Archive for February 9th, 2010

Travers asks Mac to cut civil service costs

| 09/02/2010 | 40 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman business news, Anthony Travers, chair Cayman Finance(CNS):In a short letter to the Cayman Islands’ premier, the chair of Cayman Finance has askedMckeeva Bush to cut the costs of the civil service and contingent pension liabilities to balance government revenues. Praising Bush for his bold moves regarding immigration policy changes and offering the full support of the financial industry, Anthony Travers said the changes would be even more effective as part of a two-pronged attack which included addressing the benefits of public sector workers.“In our view this will require immediate legislative amendment to revise public sector pension and medical entitlements to real world levels,” Travers wrote in a letter sent today (9 February).

“We now know that the historic financial modelling is simply wrong and is creating an unsustainable liability. It is the view of Cayman Finance that balancing the budget through a process which boosts income from the financial services industry and effects public sector cuts is the only way forward for Cayman.”

Travers offered his full backing to the recent revision of the immigration policy directions for Cayman’s financial services sector. “These bold initiatives to remedy issues with the financial services industry in Cayman place it once again on a path to expansion," the chair of the financial association stated. ‘This is exactly the short term medicine we need to restore health and vitality.”

He said the changes should see an increase in interest from leading global financial organisations who will find the Cayman Islands increasingly attractive as a place to live and work.

The letter comes while the country is still awaiting the outcome of an internal civil service review and an independent review of potential new revenue sources for government finance. Although both were originally set to be completed by December the two reviews are not scheduled to be completed before the end of February.  

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Unplanned pregnancy warning to women over 35

| 09/02/2010 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Experts fear older women are ditching contraception in the mistaken belief that they cannot get pregnant past a certain age. The Family Planning Association (FPA) believes the message on infertility and age has gone "too far". Although fertility does wane, women can still get pregnant well into their thirties, forties and even fifties. Abortion rates for women aged 40 to 44 match those for the under 16s, figures for England and Wales show. In 2008, both of these groups had an abortion rate of four per 1,000 women. There are many reasons why some women opt for anabortion – including birth abnormalities in the baby, which are more common when the mothers are older.

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Digital Economy Bill bill could ‘breach rights’

| 09/02/2010 | 0 Comments

(BBC): An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government’s approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users. The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government’s Digital Economy Bill needed clarification. It said that technical measures – which include cutting off persistent pirates – were not "sufficiently specified". "The internet is constantly creating new challenges for policy-makers but that cannot justify ill-defined or sweeping legislative responses, especially when there is the possibility of restricting freedom of expression or the privacy of individual users," said Andrew Dismore MP and chair of the Committee.


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Lawyers sponsor green book

| 09/02/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Highlighting what it says are some of the shocking threats to the local environment the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is now working on its third edition of the Green Guide series. Illustrating how everyday life is inextricably linked to the natural environment the institute says it is hoping to inspire individuals to make changes that will have a positive impact on the environment. The book is being sponsored by local law firm Ogiers and will be available in April.

Ogier said it was delightedto once again partner with the new Green Guide (#3) which follows on from CCMI’s earlier two guides, which set the stage for building more interest in a local green movement.  The first guide worked to build local interest and establish a fundamental understanding of what is threatened and show that what we do on these islands has important implications for the surrounding ocean.  The second Green Guide’s purpose was to illustrate that climate change is a natural and important earth process, which is being altered by human activity.  The implications for coral reefs on a global scale were outlined along with an international “Call to action.” 

 The third guide aims to focus on sustainability and take a comprehensive look at the challenges facing the Islands; offering simple and practical steps that organisations and individuals alike can take to contribute towards preserving their beauty and the future. 

Ogier partner, Peter Cockhill, said “Ogier believes that continued education on the vulnerability of the Cayamn Islands will assist in ensuring they can be enjoyed for generations to come. “I know willingness exists to seek environmentally friendly and energy-efficient ways to protect the islands natural resources and combat high-energy costs.  In turn, simple but appropriate measures will help reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions, pollutants, and the need for creating additional disposal facilities.  It is therefore vital that we all play a key role in having a positive impact on the local environment and understanding how, collectively we can really make a difference,” he added.

