Archive for August 18th, 2011

Legal dept threat a hoax

| 18/08/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Update 6:15pm — Police have now confirmed that the bomb threat made this afternoon to the government's legal department was a hoax. On Thursday 18 August three separate calls were made around 3pm by the hoaxers — two to George Town Police station and one to the legal department, which is located at dms House in George Town’s business district. The building and those nearby were all evacuated as police and emergency services converged on the scene following the threat. “Explosive sniffing dogs and their handlers meticulously searched the dms building for any devices which may have been planted but nothing was found,” a police spokesperson revealed. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

At 5:20pm the all clear was given and all roads were re-opened but the Specialist Support Unit is still carrying out investigations into the matter. The RCIPS said it was grateful to the management and staff of the various businesses in the area, especially those at the dms building for their co-operation during the investigation.

The legal department occupies the ground floor office of the building in Genesis Close, where one of the calls was made to a receptionist. As well as being home to the Attorney General's Chambers, the office also houses the director of public prosecutions and her staff, who are responsible for criminal prosecutions.

Section 206 of the penal Code (2010 Revision) states that a “Bomb Hoax” is an offence, and on conviction a person can be sentenced up to ten years imprisonment and a fine of ten thousand dollars.

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Advice to the premier

| 18/08/2011 | 82 Comments

I was very impressed by a recent comment by a young Caymanian journalist (see below). It shows an understanding of the issues that far exceed anything which the premier's statements reflect. Like her, I think many young people in this country find the statements of the premier to be offensive and not conducive to civil society and good governance. I maintain that religous society would have a similar view.

I do not at times agree with the editorials of the Compass but whatever the case, those are opinions that they are free to hold and as a free press they should be able to express them. They reflect the views of society to one degree or another and on this matter I would suggest it is to a very high degree.

Our leadership has reached the point where any criticism no matter how objective is rejected immediately and these sort of aggressive Repugnatorials are issued in response. Threats of legal action against talk shows, the media and individuals to stifle free speech and the exchange of opinions and ideas seem to be a weapon that is employed frequently these days as well.

I am particularly concerned that this sort of behaviour is instructive to elements of our society that this is the way to resolve issues and the way to get ahead. Leaders are supposed to lead by example and be role models in society. Sadly it seems that is not a concept that is recognised much these days.

If we are to have a better society and our leadership is to have less occasion to bitterly complain about criticism how about trying these suggestions for a start:

Stop the outrageous stuff which gives reason to criticise.

Stop attacking the media for doing their job and exercising their rights.

Stop trying to turn the various nationalities of our cosmopolitan society against each other for political convenience.

Stop apparently breaching or abrogating the laws, regulations, rules and processes of the country that are there to create a more perfect society, to give certainty, to deliver fairness and the same opportunity for all.

Stop promoting every harebrained idea that comes across your desks.

Stop supporting the destructionof our natural environment.

Stop appearing to ignore or embrace conflicts of interest as if they are opportunities for the privileged who enjoy the spoils of a less than perfect democracy.

Stop offending society's sense of right and wrong, of justice, of comity.

Stop destroying the national psyche.

Stop this latest tactic of using religion as a cloak, as a shield and as a spear!

The present and future of this country like this young Caymanian journalist are looking to you as an example of good, for right, for principles and values, for national pride, for motivation, for inspiration. Stop dissapointing them!

This is not nation building. It is destructive and frankly scary.    

 

Comment by lilpressgyal (Wed, 08/17/2011 – 11:03) on Mac goes on attack

Alexis de Tocqueville, a renowned political philosopher in his age whose writings on democracy are respected to this day, once wrote about the importance of newspapers to the survival of a proper democracy.

He wrote: "When men are no longer united among themselves by firm and lasting ties, it is impossible to obtain the co-operation of any great number of them unless you can persuade every man whose help you require that his private interest obliges him voluntarily to unite his exertions to the exertions of all the others. This can be habitually and conveniently effected only by means of a newspaper… Newspapers therefore become more necessary in proportion as men become more equal and individualism more to be feared. To suppose that they only serve to protect freedom would be to diminish their importance: they maintain civilization."

The press, if they do their job properly, maintain our civilization. To attack them for edtorialising on current affairs, for publicising blatent breaches of transparency, is to attack the foundation of our society. That is what McKeeva is doing.

If McKeeva truly cared about the good of this country, he would follow its laws, he would spend the budget wisely, and he would not attempt to silence the news media.

I am a young Caymanian journalist and I can only do good in my country by writing. If my own government tries to stop me, nothing but my love for these shores will keep me here and keep me writing … and I do not know how long my love for Cayman would sustain me if my job was taken away.

I would love to see McKeeva call me a devil-worshipper to my face. If he did, that's one more young Caymanian he could add to the growing brain-drain.

