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By Robert A. Emmanuel
Barbudan Ricardo Nedd said he was happy to hear of the implementation of a Barbudan land registry, however, he also expressed hope that all parties would work collaboratively to achieve a good outcome for all.
Nedd made the comments Observer’s Big Issues programme yesterday, and added that choice could only be a good thing in this context.
Referencing his own experiences, he explained that “to say that [Barbudan land] is communal, as soon as someone wants a piece of land in Barbuda, it is all this fight … the land registry is something that is important because you will know about who owns exactly what.”
He is of the view that Barbudans who wish to retain communal land should have the right to do so; however, they should not prevent other Barbudans from striving for freehold land.
“We need to recognise that what the government is trying to do is afford Barbudans a choice: who wants to continue with communal land, that is fine. Continue living like that. The government will not displace you.
“For those people who want freehold, to have title so they can utilise that title to show ownership and get the benefits of being able to go to a bank, what happens to those people,” he said, adding that the voices of those persons need to be heard.
He also advised the Barbuda Council, dominated by members of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) and the Central Government of Antigua and Barbuda, controlled by the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), that they need to collaborate.
“Rather than let the issue be one of conflict, what we need to do is to work along between both institutions, the government and Council work hand in hand … we go according to the law,” he stated.
Meanwhile, John Mussington, another Barbudan who was also speaking on the same panel, argued that the management of Barbudan land should be the sole remit of the Barbuda Council and that the government has long sought to discredit this approach.
“For the past three decades, the people of Barbuda have been pursuing a sustainable development programme that was focused on eco-tourism and the wise use of its resources.
“The lands and resources being owned in common was basic foundation for that development,” Mussington explained.
The issue of Barbudan land has been a hot topic in the twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda for decades, however it has re-entered the public consciousness recently.
The Barbuda lands case was mounted following the passage of the Paradise Found Act of 2015 which nullified critical sections of the Barbuda Land Act.
BPM members contended at the time that Barbuda’s land was owned in common by all Barbudans, and that the Paradise Found Act was therefore unconstitutional.
The government lost an earlier application to have the case struck out by a lower court, but the matter was subsequently sent to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court which sided with the government.
The case was taken to the country’s final appellate court, the London-based Privy Council, which upheld the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Last week, the government – in its weekly Cabinet notes — stated that the land registry was moving forward with help from the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force.
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