Archive for September, 2008

Talks to remain closed

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Leader of the British Foreign & Commonwealth delegation, Ian Hendry (left), said that the constitutional talks between the UK-FCO Team and the Cayman Islands delegation would remain behind closed doors, as he did not wish to see grandstanding getting in the way of possible agreement. The public talks request was made by McKeeva Bush during his opening statement, when he said keeping the talks private defeated the purpose of having them in the Cayman Islands.

 “We are grateful that these meetings are being held in the Cayman Islands in accordance with the recommendations of Foreign Affairs Committee July 2008 report on Overseas Territories, but are disappointed that the full benefits of having these meeting here are not being realised by having them closed to the public,” said Bush. “The desire of this recommendation was to ensure that the local population did not feel distant from the process. Failing to allow the people an opportunity to listenin has negated the benefit of these talks being in Cayman. They might as well have been in the UK.”

In response, Hendry said that not only did he not have the authority to say the talks could be open but he had no desire to see them take place in the public spotlight, as he felt it could be detrimental. “It is not a sensible way to conduct negotiations and there is no precedent for constitutional negotiations being held in public and there are good reasons,” he said. “If the discussions are held in public, we will not reach a conclusion. This is a negotiation not an academic debate. We need compromise and persuasion and I know from bitter experience if negotiations are held in private we are more likely to see concessions and forbearance. In public we would get grandstanding.”

Hendry did say, however, that he was happy to meet the press at the end of the four days on Thursday. At the close of the first day CNS learned that while the delegates had all agreed not to talk publicly about the discussions until the end of this first round, the first day did not see anything of any importance concluded.

The first two hours of the session, when each party laid out its position, were open to the press. All eyes were on the opposition delegation, which was the last to arrive and made a damning presentation with regard to their treatment during the constitutional review process and its legitimacy. “We are of the firm view that the process has not done full justice in bringing about constitutional consensus.  Our concerns are centred on the lack of objectivity and balance in the process,” said Bush.

He also made it clear that his party did not believe there was local support for some of the fundamental changes the government was proposing. “We maintain that the PPM administration has failed in bringing about national consensus on some of the more salient aspects of their proposals, Bush said. “The UDP is cognisant more than most that our political system is not as mature as other territories and considers the timely and systematic approach of devolving power to elected representatives as opposed to the sweeping approach embedded in the government proposals.

However, in his opener, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts had made it very clear that the Cayman Islands was seeking greater decision-making powers for the elected government.  “Our growing maturity as a nation underscores the need for a Constitution which gives Caymanians, through their elected Government, a greater say in crucial decisions affecting our country,” said the LoGB. “The people of the Cayman Islands, through their government, need to play a greater role in key decision making which affects local matters and local interests. This is particularly true in relation to key aspects of governance like national security and the conclusion of international agreements. In essence, what we are seeking is a sharing of decision-making responsibility with the United Kingdom.”

He said there was no desire for independence, but the country has reached a stage in its development where the legislature and Cabinet should fully reflect the democratic will of the people. He added that as the UK had actively supported the worldwide trend of democratisation, it should appreciate that the presence of non-elected members with casting votes in both the legislature and Cabinet goes against the trend.

Laying out the UK position, Hendry gave very little away except to say that it wanted to see a bill of rights chapter in any new constitution. “The United Kingdom negotiating team approach constitutional review with no preconceived agenda,” he said. “We are ready to explore and discuss any proposals the Cayman Islands delegation might advance.”

He added that the United Kingdom team will be striving for the best possible outcome for the Cayman Islands that is consistent with the United Kingdom’s continuing responsibilities for the territory.

“These responsibilities include ensuring good governance, a non-political civil service and police force, the independence of the judiciary, the maintenance of law and order, the fulfilment of international obligations, and the minimisation of contingent liabilities,” he said.

He explained that in the absence of agreement, the current Constitution of the Cayman Islands would continue, but if there was agreement the UK would want to see evidence that it had the support of the people of the Cayman Islands.  He also said nothing is agreed in the process of negotiation until everything is agreed.

The Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Ministers’ Association, the Mission of Seventh-Day Adventists and the Human Rights Committee also laid out the details of their positions and raised a number of issues that they were very keen top see addressed during the process, including the desire by the Human Rights Committee to see the application of human rights horizontally as well as vertically, and the churches’ desire for the opposite. The Chamber made some emphatic points about curbing potential abuse of power. “Extraordinary events involving inappropriate behaviour and actions by the United Kingdom through a former attorney general and serious allegations against senior officials in our courts and police systems have alarmed our membership,” said Wil Pineau CEO of Chamber.

