Prime Minister Gaston Browne is adamant that there will be no separation of Barbuda from Antigua, despite the Barbuda Council’s bid for secession.
“The deracinated rhetoric of the BPM members is nothing new,” Browne told Observer on Friday.
“It existed prior to independence and continues to date. Despite the rhetoric and the treasonous threats of separation, Antigua and Barbuda shall remain a sovereign unitary democratic state,” the Prime Minister vowed.
His comments come a day after Cabinet notes released to the media revealed that parliament would hold a resolution next Thursday to discuss the matter.
Browne was also responding to comments made by United Progressive Party (UPP) leader Harold Lovell who blamed the current Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) for the strained relationship between central government and the Barbuda Council.
The Barbuda Council recently wrote to Cabinet Secretary Konata Lee demanding that government takes steps toward a separate future for the smaller island.
In the letter dated August 31, Council members said they were “wholly dissatisfied” with the treatment meted out to them by the country’s present government.
Speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Lovell said the situation was “sad”.
“The whole issue of the deterioration of the relationship with Antigua and Barbuda, that deterioration has taken place unequivocally under the Antigua Labour Party. We, for 10 years, had a good relationship with the Barbuda Council whether it was led by the ABLP or the BPM,” Lovell said.
“We may have had differences from time to time but it never deteriorated to the point where there was a feeling that it is now untenable, that the difficulties and the bad blood has reached to such a point that it is not something that they are prepared to live with.
“So, I think it is sad but the central government must take full responsibility for what has happened,” Lovell said.
However, Browne said it was due to the current administration that Barbuda is “finally moving and getting the largest private sector in the Caribbean”.
Lovell said it was nonsensical for the government to do away with historical agreements and legislations put in place to protect Barbuda land.
Lovell was referring to the Lancaster meeting in 1980 prior to Independence, where 14 representatives from Barbuda were assured that once they agreed to unify with Antigua that their land would not be on the agenda.
“VC Bird agreed and in practice you can see he never interfered with Barbuda land rights,” the UPP leader continued.
“He understood that this was the central issue for the people of Barbuda and, yes, we will go together as a unitary state, we will respect your rights. The honourable Lester Bird came and, even though he had difficulty with it and from time there were some issues, he never interfered with the Barbuda land rights.
“The honourable Baldwin Spencer, when the UPP came into office in 2004, what we decided to do was to deal with the issue from a legislative point of view and to enshrine it into law so that it would no longer be an issue or tug of war and so on.
“So we passed the Barbuda Land Act and then comes the Gaston Browne administration and they decided that they are just going to ride roughshod over everything that went on in the past.
“They are just going to do it in a way that is contrary to the historical claims of the Barbuda people which doesn’t have to be. We can coexist,” he said.
Lovell added that, although it is the stance of the UPP and himself that there be no separation, he fully understands the plight of the Barbudan people.