Archive for July 4th, 2010

Bush talks tourism with Cuban officials

| 04/07/2010 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Joint vacation packages to Cuba and Cayman for European and Canadian tourists as well as more flight between the two countries were some of the topics on the agenda when the premier met with the Cuban ambassador to Jamaica. McKeeva Bush welcomed Cuban Ambassador Yuri Ariel Gala Lopez to Cayman and discussed what government officials described as “topics of mutual interest”. Bush met with Lopez, who is stationed in Kingston, at the Legislative Assembly on Friday, 25 June. He was accompanied by Igor Hevia, the counsellor from the Cuban Embassy.

According to a release from GIS, the premier suggested that direct charter flights to the Isle of Pines, without having to go via Havana, would greatly facilitate travel between Cayman and that area, especially for those with family connections.
Bush also outlined his ongoing efforts with Cuban authorities to offer joint vacation packages with Cayman, particularly forvisitors from Europe and Canada.
Lopez said he appreciated Cayman Airways’ service to the country and said that Cuban authorities were aiming at increasing the frequency of flights. CAL is one of only two regional airlines currently flying to Havana.
Bush and Lopez were reported to have exchange gifts to commemorate the visit.
Earlier, the Cuban officials had called on Governor Duncan Taylor and Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks. 
Following a lunch hosted by Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor and Franz Manderson, Chief Officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs,  the Cubans went on to meet officials from customs, Cayman Airways and the CI Airports Authority.
People in Cayman seeking Cuban consular services can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba at 9, Trafalgar Road, Kingston 5, Jamaica; fax: (876) 978-5372; web address:

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New government auditor’s start date revealed

| 04/07/2010 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Cayman’s new auditor general, Alastair Swarbrick will start work on 12 July, the Governor’s Office said on Friday. Swarbrick is coming to the Cayman Islands from Scotland, where he was former assistant director of audit at Audit Scotland. He replaces Dan Duguay, who served in the office for over six years but whose contract was not renewed following public criticism and condemnation by the premier. The Governor’s Office denied that the criticisms had played a part in Duguay’s departure and said Swarbrick was given the post following an open application process in which Duguay had also participated.

According to government officials, Swarbrick will spend his first week on a familiarisation programme, which will include meeting with Governor Duncan Taylor, Premier McKeeva Bush, Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson and Ezzard Miller, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, to which Swarbrick will report.
The new AG is also expected to meet other senior government officials in the Ministry of Finance and audit colleagues in Internal Audit and Human Resources Audit, as well as staff from the Portfolio of the Civil Service, who will brief him on the personnel and financial reforms and the relevant laws and regulations.
Since Duguay stepped down from the post in May there have been no reports published by the office investigating government spending. CNS understands, however, that there were a number of issues and projects which Duguay had suggested needed to be examined before he left. It will be up to the new AG to decide whether he will pursue any of those investigations.
One of the biggest criticisms made about the previous auditor was his open door policy with the media. Duguay defended that position before he departed and told CNS that he had no regrets about his decision to answer questions from the press when asked and used the media as a forum to educate the wider public about the reports from his office. But he said he believed his relationship with the media was one of the reasons why his contract was not renewed.
“The media was my only real tool to disseminate the information,” he said. “Most people will live with what the auditor general says but they don’t like him for talking about it.”
Duguay said the openness was something new in Cayman and officials had a hard time coming to grips with it. “Cayman is still in an era where civil servants are not supposed to talk to the press,” he added, but pointed out that the AG’s post is not a regular civil service post. It is normal in other jurisdictions for an AG to use the media to publicise the office’s reports and answer questions about them, he noted.
CNS contacted Swarbrick following his appointment for his thoughts regarding his new job but he declined to comment other than to say he was looking forward to taking up the post.  

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UK cabinet ministers to brace themselves for 40% cuts

| 04/07/2010 | 1 Comment

(The Guardian): Cabinet ministers have been ordered by the Treasury to plan for unprecedented cuts of 40% in their departmental budgets as the coalition widens the scope of its four-year austerity drive. The eye-watering demand from the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, was sent this weekend to cabinet colleagues ahead of a week in which ministers will step up emergency cost-cutting across the public sector. The only departments not included in the Treasury trawl will be health and international development, which have been "ringfenced" for the current parliament. It is estimated that a 25% cut in the Home Office budget could mean a reduction in the number of police officers of almost 20,000.

