Archive for June 16th, 2009

Election challenge filed

| 16/06/2009 | 132 Comments

(CNS): The two members for Bodden Town of the newly elected United Democratic Party Government now have 14 days in which to respond to a summons filed in the Grand Court on Tuesday 16 June questioning the validity of the election as a result of their failure to comply with Section 19 (1) g of the Cayman Islands Constitution. Six voters and one candidate are challenging the election of Dwayne Seymour, a backbench MLA, and the new Health Minister, Mark Scotland.

Lawyers Samson McGraw filed the necessary papers in the Grand Court and on the two politicians on behalf of Gordon Solomon, Sandra Catron (an independent candidate in the election in Bodden Town), Ronald Ebanks, Jean Ebanks, Roxanne Basham-Ebanks and Michael McLaughlin. The long anticipated summons asks the court to determine if the two defendants were disqualified, by virtue of section 19 g of the Constitution, from being elected and if their subsequent election is valid or not.

The grounds on which makes the request are based rest on the details of Scotland and Seymour’s failure to declare their government contracts in writing one month before election day on 20 May. It states that the first defendant, Mark Scotland, was at the time of the election a director and had an interest in ARCP, which had government contracts with the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing to construct the parking lot for the new Government Office Accommodation project; the Ministry of Sports to repair and upgrade football fields; the National Roads Authority to reconstruct Dorcy Drive; and was a subcontractor to Royal Construction for the George Town Library. The summons also notes Scotland’s connection with MCM Consulting, which also had contracts with the NRA for the design and paving management of the East-West Arterial.

It then notes that the first defendant did not publish the details of those contracts at least one month before polling day, but 25 days before the date and therefore his purported election is void.

The summons refers to Seymour as the second defendant and notes how he is a director of Airport Professional Services, which has a contract with Cayman Airways, and he too failed to publish the details of the contract one month before polling day, making his purported election void as well.

Scotland told CNS last week that he is prepared for the challenge and maintained his position that the two were never disqualified and as faras he is concerned the issue was a "minor technical thing".

When the issue was first brought to light in April, Seymour stated that as his contract was with Cayman Airways and he had no contracts with the government, despite the fact that Cayman Airways is a nationally (i.e. government) owned airline. “I have a contract with Cayman Airways that I will publicly gazette out of an over abundance of caution.” explained Seymour at the time.

The late gazetting by both men is a clear breach of the Constitution, however; it will now be up to a judge to decide if the two men should be disqualified and the next two candidates duly elected or whether to call a by-election. If the court rules in favour of a by-election for those two seats, the question then would be over the legality of the two candidates running in that by-election if they were declared disqualified by the courts.

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Thieves break into clinic

| 16/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Detectives are appealing for witnesses to a burglary which occurred at a George Town medical clinic and resulted in four laptops and some surgical instruments being stolen, the RCIPS said today. Police report being called to the facility on Smith Road, in the vicinity of Tropical Plaza, soon after 6am on Saturday (13 June) by the gardener, who had discovered a broken window at the rear of the building.


Investigations have revealed that four laptops are now missing; two silver Sony VAIO’s and two Toshibas, one of which is deep blue in colour, and a bag of metal surgical instruments has also been taken. Police said they would like to hear from anyone who saw any suspicious activity at the site overnight Friday (June 12) into Saturday (June 13) or anyone with information about the whereabouts of the laptops.

Police also stated that residents are reminded that handling stolen goods is a criminal offence and anyone who is offered items for sale which are either extremely cheap or missing parts such as chargers should be extremely wary.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Constable Dave Morrison on 949-4222 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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Students graduate from police drug programme

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Some 581 primary school studentsfrom across Grand Cayman graduated from the police anti-drug programme DARE this weekend. In its 9th year in Cayman the programme is taught to children in school between the ages 10-11 by police officers and although it has received considerable international criticism it is currently the only formal anti-drug and alcohol programme taught in Cayman schools.


Scientific evaluation studies have consistently shown that DARE is ineffective in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs and is sometimes even counterproductive. The U.S. General Accounting Office, the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Education, among many others have all criticised the programme.

