Archive for April 20th, 2011

Pension suspension over for local workers

| 20/04/2011 | 8 Comments

(CNS):Government officials have now confirmed that the temporary one-year pension contributions holiday will come to an end on Tuesday, 26 April for Caymanian employees but will continue on for a further twelve months for work permit holders. The suspension, introduced by the minister for labour, was supposed to stimulate the economy but it was only taken up by a fraction of employees the pension industry revealed. Last April when Rolstin Anglin brought the amendment to the bill he said the goal was to reduce the burden on employers as a result of an increase in work permit fees and to give the numerous delinquent employers time to catch up on the significant outstanding payments.

“This measure is to try and put people in a positionto have more money in their pockets and should result in a general easing of pressure,” the minister stated at the time. “Given the economic hardship at the moment, people have been asking for some form of relief.”

However, with relatively few employees agreeing to take up the holiday the suspension had very little effect although there were accusations that some unscrupulous employers have forced employees to take-up the holiday.

With the end of the one year period Superintendent of Pensions Amy Wolliston said that employers now had to begin making contributions for all of their Caymanian employees.

“With the expiry of the suspension, participating Caymanian employees can expect to see their employer’s resumption of salary pension deductions along with the payment of these contributions to their relevant pension plans,” she added.

As a reminder to employers she also noted that Caymanians are pensionable immediately. They are required to participate in a pension plan and pay pension contributions, from their first day of employment.
Anglin said the contributions are extremely important to employee’s long-term savings for retirement. “It’s a critical part of their retirement planning,” he stated.

For details on the suspension, refer to the National Pensions Law (2010 Revision). A copy is available on the Cayman Islands Government web portal www.gov.ky , under the features section. Individuals may also contact their pension plan or the National Pensions Office on 945-8960 with questions.

 

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Camana Bay introduces new annual earth day festival

| 20/04/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Camana Bay will be hosting the first annual Cayman Islands Earth Day Festival next Wednesday in conjunction with Island Offsets, a new local non-profit organisation that aims to help individuals and businesses erase their carbon footprint and reduce their contribution to climate change. The Festival will feature environmental displays and activities, a wide variety of interactive educational opportunities for children and adults, as well as live music. Coinciding with Camana Bay’s quarterly Evening Market there will be over 20 vendors setting up stalls along Market Street, where visitors can sample local produce and homemade goods. From sausages and pepper jelly to local crafts, plants and produce, the flavour is uniquely Caymanian.

Eating locally-grown produce is a great way for families to significantly lower their carbon footprint as it eliminates the need for food to be shipped or flown to our Islands. It also helps to support local farmers and improves our ability as a nation to feed ourselves.

On the Crescent, where the main Earth Day festivities will take place, shoppers will find vendors
selling eco-friendly products. These vendors include purveyors of alternative energy systems such as solar and wind power, furniture stores carrying pieces made from recycled teak, liquor stores offering organic products, architects showcasing energy-efficient building techniques and clothing stores selling organic and recycled items.

One of the festival’s highlights will be a free premiere of the new film “Carbon Nation”, an upbeat
climate change solutions documentary directed by Peter Byck. Described by the Los Angeles Times as "… an inspiring look at the many recent advances in clean energy and green technologies,” the movie, which is sponsored by Cayman Airways, will be screened at Hollywood Theatres at 6:30pm and 8pm. Entry is free of charge but seating is limited so movie goers are encouraged to arrive early.

The Humane Society, Cayman Wildlife Rescue, the National Trust and the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund along with Island Offsets will be available to explain their goals and projects.

The Cayman Islands Catboat Association will also be offering people the chance to sail around Camana Bay’s breezy harbour and an art display will include the winning piece from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s Reusable Bag Competition, as well as a collection of painted barrels donated by Tortuga Rum Company, Ltd.

