Archive for August 27th, 2010

Truth and reconciliation

| 27/08/2010 | 13 Comments

As the RCIPS comes towards the end of its community road show a number of persistent issues have been raised by the Caymanian public at the meetings. One of them is the lack of trust the people have in the RCIPS as a result of a catalogue of different complaints that have never been resolved.

Over the years in my role as a reporter in the Cayman Islands I have been to many different community police meetings and have heard numerous stories, some shocking, some upsetting and some plain stupid, about the experiences people have had with the RCIPS. The common dominator is always that they were never addressed.

During his ‘meet the people experience’ Baines cannot have failed to see that a disproportionate amount of often law abiding people have a significant number of complaints for such a small community.

And because of the failure of anyone in the RCIPS to ever apologise, admit the mistake or offer any kind of explanation or resolution, the bad experiences have built up into an almost community-wide distrust of the entire service.

You don’t have to go far in Cayman before you find someone with a genuine gripe about their experience with the police and who has never had any closure on the issue. From the widespread belief that the police have exposed them when they have given information about a crime to poor customer service at the police station, serious allegations regarding incompetency, downright dishonesty and just plain discourtesy are not uncommon.

Police are, of course, only human so there will always be dishonest, discourteous and even stupid officers as there are people with those traits in the wider community – it’s life – but what has happened in Cayman is that there have been times when, although we have had all three among the rank and file and even management of the police service, no one has ever wanted to admit it.

Over the years the officers responsible for some of the complaints have disappeared. They have been removed quietly from their jobs, in some cases shipped off island, some have even gone to jail, but what has happened in many instances is that the complaints relating to these officers have never been acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Accusations as serious as sexual harassment, false arrests, perjury, revealing to a suspect the identity of who called the police on them, failing to take statements from key witness, sweeping investigations under the carpet, messing up investigations, losing evidence, losing statements – the list goes on, but what does not go on is the apologies.

Baines has talked a lot recently about his goal to stabilise and professionalise the RCIPS and ensure these things do not happen in the future but what he has not yet said is how he is going to address what has happened in the past.

While the marl road suggests officers have been sacked or have resigned as a result of these possible complaints, no closure has been offered to those who may have suffered at the hands of these incompetent, discourteous or downright dishonest officers that are now long gone.

In order to bring some resolution perhaps the RCIPS should establish its own truth and reconciliation commission. By letting those who have had bad experiences with the police tell their story publicly and have the police say what has happened to the officers in question, it may bring closure and help to rebuild trust. If they are no longer serving then the victims can be told the full story of the officer’s removal and perhaps have some explanation as to why their complaint was never addressed. If they are still serving then they can answer the complaints themselves.

Many of the stories and complaints that I have heard over the years require nothing more than a simple apology and an admission that the officer or service was wrong. Once the victims feel that their complaint has been properly aired and taken seriously, they can begin to rebuild the trust. And that trust is key to the RCIPS going forward as the loss of trust remains a major stumbling block for the RCIPS when it comes to solving crime.

Of course, not all the complaints are genuine and someone complaining that an officer was rude to them when they gave them a speeding ticket is hardly grounds for real truth and reconciliation. However,the hard truth is that there are far too many genuine complaints that have never been addressed that need to be.

So many stories and complaints have been covered up and swept under the carpet and, as a result, they continue to fester in the wider community, aggravating the existing gap between police and public at a time when crime is increasingly frequent and increasingly violent.

The tendency inherent in most law enforcement agencies to close ranks and cover up their collective shortcomings has made things worse in Cayman as it is such a small community and the bad news stories travel quickly.

While openness and transparency and admitting you are wrong are not always easy for authorities, if Baines is serious about professionalising and stabilising the RCIPS, it’s time for the service to swallow its proverbial pride and say it is sorry. It may well be worth it in the end.

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Government defends radio ban on PPM hosts

| 27/08/2010 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Following reports by both Lucille Seymour and Denise Miller that they had been told their services were no longer required on Radio Cayman as government felt too many people connected to the opposition were acting as temporary hosts, the government has now defended that position. In a statement released by the premier’s press secretary government said that Radio Cayman is a government owned radio station reporting to an elected member of Cabinet and as a result the hosts must be politically neutral. The government also pointed the finger at the previous administration saying it had established the policy that the host of TalkToday, the show in question, should be a civil servant. (Photo- The current regular host of the show Sterling Dwayne Ebanks by Dennie Warren Jr)