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Mac accused of abusing LA

| 18/08/2011 | 94 Comments

(CNS): The independent and opposition members have joined forces to draw public attention to what they say is the very real abuse of the parliamentary process by the premier through his majority power. The opposition benches have united over what they say is the direct threat to democracy that must be address, and are calling on the support of the Cayman people and at least one government member to try and force government to follow the rules. The continued abuse of power by McKeeva Bush is undermining the country's parliamentary system and its built-in checks and balances, the politicians said as they pointed out that the Legislative Assembly is meant to be much more than a rubber stamp for government business.

Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side, said he had approached the opposition members about joining him in calling attention to what he said was the “malfunctioning of parliament” and to try and address the problem.

“I've been troubled for some time by what I regard as the abuse of the Standing Business Committee by the premier,” Miller told the press on Thursday morning. He explained that the premier, who is chair of that committee which decides the business of the House, is using his power and making a choice to deliberately refuse to put important motions on the agenda that come from him or the opposition, despite the fact they have been legitimately accepted by the speaker.

He said that he and his colleagues were being prevented from doing their job as representatives of their constituents and raising debate because Bush is using the government's majority to push out any business other than the government's agenda when there was no authority for him to do so.

Miller accused the premier of refusing to allow three motions submitted to the Legislative Assembly by him back in April to reach the order paper. He said all three motions went to the heart of the cost of living issues and had been brought to the LA in the hope of persuading government that they would make life easier for the people.

One motion requests government remove duty on medicines, the second to reduce the duty on gasoline and the third to introduce a minimum wage.

“The premier is deliberately refusing to allow these motions for political reasons as, if he allows them and government votes against them, he will lose public support,” Miller noted. “But if he and his government support them then he will be allowing me political credit, which he obviously doesn't want to happen. But this cannot be any way to carry on the country's parliament,” Miller noted.

He pointed out that the premier was also abusing the power given to his office by his habit of stretching parliamentary meetings over months, preventing the opposition from submitting new motions or questions.

While government is closing down the opposition, because Standing Orders have still not been amended to meet the requirements of the new constitution it is able to bring whatever business it wants, at will, without having to start a new meeting.

The current parliamentary meeting was due to start at the beginning of May but as a result of various delays with the government's budget it finally started on 23 May. Since then, it has been adjourned sine die on numerous occasions and is now almost three months long. By continuing to prolong the same meeting, the government is able to effectively shut down debate and use the LA as nothing more than a rubber stamp. The opposition cannot submit anything new once a meeting has started and must now wait until the premier properly adjourns this meeting and starts a new one – something which is entirely in his hands.

Miller said that with the support of the opposition he is now asking the speaker of the House to call a special sitting of the LA under the Standing Orders to debate the existing private motions that have been ignored so far and force government's hand.

The North Side representative explained that the speaker has the discretion to do this herself, but if she is not willing, if seven members of the Legislative Assembly request it she is obligated to call the meeting. As a result, Miller says, he is calling on just one member of the UDP who cares about the people of Cayman and the cost of living to step up, search their conscience and join him and the opposition members in requesting the special meeting.

Miller said that he is also alerting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association about the abuse and requesting their guidance. He pointed out that the CPA does not have any powers to intervene but it can offer advice to governments about proper parliamentary procedures and, if nothing else, at least embarrass government into following the rules..

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin stated that the behaviour of the premier was threatening democracy as one of the main roles of parliament was to debate and discuss issues. He said that while the public may criticize politicians for not getting along, the Westminster system demanded that the opposition act as a check on the executive or Cabinet and raise questionsabout government policy.

“People may think this is just politicians wrangling but it is much more,” McLaughlin added. “It is about democracy.” He warned that when government has the majority power  and it begins to ignore the rules, that is very dangerous.

 

Vote in latest CNS poll: Does McKeeva Bush's performance as premier match your expectations?

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Swarbrick plans wider audit

| 18/08/2011 | 61 Comments

(CNS): The auditor general will not make any comment about the criticisms of his office made by the premier in relation to the media, a spokesperson said this week. However, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has confirmed that it will be examining other grant type payments made by government as well as those made under the premier’s Nation Building Programme. Following accusations by McKeeva Bush that the OAG was courting the media, CNS contacted the office and was told that Alastair Swarbrick had nothing to say about the premier’s comments. The spokesperson stated that the office would still go ahead with the audit as planned which will be part of an even wider examination of all so-called “transfer payments” made by government.

The Nation Building Fund (NBF) is listed in the budget as Transfer Payment 52 but government makes numerous other payments to various organisations and initiatives, which the country’s auditor now says he intends to review in the value for money report.

The office said that it would be scrutinizing these payments made by government to ensure value for money across the board and explained that it would be selecting certain payments as case studies.

