Archive for July, 2008

Cayman and the problem of perception

| 31/07/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger:

While the government declared is satisfaction last week over what it considered to be a good showing in the US Government Audit Office (GAO) report, that perception was not shared by all concerned. As has been the case for some time now, Cayman has duly complied with just about every international regulation, has signed endless treaties with lots of nations and organisations, and has been an all round ‘good egg’ on the cooperation front. However, the fundamental problem remains that certain members of the US Senate, members of the British parliament and representatives of various other western and non-western governments see things differently.

No matter how regulated and compliant Cayman is, even to the extent that it has better ratings than many onshore financial centres, the fact that wealthy individuals from all over the world and trans global corporations use the Cayman Islands and other off shore jurisdictions to mitigate, avoid and even evade their tax obligations to their country of origin means people will continue to perceive Cayman as the villain of the piece.

With the notable exceptions of nations with significant oil wealth or countries like our own where the financial industry funds a great deal of services, most international governments rely on income and business tax to fund their spending. Tax is used as a political tool to redistribute wealth and in democracies it is considered a way of ensuring greater fairness in the community. What often happens, however, is the wealthier a person or company is the more they can afford to engage the services of experts who can help avoid their tax obligations – legally or otherwise. The regular man in the street or the small to medium enterprise is not in a position to take advantage of the experts and therefore usually pays more than his fair share of tax. It is this sense of injustice that the little man digs deep to meet his tax obligation while the wealthy man employs a lawyer that is fuelling the campaign against offshore tax havens.

The Cayman Islands government seems very confident that the US is unlikely to ever enact legislation that will undermine the ability of international business or the high net worth individual to use jurisdictions such as ours and that, regardless of the comments from senators like Carl Levin, all will be well.

There may or may not be truth in this. What is important for us to remember is that while some US politicians and some British parliamentarians agree with the principle of off shore finance others do not. Even among the UK politicians that visited the Cayman Islands this week, the political disagreement between them was apparent. While Conservative MP Michael Fallon may be far more disposed to the principle of free market economics, it was apparent that Ian Davidson, a member of the Labour Party, was not so accommodating about what the financial service sector is up to in Cayman, illustrated by his comment on the first morning of his trip when he noted that, “One person’s tax avoidance is another person’s tax loss."

As the political pendulum in the United States swings away from Republicanism and big business, the probability of Barack Obama’s election to the White House may well see a greater urge in the US to introduce policies which are seen to be fairer when it comes to tax obligations. Not all politicians believe that commercial activity should be allowed to flourish at all costs. Whether or not the reports coming from organisation such as Christian Aid or Action Aid, as reflected in the evidence given to the UK Treasury Committee for its enquiry into tax havens, are completely accurate may be debatable, but their message is strong.

The trans-global corporation is an easy target to dislike. Most international companies are seen only as entities wishing to feather their own nests, and for many their demise would be welcomed. When these types of organisations are seen to be exploiting labour and utilising offshore jurisdictions to limit the tax they pay, or the rights they offer to workers they are vilified even more, and the places such as Cayman and the accountants and lawyers who help them are perceived as colluding with the enemy.

Right or wrongly, as has been extensively noted in Cayman in recent times, perception can be as important as reality. Whether we are compliant, well regulated and working within international law is still far less important on the global stage ofperception than the idea that is winning the day: that avoiding taxes is plain wrong and we are facilitating that wrongdoing.

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The plight of the ‘guest worker’

| 25/07/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger – Posted Friday, 25 July 2008

The court room revelations this week that one employer has been
convicted for exploiting his expatriate workforce serves only to
remind us all that this is by no means an isolated incident. This
particular incident, where the employer charged his workers for both
their work permits and his own trade and business license, offers only
a glimpse at the type of exploitation that foreign workers at the
bottom of the labour pool suffer on a frequent basis.

The recent attempt by representatives of the Filipino community to
meet with senior immigration officials so they could take advice on
the rules and regulations governing the employment of foreign workers
and their rights under the law, were met with such alarming vitriol
and racist hatred that the leaders of that particular community
decided to withdraw their request for fearof severely disrupting
their collective peaceful lives here in Cayman.

Accusations on talk shows that the only rights ‘these people’ should
have are return tickets to their own country, that they are not to be
trusted , that they are manipulative and cunning and ‘different to us’
illustrated well the shameful xenophobia that exists in some quarters
in Cayman.  Albeit confined to a vocal minority, this underlying
but persistent and consistent disregard for foreigners ensures that
‘guest  workers’ remain schtum when it comes to the exploitation
that they suffer for fear of stirring up too much trouble.

The idea that you can come to Cayman but you must remain silent no
matter how badly you are treated, as it is simply bad form to say bad
things about your experiences, exerts a powerful influence and the
attitude that every foreigner should be grateful for the opportunity,
even if it is just to be exploited persists.

Although many, many Caymanians entirely disagree with these attitudes
and recognize that exploiting anyone, foreign or otherwise, undermines
society at large, too many employers take advantage of the fact that
there are few if any avenues of redress for the work-permit holders
that fill the positions at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.

From the failure of employers to provide adequate health cover to the
undeniably low wages that some expatriate workers receive,
exploitation is all too common. As noted by the Minister for Education
and Employment, Alden McLaughlin in Thursday’s CNS report, more often
than not even the legal loopholes that allow employers to deny
employees overtime pay effect work-permit holders more than most.

Even though the country’s economic success is dependent on overseas
labour, there are no advocacy groups and no organizations that will
stand up for the rights for those that are the most vulnerable.
Consistently, employers get away with abusing their foreign workers
because the rest of society simply turns a blind eye. It is utterly
reprehensible that any person would so willingly abuse another human
being – but it is even worse that the society at large is also
complicit in its silent acceptance of such treatment, to the point
where a whole race of people can be vilified so extensively just
because they asked what exactly were their rights.

In the global economy migration is a fact of life. Those who have
literally drawn the short straw in the nation game, who dare to get on
their proverbial bikes and seek a better life should not be abused
because they want a chance at economic inclusion. It was not so long
ago those who migrated to improve their lot were heralded as heroes,
now those who are willing to travel to find opportunity are
increasingly but inexplicably regarded as pariahs.

