Archive for September 10th, 2010

Civil Service fears more cuts

| 10/09/2010 | 51 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association remains unconvinced that salaries and jobs within the public sector are not at risk. Although both the deputy governor and the premier have said there are no plans for more cuts at present, the CICSA Management Council says it is concerned that the agreement made between the government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office over borrowing will means further cuts in the near future. Over the last few weeks, CICSA said, numerous inquiries about the possibility of staff, pay and other cuts have been made to the council. In the Legislative Assembly yesterday, however, McKeeva Bush stated that government was not considering reducing salaries of public servants.

Answering a question posed by the opposition, the premier’s answer reflected comments made by Donovan Ebanks over the last few weeks that there were no plans that he was aware of to further reduce salaries and/or allowances.

Nevertheless, the CICSA Management Council said that further reviews of the public service along the lines of those carried out earlier this year were expected as per the agreement between the FCO and CIG for further borrowings.

“We have communicated that there are a number of issues regarding the staffing and management of the civil service which we hope will be addressed, regardless of the outcomes of these reviews, but especially before the possibility of any further civil service cuts are entertained,” CICSA said on Friday in a statement. “We look forward to the deputy governor providing a more substantial response in the immediate future to the concerns of the civil service regarding their employment status."

On 1 July a 3.2% cut in salaries, which was a rollback of a previous cost of living allowance, was implemented across the public service board, a cut that has caused hardship to many of those at the bottom of the government pay scale. With government’s revenue collection still down, speculation that the service could be subject to further cuts has been circulating for several weeks.


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CIWA National Championships at halfway point

| 10/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Roshad Goff is narrowly holding onto the top position in the Expert Class after the second of four rounds of races in the 2010 CIWA (Cayman Islands Watercraft Association) National Championships on Sunday 22 August. Seth Watler is just 5 points behind Goff’s 317 point lead and a definite challengerfor Cayman’s first ever National Champion in that class, with the top two riders way ahead of second place Richard Gonzales (155 points) and fourth place Jordan McLean (120 points).Nathan McLean has a strong lead in the Amateur Class with 322 points, while Chaz Clifford is out in front in the Novice Class with 353 points and in the Beginners Class Chad Smith holds the top spot with 310 points.

The next race of the CIWA National Championship Series is September 19th, 2010 at South Sound, and another is scheduled for October (Date to be determined). According to the association, each class does 3 mottos (races) with the number of laps varying in each race, accruing points as they go.(See results below)

CIWA is an affiliate member of IJSBA (International Jet Sports Boat Association) which authorizes CIWA to qualify riders for the world finals in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, held in October of each year. CIWA says it has support from the Cayman Islands Fire Service, the Police Marine Unit, Port Authority and the EMS.

The association says that safety is paramount in all of CIWA races and it currently has internal marshalling and safety team in training, who will be qualified by the end of the year. CIWA plans to get more youth involved in the sport of racing and to also be the local sanctioning and governing body for the entire Jet Ski racing in the Cayman Islands.

Next year CIWA hopes to have the races in different locations other than South Sound, including Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

For more information on the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association and its races please feel free to contact: email:
CIWA President: Vincent Ramgeet (P) 345-925-4810
CIWA 1st Vice President: George Smith (P) 345-925-9743
CIWA 2nd Vice President: Glen Ebanks (P) 345-925-2241


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Turtle farm goes back to roots

| 10/09/2010 | 38 Comments

(CNS): The management team at the Turtle Farm says it is dropping the name Boatswain’s Beach and returning to the original name of The Cayman Turtle Farm. Announcing a rebranding of the facility this morning, Managing Director Tim Adam said it was about returning to a simpler more relevant title for both locals and overseas visitors. He added that the rebrand was the start of the next phase of the facility’s development. With the cost cutting exercise over, the farm crew was focusing on attracting more visitors. Adam, who has been in post since January this year and already has a reputation for tackling the difficult issues, spearheaded the move for a return to the original name, which is likely to receive popular support. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

