Archive for December 9th, 2009

Beach erosion, reef & fish decline cited as priority

| 09/12/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): While world leaders are still convening in Copenhagen to decide how humanity can address the problem of climate change on a global scale, the local national climate change strategy workshop has come to a close. According to a release from government, at the end of the three day event, beach erosion, reef and fisheries decline, rising energy, food and water costs, and higher insurance premiums were cited as the issues requiring priority attention in Cayman’s climate change strategy, which was described as a “big leap forward” by the environment minister.

Addressing participants at the end of the workshop, Minister of Environment Mark Scotland said much more work needed to be done but Cayman that had “taken a big leap forward in arriving at a climate change plan that lists priorities as well as possible mitigation and adaptation strategies and policies.”

He warned, however, that many other problems are vying for people’s attention, and communicating the strategy to the public will be a key factor in obtaining feedback and acceptance.

“For me, one of the best ways we can get climate change on the national agenda is to focus on the myriad opportunities it presents to all sectors,” he said.

Some of those opportunities highlighted at the workshop include a regional branding initiative wherein Caribbean nations sign up to become carbon neutral tourism destinations, diversifying into a ‘green’ economy, and reducing living costs through alternative energy sources.

“None of us living here can claim that we will be able to escape the impacts of climate change, and so I hope that the final strategies will include practical targets to involve the entire population,” Scotland added.

Cayman’s strategic priorities were established by members of Cayman’s National Climate Change Working Group and sector specific public and private sector stakeholders

Climate Change issues affecting Cayman had been identified in January through previous stakeholder consultations and these issues were ranked at the workshop according to four different indicators of importance to prioritise them.

In addition to setting national priorities, participants also discussed possible policies to address these issues, as well as an outreach campaign to obtain public input before drafting a Climate Change Green Paper, early next year. This Green Paper will be used to formulate the Draft Climate Change Strategy.

The workshop was funded by the UK Department for International Development as part of the Enhancing Capacity for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories (ECACC) Project. This project is managed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

Visiting experts were Dr. Neville Trotz, CCCCC science advisor; Judi Clarke, CCCCC public outreach specialist; George de Romilly, an environment law expert; and Ottis Joslyn, national coordinator of the Implementation of Adaptation Measures in Coastal Zones Project, also managed by CCCCC.

For more information on Cayman’s sustainable development initiatives go to http://www.doe.ky/about/sustainable-development-unit/

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QC: Crown has wrong man

| 09/12/2009 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News(CNS): Legal arguments between the prosecution and the defence continued in the Cayman Islands Grand Court on Wednesday during Randy Martin’s trial for the murder of Sabrina Schirn when the defence suggested that the crown had the wrong man. Presenting his case as to why the judge needed to admit certain evidence, David Evans QC, Martin’s attorney, told Justice Charles Quin that it would point to the likely guilt of another person and show someone other than Martin had not only the opportunity but the motive to kill Schirn. The prosecution is seeking to block the evidence, arguing that it is irrelevant speculation.

Cheryll Richards, the crown prosecutor, said that there was no third party in the dock and the only person on trial was Randy Martin. She observed that there could be perfectly innocent explanations for the inferences the defence was trying to make about the evidence — that it suggested could point to the guilt of another — and that in any event "the presence of another did not mean the absence of the defendant”, Richards said. Richards insisted that the only question the trial needed to address was whether the crown had proved if Martin was guilty.

So far in its case against Martin, the prosecution has offered circumstantial evidence and presented a possible opportunity for the defendant to have committed the crime but has not offered any motive as to why the defendant would have committed the brutal act of murder.

Although the defence does not have to prove the innocence of its client or prove anyone else’s guilt, Evans and his junior counsel, Adam King, have suggested that, because there is considerable circumstantial evidence pointing towards another person as the possible culprit who was known to both the deceased and the defendant, they want the court to consider that evidence in its role as a tribunal of fact, as such evidence could raise reasonable doubt.