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Couple robbed in Governor’s Square

| 04/07/2010 | 78 Comments

(CNS): Police are now investigation a reported armed robbery of a man and a woman in Governor’s Square, West Bay Road on Saturday (3 July). At about 8:10 yesterday evening police officers from the George Town Police Station responded to a the robbery report at the car park. The couple said two men, one armed with what appeared to be a hand gun, had approached them, made threats and demanded cash and then made off with a bag containing an undisclosed sum of money. No one was hurt during the incident and police are now calling for witnesses to come forward.

Detective Constable Paul Enniss of George Town CID is appealing for anyone who was in the area around the relevant time who could have witnessed the robbery or may have seen the suspects fleeing the scene to come forward with information.
Anyone with information should call George Town police station on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS)

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Desmond Seales

| 04/07/2010 | 16 Comments

The news of Desmond Seales’ death hit me hard on a personal basis. Desmond was one of the mostmemorable characters I ran into during my brief stay in Cayman. It didn’t take long after I arrived to figure out that he was a colorful figure who might have lived by P.T. Barnum’s famous quip that there was no such thing as bad publicity.

Desmond was a throwback to a different era of journalism. Among the milder epithets hurled at him at times was that of “yellow journalist”. To hear his detractors describe him, you would quickly conclude that he never let the facts get in the way of a good story. His defenders would argue that he was the only established Caymanian journalist who wasn’t afraid to poke a figurative stick in the eye of any of the resident “powers that be”. Certainly, he had a habit of making himself unpopular with whoever held the reins of power at a given time.

Not long after I arrived on island I made myself unpopular among some in the Caymanian news community by making clear my reservations about the formation of a local “media council”. I felt then (and still feel now) that the actual object was to gang up on Desmond and make him persona non grata in hopes that marginalizing him would relieve pressure from the government on other media outlets.

The council never got off the ground, but I’ve never regretted taking that stand, especially since I’ve noticed that “self governing” media councils are a popular idea among Caribbean governments hoping to muzzle annoyingly independent news outlets by letting self-censorship take over from government censorship. If a government can function without the oversight of an active free press without worries about embarrassing stories coming to light it doesn’t really matter whether that’s because of government censorship or a press that’s unwilling (or afraid) to report on them; the public is still poorly served.

Desmond was indeed a bundle of contradictions. He loved to trumpet his devotion to reporting all the news of Cayman “without fear or favor”. Yet, his own business dealings often left him open to accusations that he was in fact beholden to one set of power brokers or another. He published columns from diverse sources, such as Gordon Barlow, whose curmudgeonly diatribes on Cayman’s social divisions surely mean an increase in antacids and blood pressure medicines in certain quarters whenever they appear. However, Desmond also had room for a local preacher, local businessmen and a proud native son. Giving voice to those who might in some way feel voiceless were it not for his outlet was something he did without fear or favor.

Of course, it was irony of the highest order that Desmond wanted to portray himself as the voice of the “little man” while running his own business in a manner that caused constant turnover and left more than one employee embittered and vowing some sort of revenge.

Any remembrance of Desmond would not be complete without mentioning that while he loved to point to shady dealings around Cayman he had a few skeletons of his own hanging in the closet.

In his own way, Desmond was athrowback to an earlier time: he might have found kinship with Benjamin Franklin, who before becoming one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, set type, drew cartoons and wrote witty and learned essays for his own newspapers and magazines.
Others who think less kindly of him, might compare him to William Randolph Hearst, Junior, who once famously told a photographer (pre Spanish American War), “You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war.”

For myself, I think of Desmond as more in league with the original Hollywood movie makers such as Harry Cohn, Mack Sennett and Louie B. Mayer, who bent the rules and broke the molds. Desmond never made it to that level of wealth and influence, but in my opinion he was a
kindred spirit. Certainly his willingness to embrace the Internet and attempts to tap it’s potential was as grandiose and visionary as anything theHollywood bosses ever dreamed up.

I remember fondly a night at Durty Reid’s when we shared a table and maybe one too many beers and he spelled out his vision of a Caribbean version of “USA Today” that would help unify the region. I don’t remember the details, but, I do remember that it was breathtakingly compelling. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I certainly hope it does.

It’s ironic that Desmond’s passing comes at a time when the party in power is renewing calls for media “self-regulation” and seeking to to overturn the ability of political opponents, reporters or the merely curious to file anonymous freedom of information requests. At a time when independent voices are more needed than ever, the loudest and most independent voice in Caymanian media is gone.

However imperfect he may have been, Desmond Seales was certainly one of a kind. In the words of Shakespeare, “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again”

Mike Hennessy is the former news director of Rooster 101

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