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Government to begin legal process for Barbuda land ownership rights next month

The missive sent by Martin Camacho, the country’s Solicitor General stated that an order published last October in the gazette has declared all of Barbuda as an “adjudicated area”.

Barbuda Flag of Self Determination sways in the wind at the edge of the Barbuda Fisheries Complex. photo by Elesha George

Martin Camacho, the country’s Solicitor General has written to the Barbuda Council Chairman Devon Warner, indicating the government’s intention to begin adjudicating land by May 15. The adjudication process brings the government one step closer to making land on Barbuda salable, breaking a 300-year-old practice of communal land ownership. 

The adjudication process is meant to ensure that there is no dispute over the possession of land by systematically registering all land on Barbuda. It will register the names of people claiming an interest in property and establish those names once proper historical claims can be made. The remaining parcels of land will likely be earmarked for the government to use as it sees fit.

Deputy Governor General, Sir Clare Roberts KC will serve as the government-appointed adjudicator to ensure that all Barbuda lands are registered similarly to lands in Antigua. Other statutory officers required for the adjudication process including a demarcation officer, a survey officer and a recording officer will soon be appointed, Camacho noted.

Last July, parliament passed the Registered Land Amendment Bill 2023 to address what is described as historical land ownership issues and to provide a structured and organized land management system for the sister island.

Under the proposed amendment, Barbudans will have the option to purchase the land they occupy at a symbolic price of $1. Additionally, the government will consider selling up to one acre of land to each Barbudan adult for the same token price.

Last year’s legislation followed a ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), Antigua’s last court of appeal, to dismiss a claim by two Barbudans that lands are owned in common. The JCPC said that the Barbuda Lands Act which was used to state claim on their argument was overruled by the Crown Lands Regulation Act which was passed by the parliament under the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) regime. 

However, not all Barbudans are supportive of these changes. Some, including members of the local government, oppose the sale of their lands, which historically have been issued for residential and commercial purposes on lease terms by the Barbuda Council. Critics have accused the government of engaging in a land grab and facilitating what they term as “disaster capitalism,” and allocating hundreds of acres of land to wealthy foreigners. 

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