Archive for April 1st, 2011

Election handouts are bribes, says watchdog

| 01/04/2011 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Any type of handout to voters during elections is a form of corruption, an anti-graft watchdog group said this week in Malaysia. Datuk Paul Low (left), president of Transparency International said that any enticement for votes during elections was considered corruption, according to various media reports from the country. “There have been a lot of arguments on vote buying, enticing voters via money, ‘sewing machines’, we believe that this is corrupt practice. When you give these sweeteners, what would be the motivation? Any enticing for votes, we believe that is corruption,” said Low, speaking in Kuala Lumpur during the campaign of a crucial state by-election.

His remarks were aimed at a local minister who said that financial assistance to voters during elections was not a form corruption because it was the federal government’s way of “fulfilling its promises”.

“We have already promised that if we won we would fulfill our manifesto … for example a sewing machine, if we do not give it during elections we will give it after elections, is that a crime? We cannot stop this because, well, we will be giving it after (elections),” said the minister in the country’s parliament this week.

The watch dog representative said there was a lot of abuse in the campaign for the Sarawak state by-election and law reform concerning elections was needed .

“It is sad to say that politics is no longer just about serving people, it has become money-making for the elected representatives,” he said.

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Election handouts are bribes says watchdog

| 01/04/2011 | 0 Comments

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Rundown Review

| 01/04/2011 | 9 Comments

One is never really sure what to expect from the 20-year theatrical tradition that is Rundown, let alone when the original writer is no longer involved. Having been to only two past productions, it was with mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness that I purchased my ticket from the CNCF offices behind the Harquail Theatre last week.

For those who don’t know, Rundown is a purely Caymanian traditional comedy review stage production, meaning the script reflects (and pokes fun at) the people and events of the last year. The other unique aspect of Rundown is the music. Calypso, being one of the defining musical genres of the Caribbean, is not only literally story-telling in song but is also defined by the clever use of metaphor and double entendre, not to mention comedy. As both a (famous) musician and the original writer for Rundown, Dave Martins has always written the play’s dialogue as well as its original music. His authorship from its beginnings in the early 90’s through the last decade set the tone and style of the production. However, after Dave’s departure from Cayman in 2009 the production took a hiatus in 2010 and now returns to the stage with Henry Muttoo taking on both roles of writer and director.

It was Saturday night and my anticipation was building as I took my seat in the Harquail Theatre. The lights dimmed precisely at 8:05 – no island time in this place! – and the production’s famous theme song began as cast members bounced up to the stage singing hilarious rhymes about “living in the Cayman Islands today”.

The narrative plays out in a ‘show within a show’ format, where Rita Estevanvich, a veteran Rundown cast member and programmes manager at the Foundation, plays Henry Muttoo – her boss! – and is conducting auditions for Rundown. Insanity quickly sets in as “McKeeva & Kurt” are called in for their audition and the infamous Quincy Brown and Steve McTaggert enter the stage to sing a hilarious rendition of a famous Sinatra song. As the auditions progress, so too does the calamity as Consuelo Ebanks makes her appearance, along with other long time veterans, Morgan Da Costa, Fritz McPherson and Michael McLaughlin. Giselle Webb’s portrayal of a Jamaican ballerina will have you ROTFL’ing (rolling on the floor laughing) as will Michael McLaughlin’s “grandpa” character, who recurs throughout the show. Nearly everything grandpa said had me laughing (literally) out loud!

Perhaps one of my favourite scenes is “Talk Across”, with Quincy Brown and Michael McLaughlin’s side-splitting re-enactment of a certain call-in radio programme, while the situational comedy of the Foster’s segment not only pokes fun at the multi-cultural aspect of “living in the Cayman Islands today” but also provides for some full-on physical comedy (not to mention a site gag that will have you gasping for breath). Also worth noting is the ‘tilet paper’ scene, starring original cast member Alan Ebanks, as it is probably the most intellectual toilet humour I’ve ever seen!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the musical segments, being generally unfamiliar with Calyspo, but the exceptionally talented Quincy Brown carries the show’s musical numbers (with some assistance from Rita Estevanovich) with an ease and finesse that I’d venture to say is unmatched in these islands. Each highly entertaining song was a crazy situation fused with catchy Caribbean music and witty lyrics, which ultimately, I suppose, is the true essence of Rundown.