The barrels were painted by local artists and high school students who drew their inspiration from the earth and Cayman’s natural environment. This will be used later by the department of Environmental Health to be used to collect aluminium cans for recycling. They will be placed in high visibility locations including at the cruise ship terminals and on public beaches.
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Three electric vehicles will be on display including the Chevy Volt, the first electric car licensed to
drive on Cayman’s roads; the GEM, Camana Bay’s battery-operated security vehicle; and the
ZENN, which stands for Zero Emission, No Noise. As gas prices continue to soar, electric vehicles are emerging as the cars of the future, however they are currently not allowed on Cayman’s roads.
 

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Vaccination key to keeping diseases at bay

| 20/04/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With many childhood diseases now a thing of thepast in the Cayman Islands the public is being reminded to keep up with immunisation programmes to mark the ninth annual vaccination week. Vaccination Week in the Americas is an unparalleled effort led by the countries and territories of the region to strengthen their immunization programmes. Since its inception in 2003 more than 323 million individuals across the age spectrum have been vaccinated as a result of the initiative. The purpose of the campaign is to strengthen the routine programme and improve vaccination coverage rates.

Despite the success in Cayman that vaccines have had in eradicating many diseases parents need to remain vigilant when it comes to immunising children to stop them from coming back.

“We must not become complacent,” said Health Services Authority Immunisation Programme Manager Alice Jane Ebanks. “Despite such successes in immunisation, some children still do not complete their vaccination schedules, leaving them vulnerable. Parents must check against the schedule to ensure that their children are up-to-date with their immunizations.”

She explained that when countries fail to achieve high immunisation coverage diseases will ultimately return.

In Cayman vaccination has led to the elimination of polio since 1957. There have been no cases of diphtheria since 1983, no cases of whooping cough in the last decade, no measles since 1994 and no cases of rubella since 2000.

The local vaccination schedule offers protection against a range of serious illnesses such as liver diseases caused by the hepatitis B virus; severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration caused by rotavirus; tuberculosis (infection of the lungs); haemophilus influenza b disease which can cause serious infection of the brain, spinal cord, blood or other organs; diphtheria (throat infection); tetanus(lockjaw); pertusis (whooping cough); paralytic disease(polio); measles that can cause blindness; mumps; rubella and chicken pox .

In addition to the child immunisations, Public Health also offers vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases for adults. The most common ones are boosters for tetanus and diphtheria (a combined shot) and the annual influenza (flu) vaccine.

Those who have never received any vaccines can visit Public Health Clinic and get the necessary immunisations that are appropriate for their age and health status. Health advice is offered to travellers to various countries at the Public Health Clinic. Vaccines such as yellow fever and typhoid fever are available as recommended for the specific destinations.

Vaccination Week runs from 23 to 30 April when countries will be celebrating under the theme “Vaccinate your Family- Protect your Community”.

Anyone who wishes to have their children vaccinated or requires immunisation for themselves can contact the district health centres or their private paediatrician

See immunisation schedules and health centre numbers and Health Minister’s messagebelow
 

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Jury to choose defendant or witness for killer

| 20/04/2011 | 4 Comments

(CNS):Jurors sitting in the murder trial of William Martinez-McLaughlin have been told by the lawyers that they must choose whether it was the key witness or the defendant who killed Brian Rankine-Carter. In her closing speech the solicitor general told the jurors that the narrative given by Jason Hinds was detailed and consistent. Cheryll RichardsQC said only a playwright could come up with such a story if it wasn’t true. Meanwhile, the defence attorney pointed to inconsistencies in the witness’s account and the fact that a machete had been found at his home. Mark Tomassi said the crown’s case against his client amounted to a defence of Hinds and the jury must decide which man they believe had used a machete to kill Carter.

Summing up the crown’s case against Martinez, Richards pointed to what she said was the credibility of the story told by the principal witness, Hinds, in contrast to what she said was the contrived account told by Martinez.