(See CNS tomorrow for details of NGO positions)


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Montessori del sol Dress Red for Haiti Relief

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The teachers and students at Montessori del sol recently participated in a “Dress Red” day to raise money and awareness for the Red Cross, specifically to aid with hurricane relief in Haiti. The Montessori students, ranging in ages two to six were educated by their teachers on the importance of recognizing charitable needs in the local community and internationally. (Left: River Wolfe)

According to a release, the Dress Red day demonstrated to the students how to get involved toward positive change and bring much-needed awareness to specific needs.

“Children are never too young to understand the value of helping others”, comments Montessori del sol owner, Amy Tipton. “The students enjoyed dressing in red and learning about the ways that the donation will help those in Haiti”.

Money raised will go to the Cayman Islands Red Cross Haiti relief fund. For more information on the CI Red Cross, please visit

Donations for the Haiti relief fund can be made directly to the Butterfield Bank Account # 02-201-035054-01 Haiti Relief or by calling: 345-925-0681


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Too much money is beyond legal reach

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(Wall Street Journal): A major factor in the current financial crisis is the lack of transparency in the activities of the principal players in the financial markets. This opaqueness is compounded by vast sums of money that lie outside the jurisdiction of U.S. regulators and other supervisory authorities. There is $1.9 trillion, almost all of it run out of the New York metropolitan area, that sits in the Cayman Islands, a secrecy jurisdiction. Go to article

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Greenlight for ocean lesson

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Aimed at increasing the awareness of the human connection to the ocean the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s (CCMI) Ocean Literacy initiative received a welcome financial boost recently. Locally based Greenlight Reinsurance, Ltd. (Greenlight Re) confirmed its continued partnership supporting the education programmes.

These various programmes at the CCMI teach fundamental scientific principles through field-based activities and build critical thinking and problem solving skills.  CCMI’s Caribbean Sea Camp recently finished the ninth season and the Eco-Weekends will have a full programme launch for 2008/09, thanks to the help of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. The Greenlight Re commitment is allocated primarily towards “Ocean Literacy”, which carries the pledge to make every child in the Cayman Islands ocean literate by the time they are 12 years old.  

CCMI CEO Jim O’Neill explained that Greenlight Re was CCMI’s first corporate sponsor for education programmes and the firm’s contribution has allowed the institute to pilot programmes such as Eco Weekend and develop the Ocean Literacy concept. “Because of Greenlight Re, CCMI has been able to have a wide-ranging impact locally with youth and their literacy about the marine environment,” he added.

The ocean covers over 70 percent of the earth’s surface, moderates climate, and gives life to the earth and is critically threatened.  The Ocean Literacy programme has a detailed and ambitious three-year plan, which will impact all residents in the Cayman Islands. Its aim is to provide literature, training and support to teachers in both the public and private schools in the Cayman Islands and to implement a public awareness campaign for Ocean Literacy designed to make all members of the community more aware of the impact that they have on the ocean and the impact that the ocean has on them.

“We are proud to extend our partnership with CCMI to educate the youth of our community”, said Greenlight Re CFO Tim Courtis.  “The Ocean Literacy programme targets youth, as well as the entire public on the importance of the marine environment.  We believe this will have a great impact on Cayman’s community for years and even decades to come.”

The CCMI Education committee has developed and published an Ocean Literacy teacher’s guide, entitled Our Ocean Planet, which has been endorsed by the Education Ministry and has been incorporated into the science curriculum.  CCMI will be providing extensive teacher training and support to communicate the new information.  Step two will roll out in 2009 and will include local media and wide distribution of the essential principles.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit 501c3 organization.  CCMI was established as an international charitable organization after becoming incorporated in the Cayman Islands (2002) and in the UK in 2004. Since its first years, CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort to understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world. To participate in CCMI’s education programmes, please email


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Police net drug boat

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service intercepted a drug canoe yesterday morning and have arrested a man on suspicion of importation of drugs and illegal entry into the Cayman Islands. Following a joint operation the 42-year-old man was taken into custody and a canoe and approximately 200 pounds of ganja were seized off the coast of South Sound.