The defence said that certain phone records, together with witness statements given to the police, show someone else is more likely to have committed this murder. The individual in question left a threatening message on Schirn’s phone on the eve of her murder, which was played to the judge, and was also said to have threatened the 21-year old in person at her place of work. The defence also wishes to submit statements from other witnesses that say this individual wanted to kill Schirn as she knew about another crime which the individual had committed.

Evans has also argued that phone records demonstrate that the person in question gave an alibi to the police which is shown to be false by those very records it wishes to have accepted in evidence. Finally, the defence is also arguing that the phone records are incriminating because they reveal a two hour silence covering the time period when the crown believes Schirn was killed. Evans told the judge that the phone records of this person show significant and continued activity in the morning before Schirn was killed, followed by a two hour period of silence before continued activity once again.

The judge now has to decide whether he will admit the evidence before the trial continues with the cross examination of the expert witnesses regarding the phone messages, which the crown says is probative to the case.

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UK diplomats to feel the pinch as perks cut

| 09/12/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands’ new governor could be flying to the island in economy next month following British Chancellor Alistair Darling’s decision to make UK diplomats tighten their belts, according to news from the UK. The BBC reports that Britain’s representatives overseas are to be stripped of perks that total around £13 million per year. In future, embassy and foreign office staff will have to travel economy class on flights under five hours – and not claim as much for their children’s private education. There will also be a wholesale reform of their expenses system.

The changes – which are hidden away in a footnote to the pre-Budget report – are likely to cause "gnashing of teeth in embassies across the world", says the BBC’s deputy Political Editor James Landale. According to 2007 figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, educating children of Foreign Office diplomats costs UK taxpayers £20m a year.

Most of the 540 children educated privately were at boarding schools, the figures revealed, including a handful at top public schools such as Eton, Winchester and Roedean.

The Foreign Office says its staff can be moved anywhere at short notice, and while it normally insists children are educated in the country to which their parents have been posted, some have boarding school fees paid to avoid disrupting their education.

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BVI presses London for control of UK naturalization

| 09/12/2009 | 33 Comments

(CNS): The premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Ralph O’Neal, plans to make a case for the country’s Cabinet to play a role in determining the award of British citizenship during the Eleventh Overseas Territories Consultative Council, which is taking place in London this week. O’Neal is raising concerns about the power of the territory’s governor as the only person who can naturalise people. “The Cabinet should have a say in it just like Cabinet decides on residents and belongership,” O’Neal has stated. Acknowledging the role of the UK Government in the process, the premier said elected officials ought to have a role as well.

“A person naturalised as a British subject would have the right to stay here as long as he wants. Therefore, the persons elected by the people of this territory should have a say in it. I think it is totally unreasonable to have the governor himself making the decision. I do not care what process it goes through, one process should be a matter of a Cabinet decision,” he said in London yesterday.

Meanwhile the premier of Bermuda, Ewart Brown, has said he intends to press the UK to hand over operational control of the police to the islands’ government.

Established in 1999, the OTCC meets annually in London, providing a forum to facilitate discussion of key policy issues between the heads of government in British overseas territories and the UK. The main council opened on Wednesday. However, a number of the elected leaders, including the Cayman Islands premier, McKeeva Bush, and other Caribbean territories met with the FCO Overseas Territories Minister Chris Bryant on Tuesday to discuss the events in Turks and Caicos, which have been on the mind of most of the region’s government officials.

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Soccer coach from California dies diving

| 09/12/2009 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Martin Linley, a 51-year-old soccer coach at Analy High in California, USA, has been named as the diver who died Monday 7 December, following an organised diving trip on the North Wall. Mr Linley was on vacation with his wife, Elizabeth, but during a dive he become unwell and then lost consciousness. The RCIPS Marine Unit attended the location and staff from both the Marine Unit and Resort Sports undertook CPR. The victim was conveyed by the RCIPS Marine Unit to the nearby Yacht Club and he was then transported by ambulance to George Town Hospital where he was found to be dead on arrival. (Photo: Press Democrat)

Police said the victim was a certified dive master who had been diving for many years, and that investigations into the death were ongoing.

