Archive for July 26th, 2011

Maples provides scholarships for non-legal studies

| 26/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following the tradition of also helping young people to forge careers outside of the legal profession local law firm Maples and Calder has awarded scholarships to four young Caymanians to study economics, management, veterinary medicine and computer science. Maples is one of only two law firms in Cayman that has a non-legal scholarship programme. The programme, which has been running for over ten years, provides partial funding for school expenses each year until the completion of the student's further education. It is intended to supplement the student's financial assistance package.

This year’s recipients were Priscilla Brown, John Fawkes, Sheena Jackson and Jonathan Tatum.

"Their individual dedication and passion to achieve excellence were key factors in our scholarship selection process," said Henry Smith, Global Managing Partner at Maples. "Every young person should be afforded the opportunity to further their education. We're delighted to assist these talented students with achieving their goals."

Priscilla Brown has begun her tertiary education at the University College of the Cayman Islands where she studied Business Administration. The Maples scholarship will give her the opportunity to complete her final years of tertiary education at the University of South Florida where she will major in Management. Aside from allowing him to open John Fawkes his own Stock Brokerage and Venture Capitalist Firm in the Cayman Islands he will be attending university in the UK to study Economics. Meanwhile, Sheena Jackson will be completing her tertiary education in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo to study Computer Science. Jonathan Tatum with a lifelong interest in reptiles will be studying at the University of Missouri to earn a degree in pre-veterinary medicine.

The Maples non-legal scholarship is offered on an annual basis and is available to Caymanians who wish to pursue an undergraduate or post-graduate degree in any field. The firm also awards annual legal scholarships.

The application process usually begins in May of each year.  For more information on Maples' non-legal and legal scholarship programmes, please contact Michelle Daykin on 949-8066,  michelle.daykin@maplesandcalder.com or visit the Careers section of our website maplesandcalder.com
 

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Cops fail exams but papers remain under wraps

| 26/07/2011 | 19 Comments

(CNS): The country’s information commissioner has upheld a decision by the police not to release the RCIPS promotion exam papers as she said it could undermine the credibility of the promotion processes and in turn the entire police force. The request to see the papers was made by an officer who had taken this year’s exam, which had changed format and which he and his colleagues had said was unfair. Although Jennifer Dilbert said some of the accusations by the applicant about the fairness of the process were outside her remit she determined that the police had a right to define and raise the standards if they wanted when it came to promoting staff.

“There is a significant public interest in allowing a public authority, particularly a police service, a reasonable amount of liberty to define and, if necessary, raise the standards against which it measures candidates for promotion, and to formulate its examination questions accordingly,” she said in her fourteenth decision.

Dilbert also noted that the RCIPS management had been willing to accommodate the needs of the applicants while defending the exam questions and process. Prior to commencing the FOI process, the public authority offered to allow the applicant to view the exams, but would not allow them to remove copies from their offices.

Although Dilbert found that the RCIPS had acted within the law by keeping the exam papers and answers under wraps, once again the information boss criticised the procedures followed by the RCIPS during the application.

Dilbert revealed that the chief officer took nearly two months to complete the Internal Review despite the law providing only 30 calendar days with no provision for extending the time period. On top of that the CO caused more delays by remaining unresponsive to the communications of the ICO during the mediation process.

“As late as one day before the Notice of Hearing was sent out, nearly three months after the appeal to the ICO was made, and more than seven months after the request was originally received by the RCIPS, the Chief Officer retracted the previous Internal Review decision, and reformulated his conclusions based on a new exemption,” she said.

While the retraction of a previous position itself was not a problem, as Dilbert explained that it is a legitimate outcome of mediation, delaying an internal review denies an applicant’s right to access government records. She also criticized the RCIPS FOI process as she said it became apparent that people inside the service were not communicating with each other

With so many officers failing this year’s exam, the records request was made to try and determine if the paper was unfair and the reason for the low pass levels. The applicant had also made complaints about the exam before making the FOI. It is understood that officers who took the exam complained about the practice of candidates having to write their names on their answer sheets, which allowed the examiner to know the identity of the officer at the time of marking, as well as the appropriateness of the questions, both in terms of composition and content. In addition, the room where the exam was held and the time allocated was said to be inadequate. All of this reportedly led to a very high rate of failure, though the rate was not revealed.

The applicant indicated that it is common in academic circles for past papers of exams to be made available to everyone, and concern was raised that officers who sit the exam for a second time would be at an unfair advantage over those sitting for the first time.

