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Barbudans will call for the demolition of the airport if they win original case in court

Their lawyers intend to challenge the legality of the project, citing a lack of disclosure documents, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which they claim they have never received despite repeated requests.

‘Tear it down’ is what lawyers representing Barbudans Jackylyn Frank and John Mussington say they will be asking the courts to do, if they win their case against the government’s handling of the expansion of the airport runway on the sister isle. 

“We say that this airport is being built illegally … if we’re right, we’re going to ask the government to tear it down,” declared KC Leslie Thomas, noting,‘it ain’t over yet, we’re up for another big fight dealing with the airport’’.  

The government has spent in excess of US$14 million to construct a 6,100-foot international runway and supporting terminal to receive private jets and direct flights to Barbuda. However the procedure leading to its construction has been argued as being illegal and improper, destroying critical wildlife habitats in the process.

On Tuesday, the country’s final court of appeal ruled in favour of the Barbudans saying they fit the definition of persons who had interest in the project for several reasons including their proximity to the development and the potential water and noise pollution that the development could potentially present. 

Their next step is to request a judicial review of the procedures permitted by the Development Control Authority (DCA) for the airport’s construction.

Thomas, along with the rest of the legal team, plans to request disclosure documents including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project which Thomas said they have never received despite numerous requests. ‘’We still haven’t been given the disclosure to fight this case properly and for the use of experts and then exchange witness statements and to get a hearing to hear this judicial review,’’he said.  

He also suggested that the absence of the EIA leads him to believe that there was no proper assessment done or the EIA that has been done is ‘’not worth the paper it’s written on.’’

Government’s response

Lionel Hurst Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office has said that the Lord’s decision has changed the criteria that would allow a private citizen to sue the government. He said it significantly shifts the prescriptions that used to prevent private citizens from bringing lawsuits against governments because the governments were engaged in ‘’development undertaking’’.

‘’In a way it is a victory for citizens who wish to sue governments … but it is also an attempt on the part of the Barbuda People’s Movement and their cohorts to setback the airport and its utility to the Barbuda people,’ he said, suggesting that it was ‘’too late’’.

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He does not believe that a potential move to file an injunction against the use of the airport will be successful, reasoning that no local court would overlook the vast amount of money already spent. ‘’They won’t have any success, just like they didn’t at the appeals court when this matter was first brought.’’

‘’I’m sure, if they seek an injunction which I believe they will next attempt to do, the court will very likely find that the millions of dollars that have been spent, the absolute presence of the runway on Barbuda, the development of an air terminal and an FBO and also of fuel lines and the like, give credence to the government’s claim that it needs this airport in order to make the projects on Barbuda work,’’ he explained. 

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