Archive for April, 2008

The right to marry

| 29/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Gordon Barlow (Tuesday, 29 April 2008)

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race,
nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a
family.
[From Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights]

As always, we must bear in mind that this Declaration is a 1948 United
Nations resolution that defines a set of secular ideals for all the
nations of the world.  “Marry” is not defined, so we must fall
back on a standard definition such as “the formal uniting of a couple
for the purpose of cohabitation”.   

In keeping with the Declaration’s secular nature, Article 16 makes no
concession towards any religious taboos. It doesn’t go into such
issues as polygamy, the betrothal of minors, incestuous unions,
divorce and remarriage, and “custom” or “common-law” marriages. In
1948, same-sex marriages were as rare in Western cultures as mixed-
race marriages; but the histories of the world’s cultures contain many
examples of them, and the composers of the Declaration would have
known that.  The wording of Article 16 would have been carefully
chosen so as not to exclude same-sex partners from the declared “right
to marry.” 

The composers of Article 16 added an explanatory note in the body of
the item.  It reads: The family is the natural and
fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by
society and the State.
  The effect of this note is to make it
clear that all nations are expected to accommodate the wishes of all
persons who want their domestic partnerships to be registered as
official.

The family is indeed the natural and fundamental group-unit of
societies all over the world.  Different societies may recognise
different forms of “the family”, and different forms of formalisation
too. Increasingly, the civilised world is coming to terms with same-
sex marriages. They are usually called “civil unions” in the West.
That term means the same thing as marriage, when you think about it,
though in practice it carries fewer privileges. 

Most Western cultures recognise and accept serial monogamy. Even the
Roman Catholic Church – which for many years clung to the fiction of
nullification as the God-approved alternative to divorce – has come to
accept the democratic practicality of civil divorce. Some Eastern
cultures recognise and accept polygamous marriages, most forms of
which don’t acknowledge equal rights for the female spouses. Some
primitive cultures recognise custom-marriages that don’t require
registration with the central governments. 

Some nations used to require the authorities’ permission for marriages
that cross religious, national or racial boundaries – and some still
do.  Our Cayman Islands government shows signs of moving towards
a general policy of vetting the proposed spouses of Caymanian
citizens, for the ostensible purpose of preventing or nullifying
“marriages of convenience”. (It remains to be seen whether the vetting
will be done to all citizens’ spouses, or just native Caymanians’.)

The Immigration Law already denies citizenship (and sometimes even
continued residence) to a foreign spouse until his or her marriage to
a Caymanian has lasted ten or twelve years. So a mixed-marriage family
in Cayman is not entitled to protection by the law until after ten
years or so – even when children are born to the marriage. A foreign
wife who leaves an abusive Caymanian husband before the ten years are
up is liable to be deported – without her children. 

Brave enough to defy our popular local prejudice against
homosexuality, but not brave enough to acknowledge the obligation to
protect our mixed-marriage families… as usual, the British
Government is sending mixed signals about its loyalty to the
principles of basic human rights.

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Cyber bullying

| 29/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Felicia Rankin (Year 11 JGHS)

George Town (CNS): Everyone imagines their home as
the safe place they run to at the end of the day. But things have
changed. Harassment has been taken to a whole new level. Today’s
technology has turned your very computer into an enemy to be wary of.
Cyber Bullying is a new threat on the scene.

Teens have always bullied or been bullied at school, but now teens are
being bullied at home through their computer. This type of bullying
has been increasing in the US, UK and also, shockingly, on our island.
And sadly it’s becoming more common.

Teens are using popular websites such as Myspace and Facebook to bully
other children. They have done this bullying in all kinds of forms,
such as blogs,inappropriate images, messages containing profanity,
threats and even websites solely to embarrass the victims, which are
all done with the same intention to humiliate and exploit other teens.

But luckily the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) and Family
Support Unit (FSU) are taking this issue seriously and are determined
to stop this problem in its tracks. This is a problem that, when not
dealt with, can go out of control. For example, a 13-year-old girl
from Missouri committed suicide in 2007 after she experienced harsh
cyber bullying. So this demands serious attention. It is not something
you merely glance at and turn your back on.

