Barbuda - Before and After Independence

Christopher CodringtonThe nation consists of several small uninhabited islands, within the global and organizational community, however, it is recognized as a “...unitary, independent and sovereign nation known as “...Antigua and Barbuda.”

Before the attainment of sovereignty, the islands had been under British colonialism for well over three hundred years. As a people, they have always yearned for “...Self- governance and self-determination.” That process started in 1967, when it was considered for “...Internal Governance in association with Britain.” Fourteen years later, on “...November 1, 1981, it was realized when the colonial powers relinquished its rule. This allowed for the people to “...determine their destiny and manage their “...internal security, economic and external Affairs.”


Despite family connections with the island, residents had harbored deep mistrust in the leadership of former Premier/Prime Minister Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr, KCN and his administration. Thus, prior to the historic development, Barbudans spoke almost with one voice. They wanted “...No union with mainland Antigua.” Historically, it was the knowledge that attempts at “...Regional Integration” have encountered as many hurdles as those strategically placed in international meets for track and field athletes. Some competitors have always stumbled and fell. Seemingly any union between nations and/or dependencies that may hinge upon the words “...Federation or Integration,” appeared to have suggested dangerous connotations. Thus, for long term cooperation and cohesiveness among people and leadership, there are usually serious implications for mutual understanding and/or sustained amicable relations. Far away, “...Switzerland was reported to be at variance with its European neighbors over immigration issues” [BBC: February 5, 2014}. Within the region, disagreements over “...Free Movement and Single Market and Economy and immigration policies,” speak to lack of common understanding, mutual trust and cohesiveness among the leadership.


This was irrefutable. The case of the dismal failure at unification of the islands, subsequently grouped as “...CARICOM and OECS,” makes the point.  Before such groupings, research revealed that Britain had grouped the islands in 1958 as a “...Federated Caribbean.” Hence, it was said that the “...expressed intention of Britain was to create a political unit, similar to other “...global Federations.” Hence, it was expected that the unit would have become a “...Single State independent from Britain” [Wikipedia]. Even with “...geographical proximity; ...dominance of indigenous people; ...similar commonalities; ...customs and culture,” with overly ambitious and eccentric leaders, “...an extended single political unit” would have been virtually impossible.


Historians have attributed the “...Federation’s dramatic collapse to internal political conflicts.” This became very evident among the group, when one member unilaterally withdrew. After four years of “...Political Wrangling,” Jamaica, through a “...National Referendum,” rightly or wrongly, abandoned the union. It may have felt that it was not in the best interest of its people. Then creating further disintegration, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Eric Williams, politically and/or philosophically, “...subtracted one from the ten- member grouping,” saying it “...left zero.” Though mathematically incorrect, he had determined that if the digit “...1” was removed from the number “...10,” it would, undoubtedly, leave “...0” [Wikipedia: January 3, 1958- May 31, 1962].  Politically, this was correct. The Federation had collapsed. Individually, some members were granted full independence, while others were accorded “...Associated Status.” The nation of “...Antigua and Barbuda” had experienced both statuses.


BARBUDA is an under-developed and unspoiled island of an area of 62 square miles. In a 1904 census, its population was recorded as 700 people. From time immemorial, through migration the population has been constantly dwindling. The great majority of native Barbudans were said to have migrated to “...Canada; ...the United States, with a high concentration in Leicester in the United Kingdom.” Though it did not distinguish the total number of Barbudans residing in the United Kingdom, research showed that the “...2001 UK Census placed the number as “...3, 891 people born in Antigua and Barbuda.” This as research revealed represents 1.5% of all Caribbean people, ranking the nation the 11th most Common British residents. It also placed the Caribbean as the 109th most common out of all nations” [Wikipedia]. In 1991, it recorded a population of 1, 252” [Wikipedia]. While it grew, it remains under- populated. Presently, the population was said to be averaging 1,500 “...purposeful, resilient and resistant people.” Describing the residents, Senator Arthur Nibbs remarked “...Such is the character of the people” [February8, 2014]. In every sense of these words, the residents have shown consistency in their demonstration.


