Archive for February 11th, 2009

HRC says let voters choose

| 11/02/2009 | 20 Comments

(CNS): The Human Rights Committee (HRC) is beginning a campaign to persuade government to allow voters to choose whether the right to non-discrimination should be a free standing right as originally proposed in the draft constitution or the limited right as it now sits in the new document. Following the final round of constitutional talks, the committee said that the compromised bill of rights, which came out of the second round of talks, does not guarantee equality for all. The desire to prevent equality to gay and lesbian people has also placed many other groups,  such as the disabled, women and children, at risk, said the HRC.

“At the heart of every valuable constitution or bill of rights throughout history, there has been the principle that all persons are equal and entitled to equal treatment before the law. The draft Cayman Constitution has abandoned that idea,” the committee said. As a result it is seeking support from the community to show government that voters want to make the choice themselves as to whether the non-discrimination right in Section 16 should stand alone or apply only within the confines of the bill of rights, and that it should be presented as a choice during the May referendum.

The HRC explained that the original Section 16 of the draft Bill of Rights statedthat the government should not discriminate against anyone at any time. “The right to equality was originally included as a ‘free-standing’ right and applied in all areas of daily life, including healthcare, housing and employment. This meant that it could not be restricted and made to apply only to certain rights and not to others,” the committee added.

However, before the second round of constitutional negotiations, the government changed Section 16 because it said the Cayman Ministers Association (CMA) and the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) were concerned about conferring rights on gays and lesbians.

The HRC said that the change was accepted by the UK government because they were told that the majority of the Caymanian people are not ready for full equality. However, the committee explained that, as a result of that decision, the Constitution does not protect anyone from discrimination by the government in relation to healthcare, housing, employment, access to public spaces, the provision of social services or anything else which is not listed as a specific right in the Bill of Rights.

“Anyone who is the victim of discrimination in these other areas has no constitutional remedy against the government. There would be no free-standing right to equal treatment by the government,” the HRC pointed out.

During the final round of talks in London, HRC chair Sarah Collins presented a strong argument on why it would be folly to allow the compromised non-discrimination section in the bill of rights, not least because of government’s persistent failure to address very serious human rights abuses that already occur in the Cayman community.

“A number of the HRC’s reports and recommendations highlight the potential for serious human rights violations to go unchecked in the Cayman Islands,” Collins stated. She added that there were inefficiencies in the current framework for addressing HR violations and that it was not wise to leave this within the hands of government in the absence of a clear constitutional framework.

“For over ten years, if not more, female members of the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands have been asking for the extension of the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,” Collins said, adding that while government has now said it intends to develop legislation for its implementation there is no good reason why it has taken so long.

“The fact that the women and girls of our country have waited this long for a human rights instrument that will give them the ability to protect themselves from discrimination, without any legitimate explanation for the delay and the lack of urgency in dealing with the matter, demonstrates the absence of any sense of priority on the part of successive governments to protecting residents of the Cayman Islands from discrimination,” Collins stated.

She also used the example of the treatment of juvenile offenders to further illustrate the inadequacies of government in addressing very fundamental human rights abuses. She said the HRC had identified in a report given to government a significant number of human rights concerns arising out of the detention of children, including girls as young as 13 years old, at HMP Fairbanks, which is an adult facility.

“The detention of children pending trial, the lack of access to legal advice at or before trial or at sentencing, the imprisonment of children in an adult facility and the severe lack of appropriate facilities for juveniles accused of crimes, were all areasaddressed in this report.”

Collins explained that the issues gave rise to prima facie breaches of numerous international instruments and while the report was published in early 2007, the HRC has still not received a substantive response from or on behalf of the government, despite repeated requests. She also said that the Children’s Law which was passed in 2003 is still awaiting enabling legislation six years later and the government has again not responded to HRC requests regarding the delay.

Collins listed a number of issues regarding discrimination where the government had simply failed to act and said that the HRC had a legitimate concern that unless non-discrimination was a stand alone right, the Cayman people were vulnerable to government continuing to practice discrimination against them.

The committee lamented the fact that the change to Section 16 meant that government is now also at liberty to pass further legislation that could be discriminatory.  In its campaign statement it revealed examples of what could happen if Section 16 is confined to applying only to the bill of rights and not everyday life.

“A disabled person could not compel the government to put in wheelchair ramps or handrails to allow access to public buildings or facilities, including schools, a  woman or a native Caymanian will be unable to compel the government to pass equal pay legislation, and men could not compel the government to introduce paternity leave or other equal employment rights,” the committee said, noting that a gay or lesbian person could be denied healthcare by the Health Services Authority and government could refuse to hire a Caymanian as a tour guide because his  ‘accent’ is too difficult for tourists to understand.

