Archive for April 16th, 2009

Polling stations designed to eliminate confusion

| 16/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Election’s office has completed its work on how the polling station’s will be set up to enable electors to vote in both the General Election and the Constitutional Referendum on 20 May as easily and as efficiently as possible with minimum confusion. All polling stations will be divided up so voters come through the election process first to cast their ballot before passing through the referendum section to deliver their decision in that vote. Tents, classrooms and partitions will all be utilised to ensure the two polls are kept separate and apart. (Left Orrett Connor demonstrates voting process.)


During a demonstration for the benefit of the media yesterday (Wednesday 15 April) the Supervisor of elections Kearney Gomez, along with the two deputy supervisors Colford Scott and Orrett Connor, explained in detail and demonstrated the process by which voters would cast their ballots in both the polls without being confused or risk making mistakes. Gomez explained the set up was designed to funnel voters through the two areas giving them the chance to vote in both or either poll and then exit from the referendum area without having to return to the election area. With space a problem in some districts he said that the office would be using classrooms and four air condition tents where necessary to divide up the two polls.

Colford Scott explained the need for the clear separation of the referendum and election from each other. “The separation of the two is to avoid confusion and the question of putting the wrong ballot in the wrong ballot box,” Scott said. “We are operating with two different laws. If there was an election’s petition the officers working the election would be required to submit the documents and ballots to the court, where as if a judicial review was requested on the referendum then the officers for the referendum would supply the appropriate ballots and information.”

Scott said with two different sets of instruction running the two concurrently could have been very complicated. As a result the elections office has created a system where things happening in the election area do not confuse things happening in the referendum area.

Consequently, there will be double the number of people working on polling day to cover the two different polls. On arrival voters will be directed into the polling station by a field officer who will also ask voters to leave their phones and cameras with them before entering the station.

Connor explained that no cameras are allowed inside the station in order to protect the integrity of confidentiality. He said if people were allowed cameras the possibility of voters taking an image of the ballot as proof of vote could fuel possibilities of corruption regarding payments for votes. So once the voter is freed of his potential image taking equipment he will be directed into the station for the election there voters will be checked to ensure they are who they say they are, checked on the poll book by the polling clerks and then given a ballot paper and instructions by the presiding officer. They then entre the curtained ballot station where they cast either 1,2,3 or 4 votes depending on the district. Once they have voted they return the ballot to the presiding officer folded to match the ballot pad counter foil to ensure it’s the same one they were first given and once confirmed the voter is asked to drop the ballot in the box.

The voter then moves into the referendum room, passing another field officer at the entrance. The exact same process is then repeated but this time the instruction will be for voters to mark a cross by ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before dropping the checked ballot into the box. Voters can opt to vote either just in the election or just the referendum or both by passing through and indicating whether they will or won’t vote.

However, the elections office says that with a historic big turn out for elections in Cayman it is hoped that as people will have to walk through both areas to vote in either poll they will make the decision to exercise their democratic right to do both.

Aside from eliminating confusion and mistakes the voting process is also geared up to completely eliminate any possible fraud or mismanagement at every step of the game. With ballot boxes sealed, ballot papers numbered and crossed checked and agents or candidates also watching the general election and observers appointedby the Governor watching the referendum in every station the integrity of the ballot is well guarded the elections supervisors all explained.

Scott noted that the number of postal votes has been significantly reduced this year as only overseas voters will use that method which should also help speed up the count. Election workers and anyone else working on election day, those in the Pines or in hospital or otherwise unable to vote on polling day will be able to vote in advance using one of the election’s office new mobile polling stations. This units will, in the weeks preceding polling day be stationed in the districts at strategic places to offer access to everyone who needs. Scott also explained that a team of election and referendum officers will also attend the homes of those who are house bound to offer them the opportunity to cast their votes in both elections.  The aim, the elections office confirmed is to afford every single one of the 15, 361 people entitled to vote can do so.



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CIMA Defends Rowell

| 16/04/2009 | 16 Comments

(CNS): In response to what it has called "certain criticisms" regarding the appointment of Gordon Rowell as the new Head of Insurance, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) said that the recruitment process was carried out in accordance with CIMA’s established procedure. The announcement of Rowell’s new position on CNS on Tuesday triggered a barrage of critical comments given the controversy surrounding Rowell’s departure from CINICO.