There are many things we can choose in our lives, but choosing where
we are born, and by extension the nationality we must carry, is not
one of them. The fact that we are condoning the exploitation of people
purely based on the fact that they were born elsewhere is
fundamentally wrong and more importantly inhumane. Populist xenophobic
sentiment should no longer be allowed to dominate the public discourse
in Cayman, it is time for us to embrace the global village and treat
our fellow man, no matter where he may hail from, with dignity.

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Residents’ voting rights

| 24/07/2008 | 0 Comments

Residents’ voting rights

By Olivaire Watler – Posted Thursday, 24 July 2008

13 comments

With both the general elections and a referendum on constitutional
modernization scheduled for next May, a demand that non-Caymanians
have the right to vote has once again reared its head. Some have
sought support for this contention in the provisions of various human
rights conventions, declarations and treaties, which Cayman is said to
be openly flouting.

Proponents of this notion portray Cayman as failing to give effect to
universal and equal suffrage and being on the fringes of the
international community in this respect. There has even been a
suggestion that it is racist to exclude non-Caymanians from the right
to vote. Well-informed observers will recognize this as mere rhetoric,
but the rhetoric (not only in Cayman but in other Overseas Territories
such as Bermuda) has intensified to a level that has caused the
British Government to ask the Overseas Territories to re-visit the
issue of whether long-term residents in the respective Territory
should be given the right to vote.  

The purpose of this article is to examine the bases for these claims
so that Caymanians can make an informed judgment on the issue.

The fact of the matter is that most countries reserve the right to
vote to its citizens. For example, Australia – which is often regarded
as a progressive, liberal democracy – in 1984 repealed the legislation
which had allowed Commonwealth citizens to vote, thereby restricting
the right to vote to Australian citizens.  The United States of
America, which is generally considered a great democracy, does not
confer the right to vote on resident aliens. In another liberal
democracy – Canada – voting rights at the federal level is restricted
to Canadian citizens.  The Canada Elections Act is clear
and simple: “Every person who is a Canadian citizen and is
18 years of age or older on polling day is qualified as an
elector”. 

These three countries have a major factor in common – a large
immigrant population. While it is correct that some countries, for
example New Zealand, have moved in the direction of permitting alien
voting rights, they tend to have much smaller immigrant populations.
It is true that in Britain a resident Commonwealth citizen may vote in
the general elections, but this is regarded by many as an anachronism.
In any event, this standard would not satisfy the demand for all
resident aliens in Cayman to be entitled to vote since it would
exclude Filipinos, Hondurans and Americans to name a few. 

Even in countries where non-citizens are granted the right to vote,
this is often restricted to local elections or specific matters which
will not have any impact upon the policies for the country as a whole.
On the whole it is fair to say that alien suffrage is controversial
and does not in any sense represent the international norm. I would
invite readers to ‘google’ “universal suffrage”, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage

Human Rights

Sometimes quoted in this regard is Article 21(1) and (3) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which reads as follows:

“(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his
country, directly or through freely chosen representatives

 (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority
of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine
elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be
held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”.

Perhaps this is quoted in preference to the provisions in the various
international human rights treaties because it is hoped that the
vagueness of the language might render it capable of bearing the
desired meaning. However, the Universal Declaration laid down
the basis for the subsequent covenants and treaties which in turn
amplified and gave effect to the Universal Declaration in
international law.  Article 25 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights
could not be clearer:

“Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any
of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable
restrictions:

(a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through
freely chosen representatives;

(b) to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which
shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret
ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;”

In other words, the right to vote is tied to citizenship. It does not
entitle you to vote in a country of which you are not a citizen.
Citizenship is important because it connotes a duty of permanent
allegiance which mere residence, for whatever period, does not. 
To separate the right to vote from citizenship is to devalue
citizenship.

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration is nonetheless clear
if one focuses upon the proper meaning of “his country”. One’s country
is not the country or territory in which one happens to live for the
time being, but rather the country of which one is a citizen. 
This distinction is clear from the fact that in respect of certain
rights there is no qualification as to country, for example “no one
should be subjected to torture”, but certain political rights are
defined by reference to “his country”.  Article 21 was never
intended to assert some new right to vote for resident aliens but
rather to disapprove of discrimination as between citizens on the
basis of race, gender, religion, land-ownership etc. For example,
under apartheid non-white South Africans were not entitled to vote.

Clearly, “the people” in Article 21(3) must be read in the context of
Article 21(1). It would be fanciful to think this means every person
present within the country. In other words, Article 21 is merely
stating what is the international norm, namely that the citizens of a
country should have the right to elect their government.

It is also asserted that in Gibraltar a mere six months’ residence is
enough to establish the right to vote and that this qualification was
set by the European Court of Human Rights, thus suggesting
that an international human rights standard has been established.
After significant research I have been unable to uncover such a
revolutionary decision. It would have the effect of finding most of
the democratic world to be in breach of their human rights
obligations.

It is of course preposterous to suggest that restricting voting rights
to citizens is somehow racist. Caymanians, including those who have
been naturalized and acquired that status, represent the full spectrum
of ethnicities.  What the proponents of the ‘free for all’ voting
right seem to miss is that it is possible for long-term residents to
be naturalized as British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of
their connection to Cayman and thereafter to obtain the right to be
Caymanian, i.e. Caymanian status, which will render them full citizens
and therefore eligible to vote. If it is the case that those long-term
residents view full citizenship with disdain or simply cannot be
bothered then it speaks volumes about their commitment to these
Islands (or lack thereof), and this is a compelling argument why they
ought not to be allowed to determine the policies and destiny of this
country. 

Chris Randall: Mr Watler’s article contains a great number of
facts and statistics but misconstrues the concept of voting rights for
commonwealth citizens. 

The whole point of the Commonwealth is an allegiance, however loosely
defined, to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs & successors. Those
commonwealth countries which allow othercommonwealth citizens to
vote, do so on the basis that they, along with the nationals of those
particular countries all owe a similar allegiance, expressed
through the government of whichever country they happen to be
in. 

