Governor: Concerns “Not Clear, Urgent Enough”

July 10, 2014

Governor George Fergusson responded to the Motion passed by the House of Assembly on 4 July which proposed he appoint a Commission of Inquiry into certain historic land transactions, saying the debate “raised serious concerns” but “they are not clear enough or urgent enough to justify a Commission of the type proposed.”

Opposition MP Walton Brown brought the Motion which read, ““That this Honourable House take note of the historic losses in Bermuda of citizens’ property through theft of property, dis-possession of property and adverse possession claims; and be it resolved that this Honourable House calls on His Excellency the Governor to establish a Commission of Inquiry into all such known claims and to determine, where possible, the viability of any such claims and make recommendations for any victims of wrongful action to receive compensation and justice.”

In a letter to the Speaker of the House Randy Horton, the Governor said, “The debate has raised serious concerns, of public interest. Some may well be worth further examination. But they are not clear or urgent enough to justify a Commission of the kind proposed.

“I would be open to consider this again, however, if the House gave me clearer references to the kinds of alleged abuses concerned and a clearer mandate for me to incur expenses from the Consolidated Fund.”

The Governor has authority to establish inquiries under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1935, which also sets out the funding arrangements for the Commissioner. The last inquiry under the Act was in 1992.

The Governor’s letter to the Speaker follows below:

You have kindly brought to my attention a Motion approved by the House of Assembly on 4 July asking me to establish a Commission of Inquiry into alleged claims of “historic losses in Bermuda of citizens’ property through theft of property, dispossession of property and adverse possession claims”; and “to determine, where possible, the viability of any such claims and make recommendations for any victims of wrongful action to receive compensation and justice.

I have considered this carefully.

Under the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1935, the Governor “may, whenever he considers it advisable, issue a commission appointing one or more commissioners and authorising them, or any quorum of them therein mentioned, to inquire into the conduct of any civil servant, the conduct or management of any department of the public service or into any matter in which an inquiry would in the opinion of the Governor be for the public welfare”.

The decision to appoint a Commission therefore falls to the Governor. In deciding whether or not to appoint a Commission, a recommendation from the House of Assembly carries considerable weight and I have taken this into account carefully. The Act specifies that the fees of a Commissioner will be paid in accordance with the Government Authorities (Fees) Act 1971, which would therefore come from the Consolidated Fund.

In considering this Motion, I have taken into account the debate in the House of Assembly and had discussions with supporters and opponents of the Motion and others and am grateful to them. It has become clear that there are three main strands of concern reflected in the House’s Motion:

  • consequences of the purchase, including compulsory purchase, in the early 1920s of land in the Tucker’s Town area;
  • consequences of the purchase, including compulsory purchase, of land in the early 1940s for the purpose of the construction of United States air and naval bases particularly in the area of Longbird, St David’s and Cooper’s Islands and Morgan’s and Tucker’s Islands; and
  • consequences of a series of land transactions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in which concerns were expressed in the House about possible injustices arising from systematic collusive behaviour between lawyers, bankers and estate agents.

I have looked at each of the three categories of cases.

The purchase by compulsory purchase of the land in Tucker’s Town was subject to requirements in the Bermuda Development Company (No 2) Act 1920, that subsequent sales of the land by the Bermuda Development Company of more than 100 acres should be subject to further approval by the Legislature, as should sales to companies not incorporated in Bermuda.

There does not appear to have been any legislative requirement made in respect of “first refusal” offers to former landowners, though the 1954 letter by the then Colonial Secretary cited in the debate clearly suggests that he, at least, regarded this as good practice. The subsequent sales appear to have complied with these requirements.

The Ombudsman’s recent report, ‘A Grave Error’, indicated that one resident was subjected to an involuntary eviction. Other purchases were made under the compulsory purchase arrangements set out in the Act, which contained numerous appeal arrangements.

The compulsory purchases and other compulsory land transfers related to US naval and aviation requirements during the Second World War clearly disrupted communities and the Bermuda natural landscape. Compensation arrangements were made.