In a tribute to Mr Linley in The Press Democrat, David Shaffer, the boys’ director of coaching for the Santa Rosa United soccer club, is quoted as saying, “Anybody in Sonoma County knew who he was and how passionate he was about soccer. He was just a real ambassador for the game because of how much he loved soccer.”

Cardinal Newman varsity soccer coach Paul Dixon, a close friend for more than 15 years, said Linley was an experienced diver and his death was “a great shock to us all.”

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Top-up fraud case goes to court

| 09/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): An investigation by the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit into the fraudulent use of credit cards to obtain top-up credit for mobile phones via the internet resulted in the arrest of 48-year-old Ortillo Reyes Santiago, a Dominican National, who is due to appear before the courts today (Wednesday 9 December 2009). Police say he has been charged with one count of obtaining property by deception, four counts of transfer of criminal property and four counts of use of criminal property all in contravention of the Proceeds of Crime Law 2008. Police were alerted to the crime in April this year.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or call Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS).
 

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IMF notes progress but tells Cayman more to do

| 09/12/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Following the global watchdog’s visit to the Cayman Islands in March of this year, the International Monetary Fund has said in its latest update on the country report that the Cayman Islands Government still has work to do. Acknowledging substantial progress in the implementation of the 2003 OFC assessment recommendations, the IMF said there was still scope for enhancing regulatory reporting and disclosure requirements by financial entities and that CIMA should focus its supervisory efforts directly on the key risks facing the jurisdiction.

The latest review by the IMF was to assess developments in the supervisory and regulatory framework since the first Offshore Financial Sector assessment mission in October 2003, and on subsequent consultations with the authorities. In the report on the assessment, the IMF said that it took place in the context of an ongoing global financial crisis, the aftermath of which could pose challenges to the Cayman Islands.

The global watchdog found that the implementation of financial regulation and supervision in the Cayman Islands was broadly in line with international standards. Its main recommendation included increasing the independence and resources of CIMA, formalizing appropriate supervision and discipline, enhancing transparency, modernizing the Mutual Funds Law, and the introduction of appropriate solvency requirements for insurers.  

“CIMA has made considerable progress toward implementing cross-sectoral recommendations as well as in the banking and the investment funds and securities areas, but some actions remain to be taken in the insurance area,” the IMF said. Noting theimportant changes that have been made to legislation, rules, statements of guidance and regulations with a view to meeting international standards, the IMF said there was still some room for strengthening.

It also noted that CIMA has adopted a risk-based approach to supervision, and as a result it needed to broaden the approach by conducting a full risk assessment. “CIMA’s implementation of a methodology to rate individual financial institutions has not been placed in the context of an overall risk assessment that takes account of the unique features the financial system in the Cayman Islands.”

It said that such an assessment should anchor CIMA’s implementation of risk-based supervision, namely to focus its supervisory regime more directly on the key risks facing the jurisdiction.

The report also commented on CIMA’s reliance on the work of overseas supervisors, highly skilled financial service providers such as external auditors, lawyers, insurance managers, and other professionals.  “This reliance-based approach may be appropriate provided there is a full understanding of the relevant home and host regulatory systems and all parties have a common understanding of their responsibilities. To this effect, CIMA needs to draw up specific agreements with each home supervisor that make clear which risks are addressed by which supervisor according to whose rules, with the understanding that bilateral agreements do not provide full-proof mitigation of risks to the Cayman Islands,” the authors said.

The IMF report also recommended that CIMA’s powers should be consistent across the various statutes it administers, and to provide a more credible deterrent the IMF recommended increasing the monetary penalties that CIMA has the authority to apply.

The IMF said its recommendations were not time sensitive and broadly consistent with the priorities already identified by the authorities and in most cases where policy action is already underway. It did, however, suggest strengthening the legislative structure for the independence of CIMA, beginning with passage of the pending draft amendments to MAL, to draw up contingency plans to handle the failure of important institutions, a review of the human resource budget to ensure the continued adequacy and quality of regulatory resources and to monitor international developments to incorporate international best practice as it evolves. The IMF also noted that CIMA needed to implement a risk-based solvency regime for the insurance industry.