(While there are commonwealth countries with a president,
elected or otherwise, as head of state, and others with their own
monarchies, this does not alter the relationship).

The Dominion of Canada has, over the past 40 – odd years, become a
socially liberal society and thus her institutions and laws
have been adapted to reflect this. In that context it appeared
inequitable to bestow voting rights on the very small number of
commonwealth citizens who became residents but did not take out
Canadian citizenship whilst not assuming the administrative nightmare
of doing likewise for all other non-Canadian residents. In recent
years Australia has followed a similar, but less liberal, path.

In the Cayman Islands situation it would be ludicrous to extend voting
rights to persons of non-commonwealth nationality, but it is equally
ludicrous that those same persons may be granted Caymanian status
without first having to be naturalised; and yet, it happens. Ask an
American who has ‘status’ what his nationality is or where his
allegiance lies: no prizes for guessing the answer.  

Graeme Halkerston: Mr Watler does not address
the most relevant human rights provision which applies to
residents of the Cayman Islands, the government of the Cayman Islands
and the government of the United Kingdom.  Article 3 of the First
Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights provides that
Convention States “undertake to hold free elections . . .which ensure
the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the
legislature”. 

The Convention case law interpreting this provision indicates the the
Legislative Assembly would constitute a legislature and that UK
citizens should be entitled to vote in elections to that
legislature (Matthews v. UK [1999] 28 EHRR 361). Domestic distinctions
within a Convention State between citizens as being the wrong “type”
to vote in an election are improper (Aziz v. Cyprus [2004] ECHR
6994/01). 

If the United Kingdom fails to protect human rights in Cayman, such a
failure would now appear to be an actionable in England as breach
of the Human Rights Act 1998, as actions (or inactions) of the United
Kingdom government outside of Great Britain do fall within
the remit of the Human Rights Act (Al-Skeini v. Secretary of State for
Defence [2007] UKHL 26).  A failure to extend the
franchise prior to the next elections may expose the
Treasury to a significant damages claim or an order to pass
legislation to remedy the breach.

One justification for discrimination in the franchise provided by the
Leader of Government Business to the FAC was that it was believed that
non-Caymanians do not have the long term interests of the territory in
mind.  This shows that the policy is, in part at least,
based upon the perception of the political beliefs of resident non-
Caymanians.  While the right under Article 3 is not absolute, the
presently expressed official justifications for the
derogation from the right are inadequate to support the
derogation.  Further the alleged importance of the uniqueness of
the Caymanian voters’ priorities would appear to be overstated given
the extent of the 2003 status grants and the consequences this
ultimately had, or may have, on the composition of the
electorate.

Olivaire Watler: The Mad Hatter apparently would like
to change the topic from whether residents should possess the right to
vote to what period of residency should render one eligible for
citizenship since he believes this is safer ground.

My point concerning Australia, Canada and the United States of America
was not to suggest that their standards should be universal, but
rather to argue that if liberal democracies with much lower net
migration rates and expatriate/citizen ratios are justified in
reserving voting rights to its citizens then Cayman must be more
justified. (Incidentally, the figures have just been updated and show
that Cayman’s rate of 16.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population and is much
greater than the combined rates of Australia (3.72) Canada (5.62) and
the United States (2.92)[1]. Perhaps five times the net
migration rate ought to imply a similar multiple for the period of
residence required). There are many other nations which restrict
voting rights to citizens and have a substantial period of residence
before one is eligible for citizenship. Switzerland, for example,
requires a permanent resident to have lived continuously in
Switzerland for a period of 12 years before he is eligible for
citizenship.

Claims to political rights must be considered in the light of the
local situation, in particular the extraordinary imbalances I have
identified. These cannot simply be ignored. It is simply not feasible
to grant voting rights or citizenship to everyone who has lived here
for a few years. No other country in a similar position has done so or
will do so. There need be no apology for this. It has the desirable
effect of enduing citizenship with the appropriate value. 

Also, notwithstanding my effort to clarify the point, apparently he is
still unaware that Caymanian status alone is not full citizenship. It
must be coupled with naturalization as a British Overseas Territories
Citizen by virtue of your connection with Cayman (see s. 28B(3) and
(4) of the Cayman Islands (Constitution) Order 1972 (as amended)) (the
“Constitution”).

The Mad Hatter evidently thinks that I ought to feel uncomfortable
about Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights.
I am not sure why. I am not aware that there is
any period of restriction after having attained full citizenship to
run for political office.   Perhaps he needs to understand
that to stand for office one must have no other citizenship (see s.
18(2) of the Constitution), and that it is an entirely reasonable and
standard restriction that a candidate should not owe any allegiance,
obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state. Is the Mad Hatter
ready to renounce his other
citizenship?    

Olivaire Watler:Mr Halkerston’s ‘response’ shows very little
evidence that he has actually read and understood the contents of my
article except to note that it does not refer to the European
Convention on Human Rights
(theConvention“).  I do not see that our
Constitution (granted to us by the United Kingdom) makes any improper
distinction as between citizens in terms of voting rights. If you are
a full citizen (which I defined in my article) you are entitled to
vote, if you are not a full citizen you are not entitled to vote.

There is no relevant difference between the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights
and the European Convention of
Human Rights
(the “Convention“) on this issue. I do not see
that the Matthews case has any relevance to the issue. The
applicant in that case was a British Citizen resident in Gibraltar who
claimed that the absence of elections in Gibraltar to the European
Parliament was in violation of her right to participate in elections
to choose the legislature under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the
Convention. She also alleged a violation of Article 14 of the
Convention (freedom from discrimination in the enjoyment of
Convention rights) on the ground that she was entitled to vote
in European Parliament elections anywhere in the European Union where
she lived except in Gibraltar. Gibraltar, unlike Cayman, is within the
European Union under Article 227(4) of the EEC Treaty by virtue of
being a European Territory for whose external relations Britain
is responsible.