“The government could discriminate in relation to government housing on any basis, even your race or colour, and there would be no obligation for the government to ensure equal or fair treatment for mentally ill persons, children, the elderly and a range of other vulnerable groups,” the HRC added. “We are asking the government to include the two alternative versions of Section 16 in the referendum and allow people to choose for themselves, rather than taking that choice away from us.”

The HRC said the people should be able to choose between the original Section 16 (free standing right) or the new Section 16 (right to equality limited to the Bill of Rights) and they are asking people to sign a petition that will be presented to government.

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World optimistic about Obama Presidency

| 11/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(Center for American Progress): One of the many problems that the Obama administration inherited from Bush and the conservatives is America’s abysmal image around the world. It is therefore good news that recent polling data finds the world’s publics in an optimistic mood about relations between the United States and other countries. A BBC World Service poll found that an average of two-thirds of the public in 17 countries believe the Obama presidency will produce improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world. Just 19 percent said relations would stay the same, and only 5 percent thought they would get worse. Go to article

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Castration for sex offenders

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(Time Magazine): A doctor makes an incision in a man’s scrotal sack and, deftly wielding his scalpel, quickly removes both testicles. In the Czech Republic that simple operation is the punishment for male sex offenders. But to the Council of Europe, the region’s leading human rights body, the procedure is "invasive, irreversible and mutilating." In a report issued last week the Council called the punishment "degrading" and demanded it be scrapped immediately. Over the past decade, at least 94 prisoners have undergone the treatment in the Czech Republic, the only country in Europe to continue to surgically castrate sex offenders. Go to article

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Google PowerMeter: a step towards a smarter grid

| 11/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(Huffington Post): Google is dipping its toes in the very buzz-friendly waters of "smart grid" technology. Google.org, the philanthropic wing of the Internet giant, has developed something called "PowerMeter," which (eventually) is meant to help individuals understand their own power use, with the goal of cutting it back. "Smart grid" technology also refers to appliances that communicate with the energy grid and use less power during peak hours, which also saves consumers money.  Go to article

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Radio station introduces new theme night at the Wharf

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(CNS): Having brought Studio 54 back to life local radio Kiss is now looking to revive the Camden Palace as it goes back to the 1980s. Celebrating the decade of neon, big hair, and leg warmers the ‘Ultimate 80s Party will take place every second Friday of the month at the Wharf Restaurant.  Kiss’ programme director Ben Maxwell will be spinning and scratching the turntables to the greatest hits of the decade.

 

“The Ultimate 80s Party is a great way to wrap up the week, and ring in the weekend,” said Ben as he readjusted his legwarmers. “Whether you’re coming in full 80s garb to dance the night away, or just to reminisce, The Ultimate 80s Party will get you into the party mood – and with the selection of music, there will be something for everyone!”

The first event will take place weekend just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day said General Manager of The Wharf Restaurant Reno Mancini.  “The combination of the fabulous ambience and hot music is sure to attract quite the crowd. You may even find a last-minute Valentine amidst the fluorescent shirts and Madonna costumes!” he added.

 

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George Town police keep up pressure on criminals

| 11/02/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Criminality will not be accepted in the islands’ capital the police have said following a number of arrests that were made by officers from George Town on Tuesday, 10 February as a result of proactive policing operations. “We won’t tolerate any criminal activity in George Town,” said George Town Inspector Bennard Ebanks.

“We have teams of dedicated officers committed to keeping the Cayman Islands safe which are working exceptionally hard and those involved in crime should be prepared to be caught.”

Those arrested included a 22-year-old woman on suspicion of assault; a 42-year-old man on suspicion of consuming a controlled drug; a 29-year-old man on suspicion of possession of ganja, consumption of ganja and resisting arrest; a 34-year-old man on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and 17-year-old youth on suspicion of damage to property.

George Town police officers endeavour to work with the community on addressing issues around crime and disorder and ask that anyone with information about criminal activity come forward. Anyone with information can contact the police station on 494-4222 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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Governor:Constitution to encourage good governance

| 11/02/2009 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Speaking for this first time publically about his view of the proposed constitution the Governor Stuart Jack has said the new document reflects the needs and values of the Cayman Islands and forms a solid, workable basis for the relationship between it and the United Kingdom. “I believe it will extend democracy and promote good governance,” he said.

The final constitutional document arrived in Cayman today, 12 February and was presented to the Legislative Assembly the document is expected to be available to the public online later today. This final document comes out of the final round of talks with the UK and has been agreed by all the stakeholders with the exception of the Human Rights Committee that have pointed out a significant flaw with the bill of rights.

