Archive for February, 2010

Government reveals cash deal on scrap metal

| 28/02/2010 | 14 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news(CNS): The government says it has made $300,000 on a deal involving the sale of 6,000 tons of baled scrap metal from the dump following a contract awarded to Cardinal D Ltd through the Central Tenders Committee. The revelation came in the answers to a parliamentary question and subsequent supplementary questions in the Legislative Assembly last week. The minister with responsibility for public works, Juliana O’Connor Connolly, told the former minister for public works that government had also taken the money in advance and, unlike attempts made by the administration in which he served, no local sub-contractors were out of pocket as a result.

Probing the government’s front bench about the details of the contract, who the Caymanian partners were and whether or not the metal was baled, the questioning from the former minister, Arden McLean, provided the current minister with an opportunity to raise the problems of Matrix, the firm which had contracted with the previous government to remove metal and then defaulted on that contract, having taken only part of the metal.

O’Connor Connolly confirmed that Cardinal D Ltd was a locally incorporated company that was working with its alliance, Pan Caribbean Energy Limited, and that it had in turn contracted Hong Luen Metal Trading Company of Honk Kong.

Answering the East End representative’s questions regarding the contracts, she reminded McLean that Matrix had taken 8,000 tons and only paid CI government $300,000 of what was supposed to be a $1.2 million contract and also left the island before paying its bills to a number of local heavy equipment operators that had separately subcontracted to Matrix.

Since the election. however, the current administration has vowed to pay those contractors who are still owned money by Matrix from the partial payment the firm made to government before the principles involved left the Cayman Islands, never to return.

O’Connor Connolly said she was well aware that government was under no legal obligation to those operators and sub-contractors but the current government, which was a caring and compassionate one, agreed that they were under a moral obligation to those people. The minister said the reason why local people had contracted with Matrix in the first place was because it was involved in a government deal.

With regards to the most recent contract, O’Connor Connolly said everything was above board and that government had already received the $300,000 in advance and the remaining metals would also now be put out to contract. “We have followed all the laws in regards to these contracts and we will continue to do so,” she added.

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Who You For?

| 28/02/2010 | 5 Comments

I post quite often. Sorry. But sometimes you can’t help it. You feel compelled to say something and express an opinion. Since the advent of CNS, I have noticed that many others have the same attitude. For us, sometimes it’s a release. But more than that, and more profound, is that we as citizens have found a forum in which we can express opinions and read what others have to say.

It should be obvious most of these opinions surround the activities of government. That brings one thing of particular importance to mind. And one we should examine. Why, if we feel we are being properly represented, are so many opinions in contradiction with government policy and decision?

The argument could be said that, as always, we revert to a complaint mode. In other words what we have been told during an election did not fully represent what was in store, or at the worst it was mildly deceitful and at least devoid of some relevant details. This happens in almost every jurisdiction you can name post-election and I think we should question whether it is by accident.

One of the basic problems, I believe, is the disconnect that continues between ourselves and our government. Often it is seen, and wrongly so, as something separate and apart, another entity removed from our reality which often confounds us and often makes us angry. It follows, how did we get to that place of constant surprises?

The basis of democracy and its attendant elections is that people run for political office with a clear idea of what is needed by their constituents. Most often constituents approach an election on that basis.

The falling down of democracy begins when the reverse happens. Rather than an election being constituent-driven, with needs clearly expressed and I may say listened to, the election takes on a different aspect. And this is the wrong turn. For, instead of making an attempt at listening to consensus, we are told the consensus has already been reached by a particular party. That would be fair if that consensus was based on public opinion, but contained in such aren’t any details. How was this consensus reached? On what basis were the policy and conclusions decided?

What we have allowed to take place, or been convinced of, is that during an election is not the appropriate time to divulge details of policy or direction. Strange but true. What we hear are broad strokes and vagueness. This is often accompanied by promises to make government more accountable and accessible. The question then is, what better time to begin that process than during an election?

Instead that is left for later. Sometime after the election.

Because of that an election deteriorates into a contest of personalities and “trust me’s.” When we allow that to take place we should never be surprised that later on we begin to question the policies which were not clearly stated.

