Archive for May 14th, 2010

Premier details overseas trips

| 14/05/2010 | 144 Comments

(CNS): As a result of the much publicised Freedom of Information request made in February, Cayman News Service can now reveal that the premier spent just 161 days including weekends in the Cayman Islands between being elected to office in May 2009 and the end of February 2010. For just under 50% of the time he was travelling overseas attending a variety of meetings, conferences and TIEA signings, as well as the Miss Universe Pageant and the Winter Olympics. Revealing his full itinerary at a press briefing on Thursday, McKeeva Bush criticised CNS for making the request saying it had wasted time and as minister of tourism and finance as well as premier he had to travel.

Bush added that he was not fond of flying and had made every attempt to keep his travel to a bare necessity as he didn’t enjoy spending time away from family. “A part of my duty as the premier is to ensure that the business of the country is conducted, and our interests overseas are well represented. I know of too many instances when Cayman was not represented at the table and we took stick for it,” he said, citing the European Directive as something thrust on the jurisdiction because of the failure of leadership to be at the table.

He added that his travels had benefited the islands, including the successful removal of Cayman from the OECD grey list and the bond offering with HSBC, which received a very good return.
However, criticisms had been made of the premier’s travels in the wider public as he was away from the island at a time when there was a very worrying spike in violent crime. Bush was overseas when a number of the gang related shootings took place, including the murder of four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes, who was killed at Hell Gas station in West Bay.  
During June 2009 the premier was away between 4-21 June when he visited the UK, France and the United States to sign TIEAs, attend the Caribbean Tourism meeting andan OECD meeting. In July he was gone for two weeks in Paris, Germany, Netherlands, New York & the United Kingdom again. In three separate trips in August he visited the United States and the Bahamas. In September the premier spent a week in London before heading back there in November as well as the states and Asia, when he was away for three weeks. From the beginning of December until Christmas the premier was away visiting India, Dubai and Bali. Bush then headed to Miami in January where he was again in February before heading up to Vancouver, Canada for the Winter Olympics.
The request, which was made by the owner of CNS Nicky Watson, took almost three months as the ministry said it had been difficult to collate the information and had requested an extension on the 30 day period given to comply with the request under the FOI law. On receipt of the request the letter accompanying it said the ministry was “pleased to grant … access to the records.”
However, it appeared on Thursday afternoon at the televised live press briefing that the premier was not particularly pleased and accused CNS of wasting government time on a request that was of no value.
Following the overt criticism of the request and the Freedom of Information Law in general, which was broadcast on both Radio Cayman and Cayman27 and later picked up by the BBC, the Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert pointed out that the request was legitimate and illustrated how the law should work. “To hear the premier list his travels in detail at the press briefing on Thursday, 13 May 2010, was very heartening indeed and shows clearly that FOI is alive and well in Cayman,” she said.
Although the premier had publicly revealed the FOI requester by name, the CNS owner had never sought at any time to conceal her identity or that CNS had made the request. Under the law anyone making a request can, however, remain anonymous, something which also angered the premier.
Dilbert said a person does not have to identify themselves when making a FOI request.  “The reasoning behind this is that a person can request a record and be free from any negative repercussions that might occur as a result of being identified as the person asking for a record,” she said.
The very public criticism of CNS made by the premier served to illustrate why some people may wish to remain anonymous. Many other countries allow anonymous requests and in a country as small as the Cayman Islands, the IC observed that the ability to remain anonymous may be indispensable.
 “Also, the Law does not permit the public authority to ask for a reason or rationale behind the request which further ensures that records are released completely and uncensored,” Dilbert explained.
She added that the foundation of democracy is based on the premise that the people elect their government, and therefore that government is responsible to its people. “FOI allows people to get involved in the decision-making processes of government and better understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the choices it makes. FOI legislation has been adopted by over 85 countries worldwide which should be an indication of its value and need,” she said.
Bush said that responding to CNS had taken many hours as the information was not readily available. He said the FOI cost the country a lot as it tied up civil servants and the way that information was asked without saying what good it was for was not good for Cayman.


