Historic land records must be released

| 25/09/2020 | 95 Comments
Grand Cayman in the 1970s (Photo courtesy of Ernest Moody)

(CNS): The Lands and Survey department has been ordered to release records showing how one decision was made during the Cayman Islands’ cadastral survey in the 1970s over land ownership. In what could turn out to be an important case for local families who believe land was wrongly taken from them, the Office of the Ombudsman rejected all of the claims by officials to prevent the release of these original documents.

The time for anyone to challenge the land claims and final adjudication made regarding ownership, which led to the creation of the current land register, has long since passed. But this decision will offer some insight for this applicant and other families who want to know how and why land was lost and perhaps raise the issue for public debate.

The ombudsman’s office said that documents that relate to the original claims when the Land Register was first created have traditionally not been made available.

In defense of its refusal of an freedom of information request, Lands and Survey had argued that the release of such information would “undermine the entire system of land registration”, prejudicing the effective conduct of public affairs and lead to the unreasonable disclosure of personal information.

But Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston dismissed all the arguments put forward by L&S because it had failed to justify them. The department provided no convincing evidence that making the records public would lead to a collapse of the land registration system.

Deputy Ombudsman Jan Liebaers, who deals directly with FOI, explained, “The very essence of Cayman’s FOI Law is the assumption that a government record is a public record unless there is a valid reason to legally withhold it. We could find no such reason in this case.”

In the decision the ombudsman noted how the Lands and Survey department remains concerned that showing these historical records could shake the “certainty to absolute ownership of property promulgated under section 23 of the Registered Land Law”.

Although the freedom of information law is very clear that public authorities cannot refuse an applicant on the basis of what they might do with the information, L&S was nevertheless preoccupied in its arguments about this issue.

The applicant was clear that he believed that the records will show that land was wrongly take from his great-grandfather. However, the door closed on legal challenges decades ago, so whatever the applicant learns will not change the ownership of the land today but will clearly offer answers. The office stated that the release of the records would reinforce government’s accountability, public participation and transparency.

But L&S still asserted that the disclosure would undermine the full “indefeasible and valid ownership” because the applicant might call into question the original registration and challenge the ownership.

Hermiston said that regardless of the record’s current legal relevance, the use that the applicant may make of the claim file was not under consideration. “The question of what value the claim file might or might not have to a member of the public is not a relevant basis for restricting access,” she wrote in her final decision.

In this case the applicant believes that the land was misappropriated several decades ago, and “in that context wishes to find out about the circumstances that led to the various changes in ownership of particular parcels over time. The responsive record may help clarify that question,” Hermiston added.

CNS has spoken with the applicant in this case and is well aware of the long battle the family has had over land in East End. He told us that, like many families at the time, not all landowners were well educated or understood the law and what was happening. As a result they were vulnerable to those who were more able. He believes his family was essentially duped but that they were not the only ones.

While there is no judicial pathway at present to overturning any of the land registration rights made almost 50 years ago, it will allow families to learn what happened. And if the documents show evident injustices, this could at least open a public debate about whether or not the door to justice should remain closed.

See the full decision in the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (95)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Land owned only by Caymanians and leasehold only for any others, instituted by law 75 years ago would have resulted in Caymanians who were then “land rich and cash poor” to be in control of their own destinies today. Now only the super rich and super “connected” hold most of the land and that imbalance is tipping further day by day. People who were uneducated and simple would have been protected from the land pirates of today at least.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The problem here seems to be that people are confusing theft with business decisions that in retrospect seemed foolish. However, just because someone sold an acre of Seven Mile Beach for a pittance doesn’t mean that an injustice took place. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that this judgement is being made. There are lots of beaches in the world that are much cheaper (https://internationalliving.com/3-places-where-beach-property-is-cheap/).