Four years is a long time.

Because it is only once every four years we have the opportunity to ask, I would say demand, some clear answers. When that opportunity slips by and without receiving the information we need to make an intelligent decision about the direction we’re taking then we have failed to uphold our democracy. We can complain, or make suggestions. But it’s too late. The accountability mentioned is soon forgotten. And to all intents, the government that we elected is now removed from us. Gone to some place different, and far removed from our reality.

Is this done on purpose? That’s a question many on these forums are asking. That is, are the people we elect just guessing? How do they make these decisions? How can they get it so wrong, so often?

We either didn’t tell them what we wanted, what direction we wanted to go in, or they didn’t listen. Both of those are relevant when time comes for an election. Both are important.

To allow this to slide each time takes us further and further away, and does in fact create a situation where government is separate from us. It should not be a curiosity then that afterwards we resort to the forums. Bless CNS for making that available.

But we also have to acknowledge that that is a reaction to a missed opportunity. We have since regretted. When we look upon government as a force, with magical powers known only to them it lays open the possibility that we are inevitably going to be disappointed. As we are now.

Many people here have posted comments saying that it is in fact our fault. That is based on the fact a political party, with a leader, was elected. And if we did not or do not like now the direction we’re taking then that is entirely our fault. It follows then that it was none of theirs. That argument would hold water and seem less like the Stockholm Syndrome if the direction we are now disagreeing with was clearly stated. But was it? Think back.

Here a little reflection would help. It’s a common trick or tactic during an election that what was talked about more than anything else were the financial failings of the previous government. Some, or many, were all too aware of that thus the results. But not mentioned, or asked, was where and what the correction was going to be.

Was that an oversight? Or was it planned?

We’re arguing that now. The problem is you can’t call someone back on a promise or a policy if it was never stated. Governments slither in and out of that loophole because it’s an oversight on our part. We need to close that loophole.

Continuously, and every four years, we accept vague statements, and a vast amount of rhetoric in exchange for a somewhat clearer idea of what the policy is. What solutions are proposed. Instead, we are told they are going to “balance the budget.” That, along with “accountability”, seems to be a key phrase for any election platform.

Here’s the catch. Balancing the budget works of course until they open up the books. Then we hear the bad news. Accountability appears to mean they’re going ahead with something. And will be held accountable four years later. After any damage is done.

Good enough for a democracy by the people and for the people.

No. Although there are many relevant and intelligent suggestions contained in these forums, sometimes surprisingly so we’ve missed the opportunity. Again. It is time to make it clear Government is not separate from us it is us. And the time to hold someone’s feet to the fire ask the questions and make the comments is during an election.

The good news. Let’s continue our discussions. By next election, with the help of CNS, the people who propose to run government will be faced with an informed and intelligent electorate. The old days are gone.

I’m sure there are many who are concerned about that. But we shouldn’t be.

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Cayman’s front line brush-up

| 28/02/2010 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news(CNS): Often the first people that visitors to the Cayman Islands talk to, the licensed taxi drivers, tour operators, dispatchers and omnibus drivers have a crucial role to play in the tourism industry. In a drive to improve customer service levels at the port and airport, the Department of Tourism (DoT) has partnered with the Public Transport Unit (PTU) to conduct a series of workshops for some of the 400 drivers that are the front line when it comes to ‘brand Cayman’.  Participants learn how to greet customers, how their behaviour impacts visitor perception and to improve their knowledge of local history and culture.

The PRIDE workshops seek to improve customer service delivery for those people who come into direct contact with visitors to the Cayman Islands every day, both stay-over and cruise visitors. The workshops, which will run on Fridays until June, examine how the drivers greet their passengers, the demographics of the visitors targeted by the Cayman Islands government, as well as how their behaviour impacts the visitors’ perception of the destination and their desire to return or recommend the Cayman Islands.

 The DoT said that each attendee receives a “Know your Cayman Islands” booklet containing useful information about the history, culture and heritage of the country so they can provide better customer service by offering accurate information about the Cayman Islands. “This is an excellent customer service workshop,” said Durk Banks, Director of Public Transport. “The feedback received so far by the PTU has been extremely encouraging and we look forward to the positive influence they will have on public transport.”