“There is nothing inconsistent or unexplainable about Hinds’ evidence that should cause you to reject it,” Richards told the jury of ten women and two men. “There is a natural flow of events, so much so that you would have to be a playwright to be able to create what Hinds said.”

The islands’ top solicitor said that there was nothing contrived about the account that Hinds told, that he did not hesitate and there was a natural sequence of detail. “He did not over egg or guild the lily," she added.

Hinds had, Richards reminded the jury, made a clean breast of the events on the day he was arrested after telling the lawyer found to represent him to go and tell the full story. He led the police to his own clothes and the controversial machete, as well as where he said Martinez had disposed of the personal possessions he had taken from Carter. She questioned why Hinds would lead the police to his own blood-stained clothes or the murder weapon if he was trying to cover things up. Richards told the jury that Hinds leading the police to his own clothes was a fundamental point as they would never have been discovered without his direction. This was one of a number of things Hinds revealed that were not in his own interest, she said.

The crown also said that scientific evidence supported Hinds’ account as experts had said the blood on his clothes was consistent with transfer patterns fitting with the witness’s claim that he had twice held on to Martinez in an effort to pull him away from Rankine-Carter.

The machete found at Hinds’ house, which was not forensically examined until much later in the case as it was overlooked by the officers, was not proven to be the murder weapon, Richards said, although it could be consistent in part with markings on bone samples taken from the victim. She said it made no sense that if it were the murder weapon, Hinds would lead the police to it, propped up against the wall in his bedroom, and admit to using it to burying his clothes.

Richards said the jury would have to decide which of the police officers had made a mistake regarding the machete and the loss of video tape evidence. She cried foul, however, over accusations made by the defence that the mistakes, coupled with the existing relationship between the witness and Sgt Joseph Wright, who had taken Hinds’ first statement, was evidence of a conspiracy.

She told the jury that Martinez’ evidence that he stood still as Hinds brutally attack the victim with a machete only inches away or that there was no conversation between the two men after the event as they drove the length of the island was entirely contrived.

Richards said there were many aspects supporting Hinds’ account from expert witnesses and forensics to his cooperation with the police. The crown called on the jury to use their common sense and assess the evidence to return a true verdict.

Representing Martinez, Tomassi accused the crown of acting as the defence attorneys for Hinds, whom he said was the real killer and who should have been on trial. He pointed to areas of Hinds’ account that he said seemed implausible, from his account that he had fallen asleep while waiting for Martinez to throw the victim’s possessions in the ocean at High Rock to then telling the police where in the ocean to find them.

He said that the expert evidence indicating some unique features regarding the bone marks with the machete found in Hinds’ home meant it could not be ruled out as the murder weapon. Despite dismissing the expert, Tomassi said that if the crown had decided it was Hinds who was the killer it would have relied on that evidence to persuade the jury that it was very likely the tool used by the killer.

Focusing on the machete, Tomassi said that during the investigation the police had failed to question Hinds about the weapon because, whether through “cock-up or “conspiracy”, they had made a decision that Hinds was innocent and Martinez guilty before they had examined the evidence. There on after, he said, the goal was to make the evidence fit the case instead of investigating with an open mind.

“The machete became a casualty of the case because it had been decided before looking at all the evidence that Hinds was not the killer,” he told the jury.

He said the crown, who was batting for Hinds, had failed to demonstrate that their witness was innocent because they couldn’t because he was guilty of the murder. Tomassi said that Rankine-Carter had died because he was the victim of a homophobe who believed he had double crossed him.

“The only question you have to decide,” Tomassi told the jurors, “is, did Martinez McLaughlin kill Brian Rankine or did Jason Hinds kill him?”

After the attorneys finished their closing speeches, Justice Charles Quin, the presiding judge, was expected to begin his summing up for the jury on Wednesday afternoon. Following his explanations of the law in relation to the evidence they have heard over the last ten days, the jury is expected to be sent to deliberate on the verdict on Thursday morning. 

