeting on Tuesday August 23, Jones was frustrated in his attempt to bring to the floor information that might have been viewed as unfavourable to the developers.
It is this faux pas, along with other matters such as the manner in which the meeting was managed, as well as the arrangements concerning voting procedures that have impelled many, including former Barbuda senator Linton Thomas, to condemn the entire affair as illegal. Thomas, along with other persons disgusted by the fiasco, has launched a group called the Concerned Citizens of Barbuda. The new organisation aims to play a positive role in the rational development of Barbuda. The former senator has pledged full support to the efforts of the Land Rights Committee.
In the meantime, the BPM majority on the Barbuda Council is showing clear signs of stress, with chairman Kelvin Punter, along with member Atkinson Beazer and possibly others, caught in an uneasy alliance with the Barbuda Labour Party minority, led by senator Arthur Nibbs.
Sir TH Frank, a former Barbuda senator and member of Parliament, had critical comments about the attention – or lack of it – being paid to Barbuda by Minister for Barbuda PM Baldwin Spencer. Citing several correspondences sent to the prime minister, relating to issues confronting the sister island, Sir Thomas sadly related that none of these letters has received so much as an acknowledgement from Spencer.
Nevertheless, the Land Rights Committee is pressing on with its programme to enlist the weight of central government in returning the Barbuda Council to the path of righteousness.
The petition now being drafted will incorporate a number of proposals aimed at establishing an appropriate and trustworthy procedure for the authorization of development projects by the Barbuda Council. Readers will gain a fuller appreciation of the suggested procedures by visiting the Caribarena.com video archive.
Prominent among the new procedures will be the completion of due diligence on all applicants for development projects. Applicants will be expected to provide evidence of their ability to finance the project or to access capital for its realization. Appropriate feasibility and environmental impact studies must necessarily be carried out before initial approval to proceed to the substantive negotiation stage is sought.
A depository should be established for all information relating to projects under consideration. Citizens should be able, at a reasonable cost, to access that information and extract copies for their individual study. A clear timeline and work schedule for activities leading up to the project approval should be established.
In relation to the critical issue of citizen approval, the Barbuda Land Rights Committee insists that voting be restricted solely to Barbudan electors as defined by the Barbuda Act. Voting should follow election rules, with a polling place designated for a secret ballot. The committee rejects the public showing of hands as an abuse of the voting process.
Finally, Sir TH Frank severely criticized the Barbuda Council for deception in secretly changing the will of the people, expressed in public meeting, regarding the regulations drafted under the Barbuda Land Act. It is precisely this sort of manipulative action by the Council that the Barbuda Land Rights Committee is seeking to end once and for all.