“We’re using the media to get through to parents to educate them. We
were hoping to speak to students, butbeing the end of the school year
we won’t be able to do so now. So hopefully next school year we can
speak to students for them to become aware of what is happening. We
will be appearing on Youth Flex Radio on the 25th of June to broadcast
this problem,” said Sergeant Doris Morris.

It is true that the majority of teens today are a lot more computer
savvy than their parents may be. So it is advised that parents become
more involved and try to gain more knowledge on computers and ask kids
to show them the websites they access on a regular basis to show what
they do and how they are used. When asked what parents should do about
the issue, Morris replied, “Parents should monitor kids on their
computer, give specific times as to how much time they spend on it and
even purchase security software.”

Anyone who is still not fully aware of the seriousness of this problem
should also know that it is punishable by law. So this type of
harassment won’t be ignored. It is punishable under the ICT
(Information Communication Technology) Law, which is for when devices
are misused.

“Once you have experienced some form of cyber bullying, be sure to
save whatever you have received. Then you report it to the police and
then they will begin to investigate into the issue,” said Morris.

But the reason why many of these cases are unheard of is because most
families don’t want to go through all the trouble and negative
attention that it could bring to them, and because most families
understandably want to keep their personal matters private.

So, as a community we should come together and stop cyber bullying
before it can get any worse.

 

 

 reply@caymannewsservice.com

 

 

 

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Trouble in ‘Turtle Town’

| 29/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger (Thursday 17 April)

******************************************** 

4 comments

News that the environmental activist group Global Green Caribbean has
pulled its support of Boatswain Beach’s Earth Day celebrations this
weekend because it’s green credentials fall short of the mark is
another problem on the growing list of issues facing the Turtle Farm.
Last month, acting Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of
Boatswain’s Beach, Joey Ebanks, admitted that the farm was having
trouble with the theft of the creatures and a failure to breed them
successfully. In an interview with the Caymanian Compass, he also acknowledged that the turtles were an
endangered species.

When someone does something wrong or is having problems with addiction
we often consider that the first step on the road to recovery must be
an admission of guilt, culpability or an acknowledgement of the
problem. All of us who care about biodiversity and the environment
should therefore welcome the comments he made that the turtles sold to
the public and restaurant are part of a trade in an endangered
species.

In a plea to his customers to cut down demand because of numerous
problems that seem to be plaguing the breeding programme, he said,
““It needs to drop to about once a week, which is ideally where it
should be. It is an endangered species.”

The admission that we are attempting and, it must be said, failing to
breed this creature in captivity because local people insist on eating
it, regardless of its status, is not necessarily going to help improve
the farm’s green status, but at least Ebanks has raised the issue that
the Turtle Farm is more of a butcher’s shop than a conservation
programme.

He noted too that the demand comes from local restaurants not those in
the tourist sector. All over the world, foods and in particular marine
species that were once traditionally enjoyed by local groups are in
danger.  As a result many people are sacrificing the food they
like to eat to try and save a particular species from extinction. A
viable comparison, which we have made on these pages before, is the
Cod in the North Atlantic. Gradually, across Europe and especially in
the UK, lovers of this tasty fish are recognizing that if they want to
ever eat this fish in the future they need to give it up now until the
natural stocks regenerate themselves.

Once a species is extinct, regardless of what the creationist may
preach, it is done for, finished, caput, end of story. Turtles evolved
and if we eat them all there will be no survival of the fittest. They,
like the dodo and probably very soon the panda, tiger and polar bear,
will be finished and they will not come back. Extinction is a very
final thing.

As yummy as many people here think turtle meat is, our community is
far from starving. There are numerous other healthy and delicious
things that we eat that are not about to become extinct. Provided that
we continue to manage our fish stocks and avoid taking creatures
during breeding times, and maintain and enforce marine regulations,
there will continue to be plenty of seafood alternatives. For those
that eat meat, the world so far is good for pigs, cows, goats, lamb
and chicken for the foreseeable future.

