Archive for September 9th, 2011

US officials say fugitive could be in Cayman

| 09/09/2011 | 24 Comments

(CNS): According to reports in the US media, law enforcement officials are seeking a fugitive who they believe may now be in the Cayman Islands. US marshals said that they are closing in on a former Meredith man who fled in 1997 after allegedly torching his girlfriend’s home because he was angry she broke up with him. 68-year-old James Lyman Hill faces arson charges for allegedly dousing his ex-girlfriend’s home in diesel fuel and setting it alight. He was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury. Officials also state that Hill, who may be hiding out here, has allegedly twice faked his own death during the 1990s the first time he reportedly ran a stolen boat aground, and then the second time he crashed a car.

Marshals say Hill is known to work as a carpenter or handyman. He is white, six-feet tall, 200 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, the reports reveal.

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Football and politics

| 09/09/2011 | 17 Comments

If you went to a football match and the referee suddenly tackled a player on one side and attempted to score a goal for the other, you’d be scratching your head in amazement. I mean, that’s not the ref’s job, is it? Speakers of parliaments are a bit like football referees – well, they wear a black strip and they have a gavel even if they don't have a whistle and yes, they wear wigs, but let’s face it, so do quite a few refs.

Anyway, the point is, speakers are meant to referee parliaments and political assemblies and like football refs, they are not supposed to join in, no matter how much theymight want to. No matter how many times they’d tried out for a team and didn’t get picked, if they then get the chance to become a ref and take it, that’s not a side door in to be a player.

There are many refs who probably think they could have been a contender when they are running up the park of a Saturday afternoon, blowing their whistle, but the thing is, they know that they have donned that black strip and agreed to uphold the rules of the glorious game.

Political arenas, especially ones that follow the British or Westminster system, are governed a bit like a football game – by a set of rules. Now, politics might not be quite so glorious but rules still need to be upheld when the two sides go at it. The system is adversarial, one side pitched against the other. Even when there is more than one political party involved, they tend to group together to create the government side and the opposition side – like football teams.

The chamber, like the pitch, is set up on opposite sides and the opponents face each other as they go into verbal battle and try and score political points and votes – a bit like goals against each other. There is a lot of verbal tackling and passing of the ball (a political subject of debate) around as each member gets up and yells a lot at the other side in the hope of getting near the goal line. There are verbal skirmishes that sometimes wound emotionally and lots of the debating equivalent of rolling around on the floor clutching shins in order to get the speaker-refs attention.

As a result of the political shenanigans, the speaker-ref has to know how to play the game very well.  Although, like the football ref, he or she (as some of them are ladies) can’t get on the pitch and play, they need to know the rules (or ‘Standing Orders’, as the political rules are known) inside-out. That means even learning the really tricky ones (like if a member should be able to read from a document, for example – that might be a bit like the offside rule, as you can’t always tell whether or not it was or it wasn’t offside).

The problem with the parliamentary pitch, though, is that there are no linesmen and no instant replays, so the speaker-ref has to use good judgement based on their swotting up on the rule book at every opportunity.

What the speaker-ref can’t ever do when he (or of course she) doesn’t quite understand what’s going on is get on the pitch, tackle an opposition player and bring them down, especially with a sliding tackle from behind. Not good.

If that was to happen, then, just like in a football match, it would make it really unfair and the losing team might get demoralised and their fans really grumpy. It might even lead to a pitch invasion. It would also look really bad on the team that the ref was playing for and even their fans might not be that impressed, because while the points might get on the score board, it could feel like a bit of a hollow victory and take the fun out of the after match celebrations.   

Anyway, back on the parliamentary pitch, what the speaker-ref has to do when a politician-player looks like they might be breaking the rules and cheating (trying a dodgy tackle, such as  going for the player politician and not the ‘the subject of debate’ ball) is always apply the rule book (Standing Orders) to both sides equally. If she (or he) has done the necessary swotting and learnt the rule book really well they will know how to rule with confidence and assertion, just like how the football ref blows his whistle. Rule, that’s that, done deal, play on. The speaker-ref certainly cannot get involved in the rolling around on the floor with the clutching at shins either.

