Archive for August 18th, 2009

Brac cops net 50 drivers in traffic op

| 18/08/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS said they were following through with a traffic crackdown after the public expressed concern over road safety at a recent police community meeting on Cayman Brac. Police said that 50 motorists have been prosecuted for breaking the traffic law who were netted in a July traffic operation. “All drivers have a responsibility to ensure their safety, the safety of their passengers and the safety of other road users and this starts with obeying all the traffic laws,” said Area Commander Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay.

“Residents voiced concerns about poor driving practices at our community meeting and we responded by stepping up enforcement. We hope all drivers will see this as a warning and start taking road safety more seriously,” the senior cop stated.

A number of measures have been taken recently to ensure that officers in Cayman Brac can carry out their roles effectively, including fitting a second marked police vehicle with mobile radar equipment and re-qualification of officers in the use of the radar machine.  In the July crackdown police said the following tickets were handed out:

Exceeding the speed limit – 25

Failing to wear seat belt – 16

Driving whilst intoxicated – 3

Careless driving – 1

Refusing / failing to provide specimen of blood – 1

Carrying a child not wearing a seat belt – 1

Causing obstruction while stationary – 1

Defective lights – 1

Failing to comply with a traffic signal – 1

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Sister 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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UBS clients hid income

| 18/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(AP): Wealthy American clients of Swiss bank UBS AG used sham corporations set up in havens as part of their efforts to evade US taxes, according to documents filed in Florida and California court cases. The most recent UBS client to plead guilty to tax charges, John McCarthy of Malibu, Calif., used a Hong Kong-based entity called COGS Enterprises Ltd. to open a UBS account in 2003. McCarthy opened an account for his Hong Kong entity at UBS’s operation in the Cayman Islands. He was told by UBS advisers that "a lot of United States clients don’t report their income and just take it off the top," according to court documents.

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Wildlife group solves parrot controversy

| 18/08/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Local conservationists Cayman Wildlife Rescue, and the National Trust may have come up with a solution to what farmers consider to be a pest when it comes to their crops, but is one of Cayman’s protected species. The Cayman Parrot, the country’s national bird is also a big mango fan and as such considered a serious problem by local fruit framers some of whom say they should be allowed to kill the parrots. Farmers say that they are losing as much as half their crops to the endangered bird. However, a new device is now being tested by the two conservation groups with great success.

A Florida based company, called Bird Busters, has created a custom device which is programmed specifically to ward off Cayman Parrots from crops.  The device called a Bird Squawker plays back distress calls from Cayman Parrots, alarm calls from Cayman Parrots, cries of predatory hawks, gun shots noises and digital sound effects in a random pattern to confuse and scare offending birds.

The custom device has now been tested in local farmland, worked by Franklyn Smith with great success and Smith’s worker Eval Davis testified to its success. “When the device is running we have no new damage to the crop.  If the device is off the parrots return to the area within a day,” he said.

As a result Smith says he is looking forward to getting the Bird Squawker for next year’s mango crop.  In the past he admits to at least 50 percent crop destruction due to the Cayman Parrot. 

Alison Corbett, Project Manager of Cayman Wildlife Rescue has teamed up with local farmers to try and help change the relationship between parrot and farmer.

“In visiting local farmers here I have seen the true devastation the parrot has on the crop.  These farmers work hard, battling many issues and I hated that Cayman’s National Bird was considered by most to be a pest.  I knew there were solutions out there, we just needed to try some alternatives,” she said.

Corbett explained that while there is no concrete evidence that Cayman Parrots are still being shot by local farmers as a means of control there is considerable hearsay and some have admitted to shooting the national bird despite its status as a protected species., “One local farmer attested to shooting 80 Cayman Parrots in one day alone, before deciding to put down his rifle for good,” Corbett said.  I have had other reports that there are still hundreds shot each year.  We can either deny this issue or choose to provide the farmers with effective and sustainable options.”

Otto Watler, long time advocate for the Cayman Parrot, who has also been working closely on the project said it would be a sad day when the beautiful Cayman Islands’ Parrot ceases to grace our skies.  “I think everyone that lives on these beautiful islands should do their part to stop this awful tragedy from becoming a reality and it will surely happen sooner than later if some method of protecting the Parrot is not put in place by the powers that be.”