The RCIPS had claimed, however, that disclosing the papers, which included questions that would be used again, meant that an officer who does not actually possess the required knowledge of the laws, policies, procedures, and practices of the rank could pass the exam, with obvious ramifications.

Dilbert agreed and said the release could prejudice the conduct of the police because it could undermine the RCIPS’ ability to conduct exams and grant promotions according to standards deemed desirable by senior management and the Training Unit.

The commissioner noted that the applicant’s unwillingness to accept the offer made by the RCIPS to allow all of the failed candidates to view their own exam paper with the answers marked also undermined the application but said the RCIPS should release questions and answers when they are removed from the paper.

Dilbert further recommended that the allegations of unfair practices and maladministration made by the applicant might be appropriate for the Complaints Commissioner to address.

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Film commission focuses in on festival

| 26/07/2011 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Grand Cayman may have its very own film festival in the not too distant future following the first steps by the Cayman Islands Film Commission to seek out proposals for producing the event. In a release about the terms of reference for interested parties by the commission on Monday officials said the goal was to promote the local film commission and the potential industryand raise awareness of the Cayman Islands’ potential as host to film and television projects. The concept of a film festival is a new area for the Cayman Islands and the commission said it hopes to follow in the steps of successful festivals around the world from Cannes to New Zealand.

“Through hosting this type of event the Cayman Islands will have a presence in an unexpected realm of engagement,” the film commission which is part of the department of commerce stated in the terms of reference which are now available.  “There is great value in this event, as it will ultimately drive visitation, which is the Department of Tourism’s top strategic objective.

The commission said it has collaborated with key stakeholders including the tourism department and Camana Bay in an effort to establish a joint approach.

“The potential in this event concept will allow the Cayman Islands to engage an affluent market of director, producers, actors and the like,” the commission stated. “In anticipation of the Film Festival growth, as with Camana Bay, DOT would focus on the event to generate and increase brand awareness which is the second priority for the Tourism Department.”

The Cayman Islands Film Commission (CIFC) was established in January 2009 to promote and develop a local film industry. As a government agency, it promotes the Cayman Islands as a prime location for film, television, music video, and advertising productions, and facilitates these productions with every aspect of production from development and pre-production through post-production. 
The CIFC acts as a liaison between film makers and local government agencies. It works to build capacity in the local entertainment community to create opportunities for Caymanians to write, produce, direct, and possibly finance their own projects entirely within the Cayman Islands.  Through an educational programme, locals are trained to aide incoming producers, studios,and productions as a whole.

So far the Cayman Islands has been the location of a around two dozen movies, short films and TV shows including the blockbuster The Firm, as well as home grown director Frankie Flowers’ Haven and of course who could forget the celluloid masterpiece that was The Cayman Triangle.

People interested in submitting proposals can read the full terms of reference below
 

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Taking the Profit from Corruption

| 26/07/2011 | 30 Comments

Government decision making based on greed and corrupt deals destroys countries. It must not be ignored, swept under the carpet, or excused. Existing law can be used to prosecute come cases of corruption, but our law and the way it is enforced are not sufficient to deter corruption. If existing laws were sufficient, we would not have the problems we have.

A general outline of the law which we now have to combat corruption looks something like this. When a bribe of any kind is paid to a politician or a government employee in exchange for influencing any government decision, the common law crime of bribery is committed by those who give bribes and those who accept them. The common law offense of extortion is committed by politicians and other public officials who demand payment of any kind in exchange for securing a specific outcome in any government related matter. Our penal code also criminalises both fraud and breach of trust by public officials, and our less than perfect Anti-Corruption Law also makes certain corrupt acts criminal offenses.

Criminal law does not define the limits of what is already available in the fight against corruption. Those responsible for enforcing the law and ensuring good governance also have access to civil law. Civil law remedies can be used with considerable effect against corrupt politicians and other public officials as well as those that reward them for their corruption. Decisions by government bodies influenced by corruption can be undone by the courts. Those who use their offices to corruptly enrich themselves can be made to pay to the public treasury their unlawful gains. Asset freezing and other measures arealso available to facilitate the recovery of corrupt profits.

Civil law remedies typically have the advantage of being decided on the basis of whether one or more acts or omissions was more likely corrupt than not corrupt, rather than whether guilt in relation to a crime has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. This easier to prove standard has made civil remedies quite useful as part of the fight against corruption in other jurisdictions. However, like criminal law remedies, civil law anti-corruption measures only work when those investigating corruption and those responsible for good governance have access to expertise in civil law enforcement and act diligently, effectively and without fear or favour. How then can we make our anti-corruption regime more effective?

