Published on : Thursday, December 28, 2017
The tiny Caribbean Island of Barbuda that was devastated by the tropical storm Hurricane Irma is now looking for tourism reconstruction and for this the government is taking necessary steps to rebuild the tourism here and for this the residents of Barbuda fear that the central government on the neighbouring island Antigua is poised to revoke a centuries old system of communal land rights in what the activists described as “disaster capitalism” at work.
Since emancipation from slavery in 1834, Barbudans have governed their land in common, without private ownership.
But the Antigua and Barbuda government says that change is necessary to rebuild the island to initiate travel and tourism industry after suffering from hurricane Irma.
The Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has pushed for the change since the Category 5 storm hit in September, arguing that freehold tenure is the only way to finance Barbuda’s reconstruction, where half of the island’s 1,250 structures are severely damaged or destroyed.
He is likely to get his way on 28 December, when Parliament is expected to amend legislation which codified the 200-year-old tradition of communal ownership. Under the existing law, all land on Barbuda is owned communally and land parcels cannot be bought and sold.
The residents and their descendants can recognize parcels for new agricultural, residential, or commercial development and confirm their claim with the democratically-elected, 11-member Barbuda Council.
The proposed amendment would eliminate that system and establish private, freehold land ownership.
But Barbudan activists view that the change as an effort to develop their island for mass tourism as in neighboring Antigua.
About 1,600 people live in a single settlement in Barbuda, Codrington, while the rest of the 63-square-mile island has largely been left to its natural state of mangroves and scrub brush. In contrast, the tourism dominates 109-square-mile Antigua, (population 80,000) people, from all-inclusive resorts to a downtown cruise port.