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5k fun run for Earth Week

| 20/04/2011 | 0 Comments

(National Trust): The National Trust for the Cayman Islands held it’s annual 5K Earth Week Fun Run sponsored by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on Sunday, 10 April at the Dart Family Park on South Church Street. 173 people turned up at 7:30 a.m. to run and walk past national trust sites of interests including two National Trust historic sites, Dr Roy’s Ironshore and Fort George. "I really enjoyed the run and I was pleased to see so many runners of all ages and nationalities take part in support of the National Trust of the Cayman Islands,” said Sherri Francis, Senior Manager of Audit and Assurance Services at PwC. (Left: The Governor and Mrs Taylor, Jerry Harper and fun run participants)

“As most participants would agree with me, I consider the island to be my home and am proud to be part of this fund raising event,” she added.

Performance winners received Green Spheres, hand-blown at the Glass Blowing Studio, for the first, second and third male and female runners. There were also prizes for the male and female who finished the course last, the first boy and girl under 12 and the first and second place male and female PwC corporate team.

Top performances were:

1. Marius Acker 16:56
2. James Ogden 17:35
3. Mark Hogan 17:51

1. Beth Schreader 19:43 7th overall
2. Emily Davies 21:33 10th overall
3. Dierdre Billes 25:24 35th overall

2/2 5K FUN RUN FOLLOW-UP

Corporate Team
1. PwC Males
2. PwC Females

First Male-12 and under
Benedict Lowe 13th overall

First Female-12 and under
Taylor Kirkaldy

Last Male
Simon Amesbury

Last Female
Eziethamae Bodden

Prizes were donated by Tips and Toes, Hollywood Theaters, Sea Elements, Island Cleaners, Cox Lumber, Glassblowing Studio, Cayman Kayaks and the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands would like to thank PwC and Coach Jerry Harper and his team at the Phoenix Athletic Club who made this event possible.

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West Bay primary to be reconstructed in phases

| 20/04/2011 | 12 Comments

(CNS):Government has revealed that the Sir John A Cumber primary school in West Bay will eventually be completely rebuilt. The education minister said that rather than adding classrooms, the goal was to reconstruct the old site one phase at a time. Rolston Anglin stated that while teachers are the most important element in a child’s education, there came a time when the facilities also needed to be improved and the ministry’s goal was to remove all of the modular classrooms across from all primary school campuses and replace them with new facilities. He said the $10 million primary revamp project, which was passed by the LA in last year’s budget, was starting in West Bay but would soon move to George Town and Savannah.

Speaking at the ground breaking ceremony for the first block, which is being built at the school in West Bay, the minister, a former pupil there, told the children that everything that was being done at the school was because people wanted the best for them.

The minister followed the premier, who was also at the event in his own constituency. McKeeva Bush revealed he had attended the forerunner to the John A Cumber but remembered when the then new primary school had been built. He noted that no one would have imagined that the school would reach its current 500 students some forty years on.

The premier reminisced about his school days, telling the children that, as small as they were, he hoped they realized how lucky they were. When he was in school, Bush told them, there was no air-conditioning, no computers, not even a library and teachers were sometimes forced to take two classes at a time. He said everyone wanted them to do well and although they were small they needed to start making good choices about what they did and who with, as he advised them to choose their friends carefully.

Bush said he was delighted that his government was now able to address the space problems and had found the money for the project to renovate the islands’ primary campuses.

He said this first the new block in West Bay would add eight classrooms to the school and was going to be home to the new reception class when the programme started, as well as special education programmes.

With the primary population already standing at 2,500 across the islands and still growing, Anglin said in the current economic climate government had to be wise about how it found solutions for managing primary education and renovating the schools. He said the long term master-plan that was now in place for addressing the primary school redevelopment offered the solution of meeting both immediate and long term needs with the phasing of development.