At around 6.30 am on Monday morning 29 September, officers on patrol stopped a man who was acting suspiciously in the South Sound area. Shortly afterwards, police were alerted to a boat seen drifting out at sea. Officers from the joint Customs and Police Marine Unit, Drugs Task Force, Criminal Investigation Department, Air Support Unit and a Port Authority vessel were deployed and the 30-foot canoe, with two engines, was located and seized. A number of packages of ganja were found in the vessel, weighing approximately 200 pounds.

The man was arrested and remains in custody at this time. Investigations by the Drugs Task Force are ongoing and DC Rodrick Evans asks that anyone with information about the boat or the arrest contact him on 526-0776. 

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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Minister questions enquiry

| 30/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): As Justice Alex Henderson was making public the real reasons for his arrest by officers from the UK independent police investigation, the Minster for Education, Alden McLaughlin voiced his concerns on Friday that the entire operation was a gross over reaction and was damaging to the Cayman Islands. He said that based on the information that the elected cabinet members were receiving, something just wasn’t right.

 “I haveexpressed grave doubts and concerns,” said McLaughlin. “This just doesn’t feel right to me.”

He said that it could be because the government hasn’t been given all the information needed to make an assessment but he was doubtful of the validity of what was going on.

“Drawing on my experience as a lawyer, I am sceptical of coincidences and the arrest of Henderson just before constitutional talks begin rings alarm bells in my head,” he added. “There is just something wrong with this arrangement that essentially allows a British invasion of our system and foreign cops investigating, well……I don’t know what?”

McLaughlin said it all seemed to be a gross over reaction to the issues at hand, and even assuming that the information the government had was correct and the Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan was involved in approving an unlawful entry to an office, the response was not necessarily proportionate.

“What’s at stake here is the international credibility of the Cayman Islands,” added the Minister. “If we have a corrupt system we need to fix it but nothing I have seen or heard so far leads me to believe that the response of the Governor to these matters is proportionate.”

Since all of this started, he said, he was hearing concerns coming from the business community at what was really going on and he indicated the government’s exclusion from the details meant they could not be sure what was happening was genuine and it illustrated the need for change.

“If we had a national security council from which the Governor had to take advice, while decisions might not be different we wouldn’t be in this realm of speculation. The elected government would know what was going on and we would support the Governor. We would have confidence that these were genuine decisions as opposed to being taking in isolation by the UK government with an unknown agenda,” McLaughlin noted. “This is a huge frustration for us as the elected government and this is why I am passionate about the reform of the constitution.”

He also lamented the cost of the investigation coupled with estimates of the tribunal to hear complaints against Justice Priya Levers, which together were now mounting to millions of dollars. He explained that the electorate take the elected government to task over the spending of government funds but that they have no control on this. Even if Finance Committee refused to appropriate the funds, the Governor would simply use his reserve powers to take the money.

The Minister said the situation was entirely inappropriate and that the constitutional arrangement needed to be changed. “This is not a little colonial outpost any more we have some of the biggest banks and business operating here. It’s a sophisticated jurisdiction nd we simply can’t have an invasion of another government.”

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts confirmed that the elected members of government were informed only the morning before of Henderson’s pending arrest.  “We were briefed at Cabinet just before the start of the meeting by the Governor in general terms on Tuesday,” he said “As is usually the case, there was scant information regarding the end result.” He explained that the elected members of government have only been told in the broadest terms what Bridger and his officers are investigating and have not been given any specific details.


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Talks with UK underway

| 29/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The People’s Progressive Movement government has made a commitment to secure the best possible deal for Cayman as negotiations begin again five years after constitutional talks broke down between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Cayman Islands’ adminstration. The new round of negotiations begins this morning, following the arrival of a UK delegation led by Ian Hendry, at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman.

“Our role as your government is to articulate a strong and convincing case for Caymanians and to represent their interests working in concert with other stakeholders,” said Kurt Tibbetts the Leader of Government Business. “Our aim is simply to secure the best deal possible for the Cayman Islands. That is a new constitution which is acceptable to the vast majority of people. A constitution which reflects our values, our hopes and our aspirations in a continuing relationship with the United Kingdom and you have our word on that.”

With the government and the opposition still at odds on some of the more significant points Tibbetts said on Friday that he was still confident that, as the two sides agreed on almost 90 percent of the proposals that will be put before the UK, the talks on Monday 29 September would be productive.  