The programme has however been praised by the United States Department of Justice for "humanizing" the police, placing officers in a helping role, not just an enforcement one, opening lines of communication between law enforcement and youth and for opening dialogue between the school, police, and parents to deal with other issues.

The DARE curriculum is designed to be taught by police officers whose training and experience gives them the background needed to answer the often sophisticated questions posed by young students about drugs and crime. The programme is however intended to teach children not just about the dangers of drugs, tobacco and alcohol but also about violence and aims to provide participants with the skills needed to avoid and deal with situations involving any of these societal issues.

Cayman students who had worked hard to graduate from the programme this weekend all received certificates of achievement and a t-shirt. Those who won the essay competitions were also presented with their awards. The ceremony took place at the Marriott Beach Resort where friends family the Governor Stuart and the new Commissioner of Police, David Baines among others.


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Sickle cell day of recognition

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With 33 people in the Cayman Islands suffering from sickle cell disease the jurisdiction is joining the United Nations in observing the first annual Sickle Cell Disease World Day on Thursday, 19 June. The worldwide event is intended to raise awareness of the disease, and follows a United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted in December 2008 that recognizes sickle cell disease as a public health problem. Health Services Authority Genetics Coordinator Joy Merren explained that Cayman is lucky to be able to both diagnose and manage the disease for patients here.


“We are fortunate to have facilities to diagnose sickle cell disease and to manage it,” said Merren. “These patients do sometimes get painful crises because of damage to the bone marrow. It is a chronic disease, and management of sickle cell disease is treatment of symptoms and learning to live or cope with the help of health care professionals. Sickle cell testing is offered to all newborns in the Cayman Islands.

She added that there is also a peer support group, the Sickle Cell Support Group, where family and patients come together to share experiences in coping with the disease, and educational sessions are organized for awareness and management of the disease. It meets 3 to 4 times a year and is supported by the Public Health Department.

 “If someone has sickle cell trait, it is important to know if one’s partner is also a carrier. If both parents are sickle cell carriers, then with each pregnancy, there is a 25% risk of having a child with sickle cell disease,” Merren explained. “ Knowing ahead of time can help couples make informed reproductive choices. While sickle cell trait is mild, sickle cell disease is serious and can potentially affect every organ of the body.”

Patients with sickle cell disease can live lives optimally as they work together with family and health care workers in managing this disorder.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited chronic disorder that affects red blood cells and is one of the most common genetic disorders. All persons have two genes that make haemoglobin. Normal red blood cells contain haemoglobin A, a protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. With sickle cell there is a different form of protein, haemoglobin S. With sickle cell disease, both genes are affected, causing severe symptoms.

Normal red blood cells are round, flat and very flexible. However, when the oxygen comes out of the red blood cells of sickle cell disease, the cell becomes stiff and takes on the shape of a sickle – hence, the name. The sickle cells clump together and are not able to squeeze through the small blood vessels, so the cells get destroyed more quickly.  A normal red blood cell lives approximately 120 days but a sickle cell may only live 11 or 12 days. 

When only one gene is affected, it is called sickle cell trait, or persons are called sickle cell carriers. Having sickle cell trait means that the person stays healthy under normal circumstances, and the main significance is that it can be passed on to one’s children. Persons with just the trait don’t develop the disease but a blood test can be done to determine if a person has the trait. If a man and a woman are both sickle cell carriers, with each pregnancy, there is a

25% chance of the child having the disease; 25% chance of the child being completely free from sickle cell; and 50% chance of the child being a carrier. If oly one parent is a carrier, then there is a 50% chance of the child having the trait 50% chance of the child being completely free of sickle but no chance of the child having the disease.

Symptoms include anaemia, jaundice and gallstones due to rapid breakdown of the red blood cells, painful swelling of fingers and toes in babies, painful attacks of joints, back and abdomen as there may be damage to the bone marrow and infections may develop, such as pneumonia. Leg ulcers may also develop due to less oxygen to the lower legs.