There is no reason at all for us to be eating turtle meat other than
the fact that people like it and have always eaten it. Eating an
endangered species, even when it is farmed, sends the message that it
is OK to eat a creature that is at risk and it continues to perpetuate
the desire for the meat.

This may be a controversial subject because many people believe they
have a right to eat what they want, but this is not the ‘thing’ to
make a stand about national identity and politics of difference. This
is a creature in trouble and, as the head of the turtle farm said,
it’s endangered. We can but hope that this admission is the first step
on the road to recovery for the turtle at least.

**************************************************************

Nicky: Before meat eaters get too comfortable with
themselves, they should read George Monbiot’s piece in The
Guardian
. Eat your veggies.

**************************************************************

Claudette Upton: At last, the Turtle Farm has a
director who is honest enough to face the facts and speak about them
publicly. What a change!

**************************************************************

David Miller: I was told by a marine biologist that
the main problem with our turtle farm is inbreeding. He was educating
me into something I never knew before. All farms, (chickens, goats,
cows, alligators) have to change their breeding stock or they will
progressively create less and less animals as the years go by. So he
was explaining that it would happen in the future in the turtle farm.
This was told to me 10 years ago one day while I was giving a tour
about the turtle farm. 

When we think about our future we have to agree with global warming.
Well there’s going to be more sea and less land, right? So our
children and grandchildren will probably not be able to afford beef
and chicken. So it would seem that with all of that ocean out there we
should create more turtle farms and exchange breeders like other farms
have been doing for hundreds of years in the past. What we have
forgotten in all of these arguments is that cattle make one calf per
year and is not an endangered species because we have made it into a
business. We have a lot of farms, if we didn’t it would have probably
have become an endangered species.          
                   
                   
         

In my opinion the true reason that we don’t have a lot of farms is we
have created an emotional feeling about some animals and not others.
For instance, if I call a cow it will come. If I call a turtle it
won’t. The turtle will smell food and create a response to stimuli
with the sound of a boat engine and know that food comes when he
senses the sound. But cows have more human qualities such as
protecting their young. They are mammals; the calf sucks milk from its
mother, etc. But alas the turtle does not; it goes up on a beach drops
150 eggs up to 10 times per year and is not human-like at all.
Actually, very similar to crocs and alligators. Strange thing is they
are not endangered. I believe the only reason being they have
different breeders. Our turtle farm has the same breeders since the
inception of the farm by Archie Carr.

Dr. Balazs conservation efforts in Hawaii have proven successful
and he has declared a 600% increase in population: 55,000 mating
turtles and 155,000 juvenile turtles. Even the Leatherback has
increased in population in Trinidad. So I believe it CAN be done at
the turtle farm. We have to. Our children will need it.

My problem from all of this endangered species of turtles from
the sea is, how many did we have to begin with? Are we saying that sea
turtles prior to Columbus’ discovery was a proper way to count them?
Is it correct? Is the weather a problem? So many questions need more
research.    

************************************************************** &n
bsp;           
           &nbs
p;           

Chris Randall: The problem with the Turtle Farm, as ever, is
that it doesn’t know what it is supposed to be. When the original farm
grew out the defunct Mariculture operation it was as a research
facility, beginning with captured turtles and then, as breeding
techniques were perfected, becoming self-sufficient and finally
producing more turtle than were needed for research. 

This enabled a quasi-commercial butchering business to develop, in
tandem with the introduction of licensing of turtle fishermen, the
declared intention being to eventually eliminate the catching of wild
turtle from the sea. This, it was hoped, would demonstrate to those
responsible for CITES that, although Chellonia Midas, in particular,
was endangered, the Farm could be classified as a genuine ranching
operation and thus it’s products would be exempt from the ban on trade
in turtle products. It didn’t work!

All of this is well-known so I apologise for regurgitating it.

Throughout the life of the farm, visitors were admitted, initially for
a nominal charge, and a small shop was operated selling shells and
items made from turtle-skin. I still have a business-card wallet
bought there in 1978.