    Only the cleverness of the Caymanian people in building a tourist industry and a financial services industry made the land valuable. There was no way to foresee that when the land was sold.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please leave Mr Jim Bodden out of this and let his “Soul rest in peace”….. Mr Jim was a good man who helped a lot of Caymanians

    He loved his people and was a very good leader

  4. Anonymous says:

    Much like the dormant accounts, if you don’t go pee on it every couple of years, they just take it from you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting how the story changes over the years.

      I am not denying that some people may have had land stolen from them but there are cases where people were land-rich but money poor.

      They AGREED to sell land for a lot less than it was worth simply because they needed the money.

      Years later they are in a better position and they have “sellers remorse”then either they themselves or their descendants accuse the buyer of being a thief or claim they were deceived into the transaction.

      For the sake of transparency release the records so that it can be seen what took place but don’t accuse someone of stealing land because they got the best end of the bargain.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What should really be of concern is the fact that most caymanian families lack the vision, education and capacity to convert these land assets into real wealth. Only a talking point, to brag about the hundreds of acres one may own but cannot do anything with. I think the Cayman Islands is the only place you will hear the statement, money poor but land rich. The expatriates that we would usually sell the land to seemed to have figured it out….

    • Anonymous says:

      No, not the only place. Farmers around the globe live that reality.

    • Anonymous says:

      10:35….I beg to differ. There are families in that position all over the world. Not just in Cayman. I’ve been to many countries and the simple farmers living in practically a little cabins and family homes sitting on thousands/tens of thousands of acres! You have to understand that some people just want a simple life and have no need for glamour. I’m sure that the majority of those people are quite aware of the value of their properties.

  6. Anon. says:

    Always thought it was a disgrace to law these records were sealed. If everything was legitimate why seal the records?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because for some people still in power this will shed some light on how they got there. They don’t want that and they obviously still have enough power to make sure you can’t ever find out. In other words you still lack the vision, education and capacity to stop them from stealing from you.

  7. Still trying. says:

    Question for the Ombudsman.
    Does the same confidentiality apply to the Archive as well.

  8. Gray Matter says:

    CNS How do I get in contact with the ombudsman as I had the same done to me last year, my land transferred from me to another person by Govt.

    More information about the office and how to get in touch is all on its website here.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Guess what folks NOT ONE OF YOU CAN CARRY IT WITH YOU WHEN YOU DIE so finding out now that a grape tree was moved or a fence post was slipped two feet back wont give you a bigger grave the rich or poor will all have the same size grave 6×6 lets try to make peace not war

    • Burnt out says:

      My last will & testament shall see me burnt to ashes and after the cooling, do with them as whomever sweeps them up. Amen.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are an idiot! Families had acres stolen from them. Many of those families are poor and struggling today with nothing to pass on to their children to help that generation rise up. Your statement is so rank with privilege it’s sad.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are prob the first one with something to hide lol!!

    • Anonymous says:

      how can you compare acres upon acre of land to slipping a fence post two feet back? sound like you may have benefitted from some of the shenanigans!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    when I read this article Immediately it came to mind how a powerful family in east end went from 40 acres to 800 acres because of what the surveyor did for them It was the matriarch of this family that told me the story ..and in his mind it didn’t mean anything to him currently because the kids would get it and its just brush to him ….. as i continued reading the article it went on to mention e end … I bet its the same family that this article is about.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Moving the fence polls a few meters left… Sigh

  12. Anonymous says:

    Close this foolishness down the past is the past Cayman need to thankful for our foresight to bring us out of this backwater hell. So a few people lost their land these viper and pirate like ungrateful and greedy grandchildren would have done even worst. Digging up the past ain’t going to do $#!@ Sit down and be thankful Caymanians

    • Anonymous says:

      If we don’t acknowledge, accept and learn from our past – we are complicit with its faults. While the results we may not be able to correct, we should learn from them.

      Oh, learn how to write – your post is a poor reflection on our education/lack of.

      (Hmnnn, Maybe your family benefitted from the aforementioned land record transfers????????)

      • Burnt out says:

        👍🏽 Very true.