The Green Guide series sets out to illustrate how our everyday life is inextricably linked to the natural environment and to expose some of the shocking threats to our most critical infrastructure.  CCMI’s Managing Director, Brenda Gadd said the guides have been an important community building project.

“Ogier has been a key partner in this movement, which aims to engage all who live and visit the islands with the overall global issues that the earth is facing today,” she stated. “The new Green Guide to the Cayman Islands: Sustaining our Oceans and Islands will illustrate some of the important choices we will need to make in order to reduce the pressures on the local marine environment.”   

CCMI’s President and Director of Research and Conservation, Carrie Manfrino added that the guide describes some of the paradoxes we face as humans behind the ideal of sustainability.  “We are asking questions that should be close to home, like: What is our environmental consciousness? Are we living sustainably? What are the scenarios for a sustainable island, and how can Cayman become more sustainable?” she said.  

Copies of the Green Guide will be available on 15 April from schools, associated retail outlets, government buildings and tourist attractions. 

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Ricketts confession ruled in

| 09/02/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): After almost three days of closed door arguments, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled that Larry Prinston Ricketts’ confession, which was given to the police on 28 October, was done so fairly and voluntarily and admitted the evidence. Ricketts’ defence attorney had argued that the statement was not only unfair because of the circumstances in which it was taken but was not offered voluntarily either because the statement was concocted by the officers investigating the case. He suggested that the officers interviewing Ricketts had fabricated the statement based on their knowledge of the case from other sources.

Through the course of the voir dire it was revealed that, following Ricketts’ co-defendant’s own confession and accusation that Ricketts was with him on the night that Estella Scott-Roberts wasmurdered, Ricketts was arrested. Kirkland Henry made his first admission about the crime to Marlon Bodden and Joseph Wright in the back of a police car, where he accused Ricketts of killing the deceased. Police then went in search of Ricketts, who was arrested for murder close to George Town police station on Monday 27 October.

The following day Detective Livingstone Bailey of the RCIPS interviewed Ricketts and the statement was witnessed by Detective Joseph Wright. During the long interview Ricketts confessed that he was with Henry and admitted they had killed the deceased by placing a bag over her head and setting fire to the car. Although Ricketts signed the confession in several places and initialled the more than 50 answers throughout the statement at the time of the interview, in court he denied the content.

During cross examination of Bailey, Robert Fortune QC suggested that he had made up the confession statement by Ricketts as a result of other information coming from Henry and tricked and coerced his client into signing — an accusation that Bailey flatly denied many times.

Fortune, however, pressed the idea that all through the interview the police had asked entirely different questions to those which appeared on the statement and that Ricketts had given different answers, denying he was even with Kirkland Henry on the night of the murder.  The defence attorney observed that there were long time lapses in the interview where nothing seemed to happen and that would give the officers the time they needed to contrive the questions and fabricate answers.

However, Bailey said that Ricketts spent long periods of silence during the interview studying the officers before he would answer the questions put to him. The police officer said when the defendant was given his statement to read after the interview was over he took over an hour to read the document and noted some minor changes he wished to make.

The defence attorney also suggested that the language in the statement was not the sort of language his client would use and that the rounded confession at the end was almost certainly contrived. However, Bailey insisted that Ricketts had said the words in the statement and he had told the police he regretted what had happened to the lady and was truly sorry for the pain he had caused.

Placing Ricketts on the stand, Fortune questioned his client about the interview with the two officers, which Ricketts insisted was made up and full of things had never said as he was not with Henry on 10 October. He said he was afraid and hehad not been offered a lawyer or cautioned and that the police had told him if he helped them they would let him go.

He said they had told him they just wanted to ask him about his whereabouts on 10 October, despite acknowledging that he was aware they had arrested him for murder.

Ricketts alleged that the police officers threatened that he would be in prison for the rest of his life and that another man would bring up his child unless he signed the confession. On the other hand, if he did it would show he was co-operating and they would realise him, despite the fact he was signing a confession to murder — something he said the officers had described as “irrelevant”.

Aside from the coercion, Ricketts also claimed that he was afraid the police would beat him up as they do in Jamaica if he did not sign and that, as he had never been arrested before, he did not understand what was going on or what was happening to him.

He denied being with Kirkland Henry and going to Deckers or abducting Scott-Roberts in the manner suggested in his statement or driving to Pappagallos and killing her.