Both of the major historic compulsory purchases which were highlighted in the debate – the purchases in Tucker’s Town in the 1920s and the purchases for military purposes during the Second World War – appear to have been completed broadly in accordance with the normal principles of compulsory purchase for public objectives, with measures in place to help ensure fair prices. In neither of these cases do I consider that there is a specific enough case that injustices were done that would merit the establishment of a Commission now.

The debate in the House showed that there is a broad concern about allegations of a pattern of cases in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in which some landholders lost land, or part of the value of their land, through abuses by members of professions individually or in collusion with each other.

I have not seen suggestions that such abuses involved civil servants or the conduct or management of a department of the public service in a way which would justify inquiry by a Commission under those criteria.

I would need to be satisfied that abuses by non-official agents were 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. I would need also to be clear, under the 1935 Act, that such an Inquiry “would serve the public welfare”.

This overlaps with the suggestion in the Motion itself that, if possible, remedies should be proposed if relevant abuses were found.

I have concluded that these concerns are neither so clear nor so urgent as to justify my taking the still unusual step of commissioning an inquiry under the 1935 Act. I am also conscious that such an inquiry would incur expenditure under the 1935 Act, which does not appear to have been the settled wish of the House, from either side of the debate.

I note suggestions in the course of the House’s debate that, instead of using the 1935 Act, an inquiry might be established with funding arrangements other than those provided for in the Act proposed in the Motion. This may be possible, but would go both beyond the terms of the House’s Motion and my own powers.

Whatever alternative mechanism for an inquiry might otherwise be looked at, it may be useful to set out for the record that 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.

Bermuda is proud of its high degree of autonomy as a British Overseas Territory. It is a long time since Bermuda’s commercial and private land law has been supervised from the United Kingdom and this does not seem to me a compelling issue on which to reverse that.

The debate has raised serious concerns, of public interest. Some may well be worth further examination. But they are not clear or urgent enough to justify a Commission of the kind proposed.

I would be open to consider this again, however, if the House gave me clearer references to the kinds of alleged abuses concerned and a clearer mandate for me to incur expenses from the Consolidated Fund.

I am copying this letter to the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Walton Brown JP, MP who brought the motion before the House.”

Share via email

Read More About

Category: All, News, Politics

Comments (53)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Chartery says:

    I think this is an appropriate response.

  2. The compulsory purchases and other compulsory land transfers related to US naval and aviation requirements during the Second World War clearly disrupted communities and the Bermuda natural landscape. Compensation arrangements were made.

    Both of the major historic compulsory purchases which were highlighted in the debate – the purchases in Tucker’s Town in the 1920s and the purchases for military purposes during the Second World War – appear to have been completed broadly in accordance with the normal principles of compulsory purchase for public objectives, with measures in place to help ensure fair prices. In neither of these cases do I consider that there is a specific enough case that injustices were done that would merit the establishment of a Commission now.

    The debate in the House showed that there is a broad concern about allegations of a pattern of cases in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in which some landholders lost land, or part of the value of their land, through abuses by members of professions individually or in collusion with each other.

    I have not seen suggestions that such abuses involved civil servants or the conduct or management of a department of the public service in a way which would justify inquiry by a Commission under those criteria.

    I would need to be satisfied that abuses by non-official agents were 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. I would need also to be clear, under the 1935 Act, that such an Inquiry “would serve the public welfare”.
    What has been written above answers all pertinent question related to lands that have been purchased by either the U.S.A. Govnt. or British Govnt and even our own,(at the time)Bermuda Govnt. all contrary to what many believe to have happened:-( Yes, they may have been underpaid but according to the information provided the were not stolen…

  3. Kangoocar says:

    Thank you Gov Furgusson!!! You have shown you are reasonable and fair Governor!!! Reacting without thought to the daily nonsense of the plp is silly and wasteful at best!!! Wasting more funds from our bank accounts because the plp thinks we should is just plain stupid!! The money that would be wasted on this because as we all know we will have all sorts of people looking for something big $$$ wise, that they simply have no legitimate claim to along with no real legal papers to prove either!!! This will only cause a huge waste of time and money that we don’t already have THANKS TO THE plp !!! They spent 14 yrs destroying any hope that most Bermudians had for getting ahead in life by simply chasing any and all IB sector workers out of here and along with it the money they injected into a our economy, and when they were done with that, they squandering all the government funds that were left!!!! We have much more serious problems to deal with but, daily we are still being hindered by the silly rhetoric of the plp??? Hopefully now the Senate will do the correct thing and reject this paper of NONSENSE!!!!!