The problem is, of course, that because politicians, just like footballers, can be real prima-donnas and they will yell and scream and insist that the other side was playing foul and make all sorts of accusations about their opponents, the speaker-ref really does have to play very close attention and understand what’s going on. The captains of the teams can be especially bad at the yelling and screaming about the rules and insisting that the other side is breaking them.

And that’s where the knowledge of the speaker-ref comes in. You see, if the speaker-ref turns to the captain of one of the teams that’s accusing the other side of all sorts of rule breaking because they might be getting a bit close to the political goal line, the speaker-ref can’t ask that team captain if the other political player was offside. That can’t work. The speaker-ref has to make the judgement him- (or as we know) herself based on their knowledge of the rule book.

Speaker-refs are paid handsomely for their work and that’s why they are expected to know that rule book very well. Some are paid as much as CI$170,000 every year – quite a lot more than football refs, who average around £50,000 plus £200 for a premiership match. Speaker-refs also come up very high in the pecking order in some countries and could even be in charge if the four people or so above them were to all get food poisoning and be in a the hospital at the same time.

Now there’s food for thought.

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Committee to review UK relations, Bush reveals

| 09/09/2011 | 42 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier has said he is seeking Cabinet approval for the creation of a local committee which will review the country’s current relationship with the UK and complete a report within the next two months. McKeeva Bush said that times have changed since the 1991 white paper that still governs the UK’s relationship with the overseas territories and which the British government now wants to review. He said that the territories had little input to that document and in order for the relationship to become a two way street this time it was very important that the OTs were all involved properly in shaping future strategy.

“This feedback is necessary as it is the UK minister’s intention to discuss with each territory the detailed substance of the relationship with the UK and to create opportunities for exchange of views and discussions, offer suggestions, advice and propose alternative strategies that will enhance the relationship,” Bush told his legislative colleagues in the country’s parliament on Thursday afternoon as he asked them to participate in a meaningful way in the process.

The committee will be expected to produce an interim report in 60 days from the start of the meetings ahead of  a meeting to be held between the FCO Minister and Heads of Government from the Overseas Territories.

Plans for the review were announced at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in November last year when the OT minister said the UK was in the process of reviewing the relationship with the Overseas Territories, and framing a new strategy to guide this relationship in the future.

Bush explainedthat since Partnership for Progress and Prosperity was published in 1991, advances had been made, including the modernization of some of the OTs constitutions and in Cayman’s case including a Bill of Rights, establishment of institutions promoting good governance, and the granting of access to full British citizenship.
 
But not all of the aspirations of the 1991 White Paper have been delivered, the premier said, as he pointed to the rise in crime undermining the goal of peace and good order, and in the area of good government one of the shortcomings had been that audited financialrecords have not been delivered for the past several seven years.

“There is no desire on the part of the (CI) government or the UK to change the fundamental structure of our relationship, but this does not rule out constitutional evolution or reform where it may be necessary,” Bush added.

He said Henry Bellingham, the OT’s minister, had proposed three strands in order to take the strategy forward. These include strengthening the engagement and interaction between the territories and the UK by not only the sharing of expertise, but also by pursuing partnerships between local governments, the private sector, NGOs and professional bodies in the UK and their counterparts in the Territories.

The UK minister has also suggested collaborating with territories to strengthen public financial management, economic planning and good governance arrangements where necessary and improving the quality of support from the UK, such as strategic investments in those territories where the needs are greatest.

Bush said that the process was essentially in two parts, with the first beginning immediately in order for the country to have input into the defining terms that are proposed to guide the evolution of the new strategy. The second part is geared towards more detailed review and input into the new UK-Overseas Territories agreement. While the initial timetable was that the new framework was to be agreed by June 2012, Bush announced that the UK has now suggested a radical shortening of this timetable, which would call for agreement to be reached by the spring of 2012.

“I am seriously concerned that this would prejudice the prospects of territories, including ourselves, to put forward our best position, and accordingly intend to robustly challenge this new timetable,” he said.