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Science Fair was a crowd pleaser

| 14/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The fourth annual occasion of the Rotary Central Science Fair was held last Saturday at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre and marked another resounding success for the service club. The event was well supported all round, attracting a constant flow of visitors throughout the day to see local middle and high school students showcase science projects in a range of categories as they vied for cash prizes and awards for the best entries in their category. Parents, mentors, sponsors and members of the whole community came out in force to support the Science Fair, which has become one of the main events of Cayman’s educational calendar and continues to go from strength to strength, a release from Rotary said.

Rotary Central President, Paul Byles, said, “This year’s Rotary Central Science Fair was an impressive display by all the students. We had a very high turn out and were extremely pleased to see so many people from the community come by Camana Bay during the day to view the diverse displays which ranged across four categories.”

There were 22 displays on show in the final, representing the work of 32 students. First prize winners in each category were, Luciana Regidor (Life Sciences); Tajel Small and Loshana Lopez (Physics & Chemistry); Diarra Hoyte (Earth Sciences); and Connor Woods (Food & Health). Leading Edge High School was recognised for having the most students participating and also the most projects in the in the Science Fair competition.

All prize winners were recognized at an awards ceremony and banquet on Saturday evening, at which Hon. Rolston Anglin, Minister of Education, Training and Employment and Hon. Mark Scotland, Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports & Culture, were in attendance. Minister Anglin addressed the gathering and both Ministers assisted with the presentation of awards.

Minister Anglin remarked, “It is encouraging to see the high standard of work that students in our schools are producing. I am very impressed by what I saw at this year’s Science Fair and would like to acknowledge the enthusiasm and creativity of all the students who took part. I also congratulate the parents of this year’s participants for their encouragement and support.”

The 2010 Science Fair received considerable support from Cayman’s corporate community. Mr. Byles said, “Rotary Central certainly wishes to thank all of our sponsoring organisations for supporting the Science Fair’, adding, “I also wish to acknowledge the vision and hard work of Rotarian Bill Hrudey who was instrumental in establishing this Science Fair 4 years ago.”

Rotarian Larry Tibbetts was the Chairman of the Rotary Central Science Fair Committee. Mr. Tibbetts said, “We are extremely pleased with the success of this year’s Science Fair. Its success is testimony to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. It also demonstrates the high value and commitment our community places on education. We look forward to next year’s Science Fair, which we hope will be even better.”


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Witnesses blame ministries for missing reports

| 14/05/2010 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Many of the government’s missing annual reports appear to be in the hands of ministry officials, according to some statutory authorities. A number of these reports which should have already been tabled in the Legislative Assembly in order to make them public documents appear to have been held up at the final hurdle, the Public Accounts Committee heard on Thursday as it resumed its hearings regarding the current delinquent state of the government’s financial accounts. A number of statutory authorities who were cited by the AG’s office as being substantially complete, told PAC that they had sent reports to their relevant ministries only to have them disappear. (The LA table where annual reports need to be laid before becoming public documents)

