Helicopter blame shifts

| 13/09/2008

(CNS): Suspended Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan (left) has accused government ministers of making statements to the press regarding the police helicopter that “appear purposely misleading, politically motivated, possibly slanderous or libelous, and certainly incorrect”. Furthermore, he suggested that every day the machine is delayed, for which he blames Cabinet, is “a good day for the bad guys”.

Kernohan was responding to accusations by Members of Cabinet at a press briefing on 4 September that the helicopter would not meet local requirements and the fault lay with Kernohan. “That Commissioner of Police misled us into believing that it would do what we needed it to and I am extremely disappointed. I was not elected to waste people’s funds,” said Minister Arden McLean.

Seeking to “set the record straight”, Kernohan maintained that despite their claims to the contrary, “at no point over the last two years were Cabinet ministers in any way misled or deceived – intentionally or otherwise – about the capabilities, the cost, or the cost of retrofitting or modifying the helicopter the Government has purchased. They were aware of every detail, every step of the way, and to state otherwise now – more than two years after this process was initiated and multiple briefings – is, at best, disingenuous.”

Shifting the blame to Cabinet, rather than their claimed deficiencies in the helicopter, for delays in its arrival, Kernohan said, “The people of the Cayman Islands should not be deceived: There is real urgency to putting this helicopter into operation, and every day it is delayed is ‘a good day for the bad guys’. Why would anyone wish to delay the arrival of this asset?”

Through his local media liaison, journalist and publisher David Legge, Kernohan, who is still Police Commissioner, said intelligence suggested that the quantity of drugs and firearms into the Cayman Islands increased dramatically in anticipation of the arrival of the police helicopter. “Those who would do these islands harm view this helicopter as a serious threat to their illegal and illicit operations, and view the delay as an opportunity to act with increased impunity.”

Pointing a finger at government, he said the real issue behind the delay of the arrival of the helicopter was not the structural and equipment modifications that they had approved, but Cabinet’s decision in November 2007 to place out to full tender the support services for the machine, including hangar and maintenance services, pilot recruitment and hiring, and other ancillary issues. He said that at the time, Cabinet was warned that such a lengthy process would delay the implementation of the helicopter by at least six to nine months. They decided to move forward with this process anyway and, importantly, as of this week, these support issues still have not been resolved.

Kernohan said he personally briefed government ministers on multiple occasions on the status and the complexities regarding the acquisition of the police helicopter, and did not disagree with Minister Arden McLean’s assertion that approximately six briefings took place.

“At these briefings, however, it appeared that attending Ministers were not even taking notes or absorbing important details regarding this purchase. Therefore, at each briefing, we would have to start at the beginning and repeat much of the same information as if no previous briefings had taken place. Nevertheless, these briefings were comprehensive and inclusive. No salient facts or information were omitted – purposefully or otherwise,” he said.

The briefings included updates on the progress of various mandatory documents required by the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), one of which was the Police Operations Manual where agreement was to be made on flight parameters for the police helicopter, including when and where it could be flown. This manual had to be approved by the CAA, said Kernohan, and claimed Cabinet members were informed that for all aircraft used for this type of work, certain weather and visibility conditions would ground the helicopter. He said comprehensive discussions took place with the CAA, and that the regulation of the helicopter was their decision.

Kernohan continued, “Despite the multiple comprehensive briefings to Cabinet, a review of the audiotape of the recent press briefing suggests that Ministers still have little comprehension of the operational capabilities of the machine they themselves have purchased on behalf of the people of the Cayman Islands.”

He said that because of the considerable cost to acquire and maintain a proprietary helicopter for the RCIPS, Cabinet made itknown from the outset that a custom-made, perfectly equipped new aircraft was beyond the financial reach of the Cayman Islands. The long delivery time was also unsuitable because of the worldwide demand for such machines.

“Compromises at the behest of Cabinet were made, including buying a pre-owned helicopter at a substantially reduced price and retrofitting it to meet the specific needs of the islands. Cabinet fully knew this and also knew what trade-offs were involved in moving ahead with the helicopter which was ultimately selected – a 1999 Eurocopter 135T1 police craft. They made decisions on the helicopter including the allocation of funds for the floats which they now claim they know nothing about,” Kernohan said.

The original purchase price of this helicopter was $1.8 million with approximately an additional $1 million allocated to modifying or retrofitting the machine. A considerable saving was made on the purchase of the helicopter against its current market value at that time, Kernohan claimed.

“Cabinet and the portfolio of the Civil Service have since attempted to cut the annual operating budget (agreed at CI$1 million annually) for the operation and maintenance of this machine, and I was told that there was insufficient funding available due to the Government’s financial position. In my view, the proposed budget was the minimum required to run the machine safely and effectively, and this was forcefully highlighted in briefings and written reports."

