“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 4th, 2014, a motion was passed in the House of Assembly of Bermuda requesting a Commission of Inquiry into “theft of property, dispossession of property and adverse possession claims” and “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 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.  

Governor George Fergusson ruled that:-the compulsory Tucker’s Town, US naval and aviation land purchases were “completed broadly in accordances with the normal principles of compulsory purchase for public objectives, with measures in place to help ensure fair prices (my emphasis)”.

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.”

With regard to the allegations of corruption of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the Governor stated: “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.”

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.”  

The 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 2 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 $31m 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 $90m 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 bi-partisan support in the House of Assembly.

This is fundamentally about the protection of our democracy and justice. 

“Big chief speaks with forked tongue”Iroquois proverb