“There are more issues on which we are united than we are divided and between now and Monday an opportunity may arise to further narrow the differences,” said the LoGB. “Government has always been of the view that this is more about country than about party”

Speaking at the weekly media briefing he said that the previous day’s  final preparatory meeting in Bodden Town, which was the first tome government and opposition had sat down with all of the other stakeholders, had seen all parties reach broad agreement on most issues. He said the Constitutional Secretariat will summarize the positions arrived at by the end of that meeting and that document will be handed over to UK team.

He said the NGOs were in broad agreement with the government’s proposals aside from a few issues regarding the bill of rights which he felt could be resolved during the UK talks. He also said that the few sticking points between the government and the opposition concerned the role of the governor, issues of power regarding the police and the makeup of the legislative assembly and cabinet.

“They also disagree with the proposal to introduce single member constituencies which would allow every voter to be equal when it comes to their vote in the election. As it stands some Caymanians can exercise up to four votes depending on where they live while some have only one. The UDP says it is happy with the status quo,” he said. “In cases where finding common ground is not possible between now and the beginning of the negotiations the issues will still come up because as the UK government will naturally have a position of their own.”

Caymanians he said needed to be mindful that the negotiations don’t just involve Caymanian interests but the British government has a role and whatever emerges will reflect both countries interests. He also noted that the time for a new constitution was never more apparent given the recent developments surrounding the independent police investigation and the arrest of a high court judge which was excluding the elected government from developments.

Constitutional modernisation has been on the agenda for some eight years,” he said. “We in the Cayman Islands ought to bring closure to the issueand further delay is not in the national interest. If we miss this train it is likely we will not have a similar opportunity for quite a while perhaps several years to come. There is broad agreement that the Cayman Islands needs a new constitution to more effectively address the reality of a changing community and wider world. Let us endeavour therefore, to make a new constitution a reality. We are at a crucial juncture in our development and in our history. Circumstances dictate that the interests of the nation must take precedence over all other considerations and the people of the Cayman Islands expect nothing less.”

Tibbetts said that the talks would continue through to Thursday and that while only the opening presentations will be held in public the rest will be behind closed doors as is normal practice but the people would be updated through the media as the talks progressed. The dates and location for the next round will also be established during the course of the next four days.

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Marine cops get new boat

| 28/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Despite the recent debacle surrounding the police helicopter, border patrol received a welcome boost last week with the official launch of the first of a number of new law enforcement vessels.  Officially christened ‘Cayman Defender’, the 38-foot Dauntless Ram is one of four vessels to be assigned to the joint Customs, Police, and for the first time, Immigration Marine Unit.

Acting Commissioner of Police David George said the investment into border protection is extremely welcome and will go a long way in helping to prevent drugs and guns arriving in the Cayman Islands. “We know that illegal substances and firearms arrive here via the sea,” he said. “The better equipped we are to protect the borders, the better equipped we are to ensure the safety and security of these Islands.”

On Friday, 26 September, the boat was christened and launched into the water at a ceremony attended by around some 50 dignitaries, law enforcement officials and other invited guests, marking the start of a new era for border protection in the Cayman Islands.

Following speeches by H.E the Governor, Kearney Gomez, Permanent Secretary on behalf of Leader of Government Business, Kurt Tibbetts and the Acting Commissioner of Police, David George, Mrs Tibbetts, officially christened ‘Cayman Defender’ a fast patrol boat part of a wider government investment package into border protection worth approximately CI$7.7 million.

The package includes four new vessels and a state of the art marine base currently being built at the end of Hirst Road in Newlands to house customs, police and immigration officers.

Manufactured by family owned Sea Ark in the United States, the boat is the product of 18-months hard work by the project team which includes Head of the Marine Unit, Inspector Brad Ebanks, Sergeant Shawn Bodden, Sergeant Clive Smith, Mr Peter Multon of the Public Works Department and Ms Reshma Sharma of the Legal Department.

“The team has worked extremely hard over the last year and a half to ensure that this project becomes a reality and the launch of “Defender’ is the start of things to come,” said project leader, Superintendent Mike Needham. “I thank the team for the extended hours of work and travel they have completed to ensure the arrival of this vessel.”

SeaArk, which also built Cayman Protector in back in 1994 and spent seven months on Cayman Defender, is also tasked with building the 65ft patrol boat, due for delivery in December. The final two 38-foot interceptors are due in January 2009 and are being built by Safe Boats International in the US.

The Marine Unit has been growing in strength and effectiveness over the last two years. Throughout 2007, efforts focused on equipping staff with the necessary skills and abilities to carry out their role effectively and officers completed a range specialist training in the area of border and maritime policing, notably with the British Navy.