British Citizens are also EU Citizens and it was in respect of the
applicant’s right as an EU citizen (not that she was denied the right
as a British Citizen to vote in Gibraltar parliamentary elections)
that the case arose. Accordingly, the case does not demonstrate
that UK citizens should be entitled to vote in elections to the
Legislative Assembly. A British Citizen who is not a British Overseas
Territories Citizen by virtue of his connection to Cayman and does not
possess Caymanian status is not and should not be entitled to the
right of abode or the right to vote in Cayman general elections by
virtue of that citizenship.   

Graeme Halkerston: I am surprised by the rude tone of
Mr Watler’s reply to my comment.  While tempting, I will not
respond in a similar manner.

I did not refer to the contents of the original Comment because, while
it was interesting, it was legally irrelevant.  A review of
aspirational rights provisions and the laws of sovereign states which
are not contracting parties to the European Convention of Human Rights
has little significance in the context of legal rights and obligations
in the Cayman Islands.

Unlike the matters raised in the Comment, the European Convention of
Human Rights has normative effect in this jurisdiction particularly
given the seismic shift in the Caymanian grundnorm following the 2006
reintroduction of the individual right of petition and the Al-Skeini
judgment in 2007.  I cited Matthews v. UK as it clearly shows
that the Legislative Assembly would be considered a legislature within
the scope of Art. 3 of the First Protocol.  The Aziz decision is
pertinent as, in the eyes of ECHR jurisprudence, the point I raise
considers the status of a UK citizen seeking to vote in a UK
legislature in UK territory.  The domestic distinctions drawn
between citizens under Cypriot law in Aziz were considered
incompatible by the Court.  Arguably so would the Cayman
limitations. 

The Mad Hatter: Mr Watler writes “to stand for office one must
have no other citizenship (see s. 18(2) of the Constitution), and that
it is an entirely reasonable and standard restriction that a candidate
should not owe any allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign
power or state.”

Olivaire Watler: I apologise if Mr Halkerston found my tone
rude. It was not intended to be. Instead, I sought to make the point
that the issues Mr Halkerston raised had already been addressed in my
article and that he had made no attempt to address those points. They
are not legally irrelevant. The same remains true for his most recent
contribution.  

The Aziz case pertained to discrimination as to voting rights
as between citizens of the same country on the basis of heritage and
ethnicity and has nothing to do with the situation in Cayman.

If Mr Halkerston is not posturing then he is seriously misled.

Turning to the Mad Hatter, I am really am not sure what point he is
seeking to make since I have already refuted what appeared to be his
point, namely that in Cayman some citizens do not have the right to
run for office.

He states: “However, as far as I am aware, persons with the right to
be Caymanian, who are duly naturalised and have revoked their original
citizenship are not allowed to run for political office in the Cayman
Islands”.

I am not sure how I can be of any greater assistance since I have
already cited the relevant provisions ofthe Constitution, but I will
try.  

The relevant portion of s. 18 states:

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d) of this section, a
qualified citizen is a British Dependent Territories citizen by virtue
of a connection with the Islands, who either –

(a)   at the date of his nomination for election
possesses no other citizenship and is pursuing no claim to any other
citizenship for which he may be eligible
.”

Graeme Halkerston: Aziz is directly on
issue, because, in the field of ECHR jurisprudence, there is no such
thing as Caymanian nationality or citizenship.  Caymanians and
“British” citizens are both British citizens.  Any Court would
take a unitary approach to citizenship.  The United Kingdom,
rather than the Cayman Islands, would be the Respondent
to any ECHR petition.  The premise upon which Mr. Watler’s
argument is grounded is that there is such a legal concept as a
Caymanian citizen or a Caymanian national.   But in the
words of the Privy Council “as a British overseas territory there is
no such thing as [Caymanian] nationality as such: [Caymanians] are
British citizens” (Thompson v. The Bermuda Dental Board
[2008] PC para 36  – I have changed the references from Bermuda
to Cayman but there is no material legal difference).

Olivaire Watler: If Mr Halkerston’s interpretation of
the Privy Council decision in the Thompson case is correct, it
would have far reaching implications not simply in respect of Cayman
and other Overseas Territories, but in respect of Britain itself which
I will explain later.

I do not know whether the issue was fully argued before the Privy
Council but two points are beyond dispute:

1. Until the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 came into
effect Bermudians (as well as Caymanians and other British Dependent
Territories Citizens) were not British Citizens. Instead, we were
simply British Overseas Territories Citizens in respect of
which we did not have a right of abode in the
UK.    

2. Since 2002, Caymanians and Bermudians have possessed two
citizenships: British Overseas Territories Citizenship and
British Citizenship. It is in respect of the former that a right of
abode may arise in the respective Overseas Territory. 

It may be helpful to have a brief historical synopsis of the
citizenship issue. The British Nationality Act 1948 established only
one citizenship – citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies –
which gave the same rights to all. However, because of the waves of
immigration from Africa and the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s which
threatened “Britishness” in England, the Immigration Act 1971 was
enacted to discriminate as between citizens of the United Kingdom and
Colonies and grant only those who had close connections with the
British Isles (the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) right
of abode in the UK. When the UK finally recognized that this could be
successfully challenged on the basis of discrimination as between
citizens, it replaced the 1948 Act with the British Nationality Act
1981 which supplanted one citizenship with unequal rights depending
upon ethnic origin, with four citizenships with separate rights: (1)
British Citizenship (for those with close connections to the British
Isles); (2) British Dependent Territories Citizenship (for those with
close connections to a Dependent Territory); (3) British Overseas
Citizens; and (4) British Subjects. In other words, separate
citizenship with separate rights was fundamental to the 1981 Act.
There was no indication that this was altered by the Overseas
Territories Act. In the 1999 White Paper ‘Partnership for Progress
and Prosperity
‘ (which led to that Act) the Overseas Territories
were specifically assured that the offer of rightof abode in the UK
that came with British Citizenship would be on a non-reciprocal
basis
.