The Cayman Parrot faces many threats such as loss of habitat as well as the and human threats such as illegal shooting, trapping and nest robbing.  The Grand Cayman Parrot and Cayman Brac Parrot are two distinct endemic sub-species of the Cuban Parrot.  Both of the Cayman Islands’ Parrots are considered endangered and are CITES protected.  The Cayman Brac species especially, due to its limited range, is at great risk for extinction.

The bird squawker seen as a genuine way of protecting the birds retails for $1,300 USD and to order contact Jack Wagner at Bird Busters(703) 299-8855 or by email  Bird Busters will work with local farmers to devise a plan for the placement of the device and speakers.  The device operates from a standard 12 volt battery and has a light sensor which turns the device off automatically at night.

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BCTC celebrates India

| 18/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A small grassroots theatre company branched out from a focus on traditional Caymanian culture to celebrate the subculture of the local community at an event on Cayman Brac Saturday, 15 August. On the 62nd anniversary of India’s Independence from Britain, the Backyard Caboose Theatre Company not only hosted a celebration of that country’s culture, honouring an Indian icon, Mohandas Gandhi, and a Caymanian icon of Indian lineage, Sir Vassel Johnson, but also emphasised the importance of cultural and religious tolerance.

Quincy Brown, one of the founders of BCTC, said the impetus for the event came from the desire to share in the celebration of Indian independence with our local Indian brothers and sisters. “BCTC is diversifying and including all nationalities living in the Cayman Islands as we present plays, variety shows and celebrate independent days with those who have joined us. Unity, love and tolerance was the impetus behind this particular event. Love, unity and tolerance will continue to be the underlying impetus of all BCTC future productions,” Brown said.

Though most of the scheduled performers were unable to attend, Brown and BCTC member Lyndon Martin kept the show rolling with the life histories of Sir Vassel and Gandhi and input from members of their audience about their Indian heritage. Sir Vassel’s daughter , Theresa Bodden, accepted a bouquet from BCTC in honour of her father, sponsored by Minister for District Administration Juliana O’Connor Connolly. The minister was unable to attend the event.

“Sir Vassel Johnson’s contribution to Caymanian society will be treasured and respected for generations to come. He laid down the foundation for the Cayman success as a financial centre. BCTC’s celebration of India’s 62nd independence anniversary also paid tribute to Sir Vassel as a man who had an Indian lineage. His grandparents on both his mother and father’s side came from Punjab and Madras. So any event being held to celebrate Indian ethnicity in the Cayman Islands should include the honouring of Cayman’s Knight, Sir Vassel Johnson, who was Jamaican by birth, Caymanian at heart and Indian by grand parentage,” Brown explained.

Asked why the life of Ghandi should be celebrated in the Cayman Islands, he said, “Interestingly enough, Sir Vassel Johnson has been compared by Business Age as ‘doing for Cayman what Gandhi did for India’. The life of Mohandas Gandhi should be celebrated in the Cayman Islands I think for his message of non-violence. Caymanian, regional and international political and religious leaders could learn a lot from the life of Gandhi. Caymanian youth would do well in learning about Gandhi’s nonviolence approach instead of picking up the gun as some are doing today.”

Brown told CNS that overall “In celebration of India” was a huge success and those who attended came away with a better understanding of each other. It also promoted the concept of tolerance through artistic expression. “I would say in that there was a wide cross section of the Cayman Brac community in one place celebrating the culture of a local subculture. The fact that people were able to come on stage and express their cultural ethnicity and truly be who they are was phenomenal.”

He said, “The highlight for me personally was the inclusion of the women of Indian heritage who participated in the fashion show and were also shared their pride in their Hindu faith with the audience.”

BCTC will be presenting the 2nd annual In Celebration of India on August 15th 2010 in the Cayman Islands. On November 7th 2009 BCTC along with other organizers will present “In remembrance of ’32 and Paloma hurricanes”. More information will be forthcoming. Brown said that the theatre company was also planning BCTC storytelling events in Bodden Town and East End before the end of the year, date and details to be announced. A full cast play is also being planned in the future.”

