Archive for September 22nd, 2008

A constitution for the common man

| 22/09/2008 | 4 Comments

When it comes to the details of politics, most people in the street are considerably less interested than those who take up office and throw themselves into the political arena, who in turn find it hard to appreciate that others couldn’t care less.

While people are certainly interested in the society they live in and the broad rules that govern them, few are really interested in the minutiae of the details that form a country’s political make-up.

This may go some way to explaining why, throughout the public discussion and education campaign on the constitutional modernisation process, the people have not been as enthusiastic as our local politicians would’ve liked. In fact, with the notable exception of the meeting convened purely to discuss human rights, the meetings were poorly attend, and it has to be said that people found them dull. This has no bearing on the skills of the presenters, who worked hard to try to help the people of Cayman understand the constitutional proposals. Unfortunately, the people were just not desperately engaged with the process, which is perfectly understandable.

Most ordinary people are too busy worrying about the normal and immediate things in their lives, such as how the kids are doing in school, what’s happening at their work, what coverage they have on their health care, where the next hurricane’s coming from and the price of gas. Trying to get their heads around whether the Attorney General should be inside or outside Cabinet, if the Speaker of the house should be elected from within or outside the Legislative Assembly, or whether there should be single-member constituencies with one-person-one-vote in the Sister Islands is just not something they prioritise.

Moreover, many simply don’t know how they feel about such issues because they don’t fully understand the implications. And why should they? In the same way that politicians don’t understand subjects outside their remit (helicopters, for example), why should the man in the street understand the implications of constitutional law?

While most people will agree that the revision of the constitution is important, what they want are broad ideas which they can understand and agree or disagree with. Most people are not interested in the details. By and large the constitutional discussion period and educational campaign was not a great success and, in hindsight, was probably a waste of time and money. A number of people who persistently demonstrated a real interest in the forthcoming constitution were religious in their attendance, and in each district a handful of new faces would appear, but by and large no more than a few hundred people actually engaged in any type of real constitutional discussion during the educational phase.

Whether it is the fault of the government, the opposition or just plain lack of interest on the part of the people is less important than the lessons that need to be learned. As the discussions begin with the UK and as a potential draft constitution takes shape, the resulting document needs to be sold in much simpler terms. The politicians and NGOs involved need to spell out the big issues and the changes that will actually have an impact on people’s lives. In short, they need to present the constitution for the common man.

Despite its best efforts, the government failed to engage the people to either agree or disagree with their proposals. Whether the UDP’s scare tactics added fuel to the fire is less apparent than the wide-scale apathy and, in some cases, total incomprehension over what the constitutional document contained and, more important, what it would mean to their lives. The government cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

While the Leader of the Opposition has certainly used the situation to his advantage to ensure that the constitution is not established until he can take up the mantle of leadership again, his observation that the people are not ready is probably right. However, many of the people will probably never be ready because they just don’t understand the issues. Consequently, what is called for is real political leadership.  And as the referendum will take place during the election campaign, it is the perfect opportunity for both sides to take ownership and pin the constitution to their political masts in simply political campaign terms, by agreeing or disagreeing with the document and spelling out why — it is, after all, what politicians are supposed to do.

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Caybrew features in Cayman Went

| 22/09/2008 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The Aston Rutty Civic Centre on Cayman Brac was packed to capacity with upwards of 550 residents for a test screening of Cayman Went, an independent movie shot largely on the island. Meanwhile, Cayman’s only brewery, Caybrew, is set to receive welcome publicity as it was featured in many of the scenes.

After the show Matthew Leslie, the distributor for Caybrew, said the company was very happy to be part of the movie and wished the crew success. “It’s a beautiful story line and the whole environmental friendliness falls in line with Caybrew’s philosophy,” he said.

He added that they were very happy with the product placement, with characters drinking bottles of Caybrew or out of cups with the company’s logo in several scenes, and even extended to the Caybrew box in which one of the main characters keeps a baby bird he’s looking after.

The main “product placement” is the island itself, and the film highlights many of the Brac’s attractions, beginning with underwater shots during the opening credits. The film also features rock climbing on the Bluff face. This aspect of Brac tourism is known among some proponents of the sport, but despite the efforts of rock climbers who have tried to promote this on the Brac over the last decade, it has never found support from the Department of Tourism and the Ministry.