I find it doubtful that the Thompson case can bear the weight
ascribed to it since it would also have serious implications for
Britain itself. Under Article 8b of the Treaty on European Union, EU
Citizens may vote in European Parliament elections and municipal (i.e.
local government elections) in Member States of which they are not
nationals, but not in national elections. A French
citizen who lives in England can vote for the local County Council but
cannot vote for the MP to the House of Commons. (Note that Cayman does
not have any municipal elections, only elections to the Legislative
Assembly which is our equivalent of the House of Commons).
 Applying the logic that Mr. Halkerston gleaned from the
Thompson case, the Frenchman should be entitled to vote for the
MP in England because he has EU citizenship in common with the Briton.
The UK would therefore be in the position of seeking to enforce a
standard upon Cayman which the UK itself is unwilling to adopt in
respect of fellow EU citizens.   

M. Ebanks: I note with interest the ongoing debate on
this topic. Following my own review on the issue, I write to lend my
support and agreement to Mr. Watler’s point and very thorough
responses.

In particular, Mr. Halkerston’s reading and interpretation of the
Thompson, Matthews and Aziz cases is
difficult to accept given the ratio of those authorities. The
analogies he then seeks to draw to Cayman’s position are even more
untenable given that he clearly concedes that Art. 3 protocol does not
confer an absolute right, either to vote or stand in national
elections.  Consequently, it is wholly acceptable for Cayman
to impose residency and other reasonable restrictions on the right to
vote or stand in elections – based on its own unique circumstances –
and it can do so without falling afoul of the ECHR or other
international human rights conventions as Mr. Halkerston seeks
to suggest.

While Mr. Halkerston or others who do not meet those criteria to vote
or stand in election may wish the residency requirement was 3-5 years
rather than 12 years and so on, the fact remains that the restrictions
imposed by Cayman are within acceptable international norms, since the
right to vote or stand in election is not an absolute right. 
Some may disagree with the criteria Cayman uses, however those
restrictions are reasonable and have a legitimate objective,
including the need to ensure that persons granted the right to
influence the policy and direction of the country hold genuine
allegiance to the interests of the Cayman Islands.

Hinging the application of these cases on a conclusion that
“there is no such thing as a [Caymanian] national” according to the
Johnson case – is as unpalatable and offensive a concept
as Mr. Halkerston seems to find the idea that Caymanians (a proud and
talented people) should seek to protect their own interests rather
than that of the sovereign – and fairly unrealistic and naive.

Mr. Watler is also correct in noting that the United Kingdom extended
British Citizenship on a non-reciprocal basis. So, all United
Kingdom (or commonwealth citizens for that matter) are not
immediately availed of a right to vote or stand in national elections
in overseas territories. Even on the strength of the cases
referred to, this does not mean the United Kingdom is in breach of any
international human rights obligation by allowing its
overseas territories to set a reasonable criteria to confer such
rights on non-citizens. 

Regrettably, the undercurrent to this debate seems to
be resentment and bitterness on the part of United Kingdom residents
who do not yet meet the criteriafor these rights – which they
feel entitled to – whether by dint of the fact that they have been
resident for a significant time or feel offended that they have to
meet any criteria at all, especially when they feel like Cayman
‘belongs’ to the United Kingdom in the first place. Consequently,
they wish to challenge any efforts by Cayman to impose limitations on
rights they otherwise enjoy in the United Kingdom, arguing that
there is a lesser standard or quality being imposed on them in the
overseas territories – when in fact it is not. 

While Cayman is not a sovereign nation, it is entitled to exercise the
same test as the United Kingdom and any other country in the
world – to take account of its own interests, needs and
circumstances when deciding on its national
affairs.  England derogates from certain protocols as it
deems necessary or appropriate for itself.  However, those United
Kingdom nationals who believe Cayman ‘belongs’ to them are not willing
to agree that Cayman should be able to take account of
any interest different to that of the United Kingdom.

Fortunately, the accepted (and proper) view is that Cayman – though
not an independent country, is recognized as a tiny but proud and
talented people, with their own history, cultures and norms which are
capable of protection and consideration in matters of national
interest.   In this particular instance, Cayman has
established certain criteria for the right to vote and stand in
elections for non-citizens – within acceptable international norms.

From my own reading and research, I cannot agree with Mr.
Halkerston’s view that Cayman is susceptible to legal challenge for
the limitations it imposes on a qualified right to vote or stand in
national elections.

It may rankle United Kingdom citizens that on overseas territory that
‘belongs’ to United Kingdom should be allowed to impose limits on
them. But it is legally permissible and within acceptable
international norms – including the same ones
alternately applicable to, referenced by and derogated
from by the United Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

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AG report aims to improve accountability

| 18/07/2008 | 0 Comments

George Town (CNS): The latest report by the Auditor
General’s office, “The State of Financial Accountability Reporting in
Government”, has been published to help focus attention and resolve
the problem rather than point fingers, the office has said.

“This is not just a scorecard. It is a thoughtful report about how
things can be improved,” said Auditor General Dan Duguay. The report
details why the 37 government ministries and departments have failed
to submit adequate financial reports, but it also provides
recommendations, and he says it is not just down to the Financial
Secretary’s office to resolve the problem.

“This is everyone’s problem and we all could do more and we need
everyone to work on this,” he said. “The report has been designed to
give people the information so they can better understand what the
problems are, where things are going wrong and how to begin resolving
them.”

He noted that his own office, the civil servants in the relevant
departments, the Financial Secretary’s office and Members of the
Legislative Assembly have a role to play in improving public
accountability, and that that until accountability improved the new
system under the Public Management Finance Law could not work
properly. Public servants were competent in justifying to the LA their
cases for receiving funding but not so good at accounting for the
money once they got it, he remarked, adding that members needed to
push for more accountability. Once they had voted to give funds, they
needed to ask where that money was being spent.

“This auditwill help them press for more accountability because they
will be able to see in detail the situation in each ministry, why it
has reached this point and what can be done,” he said. “Without this
type of information it is hard to press for any kind of real
accountability or manage government spending. It is down to a simple
matter of MLAs asking ‘how did you spend the money?’ and government
departments being able to answer the question.”

Duguay described the report as a snapshot but an important one, which
revealed information to the wider public in which they had an
interest, and they had a right to know how government spends public
money.  Although not wanting to give exact details of the worst
offending ministries in terms of accounting problems, he said that the
important thing was to look toward improvement for the future.