However with backing from the UK, the opposition, Government, the Chamber and the churches, the protestations of the HRC have fallen on deaf ears.

The Governor also said that the bill of rights was an acceptable compromise.  

“It will give added protection to ordinary members of the public, for example in respect of the treatment they get from the police and the courts,” the Governor said.

“There will be an independent Human Rights Commission that will monitor human rights in a local context. In areas which the Bill of Rights does not explicitly cover it will be for the Legislative Assembly, in other words the elected representatives of the people of these islands, to decide whether and in what form further rights should be set out in law.”

He said he hoped that the elected government and legislators would take action to strengthen the protection of women and children as legislation was outstanding for far too long.

“I hope they will go ahead with plans to provide better arrangements for young offenders, though I recognise that this requires resources and may therefore not be achievable immediately,” the Governor added.

Commending the overall document and the work that had gone into it he said that it would give the people of the Cayman Islands a greater say over international relations, government finances, the police and judiciary.

He noted that his office would now have to consult the elected leader and other who will be known as the Premier and other elected officials on a larger range of issues.

He said several new bodies composed mainly of local people will provide stronger checks and balances while the legitimate interests of the UK and its international obligations would be safeguarded.

He said he particularly welcomes the National Security Council which will be chaired by the Governor and composed of the Premier, two other elected Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition and two representatives of civic society as well as the Deputy Governor, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police.

“The Governor will normally be expected to follow its advice on policy matters. But the wide membership and the exclusion from its remit of operational and staffing matters mean that the police will not be subject to undue political interference. That means, for example, that the Police Commissioner, not politicians, will continue to decide which police officer does which job,” the Governor said.

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Cayman funds battling on despite troubles

| 11/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): According to an online article more than one hundred and twenty regulated funds in the Cayman Islands had, at the end of January, suspended redemptions. Of the 123 that had, 90 suspended net-asset-value calculations and two suspended subscriptions. Cindy Scotland Managing Director of CIMA is reported as saying that a few Cayman banks have also suffered as a result of the Madoff scandal with "some indirect exposure," and 34 funds being "directly impacted by the fraud." However, it also reports that the fund business in Cayman is still doing well all things considered.

 

The CIMA boss told the online financial blog TheStreet.com that information regarding the Madoff scandal is still coming and “the numbers are growing." However, the article paints a fairly robust picture of Cayman’s hedge fund industry given the international economic turmoil. It reports on the push for a legislative crackdown to bolster investor confidence in the post-Madoff era and suggests that because of the local tax advantages Cayman will still remain a hedge fund haven.

Speaking at a recent Ernst & Young hedge fund symposium Scotland said that CIMA is proposing tighter standards for liquidity, risk management, transparency, capital adequacy, directorships and failures. "Anyone who thinks for one minute that increased regulation is not going to happen hasn’t been paying attention," Scotland said. "Not only will it happen, but I am confident that if we are to stay in this game we will have to adopt all of the regulations."

According to Walkers despite the Madoff situation Cayman is a centre of choice for hedge funds for several investor-friendly reasons. Not least because there are no direct corporate, capital gains, income, profit or withholding taxes. Hedge Fund Research also reports that even amid the financial chaos, the Cayman Islands led all other domiciles for new fund registrations during the fourth quarter of 2008, at 40%, up from 34% a year earlier and 24% five years earlier, according to Hedge Fund Research.

Ted Bravakis from the Portfolio of Finance and Economics is reported as saying that that 30% to 40% of the territory’s GDP is derived from the Hedge fund business.

The article also reports that while the overall number of new fund registrations last year – hedge and  mutual — dropped 18% , there were still 457 more funds in the Caymans at the end of 2008 than the previous year.

 

 

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Proof of ancient rise in sea level

| 11/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(ScienceDaily): Scientists have found proof in Bermuda that the planet’s sea level was once more than 21 meters (70 feet) higher about 400,000 years ago than it is now. Storrs Olson, research zoologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and geologist Paul Hearty of the Bald Head Island Conservancy discovered sedimentary and fossil evidence in the walls of a limestone quarry in Bermuda that documents a rise in sea level during an interglacial period of the Middle Pleistocene in excess of 21 meters above its current level. Go to article

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How Seattle’s airport prevents bird strikes

| 11/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNN): The next time you land safely in Seattle, you may want to thank Steve Osmek. He’s the wildlife biologist whose job is to make sure that birds don’t get in the way of airplanes arriving and departing Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Even though the bird strikes that recently caused US Airways Flight 1549 to lose both engines and land in New York’s Hudson River has brought greater urgency to the issue, the danger presented by avian life is nothing new to Sea-Tac. Go to article

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