A formal resolution is awaited in what has become an increasingly acrimonious dispute between local fishermen and the owner of the sea-front site known as Red Spot which over the years has evolved into a location of cultural value.
What started out as a small localised dispute over fish vendors using the site to ply their trade now has taken on national significance with the matter being debated in Parliament.
A motion filed by Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition, Arden McLean called on the government to secure the site for the fishermen.
It proposed the avenues of prescriptive rights based on long usage of the location, or to acquire through compulsory purchase also known as eminent domain.
The property owners, the Johnson family, are reluctant to sell the site as they have their own plans for its development.
The motion filed by Opposition Leader McLean referred to Red Spot as “a part of the cultural landscape” of the Cayman Islands.
It said the fish vendors selling their catch at the site “has become an integral part of Cayman culture and should be preserved for all to enjoy.”
Giving a detailed response to the equally detailed argument with historical references made by the Opposition Leader, the Hon. Minister for Commerce Joey Hew rejected the proposals as impractical and reported to the Parliament that a resolution was in sight.
At one point in the standoff between the fish vendors and the property owner seemed intractable with court papers filed to have them evicted.
According to Mr Hew following his intervention and numerous meetings with the parties involved, arrangements are being made to place the fisherman at an alternative site and to incorporate it into the George Town Development Plan that he is spearheading.
Hon. MP (Member of Parliament) for George Town Central, Kenneth Bryan, added his voice to the debate.
He felt the fisherman should be allowed to remain at Red Spot and questioned an aspect of the agreement being proposed by Mr Hew that the site not be used for commercial purposes citing the fact that selling fish is a commercial endeavour.
Hon. MP for North Side, Ezzard Miller, also weighed in on the issue saying he was “not comfortable” with the approach being taken by the government.
Supporting the motion for the government to acquire the property, Mr Miller said he preferred “the certainty of government ownership” thereby ensuring that the site is maintained for its current use.
But Commerce Minister Hew, in rejecting the motion, said he has secured an arrangement with the fisherman to relocate to a nearby site as an alternative to avoiding a potentially long-running legal wrangle over prescriptive rights, sale or compulsory acquisition.
He also stated that a number of concessions were being made including issuing licences to the fisherman, providing restrooms and a parking lot.
“After a lot of hard work and some very tense days we had found a solution that had suited everyone. What we ended up with is a solution where the property will still be held for all the people of the Cayman Islands. A cultural site secured for the people of the Cayman islands and an acceptable location by the fish vendors.”
He also said that the government “has entered an agreement that is satisfactory to the property owner.”
The outcome of the vote on the motion only served to highlight the gulf between the government and the opposition benches on the issue.
It was defeated with 11 government votes ‘against’, 5 ‘in favour’ by the opposition and one absentee.
A formal agreement between the government, the fish vendors and the property owners (the Johnson family) is pending.
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