    • Biko says:

      That’s a no brainer, his allegiance is to de same Colonist, Oligarchy, White Supreme System that stole de land, not only in Bermuda but around de WORLD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Hmmm says:

        Then you didn’t read the letter properly BIKO.

        SMDH

    • frank says:

      kangoocar as usual you talk trash for once just look listen an learn

  4. Family Man says:

    Does this mean no investigation of the forced sale of the Bermuda Cement Company?

    • Kangoocar says:

      @family man, that is a brilliant question??? Funny how it is always ok, as long as the plp is doing it????

    • Marge says:

      How come we do not hear from the PLP die hearts about what happened to Jim Butterfield

      • Biko says:

        One White guy is treated unjust compared to Generations for Centuries treated unjust!!!!!!!!! PRICELESS

        • Hmmm says:

          So you think it was OK and fair to do that to him.

          SICKO BIKO

        • Farmer Giles says:

          you really are a fool.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Don’t forget the use of BHC for MP property purchasing and selling, White’s Island, Front Street.

      On a more serious note, the Tucker’s Town incident is well enough versed in our history that we know what happened, and don’t need an inquiry into; the US bases was part of a major war effort, whom far more gave much more so that we could all gripe about past injustices today. The 1950′ – 60′s incidents do deserve more attention, but is an inquiry at this time going to produce anything? Maybe if more evidence could be brought to light.

    • Time Shall Tell says:

      not clear enough or urgent enough

  5. Chris Famous says:

    Any shock in this?

    • Ringmaster says:

      No, and if you read the Governor’s well researched and backed up reasons you will see why.

    • 32n64w says:

      No. A well researched comprehensive reply with useful suggestions. One might understand why this may seem a foreign concept to those who misrepresent and twist facts to suit their political bias.

    • Put pupils first says:

      I for one am not shocked that the PLP put forward a poorly worded incomplete motion giving cause for the Governor to decline it.

    • Creamy says:

      Says Chris Famous, who doesn’t believe we should enforce the Human Rights Act.

  6. Ringmaster says:

    Time to move on to what is pressing in Bermuda today. Jobs, cutting the cost of the Civil Service and Debt. Unless and until these are controlled and seriously in the minds of the 36 MPs, Bermuda has little to look forward to.

    • Sara says:

      You said it to perfection, the truth is they are bickering so they don’t have to fix things. More of the same from both sides IMO.

  7. Toodle-oo says:

    So , will this finally silence all those people who keep harping on about Tucker’s Town while failing to say diddly squat about all the people (many , many more) who got the exact same treatment in the military lands acquisitions ?

    It seems I was spot on with my remarks on the other thread referencing HE and the MOC membership .

    Still , there is no doubt that many have been conned out of their homes and lands by unscrupulous real estate agents , lawyers and banks but that is NOTHING to do with and a completely separate issue from T/T

  8. Independent Thinker says:

    It is time we explore independence. Why is it that we still live in a colonial mind set? It is sad that injustice took place in the past and today we can’t even explore such injustice because someone is who not from here doesn’t think it is in our interests.

    • Biko says:

      Because we WERE a bunch of emasculated sub servants who WERE intimidated by White Supremacy but I think de MASSES are waking up now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • TFM says:

        Your a hateful lil guy aren’t ya??

      • Hmmm says:

        Masses woke up to the absolute shambles the PLP left this country in one day at a time. Now the extremist right wing Fascist PLP supporters are trying to breed hate.

    • Hmmm says:

      Bermuda says NO to independence. There are no benefits, just drawbacks.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Yes, because we all want to risk having the PLP back in power with no oversight.

    • Put pupils first says:

      “Whatever alternative mechanism for an inquiry might otherwise be looked at, it may be useful to set out for the record that 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.”

      He’s not saying it cannot be explored. He is saying that the UK will not be footing the bill.
      Maybe, if the motion were more comprehensive there might have been progress on this issue that is important for so many people.