These workshops are only the beginning of a continuum of training programmes specifically designed for tourism partners who operate from the port and airport.

“The tourism industry is a key source of revenue for the Cayman Islands economy,” said Oneisha Richards, Deputy Director of Tourism Product Development for DoT. “It’s therefore essential that we educate and train those who directly influence the experience of our visitors. PRIDE, which stands for Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence, is a national tourism customer service training programme developed to help raise the level of customer service delivery within the Cayman Islands tourism industry in order to positively impact the visitor experience.”

For more information on the PRIDE programme, visit www.caymanislands.ky/pride

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Ebanks shoots Miller down on gun reform

| 28/02/2010 | 44 Comments

(CNS): While the independent representative for North Side basked in the glory of his motion on a Fair Trade Commission being accepted by government last week, Ezzard Miller’s second private member’s motion on a revision to the Firearms Law failed to find favour. Following concerns from his farming and hunting constituents over license refusals, Miller asked government to consider forming a committee that included two justices of the peace to consider applications as well as the police commissioner, offering a more localized perspective on decisions. However, the deputy governor told the House that, as 97% of all gun license applications were granted, he could see no compelling reason to change the system.

Miller, however, was critical of having the decision as to who should and should not have a firearms license made solely by the police commissioner, who had no understanding of the local population, and said that people would see it as a fairer system if two local justices of the peace assisted him in making the decision, even if they were refused.

The motion was seconded by Arden McLean, the opposition member for East End, who has a considerable number of farmers in his district, and was supported by all of the other opposition members. Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts pointed out to Deputy Governor Donnie Ebanks that the figure he quoted was less relevant if it did not include new applications as well as renewals, and he agreed that there seemed to be a growing number of complaints.

Miller illustrated the issue when he said some of the complaints about refusals had come from farmers where their fathers or grandfathers were passing down firearms that were essentially family heirlooms, and in those cases they were struggling to get licenses in their own names. The independent North Side representative said he believed it was as a result of what position the commissioners, who generally came from the UK, were taking towards private citizens owning guns.

Taking aim at the previous commissioner (James Smith) who had publicly stated he wanted to reduce the number of weapons in private, legal ownership and queried why farmers couldn’t use a bolt to slaughter livestock and poison for the rabbits, Miller pointed out the cultural insensitivity of those comments and how he was clearly unaware that in East End and North Side agouti is as much a staple food as turtle elsewhere in the islands.

He said that having two JPs assisting whoever is in the post as police commissioner would offer a more realistic view of any given application. “Even when people were denied, if they knew the decision was made by two Caymanian Justices of the Peace they would be more content that they received a fair hearing,” he added.

Alden McLaughlin, who also spoke in support of Miller’s motion, said that the British opposition to any kind of private ownership of firearms was permeating the local environment, resulting in an increasing restriction on firearm licenses, even when held by perfectly law abiding citizens who needed them for their work as farmers. McLaughlin noted the problem was that there were no strict criteria in the law to determine who receives a license but it was merely the discretion of the commissioner, which was why having others assist that decision would be beneficial.

Ebanks, however, had noted that anyone who was refused a license and who felt that they had been unfairly treated had a route of appeal, which was to the Cabinet itself, which contained a number of justices of the peace who had the power to overturn the decision. Ebanks advised anyone who has been refused recently and feels they have been refused unfairly to make the application to appeal, as he believed that the Cabinet would look favourably on traditional users.

Premier McKeeva Bush backed the deputy governor and said government would not accept the motion. Although it came from the independent representative, the premier told the opposition benches that if they had really believed there was something wrong with the system they had had plenty of time to address it when they were in office, but did not.

“I have been here long enough to see when an opposition is pandering to votes,” he said, adding that he had no intention of listening to them as they were merely playing politics.