“When we do the report again next year we want to be able to show how
departments have tackled the issues and to say they are doing much
better,” he said.

The HSA, however, was quick to say it was doing much better already in
a statement issued by the Acting Chief Executive Officer denying
accusation’s in Cayman Net News that it was one of the worst
offenders in the accounting delay. Lizzette Yearwood said the
department was not delinquent or in breach of accountability
guidelines in its annual financial reports. She said that the AG was
in receipt of financial statements from the last two fiscal years of
2005/06 and 2006/07.

The AG acknowledged that the HSA was certainly improving but said the
2003 accounts were still in question as there was not enough
information. There were no financial statements at all for 2004/05 and
he was not sure there ever would be. Duguay also said that, while he
was very pleased to have received the last two year’s statements,
there were still questions surrounding fiscal issues at the HSA.
However, he also wanted to give credit where it was due.

 Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since the HSA became an authority there were accounting
problems, and while there are still some questions and missing
accounts, the Authority is certainly making a serious effort to
improve the situation and we are very happy to work with them to help
address the problems.”

In another response to the report, Rolston Anglin, Opposition MLA for
West Bay, said urgent action was needed. “This is an issue that has
been consistently presented to the government and to date they have
shown no interest in providing the financial accountability that is
required to the people of the Cayman Islands, and we should expect
more from them in resolving this situation,” said Anglin, who noted
that the PPM had stated in its 2005 manifesto that party could be
trusted to comply with the Public Management Finance Law. 

“This is nothing short of irresponsible. We all understand that the
various bodies have had some difficulties in getting their accounts in
order. But how can the government, having made such promises as they
did in their 2005 manifesto, simply let the situation get worse? 1.5
billion in accounts is a lot to explain. The people of the Cayman
Islands deserve an explanation.”  

Although the return of accounts is a civil service matter, Anglin said
the direct responsibility of the PPM Administration in dealing with
the issue could not be dismissed by saying it is just a public
officer’s job.

“In 2005 when the PPM promised better fiscal management and
accountability, we have to assume that they had a plan for how to
ensure things like this do not occur. And when a crisis like this
occurs, we should look to them for accountability and a full
explanation,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapell takes UCCI reins as Syed runs

| 18/07/2008 | 0 Comments

George Town (CNS): In the wake of reports that the
former president of the University College of the Cayman Islands
(UCCI) has disappeared again from his last known position in Canada,
the Board of Governors said in a statement yesterday that the college
Dean, Dr Brian Chapell, had been appointed Acting President of UCCI
since the beginning of June. The board said it had the utmost
confidence in Dr Chapell and no doubt that he would continue to make a
significant and positive contribution, but that a Selection Committee
of the board was seeking a new president.

“Clearly this is a major undertaking of great importance to the
university, and it may take some time before a permanent appointment
is made,” the board said.

Following the disappearance of former president Dr Hassan Syed and the
revelations of financial irregularities discovered by the Auditor
General’s office, the board appointed Deloitte to undertake a further
audit, even though the Auditor General Dan Duguay had already reported
his findings to the police and an FCU investigation was underway.

In its statement on 17 July, the board said that Deloitte had made a
presentation of its findings together with recommendations to the
board.  “While Deloitte’s presentation confirmed that there were
in fact internal controls in place that appear to have been breached,
they have also made recommendations on how those internal controls
could be strengthened. Deloitte’s final report is with the Board,” it
said.

The board also admitted that it had recently met with Duguay in order
for him to present his full findings to all members, something that
the AG had been requesting since the beginning of May. “Both
presentations have been instructive to the Board, and the Board is
responding to their findings with a view to implementing changes in
authority at an administrative level as well as strengthening the
system of internal controls over the financial transactions of the
University,” the statement said.

The board said that it was now meeting frequently to ensure that “all
issues are fully addressed in an efficient and professional manner”,
though it gave no indication of the details of those issues. It did
say, however, that it is working to complete the financial statements
of the University for the year end 30 June 2007 and planning the audit
for the year ended June 30, 2008, with a view to completion this year.

As the Financial Crimes Unit is carrying out an investigation, the
board said it was not in a position to discuss any aspects of the
former President’s transactions, although CNS understands that the
irregularities, include purchases from Tiffany’s jewellery store at
the Ritz, as well as vacations and flights. The full details of the
irregularities and amounts that Hassan allegedly defrauded are still
unknown but it is said to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When CNS contacted the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) in
wake of reports that Hassan had disappeared again from his last known
location in Canada, the police said it was still too early to look at
issues of extradition. However, if Hassan is required to return to the
Cayman Islands in regards to the enquiry or to face justice, even if
he is still in Canada, Cayman has no extradition agreement with that
nation.

Back in August 2006, Education Minister Alden McLaughlin had said that
Syed had a PhD in Computer Science, an MBA in Marketing and a BSc in
Civil Engineering, and that he was pleased to have “an educational
professional of Dr Syed’s calibre at the helm” of the UCCI. However,
following Syed’s departure, it was discovered that he had never
received a Phd and that he may not have had the work experience he
claimed. After resigning from the UCCI declaring a severe illness, the
revelations regarding the so-called financial irregularities surfaced.
A few weeks later the former President turned up Toronto’s Centennial
College.  Tad Stoner of Cayman Net News then revealed in a report
published on 8 July that Syed had also left that position, citing “an
urgent family matter”.

 

 

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Social security

| 18/07/2008 | 0 Comments

Posted Friday, 18 July 208

In 1987 our Chamber of Commerce mobilised public opinion against the
proposed Cayman Islands Social Security scheme (CISS). The proposal
was based on a system that was quite unsuitable for Cayman, and it was
abandoned when the public realised that it would have brought about
the introduction of Income Tax. We called it “the CISS of death”, and
that was the end of it.

Article 22 of the Universal Declaration declares the right to
social security for everyone as a member of society
. As usual,
there are no definitions. Who is and isn’t a “member of society”, for
one thing. In our case, the society in question would be not our local
society but the extended society of Britain and all her possessions.
Britain it was who subscribed to the Declaration on our behalf, back
in 1948.

