Archive for October 9th, 2008

Bridger goes on defensive

| 09/10/2008 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Condemning all those involved in the investigation for speaking through the media and the Chief Justice for releasing his ruling, Martin Bridger, the Senior Investigating Officer of the special investigation into alleged corruption in the police, has defended that investigation and declared that he will begin a series of public meetings to speak directly to the people.

In a written statement to the media this evening, Thursday, 9 October, Bridger said he was disappointed by those who have spoken through the media about the investigation.

“This could be prejudicial to the investigation and the individuals involved,” he said. Although the Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling made public last week sets out the details of Bridger’s investigation and states that he could see no evidence of any crimes, the former Scotland Yard officer still insisted that the investigation has merit. He said he was not prejudging the guilt or innocence of any individual involved and he had tried to be transparent.

“The nature of the media coverage of last week causes me particular concern.  For me to comment on recent developments would be unfair to those under investigation. I am very keen not to become involved in debating the issues through the media,” he said adding that it was careless speculation in the absence of the facts that would damage the long term reputation of the Cayman Islands, “not those who have the courage and fortitude to address suspected wrongdoing when it is identified.”

Given the circumstances surrounding Alex Henderson’s arrest, Bridger insisted it was not based on his refusal to give a statement. He said the decision was made in consultation with legal counsel and Assistant Commissioner John Yates of the Metropolitan Police Service. He said despite the challenges to the legality of the search warrants he was satisfied that these were properly obtained.

Bridger defended his request for the search warrants for the various parties involved in the entire case which Smeliie had referred to as a “fishing expedition”, stating that there was no need to present a full case to acquire a warrant but that it was sought in order to gather evidence.

“No court can hope to make a meaningful evaluation of guilt or innocence or the strength or otherwise of a case at the time of such an application,” he said.  “It should be borne in mind that the threshold for granting a search warrant is reasonable suspicion, not a prima facie case, or a realistic prospect of conviction. “Let me repeat that a decision of whether a criminal offence has been committed cannot reasonably be based on the information supplied for the application of a search warrant.”

He also denied ignoring the Chief Justice but said it was inappropriate to discuss how matters unfolded after the warrants were refused but that his actions were documented. He insisted that Kernohan and Jones properly remain under investigation for misconduct in a public office.  “This is not the offence for which search warrants were applied for, and refused by the Honourable Chief Justice,” he said.

Admonishing the release of the ruling which sets outthe details of Bridger’s case against the two senior officers and is now in the public domain, Bridger directly accused Smellie.

“I am extremely concerned that a ruling made in a private hearing in chambers, following an ex parte application, appears to have found its way into the public domain,” he said. “I sought to establish how Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s rulings in connection with the search warrant application concerning Mr Kernohan and Mr Jones found their way into the public domain.  I have now been informed that the judgements concerning Mr Kernohan and Mr Jones were released the day after the arrest of Justice Henderson on the 24th September, i.e. released on the authority of the Chief Justice on the 25th September 2008.”

Bridger also, rather ironically, said that he felt the more informed the community was the better.

“To date, to a large extent, the community has heard from me only through the media,” he said. “As a consequence, the community’s views have, to a large extent, been informed by how the media has interpreted and reported my words. That is no longer acceptable.”

He said that stakeholders should hear directly from him so he would be holding public district meetings to keep the community informed. He also said from today onwards he would be issuing a media update every two weeks and will answer media questions presented in writing. 

“There are times when some information simply cannot be shared without prejudging certain outcomes, or jeopardizing aspects of the investigation….I assure you that I will update you with as much information as I can, and will answer your questions and concerns.  I want to meet with you and encourage you to invite me to attend your community, association, or congregational event so that you can learn the facts directly from the investigative team,” he said.

He ended by saying the investigation was complex and why it had taken time and required the cooperation of the community. Despite earlier declarations however that he was not being impeded in his investigation, he said that co-operation is something he had not always received. 