He said that given the cost constraints imposed by Cabinet, the helicopter would provide a very capable machine. It would be able to complete all the tasks outlined to the ministers and would place the Cayman Islands in the forefront of police air-support provision in the Caribbean, he said. Some weather and visibility conditions would prevent the machine from flying, but this applied to all helicopters, particularly those flying under visual flight rules.

“Any claims that this helicopter may have to be sold into the open market because of lack of operational capability is simply scaremongering and untrue,” Kernohan said. “Contrary to impressions left by certain Cabinet Ministers, this helicopter is more than capable of flying at night except when visibility or weather is prohibitive.”

“As many in Cayman know, I returned to the UK to be with my father during what we feared would be his final days. I am saddened to report that he recently passed away after fighting a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kernohan.

Concluding with a damning blow at government ministers he said, “Even on his worst days, however, my father’s memory was far superior to that on display by the Ministers at their recent press briefing. One must wonder whether their collective (and convenient) memory loss was motivated by political considerations or an otherwise unknown agenda.”


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Way to go Commissioner…the government thought you were going to roll over and play dead.  It’s time somebody stood up to this bunch of bullies.  Keep those punches coming.  Now we need someone to demand that the Governor gives us some answers and stops taking up air-time saying nothing.

  2. Rosey says:

    Oh where oh where is the helicopter Mr. Kernohan?

    I can assure you that the moment our Govenor lay down some heavy charges against the Commissioner Kernohan, and yes people he is still the commish, at least as long as he is collecting a pay cheque he is.  So Mr. Kernohan, if you are so sure that you have done nothing wrong and you are being persecuted unfairly etc etc… then book your flight and come back as you have been instructed to do by your Boss the Gov.  YOu are defying an order from your boss and under normal Labour Law rules that is insubordination and warrants immediate dismissal. 

    If you fail to return after three attempts then then this is my appeal to the Govenor to put your picture on Interpol and issue a bench warrant for your immediate arrest.  Maybe that will get you back on island. 

    Iwould also welcome the media to ignore any further comments from David Legge his appointed media liason as that is all rubbish.  We the people of this country are not interested in what his media liason has to say, we want to hear from the horses mouth directly and that is you Commissioner Kernohan.  If you are innocent or guilty we still want to hear from you.  So jump on the BA bus and find your way back or return your pay cheques for the past several months as the people of this nation is going to pursue a Civil case against you for stolen pay cheques.

    I remain an advocate for this country and the people.  Govenor Jack, put this man on Interpol and we will see how quickly he returns.


    • Anonymous says:

      Well Rosey, you and those like you are probably why Mr Kernohan should not return, lest he find himslf on the ducking stool and then burned at the stake. Honestly – your first comment says it all really. The helicopter is where it has been all along – in the states or have you not been following the story. The Commissioner has not had direct input into its status since he was put on leave – so why should he have anything to answer, other than what he has already stated. The comment then just decends into farce.

      Having a Bench Warrant issued – Under what law?  What offence has he committed? The breach of contract that the Govenor refers to is at best a disciplinary procedure not criminal. With regerd the initial investigation, he has not been charged with anything – in fact he has not even been interviewed by the investigating officer, who the last time I heard was Mr Bridger – not Rosey. So your utter ignorance of due process is shining for all to see. By all means contact Interpol but don’t be surprised when they laugh at you.

      Follow the facts as presented Rosey – stop making stuff up. Do some research into what can and cannot be done before wasting electricity – God knows it costs enough. Alternatively just let those who know get on with their jobs in their own time – are they not allowed to subscribe to the principle of ‘soon come’ too? It seems to work for everyone else.

      • Anonymous says:

        The support for the Commissioner here seems to be based primarily on politics and anti-Caymanian feelings rather than reason. Had he been Caymanian some of the same people would be piling on about how he should come out of hiding or should resign. Why is his word being taken as gospel above all others?  And why are some so anxious for him to come back to "fight corruption" when he himself is under investigation possibly involving corruption?  When the Commissioner asked for an investigation no doubt he assumed it would be confined to the Lyndon Martin allegations. I am betting he is rueing the day he asked.

        This is the trouble here. Too often investigations are selective to give the appearance of fighting corruption while the favoured guilty go free. 


  3. Anonymous says:

    Boy, i tell you, this government just looks stupider and stupider as time goes by.  I didn’t like the last government that was in, and i don’t like this one.  Is there anyone else that can please stand up and get voted in so we can have a new government with new faces?  I think it’s time for all new faces.  Out with the old and in with the new.  Both present and past governments, namely the UDP and the PPM are corrupt and lie and betray and do not keep their promises.  Please people of the Cayman Islands, do not vote in UDP or PPM ever again.  Let’s find a new Government with New Faces, PLEASE!!!  From a Very Disgruntled and Disappointed Caymanian!