In the meantime, the committee that will spearhead the review process for our country will be established as soon as possible. He said it would consist of one representative from the Chamber of Commerce, one from the Cayman Ministers Association, one from the service clubs, one from the Civil Service Association Management Committee, one from Cayman Finance and two representatives from the general public as well as two from the Sister Islands. The government will also appoint a competent secretary to ensure the committee’ business is properly managed and recorded.

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New stair lift for passengers with reduced mobility

| 09/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Travellers with reduced mobility will now find it easier to get on and off planes at Owen Roberts International Airport thanks to Island Air, a fixed base operator and ground handling service provider based on Grand Cayman. Island Air now operates two Ambistair Stair Lifts, which give airlines the ability to provide passengers with reduced mobility a safer and more comfortable experience when embarking or disembarking aircraft in Grand Cayman. The Ambistair design, which is based on the wheelchair lifts used in homes across the world, hasbeen modified to allow access on the same aircraft stairs used by able-bodied passengers and is approved for use by international aviation regulatory bodies.

Marcus Cumber, Managing Director and owner of Island Air, said his company wanted to ensure that any equipment purchased would enhance the safety of passengers with reduced mobility, while at the same time allowing families of the disabled passengers to board together, without any delays.

Kerith McCoy, Senior Manager Airport Operations for the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA), remarked, “While meeting recognised industry standards in PRM handling, the provision of this service will further enhance the customer experience at Owen Roberts International Airport. We sincerely thank Mr Cumber and his team for realising this objective which will significantly benefit airport users with reduced mobility. The CIAA also extends its appreciation to Flowers Air Dispatch Services for handling the enplaning and deplaning of passengers with reduced mobility over the years in a sensitive and safe manner.”

Premier McKeeva Bush also offered congratulatory remarks to Island Air in making this service available at the airport. ‘’I am excited, as is the Department of Tourism, to see that we are taking additional steps to ensure all of our guests experiences are as memorable as possible. Due in part to our exceptional marine and dive environment, and the generally accepted understanding that diving is beneficial to persons with disabilities; we have been seeing an increase in disabled divers coming to the Cayman Islands. While our dive operators have been praised on their professionalism in the execution of dive activities for the disabled, we still have much further to go generally for persons with disabilities.”

minister Rolston Anglin also expressed his appreciation. “On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Training & Employment and our Committee for Persons with Disabilities, I wish to thank Island Air for providing this crucial service for persons with disabilities living in and visiting our islands. This service has been needed for a long time and will truly improve the safety and experience of persons with mobility challenges when boarding and deplaning an aircraft. Many services for persons with disabilities are still needed in our country but through the support of such private entities as Island Air we can achieve our goals and develop a more universally accessible community for all persons. I would also like to congratulate the airlines that have contracted these services and, also, thank the Airports Authority for assisting with the arrangements to ensure that this service became available. Through such teamwork and partnerships, our country benefits immensely.”

Expressing her delight that this service has finally become available, after so many years of airline personnel having to manually carry her son up the stairs of the aircraft for boarding and deplaning, Mitzi Callan remarked, “I congratulate the CIAA and Island Air for recognizing the importance of safely-lifting mobility-challenged persons on and off aircraft! My son, Morgan, travels frequently and is always apprehensive about boarding. This new system is considerably safer for both the disabled and staff. For that, we thank the CIAA and Island Air.”

Roger Muller, Founder and President of Stay-Focused Inc, a US-based non-profit organisation that offers scuba diving experiences to teens and young adults with disabilities, also remarked, “As someone who works with persons with disabilities and has brought numerous program participants to Grand Cayman for the past eight years, I am delighted to see that Island Air has taken the initiative to introduce this service. Persons with disabilities are always aware of efforts that have been made to offer them access, and the process of getting on and off a plane can be challenging. Most importantly, they want to retain their sense of independence and dignity, and the stair lifts will provide excellent support for those choosing to makeuse of them. The stair lifts will also ensure passenger safety, which is always a priority. Island Air’s introduction of the stair lifts sends a positive signal to the disabled community and speaks well for Cayman’s commitment to treating all persons equally.”