Despite the fact that the show has a political slant as it invites the phone in audience to call in and question topical issues many of which are often directly related to government policy the statement said government believes the hosts must maintain a politically neutral position.
 “It is important that presenters andtalk show hosts on Radio Cayman be politically neutral, not only in the content they present on the station’s programmes, but also in their public political stance,” the statement from the government said. “The political neutrality of the host of Talk Today is important enough that the former administration established a policy that the host of the show must be a civil
The statement went on to say that the neutrality of this post was compromised when several people who are known to have partisan political positions were brought in or were scheduled as guest hosts of Talk Today while the regular host was on vacation. How it was compromised was not made clear but government said the political neutrality applied to temporary as well as permanent hosts it said.
Of the sixteen shows that were scheduled to have guest hosts, government claimed that twelve of those shows had people “known for their partisan political views” scheduled as guest hosts. Government did not list the names or identify which party their partisan positions supported. CNS has asked the office of the press secretary to supply the list of guest hosts and is awaiting a response.
“In order to ensure that the political neutrality of Talk Today was maintained the government
issued directions to Radio Cayman management to correct the situation. The directions were
not aimed at any person in particular but rather at Radio Cayman’s decision to have the
overwhelming majority of the guest host spots filled by people who take a public political
position,” the official government statement revealed. “The UDP government has no objection to opposition members or their supporters appearing as guests on Talk Today and in fact welcomes everyone to call, email or write in to the programme.”
Without even a hint of irony the government statement concluded that “government encourages and supports public debate from all political views” and it claimed that Radio Cayman’s TalkToday programme offered a good forum for discussion.

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Ireland aims to scoop €40m from offshore accounts

| 27/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(Herald): The Irish government hopes to collect up to €40m in unpaid tax after special investigations into offshore accounts. Tax officials are on the trail of 1,133 cases in the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Switzerland and Liechtenstein where trusts and offshore structures may have been used to conceal funds.A total of €20m has already been collected in voluntary disclosures and settlements from 100 cases after Ireland’s Revenue gave taxpayers who had undeclared funds an opportunity to make a voluntary disclosure by September 2009. Preliminary investigations have revealed that most offshore trusts were facilitated by third parties such as fund managers, investment advisers and tax consultants.


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Government bans junk food from schools

| 27/08/2010 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Students attending government schools will no longer be allowed to eat fast food on campus. Kids will also be faced with healthier choices on the schools’ own lunch menus as part of government’s goal to improve the health of the country’s young people. The Ministry of Education said it is advancing the fight against childhood obesity and has implemented the Cayman Islands Public Schools: Standards for Food Provision (CISFP) as part of the requirement for canteen contracts, which are publicly tendered. The CISFP document stipulates the healthier meal options that must be offered during lunch and snack breaks in government school canteens and bans junk food deliveries and consumption while children are on campus.

The document was developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Children’s Health Taskforce and comes in the wake of alarming statistics regarding the weight and health of the country’s kids.
“Poor childhood nutrition can have lasting effects, impairing cognitive development and school performance,” Rolston Anglin minister for education said. “This is our opportunity to make a measurable difference in student health and well-being. Research consistently shows that children who eat healthier meals perform better academically and are absent from classes less often.”
The Health Services Authority’s 08/09 Annual School Health Screening reported that 37 percent of students aged 11 to 14 are either overweight or obese. Results from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global School-based Student Health Survey reported that in Cayman, 58 percent of boys and 64 percent of girls aged 13 to 15 spend more than three hours daily watching television, playing computer games or otherwise sitting and socialising outside of school hours. Of the 34 countries surveyed, Cayman’s youth were revealed as being the most inactive.
“We are a very small country compared to most of those included in the WHO report,” said Anglin. “So it’s quite alarming that our youngsters should top the lowest activity list.”
The CISFP document for school food contracts lists 11 standards as guidelines for the different types of food groups and details items that should and shouldn’t be served in school. It also outlines the frequency with which certain foods should be offered.         Serving- and good practice suggestions are also outlined. Examples include the use of lean meats; preparing baked rather than fried items, and providing drink options that do not contain preservatives, flavouring or colouring.
Deep-fried foods and fatty meat products are restricted and may only be served once every fortnight. Certain items such as snacks having a high salt and fat content are also no longer allowed as part of the school lunch- or break service.
Government officials said that most of the new snack and drink options offered comply with the Competitive Food Guidelines developed by the US-based Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It aims to reduce childhood obesity by 2015 and empower kids to make healthy lifestylechoices. The alliance was founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.  
“We are of course aware that initially, students may be reluctant to try new or strange dishes,” Anglin noted “So we’re taking steps to ensure that the meals are both attractive and tasty. Children will also be able to request small ‘taster’ portions for dishes which may be unfamiliar.”
For more information on the Cayman Islands Public Schools: Standards for Food Provision visit the Ministry’s website: .