For nearly 200 years, His Majesty the King of England had reportedly leased the island of Barbuda to a single British family of two brothers “...Christopher and John Codrington. The leasehold was said to be a “...Renewable Lease for 50 years” [Wikipedia]. Legends had it that they were to pay “...one sheep on demand by Her Majesty” [Wikipedia: 1685]. There was no information that such demand and/or such payment had ever been made. Eventually the island was left to “...ancestral children” [Alister Thomas]. Leading up to national independence, the “...Desire for Secession” grew stronger, while the sentiments were expressed “...louder and louder.”


In spite of the “...1976 Barbuda Local Government Act” [Chapter 44], with every passing day, vociferously, the people had complained of “...official neglect.” The residents had considered that their best option was to remain under “...British Dominion.” There were more people advocating secession, than those opposing it. Hence, the call for “...Secession” may have been heard from the lips of a wide cross section of the community. Within the next five years, the call for secession intensified. Residents were “...circumspect” that their miseries may have become manifold. Whether real or imaginary, they had convinced themselves that they may not have been “...fairly and/or equally treated as a people and a unitary nation.”


Notwithstanding their fears going into a union with Antigua as an independent nation, they had also felt that Britain, with all its resources, had ignored their overall development. Foremost may have been the “...island’s unstable relationship in the Associated Statehood arrangements with Antigua and Britain.” Thus, there may have been thoughts of an uncertain future. Such feelings may also have been prompted by earlier developments in the “...St. Christopher, Nevis/Anguilla Federation.” They were very much aware of developments on the nearby island of Anguilla and had frequently made reference to it. On June 10, 1967, Ronald Webster reportedly led the Anguillans in a bloodless revolt. They had “...seized the Police station and hastily dispatch the seventeen-man contingent back to mainland St. Kitts” [Wikipedia]. This had prompted the central authority to increase security on Barbuda. Except rhetoric, the residents had made no attempt at seceding from the ‘...Associated Union.” Though relations had, invariably, become “...strained,” the independence ties remain intact.


While a counter-revolutionary attack was reportedly under consideration by the St. Kitts authorities, Britain had dispatched a “...135- strong Red Devil Paratroopers” to restore stability along with a 40-member strong Scotland Yard officers to maintain “...law and order” [Caribbean Beat: Montague Kobbe: March 19, 1969]. In the end the Anguillans “...pre-emptive revolutionary move prevailed.” Even “...an Emissary, parliamentary Under Secretary William Whitlock” was reportedly escorted from the island at gunpoint, ending his “...Parliamentary career” [Caribbean Beat]. The Anguillans had succeeded in severing the “...Associated union with St. Kitts and Nevis” to remain under British rule. With Sir Vere administrating with “...fox-like cunningness,” this may have cowed residents into submission. They had suspected that “...Sir Robert L. Bradshaw and Sir Vere Cornwall Bird were political friends.” They had sized up that the former, in reciprocity, may have offered assistance to the British, as was done in the Anguilla revolution. Thus, they were also “...Fearful of the British Red Devils,” a formidable counter-revolutionary strike-force.


When representatives of the residents attended the “...Pre-independence Lancaster House Discussions,” they had reportedly secured assurances that their concerns and welfare will have been meaningfully and satisfactorily addressed by the Central government. There were also provisions for reviews of the island’s and nations progress-economically and developmentally. Among the representatives were “...Sir Machesney George KCN; ...Sir Eric Burton KCN; ...Sir Hilbourne Frank KCN and the youthful Arthur Nibbs, Senator.” In the end, the “ ...Explanatory Note” in the Constitutional Order states “ ...This Order which is made at the request and Associated State of Antigua and under Section 5 (4) of the West Indies Act 1967, provides a new Constitution for Antigua ( which is to be styled ANTIGUA and BARBUDA) upon its attainment of fully responsible government within the Commonwealth at the termination of the status of Antigua with the United Kingdom under the Act on 1st November 1981” [CO: 1106: 1981: P 83].