We need investigators and prosecutors with particular expertise in both criminal and civil anti-corruption law. We also need to ensure that our laws make available to our investigators and prosecutors the tools necessary for the task. Providing adequate tools requires specific changes to our laws that will not only deter corruption, but will also enhance the detection, prosecution and punishment of corruption.  Specifically, we need to supplement our existing laws with at least one new legislated “carrot” and several legislated “sticks” in order to make corruption less attractive to both persons offering bribes and any politician or government employee (including in this context any civil servant and any employee or board member of any statutory authority or government owned corporation) tempted to act in a corrupt manner.

The Carrot – Incentives to Report Corruption — Any person who provides information which results in a conviction relating to any corrupt behaviour by any politician or government employee ought to be rewarded with up to one-half of any money or other benefit secured by the public treasury through forfeiture or fines. We, as a country, share the benefits derived from convicting criminals and seizing their assets when our enforcement authorities work with foreign governments. We should offer the same to our own people in the fight against corruption.

A person providing information regarding possible corruption must also have access to effective legislated guaranties that they will not be victimised or otherwise adversely affected as a result of reporting suspected corruption. There are many existing examples of legislation in other jurisdictions which provide models for effective anti-corruption “whistle-blower” legislation.

Stick 1 – Criminal Penalties for Corruption– The minimum penalty for corruption involving a politician or public employee ought to be five years in prison with the maximum being life, rather than the slap on the wrist provisions which currently exist. Why should a tiny fine be a permitted penalty for corruption?

Any disguising of or attempting to disguise any payment or benefit related to a corrupt act, whether by way of commission or omission, ought to be explicitly classified in legislation as money laundering. All reporting requirements and penalties relating to money laundering ought to apply in the context of corrupt acts. Any prison sentences relating to corruption and money laundering ought to be served consecutively without exception, a practice already permitted for other egregious acts.

Stick 2 – Criminal Penalties for Failure to Report Corruption – All politicians and government employees are in some sense stewards of public money. There are legal arguments to the effect that all politicians and government employees are already under an obligation to report any evidence of corruption, but to the best of my knowledge there has never been any politician or government employee disciplined for not reporting corruption in this country. Worse, there is a general perception in recent times that reporting corruption, or even being seen by the corrupt as unlikely to turn a blindeye to their corruption, is career destroying for honest politicians and honest government employees and their families. Therefore, in addition to the whistle-blower ”carrot” noted above, and the need to change civil service rules to ensure that corrupt and corruptible politicians are never allowed to influence the civil servants that they will work with, we need clear legislation that makes a failure to report corruption a criminal offense. Conviction for failure to report corruption that he or she is aware of at a minimum should cause an elected politician or government employee who chooses not to report any aspect of corruption to be banned from all government employment of any kind, permanently. A politician or government employee who chooses not to report corruption should also lose any benefits accrued whether in the form of pensions or otherwise. In the most overt, persistent or wilful cases of failure to report corruption, politicians and government employees who choose not to report corruption ought to face years in prison. It may seem harsh to impose such penalties on those who turn a blind eye to corruption, but we cannot afford to allow indifference to corruption or intimidation by the corrupt to determine the future of our country. We need to make the reporting of corruption the only choice.

Stick 3 – Civil Forfeiture and Fines for Corruption with No Time Limitation – We need legislation which would ensure that there is no time limitation on civil claims related to corruption in any public office. Why should a corrupt politician, government employee or crony benefit if they or their friends can stay in positions of power and able to hide their thievery for a few years?

We need legislation which will ensure that any property of any kind which relates to, or to any extent is derived from, any part of any corrupt transaction or the disguising or concealment of any such transaction, is forfeited to the public treasury. In addition, a fine of three times the value of the benefit gained or sought to be gained, or the loss avoided or sought to be avoided by the corrupt individuals, ought to be imposed on each of the persons (and in the case of a company the beneficial owners) who paid or offered to pay any bribe. Such a fine should also be paid by each and every politician or government employee or other person who knowingly benefited or sought to benefit from any corrupt transaction, whether directly or indirectly.