With a tightening budget and well aware of the size of the subsidy the facility receives, Adam said it was now time to boost the number of guests coming to the park and improve revenues. The first step towards that was the rebranding exercise. “We will change the name of the facility, dropping entirely the Boatswain Beach reference returning to an earlier, easier, and frankly simpler title of The Cayman Turtle Farm,” the MD said. There will be a short subtitle to indicate the parks other attractions of “Island wildlife encounter”, which describes the interactive nature of the facility.
Adam pointed out that among locals the name had never gone away and overseas guests were merely confused by the name, especially with the reference to ‘beach’ as that was clearly misleading. AS the world’s only turtle farm and a really unique facility, Adam said everyone from cruise line partners and others were all in agreement.
Ken Hydes, a former MD of the facility and now chairman of the board of directors, put his hand up and admitted he had been part of the team that had made the name change. “It is not often that one gets the opportunity to correct one’s mistakes, but now I have,” he said.
With a return to a name that more accurately describes the facility, Adam said that was the first step in a new marketing effort to sell the facility to stay-over tourists, which he said were traditionally under-represented. He said the name change was only the first step in a series of initiatives and programmes at The Cayman Turtle Farm that would enhancie the customer experience and raise our revenues.
Aware of costs, Adam told the press the rebrand and the marketing programme would be phased and would be sensibly managed, keeping costs to a minimum. “Our strategy includes improving local public opinion, specifically by emphasising the world class science, research and wildlife rescue at the Farm,” he said,adding that it would be seeking to segregate the research facilities as a trustworthy charitable non-profit endeavour, enabling easier access to funding from various organisations and international grants.
Adam admitted that despite the programme to enhance traditional cultural events at the facility and to introduce local entertainment, plus an all out push to bring in new visitors, it would be some time before the facility was self-sufficient. He said it was too early and very difficult to say what the optimum number of visitors would be to achieve that goal as it depended on a number of variables. However he said everyone at the farm was committed towards reducing the government subsidy.
Hydes noted that after a number of very tough decisions the farm had already reduced the subsidies and loans which it received from $12 million down to $9 million. But turning the deficit around would take some time. The management team pointed to the debt acquired as a result of the development of the new facility, which was still taking its toll and represented a significant part of the park’s operating costs.

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Health officials offer help with stress mangement

| 10/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Various community agencies are comingtogether to hold a number of workshops and activities this month to help families who are dealing with a loved one engaged in recovery and managing the stress associated with it. Part of Recovery Month which is focusing on stress management, the Department of Counselling Services Director Judith Seymour noted that stress can undermine the path to recovery for addicts as evidence shows it can lead to relapse. “It is critical to raise awareness of how stress can impact the quality of life and emotional health. We know that high stress levels can lead to or increase drug and alcohol use—which can in turn result in addictive behaviour.  And there is also evidence that stress can be a cause for relapse during recovery,” Seymour said.


Minister of Community Affairs, Mike Adam, urged members of the community to give support to those who are trying to get their life on a positive track.

“It is often said that the effects of addiction extend beyond those who are addicted, to impact family, community, and indeed the wider society,” the minster stated. We should therefore understand that it is within all our interests to sustain the efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle in our families and neighbourhoods.”


The Counselling Centre, The Family Resource Centre, Sister Islands Counselling Centre and Caribbean Haven Residential Centre are keen to lead the month’s events.

A workshop geared at guiding families on how to help a loved one engaged in recovery, will take place on Thursday, 16 September, and dealing with stress management is slated for Thursday, 23 September.  

Both workshops will be held at the Department of Counselling Service’s offices in the waterfront Flagship Building, from 6:00 to 7:30pm.

The Sister Islands Counselling Centre, on the Brac, will also provide a workshop on how to help a loved one engage in recovery, on 28 September. For further information on time and venue and to reserve a space, please call the Sister Islands office at 948-2374.