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First 2010 statistics show air arrivals up 6.8%

| 28/02/2010 | 12 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman business news, Cayman tourism, Grand Cayman cruise tourism(CNS): Updated Monday* – Given the severe negative impact the global recession has had on tourism, the Cayman Islands can take some comfort in the fact that figures for Jan 10 show a 6.8% increase in air arrivals over Jan 2009. According to the latest arrival statistics from the Department of Tourism, the number of passengers arriving by air to Cayman was 25,006 compared to 23,404 in January 2009. Meanwhile, down at the port almost 4,000 more people were on the cruise ships that docked in Grand Cayman than last year, with a total of 165,378 compared to 161,657 in the first month of 2009. (Note: DoT have revised the figures on their website since this article was first posted.)

The statistics come at a time when the current government has been under fire to move the cruise berthing development project forward as quickly as possibly, and deal with the concerns about the environmental impact from those focused on generating overnight business. The premier has admitted that it has been difficult for the government to focus its full attention on the multiple issues facing the tourism industry as a result of major budget problems.

Steve Broadbelt, the President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, issued a long statement last week which was widely publicised and pressed government to back cruise tourism and prioritise the construction of the two piers in George Town. Meanwhile, the former tourism minister, Charles Clifford, has criticised McKeeva Bush following his admission at the recent Cayman Business Outlook conference that he has not been able to focus on the industry as much as he would like, and said that was because the premier had taken on too much responsibility.

Clifford noted that it was impractical for the premier to have both the twin pillars of Cayman’s economy within his ministry, and as a result they would suffer.  “To have responsibility for both financial services and tourism as well as the budget is too much responsibility for one person,” Clifford said at the PPM’s public meeting last week. “He should decide if he is going to be responsibly for financial services or tourism, but he should not have both.” Clifford noted the premier’s admission that he had not had time to address the problems facing tourism, meant that Bush was ignoring 50% of the country’s GDP.

Speaking at the UDP meeting on the following evening, Bush denied having too much responsibility and said that Clifford had done nothing when he was in charge of tourism. The premier said the only reason why he was having to focus so heavily on financial services and the budget was because of the PPM administration’s irresponsible spending and because they drove financial service business away.

The premier has, however, been quiet recently on the negotiations regarding the private financing initiative with DART to construct the port cruise berthing facilities in the wake of speculation that the talks had been derailed. Speaking to Cayman News Service last week, the chair of the port authority, Stefan Baraud, said the talks were still on track, and while there was a considerable amount to discuss, DART was committed to the process.

CNS Note*: DoT informed us this morning that the figure recorded on their website on the month-to-month chart was incorrectly recorded as 23,404 for January 2010 (the figure used by CNS in this article) and that the correct air arrival figure is 25,006. DoT acknowledged the error on the website and said it is being rectified. CNS has updated this article to reflect the true statistics as supplied by DoT.

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Sabrina Schirn’s killer appeals murder conviction

| 27/02/2010 | 1 Comment

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman judicial system(CNS): An appeal date has been set for Randy Martin, the man found guilty of murdering Sabrina Schirn while he was a serving inmate at Northward Prison. Martin killed the 21-year-old while he was working at the prison’s Wilderness Farm (which has since been closed) in East End in 2009, according to a report on News 27. Martin was tried, convicted of murdered and sentenced to mandatory life in prison by Justice Charles Quin in January of this year. The court heard how Schirn had gone to visit Martin near the prison farm on 11 March 09. Martin had evaded the guards and gone to meet her at a secluded spot, where he attacked and killed Schirn with a machete, leaving her body under a tree as he returned to the prison farm.

During the trial the court heard how Schirn’s own family had eventually found her body after the car she was driving that day was discovered by a local farmer. The police eventually linked Martin to Schirn via telephone records as well as other circumstantial and forensic evidence.

Martin’s lawyers told News 27 that the appeal has now been set down to be heard in August. During his trial Martin was represented by David Evans QC and Adam King and the lawyers have not yet stated the grounds for the appeal.

Go to news 27 video

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Anglin charged with murder

| 27/02/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Devon Jermaine Anglin (24) of West Bay hasbeen charged for the murder of four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett, the man leading the hunt to find the killer of Jeremiah, formally charged Anglin on Saturday afternoon, police said, and he will now appear in court on Monday morning. Anglin has been in custody since the evening of 15 February, the night that young Jeremiah was shot and killed while sitting in a car on the forecourt of Hell gas station in West Bay with his family.

