Archive for June 10th, 2010

National Trust seeks future custodians of heritage

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Parents looking for ways to keep their kids entertained this summer and learn something more about preserving their natural and historical environment will find what they are looking for at this year’s National Trust Discovery Summer Camp programme. The Trust said the camp which runs throughout the month of July and is open to 7-12 year olds, is built around its mission to preserve the unique natural and built heritage of the Cayman Islands and will set tomorrow’s custodians of the country’s heritage off on the right foot .

“We have four exciting weeks planned with a variety of activities including learning about sea creatures, exploring sea grass beds and mangroves, learning about butterflies and nature, discovering species unique to the Cayman Islands, and recycling,” the Trust said. “We will play games from yesteryear, learn home crafts and discover the beautiful details of traditional Caymanian buildings. Our programme encourages respect for our environment and traditions and our need to be stewards to preserve our special place in the world.”
With the country’s historical and natural environment under growing threat this camp presents a perfect opportunity for kids to learn what they could do to stem the tide.
For more information or to receive a daily schedule or camp registration form, contact the National Trust at info@nationaltrust.org.ky or 749-1121.

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Best of a bad EU situation

| 10/06/2010 | 21 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News, Cayman financial services(CNS): News from the Cayman Islands Government meetings in Brussels this week may not be quite as good as that from London but was described by McKeeva Bush as the “best of a bad situation”. Following his meeting with European Commissioner Michel Barnier (far left), the premier said he believed Cayman was already compliant with the requirements of the European Union’s Alternative Investment Fund Manager Directive (AIFMD) and he hoped the EU would be fair. He said there was work to be done on Tax Information Exchange Agreements and that Cayman needed a presence in the Belgian capital at the heart of Europe.

Thursday’s meeting concerned the forth coming implementation of a new European directive that will have an impact of the Cayman Islands hedge fund industry. Bush met with Barnier, the European Commissioner in Charge of Internal Market and Services, to discuss Cayman’s potential compliance with the initiative, which will introduce new requirements on funds based outside the Union in order to continue doing business with fund managers in the member states.

“I think we have got the best of a bad situation,” Bush said. “While this directive does impact the Cayman Islands, they have all promised, particularly Mr Barnier, a level playing field for these regulations. Obviously Mr Barnier understands what he is dealing with and he will be firm but fair. So this bodes well for the Cayman Islands.”
Bush said that Frank Engel, MEP for Luxemburg, and Syed Kamall, MEP from London, had been extremely helpful to the Cayman Islands.
“I believe that the Cayman Islands are already compliant with this directive and with our regulatory regime and the work of the private sector on this matter we will be able to ride this out,” Bush stated.
“What is evident is that Cayman getting on the blacklist has not helped us; and the recent signing of Tax Information Exchange Agreements puts us in good standing. We must now sign agreements with the relevant European countries. What is also evident is that the Cayman Islands must have representation in Brussels. I intend to make that happen by December,” he added.
Although Cayman recently announced it had retained the international law firm of Sidley Austin LLP to represent the islands’ interests in London, Washington and Brussels in connection with the financial services, it is believed that the premier hopes to establish a more permanent presence at the heart of Europe with a Cayman office.
The new EU directive has raised some concern in the financial services sector, with industry experts warning that it is not TIEAs that are necessarily the problem but the country’s Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law, which has often been referred to as Cayman’s "secrecy law".
Earlier this year the attorney general called it “the bane of our existence since the 1970s” when he told the Legislative Assembly in February that a report had been submitted to Cabinet examining the most appropriate type of Data Protection Act to suit the jurisdiction that could replace the CRPL. Samuel Bulgin said at the time that the document would be discussed by Cabinet within two weeks, paving the way for draft legislation for a bill. Since that time there has been no further mention of any progress on the removal of the law.

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Planning makes positive moves toward disclosure

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although many government agencies and departments still have a long way to go before they embrace the culture of openness and transparency by publishing a disclosure log of their FOI requests or documents of interest to the public, the Cayman Islands Planning Department has taken a positive step and is now publishing the agendas and minutes of all the Central Planning Authority meetings on its website. Since the change in the law which severely restricted who could and could not object to proposed development plans notice of forth coming projects was limited to those living in close proximity. Now everyone can read what is due to come before the CPA as well as the outcome.

The agendas can be found on the site at this address http://www.planning.gov.ky
Visitors should click on Central Planning Authority which is found on the right had side of the page then click on Meeting Agendas and Minutes
Scroll down to find the latest agendas and meeting minutes.  

 

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Schools Projects

| 10/06/2010 | 18 Comments

The multiple new and highly extravagant schools were clearly embarked upon without any concern for costs. Those responsible were obviously much more interested with enshrining their own legacy in concrete and steel. They were also guilty of rushing to get them all built at the same time and entering into legally binding construction contracts that were less than satisfactory. True, it’s a crying shame but it is not the purpose of this viewpoint.

