Archive for September 12th, 2010

Jobs to be saved for locals

| 12/09/2010 | 169 Comments

(CNS): The labour minster said government is backing a private member’s motion to look at making some jobs the preserve of Caymanians only. The day after the premier had publicly berated protectionist attitudes in the country that were driving people and businesses away, his Cabinet colleague stated in the Legislative Assembly last week that government was setting up a committee that would look at which types of professions and specific jobs could be reserved for Caymanians only. Rolston Anglin acknowledged that there would be detractors but, he said, given the levels of Caymanian unemployment and the changing economic fortunes, it was time to look at the issue.

The motion was brought by government backbencher and George Town MLA, Ellio Solomon, who said he knew the importance of diversity and harmonious relationships between foreign workers and locals, but it should not just be politicians’ or the deputy governor’s jobs that were reserved for Caymanians. Government, he said, had a responsibility to find other positions to reserve for the country’s people. He pointed to positions such as the chief immigration officer or the head of the Water Authority as possible posts but added that he wasn’t going to pre-empt what the committee might come up with. He suggested, however, that he expected the jobs would be in the public and private sectors.
He said he believed there were certain jobs that the committee would recommend had to be designated for Caymanians. He told his legislative colleagues that he was only proposing a committee and hoped people would not twist the spirit of the motion.
Dwayne Seymour, government backbench MLA for Bodden Town who seconded the motion, said there were many examples in other countries where the indigenous people were given advantages. He said it should also be the case for Caymanians, reflecting that they were special. He said there were “plots to employ friends and family in jobs Caymanians could do” but he believed if a Caymanian could do a certain job no one else should have it.
Anglin, who announced that government was supporting the motion and would be moving toward establishing the committee, pointed out that, while the subject was likely to cause people to take sides, it needed to be examined. At the risk of accusations of protectionism, Anglin said, the goal was to find out what practical steps would be taken to assist local people. He said employers had a tendency to always want to employ fully trained individuals who were ready to do the work right away rather than face their obligation to train people.
In the past, he said, Caymanians had been able to succeed because of this type of policy and he gave the example of the laws that prohibited work permits for trainee accountants, ensuring Caymanians were trained and then ultimately able to qualify and follow careers in the accountancy profession. He asked members to imagine what might have happened if past legislators had not made those provisions. He said there had been no decisions on which posts would be reserved for Caymanians but this was merely a first step in examining where positions could be reserved to once again help today’s young Caymanians into work.
While Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts said he and his colleagues supported the spirit of the motion, he wanted to hear more from the government about the proposals and whether it would apply to spouses of Caymanians and how it would work in practice.
Alden McLaughlin also offered some support but warned that the balance between the needs of businesses, both locally as well as foreign owned, to have the most talented staff with the prospects of the wider local population was challenging. 
“Not everyone will agree with me but there can be no future for this country that does not include those that are of this country otherwise, what is the point?” McLaughlin asked, agreeing with the spirit of the motion but warned it was not an easy problem to solve otherwise it would have been fixed a log time ago.
He pointed out that the premier always says the country is going to run away business with such protectionist policies but it was an important issue that had to be examined.
The former employment minster pointed out that the main risk to making specific jobs the preserve of Caymanians had to do with numbers. He said it would be difficult to know if there would always be sufficient numbers of Caymanians willing and able to fill any specific jobs designated Caymanian only.
What was needed, he suggested, was to get the immigration system to work better so that each case was properly followed up but he acknowledged that immigration had not really been effective for more than forty years.
The Legislative Assembly was adjourned part way through the debate and is expected to continue next week. Premier McKeeva Bush, who will be giving an address to the country on Tuesday evening about the state of the economy, has not yet contributed to the debate.

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Plans to make organ transplants legal underway

| 12/09/2010 | 13 Comments

(CNS): The government has backed a private member’s motion to begin the process of passing legislation that would allow the removal, storage and use of human organs and tissues in the Cayman Islands. The motion was brought by Ellio Solomon, backbench MLA for George Town, who said that at present the law does not easily facilitate donation either by living or dead donors and the subsequent transplant to patients, even though Cayman has many people in need. Despite warnings from the North Side member that Cayman does not yet have the necessary facilities or expertise to carry out transplants, the Minister for Health said government planned to move towards establishing a law for organ donation.