There is an inherent conflict between the operation of a research
facility and a tourist attraction and, as we saw with the departure of
Dr Jim Wood, the tourist lobby won and research dwindled to nothing.
What we have now is simply a zoo.  Various creatures, avian and
aquatic, have been imported and placed on display to provide variety;
after all when you’ve seen one turtle, you’ve seen them all. 
Zoos do not usually slaughter their exhibits, which would seem to be
rather self-defeating.

The time has come to either admit and accept that this is, in fact, a
zoo and operate it as such, or abandon the whole expensive project and
go back to proper research and thereby regain some worldwide respect.

 

reply@caymannewsservice.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cayman’s war on drugs

| 17/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger (Friday, 17 April 2008)

The international illegal drug trade is estimated to be worth more
than US$322 billion per year, according to the most recent United
Nations statistics, significantly more than the Gross Domestic Product
of over three quarters of the world’s nation states. Around 5% of the
global population uses drugs at some point during the course of a year
and it is by far the most profitable illicit international business.

 The Cayman Islands, like every other nation, is impacted by
misuse as well as drug trafficking and it is the Royal Cayman Islands
Police Service (RCIPS), in conjunction with HM Customs, that faces the
consequences of this tenacious and profitable trade. From handling
those who suffer the multiple social and anti-social problems of
addiction, to seizing the substances that find their way into our
waters and on our streets, the RCIPS is at the front line. Leading the
charge is Kurt Walton, head of the Drug Task Force (DTF), who notes
that, since he started his career in the police service, fighting this
war has never become any easier.

“The fight against drugs is not necessarily a police problem; it is a
social problem but there is no doubt that it has become a police
problem,” he said. “We cannot, however, address this issue purely
through policing. It requires a multi-agency approach.”

Regardless of the need for support from Health Services, the Education
Department, community leaders and other sectors of the community, on a
day-to-day basis it is down to Walton and his men to tackle the bulk
of the problem, and it’s the DTF team that is under pressure to
achieve results.  In 2007, of the 350 charges made relating to
drug offences, the vast majority, around 300, were for possession and
consumption, or what are termed by the RCIPS as level one offences.
Level two and three offences, which are concerned with dealing and
trafficking, accounted for around 50 of the charges, which Walton
acknowledges is disappointing.

“I would be the first to admit that I would like to see more level 2
and 3 drug offenders arrested, charged and convicted,” said Walton.
“This is part of the RCIPS DTF strategic plan for 2007- 2010. Last
year we seized over 7,700 pounds of marijuana, arrested 11 persons for
importation and being concerned in the importation of drugs, whilst
seizing two canoes in the process. Have we managed to catch the level
3 major traffickers and financiers? Probably not as successfully as we
would have hoped for – I would say that it is always going to prove
more difficult – getting the ‘bigger fish’.”

He explained that netting these so called bigger fish is difficult, as
they are rarely the ones getting their hands dirty. “Perhaps I could
compare it to the way management works. The orders are usually sent
from the top, but you never see them physically doing the manual
labor. We would like to see persons who are at the lower end of the
chain in these organizations come forward and work with us in a very
discreet manner. By doing so, we can actually get to the heart of the
organization,” Walton added.

Getting those at the bottom of the chain to cooperate, however, is not
easy in any circumstances but it is even more challenging for Walton
working in a small community such as Cayman, as it is difficult to get
witnesses to appear in court and more difficult to gather
evidence. 

“We do not encourage the use of witnesses to testify against persons
involved in the drug trade. We have a very robust intelligence
gathering system that seeks to protect the identity of witnesses and
informants. There are exceptional circumstances where we may have to
use a witness in a drug case, but these types of cases are limited to
those witnesses who themselves are co-defendants; for example, ‘drug
mules’ who will testify against the named recipientof the drug.”

Protecting witnesses from the violence associated with the drug trade
and organised crime is difficult without a witness protection
programme.  Walton believes that if the RCIPS could manage to
secure MOUs with other jurisdictions, in particular the UK, it would
be possible to offer witness protection to those higher up the chain
that may want ‘out’ of the drug business.

“If we could offer a guaranteed secure witness protection programme,
we might see people willing to expose major drug trafficking. The
larger movement of drugs is associated with organized crime, so the
only way we could get this is to offer secure protection through
outside agencies,” he said.