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Police accused of withholding evidence in murder trial

| 09/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Defence counsel for Randy Martin has raised the concern that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service may have been withholding important evidence from the investigations relating to the murder of 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn. As legal wrangling continued over phone records and intelligence reports between the legal teams during the trial in which Martin is accused of murder, New 27 reports that Adam King and David Evans QC, said crucial information has been trickling in at the last minute and they believe that there is other information which has not been disclosed.

The defence lawyers told the judge, Justice Charles Quinn, who is hearing the case alone, that failure to disclose unused material could lead to a miscarriage of justice and unsafe convictions, and if police are withholding any evidence they need to be told to desist.

Martin’s defence team believe that the missing evidence will show someone other than Randy Martin could be the murderer. The defence is now seeking to have admitted that it has raised concerns that, as well as phone records arriving late, other information has not been revealed to the crown or themselves. Evans said he found it hard to believe there were only two police notebooks, which are around ten pages each, that hold all the details of this investigation.

News 27 reported that crown counsel Cheryll Richards has admitted that information has been slow to come in and says her office will seek to address the issue and take it up with police. However, she said she was hesitant to believe the police were purposefully holding back items, but rather it was the process of a continuing disclosure exercise and it might just be a question of whether the material was relevant. 

Justice Quinn called it drip-drip disclosure, the television station reported, adding that the late information makes it difficult to understand all the relevant facts.

The trial resumes at 10:00am on Wednesday morning (9 December), when the prosecution and the defence will argue the points of the phone evidence before Justice Quin, who will make the decision as to what evidence can be admitted.

Go to News 27 video

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Joey reveals chaos on farm

| 09/12/2009 | 38 Comments

(CNS): Boatswain’s Beach, the home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, has been described as chaotic, out of control and badly thought out by the former managing director of the facility. During his appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions arising from the auditor general’s report about his salary advances, Joey Ebanks also revealed a laundry list of problems with the Turtle Farm. He said his time there was all about fighting fires and that some fundamental mistakes were made during the establishment of the facility, from the name change to the kind of attractions to be featured.

Ebanks said that from the beginning he faced massive problems at Boatswain’s Beach, not least the fact that the Office of the Complaints Commissioner had found the farm management guilty of maladministration regarding a 40-year-old problem over planning. He said there was no finance department at the facility, no accounts had been done and there was no real business strategy to direct how the facility could be sold now that it was built. 

Ebanks suggested that the lack of a comprehensive business plan for the facility led to a lot of mistakes, and while he believed that the Turtle Farm could still be a fantastic attraction, some of the elements were ill-conceived. “It was not a great idea to have a marine life lagoon when the wildlife is already free all around the island,” he told PAC, adding that trying to keep the lagoon clean was impossible as the algae was unstoppable and no one wanted to swim with fish in a dirty pool when surrounded by beautiful turquoise oceans.

He also said changing the name from the Turtle Farm to Boatswain’s Beach was a mistake as the facility lost its connection to its own history and that trying to re-establish a new brand was an uphill struggle. Ebanks said he had developed a number of ideas that could have saved the facility, but the board was reluctant to adopt the various private-public partnerships and initiatives that he and his team came up with that would have seen parts of the attraction leased out to experts who could provide services, such as water slides and other amusements.

The former MD revealed that he had pursued a proposal from a waterslide company in Norway that was willing and able to set up a park at Boatswain’s Beach, which, he said, research had revealed was among one of these most popular attractions with tourists. He also said that the Butterfly Farm, which has since closed down, was looking at the possibility of moving its operations into the aviary.

However, Ebanks pointed the finger at the board for not acting on the ideas. He said the then minister Charles Clifford had liked his proposals and understood that the attraction in its current form was just not viable, but he had left the decisions down to board members and did not compel them to take action to try and stop the bleeding of the park’s massive operating losses.