While local people in need of transplants are on waiting lists in other jurisdictions, there is no way for them to receive transplants from people here or to have the surgery in the Cayman Islands at present. Government will now need to amend a number of laws as well as introduced new legislation and regulation to facilitate the medical procedures in future.
The mover of the motion spoke about the pressing need for legislative change to address the existing medical needs of many people in Cayman and to allow the medical procedures and recovery process to take place here, but Health Minister Mark Scotland revealed another motivating factor for accepting the motion.
“It will also fulfil an undertaking that was given by the government upon signing the agreement for the proposed Cayman Narayana Health University project,” he said. “As members will recall this proposed long term project, which is poised to become the catalyst for the creation of medical tourism as a third pillar of the economy, will provide tertiary care to persons from overseas for much reduced costs and in a timely manner. It is envisioned that a component of the care will be of a transplant nature.”
He said creating this legislation would see the project take another step forward. Scotland said that a committee was being established to examine the need for legislative changes as well as the other needs to facilitate organ transplant. Scotland said that government was examining the possibility of having those who wished to be organ donors indicate their desire on drivers licences, as they do in the US.
The motion was supported by all members in the chamber at the time, but Ezzard Miller warned that there were still problems associated with tissue transplant and its regulation around the world and Cayman had to be careful about facilitating tissue harvesting without proper regulation as the practice was moving from more thoroughly legislated states to those with less regulation.
He also pointed out that Cayman’s medical facilities as well as medical expertise had a long way to go before it was capable of harvesting, storing and transplanting human organs. He agreed that government should introduce a living will and allow local people to donate but he said the procedures should be conducted in other jurisdictions until local medical facilities were equipped to deal with the procedures.  
Miller said there may be doctors here who think they can undertake the procedure and they may well be capable of doing so in some circumstances, but he said patients needed to know that back up medical facilities were here for when things went wrong.

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OCC: NPO has failed public

| 12/09/2010 | 58 Comments

(CNS): The Complaints Commissioner submitted her first own motion report to the Legislative Assembly on Friday highlighting the systematic failure of the National Pensions Office (NPO) to enforce the pensions law and bring justice to hundreds of people whose employers have literally stolen their contributions. Nicola Williams found that the NPO had failed to use its powers under the law effectively, as well as a lack of political will to address the problem, a break down of inter-agency communication and a host of other problems that has led to a complete loss of trust by the public in the NPO. Despite the worrying findings in the report presented to members by MLA Cline Glidden, he made no comment about them and there was no debate in the House.

The Legislative Assembly has never once debated a report produce by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner since the establishment of the office in 2005. Although this is Williams’ first Own Motion, her predecessor John Epp also published a widelist of reports highlighting various failures in government systems that were also ignored by the members of the LA.
However, the report is now a public document which can be obtained from the OCC at the Piccadilly Centre. It reveals how administrative failures have allowed employers to take contributions from employees but not pay that or their matched obligation into a pension over and over again and escape prosecution.
Williams says that the system has given delinquent employers too many chances pay back arrears which has never happened and simply seen the debt grow, and when a decision to prosecute had finally been made it has taken too long.
“Too many chances are given to non-compliant businesses to pay the pension arrears, which are routinely ignored,” the OCC wrote in her report. “In the meanwhile, the outstanding level of arrears increases. Once a decision has been made to prosecute a delinquent employer prosecutions through the court system are too slow and are not an effective enough deterrent to prevent non-compliance.” She pointed out it could take as much as five years for a case to be heard.
While the OCC said the legislation and the regulations regarding the pension law needed substantial revision, she also pointed to other remedies earlier in the process which have not been utilised.
“There is still clear evidence of the inability of related government departments (immigration and health) to share communication,” the report stated. It notes that there has been a lack of will to withhold work permits from delinquent employers or to force them to pay their pensions or cease trading.
The OCC further warned that many employees fear being victimized if they take action against an employer and there is little or no protection for whistleblowers.
Williams explained that the report was initiated as a result of numerous complaints received by the office, which she described as theft. In one case a complainant had reached retirement and found his pension empty because of the failure of his employer to pay the contributions he had collected from him as an employee as well as the employer’s share.
“This is far from an unusual story,” Williams stated. “This is a ticking time bomb for the people of Cayman.”
Despite complaints and evidence that numerous employers are not complying, many of them are still issued trade and business licenses as well as work permits, and some have even received government contracts. She also points out that the problem has spanned a ten-year period and both political parties have failed to tackle the problem.
Recommending a complete overhaul of the system and the law and noting that simply throwing money at the problem wouldn’t work, Williams said that employers were taking advantage of the weakness of the system. She acknowledged that resources had been a problem and that there had never been enough inspectors at the NPO from the start, but the commissioner said the problems with the system went far beyond a shortage of staff.
Williams also said that at the start of the investigation the NPO estimated 670 businesses were non-compliant but as the OCC investigation progressed, Williams said, it became apparent the figure was wide of the mark.
“At present the NPO does not know exactly how many complaints against delinquent employers they are charged with investigating,” the report revealed.
The OCC’s annual report for year ending June 2008 was also submitted to the Legislative Assembly and is now a public document. During the year 2007-08 the office dealt with almost 500 complaints and undertook three own motion investigations.