Bridger invited any community group that wishes to meet him to contact the team on 943-8901.

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Illegal drugs go up in smoke

| 09/10/2008 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Police destroyed 5362.5 pounds of ganja, just over a pound of cocaine and six drug utensils during a burning at Grand Cayman’s landfill site on Thursday, 9 October, the second drug burn of 2008. The substances were seized during police operations at locations across the entire Cayman Islands and represent a large amount of hard work by officers, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS).

The burning of drugs is required when the illegal substances are no longer needed as evidence by the courts and as cases can take some years to complete some drugs may have been stored safely for a long period of time.

Security is of the utmost importance during the burn and a variety of officers from the Marine Unit, Drugs Task Force, Uniformed Support Group and the Exhibits Office were present. An independent Justice of the Peace was also in attendance, checking the drugs as they left their storage location and re-checking them when they reached the burn site. In the burning process all material will be destroyed including the packaging or casing in which the substances were held.

It is hoped the burning will send two messages to the community. Firstly, it’s hoped the public will be reassured that illegal substances which are seized by the police are destroyed in a controlled manner when they are no longer needed and secondly, it’s hoped that criminals involved in drugs will receive the message that their operations and illegal goods will literally, go up in smoke.

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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War Among Big Toy Sellers

| 09/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(Wall Street Journal): Retail price wars are starting early this year, and the latest weapon is the $10 toy — a signal that retailers are bracing for a rough-and-tumble Christmas shopping season. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., which accounts for more than a fourth of U.S. toy sales, last week sent a clear message that it didn’t plan to be undersold whenit announced 10 well-known toys, including some Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels car sets, for $10. Go to article

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Criticism of US’s Example Rises

| 09/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(Washington Post): With its toxic securities and its insistence on open markets, the United States has a lot of nerve and a lot to answer for. That, at least, is what South Korean Finance Minister Kang Man-soo argued as he prepared to leave for a weekend meeting in Washington of finance officials searching for ways to calm the global financial crisis. "The United States almost forced the rest of the world to open up their financial sectors," Kang said. Go to article

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How Britain’s banks will never be the same again

| 09/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(The Independent): The party’s over. Yesterday’s extraordinary set of Government measures to bolster the banking system will change how the sector operates, firmly closing the door on the era of excess in the financial industry. After more than a year of telling the banks to put their own houses in order, the authorities were finally forced by tumbling share prices and seizure in the money markets to come to the industry’s rescue. Go to article

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Iceland: the land of cool turns bitter

| 09/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(Times Online): The doughty Icelanders know that they have only squatters’ rights on their volcanic island. White steam hisses and spumes its way through the thincrust of the earth; nature seems to be constantly irritated. Now, though, the feeling on this tiny, angry island goes beyond physical geography. The eruption in the global financial markets has hit Icelanders in an elemental way. Go to article

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Public servants face rollover

| 09/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The controversial seven year work permit limit, which prevents foreign workers in the private sector from staying any longer without special key employment status, is about to be extended to government entities. Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks thas said the policy as it will apply to public sector employees is now being developed but a date for implementation has yet to be determined.

(CNS): The controversial seven year work permit limit, which prevents foreign workers in the private sector from staying any longer without special key employment status, is about to be extended to civil servants and those working for government agencies and authorities.

Deputy Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks told the Legislative Assembly on Monday, 6 October, that the policy as it will apply to public sector employees is now being developed but a date for implementation has yet to be determined.

The Portfolio of the Civil Service has assessed the effect of implementing such a policy and its comprehensive report is now under review, he said, and underscored the need for planning in order to maintain business continuity. Top officers in ministries and departments would be asked to undertake detailed exercises to ensure the policy would not undermine service standards, he said.

There is also a proposal to form an advisory committee that would decide on key employees, in a similar way that non-Caymanians on work permit in the private sector receive extensions.

