St. John’s Antigua- Deputy Chairman of the Barbuda Council Fabian Jones is hoping the local government does “the right thing” and goes back to residents following what he described as the recent “disaster vote” on a proposed multi-million dollar development.
Up to this time, residents including marine biologist John Mussington and former senator Linton Thomas have expressed disgust with proceedings during last week’s village meeting at which the US $100 million Gravenor Bay project was given the green light.
Yesterday, Jones told The Daily OBSERVER he too strongly objects to the project being pushed through, given the “flawed” process.
“I trust that common sense will prevail when the report reaches the council and they will do the process the correct way. I hope they will admit that what was done on that date wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said.
The deputy chairman was referring specifically to the presence of the potential investors, Stanhope Shepherd International Ltd, at the head table during the village meeting which was for residents only.
He noted that just from this alone the session could be deemed “improper” but added that there were several other elements that contravened regulations.
Jones noted that on the night in question some Council members, including Member of Parliament Trevor Walker, were off island.
Of the 300 residents attending last week’s meeting, only two of the 102 who voted said “no” to the project.
The senior member in the ruling Barbuda People’s Movement said he believes the remaining 198 Barbudans did not cast ballots because the process was faulty.
“Because of that, you cannot move forward with the project in that form,” he noted.
Like Linton and Mussington, Jones made it clear during last’s week’s contentious meeting that due diligence should have been conducted on the potential investors before a vote was taken on the project.
He explained that this is critical because there are several instances where such research was not carried out; approval for land leases was given; the hopes of Barbudans were lifted but the projects never materialised.
“I am not being political. I am being a sensible Barbudan to know that if you are doing any serious investment with that magnitude of land you must know who the people are,” he said. “Are they reputable? Do they have the financing they are talking about? So that you don’t make people believe they will get something soon and then nothing happens.”
He cautioned the council against rushing through a project of this magnitude, involving more than a thousand acres of land, without first telling Barbudans how the landscape would be changed.
Efforts to reach Chairman of the Barbuda Council Kelvin Punter, who has been a proponent of the project, have been unsuccessful.
He has been quoted in this newspaper as saying it has the potential to turn around the economic fortune of the cash-strapped island.