Other events in Grand Cayman include a church service at Savannah United Church at 10:00a.m. on Sunday, 19 September.

On Tuesday, 21 September, at the courthouse, the Drug Rehabilitation Court Programme (DRC) will hold a graduation ceremony for those clients who have successfully entered into recovery, completing their treatment experience and the DRC Programme.

Recovery Month will conclude with a private barbecue for Caribbean Haven Residential Centre clients and their family members on Sunday, 26 September.


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Police call off search for missing prison chef

| 10/09/2010 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS said this evening that it has called off the search for Brian Ricardo Rattray, who was reported missing yesterday. The man who was a victim of arson recently and a chef at Northward Prison, was last seen by his wife yesterday at around 9am. Police launched a search operation but now say enquiries have concluded that Rattray "is safe and well" and no longer considered to be a missing person. No other details were offered by the police but his family is now aware of his whereabouts. Rattray and his family lost everything when their home was completely destroyed by a fire that is under investigation and believed to have been set deliberately. (Photos courtesy of News27).

Police have not yet confirmed the suspicions but CNS understands that the investigation into the fire may be connected to Rattray’s work at the prison.
The blaze which destroyed the home in Midland Acres, Bodden Town, was set on Monday 30 August while the family was visiting a friend’s house. The 911 emergency centre received the call at around 9pm and dispatched fire and police officers from Bodden Town to the address at 95 Periwinkle Drive. Arriving at the scene, fire officers said the one bedroom concrete structure was engulfed in flames.

Although no one was hurt, the family was left homeless by the fire and lost all of their possessions. A local security firm recently coordinated a fundraising effort to help the couple and their two young children with food, shelter, clothes and toys.
Anyone with information or knows where Brian is can contact the George Town Police Station at 949-4222, Bodden Town Police Station at 947-2220, West Bay Police Station at 949-3999 or Crime Stoppers confidential number at 800-8477.

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Cayman named top specialist centre

| 10/09/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Despite the country’s continued economic woes there was some good news for the financial services industry this week. The Cayman Islands came first in the category of specialised financial centres in The Banker’s 2010 IFC ratings place. The leading finance magazine awarded Cayman the top specialised financial centre for the second year running in this year’s rankings released this month. The jurisdiction increased its margin over other jurisdictions such as Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey, Malta, Gibraltar, Monaco and Cyprus. The Banker’s ranking of international financial focuses on the level of international business and the value offered to institutions seeking to expand their overseas operations.

Anthony Travers, Chairman of Cayman Finance said it was another objective finding. “(It) reinforces the fact that Cayman is regarded by institutions, if not by stubborn popular press, as a successful and transparent tax neutral jurisdiction from which to base international operations,” he added.
“This result comes at a time when Cayman has just signed its twentieth tax information exchange agreement and statistics from the Islands’ regulating body CIMA show a continuingly robust performance by the financial services industry over the past year. Most importantly the financial crisis has been negotiated without the need to introduce corporate, income, capital gains, payroll or property taxes, the absence of which is likely to enhance Cayman’s attraction in the immediate future.”
Statistics from the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) note that Cayman still maintains US$1.795 trillion in deposits and interbank bookings and is the world’s largest domicile for hedge funds, healthcare insurance captives and catastrophe bond transactions.
The Cayman Islands is recognised as one of the top international financial centres in the world, with over 40 of the top 50 banks holding licences on the island.

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Ritz owes $6m to public purse

| 10/09/2010 | 108 Comments

(CNS): The developer of the Ritz Carlton has defaulted on his outstanding customs payments due to the Cayman Islands government, it was revealed in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning. Answering a question from the opposition about government’s collection of various deferred payments on customs duties re agreements made between property developers and the government, the premier admitted the payments had not been made by Stingray and Condo Co. McKeeva Bush said that as a result of the difficult economic circumstances the developer, who owesover $6million to government, had asked for the payment plan to be extended and had not made any payments since March last year.