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Herbs as natural pesticides?

| 18/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Common herbs and spices show promise as an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pesticides, scientists have told a major US conference. They have spent a decade researching the insecticidal properties of rosemary, thyme, clove and mint. They could become a key weapon against insect pests in organic agriculture, the researchers say, as the industry attempts to satisfy demand. The "plant essential oils" have a broad range of action against bugs. Some kill them outright while others repel them. These new pesticides are generally a mixture of tiny amounts of two to four different herbs diluted in water.

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Cops to sell ‘stolen goods’

| 18/08/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The police will be selling a treasure trove of stolen goods at the end of this month, but they’ll be doing it legally. According to the law the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) is allowed to hold an auction up to twice each year to dispose of uncollected found property and recovered items no longer needed as evidence.  The auction will take place on Saturday, 29 August, at 9am, at the vehicle Licensing Department on Elgin Avenue, George Town. Items being auctioned range from jewellery and cameras to construction material and bicycles.            

 A full list of the items to be auctioned can be viewed on the government website, under ‘gazettes’ or by following the link below and selecting ‘notice of police auction.’  Or following this weblink:

It is one year since the last auction and, according to the list, the police have accumulated a considerable amount of property. There are almost 100 bicycles alone as well as electrical goods, CDs and clothes. Among the less glamorous items being auctioned, bargain hunters will find kitchen cabinet knobs, candles and rolls of Teflon tape.

Proceeds from the auction will go to the police welfare fund.

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Moderating the comments

| 18/08/2009 | 7 Comments

One of the most glaring impediments to progress in the Cayman Islands is the fact that large sections of society feel intimidated about speaking publicly on issues, and this is never so apparent as during election time.

A few years ago, both local newspapers decided to insist that letter writers give their names and contact details. CNS has on several occasions been urged to adopt the same policy but I do not feel that the Cayman Islands is ready for this while recriminations – real or perceived – for weighing in on the issues of the day exist.

To start with, free speech is denied to civil servants, who are expressly forbidden to show support for a particular candidate, or to make public their views on candidates or political issues. Most people living here on a work permit, as well as business owners who depend on work permit holders, are allowed to voice their opinions but nevertheless are reluctant to do so, believing that their livelihoods would be threatened, and whether their fears are legitimate or not is less relevant than the fact that their voices are silenced.

Many residents are unwilling to draw criticism by identifying themselves in what is still a small community, and in some cases fear actual physical harm. An exchange on one thread by single mothers expressing their fears about the rising violence for themselves and their children was particularly poignant, and was yet another conformation that a platform in which people can write freely and anonymously is much needed in these islands.

On the other hand, while free speech is a cherished right in any democracy, it is never without some qualifiers, and every country that sees itself as democratic must try to find a balance between free speech and other rights, such as the right not to be the target of hate speech, discrimination, defamation of character, etc. (See this New York Times article about the different approaches to this in the US, Europe and Canada)

However, without any laws in the Cayman Islands governing hate speech or discrimination, the threat of a libel suit appears to be the only restriction as to what is published in the media. Therefore, it is up to the individual media houses to determine what is acceptable and what is not.

Which brings me to the comments on CNS and how they are moderated. Our comment policy is posted here. However, it probably needs a little elaboration, not to mention the opportunity for readers to comment on the policy and its application.

As the policy says, a comment that is made by someone who has the courage to put their name to it has much greater impact and we encourage those who really care about the Cayman Islands to stand up for what they believe in. Still, for all the reasons listed above, most people comment anonymously, Sadly, when people are brave enough to use their own name they are often rewarded with some pretty nasty responses. Therefore, following a discussion with Twyla, one of our most frequent commenters, we have developed a new rule: you can disagree with people who identify themselves … but be nice, especially if you hide behind anonymity.

Occasionally we get comments that cross the line in some parts but are otherwise interesting. In these cases I replace the offending sections with “XXXXXXX” instead of deleting the whole thing. Comments written in bold, which somehow suggests that it is more important than other comments, are changed to normal, and comments written with the caps lock on, which is annoying, are generally just deleted. Otherwise, comments are not edited and spelling and grammar are left as they are written. If a comment is unintelligible – the litmus test; I read it twice and have no clue what it means – it is deleted. Strangely, a lot of comments posted late Friday or Saturday night fall into this category.