HE the Governor Stuart Jack announced the extension of the policy to civil servants in line with public opinion last year, and said at the time it should mirror as far as possible policy for the private sector. “In applying any ‘rollover’ provisions, government must ensure that services to the public are not disrupted and its employees treated fairly,” he said.

At the same time, Chief Secretary George McCarthy warned of the importance of careful consideration of the policy, as the government is a provider of critical and essential services.

“The Government accepts that this is a regulatory immigration issue; however, Government also has other roles to play and other perspectives to consider, as an employer, and as a business owner. The ‘bottom line’ is that we have to ensure that we have the capacity and capability to maintain the level of services the public needs and expects,” he said.

 

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Immigration changes win support in House

| 09/10/2008 | 4 Comments

(CNS): As the Legislative Assembly reconvened this week, politicians debated amendments to the Immigration Law, which won approval from both side of the House. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts brought the bill that will enable the Immigration Department to grant work permits directly and address various loopholes in the 2007 revision. He said the amendments would help create a robust and relevant immigration machine.

With 26,000 work permits in Cayman the immigration workload is hefty, and the intention of the amendment is to streamline the process. Aside from enabling the Chief Immigration Officer and his team to approve work permits rather than making every application go through the Work Permit Board and hopefully increasing efficiency and speeding up the whole process, the amendment also closes some loopholes that have appeared since the 2007 revision was enacted.

The LoGB said the amendments would address one unexpected loophole, which had seen those people who had been turned down for permanentresidency but who were not appealing the decision re-applying in their final year’s work permit for residency, enabling them to stay past the seven year rollover term.

Tibbetts also said the government was seeking to prevent people from buying property solely because of their desire to get residency. He explained that property ownership could gain a person 20 out of the required 100 points required to become eligible for residency, but some people were liquidating their property assets as soon as they received it.

“The Board should be able to revoke residency of those people who do that because 20% of the grant was based on the property investment,” he said, adding that it was fine for people to sell their property to invest in something else but the value of investment in Cayman must remain.

One amendment would address the problem of spouses of Caymanians, who are removed from the work permit system under the new law and granted Residency Employment Rights Certificates RERC for seven years, but who had separated from their Caymanian partner during that time and were still enjoying the benefit of the RERC.

“It’s not appropriate to allow none Caymanian spouses to carrying on enjoying those advantages,” he said. “It’s proposed to allow a work permit to be granted to the non-Caymanian separated spouse in exceptional circumstances for three years to allow them to either rebuild their marriage or acquire a divorce.”

He said once the non-Caymanian was divorced they are no longer eligible for RERC but are able to apply for a work permit as an individual in their own right.

He said another important change was to allow the work permit board in the Sister Islands to grant key employee status as they were more aware of the local market needs. Enthusiastically welcomed by the Second Elected Member for the Sister Islands, Moses Kirkconnell, who said it was a sensible move.

“The Cayman Brac Board has the vision, the capability and it knows what is best for the local market,” he said. “It would have been virtually impossible for the Grand Cayman board to give key employee status grants for the Sister Islands.”

Tibbetts also spoke about the introduction of a finger print requirement for work permit holders.

“Work permit applicants will be required to submit fingerprints, otherwise it will be grounds for refusal of a work permit,” he said, adding that the reasons for this was because work permit holders are transient, but no one who comes here with the desire to acquire a work permit should be afraid to have their prints taken.

He also said the introduction of a system that would enable employers to pre-qualify for work permits would stop some of the abuses of foreign workers as these employers would have to demonstrate that they have insurance and pensions in place for their staff. He said all the amendments would work towards improving the system and create a relevant immigration machine.

“I believe all amendments are not only necessary but good and will serve to improve efficiencies and protect all parties,” Tibbetts added.

Rolston Anglin, Second Elected Member for West Bay, speaking for the opposition said it was widely supportive of the bill, which he said would go a long way to rectifying a number of the complaints re immigration matters. However, Anglin also asked the LoGB to look at extending the right to be Caymanian or at least the right to come here more easily and work, to the descendents of Caymanians who are nationals of other countries.

