As Bahamas Deals With Dorian, Barbudans Await Proactive Action Two Years After Hurricane Irma

Antigua & Barbuda's Prime Minister Gaston Browne (2nd L) and China's Ambassador to the country, Wang Xianmin (2nd R), and delegates survey the rebuilding progress in Codrington, Barbuda, during a walk-through 12 July, 2018 as part of a major roof replacement program to more than 300 homes ravaged by the September 2017 category five hurricane Irma. The 2 million USD project -paid for by China Aid - has enabled hundreds of families to return home from sister island Antigua as Barbuda continues the complex process of rebuilding the island where 95% of homes were damaged by the storm. (Photo credit: GEMMA HANDY/AFP/Getty Images)
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News Americas, CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Fri. Sept. 6, 2019: In the wake of the unprecedented devastation that Hurricane Dorian has caused the Bahamas and on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s catastrophic landfall in Barbuda, many on that island say long delays are playing with their lives and the future of their island.

A group calling itself ‘Barbuda Silent No More,’ said in a statement that Barbudans are still awaiting proactive action by decision makers in the regional judicial system to commit to hearing four high profile court cases that remain unresolved.

So far, four legal actions have been filed over the same amount of years, ‘challenging’ the Antigua and Barbuda government’s changes to centuries old land tenure system that the group said introduced unsustainable and speculative development to the island, without consulting with the people of Barbuda.

The pending cases were filed against the Government of Antigua and Barbuda from 2015 going through to 2018 include Mackenzie Frank versus Attorney General, Barbuda Council and Paradise Founder, Robert De Niro, in 2015;  Trevor Walker MP, Mackenzie Frank and 110 Petitioners versus Attorney General and Paradise Founder Robert De Niro from 2016;   Trevor Walker MP, Mackenzie Frank, Wayde Burton and Barbuda Council versus Attorney General in 2018 and  John Mussington and Jackie Frank versus Development Control Authority (DCA), Antigua and Barbuda Airports Authority (ABAA), The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda and the Barbuda Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, also from 2018.

Two of the cases are pending in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and two still are pending at High Court level on Barbuda’s ‘sister isle,’ Antigua.

 “The extensive delay and lack of progress with our recovery feels like a deliberate ploy by the government to punish Barbudans for rejecting its version of ‘development’ plans, and to discourage return and re-establishment of the community,” said John Mussington a Barbudan living in Barbuda. “We as a people are dedicated to tackling these issues head on; we will not give up.”

Since Hurricane Irma impacted Barbuda on September 5, 2017, islanders of Barbuda have faced a bitter battle between speculative development and traditional land tenure. More recently concerns have been raised that the government of Antigua and Barbuda has been brokering deals and allowing the lease of lands, under the new Barbuda Land Act of 2018 by allowing land to be bought and sold converting leases into freehold.

An example of such a deal involves the Coco Point Lodge lease. Coco Point Lodge is the first hotel in Barbuda, and it was built in 1959. The lease was purportedly purchased by John Paul DeJoria, a global entrepreneur and billionaire, with his partners John B. Turbidy and Steve Adelson joined together through The Peace Love and Happiness Partnership (PLH) as the leaseholders and financial sponsors of Barbuda Ocean Club. They, in conjunction with the Discovery Land Company, an Arizona, USA based group, are developing the Barbuda Ocean Club, a community advertised as a private residential resort community. Through this deal and one previously brokered with the collective by the Government of Antigua of Barbuda, DeJoria-Turbidy-Adelson group was granted a whopping 834 acres of land, including land that has been designated in 2005 as protected wetland sites under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

There is continued collective concern among the island’s population about the impact of selling of leases for approximately 100 residences at Coco Point and a further 450 residences at Palmetto, whilst pristine protected coastline and mangroves are being destroyed daily as building work continues.

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