I won’t lie and say that anyone and everyone will connect with every portion of the show, but while the comedy does rely somewhat on knowing who the characters are and the situations they’ve been in, there are still many instances of universal characterizations and situational comedy that will surely entertain. It may also be helpful to know that much of the play is delivered in a local Caymanian dialect with bits of Jamaican, Spanish and even Indian thrown in for good measure.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the caliber of the show. It was extremely creative with very clever and funny dialogue, hilarious situations, strong acting and characterizations and entertaining musical numbers that really enhanced the Caribbean aspect of the production. It was perhaps a tad long, taking up a full two and a half hours with intermission, but that’s not to say I felt the show dragging in any particular spot. It was pretty engaging throughout and moved well from scene to scene.

If you’ve never been to Rundown before I strongly suggest you don’t miss this opportunity to do so, if not for the entertainment factor then for the cultural experience of Caribbean theatre and music. If you have been before than I encourage you to come see how the show has evolved with a new writer at the helm. I truly enjoyed this year’s Rundown experience and I hope you will too.

 

CNS note: The show runs Thursday to Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 6pm through till next weekend. Closing night performance is on Sunday 10 April at 6pm. Tickets are available at all Foster’s Supermarkets, Funky Tangs and the CNCF offices (call 949-5477) for $20.

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People want one man one vote

| 01/04/2011 | 40 Comments

(CNS):The Legislative Assembly’s independent member says he is disappointed that government appears set to not only to ignore recommendations made by the Boundary Commission over the Cayman Islands’ new political seats but the wishes of the people as well. Ezzard Miller said a decision has been made to add two seats to the district of George Town and one to Bodden Town to increase the size of the legislature, as provided for in the new constitution. Although the Boundary Commission’s report revealed that at every public meeting on Grand Cayman the people voiced their desire for single member constituencies, Miller told CNS that government has missed the chance to make the country more democratic.

“What I found astounding was that the Boundary Commission found at every meeting on Grand Cayman people expressed a preference for one member, one vote,” he said, adding that it is clear this is what should have been recommended. The only notable exception is the Sister Islands, where the voters are content with their two members and two votes, despite being home to less than only 6.5% of the electorate.

Acknowledging that there was no specific mandate for them to work toward single member constituencies, he said the Boundary Commissioners actual recommendations for a new district were still being ignored. Miller said it was the third time his lifetime that a government had the opportunity to correct the imbalance in local politics and introduce a more democratic system and missed it.

“Instead, the government has opted to continue with this smorgasbord of voting,” added the North Side representative, who is one of only two representatives from a single member constituency.

The 2010 Boundary Commission, established under the new constitution to increase the membership of the Legislative Assembly to 18 members, finished their work in June last year. The commissioners revealed in their report that the mandate during this review was to create 18 even constituencies across the districts and it was up to the politicians to decide what shape it would take.

As a result of their research, they said that if government did not want to move to one member one vote then the next best solution was to create a new district of Prospect/Savannah, an area between George Town and Bodden Town. This, the commissioners said, would prevent George Town from having too great a political advantage and provide balanced representation for the fastest growing area of the country.

However, Miller said government had already made a decision to ignore the commission as well as the wishes of the people and simply add seats to existing districts.

“I understand that the government is going to recommend that two seats are added in George Town and one in Bodden Town,” he added. This means voters in the Cayman Islands’ capital will have six votes each and a one third representation in the Legislative Assembly, the very imbalance that the commission had warned against. Miller said it was undemocratic, providing an unfair advantage to voters in the capital and at the same time allowing members to be less accountable.

CNS asked the premier a few weeks ago what decision had been made regarding the electoral boundaries. His response was that when he made the announcement we would know and that would be during the budget session.

The government is under no obligation to accept any of the recommendations by the commissioners, who admitted during their round of public meetings that their role was entirely advisory. As a result they recommended that everyone read their report so they could decide for themselves if the politicians had opted for the fairest solution when it came to adding the three new seats.