In his statement, Ricketts had said they placed a bag over the lady’s head, but on the stand he said Officer Bailey had suggested he did it but Ricketts said he told Bailey that he “never did anything like that” and had denied murdering her. The defendant accused Bailey of making the questions and answers up as he constantly denied the accusations made by the two officers, who he said were laughing at him. He also denied that he had ever said they “killed the lady” but they had made him sign all the answers.

He admitted that he had tried to use the card, which was stolen from Scott-Roberts, in the bank ATM, but that was because he had seen Henry on the street the next morning and he had told him he had found the credit card. Giving him a number on a piece of paper, Ricketts claimed that Henry had asked him to try it to see if he could get money from the machine. In his statement, however, Ricketts had said that he had found the card in the car and asked Scott-Roberts for the pin number.

When cross examined by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards QC, Ricketts admitted on the stand that the police had not hit him or threatened him with violence at any time, despite his claim to be afraid. He also said that they had not even really shouted at him, although they had raised their voices sometimes.

Richards asked how he could believe the police would let him go having just signed a confession to murder, and Ricketts told the court he was confused and the police were threatening and tricking him. “In Jamaica the police beat you up and probably shoot you,” he said, continuing to deny the content of his confession statement.

It was also revealed to the court that, as Henry and Ricketts were being interviewed simultaneously, it would be difficult for both Bailey and Wright to have known all of the details of Henry’s confession to fabricate a confession from Ricketts that dovetailed with it.

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Wild turtles at risk

| 09/02/2010 | 24 Comments

(CNS): A number of concerns have already been raised by enforcement agencies that, while protecting the farmed turtles, the recent price increase could put the wild turtles in greater danger from poaching. There are currently only eight valid legal turtle fishing licenses in the Cayman Islands, but poaching of turtles from the wild is not uncommon, especially among some of the community’s drug addicts, who often poach a range of marine life to fund their habits. The move by the Cayman Turtle Farm is to reflect the real cost of farming the marine creatures and to protect the future of the farm, the new managing director said on Friday.

Sources in the police service and the director of the DoE have warned, however, that while the price increase may be welcome for some reasons, it may also have ramifications for poaching that will require considerably more resources to protect the endangered wild turtle population.

Police sources have told CNS that when the legitimate price of turtle meat increases, the price on the black market will also be driven higher, making the meat a more attractive proposition to poachers, who will be more willing to risk catching the creature in the wild if they can secure a better price for their illegal quarry.

Many poachers caught by DoE and the RCIPS Marine Unit are more often that not drug users, who turn to the ocean as an easy source of income for drug money. Therefore, any move that affects prices of illegally caught fish or turtle will attract the poachers and place marine life at risk.

The director of the DER said that the price increase on the one hand is to be welcomed if it makes people think twice about consuming the endangered creature and buys the farm time to work out what the problems are with the breeding and survival of hatchlings. On the other hand, it is likely to trigger more poaching. With a tight budget and resources already pushed to the limit, Gina Ebanks-Petrie explained that it would be very difficult for her department to step up the patrols to match a likely increase in poaching.

“We already find it very difficult to enforce the marine laws with our limited resources and this is likely to add to the pressure," she said. “We are well aware that turtle poaching is not uncommon and we have pursued poachers through the court system, but we know they are still out there and active already.”

Price increases could see poachers getting braver and attempting to take more turtles from the wild, and without an increase in enforcement resources, it will be difficult for the DoE to address a rise in numbers.

Concerns have alos been raised about the Turtle Farm’s own security and protection of its own stocks as the facility has had a number of problems in the past of turtles going missing from the farm.

The price increase was announced by the new MD Tim Adam, who after only nine days on the job made the decision to triple the price of meat. The idea of a significant price increase has been in discussion at the facility for several years but Adam appears to be the first MD willing to bite the bullet and make the tough decision, which he said was a difficult one.

In a statement on Friday, he said that the price to produce the turtle was far higher that the price of the meat and the facility was constantly losing money.   He said it was the first of many tough decisions that he would make in order to protect the future of the breeding programme and the farm in general.

The price of turtle steak was increased on Monday from $9 per pound to $27, turtle stew from CI$5.40 per pound to CI$16.00 per pound, turtle menavelin from CI$4.00 per pound to CI$12.00 per pound, and the bone from CI$2.00 per pound to CI$6.00.

