Barbudans will have the right to own freehold land: MP Michael

The lower house of parliament has passed the bill that changes the system of land ownership in Barbuda and the bill will now go to the upper house of parliament to seek its approval.

Hon. Asot Michael MP for St. Peters, in yesterday’s sitting of Parliament said things on Barbuda have to change for the good of Barbuda as he defended the amendments to the Barbuda Land Act which will allow Barbudans to own freehold land.

“Mr Speaker, the conclusion that the land issue must be resolved in the interest of Barbuda and the nation of Antigua and Barbuda has been reached by every independent assessment ever done,” Michael said.

During his presentation, Michael also said that had it not been for land tenure and ownership rights on Antigua the level of economic development and social advancement that have been achieved, would never have been accomplished.

“It is land ownership, used as collateral, that has empowered the residents of Antigua to pull themselves out of poverty; to end being tenants and debtors and to become owners.”

Michael said a handful of persons on Barbuda and elsewhere have perpetuated the myth that Barbuda was left to all persons born on Barbuda and their progeny in common, wherever they may in the world, by the Codrington family and also said that notion is a myth exploded many times, but maintained by a power-hungry few on Barbuda for their own narrow, personal benefit.

“The Codrington family never owned the lands of Barbuda.”

“The island was leased to them by the Crown, which at all material times, owned the lands of Barbuda as it owned the lands of Antigua,” Michael said.

The 1904 Ordinance stated that “All lands within the island of Barbuda are hereby vested in the Administrator on behalf of the Crown and shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of this Ordinance,” it went onto say “all persons inhabiting the island of Barbuda shall be and are hereby declared to be tenants of the Crown, and such persons shall neither hold nor deal with any land situate within the said island save and except as hereinafter appears by the provisions of this Ordinance and subject to any by-law made by the Administrator in Council in that behalf.”

The Codrington family leased Barbuda until 1870 when they handed-back the lease because the cost of keeping it had become financially burdensome and all the lands were then reverted to the Crown as it had been before.

“This point has been made over and over again and enshrined in law several times, it was stated in the 1904 Ordinance, it was stated in the Barbuda Local Government Act of 1976, it was stated again at the Antigua and Barbuda constitutional conference in London at Lancaster House in 1980, and it was enshrined in the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution of 1981,”

Michael says the residents of Barbuda must be given the right to own land which they can use as collateral to raise financing to uplift themselves and says Barbuda’s development has been retarded for centuries by the myth that all land in Barbuda is owned in common.

Michael says the myth caused power over all persons residing in Barbuda, to rest in the hands of a few who have perpetrated it, the few who prospered while many remain deprived and dependent on their favour.

“That is the system that the few are trying to perpetuate in their own selfish interest and to the detriment of the many.”

Michael also said the in the bill being debated, the government has not sought to address that inequity and unfairness, instead, it seeks to give Barbudans a description clearly explained in the law the right to own freehold land for a nominal price and it seeks to empower Barbudans in a way they have never enjoyed or experienced.