Through “...tradition, custom, culture and shared commonalities,” the island not only remains unspoiled, but also under developed. In spite of poor economic conditions and its stagnated state of development, partially of their own choosing, those residing on the island have shown their creativity in eking out their livelihood. While many were employed by the Central government and the Barbuda Council, others had done so through “...agriculture, animal husbandry and wildlife hunting and exploitation of the marine resources.” That which they saw as working against their collective interest, they had easily bonded in a united front. Even with foreseeable consequences, they had taken courses of action that reflected their disapproval. Hence, they have never concealed their feelings and/or hesitated in expressing their displeasure.


Thus, the Barbudan people have always made their dissatisfaction known, seen and felt with telling effect. They took comfort from the knowledge that the land was “...statutorily allocated to them by the Colonial masters for continued generational occupation.”  For instance, the recent enactment of the “ ...Barbuda Land Act” states “...All land in Barbuda shall be owned in common by the people of Barbuda; ...The title to all land shall vest in the Crown on behalf of the people of Barbuda” [Section 3: No. 23 of 2007]. Other provisions, inter alia, (i) “...Restrict Sale; (ii) ...Preserve Right of occupation; and (iii) ...Require Consent of people” [Sections 5, 7, 18]. Residents have, therefore, regarded the “...land as the most priceless asset left by their forefathers who had paid the ultimate price with “... blood, sweat, tears and lives.


For reasons of national sovereignty, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) on the island shall first have approval of the Central Government. There are also two other approval entities, “...the residents shall embrace, concur and consent to the investment, while the Barbuda Council shall formally approve on their behalf.”  However, in instances where “...approval was given by the central authority and the local government,” Barbudans had determined the quantum of land space. Consequently, they were prepared to fight in preserving their “...Land Rights.” Hence, as much as they love peace, Barbudans were also prepared to declare war over their “...heritage-LAND.”  For instance, if residents had felt uneasy over “...Foreign Direct Investments” that were likely to result in restrictive movements and/or that which may have threatened their livelihood or resulted in displacement, they had done that which was “...considered necessary and knows no Law.” This may have been reflected from past events.


When a group of investors were introduced to the people in the early 1980’s as the “...Sovereign Order of Aragon,” they wanted demarcation of approximately 25 acres of land for the establishment of a commune on the eastern side of the island. The Barbudans, spearheaded by Sir Machesney George, Sir Hilbourne Frank, the Barbuda Council and an exuberant young Councilor Senator Arthur Nibbs had seen this as a “ ...Gated Community: similar to that of  “ ...Mill Reef on mainland Antigua.” They had strenuously opposed to another Club, “...where only non-indigenous members” would have been allowed to reside and/or frequent. Moreover, they had seen such investment as having serious effect on their livelihood- “...their ability to farm and hunt wildlife of the fallow deer, wild boars, land turtles, guinea fowls and ducks. As a consequence, they had flatly rejected the proposed investment.


The social commentary involving the “...Bajan and Trini,” may have provided a moral to that which may have been seen as “...disadvantageous.” The former had provided “...Rice,” while the latter “...Ten cent meat bone for a cook-up.” When it was time to eat, there was a problem. The Bajan had warned Trini that in order to avoid a fight, “...Teck yo meat out me rice” [Lord Kitchener]. In the case of the residents, whenever they felt they were being placed at a disadvantage, they were prepared to say “...Tek yo project off we land.” When British investor Dave Sullivan arrived on Barbuda within the same period, he applied for, and obtained leasehold of several acres of land in the area known as the River. In actuality, there are no rivers and/or streams on the island. The leasehold was for the expressed purposes of constructing a “...small beach front hotel project west of the historic Martello Tower.” Dave Sullivan’s investment comprised a family of four, including his wife and two young children. The Sullivan’s had not demonstrated that they had the financial capital neither to enhance tourism nor to market Barbuda as a visitor’s paradise and/or tourism destination.


