Archive for June 22nd, 2011

Premier to protest the protest

| 22/06/2011 | 94 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier says that he intends to protest the protest this weekend at the public beach, where he will be inviting the unemployed heavy equipment operators and everyone who needs work to come out Saturday afternoon and show their support for the need for development. During the crime prevention strategy press briefing the premier hinted that he would be holding a rally in response to the march being organised by the opposition and independent MLA on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Denise Miller, leader of the Young Progressives, said that organisers had found a way for those who were too intimidated to publicly join Tuesday’s demonstration to have a voice. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The young political activist said that “the absent will have a voice” during the protest. She said an ongoing concern has always been that people were afraid to participate in these kinds of public protests because of fear of retaliation from government officials or from employers who may attempt to dissuade their employees from participating or even be present merely as spectators.

“The demonstration is simply another avenue for people’s voices to be expressed. While we have no control over whether or not the leadership deems that important or worthy of their time and attention, that does not mean that things should remain unsaid,” Miller said.

Organisers for Tuesday’s event are encouraging people to participate with the ‘Absent Voiceless’ display. Thoughts, opinions and words of encouragement or support can be emailed to the organisers and they will be on view during the march. Between now and Sunday, 26 June, people can send their comment to: ilovecayman2011@gmail.com for inclusion in the demonstration.

“In a democratic society, the ability to cast a vote once every four years is simply one way which citizens can participate in the process,” Miller said. “The use of the internet via comment features on news websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook have also provided another medium for self expression, but sadly these are not yet properly acknowledged to be of any value and meaningful contribution by our decision makers.”

The YP leader said nothing speaks louder than numbers when it comes to people coming together for what they believe in but there is still a tremendous amount of fear in the local community. “Until such time as those people can find the strength to take a stance, it is our responsibility to offer them at least this means of participation,” Miller added.

The demonstration is set to take place at noon in George Town and is designed to allow the community an opportunity to show government that there are a number of concerns about the choices the premier is making and the direction he is choosing in his efforts to stimulate economic growth. The dependence on mega developments such as the proposed East End Seaport, the recent decision to sign an MOU for an oil refinery, the closure of part of the West Bay Road, the fear that proposals to dredge the North Sound may reappear are just some of the concerns raised by the opposition and other groups.

However, when the premier heard of the decision of the opposition to organise the protest he said that he would “not buckle” and he was resolved to press ahead with the things that he believed would create jobs for local people.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday morning, he indicated that the East End port was by no means a foregone conclusion. He said the Environmental Advisory Board’s report of the EIA on the proposed was very comprehensive and needed to be examined.

Continue Reading

Missing man arrested for attempted murder

| 22/06/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A 39-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a stabbing which occurred in West Bay last month. Officers from the Uniform Support Group arrested the man just after midnight on Wednesday (22 June) at a George Town address for attempted murder.  The man was wanted by West Bay detectives as a result of a fight that occurred at Batabano Plaza on the evening of  24 May, in which two men were left injured. Police said the arrested man currently remains in custody pending further investigations. On the night of the fight police had received a report that one of the men was brandishing a firearm.

Police had gone to the scene and found one man had been stabbed in the shoulder during the fight and another, who received a bloody nose, was arrested on the night. Police also found ammunition in a car at the scene, which was believed to have been used by the suspects. Police said that a third man had fled from the scene and the police stated they had received very little co-operation from the men reportedly involved in the fight.

Anyone with information on this matter or on any crime taking place within the Cayman Islands may contact the George Town Police Station at 949-4222 , or any police station within the cayman Islands or Crime Stoppers at 1800 (TIPS) or 1800-8477
 

Continue Reading

Suspect ganja grower arrested in Bodden Town raid

| 22/06/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): A 21-year-old Bodden Town man was arrested yesterday for drug offences, Police say that, following a police operation in the Eastern Districts on Monday the 20 June that involved uniform and plain clothes officers, the man was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine, possession of ganja and suspicion of cultivating ganja, and remains in police custody. Anyone with information on this matter or on any crime taking place within the Cayman Islands may contact the George Town Police Station at 949-4222 , or any police station within the Cayman Islands or Crime Stoppers at 1800 (TIPS) or 1800-8477
 

Continue Reading

Cops get close to $30 million

| 22/06/2011 | 40 Comments

(CNS): While other government departments and agencies may be forced to feel the pinch in this year’s budget, the police have been given a boost with an increase in their budget allocation of more than 10% with an extra $3.3 milllion for police and investigative services. The amount was approved in Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon after two top cops faced a grilling from legislators that they would get results with the extra cash. For the first time the RCIPS has introduced detection targets in its outputs, currently estimated at around only 31%, which it hopes to improve by at least 10%. Steve Brougham, the acting commissioner, said that with the introduction of a new IT system the RCIPS would be able to measure crime detection rates more accurately in future.