        “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

        “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” — Georg Hegel

    • C'Mon Now! says:

      Written like someone whose family “gained” some land and doesn’t want it to be public record.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ 2:35

      I am just curious. You sound angry. Are you one of them who stole land as well and is now fearful of loosing it?

    • Anonymous says:

      We all expect a reply like this from one of the many who profited from this. You all still do not care about the welfare of anyone else as you steal anything you can from anyone you can. Thief, pirate, virus, parasite, Caymanian.

  13. James says:

    Fraud has no limitation pertaining to this kind of matters.

  14. Anonymous says:

    CNS – only semantics but the photo would be more like mid-1970s. The car pictured is a 1976 Ford LTD.

    • Anonymous says:

      But still a pretty cool picture. Been here 20 years so nice to see how Cayman looked 40+ years ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      Amazingly sad, how can there be 4 dislikes (at current time) for fact? The picture is proof of the comment above, and yet 4 idiots will dislike fact.

      Boy do we have an ignorant populace.

    • Gray Matter says:

      Photo reads from the 70’s, what’s wrong with that.

      • James says:

        Real Evidence is what persons like you dread. This proves that all who are handling stolen property WILL have to be remove, and if they can put their homes on their backs and leave. I would really love to see that.

  15. Ole Pirates Yes Dey Rob Us says:

    Well well well a certain XXXXX now retired is going to have to explain a lot of his land Con piracy deals or run and hide XXXX But we would still love to hear the intricate and juicy details of those involved anyway Mrs Hermiston careful careful my girl when you start searching for the devil he will find you for sure! Thank you so much for taking the time to try and attempt to detangle this terrible web of deceit of land ownership and exposing hopefully those who have continued to this spinning it.

    • Still hurting. says:

      So true.
      The reason for the Cadastral Law was to establish positive boundaries and ownership not otherwise.
      Deprived owners are entitled to the revenues obtained from the sale of their rightful property.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like someone who used to always dress in a certain color at the time. Time has a way of dealing with shenanigans.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Can I have all my land back? I used to call it “white sand beach” now it’s called “Seven Mile Beach”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can we have our land back?

      Yours respectfully, Jamaica.

      • Anonymous says:

        The cayman islands were never a dependency of jamaica, being administered by means of convenience through Jamaica for the UK. Jamaica was under the UK until independence in 1962. And recently trying to persuade the UK to reclaim them as a overseas territory which was denied. So how can you have back what you never owned ?

        • Anonymous says:

          The official word is ‘annexed’ to Jamaica for the purposes of administration only.

        • Anonymous says:

          Bobo, we have the largest population on island, we wipe your lazy fat asses and we raise your kids because you’re too idol.
          We service almost every industry in Cayman, and we build almost every building, fix every car, and heal more than any other nationality in healthcare.
          Yes, we own your ass and don’t ever forget it.
          Love mon, Jamaica.

          • Anonymous says:

            That makes you employees of Caymanians and if citizens from another country want to fill your spot then You will be replaced. Oh wait, that’s already happening. Lots of other nationalities are happy to do those jobs without the arrogance that you just gave.

      • Anonymous says:

        7.45 Unna always want was never yours.

  17. t says:

    Off topic but a great photo showing the golden days. Must have been a great place back in the day.

    • Anonymous says:

      Way better than the concrete paradise we got going on with the skyscraper dump.

    • Anonymous says:

      It was bloody amazing back in the 70s. Never experienced anything like it since.
      Waiting for one of Billy’s hamburgers on the Brac after a day at South Side.
      Staying all summer in a cottage close to 7-Mile Beach.
      Wasn’t perfect. I remember we came home one day after buying some books at Hobbies & Books. Mum had baked a cake and someone had broken in to the house and just clawed a piece of cake with bare hands.
      Mum wrote a nasty letter, pinned it to the fridge, cut around the paw print and we continued.
      Let’s not even talk about the breadfruit fights. I lost.
      Not to mention swimming up at the dock in the Creek.
      Fine, fine days.
      It’s a shame our kids don’t have the same majestically innocent times.