“Today I can confirm that Devon Jermaine Anglin, aged 24 years, from the West Bay area, has been formally charged with Jeremiah’s murder. He will appear before magistrates on Monday, 1 March 2010,” said David Baines, Commissioner of the RCIPS. “While it is satisfying that we have charged someone in relation to Jeremiah’s death, we are acutely aware that this will be of little comfort to this little boy’s family who are burying their son today. Of course, nothing is ever going to bring this innocent child back and our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.”

Police have also confirmed that a second man who was also arrested on the same evening is still in custody but no charges have yet been brought.

The commissioner offered his thanks to all those people who had assisted the enquiry to date and those who he hoped in the days and weeks ahead would come forward and assist further with the ongoing enquiries.

The shooting, which shocked the community, took place at around 8pm in the evening when Jeremiah was with his mother, father and brother at the West Bay Gas station. Police said they believed two men, one armed with a firearm, emerged from behind the station and indiscriminately fired some four shots into the car. The rest of Jeremiah’s family escaped uninjured, but the four year old boy was killed.

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Hedge fund tax break

| 27/02/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): US investors don’t have to report large holdings in offshore hedge funds or private-equity firms this year under disclosure rules designed to detect offshore tax evasion and money laundering, the Internal Revenue Service said. The IRS announcement followed the issuance of proposed regulations by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a Treasury agency, that effectively spare fund investors from a June 30 deadline to report offshore accounts that exceed $10,000. The IRS said it “will not apply its enforcement authority adversely in the case” where people are invested in foreign hedge funds or private-equity funds “with respect to that account for calendar year 2009 and earlier calendar years.”

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Clinics close as swine flu goes into decline

| 27/02/2010 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Government health officials have announced the closure of the specialist flu clinic on Mondayas a result of a steady decline in the number of swine flu cases. All indications are that in the western hemisphere the peak of the H1N1 pandemic may have passed. However, officials warned that people should still remain vigilant as recent scientific data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates continued transmission elsewhere. Since 21 January, the vaccine has been available at HSA facilities, certain public venues and private physicians’ offices. This availability will continue at all HSA facilities and some private doctors’ offices but the speciality clinic will close.

The HSA says the country now has, after a long wait, adequate supplies of the vaccine for anyone who wants to be vaccinated to get the shot free of charge. Since the start of the pandemic, 129 cases of the H1N1 virus were confirmed in the Cayman Islands but the last case was reported on 11 January. The HSA stated that surveillance data of persons visiting its facilities indicate that flu-like illness cases during the past four weeks are largely the same as before the pandemic, with approximately 80-100 persons being seen weekly with flu-like symptoms. Most of the cases were mild and many persons were without fever.

As a result, the designated flu clinic which was set up for H1N1 cases will be closed, effective Monday 1 March. However, priority will be given to patients with flu-like symptoms at the General Practice clinic, district health centers, Faith Hospital and the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Cayman Islands Hospital. Patients are advised to report to the registration officer or nurse regarding their flu-like symptoms in order to receive priority care. 

For more information on H1N1 visit www.CaymanPrepared.ky or www.hsa.ky. The Health Services Authority also offers the public direct responses to their flu queries through its flu email and message system – flu@hsa.ky. This complements the 24-hour flu hotline (926-2812) manned by HSA staff.

 

 

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Pacific under tsunami threat after quake strikes Chile

| 27/02/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNN): A massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake rocked Chile early Saturday, killing at least 82 people and triggering tsunami warnings for the entire Pacific basin. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she expected the death toll to rise. "We are taking all the necessary measures at this time," she told reporters. Officials did not give any information on the number of those injured. The full extent of the damage was not yet known, although there were reports of collapsed buildings and hundreds of people in the streets. The capital of Santiago lost electricity and basic services including water and telephones. Bachelet said regional hospitals had suffered damage; some were evacuated.

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