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UK Court quashes murder conviction

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): A man who has spent eight years in prison for murder has won an appeal against his conviction. Ian Lawless, 47, was jailed for life in 2002 after confessing to the murder of retired sea captain Alf Wilkins on the Yarborough estate in Grimsby. Judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that his conviction was unsafe after hearing fresh medical evidence about his mental condition at the time. Mr Lawless said he felt "ecstatic" after he was released. His solicitor, Mark Newby said the case highlighted the dangers of vulnerable people being pushed through the court process "without putting the necessary safeguards in place".

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Hydrogen car unveiled

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): The manufacturer of a hydrogen car unveiled in London on Tuesday will make its designs available online so the cars can be built and improved locally. The Riversimple car can go 80km/hr (50mph) and travels 322km (200mi) per re-fuelling, with an efficiency equivalent to 300 miles to the gallon. The cars will be leased with fuel and repair costs included, at an estimated £200 ($315) per month. The company hopes to have the vehicles in production by 2013. Next year, it aims to release 10 prototypes in a UK city which has yet to be confirmed.


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Commissioner Epp leaves strong office

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Having blazed a trail for the last five years to establish the Office of the Complaints Commissioner, Dr. John Epp is moving on to pastures new and leaving behind a strong and independent office for his successor. As the Cayman Islands’ first ever ombudsman, Dr. Epp says that his time in office has been exceptionally challenging but many important goals have been achieved. Prior to his appointment, there was no independent body investigating government administration, and while the Legislative Assembly was responsible for the establishment of the office, it was up to Dr. Epp to establish both the tone of the office and the vigour with which complaints would be investigated.

“As we gained our footing we took a robust approach to investigations and the formulation of recommendations in the wake of valid complaints,” he said. “We established a strong commitment to monitoring compliance with our recommendations and there is undoubtedly greater accountability as a result of the OCC.”

Since the office was established, it carried out an initiative to create an internal complaints process in every government entity, and three years down the line a recent audit revealed good results.
Dr. Epp and his team have worked diligently in educating civil servants about the independence of the office and in particular that the Complaints Commissioner’s role is one of an entirely independent investigator as oppose to an advocate for every complainant.

The fight to establish independence has been fought vigorously and won on a number of fronts. Dr. Epp explained that the OCC reports directly to the Legislative Assembly through the Speaker of the House and the Committee with responsibility for the OCC, and not to any one Minister or the Governor. The successful application to the Grand Court in September 2008 for a declaration of the extent of the office’s powers underscored that independence. “The court gave a purposive interpretation of some straightforward provisions which settled the fact that the OCC had the power to gather evidence from any source,” he said.

Another important victory for the independence of the office was when the attempt to unilaterally cut the OCC budget (FY 08-09) by 15% was successfully halted. “The point was made to the budget management unit and then to Cabinet that the OCC’s budget was set through the bi-partisan oversight committee and that it could not be altered without the approval of that committee,” Dr. Epp added.

Creating working partnerships has been a long but worthwhile fight. In the beginning, the OCC was welcomed by public servants so long as they weren’t the servants being investigated, Dr. Epp noted. “Some spent a lot of time trying to obstruct the process,” he added. “When request for documents or information are not met in a timely manner it not only frustrates the OCC and the complainants, who are anxious for a ruling, but it undermines the credibility of the government department. However, over time the general lack of urgency has been overcome and departments have begun to tolerate our investigations and even cooperate.”

He explained that many departments are becoming increasingly compliant with recommendations and are working more with the office to address the areas that give rise to complaints. Dr. Epp also says he understands why his office has faced some obstruction given the change fatigue in the civil service over reform in recent times, such as the implementation of the Public Management and Finance Law, the Freedom of Information bill and the establishment of his own office. “This has seen senior and mid level management within the service trying to establish change, keep up with training and still get the basic work of their departments done each day with limited resources,” he added.

While Dr. Epp and his team have won many battles and established a robust approach to investigations there are still more to fight not least engaging the Legislative Assembly with their work. The OCC has the power to instigate investigations where appropriate, and while the office has submitted 10 Own Motion Reports and 8 Special Reports since it opened, he is disappointed with the response.