According to Tourism Minister Charles Clifford there were liability issues and questions about who owns the face of the Bluff. However, he said he didn’t see why rock climbing could not be developed. “I will initiate looking into that and see where we go,” he stated.

Watching this first showing were many residents who appear in some of the scenes of the movie, as well as actor Jeff De Munn, who plays one of the main characters; Jim Ritterhoff, who wrote the original script for the movie; Director Bobby Sheehan; Executive Producer Sara Feldman Sheehan; Associate Producer Steve Menges; and Production Manager Elizabeth Hennings. Ritterhoff read a letter of apology from Producer Gil Wadsworth, who was unable to make the showing because his father is seriously ill.

The audience clearly enjoyed the show and seeing people they know on the Big Screen, especially Garston Grant and Tenson Scott, who both had small speaking parts.

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Koala faces extinction

| 22/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(IAR): Australia’s iconic koala may be heading for extinction unless there are changes in how the populations are managed, an Australian zoologist has claimed. The koala, which was previously hunted to near extinction in the 1920s, is a marsupial found in the coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia and lives almost entirely on eucalypt leaves. Go to article.

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CIFSA appeals for members

| 22/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With an already diverse list of members the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association (CIFSA) recently welcomed a re-insurance firm and a fund services to the ranks. Each new member helps the organization with its aimto push the message that the financial services sector is crucially important to Cayman’s economy. Explaining that as the membership grows CIFSA can do even more to actively promote the full scope and spectrum of the industry, Eduardo D’Angelo Silva, chairman of CIFSA invited others to consider becoming members.

 “The growth in CIFSA’s membership has allowed us to expand our communications programs and present a strong, central, and respected voice for our industry on key issues affecting our future,” he said.  We would like to extend an invitation to all who are interested in becoming CIFSA members to please visit the CIFSA website and gain a full understanding of the work that is being performed by the association in support of our industry.”

Cary Marr, President of Meridian Fund Services (Cayman) Limited said the firm was pleased to become part of CIFSA.   “We have seen the significant contributions to improve the international and local perceptions of the financial services industry and we look forward to supporting their continued success.”

Faramarz Romer, the Reporting and Compliance Officer of Greenlight Reinsurance, Ltd. “said the company was pleased to support CIFSA in its efforts in educating the public about the social and economic impact that the financial services sector has on the Cayman Islands.

“Whilst the growth in CIFSA’s membership and international profile in recent years is impressive, we applaud CIFSA’s commitment in protecting and promoting the financial services sector of the Cayman Islands,” he added.

CIFSA said that 2008 has been a very active year with their involvement in the Financial Services Domestic Awareness Campaign, the goal of which is to educate the community, visitors to the Cayman Islands and students, about the financial services sector and the many benefits and opportunities that it creates in Cayman.

The organisation has also thrown its weight behind a specialist regulatory seminar to be held at the Ritz Carlton in October, along with the Active Group, an international financial services firm with a new subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. The seminar will feature Tim Ridley, former Chairman of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Ross Delston, former US Federal Regulator and Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s International Anti-Money Laundering Committee and Paul Byles former Head of Policy of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.

 “CIFSA is pleased to be a sponsor of this event because it is unique in its focus on improving the relationships between regulators and industry professionals and that is why we decided to support it. Any function that aims to improve the industry’s understanding of how best to handle regulatory issues is good for the overall health of the financial services industry,” said Silva. 

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Con man arrested following island-wide trickery

| 22/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police said on Friday that they had arrested a 40-year-old man on suspicion of Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, following various reports of a man knocking on people’s doors and asking for money. According to a statement from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) the arrest was made by West Bay police officers on the morning of 19 September, but police had received reports of the con man operating in all districts.

Although accounts from residents vary slightly in each case, the common theme involves a man knocking on the door asking for money for gas. The RCIPS asks that anyone who has experienced, or does experience, a situation like this should call the police, giving a description of the man and any vehicle he was using.

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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UDP slams PPM proposal for Sister Islands

| 22/09/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The five members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) were heavily critical of an anomaly in the Revised Constitutional Proposals published by the People’s Progressive Party (PPM) concerning voting in the district of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Under the proposal there would remain two representatives for the whole district, but each voter would have a single vote, and the two candidates with the most votes would be elected.