The Ambistair stair lifts are fully operational and passengers with reduced mobility can now make arrangements with their travel agents or airline for provision of this service.

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Free healthcare has to stop, says minister

| 09/09/2011 | 74 Comments

(CNS): One of the biggest obstacles for providing affordable and sustainable healthcare in the Cayman Islands is the prevalent entitlement culture, according to speakers at a press briefing launching the island’s second annual healthcare conference, which is to be held later this year. Health Minister Mark Scotland said that government policy had been to blame, which allowed everyone healthcare, regardless of whether they could pay or not, and regardless of whether that healthcare required expensive overseas medical care. Chief Officer in the Health Ministry Jennifer Ahearn said that Cayman needs a cultural shift.

“One of the biggest challenges is the culture whereby patients expect that they should be treated and not have to pay for it. The bad debt the Health Services Authority has been dealing with is significant and a lot of it is due to patients not taking responsibility for their healthcare,” she said.

Scotland confirmed that the cost of healthcare to the government was $90 million and rising, with around $25 million of this covering those who could not afford to pay for medical bills themselves, along with healthcare for civil servants, seaman and veterans and pensioners.

Scotland said that the HSA itself was now profitable since government had begun purchasing a lot of outputs, i.e. services that otherwise could not be paid for by the patients, such as care for the elderly or paediatrics. “The HSA is in the black but at the expense of government,” he confirmed.

Dr Steve Tomlinson, founder of Cayman’s private hospital, the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital, told CNS that public expectations of healthcare were extremely high.

“The first place they want to go to is the US – they expect this at the very least if the care is not available here. And it is government that ends up paying for it,” he said.

Dr Tomlinson went on to discuss the individuals who were entitled to free healthcare apart from indigents, including seaman and veterans, and stated that these individuals and their spouses were not means tested and entitled to receive free healthcare regardless of their income. “Some of these people are very rich,” he confirmed.   

The doctor vowed he would be speaking more on the drivers of escalating healthcare costs in Cayman at the conference, entitled Healthcare 20/20 2011 and taking place from 17 – 19 November at The Ritz-Carlton.

Scotland went on to say that any losses incurred by the HSA were not due to any poor business practices on the part of the authority, but due to uncollectable bills.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau echoed his support for the HSA, saying he felt that the authority had become business-friendly under its CEO Lizzette Yearwood and Medical Director Dr Greg Hoeksema, reaching out to the public and providing education about healthcare. 

Scotland said the culture of Caymanians only seeking to go to hospital when it was in an ambulance also had to change because waiting until a serious medical situation took place was far costlier than taking preventative measures. Dr Tomlinson agreed and said that although there was not a huge volume of individuals who wait until their condition becomes criticalbefore they seek healthcare, those that did usually ended up being sent abroad, vastly increasing the cost of their healthcare.

“Ninety per cent of them end up dying anyway, even once all that money has been spent,” he confirmed.

Ahearn said government was attempting to deal with these issues by a concerted public awareness campaign on preventative measures as well as amending the health insurance regulations.

“The current basic level of mandatory health insurance doesn’t have a robust enough package of benefits so people often exhaust their benefits then fall into the underinsured category where they won’t be able to meet the costs,” she said, explaining thatan enhanced, and therefore more expensive, package was needed.

Scotland acknowledged that the current economic climate was a difficult one but said that with this public awareness campaign, businesses (which are required to pay 50 per cent of their employees’ insurance premiums) which will have higher insurance costs imposed upon them should realise that small increases in costs now should equal to savings in the future, as workers will need less time off due to ill health, especially if they take advantage of wellness packages built into the new insurance packages.

Ahearn added that employers needed to think seriously about the high cost of healthcare, especially the astronomical cost of sending an employee abroad by air ambulance, for which they would have the responsibility. “While there are going to be some higher costs, it’s something we can’t afford not to do,” she said.

