Barbudans in Toronto plan to take action over land issue

Philman George (left) and Lori Beazer will join fellow Barbudans in Toronto to discuss a plan of action to stop the government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne (right) from changing the law to permit “outsiders” to purchase land in Barbuda.

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.