Archive for January 20th, 2011

Dart to get dump after all

| 20/01/2011 | 173 Comments

(CNS):Although the Central Tender’s Committee recently announced that the contract to tackle the country’s landfill (a.k.a. Mount Trashmore) had been awarded to a US firm, the premier made a surprise announcement at the Cayman Business Outlook on Thursday morning that the Dart Group would be taking on the existing landfill after all. Although the Dart bid had been rejected during the CTC process, the premier revealed to the conference audience thatthe developer of Camana Bay would be taking the dump, capping and remediating it, and then giving the government another piece of land, probably in the Bodden Town area, for a new landfill to be sited.

The premier gave no details of how the new arrangement will work, given that the US firm Wheelabrator won the contract based on a request for proposal that required them to manage, operate and deal with the existing landfill in George Town. The premier spoke about the creation of a new eco-park but did not say whether that would be managed by Dart or with Wheelabrator.

Dart has made no secret of its desire to own the land at the George Town landfill as a result of its close proximity to Camana Bay. The group did submit a tender in response to the request for proposal put out by government last year, but sources close to the technical committee that reviewed the ten requests said that Dart’s bid came in 7th and was considered unsuitable, not least because the proposal included moving the dump to the Midland Acres area on the edge of the Bodden Town district.

Speaking after the premier’s announcement,  Dart Managing Director Jim Lammers said that they did not know which land the group would swap with government for the property where the dump is currently located but the remediation and capping of Mount Trashmore could not begin until a new site was identified and set up to deal with the country’s on-going generation of waste. He said, however, that once the land was settled and the new waste-management system in place, Dart would begin work on tackling the remediation and capping at its expense.

Lammers said he did not know where that left the company which had been awarded the contract by the CTC just before Christmas as he said the method for dealing with garbage in future was up to government. He said that since the Dart was now absorbing the cost of dealing with the existing dump, the people of the Cayman islands would not have to pay as much in either tipping fees or government subsidies to cover the cost of dealing with the dump as those costs would now be borne by the Dart organisation.

If Wheelabrator decides it no longer wishes to continue, given the project changes, the technical committee will probably move to negotiations with the company which came in second to take the contract for the future waste management of the dump. CNS understands that WRR, which scored the second highest amount of points, is owned by the same people who were involved in MC Restoration, the controversial company which was given the post-Ivan clean up contract.

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Mac signs ‘nerd’ zone deal

| 20/01/2011 | 69 Comments

(CNS):The premier has signed an MOU to pave the way for the development of a unique science and technology economic zone that will create thousands of jobs and bring new investment. The specialist park will be developed by Hon Cayman Properties Ltd and provide facilities for IT, research and development, bio-technology, new media, further education, global commodities and other intelligence led business in a specially designated tax-free zone. McKeeva Bush signed the deal with the Hon family during the CBO conference at the Ritz-Carlton on Thursday, saying it would bring a whole new aspect of business to diversify Cayman’s economy.

He explained that government would be passing specific legislation that would facilitate the creation of the commercial area focusing entirely on future science, technology and intelligence led industries. Bush said the establishment of the economic zone, which will be the first and only in the Caribbean region, would be developed over 300 acres encompassing six different campuses focusing on specialist areas. He promised that thousands of well paid jobs would be created, and while the developer and the subsequent investors would have work permit needs, facilitated positions would be earmarked for Caymanians.

“We are going to be successful if we cooperate with our investors, work with them, show them kindness instead of digging pits for people to fall into,” said Bush as he warned people not to tear down the project, which he said would be very good for the country.

“When you tear down me or speak bad about government you are talking bad about yourselves,” he warned people as he asked the country to embrace this new proposed development.

Although the premier and the developers did not reveal the names of the leading global technology, research and pharmaceutical firms that they said would be coming to the zone, they said that there was significant interest from major companies.

The premier also promised that there would be some benefit extended to the Sister Islands as partof the technology zone, though he did not go into specific details.