Moreover, in a small community where everyone knows everyone’s
business and everyone’s face Walton has to be very creative with
resources when running undercover operations.

“It is almost impossible to use local officers for any kind of
undercover operation, so we utilize officers who come to us on
secondment from outside agencies that have this kind of experience.”

He also noted the it takes time as well as a lot of resources to
gather the necessary evidence to ensure a charge will result in a
conviction for those dealing in large quantities. He said that in one
recent operation that resulted in a conviction, it took more than
three weeks of a concentrated operations to arrest  just one
dealer.

Cayman’s drug problems, like other jurisdictions, are multifaceted as
we have both a local and a trans-shipment market. Although the local
market is considerably smaller, Walton says that his team has seized
substantial quantities of ganja destined for local use, although
normally the larger seizures are in transit. But last year the DTF
seized two canoes in separate operations totaling over 1,100 pounds of
marijuana destined to be sold on the streets of Cayman.

Alongside drugs usually come guns, and Walton explained that there are
two supply routes for them. “These routes are via the Jamaican canoes
and go-fast vessels, and the vessels fishing off the banks of Central
America. Our partners HM Customs have had success in seizing firearms
and drugs from these fishing vessels in the past,” he explained,
adding that containers are often used for getting the drugs out, and
in 2003 the DTF seized 19,971 pounds of marijuana, of which 14,000+
pounds were found in shipping containers for export. 

By partnering with the Port Authority and HM Customs, the DTF is
continuing to tackle the container import/export movement and the
Marine Unit will be up to its full potential in a few months with the
addition of more vessels for border patrol.  “This should assist
greatly with the Jamaican canoe problem,” Walton said.

Although not wishing to point the finger at any one nation, Walton
indicated that one of the most significant problems facing the DTF was
the Jamaican canoes, although drugs do come from Central and South
American countries.  “Last year an individual was arrested in St
Andres, Colombia, for attempting to export out of that country a
significant amount of cocaine. That individual was about to get on a
plane destined to Grand Cayman,” said Walton. “As well, last year our
partners, the Customs Narcotics division seized several kilos of
cocaine smuggled into the Cayman Islands from Honduras.”

The recent incident of an apparent drug mule death from an overdose is
nothing new to Cayman when it comes to means of trafficking, but
Walton noted it is less common these days as a result of the right
training.

“This was a common method used in the mid to late 1990’s, but Customs
and DTF officers received training on profiling such persons, which
led to a significant amount of success,” he said. “Drug trends change
with time like any other business, so the recent events have only
resurfaced. These matters are normally first dealt with by the Customs
Narcotics Division, seeing that the airport is the first point of
entry. I want to stress, however, that these two individuals were
valid work permit holders in Cayman and not here as visitors. A rigid
visa policy by our immigration partners may have curtailed some of
these issues experienced in the past.”

 Aside from being a transshipment point, Cayman also has its own
street drug problems. ganja, cocaine and crack cocaine remain Cayman’s
drugs of choice but Walton says we are also seeing significant
quantities of ecstasy. Crack cocaine is the most problematic and
cannabis is the most widely used.

The local trade is connected to local gangs, and Walton admits that
the recent spate of stabbings and shootings is almost certainly
associated with gangs and drug territory. “As long as there is a
demand for drugs, someone is going to supply. Our local drug scene is
no different. There will always be rivalry within these organizations
and that is because money is usually the common denominator. People
are going to rip each other off and that is where your problems start.
Unfortunately, unlike a legitimate business contract dispute, drug
dealers resort to violence in order to settle their problems. This has
an immense impact, especially on a small society like ours.”

He also noted that Cayman, like all western societies, suffers from
drug-induced crime, and even with our low crime levels most of it is
drug related. He said that a report by Yolande C. Forde, a consultant
criminologist, found that drug traffickers represented the largest
percentage of the prison populace in Cayman and that almost three
quarters of the inmates interviewed said they used drugs.