Explaining the statistics, which suggest that almost 70% of crimes go undetected, the senior officer told the committee that at present, because the two computer systems that report crimes and charges made in connection with crimes don’t communicate, the detection rates are done by hand. Therefore the 31% is the lowest rate but it could be higher, he said and explained that in future they new system would enable the RCIPS to measure it much more accurately. However, he warned that the largest amount of crime committed in the Cayman Islands is petty crime such as damage to property, which is not only difficult to solve but not where police resources are best spent. 

Brougham told the legislators that the new IT system would enable officers to measure response times more accurately because at present it is gauged through random sampling, where officers call complainants to find out if they were happy with the service they received from the RCIPS.

He also revealed that the police were patrolling for more hours and that re-training and redistribution of officers had placed more cops on the streets. In the past the shift system meant there were the same amount of officers on duty on a Monday morning at 7am as there were on Friday night at 11pm.

“That wasn’t acceptable,” Brougham added and explained that the shifts were altered to ensure that more officers were on duty when they were needed. He said that 25% more officers have now received firearms training, which would enable the RCIPS to boost numbers in the Uniform Support Group if necessary. All of the major districts — Bodden Town, George Town and West Bay — now have 24/7 cover by armed response units, the officer said.

The RCIPS has undergone a number of changes, Brougham explained, as it moves away from what he described as a “silo mentality”.  The service was used to sending a traffic cop to a motor vehicle accident, a financial crimes officer for a stolen cheque or someone from family support to a domestic situation. Now, he said, officers were cross-trained and could deal with a wider range of scenarios. “What we need are multi-competent officers who can do lots of things,” he said.

Asked about marine patrol, the top cop revealed that there have been problems with some of the recently purchased vessels, but he said that he could not go into too much detail as the service was pursuing a legal case against the manufacturer because of a number of design faults with some boats. He said, however, that the “go-faster” vessels were proving their worth and, in conjunction with the air support unit, had scored a number of important drug hauls, having intercepted several canoes. He explained that during the coming financial year the police hope to more than double the marine and air patrols to clamp down on the drugs and guns coming on to the island.

Continue Reading

Over 12,000 say no to EE port

| 22/06/2011 | 75 Comments

(CNS): The petition requesting the Cayman Islands Government not to approve the proposed commercial sea port in East End has gone global and attracted more than 12,200 on-line signatures after just a few days of being on the international petition site. People from all over the world, including those who have already visited and dived in the area, have signed the petition, which is addressed to McKeeva Bush. The news comes in the wake of comments made by the premier in the Legislative Assembly this week that he wanted Cayman to develop a transshipment industry.

During the budget debate, the premier once again showed his support for the proposal for the commercial seaport in East End. “I want to see transshipment in this country. That’s what will make us sustainable,” Bush said. He also spoke about the need to remove the cargo dock from the cruise port in George Town and turn the capital into a more attractive tourist destination in the evenings. 

However, people from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, all across Europe, the Caribbean, the US, Canada, the Middle East and Asia are asking McKeeva Bush to reject the idea of placing a commercial port at Half Moon Bay.

The petition reads in part: “Such a seaport would effectively destroy the irreplaceable natural beauty of Half Moon Bay, which is home to some of the world's most popular dive sites … the project is not only ecologically irresponsible; it is economically unnecessary.”

Adding to the local opposition, which includes a significant number of people in East End as well as the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Save Cayman, the Concerned Citizens Group, the opposition PPM, the independent member from North Side, local quarry operators and a growing number of residents across the Islands, are (at the time of posting) another 12,233 people from around the world.

“The Cayman Islands depends financially on its global reputation as an effective steward of its magnificent natural beauty,” said Stephen Broadbelt, long time dive operator and the owner of Ocean Frontiers dive resort in East End.  “Clearly the whole world is watching.”

The recent publication of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) has also been criticized by both the Environmental Assessment Board, which has asked the authors to go back and address many of its shortcomings, and local marine engineers WI Marine, which heavily criticized the design and plans for the project.

Following a recent public meeting in East End and despite considerable opposition, the developer Joe Imparato has submitted his plans for the port, the EIA and a draft law to create a special development zone to the premier for his approval. If the government were to give its assent, the project would begin with at least five years of excavation and dredging before any part of the commercial and cruise port elements would be developed.

The current view by many is that the port would never become a reality and the goal is merely to excavate the fill, which could fetch millions of dollars locally and via export, which is why the project has been dubbed the ‘mega quarry’.

Next Tuesday (28 June), a march and demonstration has been planned in George Town to show government that the people are against this project as well as a number of other government proposals that have raised concern.

The petition, along with signers’ names, countries, and personal comments can be seen here.

Continue Reading

Cops catch thief with stolen booty

| 22/06/2011 | 7 Comments

(CNS): A man who was helping himself to other people’s property in cars parked at condos off Crewe Road in George Town has been arrested after police caught him leaving the scene of the crime with his ill-gotten gains. Officers from the RCIPS arrested the 33-year-old man on suspicion of theft from motor vehicles following a spate of incidents overnight and have recovered a significant amount of property. Police said that just before 4:00am this morning (Wednesday 22 June) uniformed officers from George Town Police Station received a report of a suspicious male in the area of Lakeland Villas. The man had been seen entering and removing property from parked vehicles. 