The PPM has proposed the introduction of "one man one vote" into the Cayman Islands and the division of Grand Cayman into single-member constituencies. The government has acknowledged that dividing the Sister Islands into two, each with a single representative, is unpopular in the district and have proposed this exception.

With the UDP Leader McKeeva Bush describing this as “ludicrous”, the four West Bay members and Sister Islands Representative Julianna O’Connor Connolly said they had not found any support for the idea anywhere around Cayman Brac.

MLA Rolston Anglin noted that the vast majority of people on Grand Cayman have never visited Cayman Brac and indicated that the PPM takes advantage of this fact to promote the idea that Brackers were very much in favour of these changes to the voting system.

In contrast, he said that all the feedback to O’Connor Connolly and what they had found at their constitutional meetings on the island showed that, while the people of Cayman Brac had listened to the government’s proposal, they were not necessarily supportive of them. Reinforcing this, a vote by the thirty people present at the meeting unanimously supported retaining the current voting system, and several spoke up adamantly against the proposed change.

“How in the world can that possibly work? How can that build a proper team to represent you?” Anglin asked, adding that their research had not found the system proposed by the PPM for the Sister Islands anywhere else in the world. “Not only does it not make sense but I suggest it is a highly dangerous proposition.”

To illustrate the UDP’s objection, he outlined a scenario that he said was very possible: Assume there were 900 voters in the district and one strong candidate got 600 of the votes. If the remaining 300 votes were divided among, say, five other candidates, it was conceivable that someone could be elected to the Legislative Assembly (LA) with 50 to 75 votes. Furthermore, the Sister Islands could end up with someone undesirable.

“Is that democracy?” Anglin wanted to know, noting that one of the key issues for the UK in the constitutional modernisation process was increasing democracy.

In the upcoming constitutional discussions with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that start 29 September, the government has proposed that the negotiating team include four members from the PPM, four members from the UDP, plus members of various NGOs.

The Deputy Speaker, MLA Cline Glidden, said they had not heard who was on the PPM four-person team but that they were “pretty sure” that PPM Sister Islands Representative Moses Kirkconnell was not included.

“The people of Cayman Brac need not worry. We have great confidence in your First Elected Representative and Miss Julie (O’Connor-Connolly) will be one of the four selected by the UDP. She is the legal mind in this group and we have every confidence in her,” said Glidden.

Raising another issue particular to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the district’s first Elected Representative drew attention to the PPM’s proposal that, if Cabinet does not include a Sister Islands MLA, the minister with responsibility for District Administration would nominate one of the two representatives as his DA liaison.

In contrast, O’Connor Connolly said the UDP Leader had pledged that a Sister Islands MLA would definitely be a member of his administration. “We’ve seen recently a practical example of having our own minister in Cabinet,” she said. Before the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, she had to wait for a senior civil servant in Grand Cayman to give the authority to distribute plywood.

UDP Leader McKeeva Bush reiterated the UDP belief that the PPM proposals would set the Cayman Islands on “the slippery slope to independence”.

Bush also claimed that the UDP “did a lot for this island” during their time in government. Referring to Kirkconnell, he said, “This idea that the Brac only got started when Mr Mose got elected is nonsense.”

After the meeting, Bush told CNS that the UDP was considering fielding a second candidate for the Sister Islands (as well as O’Connor-Connolly). If Kirkconnell, who ran in the last elections as an Independent, had not joined the PPM, they would have been happy to work with him, said the Opposition Leader.

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Book shop lives up to promise

| 22/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With Alan Alda visiting this Wednesday and Candace Bushnell due next month,  Books and Books is living up to its promise of attracting some exciting writers to Cayman. But it is also finding time to host local authors too. Dick and Felix Francis will be reading from Silks, on 5 October and local botanist Fred Burton will be offering an insider’s guide to the unique plants of Cayman on 1 October,  with his book Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands: The Red List.

Readers wanting to meet Alan Alda this week on Wednesday, 24 September will need tickets available with the purchase of any of his books. (If you purchased an Alda book before 13 September, you can bring the receipt to redeem a ticket.)

Candace Bushnell’s’ appearance on Saturday 4 October will also be a ticketed affair available with the purchase of One Fifth Avenue, Bushnell’s latest novel about life in Manhattan.  The address alludes to a one-of-a-kind address — the sort of building you have to earn your way into—and it defines the lives of the women within. From the hedge fund king’s wife to the aging gossip columnist to the free-spirited actress, each person’s game plan for a rich life comes together under the soaring roof of this landmark building.