“The Legislative Assembly has received the reports of investigations completed on my own initiative, which have resulted in some important changes within the relevant departments, but almost no debate has taken place about any of them,” he said. “I am disappointed and I encourage members of both sides of the House to debate the issues and points raised in the reports.” However, Dr Epp noted that, unfortunately, ombudsmen in other jurisdictions share in the frustration arising from limited or no debate of reports tabled.

Looking back Dr. Epp says that if he were given the opportunity to redo his five years there are only one or two things he would change. “I believe we should have delayed the opening of the office for a few months to allow OCC staff to intern in government departments and allowtime to get our internal systems prepared. When we opened we were literally overrun with people seeking assistance and we were forced to play catch-up on our own work while conducting casework, as well as building our confidence.”

The biggest battles have now been won, however, and Dr. Epp says his successor , Commissioner Designate Nicola Williams, should be able to pick up the OCC ball and run, although he laments the lack of opportunity for a handover period. With his departure in July and the new Commissioner staring in August the time allowed to give the newcomer an understanding of the sensitivities of the office has been limited to one week of specially organised meetings.

Nevertheless, he says the new Commissioner comes to the job with a well established, trained and welcoming team in place, and a greater understanding in the public sector of the role and relevance in the value of the office. During his five years Dr. Epp says he has probably taken on the number and kind of challenges an ombudsman would normally face in a decade because he has had to lay the groundwork for what is an entirely new area of public accountability.

“It is not unusual for ombudsmen who serve first to step down after just one term,” he explained. “Not least because establishing a new office involves being in some really tough quasi-political battles, and we have had our fair share with some good fighters. After a series of so many political prize fights, it’s time to hand things on to the next person who will come into this ring renewed.”

Dr. Epp himself will be returning to the private sector and his first love, the practice of law, with the firm of Conyers, Dill and Pearman.

The OCC is located on the 2nd floor, 202 Piccadilly Centre, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, phone number (345) 943 2220. The website is

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Protest rally planned in Iran

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Iranian opposition supporters are staging a mass rally in northern Tehran, witnesses have told the BBC. It comes despite presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi urging supporters not to risk clashes with demonstrators backing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left). Hundreds of thousands turned up on Monday alleging fraud in the poll which returned Mr Ahmadinejad to office. Tough new restrictions on the foreign media mean the BBC is unable to confirm reports of Tuesday’s opposition rally. The new restrictions have been imposed amid apparent surprise and concern amongauthorities at the scale of popular defiance over Friday’s official election results.

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Voluntary donors give safest blood

| 16/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The introduction of World Blood donor day which was celebrated around the world on Sunday (14 June the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, the Nobel prize winner who discovered the ABO blood group system) was designed to raise awareness about the importance of donating blood. Evidence from around the world demonstrates that voluntary unpaid donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are least likely to transmit potentially life-threatening infections, such as HIV and hepatitis viruses, to the recipients of their blood. 


Millions of people owe their lives to people they will never meet as a result of blood donation but the overwhelming majority of the world’s population still do not have access to safe blood according to the World Blood Donor Organisaiton.

Anyone wishing to donate blood in Cayman can do so at the blood bank at the Cayman I/slands Hospital during working hours. Setting an example last Friday (12 June) the Minister for Health Mark Scotland gave a pint of his own. “At any time, anyone of us could need blood. It is important that we sign up for this civic duty. I came here today to set an example and to show that it is nothing to be afraid of. So be a hero and donate blood,” Scotland said.

World Blood Donor Day is focused on the encouragement of more people to become regular blood donors as oppose to a surge of one day donors

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Netherlands Antilles’ aims for 16 tax treaties

| 16/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(Tax News): The State Secretary of Finance in Netherlands Antilles  Alex Rosaria has announced that by September 2009 the jurisdiction will have concluded nine new tax agreements bringing its total of such agreements to sixteen. Of these agreements, a total of fourteen will have been concluded with OECD countries. Scheduled to be signed are tax information exchange agreements with Canada, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, and Iceland.

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