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Robbers strike at local store

| 12/09/2010 | 38 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman crime news, headline news(CNS): The manager of a small grocery store in George Town was knocked out by a gunman during an armed robbery late Saturday night (11 September), police said on Sunday morning. George Town detectives are now appealing for witnesses to the incident, which occurred at 22:15 outside the convenience store in the vicinity of Money Gram on Shedden Road. Two men, one armed with a gun, held up the operator of the store as he was leaving. They ordered him to hand over the money and he gave them the bag he was carrying, which contained an undisclosed sum of money, a Blackberry phone and keys. He was then struck on the head by the man with the gun and was unconscious for a short while.

The men escaped on foot in the Myles Road area.
The store’s operator, who received a minor laceration to his head, was treated at the hospital and released. The men, who were wearing dark clothes, gloves and masks, are described as about 6’ tall and stocky, Anyone who was in the area at the time and might have witnessed the men leaving the scene are asked to call the George Town CID at 949 4222 or Crime Stoppers at 800 TIPS (8477).

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Guns are not the answer

| 12/09/2010 | 52 Comments

While it may be understandable that the desire for private gun ownership is on the rise in the Cayman Islands, it remains an unreasonable dream. With robberies and assaults now routine occurrences on Grand Cayman, itis no wonder that increasing numbers of people are eager to lock and load. The reality, however, is that more guns in more hands is the last thing the Cayman Islands needs at this critical point in its history.

If you fear armed robbery or home invasion then bar up your windows, add three guard dogs to your family unit, or dig a moat. Do whatever you feel you need to do to feel safe—short of adding another gun to an already too-violent society. There are many ways to react to crime. Short-term, for example, one might invest in a home alarm system. Long-term, one might stop voting for shallow, self-interested leaders who fail to invest adequately in the country’s educational and social needs.

There is one gargantuan and insurmountable objection to legalizing private gun ownership in the Cayman Islands that even gun proponents should recognize. Open season on buying guns would mean a subpopulation of scary people would suddenly be capable of shooting the rest of us. No, I don’t mean the hardcore criminals. Apparently they already have guns. I’m referring to those people who are commonly known as “idiots”.

Remember those flying cars we were all supposed to have by now? That’s one future scenario we should be relieved never came to pass. Why? Because too many people are idiots and you wouldn’t want them hovering over your house after a night on the town. Anyone who has ever driven on Grand Cayman’s roads and witnessed people driving backwards, weaving in and out of traffic, passing five cars at a time around a curve, and so on, should be relieved that the dream of flying cars never materialized. They should also be dead set against private gun ownership for the same reason. Too many idiots.

Imagine a legally purchased semi-automatic handgun in the possession of the people you see speeding around with their lights off at night, no seatbelt on, and a shirtless crusty nosed toddler standing in the passenger seat. Do you honestly think it would be good for Cayman if they were allowed to buy guns and ammo? And what about our infamous minibus drivers? Are you really ready to arm them? They haven’t even figured out what “stop” and “yield” mean yet. How can anyone expect them to comprehend the fundamentals of gun safety?

Still not convinced? Try listening to the daily radio talk shows on Rooster 101 and Radio Cayman. For the duration of just one program on each station, imagine an AK 47 assault rifle being held by the sweaty trembling hands of the various mutants who call the station to rant. As they rage on about the price of gas or whatever, ask yourself if Cayman would be better off if these sorts of people were packing heat. I don’t know about you but I would never leave my house again. And don’t think the answer is to somehow restrict guns specifically from the sorts of crazies we often hear on the radio. That won’t work because half of those callers are our elected politicians and prominent business leaders!

Here’s a deal for the gun enthusiasts: You can have guns available for legal purchase in Cayman—just as soon as you figure out a way to keep them out of the handsof the several hundred irresponsible and downright scary drooling whack-jobs currently inhabiting our islands. Take care of that and then we’ll talk.

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