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New EEZ could fund heritage trust for families who lost land – Commission

David Burt, the Premier, with members of the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses, from left, Mr Burt, Norma Wade-Miller, Wayne Perinchief.Back, from left: Maxine Binns, Jonathan Starling, Frederica Forth, Lynda Milligan-Whyte. Not pictured: Mr. Quinton Stovell (File photograph)

A heritage trust for the families of people dispossessed of property in Tucker’s Town and St David’s could be funded by the creation a new economic empowerment zone, commissioners suggested.

The scheme’s recommended aims would include the “historical restoration, interpretation and preservation” of land.

A report from the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses said: “The COI recommends that Government establishes a heritage trust specifically for descendants of those Tucker’s Town and St David’s Island residents who were unfairly compensated and/or dispossessed of their lands, the funding for the purposes of the trust to be paid out of monies appropriated for those purposes by the Legislature.

It added: “Alternatively, funding of such trust could be done, perhaps in partnership with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, by the creation of another economic empowerment zone using dispossessed land already under the trusteeship of the Bermuda Land Development Company Limited.”

The report said that the trust would be used for “historical restoration, interpretation and preservation of dispossessed land not in the ownership of bona fide purchasers of such land”.

It would also cover “social development to benefit former residents of dispossessed land and their descendants”.

The commission recommended that the trust would be used for the development of infrastructure that specifically benefited former residents of the land and their descendants.

Its report, published last week, said that to “achieve and sustain” the proposal, there would need to be a provision for certain exemptions and fiscal incentives to be granted to people carrying out business in the designated economic empowerment zones.

The renovation and restoration of property and structures would need to be carried out, the report recommended, and corporate social responsibility should be encouraged.

A foreword to the report explained that Tucker’s Town and St David’s represented “the two particular expropriations with which Bermudians are most familiar”.

It said: “These two historically documented occasions involved forcing entire local communities to relocate from land belonging to them so that their property could be repurposed by others.

“The first occasion occurred over a century ago in 1920 when Bermuda witnessed the transformation of the Tucker’s Town community, located in Hamilton and St George’s parishes, ostensibly for tourism purposes.

“Although legislation was created to legitimise the removal of the residents from their land and although the relocation did in fact take place, the result had devastating consequences.

“The residents, who were not only forced to give up their land, homesteads and institutions but also their agricultural way of life, their livelihoods, communities and even sacred places of rest, were forced to endure considerable financial and emotional costs.

“Many descendants of those directly affected by this dispossession still share family stories reflecting the anguish born from this upheaval.

“They note that, in the main, the loss of property seemed to have occurred without adequate compensation or remedy.”

The report added: “The second occasion occurred in the 1940s and concerned the relocation of residents of St David’s Island, an event which bears hallmarks consistent with the community upheaval theme which occurred in Tucker’s Town two decades earlier.

“Although other locations were suggested, the powers that be of the day determined that St David’s Island was the ideal location for a United States military base which would help protect the world from the scourge of Hitler and Nazi Germany.

“It appeared that creating a military base in any of the other suggested locations in Bermuda would adversely affect tourism.

“Thus, homesteads belonging to residents of St David’s Island were razed both to create a United States military base and to protect the tourism industry.”

A Government spokeswoman said last night the report ran to hundreds of pages plus appendices.

She added: “The report and the recommendations will be fully considered.

“As the Premier indicated in the House of Assembly on Friday, the report will be the subject of a full debate in the Legislature in February.”

* To read the commission’s report in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published December 14, 2021 at 7:53 am (Updated December 14, 2021 at 7:53 am)

New EEZ could fund heritage trust for families who lost land – Commission

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