More importantly, the project had fallen woefully short of the Council’s expectations in creating employment opportunities for the islanders and generating revenue for the administration of the Barbuda Local Government. The so-called investor quickly ran into trouble as construction of four miniature cottages of “...Wattle and concrete Villas” had moved at a snail’s pace.” Anxieties engulfed both the “...Barbuda people and the Council.” They became agitated, showed abhorrence to the structures that replicated the era of the “...Mud Houses,” reminiscent to the wretched days of slavery. Eventually Dave Sullivan was “...Saved, not by the bell,” but by the ferocity and destructive fury of Hurricane Luis in 1995. The intensity of the hurricane had blown the inferior structures away. The investor neither had the capital to repair nor to continue with the investment. His investment dreams had blown away and the hopes of Barbudans had dashed into oblivion.


The period also saw another investor arriving on the island. He obviously came with good intentions. He had endeared himself, and the residents had gravitated to him. He quickly constructed a restaurant in the vicinity of the Holy Trinity School and at the edge of the Codrington Lagoon and Jetty. He had provided employment for several Barbudans in the restaurant. He had been the first to have introduced the Quad motorized vehicles to Barbuda, where he operated a “...Quad Rental Service” that saw increased on and off road vehicular traffic. The adventurous Barbudans savored the moments riding the Quads, either to the northern area called “...Two Foot Bay” and extending to the Southernmost tip of the island called “...Coco Point.”


While they had thrills riding around, they also endured pain from frequent spills and bruises. These kept an expatriate, American-born physician Richard Knapp MD and two qualified nurses and aides, busy at the “...Spring View Hospital.” The 8-bed medical facility was subsequently renamed “...The Hannah Thomas Hospital.” Hannah Thomas was said to have been a resident nurse of some professional repute. She had reportedly rendered “...quality nursing care to the people of Barbuda.” After operating for a short while on Barbuda, United States authorities appeared to have discovered that Ed Joyner had been enjoying, not necessarily resident status, but a haven, investing “ ...suspected proceeds” of that which enforcement agencies had an investigative interest.” Subsequently, the investor returned to the United States where he was nabbed on fraud charges.  That abruptly ended his sojourn on the peaceful island.


After constructing the luxurious “ ...K-CLUB” on the southern side of the island, Italian Businessman/Contractor Antonio Guffanti, decided on a small hotel venture in the Palmetto Point area, west of the historic Martello Tower, a relic of a construction by the “ ...Codrington Brothers- Christopher and John.” Antonio Guffanti, as the new investor had acquired land that may have encroached on access to the furthermost western tip of Palmetto Point. It appeared then, that access to Palmetto Point beach then became a contentious issue. Thus, when residents protested the encroachment, “...trouble was brewing.” The Barbuda Council was powerless in appeasing the residents. There was an intolerable standoff.  Then on a quiet Sunday morning, the offending fence was “...bulldozed out of the ground, ironically, with equipment owned by the Barbuda Council.


Following boundary adjustments, construction of the hotel proceeded smoothly with Italian and Antiguan and Barbudan workers, harmonizing relationships and enhancing efforts. Consequently, the “...twenty-four room Palmetto Hotel project” was completed in record time. When Antonio Guffanti decided to move away from the island, the “...Leasehold” was reportedly transferred to another “...Italian interest.”  They renamed it “...Beach House.” Subsequently, they reportedly “...ran into operational difficulties.” Then consequent upon financial constraints, there was voluntary closure of its operations. This had infuriated redundant employees. When a Barbuda Council Chairman was implicated in “...sanctioning affected employees in possessing that which was easily removable,” residents reportedly joined in and stripped the hotel bare. Not only had they removed household items, but also fixtures-bathroom, electrical, doors, windows, roofing and fencing materials” [October 27, 2012].


The Dave Strickland era may have been the most productive and prosperous for any individual investor to the island. He had established a sand mining company called “...Sandco.” Dave Strickland, introduced as an investor in the sand mining industry, arrived with his twin-engine private aircraft. He barged in the requisite equipment and machines and in short order, began operations. He had in his employ a professional heavy duty motor mechanic Samuel Marshall and a skilled welder Jerome Andrew, both from mainland Antigua. The other employees, “...sand mining, trucking, screening and loading were all Barbudans.”  He too, had endeared himself to the residents who also gravitated to him. The best period, however, may have been the Coco Point Hotel and K-Club, where many Barbudans obtained employment from “...gardener, kitchen, dining and room staff, to hunting tour guides to marine expedition employees. The Barbuda Council that had benefited from “...Revenues generated during the “...seasonal hotels and sand mining operations, had employed many along with the Central Government Department.” That was then.