The new minister of education inherited this difficult situation and the subsequent issues with the contractor leaving the job have added further complications. The latter situation, however, does have its up-side. With that I mean there is now surely the opportunity to revise as much of the finishing specifications as possible to reduce unnecessary costs. Listening to people in the know, it is absolutely mind boggling to hear the gold plating excesses that were part of the approved design.

What is also particularly concerning at this time are the issues surrounding the award of the contract to get the schools moving again towards completion. The new minister may have erred when he made unnecessary public comments on talk radio that suggested he would be surprised if the local coalition of contractors could not provide a good bid. Comments like this could potentially send the wrong message, especially in advance of the bidding process having being completed.

Then news breaks that an overseas firm has been selected and their bid was millions below the coalition group. There is some public outrage. Following this we hear the contract has not been awarded because of issues with the criteria used in the selection process and that there are ongoing discussions between the ministry of education and the central tendering agency. The premier in response to questions, also states that he wants the best deal for government regardless of whether the firm is from West Bay or the moon.

What we have now is a lot of speculation as to the machinations going on behind closed doors. Firms spend a considerable amount of time, resources and funds to prepare bids for such an extensive and complicated project like this and they deserve better. And the public do as well.

Government now has a vast amount of technical and professional data submitted from the various bidders as to costs, timelines and approach to the work. We hope that this individual proprietary information is not being used inappropriately in relation to the ongoing selection process. Should government now decide to do the project management themselves, after they have had the benefit of seeing the technical and financial submissions of the various bidders, this would also be highly unethical and could no doubt be subject to legal challenge.

Where is the new auditor general?
 

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Cane toad threat spreads to Caribbean

| 10/06/2010 | 1 Comment

(BBC): Cane toads, one of the world’s most destructive invasive species, have started killing native wildlife outside of Australia. Cane toads are poisonous, secreting a toxin that kills predators not adapted to eat them, and as a result the toads have caused a decline in native Australian reptiles and marsupials. Now scientists have discovered that the toads are also killing boa snakes in the West Indies, suggesting that other predators in the Caribbean and elsewhere may also be at risk. The cane toad is a large toad species, which secretes a powerful bufogenin toxin.

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Brac emergency services practice accident response

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): CIAA’s CEO, Jeremy Jackson said he was pleased with the performance of the emergency services this week at mock emergency exercise at Gerrard-Smith International Airport. The Emergency Response Exercise was spearheaded by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) and entailed the simulation of an aircraft accident at Gerrard-Smith on the Brac on Monday morning. The Exercise allowed first responders from the CIAA, the Cayman Islands Fire Service, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Health Services Authority/Faith Hospital to test their readiness in the event of a real aircraft emergency at the airport.

Thanking all those involved including the students of the Cayman Brac High School for theirparticipation as volunteer passengers, (above) Jackson said the exercise was extremely beneficial to all emergency response agencies and the airport team. “It is crucial that we are in a state of readiness at all times in the event of a real aircraft accident on Cayman Brac,” he said. “Overall, I was pleased with the performance of all emergency response partners whose representatives will attend a debriefing later this week to discuss their respective outcomes and areas that need to be addressed in order to enhance their response to such incidents.”
In the Exercise the teams responded to the landing of a Saab 340 aircraft, with 19 persons on board, which reported that it was experiencing hydraulic failures and requested that all emergency services be put on standby. On landing the aircraft sustained landing gear damage resulting in it veering off the runway onto a grassed area on the south side before bursting into flames.
(Emergency services co-ordinate repsonse)
Emergency services from G-SIA responded to the accident scene and performed fire fighting and rescue operations. Once fire fighters had extinguished the blaze, the next phase entailed the rescue and recovery of passengers who were then triaged.
Passengers were assessed and taken to the Advanced Medical Post (AMP) where further assessment and stabilisation was carried out by medical personnel from Faith Hospital. Passengers with serious trauma were systematically transported by ambulance to the Hospital for further treatment.
(Fire staff take a break after emergency exercise.)
The next phase of the Exercise was the establishment of an Incident Command Post (ICP) by the Aerodrome Fire Service who was the first authority on the scene. The Fire Service then handed over responsibility for the ICP to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) who immediately set about providing instructions for the preservation of the accident scene and crowd control, in conjunction with the CIAA Security Unit. At the ICP representatives from all emergency responders immediately gathered and commenced liaison with the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), which was established in the conference room at Gerrard-Smith International Airport. 2

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Phone company backs green shopping

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Members of staff at LIME are backing the “Bring your own bag” initiative instigated by Cayman BECOME which started at Grand Cayman’s three major supermarkets yesterday. The telecommunications firm has issued every one of its employees with their own re-usable shopping bags to help staff get started on the right foot. From now on Fosters, Kirks and Hurleys are all charging 5 cents for their new biodegradable plastic bags as part of an island wide initiative to reduce the more than 12 million bags which go to the George Town landfill every year.