CIMA said that there had been nineteen applicants for the post three of which were short-listed and Rowell was the only Caymanian who applied. “After considering Mr Rowell’s skills, experience and qualifications, carrying out the appropriate due diligence, and taking into account all relevant considerations, it was decided that he was the most suitable candidate for the post.  CIMA stands by that decision,” the Authority said in a statement issued today, (Thursday 16 April).

The statement went on to say that Rowell has a wealth of experience in the insurance industry, six years of which were with CIMA.

“We have first hand knowledge of his capabilities and are confident he will provide the same high level of leadership in his capacity of Head of Insurance as he did when he previously held the position,” CIMA added.

The controversy however, surrounding Rowell’s appointments stemmed from his time as CEO at CINICO. Rowell resigned from his post at the time he was receiving considerable criticisms from the board over his decision to contract the health provider CareGiver which was in financial trouble instead of renewing the existing CMN for the policy holders overseas contracts. Although Rowell said the two were not connected, he tendered his resignation to the board at the same meeting that the board overturned his decision.

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Poor are tax haven victims

| 16/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(PBS) Tax havens may be where the world’s rich shelter their fortunes from prying governments eyes but citizens of developing countries may be the hidden victims. According to Boston Consulting Group, an estimated $7.3 trillion is stashed in offshore financial centres around the world such as the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and Monaco, by corporations and wealthy individuals seeking to lower their tax burdens. Rarely are they thought of as harmful to the world’s poor. But according to several recent reports by international aid groups, tax evasion drains billions of desperately needed dollars from poor countries that could be used to fight poverty.

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Police to tackle mounting jet ski complaints

| 16/04/2009 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Following mounting complaints relating to the use of jet skis too close to the shore and causing a disturbance to residents, police say, they along with Customs and Immigration Marine Unit will be clamping down and focusing on enforcing the law among users. “We are aware that some of the machines have been modified and are louder than normal crafts,” said Maine Unit Chief Inspector, Courtney Myles. He added that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) are not out to spoil people’s fun but the law is there for a reason.


“Jet Skis can be very enjoyable to own and use but they are powerful machines which need to be used within the law for the safety of the riders, the safety and protection of the environment and the comfort of those living close to the water.”

The Marine Unit will make patrols over the coming weeks to ensure that wave runners are being used responsibly and inline with the law. Under the Port Authority regulations (2007 revision) no vessel, including wave runners, should be used in designated swim areas and Jet Skis should not operate at more than five knots when within 200 yards of the shore.

The RCIPS said in the interests of safety that jet ski users should always wear a life vest;  never operate a Jet Ski under the influenceof alcohol; learn how to operate the machine before use; Never ride close to other water craft and be aware of what is happening to avoid collisions; Never ride a Jet Ski without a lanyard and to always let someone know where you are going and your estimated time of return.

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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Watering Place PO reopens

| 16/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Brac’s Watering Place Post Office will reopen on Monday, 20 April, as postal operations shift from the West End Post Office. Normal business hours will also resume at the Watering Place PO: Monday to Friday, 9 to 11:30 am and 1:30 to 3pm; and Saturday, 9 to 11:30 am. Watering Place customers who have temporarily used post boxes at West End to collect their mail are therefore now being asked to return keys to either the West End or Watering Place post offices.

Following damage caused by Hurricane Paloma, which struck the Brac and Little Cayman last November, the Watering Place Post Office remained closed until essential repairs could be completed. The Spot Bay Post Office, which also sustained damage, has not yet reopened but repairs are well advanced.

Residents of both Sister Islands are reminded that all post office box renters will continue to have 24-hour access to their post boxes. Spot Bay and Creek post office customers can continue to access their mail at the West End Post Office.

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Catastrophic sea level rise real threat, records suggest

| 16/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(Discover Magazine): A new study of fossilized coral reefs in Mexico has revealed that sea levels have risen abruptly in past epochs, which researchers say supports the theory that ocean levels could rise dramatically again in response to global warming. The study suggests that a sudden rise of 6.5 feet to 10 feet occurred within a span of 50 to 100 years about 121,000 years ago, at the end of the last warm interval between ice ages. “The potential for sustained rapid ice loss and catastrophic sea-level rise in the near future is confirmed by our discovery of sea-level instability” in that period, according to the New York Times.