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Chuckie’s exit no surprise

| 27/08/2010 | 69 Comments

(CNS): Members of the opposition party have said they are not surprised by the departure of former tourism minister, Charles Clifford, from the People’s Progressive Movement. Saying he did not want to get into a name calling match with his former Cabinet colleague over the resignation, Alden McLaughlin told CNS that it was not unexpected and had been coming for a long time. In the wake of Clifford’s media announcement criticising the PPM, the opposition leader, Kurt Tibbetts, issued an official statement yesterday on behalf of the whole party. He said that these things were not unusual in politics as there are casualties in the wake of an election, and made no comment about Clifford’s direct criticisms of the party leadership.

"While we regret Charles Clifford’s resignation as a member of the PPM and the PPM Executive, it really comes as little surprise to the Executive,” Tibbetts stated.
“Clifford has had little interest or involvement in PPM matters since the last elections, with the notable exception of his promotion of the proposed march against the government’s proposal to sell the new Government Administration Building. He has not attended any meetings of the PPM Executive since the Executive’s decision not to proceed with the march following the government’s announcement that it had decided not to sell the building.”
Tibbetts pointed out that after an election the losing political party will often face internal disagreements. “In the aftermath of a major election loss by a party it is not uncommon for there to be casualties as the party goes through a period of self analysis and rebuilding and there are differing views about the leadership and direction that should be taken,” he said as he thanked Clifford for his years of service and wished him well for the future.
Although Clifford has not yet made any announcement regarding his political future, it is clear he intends to remain in the political arena.
In a statement about his resignation on Wednesday night, Clifford said both political parties were dysfunctional and criticised the leadership. He also said the PPM was not properly fulfilling its roll as an opposition. “I would have expected the PPM opposition to be much more aggressive and resolute in their objections to the flawed policies of the incumbent government.”
He told CNS that the PPM should be spearheading more active opposition to government and expressing the community’s disappointment with the current administration.

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Exam results ready for pick up Monday

| 27/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Education Services (DES) has begun receiving results for the external examinations taken last year, and say that all external examination results can be collected on Monday 30 and Tuesday 31 August, from 9:00 am each day, at the Clifton Hunter (formerly George Hicks) school hall. Results will not be available at the John Gray High School, DES said in a release. While no mention was made of Brac students, CNS understands that students on that island can collect their results from the Cayman Brac High School.

The DES is in the process of collating and analysing results from the following boards: Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) from the Assessment and Qualification Alliance (AQA) and Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC); and Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) from Edexcel.

Results from each of these boards are released at different times during the month of August. Upon receipt the DES collates them to develop a complete record for students who have taken exams from multiple boards.

Year 11 students, who will be entering the new Year 12 programme this September, must collect their results, then meet with school counsellors and administrative staff to determine their Year 12 options. Placement in either the Foundation Studies, VoCat or Advanced Placement programme is dependent on examination results.

The educationministry has also announced that government schools have 45 new teachers this school year, seven of whom are Caymanian. The newly- qualified Caymanian teachers are Arek Nicholson, Brittiney Ebanks and Eldon Parchmon, who will respectively teach music, math and social studies at John Gray High School, Sharice McLean, who will teach math at Clifton Hunter High and Carla Ebanks, who will join the East End Primary School team. On the Brac, Kasandra Scott is slated to teach music at Cayman Brac High and Ricardo McLean will teach at the Creek and Spot Bay Infant School. (Below: the new teachers plus, seated from left, Education Ministry Human Resources Manager Peter Beckford; Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues; Minister Anglin; Chief Education Officer Shirley Whaler; and Acting Learning Community Leader Clive Baker)


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Watchdog goes behind scenes of Grand Island funds

| 27/08/2010 | 31 Comments

(CNS): The Miami based unofficial watchdog of the region’s offshore financial service centres has reported that Cayman Islands-based businessman Naul Bodden (left) has agreed to pay US$3.3 million to settle his liabilities to a fund group he controlled whose investors were defrauded out of US$19 million. In the wake of Robert Girvan’s guilty pleas to 18 counts of theft and 3 of money laundering earlier this month in connection with the group of funds, Offshore Alert is reporting in this month’s newsletter that under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Joint Official Liquidators, Bodden will pay back fees the JOL say were not properly earned. In an in depth report in the fraud and the funds’ collapse, the newsletter goes behind the scenes of the complex case and raises an number of unanswered questions. 

