Archive for May 13th, 2011

“Sacred vessel”?

| 13/05/2011 | 116 Comments

Steve McField’s reported summation in the Dwayne Seymour case is so mind-boggling that, were it not for reading it online (on CNS), I would have sworn we were living in the dark ages. No, I am not talking about the hocus-pocus argument he presented that the crown had conspired against a hard working, successful Caymanian to facilitate a foreigner to "run around" with his wife.

Nor am I referring to all the hypocritical mumbo-jumbo he spewed that “as a Christian nation Cayman had higher morals … (Really? Than what? Or whom?)

As defence counsel, I’m sure Mr McField can go to any length, within the law, to vigorously represent his client and in so doing to discredit his courtroom opponents. But I simply cannot believe, or stomach, his argument that Dwayne Seymour’s (or any man’s, for that matter) wife is his “sacred vessel”.

Well, by Mr McField’s argument, it seems we are back in medieval times, yea, rather the dark ages, when it was quite OK to consider women as chattel – the property of their husbands, to be treated as they wished.

It is precisely because of beliefs and arguments such as Mr McField’s that women become victims of all sorts of abuse – mental, emotional and physical – at the hands of their husbands and male companions.

No, Mr McField, a wife, a woman, a girlfriend, is not a vessel, sacred or otherwise, for her husband, partner or boyfriend. She is her own person, possessed of reason and the ability and authority to decide her own life and the conduct of her relationship, whether in a marriage or any other form of partnership. She is not a vessel that is simply beholden to her husband, just because he provides or contributes to a house or car.

Those are material things that cannot, and should not, be measured against a woman’s humanity. Nor should her humanity be diminished by ridiculous and archaic notions such as the ones Mr McField spouted in his closing argument.

Mr McField made heavy weather of his client’s action against the man supposedly having an affair with his wife – by Mr McField’s account his client was only protecting his home and family.

Protection? Oh, no, Mr McField. That might be a nice argument in keeping with the demands of outrageous courtroom drama, but it does not wash in the real world. Men who choose to behave in certain (violent and aggressive) ways when confronted with infidelity, real or imagined, are simply acting out of anger and negative emotions fuelled by an oversupply of testosterone, because their almighty egos have been bruised.

The only thing they’re protecting is their fanciful notion that they own a woman and therefore she is not “allowed” to relate in any way to another man.

Thankfully, at least in this side of the world, we have moved beyond Mr McField’s rather archaic and sexist definition of a woman as a vessel of her husband. And yes, Mr McField, we women understand you have to go to the nth degree to fight for your client in the courtroom. But for God’s sake, don’t try to set women back with these medieval notions!

It’s the 21st century, after all and women have some hard-won rights. And as one very accomplished woman and advocate said many years ago, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

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Jury acquits MLA

| 13/05/2011 | 165 Comments

(CNS): Updated It took the jury of five men and two women less than one hour to find the UDP member for Bodden Town not guilty of perverting the course of justice. The verdict was handed down Friday to a visibly relieved Dwayne Seymour as well as a full public gallery containing four cabinet ministers. With this case behind him, the MLA now faces lesser charges in the Summary Court in connection with the same incident, in which the prosecution claims that Seymour assaulted Garrone Yap, a man whom he believed was having an affair with his wife. This case hung on the words that Seymour was accused of saying to a security guard in a bid to stop him being a witness to the fight. 

As the jury acquitted the politician, the public gallery erupted into cheers and Seymour’s friends and family as well as his political colleagues were clearly delighted with the outcome. Ministers Mike Adam, Rolston Anglin and Mark Scotland, Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, as well as back bench MLA Cline Glidden, were present for much of the judge’s direction to the jury.

The verdict came one day later than expected when legal arguments led to the jury being excused throughout Thursday. The legal wrangling was down to objections raised about the defence counsel’s controversial closing speech to the jury. Seymour’s lawyer, Steve McField, had, the prosecution claimed, inflamed and prejudiced the jury beyond the realms of acceptability.