During 2007 the attraction was losing about CI$650,000 per month, he said, and that was down to the amusement elements of the facility and not the original farm, which Ebanks said was still turning a profit. He explained that around 80 per cent of the revenue was coming from the Turtle Farm operation (the sale of meat), despite the breeding problems, while 80% of the operating costs were generated by the rest of the facility.

Ebanks also criticised the board for their lack of interest, as he said for months on end there would not be enough people turning up for meetings to make a quorum and sometimes he could not raise a single board member to dealwith critical problems. He described one occasion when he did not have enough funds to meet the facility’s pay-roll, but because he couldn’t track down a single member he had to go to the bank and organise an overdraft himself on good faith so he could pay staff.

Although Ebanks told the committee that he thought there was still an opportunity to create a tourism destination at the location alongside the farm, it needed private partners. He said the Turtle Farm could benefit from the dolphinarium and Andres Ugland’s plans for an antique auto museum and boutique hotel nearby if the facility offered things such as a water slide park, ice world and other popular tourist attractions. The farm still attracts around 400,000 visitors per year, but he said the new facility was redeveloped to attract many more and the current entry fee is hopelessly inadequate for the current numbers for it ever to be a viable concern.

The premier, McKeeva Bush, has said on a number of occasions that the failure of the attraction over the last few years since its refurbishment is down to the previous administration’s decision to reject the development of a pier in West Bay which could have delivered cruise passengers from the ship by tender directly to Boatswain’s Beach.

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DoEH urges rubbish cut

| 09/12/2009 | 51 Comments

(CNS): A combination of government cuts, the moratorium on public sector recruitment and an ever increasing amount of trash is putting pressure on government’s waste management services and the Department of the Environmental Health is asking people to cut down on the trash they produce. Already behind schedule on garbage collection due to staff shortages, the department is worried that, while they are almost back on track, the surge of waste associated with the Christmas Holidays could prove challenging if people don’t try to cut back.

Officials from the department said they were working hard to get the garbage schedule back to normal after being forced to reduce collections to once per week. Apologizing to the public for pick-up delays, DoEH Director Roydell Carter explained that the problem was caused by a shortage of collection personnel. “However, we will be putting on extra shifts, employing temporary workers and streamlining operations in order to restore the timely and efficient collection service that our residents deserve,” the director said. “We are also in the process of hiring permanent staff to ensure that there is no recurrence of this situation.”

Carter said crews were already on the road working to clear up the garbage backlog. “Residents should begin to see a return to the normal twice-weekly pick-up schedule by early next week. "I know it has been difficult, but I am asking everyone to bear with us as we work to resolve the problem.”

With Christmas just around the corner, however, the DoEH said it would like to see people generate less waste this season and relieve some of the burden on the department. “People should try to give more meaningfully, waste less and lightening the load for the cleanup crews over Christmas,” officials said. Asking people to give homemade items, entertainment such as museum memberships or tickets to events, restaurant and store gift certificates, the DoEH said this would reduce the amount of packaging which gets thrown away during the festive season and the pressure on the environment.

As Mount Trashmore continues on its endless climb and holds on to the title of the highest point on GrandCayman, a spokesperson for the DoEH suggested that people think about gifts differently. “Give learning, such as language or music lessons; classes in cooking, photography, or other hobbies,” she said.  The department also suggested giving time or talents such as baby-sitting, pet-sitting, computer assistance or home repairs or to contribute to someone’s favourite charity. With technology offering a whole new waste free resource, the DoEH asked its customers to send email greetings rather than paper cards and to choose reusable gift bags or gift wrap made from comics.

With the Copenhagen climate summit underway, recycling and environmentally friendly waste management projects are still a long way from reality in the Cayman Islands and the increasing amount of trash generated by the community is becoming a major issue for government. During this year’s election campaign the UDP promised to address the problem of waste management. Currently not paper or cardboard or even glass is recycled and all waste generated on Grand Cayman, with its population of around 55,000 people plus visitors ends up at the George Town landfill.

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