Local firm Shoreway Construction will be building the new school block and the minister said he looked forward to the project coming in on time and under budget. The new block will be sited where the school playground is situated but the premier was at pains to stress it would be relocated as he and his fellow West Bay MLAs got out the shovels and broke ground. 

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Cruise port deal in question

| 20/04/2011 | 53 Comments

(CNS): (See updated breaking story above) — The long awaited development of the cruise berthing facilities in George Town could face further delays as government appears to be looking at other options for the project. CNS understands that the negotiations regarding the latest partner may well have faltered and the premier has confirmed that he will be making a statement regarding the future arrangements for the George Town cruise port shortly. CNS understands that government is now examining alternatives to the current partners GLF/ Royal Construction, the second preferred developer that stepped into negotiations with government after the plan to go ahead with DECCO (Dart’s construction company) collapsed last year.

Government has not yet revealed or confirmed the details of the latest change in plans but it has not denied that it is considering alternatives. Cline Glidden, who has been project leader for thecurrent government on the cruise port project since the UDP administration took office, told CNS on Tuesday that he had been away for the last week and was not sure what had happened. He said the premier had been dealing with the situation in his absence.

When CNS asked McKeeva Bush what was happening with the cruise port negotiations and if there had been a change of plan, he said he would be making a statement shortly and would not be drawn on the details of the current situation.

Despite his trip last month to Venice, Italy, in order to look at a dam built by GLF, who are known as marine development experts, it seems that government has already decided to review the current arrangements regarding the cruise port project.

Sources close to the negotiations revealed that it was unlikely that the existing framework agreement between the Port Authority, GLF/Royal Construction and government would be renewed. It is understood that correspondence as already been sent to the developers informing them that it is exploring other possibilities.

A spokesperson from GLF told CNS, however, that it could not understand how government could not be happy with the negotiations and as far as the team was concerned everything was going ahead. He said that the developers had met all of the requirements, had the financing in place had tested the designs in Florida recently to ensure the project was a viable engineering concept and that the team was more than ready to move forward. “We have spent around $1milllion already on this project and as far as we are concerned this is still on track,” he added.

It was announced that GLF/Royal Construction would be working with government to develop the cruise terminals in December following an announcement that the deal with DECCO had ended. The details over why those negotiations broke down have not been released, though it was believed that government and the islands’ biggest developer could not agree over the length of time that Dart would be able to lease the upland development of the port area in order to recoup its investment.

Government moved immediately to a framework agreement with GLF/Royal, which envisioned a much smaller project with a less ambitious upland element as that proposed by Dart. The GLF/Royal project was proposed to be financed mostly from cruise ship fees.

At the time Cline Glidden said the government was still committed to cruise tourism but was disappointed it had not reached mutually agreeable terms with DECCO. “It is has always been the government’s main goal to ensure that the agreement with the port developer would be in the best interest of the Caymanian people.”

The collapse came only a week after the Port Authority chair had said that Dart was still at the table in the face of earlier speculation that the negotiations had broken down. CNS has contacted Stefan Baraud for comment in connection with the current talks and the speculation that the GLF/Royal arrangement has also broken down and is awaiting a response.

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Miller warns West Bayers

| 20/04/2011 | 57 Comments

(CNS): The independent member for North Side made a guest appearance in West Bay on Tuesday evening, where he issued a warning to residents to be cautious over what they were told by developers. He said it had been made clear in the Legislative Assembly that the West Bay Road would be moved in order to facilitate a new beachfront resort. Despite reassurances that were given to the Concerned Citizens group by Dart that there were no specific plans to move the road at this point, Ezzard Miller said he was certain he had already seen plans being discussed with government at the islands’ parliament. He said moving the road would triple the value of the hotel recently purchased by Dart. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The North Side representative told a meeting of some one hundred West Bayers that real estate experts believed the former Courtyard Marriott hotel, recently purchased by Dart Realty, was currently worth an estimated $30 million. However, if the road that currently separates the plot where the hotel stands from the beach front was moved behind the hotel, creating a full beach front property, it could be worth as much as $100million.