McField had offered different interpretations of the law, posed possible theories that had not been put before witnesses, accused the prosecution ofcorruption, as well as justifying his client's behaviour on the basis that his wife was, contrary to law, his property, when he referred to her as Seymour’s "sacred vessel".

In the wake of McField’s closing speech, crown counsel John Masters made an application to the judge to discharge the jury based on some 40 different points in which he said McField had overstepped the mark.

Masters told the court that the defence counsel’s closing statement was “the most outrageous he had ever heard in his twenty-four years at the bar” and said that he did not believe any amount of direction from the judge could rectify the prejudice and damage done by the speech.

He said it contained preaching, false evidence, incorrect points of law, total irrelevances, unfounded allegations, racism, suggestions that the crown and police were corrupt and generally undermined the local justice system.

The crown argued that the judge would not be able to repair the harm done by the comments and made the extraordinary move of applying for the discharge. Masters identified some sixteen irrelevances that McField had made, along with more than a dozen incorrect directions in law. He also identified numerous comments that, if the jury was not dismissed, the judge would have to rectify.

Justice Smith, the presiding judge in the case, opted not to discharge the jury and gave an undertaking to direct them robustly. In his directions on Friday morning the judge told the jury to “completely disregard” the irrelevances and to concentrate on the issue in question, which was whether or not they felt the defendant had implied to a security guard that he should not say anything to the authorities by using the phrase: “Security, ya not see nothing.”

The judge told the jury not to allow sympathy or prejudice to interfere with their deliberation and that they must consider their verdict based on the evidence presented by the witnesses. He warned that they must not speculate on what might have happened and said they were at liberty to reject the closing speeches made by counsel.

Transcript – Closing submissions to the jury by Steve McField

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Misunderstandings delay action on climate change

| 13/05/2011 | 1 Comment

(Bloomberg): Public misconceptions of climate change have thwarted urgently needed U.S. efforts to reduce emissions blamed for global warming, according to a report from the National Research Council of the National Academies. The media sometimes present aspects of climate change that are well-established as if they were “matters of serious debate,” according to the report released in Washington, Thursday. Groups opposed to policies limiting carbon-dioxide emissions are influencingsome reporting, according to the study, which was requested by Congress in 2008 when Democrats were in the majority. It was prepared by a committee of scientists, engineers and economists.

Climate change is happening and is "very likely’’ caused by the burning of fossil fuels, said committee chairman Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The U.S. should respond with “aggressive emissions reductions” of greenhouse gases from power plants, factories and transportation, and plan for adapting to effects of global warming, such as rising seas, with a national strategy, the council said.

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C-Sections may drive obesity epidemic

| 13/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS):Babies born via Cesarean section are more likely to grow up to be fat according to researchers. The theory is controversial and experts have cautioned that scientists are still a long way from getting to the bottom of the west’s obesity expolsion. In this latest study, Brazilian researchers found that among more than 2,000 23- to 25-year-olds, 15 percent of those delivered via C-section were obese compared to 10 percent of thoseborn naturally. The results of the research has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and those involved admit that it is not yet proof that C-sections directly cause obesity

Dr Helena Goldani from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, said the results did not prove cause-and-effect.
Dr Xavier P-Sunyer, director of the New York Obesity Centre at St Luke’s Hospital, called the study “interesting” but said it “requires a lot more research.” He said there was a “huge gap” in the data.
The reason behind the possible link between a child being born through C-section and becoming obese in later life is still unknown. It is possible, researchers say, that when a Caesarean is carried out, the baby misses out on helpful bacteria that it would have been exposed to in the birth canal. This might affect their metabolism and thereby influence their risk of obesity.

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Board in dark about GLF

| 13/05/2011 | 30 Comments

(CNS):The Cayman Islands premier made the decision to terminate the cruise port agreement between government, the Port Authority and the developer GLF construction before telling the Port Authority board of directors, a freedom of information request has revealed. According to the information released by the Port Authority, shown to CNS, it was almost a week after McKeeva Bush wrote to the CEO of GLF saying government and the port authority were ending the deal that the board was informed. Although Bush’s letter states that the chair of the authority was in agreement with the termination, he did not appear to have consulted with the rest of the members.

