Barbudans in Toronto are “hopping mad” over the decision by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to make changes in the law that would permit “outsiders” to purchase land in Barbuda.
They say that they and fellow Barbudans “back home” were never consulted by the government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne over the proposed repeal of the 2007 Barbudan land reform Act.
And they are concerned that the Browne government, back in power after the recent general elections in which his ruling Antigua Labour Party won 15 of the 17 seats in Parliament, would now be pushing “full speed ahead” with changes in the land reform legislation.
A group of Barbudans plans to hold a meeting shortly to discuss what action should be taken ” to stop the Browne government in its tracks” on the land issue.
Lori Beazer, a longtime resident of Toronto, is actively involved in planning the meeting.
In an interview with the Caribbean Camera , Beazer who said she owns three houses in Barbuda , now describes herself as “generationally” homeless.
She explained that following the islanders’ emancipation from slavery, the land they acquired was handed down to their descendants and has been communally owned since then.
When Barbuda gained its independence from Britain in 1981, the custom survived, and was enshrined in the 2007 land act which prevented the purchase of land by outsiders .
But on September 11 last, Browne announced that he wanted to reform the law so that communal land be turned into freehold territory, to be bought and sold. He also wants to change the definition of a Barbudan, so that anyone who can claim “residency” can buy and sell land .
Parliament had its first reading of The Barbuda Land Amendment Bill of 2017 on December 12 last.
Beazer said she would like to ask Prime Minister Browne who is asking him to repeal the legislation.
” Who is he protecting?”
” He has got to know that this is wrong.This is dirty politics,” she remarked.
Philman George, also known as the Rhyming Chef, who hails from Barbuda, also expressed his concern about the land situation.
He told the Caribbean Camera he grew up with the understanding that he had “the right to land which he owns in Barbuda.
“I went back to Barbuda and went through the proper steps of securing my land. Now I am wondering if that land is still mine.
” I don’t know because the land Act is very confusing the way it’s written. You not really sure if you have access or not and how things are really going to change.”
More than 2,000 Barbudans are believed to be residing in Canada, most of them in the Greater Toronto Area.