Developer David Morritt receives Caymanian status

David Morritt at the opening of The Londoner, a new addition to his Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort, in 2014. Mr. Morritt was granted Caymanian status by Cabinet on Friday. – Photo: Jewel Levy

After staying here for some 30 years as a visitor, Morritt’s Properties East End developer David Morritt has been granted Caymanian status by the Cayman Islands Cabinet.

The status grant, which was actually approved back in November, was ratified Friday night by the Legislative Assembly, where even some of the harshest critics of the status grant process had kind words for Mr. Morritt.

“My relationship with Mr. Morritt has been on and off,” said East End MLA Arden McLean, who represents the district where the Morritt’s Tortuga resort property is located. “But it is undeniable that this man has contributed significantly to this country. He has been invaluable to the employment situation in East End.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the developer, now 71, applied for a Caymanian status in early 2015. However, since he had never been considered anything other than a visitor under the Immigration Law despite all his time and investment here, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board could not legally deal with the matter. The application was forwarded to Cabinet toward the end of 2015.

“We were convinced that Mr. Morritt deserves the highest status we can award to non-nationals,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

“I was unaware that Mr. Morritt wanted to be a Caymanian,” Mr. McLean said. “He is definitely worthy of being called Caymanian.

“He has developed the largest time-share in this country with 98 percent occupancy year round. He has hired people into his institution that would otherwise not be worthy of being hired.”

The developer, who first came here in 1988, has spent “most of his time” in Cayman since then, Mr. McLaughlin said.

In addition to purchasing the Tortuga Club, which later became the Morritt’s Tortuga resort, Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Morritt gave generously to local charities each year and his resort development continues to provide many local jobs.

“Over 80 percent of the resort staff is Caymanian,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

During the particularly rough period after 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, Mr. Morritt provided free water to East End residents and gave food and supplies to two shelters in the district, the premier said.

Awards and international acclaim for the Morritt’s property has also helped boost Cayman’s visibility in tourism, Mr. McLaughlin said.

Mr. Morritt was one of four people to be granted Caymanian status by Cabinet in 2017, but the grant happened late in the year and could not be ratified until the Legislative Assembly met last week.

By law, Cayman can only grant four status awards per year to individuals considered deserving and who generally cannot obtain it any other way. Caymanian status is a local immigration designation akin to citizenship which allows a person full citizenship rights in the British Overseas Territory.