The premier pointed out that the MOU was the first step in the negotiations and the issue would be discussed in Cabinet. 

Jason Blake, CEO of Hon Cayman Properties Ltd, said it was the most exciting initiative to happen in the Cayman Islands for many years. Hon is not new to the Cayman Islands as the developers were responsible for the HSBC centre on the West Bay Road. Blake gave an approximate timeline for the development of the campuses as around 18 months but said the first business licenses for these new technology companies would be awarded before the end of this year.

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Visitor assaulted on 7MB

| 20/01/2011 | 24 Comments

(CNS): While details are sparse, the RCIPS has said it is investigating a report of an assault on a visitor that occurred just before midnight last night (Wednesday 19 January) on Seven Mile Beach adjacent to Calico Jacks. Police say that a 21-year-old man from the US was conveyed to George Town Hospital where he is being treated for his injuries, which are not thought to be life threatening. Police are asking anyone who was in the area or at Calico Jacks at the time is asked to contact the CID at George Town.

CNS will update when more details are known.


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45% of US students don’t learn much in college

| 20/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(Huffington Post): A new study provides disturbing answers to questions about how much students actually learn in college – for many, not much – and has inflamed a debate about the value of an American higher education. The research of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years. One problem is that students just aren’t asked to do much, according to findings in a new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses." Half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

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Competitive sailing during the J22 Commodores Cup

| 20/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(CISC): The annual J22 Commodores Cup was held over the weekend of 8 and 9 January. Seven boats competed in the first major J22 sailing regatta of the year in what turned out to be one of the most competitive Commodores Cup regattas for many years. The regatta was hosted by the Cayman Islands Sailing Club’s (CISC) Commodore who had just returned from his Antarctic expedition to face considerably more hospitable conditions in the North Sound.Two courses, one a triangular course the other a windward / leeward course, were set in the North Sound by the well organized Race Committee, headed up by Peta Adams.

It was immediately apparent that the Christmas break had provided an opportunity for upgrades to various boats and that some of the crews had been finding time for some extra training. Of particular note was Sunshine, skippered by Peter Cunningham, which was sporting a brand new set of sails

The winds on Saturday were generally light with ten degree oscillation that meant the skippers had to keep in phase to stay with the fleet. The first race saw Tomeaka McTaggart (Just Leaving) display the form that would see her through the weekend as she sailed into 1st place. The rest of the fleet were close behind and all fighting for room at the marks. After a very close last upwind beat Jo Richards (Mayhem) showed some cool nerves to grasp second from Peter Cunningham (Sunshine).

The second race saw Raph Harvey, the CISC new Lead Sailing Instructor, on DMS show good form and pull away from the fleet with Tomeaka Mc Taggart working her way into second place ahead of Peter Cunningham (Sunshine). Jo Richards (Mayhem) was caught on port at the top windward mark of the first beat and was forced to do penalty turns pushing her to the back of the fleet, but she clawed her way back to 4th. The third race, and the last of the day for Saturday, saw Tomeaka McTaggart regain her form and take another first, just ahead of a hard charging Peter Cunningham who was followed closely by Jane Moon (Ciao) who was now getting used to her new crew.

The racing on Sunday started with stronger winds that had clocked to the East. During the fourth race of the regatta Steve Adams (Wreckless) started to show the form that had eluded him on Saturday as he finished a very close second to Tomeaka McTaggart, with Jane Moon a close third. Fourth place was hotly contested with Bruce Johnson (Yahoo) trying unsuccessfully to edge out Peter Cunningham at the pin end of the finish line. The fleet experienced gusty conditions in the fifth race which saw Tomeaka McTaggart consolidate her grip on the fleet with another 1st place with Jane Moon finding her form with another 2nd place and Steve Adams close behind in 3rd.