A number of CEOs and CFOs who came to the committee meeting said reports were given to ministry officials, in some cases more than three years ago, but they had never found their way to the LA. Witnesses revealed that they had no idea that their annual reports had never been tabled until they saw the latest edition of the Auditor General’s report on the State of Financial Accountability Reporting.
In that report, his last before leaving his post, Dan Duguay pointed out that there were some 73 annual reports that had been completed by various statutory authorities which had never reached the LA.
During a full day’s hearing the PAC, which for most of the day consisted of just the chair Ezzard Miller and Ellio Solomon, representatives from each statutory authority and government company came through to explain the current situation with their accounts. For some, meeting the chair’s deadline of completing all their accounts and annual reports was going to prove challenging as entities like the National Museum simply do not have the funding to pay for auditors. However, for others, in order to meet their obligations under the PMFL it would be simply a matter of calling the ministries and asking them to table the reports.
For some the dire circumstance surrounding their internal accounts was so bad that Miller asked the auditor if the way forward should be for certain entities to simply jump over the years where the accounting information was inadequate for audit and move forward to more up to date fiscal year accounts, a precedent set by the HSA.  The acting auditor general, Garnett Harrison, pointed out that he could not recommend any entity do that as it is was against the law.
Miller, however, pointed out the impossibility of getting the whole of government accounts up to date if something was not done to address the stalled situation that many entities appeared to face. Solomon pointed out that it was unwise to attempt to resolve the problem of not being compliant with PMFL by breaking the law more and said there had to be a way of getting the accounts finished that didn’t make an already bad situation worse.
Many of the statutory authorities felt the chair’s September goal was attainable and they committed to doing their very best to make the new deadline for all accounts to be up to date and to ensure that whatever shortcomings appeared in the out of date fiscal years would be addressed and resolved by 2009/10.
One of the last groups of witnesses to pass through the day’s PAC meeting was the representatives from the Turtle Farm, where the accounts were particularly delinquent. Citing a number of difficulties at the farm, in addition to lost documentation they also revealed that PricewaterhouseCoopers, the auditors for Boatswain Beach, had submitteda letter of resignation and the farm was now unsure who would be able to audit their accounts.
Miller pointed out again that he would no longer accept any excuses and the Turtle Farm, like every other entity, had to find a way to comply with the law.
Speaking to CNS after two days of examining government entities, Miller said the exercise was well worth while.
“It was worth the effort to call in those responsible for the accounts to give them a chance to defend themselves, air their problems and challenges,” Miller said. “But we have talked enough and now is the time to get down to completing the accounts. The most important issue is that the 2009/10 accounts will al be done properly.”
Miller said that in the words of the acting auditor general “a line was now drawn in the sand” and there was no room for more excuses. The accounts had to be completed and audited then all the annual reports needed to be finished and tabled in the Legislative Assembly in compliance with the Public Management and Finance Law. Only then, he said, could law makers finally see how the money they were continually required to vote for was being managed and the wider public could see exactly what the public purse was spent on.

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Former UK treasury minister stabbed at meeting

| 14/05/2010 | 5 Comments

(Reuters) – British lawmaker Stephen Timms, a former treasury minister in the previous Labour government, has been stabbed at his constituency office in east London, a party spokesman and police said on Friday. Timms, 54, was taken to a local hospital but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, said a spokesman for the Labour party which bowed out of government this week after 13 years of power. Police said a 21-year-old woman had been arrested in connection with the incident which took place as Timms held a monthly meeting with constituents at a library in east London on Friday afternoon.


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The legend of Dan the Man

| 14/05/2010 | 13 Comments

Gather ’round children, and listen to the tellin’ of the tell. I’m talking about the story of “Dan the Man”. Some people say he’s just a myth, a made-up monster tale meant to scare civil servants and the like. But I’m telling you straight, he was a real man in the flesh. I hope you listen and listen well, kids, because there’s a lesson worth knowing in the Legend of Dan the Man.

Once upon a time, long ago in the Cayman Islands, there was this giant of a fellow. Some say he was ten feet tall, but I’m pretty sure he was no more than seven or eight feet. Story goes, that he was from the north, somewhere up in the ice and snow. But this sure wasn’t no Santa Clause. Dan wasn’t one of us but he had somehow tricked the government into hiring him to be the auditor general. That’s a fancy job where you are supposed to wear clean shirts buttoned all the way up and make sure everything is going okay with the government’s money. Truth be told, it’s an easy job. You just have to make sure money goes where the politicians want it to go. That’s it. Real simple.

The problem was that this Dan fellow didn’t quite understand the job. He had a head full of crazy ideas about exposing waste and corruption. Even more amazing, he actually thought it was okay to tell news reporters that our government was wasting money and doing some things that didn’t seem tobe entirely squeaky clean, if you get my drift. Yep, ol’ Dan had the nerve to tell the public how public funds were being squandered and shuffled around in shady ways.