While the officers were responding they were advised the male had been seen moving from one vehicle and was cycling away. The member of the public calling in the report was able to provide officers with a description of the male suspect. As officers arrived they saw the suspect and arrested him on suspicion of theft and going equipped to steal.

The RCIPS said they would like to remind motorists not to leave valuables on display in their vehicles
 

 

Continue Reading

No answers on Cohen deal

| 22/06/2011 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Following questions raised in the budget debate about the circumstances surrounding the loan deal with Cohen & Co, which was abandoned by government earlier this year, the premier accused the opposition leader of being “hell bent on trying to make me look bad” but didn’t reveal how much the failed deal had cost the country. McKeeva Bush told Alden McLaughlin to go ahead with his relentless pursuit of the issue as he had done nothing wrong. The premier said the deal with Cohen had been an attempt to save the public purse millions of dollars for government’s financing needs but when the firm could not come through government was encouraged to look elsewhere for the funds.

Government first announced that it had secured a deal with the New York based financial firm to provide government with the US$185m loan it needed to make up what was expected to be a deficit and to cover capital projects for this financial year. However, this was contrary to the decision of the Central Tenders Committee which, based on the recommendations of the ministry’s technical team, had awarded the contract to a bid made by a joint venture of two local banks.

During his debate on the premier’s budget presentation Alden McLaughlin had asked Bush to reveal the details surrounding the decision to deal with Cohen and Co outside of the CTC process, what had happened during that process, why government had then pulled out and how much had been spent on arrangement fees and the loan advance.

McLaughlin said the premier had admitted that he and the government had ignored the decision of the CTC and  his own ministerial team and had, himself, handpicked the New York firm by claiming that he had acted in the best interests of Cayman and would save millions, but the premier had never revealed what the interest rate would be, he noted.

The opposition leader accused the premier of acting unlawfully, which he said was a grave step for the elected leader of the country to take. “The first obvious question therefore is, why?” McLaughlin said on Wednesday. “The premier says it was to save the country money.  But he has never said how, nor has he explained why he invited Cohen and Company to make another proposal after the Central Tenders Committee had already decided to award the financing contract to Royal Bank and FirstCaribbean. 

“Neither has he explained why he did not invite all the other bidders to engage in negotiations or to present another proposal to government in the way that Cohen and Company was invited to do, nor has he told the country why Cohen and Company was singled out for special treatment in this way.”

Although the premier had said at the time that he chose substance over process, the opposition leader noted that the process was important and not just for reasons of compliance with the rule of law. 

“When due process is not followed it opens up the ominous prospect of corruption,” he added.  “The spectre ofcorruption has the capacity to undermine any government’s reputation, including ratings by Standard and Poors and Moodys.  If potential bidders come to believe that the process of awarding contracts is not fair, predictable and transparent, then the attractiveness of this jurisdiction as a place to invest is lost, with potentially dire consequences.”

McLaughlin also noted that at the time the UDP Treasurer, Peter Young, had called CrossTalk and in a discussion lasting the best part of an hour described in detail the process involved in arriving at the decision to choose Cohen.  “Despite what appeared to be intimate knowledge of the details and why it was such an attractive deal for the Cayman Islands government, (he) was unable or unwilling to disclose what the interest rate on the loan would be,” McLaughlin added.

The opposition leader reminded the premier that the opposition had already asked government for the details and circumstances, as well as an explanation of why Cohen and Co were singled out, plus disclosure by the CTC, the premier and government of all relevant documents, a report from the attorney general regarding the legality of the premier’s action and a special investigation by the auditor general.

“We have never received a response to these calls other than an indication from the governor that the auditor general was looking into the matter,” McLaughlin said, noting that no report had been released.

The opposition leader said that after government had received substantial advances from Cohen, the premier announced the agreement had been terminated because they couldn’t provide the previously agreed rate-cap on interest.  FirstCaribbean was then awarded the financing contract.

“The people of the country are owed a proper explanation and accounting by the premier and the government for the irregular and apparently unlawful course of action which it took in relation to this critically important matter of securing financing. In light of the termination of the agreement, the premier as minister of finance should also explain how much the Cohen arrangement has cost the government,” he said.

Hitting back on Monday afternoon as he wrapped up his budget debate, Bush did not answer the questions about how much the loan advances and arrangement fees had cost government, nor did he address the details of the process.

The premier denied wrongdoing, as he said it was all about trying to save government money, but when Cohen said they couldn’t make the promised deal, government walked away. He accused the opposition of saying there was something sinister or that he was trying to “get something for myself or my party,” the premier said, adding that now he had moved away from the deal they were chasing shadows and he hoped they tripped up.

Continue Reading