Technical difficulties befell Tomeaka McTaggart in the sixth race, the crew was unable to drop the spinnaker, putting her in last place, whilst Jane Moon took advantage grabbing 1st place and Raph Harvey (DMS) was back in the mix finishing 2nd just ahead of Peter Cunningham. For the final race of the regatta the winds dropped a litte. Tomeaka McTaggart made another good start whilst Jo Richards (Mayhem) got shut out and had to tack across the back of the fleet to the right side of the course. Obviously clear air and an early lift helped Jo out and she round the windward mark on Tomeaka’s stern and ahead of the rest of the fleet. Again Jo Richards displayed cool nerves as she managed to stay ahead of the pack to pull out a 2nd place to finish ahead of Jane Moon.

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‘Uncharted waters’ navigated at business conference

| 20/01/2011 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Movers and shakers from the Cayman Islands’ business community will be contemplating the tough times ahead today (Thursday 20 January) as they gather at the Ritz-Carlton for the annual Cayman Business Outlook. The conference will be opened by Anwer Sunderji, Chairman & CEO of Fidelity Group, the main sponsors, followed by a presentation from McKeeva Bush, the country’s premier. A range of speakers will be putting forward their view of the “uncharted waters” ahead for the business community throughout the day. The popular afternoon panel debate will start at 4:15pm, which promises to throw up a degree of controversy.

With the provocative title “Things Tough! So Don’t Cut My Pay, Tax Me Less & Give Me More Free Services … And Do Something About Crime … Education … and Jobs. And What About Those Expats?”, the panel discussion will bring together a group of well known local faces to discuss the current “angst in the community”.

The panel is made up of Theo Bullmore, Tom McCallum, Roy Bodden, Burns Connolly, Sherri Bodden-Cowan and Canover Watson (as the list currently stands) – and will be hosted by Austin Harris of Rooster 101. Panelists will receive questions that have been previously compiled by the organisers and the public is invited to send in their questions.

“There is a good deal of angst in Cayman right now driven by populist anger and frustration, but said anonymously,” said Sunderji, “We believe we need a more considered approach to issues facing the country right now via thoughtful and sensible discussion such as this.” 

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Mediation smoothes FOI

| 20/01/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The Information Commissioner’s Office has revealed that the process of mediation following refusals of, or problems with, freedom of information requests has proved invaluable to the system. Smoothing out some of the procedural wrinkles, officials say requesters don’t have to wait till they are formally refused and had an internal review before contacting the office for help with requests. From the inception of the law it has been the information commissioner’s policy to seek a resolution to any FOI dispute, be it by Micky Mouse or a named requester, in the first instance through mediation before moving to a formal hearing. Since the implementation of the law in January 2009, the office has mediated in a range of issues, not just refusals but where the procedures have fallen down.

“Mediation has proven to be an invaluable step when dealing with appeals filed under the FOI law in that it enables the ICO to deal more efficiently with minor issues; some of which may essentially be procedural in nature,” a spokesperson for the office stated. “The mediation phase also allows the ICO to work with the parties in an attempt to help negotiate an amicable outcome before the case proceeds to a formal hearing before the commissioner.”

The office is now reviewing the mediation procedures to make sure that they continue to be effective in processing appeals and the office says an updated version of the policies and procedures will be published in the coming months.

The mediation process can, in some cases, help the two parties reach a compromise over a refusal but the office can intervene at anytime to address the process to help get records released in accordance with the law.

CNS has used the mediation service offered by the ICO on a number of occasions for different reasons. The mediation process helped to find a compromise when the Auditor General’s Office refused to release the list of government authorities that had not met the requirements under the Public Management and Finance Law to provide their year-end accounts to his office by the end of August .

The AG believed the release of the names would compromise his reporting to the Legislative Assembly and give a false impression of the situation as the list would be out of context. CNS believed the information should be public in order to ensure that public authorities knew that the public had expectations of them to abide by the law to provide timely and accurate accounts of public spending. In the end CNS agreed to accept the list with the numbers of ministries and portfolios and statutory authorities that had and had not complied rather than naming the individual public authorities.

