Archive for September 22nd, 2011

Violence fuelled by acquittals

| 22/09/2011 | 78 Comments

(CNS): The police commissioner has suggested that the recent acquittals by the courts may have heightened gang tensions and fuelled the sudden spate of violence. After a year of relative calm in relation to gang violence, which were a result, he said, of the police removing a number of people off the streets and charging them with crimes, the resurgence may be down to the recent run of not guilty verdicts. David Baines has said that the acquittals have had two effects on existing tensions. Firstly, that some people may have felt betrayed by the results, and the other is that some of those who could have been involved in the violence in the first place are back on the streets. (Photo by Dennie Warren JR)

Speaking on Cayman 27’s Daybreak show on Thursday morning, the commissioner stated that the condensed period of violence was triggered by a sudden heightening of the local tensions. He said there probably are a lot of reasons why the tensions have resurfaced but the acquittals could have played a part.

“Those acquittals have had two affects … It has left one side feeling betrayed or angry about the lack of people being held to account, and possibly released some of those who may have been involved in violence to begin with,” Baines said, adding that people may be thinking that they can sort things out themselves if the authorities can’t hold people accountable.

He said the first three killings in West Bay last week – Robert Bush, Andrew Baptist and Preston Rivers — were tit-for-tat shootings between the members of the Logwoods and Birch Tree Hill gangs. Baines explained that while the police managed to get between these gangs in West Bay and that direct feud, the violence has now spilled over into other districts this week.

On Monday night two men were gunned down in George Town, when Jason Christian was shot dead and Keith Montague was severely injured after receiving four gunshot wounds. Then, in the early morning hours of Thursday, police on patrol in East End found the gunned down body of Asher McGaw. Baines said that athough these were probably gang killings, they were not directly connected to the West Bay feud.

He echoed comments made by John Jones earlier this week that police were now in the process of rounding up known gang members. “We are using any and all legislation to make arrests,” Baines said, as he explained that police were bringing in potential victims as well as people who may be suspected to be the gunmen. He said the goal was to try and calm things down and the police were working with the legal department in an effort to keep people in custody lawfully while tensions subsided.

Last March, when there was a surge of gang killings and several live murder enquiries open at the same time, the commissioner had enlisted the temporary help of UK officers. He said he had again contacted a UK force and was hoping to get two investigation teams from Merseyside over to Cayman shortly to assist the detective in the current investigations and relieve local officers.

He said the police were currently stretched to the limit and it was a very challenging time. Although the MLAs have voted more cash to replace the posts which were cut, Baines said it would take time to recruit fifty people, but in the meantime all leave days had been cancelled.

Baines also spoke about the most significant challenges his officers now have in the face of these killings, which is turning information into evidence and the community's acceptance of the gang culture. “We have always suffered the problem of people saying 'I’ll tell you but I won’t give evidence', and that’s happening now,” he said, adding that people are giving the police information but they say they won’t give evidence. As a result, he said, the police have nothing to give to the legal department to make a case. 

“So everybody in the community knows who has done the shooting but they actually tolerate it, condone it, and do nothing to take them on,” the commissioner added. “Knowing who has done it and proving who has done it are very different things.”

The public had seen the evidence in the cases that have been taken to court, and he said it was the best available evidence that the police could get. He pointed out that while people continued to say that the police had to sort out the gang violence, it was clear gang culture was accepted and glamorised. He pointed to the recent pictures on Facebook where whole communities are glamorising guns. “There is no glory when are you terrified, in last minutes of your life, or when you are six feet under,” he said as he urged people to hold their communities, their friends and their family members to account. 

See the commissioner on Daybreak here

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Jump in exam success rate for Class of 2011

| 22/09/2011 | 33 Comments

(CNS): This year’s graduating class achieved the highest ever external examination results recorded for the Cayman Islands public school system, with 45% of Year 12 students in 2011  attaining five or more Level 2 passes in external examinations (A*-C in GCSE or IGCSE exams or I-III in CXCs). However, Brac students continue to significantly outperform their Grand Cayman peers, with seven of Cayman's top nine students graduating from the Layman E ScottSenior High School (formerly the Cayman Brac High School). The highest achieving student overall was Katherine Lazzari (left), with 12 high level passes, 11 with A*, A or grade 1, as well as the top score in the region in CXC Integrated Science.