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Kirkconnell focuses on unity in the Sister Islands

| 16/04/2009 | 40 Comments

“Give the other politicians your love and respect, but give Moses your vote,” Elvis McKeever told a large crowd at Spot Bay Wednesday night, the only reference to Moses Kirkconnell’s rivals during the launch of his bid to retain his Sister Islands seat. Also notably missing throughout the meeting was any mention of the UDP, and while he stood in front of a PPM poster, the ruling party was not referred to directly either. In an atmosphere more like a community meeting than a political rally, with no criticism of the opposition or a clear agenda for the next four years, Kirkconnell chose to begin his campaign by emphasising fellowship and unity on Cayman Brac.

After starting the meeting with music and comedy by local performers, Kirkconnell told supporters gathered in the front yard of Roy and Ann Walton that he wanted to highlight the friendship and talent on the island. “Before we talk about anything I want to acknowledge the strong bonds we have as a community,” he said.

Looking back at the experience of the hurricane that hit the island as a category 4 storm in November 2008, Kirkconnell said, “Paloma brought heartache and loss and hard work, but it also gave us the opportunity to bond," and he claimed that the last five months and the next five months would be seen in the future as a “special period of history” for the Sister Islands.

Turning to the last four years, he pointed to “results you can touch”, and catalogued developments on the islands, making special mention of Sports Instructor Mitchum Sanford, the sports programme and the new field. He also noted the Day Care Centre, the Tibbetts Annex of the Kirkconnell Community Care Centre (KCCC), the Ann Tatum Ramp, the hospital upgrade, the affordable housing programme on the Brac, the medical wing of the Aston Rutty Civic Centre, and the efforts of the Beautification Committee. The new MRCU building, which is nearing completion, would have laboratories that would in emergencies back up the mosquito control system in Grand Cayman, he noted.

However, he said the most significant development was the opening of the Brac campus of the University College of the Cayman Islands, where over 150 people attend and classes include vocational courses, electrical training, planning and computer studies. More vocational classes were planned, he said, which would be “a huge huge plus for the Sister Islands”.

Noting the upgrade at the Brac fire station, he said the island needed a new station on higher ground.

Kirkconnell also pointed to the generator upgrade at the civic centre, which was much needed during Paloma. “What would we have done…as the power failed on the island?” he asked, and noted that the medical wing of the centre was still in use by clients of the KCCC. The Day Care was also built to category 5 standard and was used as a hurricane shelter.

The emphasis on rebuilding after the storm had been to restore homes to the same standard and to keep communities intact. Public and private funds had been invested and they had tried to do that in a structured way to get to people who need it most. However, about $10 million more would be needed, he said.

He said the new Alexander Hotel would be finished by May, and noted two other developments under construction – the condos being built by James Ryan and Robert Banks, and Charles Kirkconnell’s development (the new phase of Carib Sands) on the south side.

“We must face the reality of what the world offers us today,” he said. “The global economy is in unchartered waters.” We must understand how to protect ourselves and how to choose the right leaders who will work with what we have, Kirkconnell said.

While Paloma had destroyed tourism, “the leg of the economy that we stand on”, the reconstruction of the Brac after the hurricane had offered the island a chance to retool for the future. The Brac Reef Beach Resort was being built to a new standard and was going to diversify its product, and the new condos would also diversify tourism on the island.

“The country has never faced what we will face in the next couple of years, but we will do quite well together…United we will stand,” said Kirkconnell.


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McLeans face off in East End

| 16/04/2009 | 20 Comments

(CNS): East Enders were givan an opportunity to assess the suitability of their candidates last night when the district’s McLeans opened the Chamber of Commerce’s series of forums. Tackling the question of the Constitution, the younger McLean, John Jr, admitted that he had not read it but from what his advisers had told him he wouldn’t support it. The incumbent said he was sad to hear that his opponent didn’t know about the Constitution but would be telling people to vote no as it was an important decision. “It’s more important than the election,” said Arden McLean.  

“MLA’s will come and go and the seats will remain no matter who fills them but the opportunity to shape a new constitution won’t come so easily. People need to understand the Constitution is not ours to modernise, it’s England’s. We can propose what we want, and we did, but in the end it is what England is prepared to give us.” He added that what had come out of the talks, while not perfect was a far cry for the current situation and had faced Cayman in a better direction for the future.