Dave Strickland provided certain services gratis to the residents. For instance, after exportation of thousands of tons of mined sand, he transported goods from St. Maarten free of cost on his sand barge. Then on Thursdays, he religiously flew his aircraft with residents to St. Maarten, where they shopped for clothing and foods. He imported and sold aggregates, blocks and wood to residents at reasonable cost. Those who could not see the way to purchase, he unhesitatingly obliged them, a demonstration of his generosity and/or compassionate nature. But then, he had not only made millions off his investments, but also off the natural asset of the land. Very fittingly and as reason, conscience and principle dictated, he gave back to the Barbudan community. He had paid his taxes regularly to the Barbuda Council. He may have underestimated the resolve and cohesiveness of the Barbudan people. When rumors surfaced that “...government officials” were working behind the sand mining operations, and were “...reaping benefits that may have been rightly shared with Barbuda Council,” it was only a matter of time before “...residents and the Councilors expressed their displeasure and showed their resolve and open resistance.”


That moment arrived when Dave Strickland veered off into “...animal husbandry with the importation of Llamas from Peru,” as an additional investment entity.” He may have committed a cardinal sin.  Irate residents objected strongly. Then spurred on by their leaders, scores of residents congregated at the River Wharf, not only effectively halted the “...sand mining operations and exportation,” but seemingly after a turbulent and perilous journey on an open barge, prevented the innocent animals from landing. Then at night fall, their pent up wrath descended upon his investment. Unidentified arsonists set “ ...an air conditioned building to house the animals alight as well as several sand mining heavy duty equipment.” Allowing commonsense to prevail, Dave Strickland eventually, but “...humbly submitted to the will of the people,” Changing course, the animals were then transshipped to mainland Antigua, with several placed in the care of Cyril ‘Taffy’ Bufton on Guiana Island. Some were also deposited at Abbott Farms at Woods Estate under the care of Phillip Abbot. Animal husbandry experts posited that the Llamas, unaccustomed to the hot tropical conditions, could not survive. Wherever they were deposited, they all slowly perished.


Unlike yesteryear when “...Barbudan Councilors worked in unison,” today’s leadership may not easily escape the wrath of residents. The people may be the first to admit that “...promotional ideological divisiveness” had impacted negatively on the relationship between councilors, residents and their economic well-being. This may have been the result of “...repetitive rhetoric being spewed by adversaries of the three primary organizational entities.” Thus, in the existing global economic environment, Barbudan residents are cognizance of the possible impact on their economic well-being and quality of life. Therefore, they are expecting that Councilors will be creative in their thinking and united in their approaches to finding solutions to the current financial crisis. Notwithstanding, even with “...divided vision and an apparent “...multi-directional destiny, the people have seen themselves as “...One people, they “...share the same commonalities and having the same hope and expectations. Most importantly, however, each shall endeavour to work toward the island’s economic development that will ultimately serve the common good.” In spite of their “...economic miseries,” residents have “...one desire – “...maintaining full control of their ‘LAND’ and to independently and effectively manage their internal affairs.

Hits: 2338

1 Comments In This Article   


RE: Barbuda - Before and After Independence

#1 Plaid Mongoose » 2014-02-12 04:20

So since being kicked out of the UK in 1981, what progress has been made that didn't involve illegal drugs, arms, internet gambling, or Ponzi schemes?

Plaid Mongoose

Add comment

Mr. Rawlston Pompey

 Mr. Rawlston Pompey






Follow us on Facebook

Spotlight on Education

Previous Next
Govt to give Two Uniforms
Antigua St. John's - Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has confirmed...  Read more

Latest Opinions by Rawlston Pompey


Android LogoDownload Caribarena's Android App Click To Download

Find us on Twitter!