By way of hypothetical example, if it were to be proved according to a civil law standard that a property developer offered “special pricing and financing” on oneor more luxury condos, or an exclusive real estate deal, or money to a politician in exchange for planning approval, or changes to the rules relating to building height restrictions or zoning restrictions, then the relevant property and the bribe paid would be forfeited to the public treasury. In addition, each of the corrupt developer and the corrupt politician and any knowing intermediaries would be liable to pay fines equalling 3 times the increased value of the development. This would apply irrespective of whether the bribe was paid or was offered to be paid directly to the politician/government employee or to a relative or “associate” of the politician/government employee, or to a real estate or other company in which the politician/government employee or any person connected with them, is involved. As noted above, any person providing information regarding corruption which secured the conviction of the corrupt individuals would receive up to half the value of the property confiscated and the fines paid. Were such measures to be implemented and enforced retrospectively there is no telling how much of the government’s debt might be eliminated.

To make things more effective, the law should also be clarified to ensure that any corrupt individual’s liability to pay any forfeiture or fine would not be avoided by declaring bankruptcy, and that the tracing and seizing of benefits from corrupt transactions would be fully operative. These measures should go some way to limiting the appeal of big dollar corruption, but a further provision is necessary to minimise the low level corruption which corrupt politicians and government employees typically start with.

Stick 4 – Civil Employment-Related Penalties for Corruption – Any politician or public employee found to have committed any corrupt act no matter how small, including turning a blind eye to corruption as noted above, must lose any and all government-related employment and must be permanently banned from holding any office, position or employment related in any way to government. They should also lose any pension or other benefit entitlement and should be required to repay any and all money paid to them from the public purse at any time after their first corrupt act. The pension disqualification component described is particularly important in that pension entitlement typically increases with seniority and influence. It is important to ensure that deterrence is effective for those with the greatest ability to influence government decisions.  Any person providing information leading to a conviction for corruption in this context should also receive up to half of the money recovered plus half the benefits which would have gone to the corrupt government employee or politician. This reporting “carrot” will make things much more difficult for the corrupt.

The combination of existing law and the enhanced penalties and rewards set out above, if enacted and enforced, would go a considerable way to limiting corruption in our country. Which person seeking a government concession is going to approach a politician or government employee offering a bribe if they know that they can lose their property, go to prison and pay a large fine just by making the offer? Which politician or government employee in a position to influence a government decision is going to even consider extorting a payment if they know that they might lose everything they have, plus everything they hope to have in the future, and they know that they could go to prison just for asking for payment, while the person they ask could potentially receive half of all they have for reporting their corruption?

There are increasing public demands for an end to corruption. The corrupt can be expected to oppose, to delay and to deny resources for stronger anti-corruption measures. Those that are not corrupt can be expected to welcome tougher anti-corruption measures. Ideally those politicians who even now claim that there is no corruption would be happy to prove that they genuinely believe this to be true by immediately introducing enhancements to our anti-corruption legislation at least as tough as those recommended above. After all, what could they possibly have to lose?

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Lionfish threaten Sister Islands’ economies

| 26/07/2011 | 40 Comments

(CNS): The infestation of lionfish on the Cayman Islands reefs, which has been described in the Legislative Assembly as “a national emergency”, is threatening the diving industry in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, according to the Sister Islands Tourism Association (SITA). A removal programme for the lionfish within Bloody Bay Marine Park in Little Cayman has been in place since January this year, thanks to the assistance of volunteer divers from that island, but SITA members are now requesting funds from government for a formal and more aggressive culling policy. Meanwhile, scientists at the Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) are currently conducting the first formal assessment of the impact of lionfish culling.

In a letter to Mark Scotland, the minister with responsibility for the environment, SITA said that its members were deeply concerned that the lionfish invasion affecting Cayman Brac, Little Cayman and the rest of the Caribbean region “is destroying our marine life and therefore threatens our livelihoods and therefore our economic existence.” Noting that dive tourism constitutes 90% of overall tourism in the Sister Islands and that there was very little to be offered aside from that as a tourist draw, the letter stated that tourists were already noticing changes in Sister Islands reefs and negative comments about diving in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman had already been posted on travel websites such as TripAdvisor.com

The letter pointed to scientific studies which found that the invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans) are voracious hunters that can eat anything up to 2/3 of their own body size and they have no natural predator in the Caribbean except humans. SITA also cited research in the Bahamas which found that "substantial reduction of adult abundance will require a long¬ term commitment and may be feasible only in small, localized areas where annual exploitation can be intense over multiple consecutive years."