Well, Dan the Man caused one big uproar, let me tell you. Politicians hated him. And they had a good reason to. It’s rude to tell on people when they are bad or making mistakes. Nobody likes a tattletale! And it wasn’t just the politicians who hated Dan. The people who liked it when politicians wasted their money were very upset too. They called radio shows and blasted Dan the Man. Yes sireee, it was a glorious day for Cayman. Finally we were standing up for ourselves! Sure there were a few who defended Dan. They babbled on about waste and corruption being bad. Blah, blah. They were just haters. The smart Caymanians knew that the politicians could be trusted and we didn’t need some abominable snow monster coming down here to our country and messing with our way of doing business. The old way worked for our grandparents, and it would work for us!

Now listen carefully kids, this is the good part. The government had decided it had had just about enough of Dan the Man so they dumped him. Yahoo! They told him to pack his bags. It was a great day indeed. They told Dan the Man “thanks but no thanks! See you, wouldn’t want to be you! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Ha! Justice, Cayman style. How you like that, Dan?

Never was I so proud to be a Caymanian as I was that day.

Dan the Man might have been a giant. He might have been really smart and brave. And, yes, he might have cared a lot about honesty in government. But why should we care about all that? What mattered to us was that we got rid of him and let our politicians have all the freedom and secrecy they needed to have when it came to money. We don’t need somebody snooping around and exposing problems. We all know in our hearts that if anything is wrong the politicians will tell us. We can trust them when it comes to money. After all, these are Christian men and women that we elected!

So remember the Legend of Dan, kids. We are a proud people and we don’t take foolishness from anyone, even if they are ten feet tall and obsessed with honesty. There is also another lesson here, children. If you grow up to be a politician or civil servant, make sure you keep the story of Dan close to heart. The Cayman way is to never look for government waste and corruption that might embarrass somebody. And, if you do accidently stumble across it, just keep your mouth shut and let it fix itself in its own good time.

It’s been so many years now so I can’t quite remember every detail, but I’m pretty sure we had a parade that day Dan the Man finally left Cayman. Everybody cheered to see him go. We were so happy to know that Cayman’s politicians would again be able to relax and not have to worry about every penny they spend or misplace. Yeah, it was a great day.

And the Cayman Islands lived happily ever after.

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Cuts continue says Bush

| 14/05/2010 | 34 Comments

(CNS): Updated 10:30 am The premier is still cutting public sector operating expenses to reduce the amount of borrowing Cayman will need to bridge the expected deficit for the 09/10 fiscal year. McKeeva Bush said that he will continue to talk with civil servants in his role as Minister for Finance about cost cutting measures in order to reduce the deficit and keep borrowing to the minimum. Giving few details about the size of Cayman’s year end deficit, the UK’s position on the country’s borrowing needs or the introduction of taxation, Bush told the country that he would bring a budget to the Legislative Assembly before the end of May.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, the premier said the budget and the three year plan were still being worked out and “dialogue was still going on” but the Cayman Islands Government had answered the UK’s questions regarding the plan, which was submitted at the end of March. He would not be drawn on the detail, however, or how much he expected the Cayman Islands would need to borrow.
Bush explained that as the UK had still not appointed the Overseas Territories minister yet there was no one to ask if the plan would be enough for the UK to waive the rules on fiscal responsibility and grant an increase in borrowing.
The main goal, the premier revealed, was to get spending down as much as possible so that in turn the country could keep borrowing down as he did not want to continue borrowing at the rates the previous PPM administration had reached, otherwise the country, he said, would be indebted to the tune of $800 million or more. “I want to get back to a point where we are $16 or 20 million to do certain things that we need,” he added citing a new remand centre as one such project as he again criticised the idea of building two schools.
He said he had spent the last few weeks sitting down with senior civil servants to see where operational expenditure cuts could be made and he was going to continue doing that over the next few weeks.
“We are still cutting and I am going to a meeting now where I am going to cut more so the world will see I have attempted to do something,” he said at the briefing.
Bush also criticized those who believed that taxation was the way forward. He said the previous UK administration was not unreasonable in asking the Cayman government to find new revenue but it was unfair by asking us to put in place income or property tax, adding that, as a result, he found himself on the opposite side of the fence to the Labour government.
He said direct taxation would wipe out the Caymanian middle class. “If any Caymanians believe that it will only be the very rich that is taxed they are making a sad mistake,” Bush said adding that he believed taxes always started that way but then it wasn’t long before it came down to everyone.
“It is not a system I will promote as neither property or income tax would be good for the country,” Bush said. “I firmly believe we can cut our expenses and be open for good investment and development the country will be better off.”
Backing off from earlier comments that he may have to introduce some form of taxation he said he was going to do a different review from the one undertaken recently by James Miller, the commission which the UDP government had appointed, as he said Cayman had a myriad of fees that need to be reviewed — some removed, or consolidated and others increased. “Customs is all over place,” he said. “It won’t be in time for this budget but we will be doing something for the next.”
Bush also stated that he would bring the budget to the Legislative Assembly before the end of May so members would have four weeks to shout about it.