Miller said the main issue was that it was time for Cayman to have a fair voting system, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is one member one vote. “Politicians should not be looking at what is the best way for them to get re-elected but for the best system for the people of this country which will offer 100% accountability,” Miller stated. He said that with six members in George Town, those MLAs will have even less accountability than they do at present.

Miller said a democratic society isbased on one member one vote and that is what should happen. He said there was more than enough time to establish single member constituencies before the 2013 General Election as the research has already been conducted as per the 2003 Boundary Commissions Report.

However, the North sideMLA said that if there was not the political will, the addition of an extra district would at least reduced the size of George Town’s unfair representation. Miller said that if the government was going to persist with the idea of piling on more seats to existing districts, he  would bring a motion to the LA to amend the voting system so that each person still gets just one vote each.

This, he explained, would mean the top six candidates in George Town, for example, would still be elected but the voters would only be casting one vote.

He said that he knew of nowhere else in the world that had a voting system like the one in the Cayman Islands, with single member constituencies sitting alongside multi member constituencies and where some voters had just one vote while others were now looking at the likelihood of having six.

See the 2010 Boundary Commission’s report here.

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Missing man may still be tried

| 01/04/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The man who is accused of being the mastermind behind the bungled kidnapping for ransom, the first ever such crime in the Cayman Islands, may still be tried, despite not being here. The prosecution service has already been granted an order to try Richard Hurlstone in his absence. Hurlstone absconded from the jurisdiction while on bail during the trial preparation, which should have seen him in the dock alongside Allan Kelly and Charles Webster, who were found guilty of the crime on Wednesday. A Caymanian status holder, Hurlstone has reportedly fled to Honduras, his country of origin, but Cayman does not have an extradition treaty with that nation.

Although Hurlstone was not present during the actual kidnapping of Tyson Tatum, several witnesses testified during the recent trial that he was the ringleader. During the sentencing on Wednesday of Kelly, Webster and Wespie Mullins, who were all convicted of the crime, the trial judge noted that had Hurlstone been present at the trial and found guilty he would, as the ringleader, have been given a sentence of at least fifteen years. The judge said that with the order in place it was now up to local prosecutors to decide if he should be tried in his absence. “Hurlstone was indeed the mastermind behind the plot,” Justice Harrison said. “Unfortunately, Hurlstone is not here.”

Mullings, who pleaded guilty to the kidnapping prior to the trial of Kelly and Webster, was the first person to tell police that the entire abduction and blackmail plot was cooked up by Hurlstone, the victim’s brother-in-law, who before the ill-fated scheme had worked in the family business.

During the trial the court heard that Hurlstone had wanted to start "a new business of kidnapping for money” in the Cayman Islands and his first victim was going to be his wife’s brother. It also heard how it was Hurlstone who had given the phone to the victim’s mother, Angelique Tatum, which the kidnappers called her on when they had abducted Tyson Tatum to make their ransom demands.

Mullings, Kelly and Webster and other witnesses, including those who had been asked to join the scheme but were in the end to play no part, all spoke of attending meetings with Hurlstone, who they said had come up with the plan. The three men were supposedly offered $25,000 each to take part in the joint criminal conspiracy.

Tatum also said during his evidence at Kelly and Webster’s trial that his captors had revealed that he had been abducted in connection with a deal that had gone wrong between his father and Richard Hurlstone.

In the end, despite the threats, Angelique Tatum had contacted the police immediately after she realized that her son had indeed been kidnapped. Tyson, despite being bound and gagged and tied to a chair, made his escape when the kidnappers left him alone in the North Side house where he was held.

All of the kidnappers were rounded up soon after the foiled crime at Owen Roberts International airport. However, following a successful bail application, 32-year-old Hurlstone disappeared before the trial date. Although under curfew and made to surrender his passport, Hurlstone’s disappearance was discovered at the beginning of the new year when he failed to turn up for a court appearance.

It was discovered that he had not reported to police since the beginning of December and that his home had been locked up and his personal possessions sold on a local classified website.

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