The Healthcare 20/20 2011 conference, under the title ‘Healthcare Economics: the search for quality & affordability’ will feature international and local speakers, including Health Minister Mark Scotland and HSA CEO Lizzette Yearwood, as well as  Dr Jennifer Attride-Stirling, the CEO of the Bermuda Health Council, the Hon Elinor Caplan, CEO for Canada Strategies and Renee-Marie Stephano, the president of America’s Medical Tourism Association.

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Miller wins $5 minimum wage

| 09/09/2011 | 146 Comments

(CNS): After several attempts at persuading the government to introduce a minimum wage, the independent member for North Side finally won the day in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. Government accepted his private member’s motion to amend the Labour Law to provide for a national basic wage of $5 per hour for adult workers, to be reviewed every five years. Following the vote, which won the approval of every member present in the House, Ezzard Miller told CNS he was delighted to have finally gained the government’s support for a minimum wage and its agreement to amend the legislation. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Well aware that during the debate on the motion the labour minister had made it clear he would not be rushing to bring the legislation, Miller said that he would be ensuring government followed through on the vote.

Debating Miller’s proposal, Rolston Anglin, the minister responsible for labour, said that although government was accepting the motion, he wanted to consider various issues, including whether or not the $5 was high enough, how frequently it should be reviewed, how to stop employers dropping wages down to the level of the minimum wage and if there should be more exceptions other than juveniles, before he brought the bill to the Legislative Assembly.

Offering what was clearly reluctant support for the motion, he raised a number of questions and queries about the introduction of a minimum adult flat rate of pay. Anglin questioned whether or not this was the right time, given the economic situation, how it would affect people who earned gratuities, where it would leave domestic helpers and many more points. But he and all of the government members and all the members of the opposition voted ‘Yes’ when the motion was put to the House.

Miller had tried numerous times in the past through various amendments to government bills as well as other private members motions to get government to enshrine the principle of a basic national across-the-board minimum wage in law since being elected. He stated that he had brought the motion because he believed in doing what was right and not what would attract votes at the next election.

Speaking after the debate, Miller said he was extremely pleased that he had finally gained a minimum wage, which he said would offer realhope to the Caymanian people. He stated that there was a long standing need for a minimum wage and that now even the Chamber of Commerce, which had long opposed the move, was in support.

“I have consulted widely and found very little resistance to it,” he said. “We are under pricing labour and driving Caymanians from jobs that they could take.” He said local workers were being undercut by the foreign labour that employers were allowed to bring in and pay ridiculously low wages.

Miller said no one could live in Cayman on anything less than $5 per hour and employers paying less than that should be ashamed. He said the issue of domestic workers should not be a concern as half of any wages in the labour law can be paid in kind, which included food and accommodation. He noted that these were the people entrusted to bring up children and it was disgusting that anyone would be paying less than $2.50 in cash to someone in such a position.

During the debate the opposition leader, who has also been a long supporter of a minimum wage, said it was one of his biggest regret that events conspired to prevent him from introducing this, but pointed out that it was linked to issues of immigration. He said that for too long Cayman had “been importing poverty”, something that a minimum wage could address.

As the debate concluded and Miller gained the support of all members in the Legislative Assembly, he warned that he would be paying very close attention to the government’s commitment to the minimum wage, given that they had told him over a year ago that they were going to bring the legislation very soon. He said that if government did not introduced the amendments that they had just voted through in the near future, he would be bringing the motion back again in the New Year.

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Victim stabbed in car-jacking

| 09/09/2011 | 148 Comments

(CNS): Updated 11:25pm — Police have now confirmed that there have been two separate car-jackings and robberies this evening (Thursday 8 September) in West Bay. One of the victims has been stabbed and shot at while another man has been arrested. Police said that the first of the two incidents took palce in the car park of the tourist attraction Dolphin Discovery on North West Point Road at about 6:20pm. A 30-year-old woman was approaching her vehicle when she was suddenly confronted by two men, one of whom was armed with what appeared to be a firearm. The robbers threatened the woman with the gun and she handed over her handbag and car keys. It has not yet been revealed if she was a visitor to Cayman.

