20 Nov 2017

Barbuda: Whole island remain homeless after hurricane – meanwhile authorities bulldoze pristine land for new airport

Chief Correspondent

Renowned as one of the last Caribbean pristine islands.  Now the bulldozers are at work. World renowned seabird colonies and coral reefs. But the land is being flattened for an international airport.

“We need our brothers and sisters to stand up and defend your birthright. This is our birthright. And it’s being taken away from us by a psychotic leader. brothers and sisters – this is no joke. This is serious,” says Devon Warner, a Barbuda resident.

Barbuda’s headmaster John Mussington posted on social media videos of the bulldozers at work.

“Round the clock, working 24/7 day and night.  While the people of Barbuda were taken off the island. Kept off the island. This was progressing round the clock,” he said.

The 2000 islanders were forcibly evacuated after Hurricane Irma destroyed the only town.

With the population gone, weeks have turned to months and little has been repaired.

Yet building the new international airport appears a top priority. But now, through a London law firm, the islanders – who all own this place as a community – are fighting back. The airport scheme, they say, is unlawful.

“No development is lawful unless it goes through the Barbuda Council, and then, on top of that, there has to be a consultation with the Barbudan people. Now I haven’t seen that. What is troubling is it has been ten or 11 weeks since the hurricane, and since that time, hardly anything has been done in terms of restoring any of the essential services on the island to allow the Barbudans to return home,” says Leslie Thomas QC.

The PM of Antigua and Barbuda says the deal for the airport was agreed months before the hurricane but he declined to tell us if the Barbudans had actually been consulted.

But make no mistake PM Gaston Browne is incandescent with critics  – texting his views to Channel 4 News complete with emojis, that read: “The deracinated Imbeciles, Ignorant elements, say that by building Barbudans an airport, we are stealing their land. 😂😂😂 These are what we call dunce elements.”

But the imbeciles and dunce elements say you can’t send in the bulldozers until you’ve done an environmental impact assessment. The diggers have been on site for weeks – so where is that assessment?

“I haven’t seen an environmental impact assessment and no development in Antigua and Barbuda is lawful unless that is done, and that’s for a very good reason. You don’t go around developing areas of natural beauty without the impact assessment being properly assessed. More importantly, that has to be done under the Barbudan land act, which I know the Prime Minister has described as a foolish piece of legislation, but the problem is it is the law,” says Leslie Thomas QC.

The Prime Minister simply accuses critics of standing in the way of Barbuda’s future prosperity, texting us about what he calls “a much needed infrastructural project to improve the economic prospects of Barbuda.
“We will construct a new airport and sea port thereby opening up Barbuda for business and place the island on the part (sic) of sustainability.

“The day is fast approaching when Barbudans, will be no longer dependent on a check from the Antiguan Treasury to cover their payment obligations.”

Not one to keep quiet on environmental issues, Prince Charles was in Antigua and Barbuda over the weekend – but certainly made no public comment on what the islanders see as a land grab by the Antiguan government in which Barbuda’s tiny population has little say.

“Barbudans – I think you all need to come home and see what is going on in our country. Nobody knows about this. We need to put it out there and let people know what is going on here,” said Cicely Shaw, Barbuda resident.

Weeks have turned to months since Irma – still no water connected, no electricity.

The schools remain shut, all this – say islanders – proof that the government wants them out of the way whilst it bulldozes a new future for the island.