Alfonso Wright, the Third Elected Member for George Town, said that, aside from the English Language test which had been introduced for foreign nationals from non-English speaking countries, the introduction some kind of literacy test may be useful as well.

The bill was met with enthusiasm by all members and passed unopposed on Wednesday.
 

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Bahamas proposes ban on turtling

| 09/10/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The capture of all sea turtles could be banned in the Bahamas by April 2009, a move proposed by the islands’ Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources and supported by the Bahamas National Trust, which says that conservation of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation to ensure their survival. (Left: a Green turtle poached from Cayman waters)

The proposed phased ban in the Bahamas full protection would immediately give protection to the Hawksbill Turtle which would be extended to the Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles from 31 October this year. From 31 December 2008 the commercial harvest, purchase, or sale of all species of marine turtles found within the Bahamian exclusive economic zone, and/or of their by-products such as their shells would be prohibited.

From 1 April 3 2009 full protection would be extended to all marine turtles found in the exclusive economic zone by prohibiting the harvesting of all marine turtles except with the permission of the Minister for scientific research, public display or educational purposes.

In the Cayman Islands, about 10 people have licenses to catch Green or Loggerhead turtles, – taking Hawksbill Turtle is prohibited – and they are permitted to catch up to 4 turtles per year under the maximum allowable size of 24 inches curved shell length during open season, December through March.

Turtles must not be taken along West Bay Beach, in George Town Harbour, or in any of the bays or sounds within the reef, and cannot be slaughtered until inspected and approved by a Fisheries Officer. Licences to catch turtles are given at the discretion of the Marine Conservation Board. They cannot be inherited or passed on and no new licenses will be approved.

Poaching still occurs, however, and recently a poached female Green Turtle with a shell more than 4 feet long and weighing more than 400 lbs was recovered by the Department of Environment (DoE). Moreover, an autopsy showed the turtle was full of unlaid eggs when she died.

“This means that she was part of our critically endangered Cayman Islands nesting population,” according to a spokesperson at the DoE. “She is the largest green turtle DoE has ever documented nesting in the wild. She likely took two decades to mature and had already nested here for many years – helping our turtle populations to recover – and would have continued to nest for decades if she hadnot been killed.”

Also discovered with the poached green turtle was a green hatchling taken from a nest laid on Seven Mile Beach by a wild turtle. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings is estimated to survive to adulthood and it can take more than 20 years for turtles to reach maturity.

The DoE has satellite tracked the nesting green turtles that lay their eggs on Cayman shores to find out where they live when they are not nesting. The poached turtle likely lived in a distant foraging ground and migrated hundreds or thousands of kilometers to nest here each summer, according to the department.

In support of the propoed ban in the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust said in a statement, “Long-term studies at the BNTs turtle research centre on Inagua have demonstrated that while survival rates of sea turtles are high in protected areas, they plummet once the turtles begin their natural migrations and face exploitation by humans.
A hatchling sea turtle takes up to 30 years to reach reproductive age, and harvesting drastically reduces the number of nesting females that are available to produce eggs. And turtle eggs command veryhigh prices in some areas, which leads to over-harvesting. Moreover, since turtles lay their eggs on beaches, coastal development has significantly impacted this nesting habit, further reducing survival rates.”

The BNT also said that commercial harvest had a damaging effect on tourism. “The sight of turtles being butchered for meat, or being held waiting to be killed, is abhorrent to many people. Such views have a negative effect on tourists, particularly those who are attracted to The Bahamas for ecotourism.”

Conservation of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals, the BNT said. “Turtles in The Bahamas are therefore a regional resource and we must join with our neighbors to protect this shared resource.
Fourth, turtles are important to the health of our marine ecosystems.”

Furthermore, the BNT said the proposals “also responds to concerns expressed by citizens and by local and International non-governmental organizations to the Government of The Bahamas calling for strengthened protection of marine turtles in The Bahamas.”

 

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