ST JOHN’S – Prime minister Gaston Browne has again threatened to take strong action against “a handful of people in Barbuda”, whom he is accusing of “fabricating strife in order to create chaos and confusion”.
This time, he made the comment at the closing ceremony of the Antigua and Barduda China-Aid Post-Disaster Restoration Project, which was held on the compound of the Barbuda Fisheries Complex on Thursday.
Stressing that he attended the ceremony to signal his commitment to Barbuda, the prime minister said, “I need not be here. There is the minister of Barbuda Affairs, the honourable Dean Jonas. I could have stayed on Antigua because of all of the rhetoric coming from a handful of people in Barbuda – and I want to emphasize here, a handful of people because whenever I make remarks about them, they try to spread it through the party to suggest that my remarks are directed to Barbudan people when my remarks are directed to a handful of individuals, who I shall not describe this morning for obvious purposes, who are hell bent on stymieing progress for political gain.
“Now, it is instructive that they are not here today; that the representative, honourable Trevor Walker and the other BPM council members, that they are not here. They’re in Antigua, having fun. But if, indeed, it was something that was controversial, they would all be here, and making trouble.
The prime minister’s comments came just about a week after he labeled as “public nuisances”, Walker and other members of the Barbuda People’s Movement led-Barbuda Council.
At the time, Walker and his colleagues, supported by a number of Barbudans, were engaged in a row with the police in Barbuda over the officers’ occupancy of the Barbuda Fisheries Complex which fishermen needed as of July 1 to ply their trade during open season for lobster fishing which commenced that day.
Browne was not happy with the protest as he accused the Barbudans of wrongdoing.
He said, “In fact, they had gone as far as fabricating strife in order to create chaos and confusion on this beautiful island and I have taken a very strong position as the prime minister of this country that anyone, who seeks to plunge this island into chaos and confusion will be dealt with accordingly. And I make no apologies about it.
“That’s a promise. None of us, not the prime minister or a member of the Barbuda Council is above the law. We all have a constitutional right to protest, to speak, to congregate. But none of us have a right to break the laws of this country with impunity.
In an address that was punctuated by applause, the prime minister said, “We are a unitary state. We’re not a confederation. And we understand our obligation to the Barbuda people. And that is why I’ve said to those in Antigua who have told me don’t do, I’ve said to them, I have an obligation to the Barbuda people as the prime minister. And I will never shirk on that responsibility because it is not a coincidence that I came over here even before law enforcement when I came over here within the hours of the hurricane. It is because of the commitment to the Barbudan people.”
He recalled that members of law enforcement thought it was not safe for him to go to Barbuda at that time, but, he had not heard from the Barbudan people for several hours and he wanted to know what was happening to his people.
“I came, and I pledged to you at that time that we will do all in our power to ensure that we restore this island as soon as possible,” the prime minister said.