  9. non political says:

    Sad day. He’s wrong and goes on holiday

  10. lucky 7 says:

    There it is, ‘oh ignorant ones’
    Laid out on the table! Now what do you have to say??

    And the you Gov. Ferguson!!

  11. Unbelievable says:

    Well the Guv does say he’s willing to look at it again if a more compelling argument is made.

  12. Alvin Williams says:

    The governor is only protecting the interests of his political class; but I am not surprise the British fought tooth and nail not to pay compensation to the Kenyan people when the British committed war crimes against the liberation struggle for independence led by the freedom fighters; Mau Mau in a failed attempt to prevent independence for Kenya.
    It took years for the survivors to win compensation from the British in the court for acts of torture committed by British troops in their efforts to put down the MAU MAU liberation struggle. The British had intern thousands of Kenyans in interment camps where these human rights crimes took place. But we the people of Bermuda don’t need the permission of the governor; we can convene a people’s enquiry to look in the issue of land seizures and annexation.

    • Biko says:

      So I guess RETRIBUTION is out of de question !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Europeans have a colorful History that they always shy from.

    • cromwell says:

      Are you making a comparison between Bermudians and the Mau Mau?

      Do you seriously entertain the killing of people to get your own way because of a possible injustice to how many people that were living on land (some without title to general land given to free slaves)

      I personalty know some of those families displaced and some told me they got very wealthy because of the transfers; others not so rich, some took money and land in the central parishes others couldn’t provide documents and still look for proper titles.

      Bermuda is not Africa and Bermuda History is not African history.

      The Governor may have more serious issues to deal with if the polarizing spirits who want violence on the island are continually aroused.

      Invoking the MAU MAU spirits does not help the situation.

    • Steve Davis says:

      Alvin: Bermuda is not Kenya, what you have stated above has no relevance to this conversation. We are talking about a land agreement that took place nearly 100 years ago and was engaged by private entities.

      British forces did not invade, torture or imprison people in camps when this took place.

      This is the kind of deluded thinking that we really don’t need in Bermuda. Because something happened in Africa long ago does not mean it happened in Bermuda, although I am sure you wish
      you did so that you can justify your rationale.

  13. Seriously?
    You people have your heads on backwards!

    I am PLP – but it aint no way we as a common sense nation are footing the bill so someone almost a century later can “claim” damages and then have us expected to pay them compensation – get a set and go make your own money – its called hard work people!

    I am black but I am not stupid nor do I expect compensation for my family’s “loss” – we lived on and owned a large parcel of land in the East End Tucker’s Town entrance area in the 1930′s and then we were given fair value for it and did the honorable thing to support the War and the people of Bermuda at the same time be selling some of our Land.

    My grandfather then split the rest of his land amongst his 7 children – my father being one of them who decreed it to me and I sold it recently for a sizeable amount of money.

    That was my Family’s choice to sell their land and we benefited from the sale as it let my grandfather start his own business in which i am proud to still work at and grow today! The sale i just made helps me to employ 100 bermudians! There is no way he would have been able to do that without the “war money” and the inheritance I was given.

    My momma told me stories about what happended to our Family lands and how it helped us as a Family to be where we are today. I hold no anger or claims against this government or my fellow bermudians – it was the hand we were dealt and we played it best for us!

    Now can someone who was not living in those times look at Tuckers Point now and make the jump to “that was all mine” and “whitey stole my land” when it was never yours – you were not even a sperm in the womb!

    You are 100% ignorant if you think for one moment that we are going to have an appetite for lazy, “I was done wrong” claims when the people making the claims were not even alive at the time!

    So get a grip PLP – you just lost my vote bringing this kind of crap up and enciting those who have NO LEGITIMATE CLAIMS other than being black, and part of a family tree that lived in a geographic area of Bermuda thinking they are owed something by MY generation!

    Our grandparents made their decisions and we need to respect those decisions and move on! it was another time and this OUR time!

    Time to kick all you young, ignorant PLP political spinners to the curb – you are “professional enciters” and not doers!

    I want my Freddie Wade and Dame Lois quality PLP politicans back – I want my old PLP back!!