The auditor general's office had confirmed the planned audit of the Nation Building Programme when it was asked by the media recently in the wake of wide public criticism of the more than $4 million given in grants by the premier to a selection of local churches. The details of where the first $7 million of the $10 million allocated to the fund had gone were revealed earlier this month in two FOI requests.

In a recent statement on TV, the premier took aim at the OAG and accused it of seeking out banner headlines. In comments that were similar to those he made about the previous auditor general, Bush’s criticisms came only weeks after Swarbrick’s first value for money report that was critical of the current administration.

The former AG, Dan Duguay, who learned his contract would not be renewed not long after the premier began accusing him of being a “cowboy” and courting the media, offered his backing to the current AG, saying that Swarbrick's intention to review the programme was correct.

“It is clearly a concern to the Caymanian population and it is important that the Office supports the accountability of public funds as much as possible. If I was still AG, I would certainly be reviewing these payments,” Duguay said, adding that Bush’s comments echoed the sort of things he had said about him.

“I don't believe that I or the current AG were trying to be a media hound. Rather the present AG is just doing his job to the best of his ability. He has announced that he has decided to do a review of expenditures (underthe NBP). This is clearly within the scope of his responsibilities under the PMFL. It is unconscionable that the premier should berate the current AG, along with the hard working staff of the Office, for simply doing their jobs,” Duguay told CNS Wednesday.

“I said during my term, on many occasions, that there is very little accountability of government funds. Sadly, this seems to continue to be true. In fact, it appears to be worse in some respects. In such a situation, the public's best friend is the AG's Office. I believe that it has the support of the public in its goal of improving public accountability. It certainly deserves it.”

The former top auditor, who spent several years in the office, said he had advised the governor to give the new auditor general a six year contract to increase his independence. This did not happen, but Duguay explained that if the post holder was more secure in his position then comments like those made by the premier this week would be lessof a concern to the incumbent.

“I call on the governor to make a strong statement in support of the AG. He and the Office that he represents deserve no less,” Duguay added.

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Creditors claim Cayman based IT firm insolvent

| 18/08/2011 | 1 Comment

(Irishtimes): A Committee representing so-called Pik note loanholders in Eircom has written to the board of its Cayman Islands-based parent stating they have every reason to believe the company is insolvent. In the latest twist to the Eircom financial saga, they have also questioned how the parent company intends to repay its debt. In addition, the committee has accused the directors of being in breach of their duty of care towards them and have warned they will take legal or other action if necessary to protect their position.

The Irish Times has learned that the letter was delivered by hand in the Cayman Islands yesterday to ERC Ireland Preferred Equity Ltd, the ultimate parent company of Eircom and the entity that issued the loan notes.

“The committee believes that the directors of the company are not taking active and independent steps to safeguard the interests of the company’s creditors, the holders of the Pik notes, and are putting those interests at risk by their failure to do so,” the letter stated.

It also states that the directors have a duty of care to creditors ahead of shareholders and that they have lost faith in the board’s ability to look after their interests.

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Mom recalls ‘horrific night’

| 18/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The mother of a four-year-old boy shot and killed at a West Bay gas station last year wept openly in court on Wednesday morning when, for the first time, she watched the CCTV footage of the gunman firing at the car she was in with her family. Giving evidence in the murder trial of Devon Anglin, Dorlisa Ebanks-Barnes, the mother of Jeremiah Barnes who was hit in the head during the shooting, told the court that the gunman was not masked and she had seen his face and said it was Devon Anglin. “I recall him coming round the corner and looking me in the eye and pulling the trigger over and over,” Ebanks told the court. “That night was a horrific night for me,” she added.

Ebanks-Barnes echoed her husband Andy Barnes’ evidence given earlier in the week but Jeremiah’s mother told the court that Anglin was not masked and she saw his face clearly when she gave her own evidence from the witness stand. She said he was wearing a hoody-jacket with the hood over his head but as he came round the corner of the Hell Esso gas station shop he was holding the gun in his right hand and was not wearing any kind of face covering.

In his evidence, her husband had stated that Anglin was wearing some kind of handkerchief or bandana around his lower face, which he had adjusted as he emerged from behind the store andstarted shooting. On the CCTV footage that shows the incident, which took place on 15 February last year, the gunman appears to have his face covered. Despite seeing the video, Ebanks did not change her testimony and told the court emphatically that she saw the face of her child’s killer.

Ebanks said she knew Anglin well as they had grown up in West Bay in the same community and had gone to the same schools. She said that she would see him around the district very regularly.

During her evidence in chief, when Andrew Radcliff QC, prosecuting counsel, asked her to tell the court what happened on the night of the killing, she said that as Andy got back into the car after filling it with gas, “Devon came around the corner”, and as the forecourt was well lit, she could see him very clearly.