What is “social security” and what isn’t?  Chambers of Commerce
may interpret the term one way, local governments a different way. The
history of the original drafting of the Declaration tells of long
arguments between the Soviet participants and the Western. The latter
preferred some kind of levy to fund a kind of “national insurance”;
the former insisted that the state provide it for free as per the
Communist model. Result: no definition at all!

The onus is on Britain as a signatory-State to provide access to this
entitlement – rather than on any of her individual overseas
territories or domestic boroughs. In the overseas territories the FCO
delegates the job to local legislatures, but London must surely be
having second thoughts about the wisdom of that. The local governments
in Bermuda, Caymanand Turks & Caicos are all becoming notorious
for their disdain for civilised standards behaviour in various fields.

Would it be acceptable if immigrants and transients in the British
Overseas Territories were to be formally excluded from the category of
“members of society”?  Maybe; maybe not.  Cayman’s migrant
domestic workers are regularly denied the protection of the law in
general. However, the situation might not sit well with the United
Nations, if they ever found out about it.  It might set a
dangerous precedent. Several European nations have already been pulled
up for treating gypsies in this way. 

The Universal Declaration allows for no distinction between peoples –
native-born, immigrants, transient migrants and refugees. That’s why
it’s called “Universal” and not “Selective”. Even in Africa, refugees
from Darfur aren’t sent into the desert without food and water just
because they are ruled not to be “members of society”.

In England until 1834, each parish was required by law to look after
its own poor people. In times of hardship, immigrants (except women
married to local men) were sent back to their parishes of
origin.  In that year, the Poor Law made neighbouring parishes
band together in Unions to take care of all the poor of those
parishes. The poor of other parishes were expelled to their Poor Law
Unions of origin.

I don’t know what rules applied in Jamaica when Cayman was a Jamaican
parish. However, the old British arrangement is present today in
Cayman. Our three Islands in effect comprise a Poor Law Union, taking
care of its own poor but nobody else’s. The fear of becoming
responsible for non-parishioners may be a factor in the FCO’s
continuing decision to allow our native-Caymanian Immigration Board to
grant only revocable citizenship (Status) to long-term
immigrants.

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Police make arrest in fund fraud

| 17/07/2008 | 0 Comments

George Town (CNS): An unnamed 47-year-old man has
been arrested on suspicion of theft, false accounting and uttering
false documents in connection with the collapse of the ‘Grand Island
Fund’. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) said the arrest
was made yesterday (Wednesday, 16 July) as part of investigations into
the collapse of the local funds by the Financial Crimes Unit (FCU ).
The man has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

In a statement concerning the arrest, the FCU said the collapse of the
funds is thought to represent millions of dollars and that the FCU was
unsure how many people are affected by its collapse. Investigations
are ongoing into the matter and detectives would like those with
information or knowledge to come forward. Anyone who can assist should
contact Detective Sergeant Claire Jackson on 949-8797.

The RCIPS did not state exactly which of the funds – Grand Island
Commodity Trading Fund I, Grand Island Commodity Trading Fund II, and
Grand Island Income Fund, which were registered by CIMA in 2006, and
Grand Island Master Fund, which is unregulated – the arrest related
to. However, the funds are interlinked.

David Walker and Nicholas Freeland were appointed by the Joint
Voluntary Liquidators (JVL) in the wake of the voluntary liquidation
last month of all four funds, which were domiciled in the Cayman
Islands. At least one was founded and directed by local businessman
Naul Bodden, and CNS understands that Close Brothers (Cayman) Ltd were
the Fund Administrators. Not only were the funds locally managed, a
considerable number of local investors are also said to be involved
and to have lost significant amounts of money.

Last week, PwC Corporate Finance & Recovery (Cayman) Ltd, wholly
owned by PricewaterhouseCoopers Cayman Islands, was appointed as
Receiver over various accounts held at ScotiaMcLeod in Canada, which
are believed to be related to the funds. PwC said that this would
facilitate the repatriation of monies currently held in accounts in
Canada back to the Cayman Islands until the proper allocation is
determined. The liquidators were expecting to have made an application
to the Grand Court to have the funds placed under its supervision and
heard this week.  

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands
should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on
800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling crime stoppers remain anonymous,
and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information
lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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Arrest made for West Bay shooting

| 17/07/2008 | 0 Comments

In a Royal Cayman Islands police Service (RCIPS) release Tuesday,
detectives investigating the murder of Jefferson said the gunman had
two firearms. Confirming that the post mortem on the 23-year-old from
West Bay had shown he was shot three times, they said they were now
following a number of leads.

“At this point, based on the evidence we have so far, it would appear
we are looking for a single gunman who was armed with two firearms,”
said Superintendent Marlon Bodden, who is overseeing the
investigation. “Whether he was assisted by others is yet to be
determined. This is still early days. We are in the process of
collecting statements and gathering and examining the evidence.”

Police arrived within minutes after they were called to Birch
Tree Hill Road around midnight on Friday, July 11,  about
the shooting outside Kelly’s bar, where Jefferson’s body was
discovered lying on the ground and where a second man received two
bullet wounds, one to each arm. This victim has undergone surgery for
his injuries and remains in hospital at this time.

“Witnesses have told us the gunman walked into the road from the
direction of the laundromat and made off over a fence behind Kelly’s
bar,” said Supt Bodden. “I appeal for anyone who saw the gunman
before, during or after the attack to contact the Major Incident Room
in West Bay on 949-3999. If you would prefer, you could call Crime
Stoppers on 800-8477.”

Police are mindful that the attacker was seen leaving on foot but
could have got into a car or onto a bike so are appealing for any
sightings of someone leaving the scene after the incident. “We need to
speak to anyone with information, no matter how small,” added Supt
Bodden. “Even if it seems insignificant, it could help with our
enquiries.”