By running for public office, politicians and would-be politicians open themselves up to greater scrutiny than other citizens, but as we get closer to election time and emotions start to run high, deciding what is legitimate opinion or dissent and where to draw the line is often a hard decision. Added to this, as a few people have noted, some comments supposedly written by regular CNS readers may in fact be written by the campaigns themselves. And while, if true, this is reprehensible, it is impossible to prove and hard to eliminate. Nevertheless, I have deleted some anonymous comments that seem ridiculously puerile, that anonymously accuse candidates or incumbents of corruption, or if I feel fairly certain that it was “planted”.

Public figures – a difficult term to define in such a small community – are legitimate subjects of public dialogue, especially if they accept a large salary from the public purse. Given the perception that some high level government positions are filled for reasons other than merit or that sometimes foreigners are given senior civil service jobs that could be filled locally, a free public discussion of senior appointments and their performance is justified. But just as the line between opinion and insult can be hard to pinpoint, so too can the difference between information and gossip, and whether I have always made the right decision is likely also open for debate.

When it comes to crime, moderating the comments can be particularly difficult. For one thing, people always seem to know more than the police have released. However, if the police ask us not to post such comments I comply with the request, at least until that information is made public.

Suspects of high profile crimes are always reviled in comments, but however damning the evidence appears to be (and whatever people believe to the contrary) people are innocent until proven guilty under the law and I cannot approve comments that assume their guilt – though some of them are heartbreaking in their grief and the writers have my fullest sympathy. I would ask people to word their comments carefully at such times. Comments about the victims or the victims’ families are sometimes deleted just because they seem to be unduly hurtful to people who are already suffering.

If I could make one request to those posting comments – if you are unwilling to use your real name it would be helpful to give yourself a “user name”, since arguments between a bunch of people who sign themselves “Anonymous” can get confusing.

Public dialogue is an essential part of the democratic process and the CNS comments seem to have become an important tool for debate between the people who live here. Perhaps the proportion of commenters who use their real name as opposed to those who remain afraid to do so can become a gauge of the progress freedom of expression in the Cayman Islands.


Note: This VP was first posted 23 April 2009 (hence the references to the elections) but we have more readers now, some of whom might not be aware of the moderating process. You can also read our Comment Policy.

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Financial Crime Unit investigates card cloning

| 18/08/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Police are warning residents in the Cayman Islands to be on the lookout for fraudulent transactions on their bank account statements as a result of a number of reports regarding compromised cards even though the cards have not been stolen. The Financial Crime Unit (FCU) is currently investigation instances of possible card cloning where, the FCU said, the fraudsters obtain legitimate card information when holders use them and then take that information to make dummy cards.

 “We have a number of fraudulent transactions which have taken place on various accounts,” said Detective Constable Richard Clarke. “We have so far identified a number of instances where cards have been compromised both here in the Cayman Islands and abroad.”

He explained that the investigation has revealed that account holders are still in possession of their actual bank card when the various transactions take place. The card details have then been obtained previously by way of a legitimate transaction made by the card holder. The information taken by the criminals is used to make a dummy or “cloned” cards which are then used weeks after.

The FCU explained there are various methods used by criminals to obtain this information, one of which is known as ‘skimming’. This method is used to read and copy the information on the magnetic strip of a credit card with a small handheld machine.

Police advised card holders to keep watch on their cards during transactions and get them back as quickly as possible; to void incorrect receipts; open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly; observe staff who are handling cards; after the purchase, check to make sure you were handed back the correct card and if you are leaving the Island, inform your bank of your travel plans

Anyone who thinks their cards may have been compromised should contact Detective Constable Richard Clarke at Financial Crime Unit on 949-8797.

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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Cayman continues to hold significant US debt

| 18/08/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): While the removal from the OECD notorious grey list should ensure that the Cayman Islands financial services will survive another day, the fact that Cayman is one of a number of Caribbean Islands that collectively hold $189.7 billion of US Treasury debt is probably an even better insurance policy.

According to the latest Treasury International Capital (TIC) report (released 17 August) which examines the purchases of long-term U.S. securities ie the country’s debt, while China remains the country’s biggest creditor, the Cayman Islands is part of a group listed by the Treasury as ‘Caribbean banking centres’ which collectively holds the fifth largest amount of US debts. (Besides Cayman the list includes the Bahamas, Bermuda, Netherlands Antilles and Panama.)