  4. Anonymous says:

    One problem is that the local politicians are demanding that a Caymanian be the pilot for the helicopter.  That is the dumbest stipulation I’ve ever heard.  The years of training and experience needed are huge.  Yes, by all means- get a few local pilots interested and even put them on a trianing program to assist the pilot or air police, but be real.  The qualified skilled people who fly these machines come from a military background with thousands of air hours.

  5. larry says:

    Some are losing sight of the fact That it was he Mr Kernohan who initiated this corruption investigation.It is obvious that he saw or must have seen something or a whole lot of things that warranted an investigation.This may or has drawn anger from many quarters of this frontier Town so i am not the least bit surprised at the level of Anger and animosity directed at him for starting it and for the Governor continuing the investigation.And maythe chips fall where they may. And to those forces who would like status quo in this sleepy little frontier town by some sleeping pills. Support our governor in his valiant attempt to defeat the forces of evil & corruption it has gone on far too long. "De heathen bac dem pan de wall"  The Honourable Robert Nestor Marley

  6. Anonymous says:

    If the Goverment cannot even afford to allocate the NECESSARY funds for the Maintenance of a helicopter, why was one even considdered? This is an aircraft, when they are improperly maintained, people tend to die. One cannot simply pull over to the side of the road and call a wrecker. At best, the aircraft is always a ‘Total Loss’. Go on ‘YOU-TUBE’ if you don’t believe me.

    Would the funds not be better spent on perhaps the more basic police necessities? Give the police the Basic Tools that they need to perform their jobs first,  such as an operational ‘Automatic Fingerprint Identification System’, that it is understood hasn’t been properly maintained in over a year? 

    • Anonymous says:

      And they wonder why so much crime is coming upon us day by day. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just another example of someone’s reputation destroyed before the facts come out. And Mr. Kernohan is not obliged to be in these islands during an ongoing investigation. Would any of us want to be in these islands if we were him considering the anti-foreign attitudes of most self-righteous local people? Perhaps the investigation is taking so long because the powers that be don’t want to the truth revealed. Remember…these are the same people communicating with the Governor.

  8. Anonymous says:


    So that’s his involvement in the Helicopter taken care of. Now how about coming back and assisting the investigation into Corruption. The Governor should not have to ask you 3 times, or even order you back it should be a matter of common decency. The longer he delays the worse it appears.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Welcome back Commissioner!  It’s nice that your silence is over and that we’re now able to hear the facts pertaining to the purchase of the helicopter  versus having to rely upon self-serving politicians that are attempting to scapegoat others for their follies.  Your retort allows the people of Cayman to gain a better understanding of the events and discussions that took place which led to the purchase.  If the Cabinet Ministers  were unable to understand the specifications, alteration expenses and maintenance costs they should not be empowered to authorize expenditures on behalf of the people of Cayman.  We rely upon the government to make the best decisions for the country, and follies such as this are unacceptable.  Thank you for the clarification and allowing us all to form opinions that are based on factual information.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, if what Mr. Kernohan is saying is true, it seems as if the Ministers are the ones to blame for yet another example of poor leadership and due diligence.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hurrah!  Well spoken Sir.  Isn’t it sad that our politicians took such a harsh and wrong stance while this man was away with his dying father?  They waited for the perfect opportunityto hit below the belt using just dumb school boy antics as usual.   Did our politicians question anything during the seven complete briefings?  Not even taking notes!  All sessions need to be recorded and played back to these buffoons.   I’m sick of uneducated fat idiots running this country.  Make a four year degree manditory to be elected (abroad as to actually understand the rest of the world and it’s global impact on our tiny rock).  Stupid is a stupid does- Forest Gump and Caymanian politicians….From a fed up and frustrated Caymanian



  12. Anonymous says:

    I find it amusing that the commisioner is ‘politicking’ himself.  He says everyday without a helicopter is a good day for the bad guys, but he has conveniently forgotten that we do have a helicopter at our disposal and it is used regularly.

    It was just recently used to hunt down some Cuban refugees that escaped.  Whether these Cubans posed such a threat to the public safety that a helicopter is needed to locate them is another debate, as is the use of a helicopter to track down Lobster poachers.  It would appear to me that perhaps there just isn’t enough work for a helicopter if this is the sort of use it is put to.

    ‘He said comprehensive discussions took place with the CAA, and that the regulation of the helicopter was their decision’.

    I find that slightly unbelievable, in most countries these regulations are published and publicly available documents. The authority that regulates can only regulate to published regulations.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Well said Commissioner. There are too many people in Cayman Islands who see the Air Support Unit as simply something that will get in the way of their illegal business activities and are using politicalinfluence to try and stop its creation.