The suspects drove off in the victim's car, which is a grey Toyota Marino, but the woman was not injured and no shots were fired.  Police attended the scene and a description of the car and suspects was broadcast. A short time later the car was found in Bonaventure Drive, West Bay, by the police helicopter.

The robbers are described as being of slim build, dark skinned and dressed in all black. One was around 6' in height and the other 5'8".

Anyone who was in the area of Dolphin Discovery who saw the incident take place or the suspects driving off from the scene is asked to contact West Bay CID. Police would also be keen to speak to anyone who saw the suspects dump the car in Bonaventure Drive.

Meanwhile, less a half hour later, a 30-year-old  man was attacked by two men at around 7:10pm and had his rental car, a white Hyundai Atos, stolen. The incident occurred in the vicinity of the Ed Bush stadium.

The man was stabbed in the chest and shoulder during the attack. He also received a cut to his face after being struck with what is believed to have been a firearm. The victim ran off and was then shot at byhis attackers but he was lucky enough to escape the butllets.

He was conveyed to the Cayman Islands Hospital, George Town, where he was being treated Thursday night, but his injuries were not thought to be life threatening.

Police attended and carried out a search of the area, which led to the recovery of the car a short distance away and the arrest of a 40-year-old man. He was arrested on suspicion of robbery and remains in police custody while enquiries are ongoing. Investigators are now looking for a second man in connection with the incident, which they said was not connected to the car-jacking and robbery at the captive dolphin facility.

Witnesses should call West Bay police station on 949-3999 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Mac brings techy park law

| 09/09/2011 | 54 Comments

(CNS): Government has drawn up new legislation to facilitate the creation of special economic zones and fulfilpart of its commitment made in a memorandum of understanding it signed earlier this year with Cayman Enterprise City. The premier laid the Special Economic Zones Bill, 2011 on the table of the Legislative Assembly on Thursday evening, making it a public document. He said that the government would welcome comments on the proposed law over the next twenty-one days before the new bill comes up for debate later this month. He described the proposed law as an exciting development heralding in a third pillar for Cayman’s economy. (Bill attached below)

The law is as a result primarily of a deal the government entered into earlier this year with Cayman Enterprise City Ltd, a developer which proposes to create a science and technology park in an effort to attract modern industries to Cayman. The definitive agreement was approved by Cabinet and signed on 13 July and part of government’s obligations under the deal is to introduce a law allowing for special economic zones in general, and to provide specific incentives to Cayman Enterprise City Ltd.

Cabinet approved the bill on Tuesday, Bush told members of the Legislative Assembly, as well as the need for other amendments to legislation so government could meet its obligations under the MOU.

Government has already agreed to changes to the Immigration Law, the Companies Law, the Stamp Duty Law and the registered Lands Law to facilitate the Enterprise City, which  the developer says will focus on high tech and science related industries.

As he tabled the proposed bill, which offers a number of concessions to CEC, Bush said he would not go into specific details as he would save that for when the bill is expected to be debated later this month.

However, in broad terms the bill provides for the establishment, functions and powers of the Special Economic Zone Authority, designation of a Special Economic Zone and its Developer, and Issuing Zone Trade Certificates.

“This is an exciting and important project for the future of the Cayman Islands and speaks to the advent of what is potentially a new pillar of our economy to go along with financial services and tourism.  We are harnessing our economy and, indeed, the future opportunities of our people to the technologies and industries of the future,” Bush told his legislative colleagues.

The proposed development is being undertaken by Hon Development Company and is expected to encourage major IT, internet, bio-technology and other science based industries to relocate to Cayman as a result of special concessions granted in the ‘zone’, such as reduced work-permits and other fees.

So far, the developers have not revealed where the zone will be or who will be the first anchor tenant in any of the separate parks. The developers have, however, promised literally thousands of new jobs and potential training in new techy related fields for Caymanians.

The zone has received less political opposition than most of the other recent project proposals by government but the carving out of the zone has some in the offshore financial sector wondering why its industry has never been afforded the same concessions and a specialist economic zone created for businesess working in the financial services industry.

See Special Economic Zone bill here or attached below.

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