Miller and Captain Bryan Ebanks, who were guest speakers of the activist group, both warned the people to be wary of promises made by developers as so many of them had been broken before. Ebanks, who is spearheading the Save Cayman campaign, said that the people of Cayman were under siege and they were not being properly represented by their politicians.

“It seems that any developers that are coming here are getting exactly what they ask for,” he said, adding that the islands’ own politicians were representing investors not the people. He asked how long the people were going to allow developers to romance politicians but not talk to them about plans and proposals.

Miller echoed the sentiments of Ebanks when he said that he had real concerns about the amount of land and businesses that the Dart Group was purchasing. “When you see the systematic purchasing of key properties and business, it is about control,” he warned.

He also reminded the people that since 2003, with the introduction of the Public Management and Finance Law, government could sell, lease or dispose of crown land without bringing the decision before members of the Legislative Assembly. It could be done behind closed doors in Cabinet — “in secret” — he said. Government had already committed to giving Dart a piece of land to trade for the cost of extending the by-pass, Miller warned, and people would not know when or how that transaction would take place.

Following a meeting between Dart and the Concerned Citizens group, the developer had offered reassurances to the group that there were no specific plans to move the road at present. Dart had said would be open to discussing future plans with the representatives of the group, who said they were pleased that the lines of communication were now open and also confirmed that the current access to the beach would not be blocked again.

Chair Alice Mae Coe expressed everyone’s delight that after last week’s meeting and the public declaration of dissatisfaction over the barriers that were erected at the beach access points they had been removed. She said Dart had reiterated its position that the barriers were never meant to block pedestrian access but to stop people stealing sand, and the developer had said this was not just a temporary move to facilitate access for the Easter Weekend and there was no intention to reinstall the posts.

Coe also said that now a line of communication had been opened with the Concerned Citizens group, it was hoped that the developer would be transparent with the people and relay facts openly so they could rely on the veracity of the statements without causing unnecessary concern. She said the developer had committed to sitting down to discuss the road plans in the future but they were told by the Dart team that there were no immediate plans to close the West Bay Road and was surprised it had already been announced.

“We had a calm conversation with them about the road and we feel we have opened up a line of communication that can only serve the people of Cayman well,” she said. “We are not out to bash developers or government we are just standing up for the people of Cayman. We were not born in a political party we were born in a community.”

The women from the group said that in the wake of the victory to regain beach access and the reassurances over the road, they intended to remain vigilant. “We are not sitting back as we must keep our eyes open and ears to ground.” Coe said they were not just a West Bay group but one representing the entire Cayman Islands.

It was also revealed that the research to clarify the laws regarding historic access to beaches across the islands to properly protect them in law would continue. Ezmie Smith, one of the group’s committee members, said that the issue of access to coastlines was being raised in many other countries, including the UK, where people were campaigning for access protection. Cayman had to act too in this regard as the beaches belong to everyone, she noted.

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Cayman one of top recipients of Chinese investment

| 20/04/2011 | 0 Comments

(Peoplesdaily.com): China’s domestic investors from non-financial sectors made direct investments totaling 8.5 billion U.S. dollars in 974 overseas enterprises in 98 countries and regions around the world in the first quarter, said Yao Jian, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, on April 19. Yao said that the cumulative outbound direct investments from China’s non-financial sectors reached 267 billion U.S. dollars at the end of March 2011. In the first quarter, China’s outbound direct investments mainly flew into Hong Kong, Australia, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Iran, the United States, Singapore, Burma, Brazil, Cambodia and Laos. Direct investments in Australia and the European Union were up by about 150 percent. 

In the first quarter, 1.2 billion U.S. dollars of outbound direct investments were from mergers and acquisitions, accounting for 14 percent of the total. The merger and acquisition deals were primarily in the manufacturing sector.

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Activism begins to merge

| 20/04/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Various grass roots activist organisations

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