The funds involved are Grand Island Commodity Trading Fund, Grand Island Commodity Trading Fund II, Grand Island Income Fund and Grand Island Master Fund. Bodden will repay all management and performance fees that were paid to the Funds’ investment manager, Caribbean Commodities Limited, which he majority-owned, in three instalments over the next year.
Offshore Alert reveals that Bodden has already written a check for US$332,000 on the day of the settlement and has agreed to pay a second instalment of US$1,328,000 on or before September 30 and a final instalment of US$1,660,000 on or before March 31, 2011.
The newsletter reports that in return for his commitments, the liquidators have released Bodden, who was a director of all of the Funds, CCL and RTCG "from any and all liability" and indemnified Bodden "in respect to reasonable legal fees of defending any proceedings brought against him by various parties up to a maximum of US$100,000". They also agreed to recommend to the Grand Court that Bodden be "one of the members of the combined liquidation committee of the Funds", notwithstanding their opinion that his Fund Group was operated illegally from inception.
Girvan’s case, which is directly related to the collapse of the funds, was adjourned this week because of the extensive exhibits recently handed to the defence. He is expected to appear in court next Friday to set a date for a confiscation hearing, when the prosecution will be attempting to recoup some of the missing cash.
In the full story, David Marchant, the editor of OffshoreAlert, reveals the details behind the collapse of the funds and the players involved and notes that Girvan, an “expatriate of no particular standing in the local community”, is the only person charged in connection with the losses.
He says the only complaint for damages which OffshoreAlert could find was filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada by the Funds, represented by the liquidators, RCTG Investments and Caribbean Commodities, which he details in the report.
Marchant writes that, twenty-two months in, the liquidators are still missing documentation regarding the Funds. He reveals that the liquidators believe the Funds were operated illegally from inception, which means targets for recovery may include investors who took out more than they invested, the identities of which, Marchant said, could be gleaned from the liquidators’ first report to the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands in July 2009. 
Attached to that report is also an affidavit by Naul Bodden in which he seeks to explain the circumstances that led to his discovery of the fraud, which was perpetrated by Girvan in the office he shared with Naul and David Bodden, who are NCB’s directors.
Marchant raises a number of questions about the revelations in the document, including the fact that Bodden does not disclose that, at the time of the engagement of Kroll to investigate the possible fraud by Girvan, he directly owned 15% of Kroll (Cayman) Ltd.
The OffshoreAlert report asks a number of questions and points to various conflicts of interest regarding events surrounding the collapse of the fund and the complexities of the case. Marchant also reports that once again his questions to Cayman Islands based financial firms have gone unanswered.

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Danielle becomes season’s first major hurricane

| 27/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Hurricane Danielle has reached category four status and weather forecasters at the hurricane centre in Miami are warning of dangerous surf around Bermuda. Dnielle now has sustained winds over 135 mph and is travelling north-west at 12 mph. On the current track Danielle is still expected to pass well to the east of Bermuda Saturday night but large waves and swells are expected to impact the island and the East coast of the US tomorrow. The NHC warned the swells are likely to cause dangerous rip currents through the weekend. 

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds up to 205 miles.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Earl is around 1430 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands still travelling at 17mph. Maximum sustained winds are 45 mph with higher gusts but Earl is expected to gradually strengthen over the next 48 hours and is forecast to become a hurricane by Saturday night. Currently, tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles from the centre.

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WA lease may have strings

| 27/08/2010 | 53 Comments

(CNS): Acting Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly has said there is “a distinct possibility” that when government leases the Water Authority, the winning bid will include the development of a water plant on Little Cayman plus a new plant on Cayman Brac’s Bluff, and possibly the extension of piped water on the Brac. Explaining why leasing the authority was necessary, she referred to civil service pay day the day before. “You do not know what it took to get those funds in the bank yesterday,” she said, before taking a dig at the media and headlines suggesting that the Cayman Islands were broke, claiming certain journalists were “going to destroy the country if they keep going in the direction that they are”.

Speaking at the public meeting Thursday morning (26 August), O’Connor Connolly, despite the apparent difficulty paying government workers, described the new $9 million hurricane shelter on Cayman Brac as “an exciting, innovative and necessary project”.

The acting premier, who is also minister with responsibility for District Administration, described the meeting as the first “ministerial clinic”, which she hopes to hold monthly. Answering the first question from a member of the public, which was about the shelter, she said she was “excited to share the truth”. The shelter will be built on 18 acres of land already owned by the government plus an additional three acres purchased from Garston Grant, she said.