CID also thanked the public for their cooperation and hoped it would
continue. Anyone with information about crime taking place in the
Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime
Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling crime stoppers remain
anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their
information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

 

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MPs to visit Cayman next week

| 17/07/2008 | 0 Comments

Posted Thursday, 17 July 2008

George Town (CNS): A member of the House of Commons
Treasury Select Committee (TSC), which is conducting an enquiry into
offshore financial centres (OFCs), will be visiting all three islands
next week as part of the delegation from the All Party Parliamentary
Group for the Cayman Islands (APPG).

Altogether, five members of the APPG, a group that maintains links
with and develops an understanding of the Cayman Islands within the UK
Parliament, will be coming to Cayman for a six-day visit, led by
Jennifer Dilbert, the Cayman Islands Government Representative in the
UK.

The Group, which comprises members from the House of Commons and the
House of Lords and includes representatives from all three main
political parities, is currently considering tabling questions in the
House on the issue of the European Union Equivalency List (White
List), according to a release from Cayman’s London Office.

The Cayman Islands was among the offshore ‘tax havens’ omitted from a
recent EU ‘white list’ of countries deemed to have satisfactory
controls against money laundering. According to the UK Treasury
department, the list, compiled by the EU committee on the prevention
of money laundering and terrorist financing, is open but Cayman is
dependent on the UK’s decision to lobby or not on the islands’ behalf.

Among the delegation here next week will be Michael Fallon, the senior
Conservative on the Commons TSC, which is currently
conducting an enquiry into OFCs
and their impact on global business and investment, including the
international fight against money laundering, that has gathered
written evidence,
some highly critical, from OFCs, NGOs and academics.

Accompanying Fallon will be fellow Conservative MP and APPG Vice-
Chairman Nigel Evans, Baroness Llin Golding (Labour) and 2 Labour
Members of Parliament, Ian Davidson and Lindsay Hoyle. Another member
of the Treasury Select Committee, APPG Secretary Graham Brady MP,
visited the Cayman Islands in 2004.

Members have discussed the itinerary of the visit to ensure that all
areas of interest relating to the Islands are covered, the London
Office said. The delegation showed particular interest in learning
more about the Hazard Management facilities, the Tourism
Apprenticeship Program and the Civil Service College in
Cayman.  

Over the six days, the UK group will attend meetings and briefings
with MLAs, senior government officers and private sector
representatives to discuss current issues, policies, problems and
development in the Cayman Islands. The delegation will also be invited
to an environment briefing, a financial services seminar, and a
discussion with the Chamber of Commerce.

The CI London Office says the purpose of the visit is to familiarize
the delegation, and through them the APPG as a whole, with as many
aspects of the Cayman Islands as possible. The programme will also
include visits to historical and cultural sites in Grand Cayman, as
well as a trip to the Sister Islands, to promote a first hand
appreciation of Caymanian history and culture.

Dilbert commented, “This is a very important exercise as it gives the
delegations the opportunity to experience the islands first hand. It
is essential that the group has a good understanding of Cayman and all
its facets as they are the ongoing permanent link between Parliament
and the Cayman Islands.”

 

 reply@caymannewsservice.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Police face mixed results

| 16/07/2008 | 0 Comments

George Town (CNS): In the face of a 400% increase in
the murder rate but a decrease in burglaries and other crimes, senior
police officers were able to claim a 33% drop in overall crime for the
first half of 2008, but with six men killed already this year the
results were bittersweet.

Attending a media briefing with Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis to
announce the half-year crime figures, Acting Commissioner David George
noted that, while the overall decline in crime was good news, he
shared the community’s concerns regarding the increase in high profile
violent crime.

“It would be wrong of me to give an overview of the crime figures
without discussing the area of crime that has gone up – murder and
attempted murder,” he said. “We have had five murders in the first six
months of this year and the events of the weekend bring the total up
to six. The RCIPS is committed to the rigorous investigation of all of
these crimes and will endeavour to secure convictions on them all. It
is very difficult to say why we have this increase, especially in
light of continual reduction in other areas of crime.”

George offered his condolences to the family of 23 year old Mark
Anthony Jefferson who was shot and killed on Friday night, 11 July,
outside Kelly’s Bar in West Bay, making him the sixth murder victim of
the year.

The Commissioner said that, while the numbers were relatively small,
any violent death was one too many and the RCIPS was taking action to
combat this increase in violence with proactive firearms strategies
and a review of the policing of license premises where crime is taking
place. George said that support from the community was also crucial in
not only solving crimes that have occurred but preventing future
crimes as well.

He added that there were no obvious connections between any of the
murders that had taken place this year and he would not be drawn into
speculating that the significant increase in murder and attempted
murder related directly to gangs and drugs.

“I am clearly concerned about the murder rate,” he said, added that it
was not necessarily appropriate to compare Cayman to other countries
because the numbers were still low. “There does not appear to be a
linkage but we are looking at intelligence and the best way to prevent
a murder is for the community to give the police the information they
require.”

George added that the RCIPS was working on any connection that there
may be but there was no rationale to say the latest murders were
related to gangs or drugs or each other, but the service was still
assessing the situation to see if their were associations between
victims and suspects.

“It is fair to say that in a number of crimes that take place around
the world drug usage is a problem, and it would be wrong for me to
suggest that isn’t the case. At the moment we do not have any
information concerning the more recent crimes to say that there is a
linkage between them and it would be wrong to draw that conclusion,”
George said.

He continued to emphasise that the police needed the help of the
community and that, even though arrests had been made in two of the
most recent murders, they continued to rely on information supplied by
the public.

With more calls and tips recorded by Crimestoppers from the Cayman
Islands this year, Ennis said that there had been a marginal
improvement in peoplecoming forward with information for the police
but more help was still required.

“I’ve seen some improvement but it is not at the level where we want
to see and we want to make an appeal particularly to family members,”
he said, adding that it was better for parents to come forward if they
knew family members were involved in violent crime as it would be
better for them to be in prison than dead. “It will take the entire
community, not just the police, to make this island a safer place,”
added Ennis.

Both officers, however, said they were pleased that overall crime
figures were on a continued downward trend and that officers of the
RCIPS had worked diligently despite the recent disruption regarding
the internal investigation currently being undertaken by the
Metropolitan Police Service.

 

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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