Since January dive operations on Little Cayman have been sending out one dive boat per week at their own expense each Wednesday afternoon with several teams of volunteer divers to cull lionfish in the Bloody Bay Marine Park. However, SITA told the minister, "We believe that the only way to slow this problem down is for teams of divers to cull lionfish on a full time basis. Clearly, this cannot be done on a once per week basis by volunteers during their spare time. Action needs to be taken immediately by the Government, a private company, or a combination ofthe two.”

Estimating the start-up cost of a culling operation on each island at US$98,000 and annual operating costs to amount to US$136,900 for each operation, SITA said, “Our proposal would be an effective way of controlling lionfish populations at a much more extensive level than just a few localized areas. We are confident that the proposal would help control lionfish populations on all the reefs around the Sister Islands." Annual operating costs could be supplemented by the sale of lionfish fillets to Sister Islands restaurants, SITA noted.

In his contribution to the budget debate in June, First Elected Member for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Moses Kirkconnell, said that stakeholders in the Sister Islands considered the lionfish invasion a national emergency. “If something is not done soon to curtail this lionfish invasion, we will all expect the continued degradation of the reef itself, which will soon lead to permanent damage for the economy in both [Sister] islands,” he told MLAs.

Noting that there was a need to form a national policy, he said the Cayman Islands would be “the only country that has stepped up to the plate, made acommitment and put ourselves forward to keep our reefs pristine and ensure that part of our tourism industry continues to be vibrant and works for our local economy.”

In the Lionfish Removal Effort Assessment, researchers at the Little Cayman Research Centre, which is owned and operated by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), are looking at how many lionfish exist within the boundaries of Bloody Bay Marine Park, whether the culling programme is effectively reducing the number of lionfish in Bloody Bay Marine Park, how effective are divers at removing the lionfish with spears and/or nets and how much effort is needed to reduce lionfish numbers.

The lionfish have been present in Little Cayman since 2009 and CCMI says anecdotal reports indicate that their size and numbers have been increasing steadily over the past three years. The aim of CCMI researchers is to collect the necessary data to offer information on the actual impact the weekly culls are having on the lionfish population. Each week lionfish population density data will be collected at specific dive sites before they are culled, and there will also be a few control sites with no culling to establish baseline lionfish numbers. The data collected during this project will then be used to complete a formal assessment of the current management plan in place and inform management decisions in the future.

 

Joshua Dilbert, a 15-year-old CNS summer intern, contributed to this article.
 

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Police admit losing guns

| 26/07/2011 | 55 Comments

(CNS): The police have confirmed that at least two guns have gone missing from the RCIPS weapons inventory. Although one is said to have been lost during the chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, another handgun has been lost within the last year. A police spokesperson said that this missing weapon was “causing greatest concern” to senior officers. The RCIPS said the discovery was made during a recent review of all of the RCIPS assets in which seven guns were written off as they were described as unserviceable and will be destroyed after this month’s public gun amnesty ends. However, an investigation is now underway into the disappearance of the handgun, which was last used some twelve months ago. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Police said that when Commissioner of Police David Baines was informed he ordered “an immediate and thorough investigation” under the direction of Deputy Commissioner Stephen Brougham.

“That investigation has been ongoing for around a week,” a police spokesperson revealed on Monday. “As part of the enquiry all officers who had access to the weapon are being interviewed and RCIPS armouries, buildings, boats, etc are in the process of being searched. To date the weapon has not been traced.”

The spokesperson said that the RCIPS has “a rigid policy in place in relation to the issue and storage of police firearms,” but admitted that the policy in this case was not followed.  “Until the investigation is complete it would be inappropriate to comment further,” the RCIPS said.

The police have also denied that the weapon discovered in the bushes in Red Bay recently by Boris, a police dog from the K-9 unit, was the missing weapon. The spokesperson said that the loaded Heckler and Koch pistol was not a police issue.

The police have not given any details of the type of weapons that have disappeared other than to say that the weapon was a handgun. Other sources have told CNS that the weapon which reportedly went missing in the wake of Ivan was a H&K G36 rifle and the handgun is believed to be a H&K pistol.

Although the RCIPS said the investigation was commenced over one week ago, it is not clear how long the police have known about the missing weapons.

Dennie Warren Jr, of the local pressure group People for Referendum, appears to be the person that raised the question of the missing policeguns in the public domain. Warren called into Radio Cayman’s afternoon talk-show Talk Today just over one week ago and asked the host Sterling Dwayne Ebanks if he or the government’s radio news team were aware of the missing weapons.

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