The forum was well attended and proved an informative evening for voters, who were clearly keen to see what the two candidates had to offer. Moderated by Chamber CEO Wil Pineau, the McLeans faced ten questions, which they had not seen, from the Chamber panel (Stuart Bostock and Peter Broadhurst) on behalf of Chamber members, and then a selection of questions directly from the audience.

The candidates were asked questions on the economy, environment and education, all of which proved revealing when it came to the candidates knowledge and understanding of the issues. Asked about strategies to mitigate the current global recession, ideas to stimulate new industry areas and generate more revenue J. McLean suggested developing local crafts.  “I would encourage people to make, and businesses to buy, locally made things like straw hats — it sounds trivial but it would generate income.”

The young candidate also suggested taxing the remittances sent overseas by work permit holders, and to lower the cost of doing business, he said work permit holders should pay towards their own permits as they needed the job as much as the employer needed them. Employers shouldn’t have to pay their employee’s pensions either, he said, as they didn’t benefit from it. He also felt government contracts needed to go to local companies and not foreign ones with local people getting the jobs.

Minster McLean noted that all ordinary companies doing business in Cayman are locally owned because of the 60-40% law, and that by spending money on capital projects the government had succeed in keeping the Cayman economy going despite the worldwide recession. He said it was the government’s responsibility to stimulate the economy.

“We have been extremely lucky that we have not had to bail out our financial industry,” he said, adding that, in a way, the government spending and borrowing for capital projects was Cayman’s bail out. “People now recognise that government must spend to ease the impact of the recession.” Even if it meant owing money, he said it was better to pay that back down the line in order to keep the economy buoyant now.

When it came to new areas of business, the minister said that Cayman was well positioned to develop e-commerce. “This is an untapped source for lots of business,” he said. “Because of us being an offshore financial centre, it will be easier to do this type of business and I think we can attract it.” He also said the Film Commission was an important step forward for a new business idea. He said most of all the domestic economy was very dependent on small business and it was important that government continued to encourage entrepreneurs. He said when  it came to reducing fees it was important to consider the balance of the treasury’s needs, but government had successfully reduced the cost of electricity by 30%, which had helped business.

The two men both agreed that government should keep spending on education, and while J.McLean seemed to lean towards the campaign mantra that the schools were too expensive, he said he would keep up current levels of spending. Arden McLean offered his full support to his colleague, the Education Minister, and said it was vital the work on education continued. He noted too that the Frank Sound school had been on the cards for 30 years and the Eastern districts needed it and should support it.

Minister McLean gave an emphatic “no” when asked if he supported the draft National Conservation Bill, which his colleague Charles Clifford had promised to bring to the Legislative Assembly before the end of this term. His evident opposition as a cabinet member revealed why Clifford had failed in that endeavour. “I have made it very clear to my cabinet colleagues that I am not supporting it as is,” he said. “There are a number of issues with it. It empowers certain individuals too much… and I cannot support it when the Director of the Environment has almost absolute power.” He said, however, that he did want to see an environmental law developed that was equitable and reasonable.

John McLean said he would support the enactment of the draft bill if elected as it was very important to preserve the natural flora and fauna and native trees. “I would definitely support it. I think it’s a goodthing and it’s not just about supporting it — it’s important to enforce it as well. We all need to preserve the environment.”

The two candidates also discussed the extension of the airport runway or moving it to East End, something J McLean said he wouldn’t support but preferred the idea of extending the existing runway in George Town. A McLean said eventually the airport may well have to be moved to the centre of the island but he supported the plans to develop Owen Roberts. J McLean said he supported cruise berthing and said it should have been done a long time ago. While A McLean said he supported the dock in principle, he said there was a need to ensure the cargo dock remained in government hands.

The desperate need to address the George Town landfill was also raised, with J McLean saying he was prepared to listen to anyone, including foreign companies, on how we address the problem, and there was a desperate need for a proper recycling programme. The dump, he said, needed to be addressed and not get involved in fiascos like the Matrix situation. A McLean said it was his biggest regret that he was unable to get the waste to energy management programme underway before the election, but the plans were in place and had been developed through cross party work with the aim of reducing the dump to zero in less than 2 decades.

Both men recognised the fear of rising serious crime and the need to tackle the problem of drug use in the district. While A McLean said the police needed to focus on the district’s vulnerable and deserted coastline to prevent the entry of drugs and guns,  J McLean said it was a bottom up problem and that everyone had their problems, be it drugs or murder, and the community needed to look at ways to help people excel in their own way.

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