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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Destabalising Cayman

| 28/09/2008 | 3 Comments

Not a proponent of conspiracy theory myself (and we were all entertained by Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in Conspiracy Theory) but if I did not know better I could be led to believe, based on the recent distasteful sequence of events, that there is a deliberate attempt by someone to destabilize our country.

When in the history of crabs have we ever witnessed the shambles in which our law and order has found itself? Look at the way in which this whole fiasco is being mismanaged.

Right now nearly half of our judiciary is under investigation (and we are told for different reasons). We have a Commissioner of Police that, although not arrested or questioned (and was allowed to return to the United Kingdom for family reasons when his chances for return are minimal to none), is subject to questioning for 1) criminal investigation into the alleged misconduct of a public office; 2) disciplinary proceedings for failing to return to the island after being asked three times by the Governor; and 3) the dratted helicopter acquisition.

HE the Governor concedes that this is "an unprecedented investigation involving senior members of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service…and the arrest…of Justice Alexander (Ace) Henderson". HE the Governor in the same breath continues that he wants “to assure the financial community and our international stakeholders that the Cayman Islands remain a stable jurisdiction with a sound judicial system. I reiterate that none of these actions have any reference to our financial industry and are not related to any judgments delivered by Justice Henderson. It is about maintaining the reputation and integrity of the Cayman Islands; and to ensure the highest level of ethical behaviour for those holding public office."

But in bringing the law and order of the Cayman Islands literally to its knees, what does HE the Governor mean when he said that this process is to "maintain the reputation and integrity" of these islands. Whose reputation? The reputation of these islands or his?

And I ask the question because there is a certain irony; these areas of responsibility under our constitution are not the responsibility of our elected leaders but that of the Governor and by extension the United Kingdom. These are also areas under which there is literally no transparency and effective accountability and we the people of the Cayman Islands are asked to blindingly rely on the discretion and good will of the office of the Governor. And perceive what has transpired as a mere aberration and not deliberate but to maintain the reputation and integrity of these islands.

Say what you may about the PPM and its questionable administrative performance over the past few years but this is one matter that they are not responsible for under our constitution. So I ask, what is the message that is being communicated to the Caymanian people? And based on the facts to date who has our best interest at heart? And we have to ask this question in the context of our stooged experience with Messrs Ballantyne and Gibbs regarding the EuroBank case.

Unfortunately the mired situation in which the PPM administration has found itself does not bode well for these islands either. Caymanians do not know what headlines they will awake to in the mornings in light of the relentless negative headlines which consistently question the ability and integrity of our leadership. This is no joking matter because the same way that we read them each morning, so does the international community that we compete with and those who are our clients. The only loser in this equation is this community.

Finally, I would ask our community to consider the above in the context of the current constitutional debates. They are timely and very important. They are about the type of governance that we want for ourselves and our children. They will ensure that no one can ‘dodge responsibility’ and bring about true transparency, responsibility and accountability.

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Preservation architect comes back to museum

| 28/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With the return of Historic Preservation Architect Patricia Green (left) more work was underway at the Cayman Islands National Museum last week. Green was first invited to Cayman in the months following Hurricane Ivan to assess the Museum building and make recommendations and since then she has been a frequent visitor the islands and a crucial part in the museum restoration project.


Part of Green’s work has included preparing “as-built” drawings of the completed building; recommending the “look and feel” of exterior refurbishing of the Museum cafe; and assessing the importance to the Museum of the ongoing “Old Gaol” research and architectural preservation projects.

During her most recent visit Green paid close attention to the wattle and daub conservation work that has been undertaken by the museum team and she described the work of the craftsmen as evidence of the uniquely Caymanian vernacular architecture. “While we have these traditions throughout the Caribbean, when I work in a new place I consult with the local crafts people to ensure that we get the indigenous traditional nuances right,” she said.

While visiting this time she also explained the reason behind some of the changes on the project. Green said that unforeseen changes are inevitably made during refurbishing of any historic building. The Museum Gift Shop had originally been situated in the Old Gaol, but with the discovery of historic graffiti on the walls, the site is now being preserved as one of the Islands’ premiere archeological sites.  Consequently, the Gift Shop has had to be relocated.  Configuration of rooms has also changed, and in some cases decisions were taken to add features, such as the addition of a viewing panel to display the underground cistern located below the audio-visual room.

The museum will enjoy a soft opening in November but will formally open, with all exhibits in place, in January 2009.

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