      • David Shibli says:

        Sorry. I forgot to add the legend of the lemon meringue pie. Alva (Billy) Bodden made the most amazing burgers that is true, but if my Dad wasn’t being a dick, he would let Mum buy a lemon meringue pie.
        So we were covered in salt and sand, going home after a fabulous day at the beach with a bag of delicious burgers and a fantastic pie. As we went around the corner before Stake Bay my brother was holding the pie and it leaped out of his hand as we navigated the corner. We managed to gingerly scrape it back into the aluminium tray before arriving home.
        Thank God.
        As my brother got out of the car, he accidentally dropped to pie. It was totally destroyed.
        Well that was it.
        We ate our hamburgers in silence that night, suitably chastised by the God of Lemon Meringue Pies who deemed us unworthy that night to partake of His lemony blessings.
        That was in the mid 70s. Will never forget it.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ms Lassie always maintained that land was stolen from her that had been given to her by her father. I was with her on the day that the grape trees beside her house were removed – without word or warning.

  19. anonymous says:

    There are other cases like this pending,with families fighting for 30+ years to have their lands returned to them, but have received no help or cooperation from the Government. Maybe now at last justice will be served and their rightful lands will be returned to the families. Justice is long overdue!

  20. Anonymous says:

    The Cadstral Survey is when all the shady business started. Much of the sensitive and now-valuable land ended up in the hands of the powerful and greedy, and has changed the shape of Cayman forever more.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Cayman secrets…

  22. anon says:

    A lot of locals acquired large tracts of land just because it bordered their property not because they had ever been in possession of it. It was a free for all of land grabbing to prevent title going to the Crown.

  23. Juniper says:

    Jim Bodden was the biggest land thief this country ever saw. Fitting that such a corrupt country has his statue in our capital.

    • Anonymous says:

      Only thing they forgot is to dress him up like the land pirate he was.

    • Anonymous says:

      And a lot of that went on long before Jim Bodden and some on the thieves were politicians as well. Speaks volumes about the Caymanian people doesn’t it.

      • not today bobo says:

        Research and then you will truly find out where they came from. check it out then post back please.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not today bobo… Curious that you don’t indicate any knowledge of information either!

          Please: “Check it out then post back please.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, it’s almost as bad as the empire that went around stealing entire continents.

        • Queen's Bottom, indeed! says:

          Something like 9 out of 10 was what the good, old Mother came into “possession” of.

      • Anonymous says:

        My grand father owned land on Little Cayman. It bordered by land of big shots and policition and my father just let them claim it without not much of a fight and never took it to court, shame. Shame

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly whose land did he steal? XXXX If you are going to make serious accusations like this, the least you should do is present the evidence.

      No one but cowards writes these things and don’t identify themselves?

      Shame on you!

      • Anonymous says:

        So, why not issue your name? You accuse others for posting anonymously but do the same.

        Such ignorance is appalling.

        Who’s the coward?

      • anon says:

        2.34am I believe he was in court for selling the same plots of land to different buyers and when he died owed money to almost every bank on the island.
        But we should not shame the memory of this man, he was for all his “achievements” named this country’s first National Hero!.

        • James says:

          So your telling me that the Cayman Islands really made “Criminal” a national hero? What am I say… look in the XXXX for the last forty years.

          • Bulldozer says:

            I don’t know about “criminal” but he sure did a number on Fort George.

            Would be good to still have something historic on the waterfront…

            …oh well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let’s tear down those statues.


      • Anonymous says:

        Right wing nutter. Don’t downplay social justice

        • Anonymous says:

          Left wing liberal fantasists, for social justice read:

          A bunch of communist, nihilistic anarchists who believe that they are the only ones that hold the truth.