The Port Authority said that it held no records of correspondence between the premier and the board regarding the termination of the deal with GLF but that the board members had met with premier on 20 April, when he told them that he had terminated the framework agreement. However, Bush sent his letter to Francesco Senis on 14 April, stating that because the government did not believe the firm had the financing in place, the Cayman government would be considering other options for the development of the cruise berthing facilities in George Town.

According to the letter written by the premier, he had the support of the Port Authority chairman on the decision to pull out of the exclusive talks, but it appears that if the chair had been consulted, he in turn had not consulted the board. So far, CNS has been unable to contact the chair to confirm the timeline over when he was consulted about thepremier’s decision and why the board’s directors were not involved in the decision process.

The port also states that it has no records of any correspondence between the technical committee or project team, led by Cline Glidden, which has been involved in driving forward the now stalled cruise berth development project. A source close to government told CNS that it appears the premier is now driving the project on his own and may not have the support of those previously involved in the negotiations.

The Port Authority has agreed in the FOI request to release the minutes of the meeting in which Bush informed the board of his decision to dump GLF and start talks with other developers but said it had delayed the release until the draft minutes had been “formally approved” by the board members. On 6 May, when the FOI was answered, the authority said the board had not yet had any further meetings.

Although the premier has not yet confirmed his new plans for the cruise port, it is understood he is now in talks with a Bejing based development company. China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd has reportedly already submitted an MOU to the government regarding their proposal for the facilities. However, sources tell CNS that the government has not yet signed that document.

The premier has stated that the government is now talking to the developers about two other major development projects – the redevelopment of Owen Roberts Airport and the creation of a pier in West Bay at the Cayman Turtle Farm.

Although Bush had told the country that he would reveal the details at the UDP political rally in George Town on Tuesday, the premier failed to deliver and although he said government had plans for a number of infrastructure projects to start sometime this year, no details were forthcoming.

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Mac says no to 1 man-1 vote

| 13/05/2011 | 59 Comments

(CNS): The premier has said that he does not support one man, one vote and never has. At a public meeting on Tuesday McKeeva Bush said that while he has always told the country he was not in favour of that type of vote, he did not believe the opposition supported it either as they did not enshrine it in the constitution when they had the chance. Bush accused the PPM ofrefusing to put it  in the document despite being in government during the UK constitutional discussions. However, Alden McLaughlin says that it was the result of a "regretted compromise” because of the Bush’s vehement opposition that one man, one vote did not get enshrined. The PPM is and always has been in favour, he said. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

Speaking to an audience in front of the court house in a mid-term UDP rally Tuesday night, the premier stated that his opposition to one man, one vote had been constant, while this was not the case for the opposition.

He questioned whether the opposition leader, Alden McLaughlin, and the former leader of government business, Kurt Tibbetts, really wanted one man, one vote in George Town. He asked why, if they had supported it, did they not use their power as the government at the time and say in the constitution itself that such a voting method would come into effect on a certain day.

“If they have a gripe about one man one vote and want it for the next election then that’s what they should have done in London,” he said referring to the negotiations that took place between the Cayman delegation and the UK government in 2008. “The PPM refused to put it in the constitution.”

Bush described this as typical behaviour of the PPM who made promises which were never fulfilled.

However, the opposition leader pointed out that the vehement objection from the UDP delegation at the time, and in particular Bush and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, led, much to McLaughlin’s regret, to a compromise to allow the legislators to select the method of voting instead of enshrining it. (See First round of Constitutional talks for UDP objections Pg 76)

“We were at the time trying to get a document everyone would support,” he noted, adding that it was Sir Ian Hendry, the UK representative that led the negotiations, who suggested the compromise of enshrining the size of the legislature but leaving the voting method to the local lawmakers in order to get passed the impasse. The opposition leader said the goal of the constitutional negotiations was to get a document that everyone, including the Chamber, the Human Rights Committee, the churches and the political parties, would support.