“The report showed that 64.8% of inmates were incarcerated for drug
related crimes.  More alarming is that a higher percentage of
drug inmates first entering the Criminal Justice System were between
the ages of 15 and 19 years,” said Walton, who added that this
illustrated the need for an holistic approach in future drug strategy.

“We must take a look at the overall problem by addressing a
Prevention, Intelligence, Proactive and Partnerships (PIPP) strategic
approach. What troubles me most is how much more acceptable marijuana
usage is growing amongst our youth. In most instances, these
youngsters don’t recognize marijuana use as harmful, but one look at
the survey above contradicts this. The trouble with any drug is that,
in most instances, persons will want to try a harder drug to get a
different high. As such, we have seen persons graduate from marijuana
smokers to crack cocaine smokers. I need not go into details on the
problems associated with crack cocaine.”

Walton is also pleased that the Criminal Justice System is beginning
to utilize the drug courts as a way to address the issue of addiction
rather than just punishment. This special court service will also help
the DTF gather relevant information. Walton said that the country
needs to know more about the levels of drug misuse and addiction to
create relevant polices and deal with the social problems. He noted
that, in his experience, drugs are at the root of a huge percentage of
crime in Cayman, and he said there was a pressing need to help people
out of addiction and dependency on drugs

 In an ideal world, with no budget or policy restrictions on how
he could fight the war on drugs, Walton notes that he would like to
see a much wider approach to the problem and that requires the
community to accept that Cayman, like almost every other country in
the world, has a drug problem and that we need more research.

“The fact that we have seen a gun culture creeping into our society
merits an analysis of the entire problem. If I had an unlimited
budget, my suggestion would be to inject more funding into information
gathering, a massive injection into our technical capabilities,
training and hiring narcotics officers, an air wing, a marine unit
solely dedicated to border protection and drug interdiction, constant
operations utilizing outside agencies, MOUs in place with outside
agencies for witness protection, and a significant injection of funds
into a drug prevention strategy,” Walton said. 

He said that he believes he could build a good case to create a drugs
entity similar to that of the DEA in the US, with an independent
budget. “I guess you could call it the CIDEA (Cayman Islands Drug
Enforcement Agency). Of course, such an entity would come with a lot
of scrutiny and, as such, would require an experienced director in
this field, who is held accountable and answers to the Governor and
Chief Secretary. I know what I am suggesting here sounds like a break
away from the RCIPS, and as such I expect some raised eyebrows. But,
things happen in the drug underworld that is not quite so obvious on
the surface, and sometimes these types of entities are best suited to
discover those underlying issues,” Walton
explained.      

“On the realistic side, the fact that the current government has
provided significant funding for a new Marine and DTF base in addition
to more vessels has certainly been welcomed. I am anxiously awaiting
the arrival of the new helicopter as well, which will be a huge boost
in our arsenal.”

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Time to force the issue

| 11/04/2008 | 0 Comments

Time to force the issue 

By Wendy Ledger (Friday, 11 April 2008)

The owner of theproperty, Asif Bhatia, recently lost the Hyatt
Regency brand and is now operating the 58 room beachside part of the
property as Grand Cayman Beach Suites. However, the other half, which
consists of around 240 regular hotel rooms, is now completely
segregated from the beach side by the new Easterly Tibbetts Highway
and remains derelict and untouched since Hurricane Ivan took its toll
in September 2004, more than three and a half years ago.

Kim Lund, one of the islands’ best known property professionals and
owner and broker with Re/Max, believes that the circumstances
surrounding the derelict property are such that the sanctity of
property ownership should now be broken.

“This situation has gone on for far too long,” said Lund. “The
property is in a prime location and it is becoming a problem for other
owners and investors in the area. The government should force a
purchase.” He noted that the properties on the Brittania development,
which were linked to the Hyatt, are being negatively impacted by the
situation. At the end of last year, one luxury home in the development
was dramatically reduced in price and Lund said it was as a direct
result of the current state of the former Hyatt hotel.  

“Demand has been so weak at Britannia, largely due to the ongoing lack
of resolution for the insurance of the main Hyatt Hotel, that prices
in some cases are below replacement values,” Lund said, and explained
just how much of a real impact the situation had on the particular
price of the particular luxury home.