Cayman BECOME will also be handing out reusable bags to all shoppers between 10 and12 noon this Saturday morning.

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Royal Navy visiting for hurricane relief planning

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Members of the British Royal Nay will be landing in the Cayman Islands next week when HMS Manchester visits Grand Cayman as part of the season’s hurricane preparations. Government officials said the crew will also be taking part in a number of meetings and activities during the ships stay. The visit is reportedly about strengthening relationships with Cayman Islands government agencies and to assist with plans for any joint hurricane disaster relief operations that may be required during the 2010 season which is expected to be one of the busiest on record.

From sporting events tours by local students and cadets, the crew face a full agenda and what is much more than a courtesy or rest-and-recreation call, Government Information Services said. As well as receptions on the ship and at Government House the crew will be playing as well as football, cricket and rugby matches against local teams.

The vessel which arrives 16 June for two daysl is part of the Royal Navy’s Fifth Destroyer Squadron. It has 26 officers and 216 crew, serving under Commander Rex J. Cox. The ship is currently on patrol in the Caribbean as part of the UK’s counter narcotics operations as well as hurricane relief.

The ship was also in the UK news headlines this week for other reasons as Raul Beia, and Dean Langley face trial at Portsmouth crown court this week over a drug smuggling operation in which £2 million of cocaine was allegedly smuggled on board by a wren serving on the ship. Teresa Matos is accused of picking up 8.51kg (19lb) of cocaine while HMS Manchester was docked at the port of Cartagena in Colombia, South America, last July, Portsmouth Crown Court heard. Beia is said to be one of the drug trafficking ring leaders while Matos was a courier and Langley was recruited to receive and distribute the drugs in the UK.

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Jamaican cops raid illegal visa operaiton

| 10/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(The Gleaner): Hundreds of passports were seized and one man taken into custody when the police raided an illegal visa operation at John’s Lane, downtown Kingston, Tuesday. Police from the Flying Squad, led by Superintendent Cornwall ‘Bigga’ Ford, raided the modest property at 64 John’s Lane where they found passports hidden in the roof, floor and other areas. Several fake stamps, including those used by justices of the peace, were also found hidden in the building. Sources told The Gleaner that US visas were being sold at the premises for between $25,000 and $50,000.

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Anglin says school projects due to re-start

| 10/06/2010 | 17 Comments

(CNS): The minister of education has said that the school projects will be back on track shortly but has still not revealed any dates or details of the new contractors. Rolston Anglin said the Central Tenders Committee is still considering bids but he hopes to be able to make an announcement during the budget process. The projects are now way behind schedule after the original contractor, Tom Jones International, walked off the sites at Frank Sound and John Gray last year due to a row over payments. The ministry began looking for new construction managers in February and the details of those bids were recently leaked to CNS.

Hensel Phelps had scored the most points with a bid of $6.5 million but the firm has not yet been given the contract. Anglin told CNS last month that the firm, which had the winning number of points, had not been awarded the contract as that it was still up to the CTC to decide if the criteria used were correct and fair and the points awarded accurate.
CNS understands, however, that the CTC has had the bids for several weeks now and it is unclear why they have not yet made a decision on who should be awarded the job. Anglin stated that the leak had caused problems for the committee as they had not, at the time of leak, made their decision and the revelation of the points which the department had made could have undermined the process.
In accordance with the ministry’s criteria, which looks at past experience, specialist expertise as well as cost, Hensel Phelps scored the most points at 84.20 with a bid of $6.5 million, which was considerably lower than the one submitted by the consortium specially formed by a group of local contractors, which scored 78.43 points with its bid of over $8.5 million. Arch & Godfrey, McAlpine, Hadsphaltic and DECCO had created CCML as a joint venture for the sole purpose of submitting this single bid to provide services for the completion of the Clifton Hunter and John Gray High Schools.
Both school sites have been idle for more than six months following the departure of TJI last November.  Hundreds of local workers were laid off as a result of the dispute with government, which is now in the courts and, with the exception of some preservation work undertaken by sub contractors Caribbean Mechanical to prevent deterioration, neither site has moved forward.
The minister said recently that he was still hopeful that the schools would be completed by June next year ready for the September 2011 school year. Speaking to Cayman 27 yesterday, Anglin said full scale construction on the campuses would resume soon.
The development on the two schools was started by the previous education minister, for which he has been severely criticized. However, Alden McLaughlin has persistently defended the need not just for the schools but a massive overhaul of the country’s education system, which he said was failing Cayman’s children. The schools were commissioned and designed against the backdrop of a complete review and modernisation of the education system and the law which was completed during McLaughlin’s time in office.
However, since taking up the role of minister for education, Anglin has delayed the implementation of the law, which was passed more than a year ago in March 2009, as he says the regulations to accompany the new law are not ready.

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