McLaughlin explained, “The premise was that the constitution should be a negotiated document with the agreement of all the Cayman delegation, not just the UK," and said it had to be supported by everyone in order to get the country to accept it. He said the PPM had wanted the entire delegation that went to London to come back and be in a position to support the ‘Yes’ campaign, but in the event that did not happen.

“I regret to this day that we made that compromise as the UDP reneged on the agreement,” McLaughlin said, pointing out that Bush had still come back and told the people to vote ‘No’ . “Maybe we were too idealistic,” he added.

However, McLaughlin said the PPM had always been in favour of one man, one vote and continued to support the concept, which is one of the points listed in the opposition leader’s motion of no confidence.

Following the publication by the boundary commission’s comments that at the public meetings they held there was widespread support for one man one vote, the decision by government to simply add more multiple members to existing constituencies has caused considerable criticism.

Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side who has been a vocal supporter of the concept said the premier is wrong when he thinks the people don’t support one man, one vote. “I do not agree with the premier that the people don’t want this, the people I represent certainly do and so do many, many others across the country,” he stated. Miller has frequently pointed out the inequality of the current voting system which is about to get worse with the introduction of two more members for George Town.

On Tuesday in an attempt to answer the criticism by Miller and Arden McLean who also represents a single member constituency Bush said it was not unfair that those districts only had one vote as he said it was because they were too small to have more. “If they were bigger they would have more,” he said, indicating that he misunderstood the fundamental issue of the objections.

Bush said that single member representatives could still be minister or even premier. However, the objections are more concerned about the ability of individual voters, not their members, to cast more than one vote and have a greater influence on the make-up of the entire government in multimember constituents compared to one man one vote which is believed by most to offer a more democratic and equitable way for a government to be elected.


 

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Seymour verdict delayed by legal wrangling

| 13/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Major legal disputes between the crown and the defence held up the trial of local politican Dwayne Seymour today. An application made by crown counsel John Masters with respect to the closing remarks made by defence lawyer Steve McField led to lengthy legal wrangling in the absence of the jury. The judge had been expected to sum up the three day case Thursday morning and direct the five men and two women on issues regarding the law. However, following the crown’s application the judge will now be giving a more detailed direction in order to address some of the issues that arose out of McField’s closing speech before sending the seven jurors to deliberate. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The judge will now address the jury on Friday morning before they will be sent to deliberate on their verdict. The UDP government backbencher is charged with perverting the course of justice when he allegedly implied to a security guard not to tell the authorities that he had been involved in a fight with a man at the Grand Cayman Beach Suites.

The incident took place on 1 May when Seymour went to the hotel looking for his wife, Melanie Seymour. The Bodden Town MLA believed she was there with a man called Garrone Yap, who he believed was having an affair with her.

During the trial it emerged that Seymour had found out Yap was on island as a result of information he received from someone at the airport but denied that it was from immigration. It also emerged that the UDP representative gave a false account to the police when he had reported the fight with Yap and asked police to investigate the matter.

The case hangs on one line, however, and that is what Seymour did or did not say to a security officer. According to the guard, who was on duty that night, Seymour had introduced himself as the MLA for Bodden Town when he parked in the fire lane at the hotel and said he was waiting for his wife. He had asked the security guard if he knew which room she was in and if he would give him the key but the officer had pointed out that he did not know and even if he did could not give him a key.

Around half an hour later the guard witnessed Seymour and a friend in the fight with Yap and went to assist Yap, who he said was in the bushes with Seymour on top of him. The guard said that when the altercation was over and the men separated, as Seymour went to leave the scene he had turned to him and said, “Security, ya not see nothing.”

Sometime later Seymour went to the police and told them that Yap had attacked him first and that his friend Minzett had been the one fighting in the bushes with him.

Seymour denies the charges as he says he did not say anything at all to the officer as he left the scene.

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