Burton is best known for his work with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, but he has also worked to conserve the island’s unique flora and fauna for over 20 years. In 2007 he was awarded the MBE for his ongoing efforts in the conservation of endangered species. His latest book is a full-colour guide to allthe wild plants unique to the Cayman Island and the natural communities in which they live. Written in everyday language – but with all the detailed technical content on an enclosed CD – The Red List provides a conservation assessment of all 415 plants species and varieties native to the Cayman Islands. At the event, the Native Tree Nursery will also offer labelled native plants for sale.

Dick Francis is a long time resident of Grand Cayman who wrote his first book, in 1962. Working with his son Felix, his latest novel Silks sees barrister Geoffrey Mason an amateur jockey in a classic thriller. The father and son duo will be appearing at the books and books store Camana Bay on Saturday, 25 October.




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Leaders clash on credit crisis

| 22/09/2008 | 3 Comments

(CNS): As the Leader of Government Business tried to reassure the community that the continued turmoil on the world’s financial markets would not have a serious direct impact on Cayman’s financial service sector in terms of jobs and revenue to government, the Leader of the Opposition said that this demonstrated the PPM’s disconnection from the reality of economic issues.

With major financial giants such as Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and AIG falling from grace as the world’s markets spiral out of control in the wake of the credit crisis in the United States, LoGB Kurt Tibbetts has said that there should be no major problems for Cayman’s finance sector as a result.

Noting that AIG did not have an office in Cayman, he said that Merrill Lynch had a local operation consisting of a staff of six. There are 30 companies and 16 partnerships registered in the Cayman Islands associated with Merrill Lynch, and Tibbetts said that a senior official from the firm revealed that there are no anticipated changes in its operations in the Cayman Islands in the immediate term, as Bank of America Corp makes its acquisition. He said that while Lehman Brothers did not have an office with staff employed in the Cayman Islands, there are 130 companies, 39 partnerships and 7 trusts registered in the Cayman Islands connected to the firm. However, he said, even if all of these entities were to disappear after Barclays’ acquisition of Lehman, the annual revenue lost to Government would be approximately CI$244,000.

However, McKeeva Bush, the Leader of the UDP opposition party, said the potential impact of the fallout is great and extends far beyond employment and government fees relating to these companies. “This is proof in the pudding that the PPM are totally disconnected from economic issues”, said Bush. “The potential impact affects the global economy and clearly has major potential implications for the Cayman Islands. It has potential negative impacts in terms of the funds which are domiciled here which may be related to the fallout, the employment and revenues associated with those funds and their administration or accounting. The crisis also has a general impact on potential American tourists as their wealth will likely be eroded due to the fallout.”

Tibbetts had said, however, that in general terms Cayman was not likely to be badly affected by events. “First and foremost, it is important to say that all our consultations indicate that there will not be an impact on the viability of any of our local retail banks in the Cayman Islands,” he said at the weekly press briefing on Thursday 18 September. He explained that recent results from the Economics and Statistics Office on the economic indicators for the Cayman Islands at the end of March 2008, compared with the position at the end of March 2007, were encouraging, with performance indicators pointing to the robust performance of the financial services sector as well as a sustained growth in air arrivals or stay-over tourism. 

“Increases were recorded for mutual funds of 13.6 per cent, new companies registered a 16.7 per cent increase, the number and value of stock exchange listings increased by 37.8 and 41.4 per cent respectively,” he said, adding that air arrivals grew by 9 per cent. He also said he had checked with the Treasury that morning and the government currently had some CI$91,167,000 in the bank.

“The Government is in the process of convening meetings with appropriate individuals in the financial services sector, to determine whether any further actions need to be taken in the Cayman Islands to mitigate the turbulence in the world’s financial markets,” he added.

Tibbetts acknowledged that the world markets would see a tightening of credit standards and a possible increase in legislation and regulation of credit facilities offered to business entities, but in Cayman there had been an increase in the amount of credit being made available to businesses and individuals during the first quarter of 2008.

But Bush insisted that the Leader of Government Business was not seeing the depth of the global crisis.  “This is yet another example that this administration is disconnected from the Cayman Islands economy and its business community. Recently they have also tried to tell us that the economy is doing great while there are dozens of local businesses suffering and complaining that economic activity is down,” he added.

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