“He opened fire and tried to kill my entire family,” she said. As the shooting started Ebanks said she began to scream and ducked down below the dashboard as some six shots were fired, as she shouted at Barnes to drive. He then went past the gunman and “drove away for our lives” she said, as they headed to the West Bay police station.

During cross examination when John Ryder QC, Anglin’s defence counsel, put it to her that the gunman was wearing a mask covering his face to the bridge of his nose, Ebanks disagreed and stated emphatically that she had seen Anglin shoot at her and her family. Ebanks told the court that when she gave her statement to the police on the night of the shooting she was not capable of telling them everything but she said she knew who she had seen shoot at her family. “That person, Devon Anglin, has to pay for the death of my child,”she said.

Ebanks also stated that she had seen the grey Honda Accord which belonged to DJ (Darrel Evans) pull into the gas station just before the shooting began but she said she could not see who was inside the car.

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Three injured in two road smashes

| 18/08/2011 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Officers from the RCIPS said Thursday that they have arrested a 49 year old man after three people were hurt in more road accidents on Wednesday evening (17 August). Athough everyone involved escaped serious injury two women and one man were all taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town following a collision between a bus and a truck in West Bay at around 7pm and a head on smash in the Bodden Town district between two cars at about 7:30pm. Police said that two women were passengers on the bus and the man was one of the drivers in the Bodden Town crash who also arrested on suspicions of DUI following treatment at the hospital. (Photo by Dennie Warren JR)

A police spokesperson said the man was travelling West on Bodden Town Road in a Mazda car and it appears that he exceeded the speed limit on the curvature which caused the vehicle to drift into the opposite lane. The car then smashed into a Ford Explorer at around 7:30pm which was travelling East on the same road. The driver was taken to hospital with non life threatening injuries and later arrested but luckily all three occupants of the Explorer escaped injuries.

Earlier in the evening just after 7:00pm a passenger bus was rear-ended by a truck as it travelled along Town Hall Road in West Bay. There were three passengers on the bus at the time, the male driver escaped injury, but the two female passengers were not as lucky as they both complained of head and foot pain. Both women went to hospital but they were not admitted as their injuries were not serious.

Investigations are ongoing into both incidents and officers from the RCIPS are asking anyone who witnessed either crash to contact George Town police station on 949-422 or the Traffic Management Department on 946-6254.
 

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Lime begins roll out of 4G service across islands

| 18/08/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Local telecommunications company LIME said that it is on schedule to complete its 4G network across all three Cayman Islands by the middle of September and has already switched on the service around Seven Mile Beach. Tony Ritch the General Manager of LIME Cayman Islands said that because the team had been working around the clock the company was ahead of schedule and it means that Grand Cayman will be completed by the end of August and Little Cayman and Cayman Brac by the first two weeks in September.   “We’ve launched 4G along the Seven Mile Beach corridor of Grand Cayman” said Tony Ritch, General Manager of LIME Cayman Islands.

“I promised customers back in May at the Ritz Carlton that LIME would be bringing 4G, world-class cutting edge technology to the Cayman Islands and today (Wednesday 17 August) I’m delighted to tell you that we have switched on the first sites,” he added.

Ritch said that in order to keep customers abreast of the progress of the service as it is switched on in various districts he said there are now coverage maps in each of the LIME retail stores which will show when sites are switched on until eventually there is 100% coverage.  There is also a lot of information on the website link www. lime.com/4G/

“Even though we are in the early stages of our deployment, we are also seeing an improvement in coverage which is what we expected,” Ritch said.  “4G will increase our mobile coverage by approximately 15%-20% across the islands.  However obviously this is a brand new network and there will be some teething issues and I ask our customers to please bear with us and be patient over the next couple of weeks as we optimize the network.”

The company said that existing devices will work on the network and to ensure customers are getting the optimum speed they are asked to go to their mobile phone settings, select Mobile Network Options and click on 2G & 3G.  It stated that customers will immediately notice the difference in download speeds and how quickly they can open files and stream video.  At present as the service is only operating in the Seven Mile Beach corridor as users move away they should not notice any difference as the network is set up to give a smooth handover back to Edge.

“If you are using data your speeds will reduce because obviously you are no longer on the 4G network, however this is going to be for a short time as we bring more sites online,” Ritch explained 

LIME has also launched new plans starting at just $40 and the firm says it has “slashed” its data cost from as much as $3.59 per MB to just 30 cents per MB.
LIME has always led the way in the Cayman Islands, we are a company of firsts and we are first to bring our customers 4G not just in selected areas but we are rolling this out nationwide,” he said. 

“Our tag line is ‘4G is for Everyone – Everywhere’.  I’m enjoying the speed and the great experience, I’ve also set up one of the dongles on my laptop so I can work just as efficiently out of the office as at my desk.  We have some very exciting events coming up soon and I encourage everyone to come out and learn more about how 4G can be for you.”

 

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