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Major tour operators and taxi drivers clash

| 09/02/2010 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Complaints by bus and taxi drivers about major tour operators unfairly monopolising the bulk of the cruise ship business have been refuted by one large firm in a statement to the media. Following a petition submitted to government by bus drivers complaining about the major firms bringing in larger buses to take the business, Island Tours has stated that it is not licensed to operate anything more than nine buses with a maximum of 44 seats and it is not undercutting prices. The issue has come into focus again as smaller operators feel they are being excluded from the possibility of taking passengers to the new TIki Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach due to open later this year.

Island Tours Ltd said that accusations made in the media regarding the developers of the new Tiki Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach — Resort Sports who were said to be bringing in more buses and unfairly taking business from local drivers were not true.

Island Tours Ltd. said while the firm had not been specifically named, as one of the transportation service providers to the Tiki Beach destination, the owners said they wanted to address the accusations of undercutting on transport prices.

“The majority shareholders of Island Tours are Nigel Mitten and Ronnie Anglin. Both are Caymanian entrepreneurs who have been in the tourism business, in ground transfers and island tours, as well as in water sports, for more than 30 years,” the firm’s statement read.

“While the company does have a minority shareholder, which is a subsidiary of Dart Enterprises Ltd., Mr. Mitten and Mr. Anglin control and are responsible for the operation and management of the business on a day to day basis. Island Tours recently entered into a non-exclusive contract with Resort Sports Limited (owners of Tiki Beach). Based upon Mr. Mitten’s and Mr. Anglin’s knowledge of the rates in the transportation market, they confirm that their rate with Resort Sports Ltd. does not undercut the current market prices,” the tour operator added.

Pointing to accusations  over 70-80 seat buses,  Island Tours confirmed that it is licensed and approved by the Public Transport Board to operate a fleet of no more than nine, forty-four seat buses.

“Forty-four seat buses are not new to the island as buses of this capacity have been in operation in Public Transport going back for many years and have been in use by multiple operators in the industry,’ the firm stated.

 “We know that our buses are unique on island in their appearance however not in their seating capacity. The focus of Island Tours is to provide a high quality of service and guest experience for our cruise and stay over visitors. When selecting a bus model we selected something that would both comply with the laws of the Cayman Islands and raise the bar in the industry,” Island Tours wrote in its statement.

Disputes between the smaller operators and the larger firms regarding the distribution of cruise tourism business are nothing new. The major tour operators and the public transport board has often been in conflict with the Land and Sea Cooperative Society which was formed in 2001 to protect local taxi operators and help them compete with tour operators by sharing the bookings amongall the members.

Over recent years however, bookings by the cruise ships with the society have steadily declined due to alleged complaints by passengers regarding the quality of service and prices. Various meetings under the previous government attempted to address some of the problems and establish standards for the cooperative, but the complaints and counter allegations continue.


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DER troubles in spotlight

| 09/02/2010 | 76 Comments

(CNS): Long suspected allegations of a paralysis between senior management and staff at the Department of Employment Relations appear to have come to a head with the temporary suspension of the director of the DER, Lonny Tibbetts, and reported complaints by a small number of staff. Despite recent improvements in the department’s job placement unit, with the number of successful Caymanian placements averaging around 25 per month, historical problems in the department’s complaints division have allegedly caused a serious personnel dispute.

CNS has contacted the ministry for an official confirmation of the situation and was told by Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues that the director was on annual leave and the deputy Jennifer Smith was acting director and the ministry had no further comment to make. The minister, Rolston Anglin, said that administrative issues were the jurisdiction of the chief officer and he was not in a position to comment, and when CNS reached the director he said he was unable to comment at this time.

However, sources close to the department have told CNS that Tibbetts has been placed on temporary paid leave while the ministry allegedly attempts to resolve a staff dispute.

The exact nature of the complaint against the director is unclear, however, it reportedly involves a small number of staff that have raised concerns regarding the implementation of changes to the department, and as a result of the requests made of them they have now submitted a formal complaint about the director imposing what they consider to be unreasonable requests.

The problems appear to be confined to the labour dispute unit, which deals with complaints made by workers about their employers regarding exploitation or where bosses are reportedly breaking the employment law in regards to pay, annual leave or working conditions.

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