          Black Lives Matter, apparently. But not seemingly to black people, who continue to murder each other around the world in far greater numbers than any white man or police officer ever has in known history.
          And even here in Cayman, stabbings, shootings and land grabs all go to prove how brotherly you all are in reality. Just read many of the posts on this article, because the vast majority are Caymanian and unabashed haters of their own.

      • Anonymous says:

        Bodden’s Lives Matter!

    • Anonymous says:

      Another Bodden Town realtor used to get property from simple people by giving them 500 pounds for it. A future politician did the same sort of thing. A lot of money for the seller but a pittance compared to the value of the land. Sadly, we have to accept that our land thieves were nearly all Caymanian.

  24. Anonymous says:

    So Caymanians conning their own then? No expats to blame here!

    • Anonymous says:

      That was before you all came. Keep out of it.

      • Anonymous says:

        What, don’t like to face the truth like an adult? Shame on you.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh, I see, ‘we’ didn’t originally populate these islands, these islands weren’t claimed and settled in the name of the British and they weren’t ever part of Jamaican territory.
        So nothing to see here then.

      • anon says:

        8.22pm Not so. A number of us arrived here in the sixties and are still here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it wrong i’d rather be conned by my own local people rather than some foreign expat?

  25. Natty Dread says:

    Kudos Mrs Hermiston for attempting right a terrible terrible wrong in these islands.These benefactors of this awful situation have plagued and corrupted even the historical facts and foundation of these islands. Well done Mrs Herminston well done !You have My full support in your efforts!Let chips fall where they may.

    • Anonymous says:

      She’ll soon be out of here, if her subservience continues. Just like Dan Dugay, these most honourable people are perceived to be gumming up the gears of the machinery of skullduggery here in this so called “world class”, squeaky clean territory.

  26. Logan Born Caymanian says:

    Yeah now the land theft business going to get exposed by our so called land HOGS aka barons going to have some serious issues yah now! It Will also expose Mckeeva’s little slick move calling for land claims to be settle once and for all back in late nineties was nothing more than a deliberate scam and ploy to disenfranchise legitimate claims and claimants!and to legitimize this theft so they could sell to their main land baron and investors Kudos Mrs Hermiston this is why you were brought here to try right these terrible wrongs by some of these so called vestrymen and their cohorts and heirs who have been the benefactors of some terrible land theft shit. What a Bitchlick can you imagine if these new owners had to compensate or hand back land or Money to the legitimate heirs. Realestate realtors would have a proverbial Loosing of their bowls or straight up Stroke!

  27. Anonymous says:

    About time! Thank you Ms. Hermiston. Past governments made a lot of land grabs back them and all governments since the cadastral survey have been refusing to return the wrongful grabs to the rightful owners. I have been trying to get my family’s property, consisting of hundreds of acres to no avail. They don’t even reply to my letters and emails.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I mean, the applicant seems to agree that the time for petitions are gone. They simply want to see what happened at that time. The refusal from the L&S department seems extremely fishy here. I wonder if its because it confirms the applicant’s suspicions or if the records are lost?

    I don’t think that most people in L&S could be held responsible by society for a decision they did not partake in (unless they were actually involved in that decision for sinister reasons).

    Its time like these I’m happy we are pressuring government to show these things because we need to make sure the processes they have set up are being followed. If information records are to be recorded, kept and produced, we need to make sure its recorded, kept and produced.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cool. Can we see the records explaining why certain people got cabinet status grants? Perhaps it can be compared to real estate company client lists, and land registry details?

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m more concerned about the Caymanians who continually sell out to the same group of people who once told me,

    “Oh, your ancestors moved here 10 generations ago? Well, I moved here 10 months ago with my family too kiddo, scoot over.”

    • john says:

      Are you saying that Caymanians should be banned from selling to people who aren’t 10th generation Caymanians?
      Or are you just jealous you don’t have any land to sell?

      • Anonymous says:

        How about we split the difference and you are allowed to sell to 5th generation Caymanians?

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