    I am PLP through and through but I so very disappointed in you “young PLP” – you need to have you butts whipped silly for bringing this up – you insult me, my Family and the memory of my grandfather – a fine man who did his level best to put us before his needs – just as I do for my kids today and for the people my Family business employs today!

    Shame on you all!

    • GLOBAL says:

      [I am black but I am not stupid nor do I expect compensation for my family's "loss"]

      In your above statement, no need to say “I am black…BUT…I am not stupid nor do I…”

      Being black does not imply that you are stupid. That says alot about what you have been conditioned think of yourself and your race…why must one first disassociate themselves from a group in order to appear better?

  14. Sherlock says:

    I wanna meet Bill Stephens. Let’s do lunch…..

  15. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    @Toodle-oo…

    No, not silent, pensive, reflective, consulting, strategising and keenly observing.

    Although I disagree with the opinion of the Governor on this matter, essentially when it comes to Tucker’s Town, I would never have the presumption ask ask him, “So what were you smoking, Gov, when you came to this decision?”

    Does my point resounant with YOU Toodle-oo?

    RESPECT, even as I disagree with the Governor’s decision. Blacks did not get it in the 1920s and you have transparently demonstrated that we do not get it now.

    London, England

  16. Kangoocar says:

    Thank you Bill, for saying it all so well!!! Now if only the plper’s will listen to you???

  17. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    @Bill Stephen…

    Quite an emtotive piece in understanding how land was passed on to you in your family through your bloodline, BUT with all due respect, it has virtually nothing to do with the issues of Tucker’s Town.

    With all due respect, you cannot possible put yourself in the shoes of others whose families have suffered injustices. Your mother is not their mother, and the stories told to you by your mother may not be the stories told to them by their mothers. Do not assume that your story sanitises the issue.

    There are those who are not seeking any self-interested claims to “damages,” but rather to have the land reclaimed and made into a national park that restores the quiet dignity and honour of the graves and allows public enjoyment of the land in honour of those who were forced to sell it.

    Not even if Tiger Woods were granted ‘honourary membership’ and played on that golf course would it be tantamount to the quiet dignity that must be left intact for the graveyard and its surrounding land.

    London, England

  18. Oh good…then I have to speak to you…my grandfather passed not too long ago and he left me a trust and land….I was actually forced to sign paper…..I would have the people involve in prison!1995.

  19. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    @Bill Stephen…

    Quite an emotive piece in understanding how land was passed on to you in your family through your bloodline. BUT, with all due respect, it has virtually nothing to do with the issues of Tucker’s Town.

    With all due respect, you cannot possible put yourself in the shoes of others whose families have suffered injustices. Your mother is not their mother, and the stories told to you by your mother may not be the stories told to them by their mothers. Do not assume that your story sanitises the issue.

    There are those who are not seeking any self-interested claims to “damages,” but rather to have the land reclaimed and made into a national park that restores the quiet dignity and honour of the graves and allows public enjoyment of the land in honour of those who were forced to sell it.

    Not even if Tiger Woods were granted ‘honourary membership’ and played on that golf course would it be tantamount to the quiet dignity that must be left intact for the graveyard and its surrounding land.

    London, England

  20. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    @Toodle-oo…

    No, not silent, but rather pensive, reflective, consulting, strategising and keenly observing.

    Although I disagree with the opinion of the Governor on this matter, essentially when it comes to Tucker’s Town, I would never have the presumption ask him, “So what were you smoking, Gov, when you came to this decision?”

    Does my point resonate with YOU Toodle-oo? RESPECT – even as I disagree with the Governor’s decision.

    Blacks did not get it in the 1920s and you have transparently demonstrated that we do not get it now.

    London, England

  21. Alvin Williams says:

    I am making a comparison between the decision of this British governor and the long fight Kenyans made who were victims of British atrocities committed during the Kenyan war of independence led by the liberation movement the MAU MAU; where the justification of not convening a commission of enquiry to examine the seizure and annexation of land in Bermuda; is the same justification the British government used in it’s attempt not to recognize the justice of the claim on the part of Kenyan citizens for recompense. I did not say that the British invaded Tucker’s Town or the community of St.David’s and subject the people of those two communities to the same atrocities as was visited upon the people of Kenya;I merely point out that the mindset of this British governor and the British government are one of the same.