“A lot of this weakness relates to this current uncertainty as to what
will happen with the hotel and facilities like the golf course. 
This extraordinary house would probably be worth around US$5 million
if it were located on the Ritz golf course, and could not be built for
what it is currently listed when you consider the land value, building
costs, and soft costs.”

Lund said the former Hyatt is an important factor in our tourism
product and thinks the issue should now be forced and that government
must step in to rectify this situation. He is not alone. Reports of
rat infestations have raised concerns among the businesses at
Buckingham Square, which is across the highway from the derelict
property, as well as the residents in the Britannia development
adjacent to the derelict property itself. Those residents have also
complained that, aside from the property being an eyesore, they have
lost access to facilities such as the tennis courts, which were
supposed to be part of the home-ownership deal.

The idea of a compulsory purchase order has much support, even though
it would normally send the property industry into a frenzy of fear, as
the rights of property owners are extensively protected in law in
Cayman and have much to do with why we have such a lucrative overseas
investment market. The idea of any government coming along and taking
property from owners for a nominal sum would act as a serious
deterrent for any future investors. However, there are exceptions,
according to Lund, and the current condition of the former Hyatt is
one of them.

“Whatever they decide to do they must now force a solution,” he said.
The issue now is whether or not the government will have the stomach
for the fight to take what Lund refers to as the necessary
action.  Minister Clifford has persistently said there is little
the government can do and has always insisted that Bhatia would settle
quickly. More than one year ago he publicly stated that he was
convinced that the property would not remain as it is for much longer,
and that either Bhatia would settle or someone would buy it.

“I have had discussions with the owners and impressed upon him the
need to get the project back on schedule,” theMinister had said in
March 2007. However over a year on, nothing has changed.

The details of the case seem to surround Bhatia’s claim for business
continuity payments that he lost as a result of the hotel’s
destruction by Ivan, as well as actual replacement costs. Bhatia and
his insurance company remain in legal battle with no resolution.
Moreover, sources very close to Bhatia say he will not settle for a
penny less than his claim, which although unconfirmed is rumoured to
be in the region of US$ 50 million, and that the insurers have offered
only half that claim.

Meanwhile, Bhatia is also in the courts over the drying work conducted
immediately after the storm on the beach suites side by a firm based
in New York. Commercial Drying Technologies were the experts who dried
the hotel, and one of the owners of the company recently confirmed to
CNS that the bulk of the bill remained unpaid and that the New York
firm was continuing its legal proceedings to recover the full costs.
The work was evidently carried out successfully as the Beach Suites
side of the Hyatt was relatively quickly re-opened on 15 December
2004, only three months after the hurricane struck.

Bhatia is no stranger to the courts and to fighting financial battles
to the bitter end. He is also one of the world’s richest Asians; he
and his family members appear on numerous rich lists and between them
they own an extensive portfolio of properties, hotel businesses and
other investments all over the world.

If, as the circumstances would indicate, Bhatia is not prepared to
settle and rich enough to fight, the government is facing little
option but to step in to avoid a worsening situation. With competition
in the tourism sector across the region ever more fierce, the
situation of the Hyatt reflects badly on brand Cayman and, contrary to
the government’s position that its hands are tied – it is after all
the government – it does have powers to force a purchase order. The
question is not can it, but will it?

This week Clifford noted that the situation was serious and that
government would be forced to take some kind of action, but declined
to say exactly what. Several months ago, he said that he was expecting
to meet with Bhatia in “a few weeks” to address the situation.
However, despite repeated attempts, the government has failed to meet
with him and Clifford said that the circumstances surrounding the
Hyatt were no longer acceptable.

“We will have to make a decision as the current circumstances are not
in the best interests of the tourist industry. I am examining the
options but cannot yet commit to a position,” he said, adding that the
idea of compulsory purchase wasn’t ruled out.

In the meantime, as the years pass, the combination of indecision by
government and the failure to settle by Bhatia means that the former
Hyatt property, once one of the jewels in Cayman’s tourism crown,
continues to crumble before our very own and our visitors’ eyes.

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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