“With the exception of one entity the government is collecting all deferred payments and customs duties as they become payable in accordance with the specific terms of agreement,” Bush said in response to the question asked by the George Town member, Alden McLaughlin. “The entity that has temporarily suspended payments on its agreement is required to make quarterly payments of $347,818. To date the total amount repaid by the entity is $3,825,996.”

The premier said however that more than $6milllion remained outstanding.

Asked to name the developer, he said it was the Ritz Carlton developer and added that he had submitted a request for an extension to the plan for him to pay back the customs duty he owes. He has also offered to pay interest on it, the premier stated, but a decision had not been made. The difficult economic conditions were cited as the problem and the developer has not requested any write-off of the amount, Bush said. The premier said he did not believe the extension posed any risk that government would not receive all the money owed.
A decision has not yet been made over the deferment, Bush added, as a rate of interest had not been worked out and it had not yet gone to Cabinet for discussion.
But the premier criticised the opposition, as he said they gave the waiver in the first place and had hidden it from the public and the current government did not find out until it took office. But he also said that giving incentives was important to help develop the country, so his government would likely grant the payment plan extension.
Nevertheless, Bush accused the opposition of being misleading and criticised them for offering waivers for schools and churches at the Ritz Carlton Dragon Bay development, which he said would never be built but they had done it to disguise the other concessions. He accused the opposition of being “a dirty bunch” but was forced to withdraw the comment by the speaker.
McLaughlin told CNS, however, that these defaults have nothing to do with the Dragon Bay none of these waivers have yet taken effect since theproject has barely started.
He said the deferred payments related to the original hotel and condo development, which expired during the previous administration and which McLaughlin said the PPM government had insisted the developer begin paying back. The former minister said that payments had been made regularly until they left office but since the election no more quarterly payments had been made.

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Port will reclaim 8 acres for upland destination

| 10/09/2010 | 63 Comments

(CNS): Tourism stakeholders heard on Wednesday that the project to create cruise berthing facilities in George Town will reclaim some eight acres from the ocean for the upland development. West Bay MLA Cline Glidden said that DECCO, the developer, will be recouping its investment in the project by a combination of usage fees from the cruise lines and from its own use of the upland area. Although government says it is restricting DECCO from flooding the upland with retail units, the developer will be free to create a other facilities within this new waterfront development. Glidden said that it may include a mega yacht marina, an amphitheatre a hotel and restaurants. 

Glidden said that the negotiations and the processes which government faced to make this project happen were fraught with bureaucracy. With many stages still to go through, he said the wheels were grinding slowly. However, Glidden, who is spearheading the project, said that DECCO (The Dart Group’s construction company) were still on board and that they were now considering what exactly they would be creating on the eight acres of reclaimed, residual land that would ensure they would make back their investment.
Glidden told the stakeholders at the special lunch held at the Marriot that following the first agreement (the MOU between Dart, the Port Authority and government) came the framework agreement which solidified the commitment to the development by all parties. The government backbencher said that the framework would be valid for four months and the aim was to reach this agreement by October of this year while still aiming for the project to be completed in October 2012.
He explained that the developer would be given a lease for the new upland waterfront destination related to the cruise port, which would be determined by the amount of investment in the project DECCO made less the money collected from the cruise usage fees from the cruise lines.
That shortfall would form the basis for the lease to enable Dart to have a reasonable time to recoup that investment which they would have to justify to government. The investment Dart intends to make is estimated to be more than $200 million.
How DECCO would do that is up to the developer, provided it dovetailed with government policy. “Government also wants to see local participation in this project so the developer has to agree to give Caymanians jobs and local businesses access to the work,” Glidden added. He noted that government was absolved of the risk of the project and Glidden also emphasised that retail units, which could compete with existing down town businesses, would not be an option.
He also stated that the additional land won’t interfere with the cargo operations area but that there would be some enhancement and improvements to that port during the development.
The overall goal, he said, was to create a world class waterfront destination with a number of attractions to enhance and compliment the down town George Town area, which would also be improved and transport would be moved away from the facility to underground parking garages. Glidden said there was no firm plan yet as the developer was still considering a number of options but that would be finalized after the framework agreement.  
“This has to evolve beyond the norm,” Glidden told the tourism stakeholders at the special lunch. “We are creating a new waterfront that rivals any other in the region and works for Caymanians as well as tourists.” (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr:  – speculative port plans)