Claiming the cost of the completed project will be between $7.5 and $9 million, O’Connor Connolly said the shelter, which will be next to the playing field on the Bluff, will be built in phases as funds are available. The four pods, or wings, which are for the private bedrooms with semi-private bathrooms, allow for a phased construction, the acting premier explained. If funds are available next financial year they will build one pod and if there are more funds, they will build more pods, she said.

The facility will include a medical wing, a laundry, a generator, as well as a proper command centre. There will also be a number of tables in a “cafeteria-style environment” she said, and noted how after Hurricane Ivan people had to stay in the shelters for a protracted time because their homes had been destroyed. “Any community is only as good as it takes care of the most vulnerable,” she added, referring to the elderly, the disabled and children.

The first phase – the main hall – will also be used for indoor sports, she said, suggesting that this was a better investment for young people than paying $60,000 for them to be in prison. The private bedrooms “will provide for the potentiality for use as a hotel training school” and a “residential abode for sports tourism”. The “innovative piece of architecture” will also function as a convention centre, O’Connor Connolly said and claimed, “I have already toughened my skin to receive opposition from within and without.”

Local businessman Elvis McKeever pointed out that Cayman Brac already has 1,800 hurricane shelter spaces as well as houses on the Bluff and there were other things that Cayman Brac needed more, including piped water and dealing with the dump. He also questioned why government was selling off the Water Authority, a money-making entity.

Noting that the authority was not being sold, O’Connor Connolly said it was being used as collateral and would be divested for a period of 25 years. However, government would still have the power to ensure that that the water quality was safe and she said the package would include the current staff, 90% of which was Caymanian.

The Brac water plant was an outstanding matter, but “finally, I get responsibility for water!” she said.

The acting premier explained that the previous minister with responsibility for the Water Authority, Arden McLean, had been persuaded that a water plant in an elevated area of Cayman Brac was necessary,since the current plant is in a depressed area with the risk of the infiltration of saline water to the potable water if it floods in a severe storm. Crown land had been identified and provided on a peppercorn lease for the Water Authority to build a proper bulk water facility on the Bluff (though the project stalled under the previous administration).

After the meeting, CNS asked the minister whether government plans to provide potable water on Little Cayman – an issue that had emerged in public meetings on that island – and a new plant on the Brac, as well as the issue of piped water on the Brac, would be included in the conditions of the lease for the Water Authority. This was “a distinct possibility”, O’Connor Connolly said but “nothing was certain”.

If there was a tie-break in proposals for the lease, she said, they would have to look at the business plans that included these provisions. She said it would depend on what bids came in.

During the meeting O’Connor Connolly bemoaned a 10 cents/ gallon increase in gas on the island, even though no new fuel had arrived, and said she would get the fuel inspector to investigate what was happening.

Amendments to the planning law came under attack by local resident Raymond Scott, who said his business was severely impacted by an “outrageous” increase in the cost of planning permission to remove fill from site to site, which had gone from $100 to $5,000. No one would pay this amount so government would not benefit, he said. Pointing out that this was half the cost of Grand Cayman fees, O’Connor Connolly said this was a matter she had already written to the premier about.

Several people mentioned the bad smell from Salt Water Pond next to the Alexander Hotel. A proposal to develop the pond into a marina had been given Cabinet approval last year, subject to conditions by the departments of Environment and Agriculture, the acting premier said, but the project had not progressed and Cabinet was considering putting time restrictions on the approval.

Scott also said he appreciated the smooth roads, a result of the repaving currently taking place, but wondered if the roads could be widened to 30 feet, rather than 24 feet to accommodate large vehicles. O’Connor Connolly said the shoulders were going to be left in the hope that the Water Authority could pipe water through the island, and also to enhance the shoulders for pedestrians and bicycles.

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Ricky Marwick Rankin deported to Cayman Islands

| 27/08/2010 | 28 Comments

(Miami Herald): US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported Ricky Marwick Rankin, wanted on probation violation charges in the Cayman Islands.Rankin, 40, was wanted by law enforcement authorities in the Cayman Islands for criminal convictions ranging from attempted murder, burglary, assaulting police, consuming cocaine, assault causing actual bodily harm, damage to property, possession of cocaine, robbery, and possession of unlicensed firearm, according to ICE.On March 29, ICE special agents in Fort Lauderdale learned that Rankin was residing in South Florida.

ICE special agents arrested Rankin in June. On Wednesday, he was removed from Miami International Airport and turned over to the Cayman Islands Police Service at Owens Roberts International Airport in Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

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