Mush of the US debt held in Cayman is in hedge funds as well as subsidaries of foreign banks based here. Private investors using Cayman Islands companies and trust as well as rich individuals banking here are all creditors of the world’s biggest economy.

According to experts in the field the United States will require $3 trillion to $4 trillion in debt issues for 2009 and 2010. Last year however, foreign net purchases of U.S. Treasuries plummeted 60 percent to $412 billion from the previous three year annual average of $1 trillion. This latest report has revealed that China reduced its holdings of US government debt by the largest margin in some nine years in June cutting its US securities by more that 3 percent.

While the Treasury report showed that about $31.2 billion in capital flowed out of the United States in June, about half the level of outflows in May economists say this is due to sales of short-term investments such as Treasury bills, and the decline does not reflect an overall loss of confidence in U.S. government debt.

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Former ed minister warns of rollback on new law

| 18/08/2009 | 44 Comments

(CNS): A political desire to overturn the transformations he made in the education system over the last four years is what Alden McLaughlin, the former education minister, says is behind the current government’s decision to postpone the 1 September implementation date for the Education Modernisation Law, 2009. The law was passed in the Legislative Assembly in March, just before the change of government, but McLaughlin said despite the UDP government claims about the delay, there are no technical reasons to justify the postponement.

“This is a really ominous move by the current administration,” McLaughlin told CNS. “The 1 September start date was carefully considered before it was cited as the day the law would come into force. The start date was discussed at length with ministry staff and legislative drafters to make sure that it would offer enough time to put everything that was needed in place and they agreed that 1 September would be sufficient time and appropriate to fit with the school year. There are no justifiable working or technical reasons for this delay; it is about rolling back the transformations that have taken place in the education system.”

The government announced that it planned to delay the law’s implementation a few weeks ago and an order revoking the commencement date was gazetted on Monday, 17 August. Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said the start date did not allow sufficienttime for government to complete necessary consultation and preliminary action required for the law’s proper implementation.

McLaughlin said, however, this was not the real reason and he suspected that the government planned to reverse the fundamental transformations that he had spent the last four years working on. He said the policy improvements in the law were about making real changes for better future outcomes for Caymanian students.

“The legislation was the very last part of the process of significant change to be introduced, which would have set the stage to improve results for our children in the future,” McLaughlin added. He explained that it was deliberately left until the end so that the law would reflect and underpin the policy changes that had been made because they were needed rather than trying to make policy fit a law that was imposed on the department. “The new law was designed to fit the changes,” he said.

The law contains a number ofmajor amendments to the structure of the education department, the introduction of a national curriculum, and professional development for teachers; it raises the school leaving age to 17 and it also formally bans corporal punishment in schools and requires all schools to create their own written student behaviour and discipline policies, among other things.

McLaughlin warned that the deferment was ominous because the new policies had no legal basis without the legislation coming in to force.  He said it was clear that this was a move to try and stop the impact of the policy changes and that it was nonsense that the law couldn’t come into effect on the 1 September.

“By going ahead with this postponement it is clearly a policy decision to attempt to sweep all of the changes aside,” he said. “All the indications I have had is that this government intends to roll back the transformation exercise.”

McLaughlin lamented the fact that he had failed to get across to the people of Cayman that the changes in education were all interlinked and hung together. He said they were about improving teaching and learning and in turn the outcomes for local students.

“As I have said before we have not been honest about the way we report results historically and in reality only around 22-23% are passing the exams,” he said. “And the other 75% that has been failed by the system has always been my principle focus.”

McLaughlin explained that he wanted state-of-the-art facilities to engage those students to get them excited about learning. He noted that the 25% of students that do pass exams are likely to do okay despite the facilities, learning environment or circumstances they are in, but the other 75% are the ones that the education system has failed to engage and the ones that need more to draw them into learning. “Why I became involved in politics is because I have a passion for this issue and I wanted to change things for the 75% that we have consistently failed.”

The former minister said he did not believe that the current administration truly valued education. Cayman, he said, has had "third world facilities and a third world standard of education, and if we thought that was good enough for our children, then shame on us.”

Despite the criticisms he received for wanting the best state-of-the-art education facilities for young people, he still believed that the country deserves world class schools. “At the end of the day if I am asked if I was trying to build the best possible schools then my answer is, absolutely,” McLaughlin added.  

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