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Mac attacks CNS and FOI

| 14/05/2010 | 336 Comments

(CNS): Both the media and the Freedom of Information (FOI) law came under attack from the premier on Thursday afternoon when he accused Nicky Watson, the owner of Cayman News Service, of wasting government time because of an FOI request she submitted asking for details of his travel arrangements since taking office. Listing where he had been over the last year, McKeeva Bush asked what good such a request was and proceeded to criticise the FOI law for allowing not only anonymous requests, but requests without reason. He also took the opportunity to again criticise what he called "the blogs" (comments) on CNS, as well as the content of Cayman Net News and vowed to make the media pay “good fees” in future. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

He said that there would be big fees for media with blogs (such as CNS) and newspapers printed overseas (such as Cayman Net News) and he said he wasn’t talking about just $5000. “I’m talking over $100,000,” Bush said, suggesting it would be in the next budget, though the detailed plans of these new media fees had not yet been worked out. The premier said if the media in question didn’t pay these new fees, if he had his way they would be fined and then go to jail for at least three months.
After listing his travel arrangements for the last 12 months, Bush said he wanted to give this information to the wider public so that there would be no spin on the information that had been requested by CNS. 
The premier said his travel was very important and although he did not enjoy travelling, and in particular flying, the trips he had taken were necessary to advance the country’s economy.
Criticising the FOI law, however, Bush said that he had no trouble with transparency as people always knew what he was thinking and sometimes he got in trouble for that, but the FOI cost the country too much. Bush said Mickey Mouse could make a request and government had to waste its time answering Mickey Mouse without knowing who and what the information was for. “Instead of doing government business civil servants are writing back to Mickey Mouse,” he said.
The premier added that he knew that the press wanted news but queried what the purpose of the question coming from CNS served.  “What good is it?” he asked rhetorically, “everyone knows I need to travel. … I am not going to shirk my responsibility.”
Bush spoke about what he said was the previous administration’s failure to be at the table of important negotiations but that he would not be found wanting.
He also went on to criticise the blogs extensively and said they were not good for the country and the people posting on CNS had no love for the Cayman Islands as they were causing it to suffer.

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Man charged in Ming murder

| 14/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A man has now been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Damion Ming in West Bay earlier this year. In keeping with the RCIPS’ recent policy of withholding the names of people charged with all crimes police said they had brought charges against a 26 year old man. No details of the individual or even the district the man was from were given. However police said that officers from the joint RCIPS and UK enquiry team had charged the man on Thursday afternoonwith murder and possession ofan unlicensed firearm.  Ming was gunned down near to his home in the Birch Tree Hill area of West Bay on Thursday 25 March, 2010.

Police said they anticipated that the 26-year-old man would appear in court on Friday 14 May 2010. Ming’s murder was the fifth and most recent killing in a surge of gang related violent shootings and murders which have occurred in West Bay this year.
Ming’s death was particularly ironic as the 29 year old West Bayer was due to return to Northward Prison the morning after he was shot and killed, to serve a sentence for drug trafficking after his appeal to the UK privy council had been denied.

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