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Ebanks takes stand and denies murder

| 10/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following the closure on Thursday morning of the crown’s case against Brandon Leslie-Ebanks, Osbourne Douglas and Patrick McField for the murder of Omar Samuels, the defence attorneys were given the opportunity to call witnesses. Attorneys for Douglas and McField opted not to do so, but Leslie-Ebanks took to the stand himself and also called two witnesses to vouch for his whereabouts on the night Samuels was killed. Leslie-Ebanks told the court he did not kill Samuels and repeated the same account of his activities that night as the one he had given to the police twice before. Despite being pressed by the solicitor general that he had shot Samuels, Ebanks said, “No ma’am I had no part in shooting anyone.”

The court heard that the only previous convictions the 24-year-old Leslie-Ebanks has had were one six week sentence for possession of ganja and a $150 fine for possession of a pocket knife. Leslie-Ebanks said he was a plumber by trade and has two young children — a daughter who is two and a half years old and a son who will have his second birthday tomorrow (10 September).
Asked questions by his attorney, Leslie-Ebanks said that on the night in question he visited his friend George Powell’s house, as was usual, played pool, dominoes and drank. At a few minutes before midnight he walked from Powell’s house in Central to Jah’t’s a few minutes walk away. On the way he admitted seeing Omar Samuels sitting in the porch area around Harlem with two men and a woman. Other than a passing hail, Leslie-Ebanks said they did not speak and he went on to the restaurant to buy food.
When he returned to Powell’s house with the roast conch purchased from Jah't’s, he followed the same route but did not see Samuels again. When he was close to returning to Powell’s, he passed Patrick McField in the Zodiac Bar and then later saw Douglas walk by Powell’s porch, where he was sitting eating food. He told the court he knew both McField and Douglas as they grew up together and had lived in the same area, but they were not tight. Although he said he had once been close with Douglas, they had an argument some years before over a girl and had not really hung out since. However, Douglas lived right by Powell so he often saw him.
After eating the conch at Powell’s, Leslie-Ebanks said his "baby-mother" had come to collect him and they had then driven on to Smith Cove, where they had argued for a while before she had taken him home. He said he learned about the shooting via his girlfriend, who received a call when they were at Smith Cove.
He denied having anything to do with the shooting and said he could not understand why the two witnesses would have identified him as knew neither of them. He said he knew who Martin Trench was but had never spoken with him or had any disagreement with the man.
During cross examination by Cheryl Richards, QC for the crown, despite her suggestions that he was there with a gun and had shot Samuels, he repeatedly denied having anything to do with the shooting.
Following Leslie-Ebanks' evidence, both George Powell and his girlfirend, were called to the stand by his attorney, and they corroborated Leslie-Ebanks' account of his whereabouts on the night Samuels was shot.  Richards accused them of making a false alibi with Leslie-Ebanks in order to help him but they both denied the accusation.
It was also revealed to the court that neither his girlfriend nor Powell ever spoke with Leslie-Ebanks following his arrest and before he gave his statement to the police, offering no time for the three to concoct a story.
Following the evidence given by the two alibi witnesses, the defence teams closed their cases and the trial will now move to hear closing arguments from all four legal defence teams. The solicitor general will begin her closing statement at 10:30am on Friday morning.

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