As a result CNS was able to publish an article reminding the public of the government’s continuing problems with producing timely and accurate financial accounts, allowing them to put pressure on their political representatives for this important issue to remain at the forefront of public awareness.

On another occasion the office assisted in getting the Ministry of Finance to answer a request made by CNS regarding details of the travel expenses for the premier. Although the ministry had acknowledged the receipt and had made a commitment to respond and release the information, the difficulties finding the necessary documentation as well as staffing issue meant the request went unanswered for several months. The intervention of the ICO and an order by the commissionercompelling the authority to respond resulted in the records finally being released and published on the CNS website.

“I would urge all FOI applicants who are experiencing any issues to contact the ICO’s office as the staff there are extremely helpful,” said Wendy Ledger, CNS’s reporter. “As journalists it’s part of our job to deal with the difficulties that go along with trying to get information from government officials so we are used to the struggles but still find it very frustrating sometimes. We can only imagine how infuriating it must be for the general public when they are seeking information that may be very important to them. A word with the ICO, however, can really help – there is no need for requesters to battle alone."

Other applicants have also been assisted through the mediation process. When the immigration department told an applicant that the documents they wanted relating to an interview conducted by officials was missing, the applicant asked for an internal review. The department did not conduct the review so the requester approached the ICO, which ordered the authority to provide the applicant with the required response to the review. As a result the lost documents were found and given to the requester.

Given the continuing administrative and procedural issues relating to the FOI process, the office encourages applicants to contact the ICO whenever they are facing difficulties as mediation is proving to be a useful tool in smoothing out the on-going FOI wrinkles.

CNS is continuing to build up the FOI library and would ask readers to continue sending us the responses they receive under the law.

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Horse killed by car on Walkers Road

| 20/01/2011 | 39 Comments

(CNS): Updated – A horse, which was being trained by its owner broke loose on Monday afternoon and was killed on Walkers Road, near Mulberry Drive. Police have confirmed that it appears the horse, which was saddled but without a rider, ran into the road. Despite the driver’s attempts to swerve and avoid the animal as it ran into the busy road, it was hit by the Ford Taurus which was heading south and appears to have died soon after. The 49 year old female driver was unhurt in the incident which occurred at around 5;15pm (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)


Police said that enquiries into the incident are ongoing.

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Alden unopposed for top job

| 20/01/2011 | 38 Comments

(CNS): Opposition member Alden McLaughlin will almost certainly become the leader of the opposition next month as he will be running for election as leader of the People’s Progressive Movement unopposed. It appears that the candidate who had been expected to run against him in the party’s leadership, Arden McLean, has opted not to contest the party’s top spot. The role of leadership of the opposition and the party became vacant following the announcement in November last year by former leader of government business and the PPM’s original head, Kurt Tibbetts, that he was stepping down. The veteran politician said that after the party’s defeat at the polls in May 2009 it was time for a change in leadership. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The vote, which is now merely a formality, is due to take place at the party’s national conference next month, when other positions within the PPM as well as deputy leader will also be decided by the party membership.

McLaughlin, who served as education minister in the previous administration, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2000, was tipped as ‘heir apparent’ soon after Tibbetts’ resignation, though any one of the other four members of the PPM that serve in the country’s parliament could have stood for election by party members. A qualified lawyer, the George Town member has proved himself to be one of the most articulate members of the LA but in doing so has also become a major target for criticism by the government’s front bench.

Kurt Tibbetts, the PPM leader who will be relinquishing not just the leadership of the party but the formal position of opposition leader, has served in the Legislative Assembly since 1992. When he announced his resignation from the top job he said thatonce the new leader and other party officials were elected he would be there to offer support but would allow “the new blood of the party to take the PPM forward” and would not impose on them.

“I have always been a firm believer in succession planning and now the PPM needs new blood at the top, new people to lead the movement and carry out its mission. From time to time every organization needs a change of leadership to foster growth and allow for continuity and the PPM is no exception,” he said.

The PPM national party conference, which is open to the public, will take place at the Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay on the 12 February from 6pm. 

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