By Christopher Famous
"Our land is everything to us... I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember that our grandfathers paid for it -- with their lives."
Cheyenne Indian saying
On July 4, 2014, a motion was passed in the House of Assembly of Bermuda requesting a commission of inquiry on “theft of property, dispossession of property and adverse possession claims” and “to recommendations for any victims of wrongful action to receive compensation and justice.”
The Commissions of Inquiry Act 1935 allows the governor to approve a commission of inquiry, “into any matter in which an inquiry would in the opinion of the Governor be for the public welfare.”
While the motion was passed with unanimous, bi-partisan support of our democratically-elected political representatives, it, like every bill passed in the House and the Senate, does not become law without the governor’s approval.
Christopher Famous is a Caribbean real estate developer and business owner. Raised in various Caribbean islands such as; Bermuda, Jamaica, St Eustatius and St Kitts and Tortola. He has a weekly social and political column in The Bermuda Sun. Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor George Fergusson ruled that:
1. The compulsory Tucker’s Town, US naval and aviation land purchase were “completed broadly in accordance with the normal principles of compulsory purchase for public objectives, with measures in place to help ensure fair prices.”
He drew this conclusion despite MP Craig Cannonier stating during the debate: “Many of those families were fishing families living on the waterside … they were moved inland. So if anyone thinks that the value of the property where they were before is equivalent to the inland property that they are on, they are fooling themselves.”
2. With regard to the allegations of corruption of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the stated: “I would need to be satisfied that abuses by non-official agents were governor pervasive, systematic and on a scale to cause significant injustice to make them the subject of a commission of inquiry so long after the alleged events.”
He drew this conclusion despite MP Bob Richards stating: “It is more than an urban legend about people losing their homes to unscrupulous real estate people, unscrupulous bankers, and unscrupulous lawyers… I know about that many of these things happened.”
He drew this conclusion despite MP Gordon-Pamplin stating: “Everyone knows someone who has been dispossessed in some way shape or form.”
Governor: “I see no case for asking Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to consider funding an investigation into allegations of commercial transactions not involving the Crown, if such funding is not forthcoming from Bermuda.”
MP Bob Richards: “…we have great sympathy but we can’t commit or potentially commit the Treasury”.
Ironic, considering that with emancipation in 1834, the Crown paid £50,409 or about two billion in today’s value, to slave owners for compensation of freeing 4,026 Bermudian slaves.
The OBA gave significant concessions to rich business owners including over $31 million in tax concessions to two hoteliers. The PLP insisted that these concessions should be dependent on the hoteliers creating jobs for Bermudians.
Yet the Governor signed.
The OBA has committed $90 million to the Bermuda Tourism Authority despite PLP demanding more government oversight and that funding should be linked to clearly defined results.
Yet the Governor signed.
The OBA re-wrote legislation to give them the right to rescind the Waterfront lease and, as a result, put taxpayers on the hook for an estimated $159 million. The PLP warned OBA that passing this legislation would not only put the government at risk for a claim for damages but it also would pose a reputational risk for the Island.
Yet the Governor signed.
All legislation passed by the OBA has had the approval of the governor. However, the governor refuses to sign a motion to address the injustices inflicted on our forefathers; a motion that had the full, bi-partisan support in the House of Assembly.
This is fundamentally about the protection of our democracy and justice.
This issue highlights the racial and social divisions that still permeate the island of Bermuda. We have mostly black Bermudians relegated to having their land stolen by primarily white Bermudians and non-Bermudians over the course of the last 100 years.
Now, when Bermudians are standing up for what is rightfully theirs, we see many in the white community telling them to move on with life and not to make this an issue. This is now reinforced by the OBA and the governor who operates on behalf of the British Empire.
The same British Empire that went around the world killing millions of native persons from continent to continent Africa, Americas, Asia and Australia. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the governor will not defend the rights of black Bermudians.
The British Empire was built on global racism and slavery against persons of colour. In 2014 they remain our colonial overlords.
“White man speaks with forked tongue”