According to Education Ministry officials, in 2007 only 27% (84 students) achieved five or more high level passes, which in just five years has jumped to 154 students in 2011 across government schools. In 2008, the national average for government schools was 28%.  Since 2008, results have shown significant improvement, rising to 38% in 2009 and 39% in 2010. 

Performance varied between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac in 2011. In Grand Cayman, in a year group of some 310 students, 43% of students achieved five or more Level 2 passes. In Cayman Brac, students significantly outperformed the national average, with a 66% pass rate at this level, in a year group of 32. 

The percentage of students achieving Honours status, with seven or more Level 2 passes, also improved in 2011, with 22% (76 students) achieving this standard. Sixty-two of this year’s honors students attended JGHS/CIFEC in Grand Cayman, and a further 14 were from the Layman E. Scott Senior High School (LSHS) in Cayman Brac.

“Standards matter,” Education Minister Rolston Anglin told educators at the ministry’s official launch for the new school year. “Behind every percentage point increase are children whose life chances have improved, because they have reached an important threshold for further studies or the world of work. These results tell us that our Caymanian students can achieve at a high level and that our system can improve.  We must believe that every child can, should and will learn,” he said.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler noted that the significance of what has been achieved in 2011 becomes clear when the results are compared with performance in previous years.  In 2005, for example, only 23% of students in Grand Cayman achieved five or more Level 2 passes at grades I-III or A*-C. More recently, the results came in at 25% in 2007 and 27% in 2008, rising to 36% in 2009 and 37% in 2010. 

In Cayman Brac, results have topped 60% before, with students attaining 65% in both 2006 and 2010.  In other years, results have varied between 45% in 2008, 48% in 2007 and 56% in 2009.

In his address, Minister Anglin encouraged educators to feel proud of what they had helped their students to achieve in 2011, but at the same time to commit to striving for even better results in the coming year. “These results should be celebrated, because they represent real progress and real effort, but they can and must still improve. The Ministry and DES will remain focused on challenging and supporting our schools to ensurethat our students’ performance continues to improve, and that we move ever closer to our goal of success for all of our students,” he noted.

Education Ministry Chief Officer, Mary Rodrigues, advised that a more detailed analysis of the external examination results, and other performance data, is being finalized, for use by the Department of Education Services (DES) and schools to identify specific strengths and weaknesses and to set targets for improvement, by school, subject and teacher. She explained that the DES, through the work of newly appointed Senior School Improvement Officers, has been tasked with engaging with schools to develop additional strategies for improving results even further in 2012.

“At the same time the ministry will be working with the DES to establish national targets for external examination performance.  We will also be focusing on raising standards in mathematics, a significant area of underperformance nationally,” Rodrigues said.

The following 2011 Year 12 students achieved notable success.
 

Name Island

Total high grade pases

Number A*, A or 1 passes
Katherine Lazzari Brac 12 11
Kerry Antunez Brac 14 9
Astrid Scott Brac 11 7
Jessica Thornton Brac 10 7
Amanda Dixon GCM 11 6
Manuel Gonzalez GCM 9 6
Nicholas Scott Brac 10 6
Jovanni Anglin Brac 11 5
Melgreen Reid Brac 10 5
Felicia Connor GCM 9 5
Kayla Parsons GCM 8 5
Christina McLean GCM 8 5
Kristi Chin-Sinn GCM 11 4
Shantel Zoya Coombs GCM 8 4
Alicia Thompson GCM 8 4
Nadiyah Abdul-Jabbar GCM 9 3
Renita Barnes GCM 8 3
Andrea Watler GCM 8 3
Kerseanna Ewers GCM 8 2
Davanni James GCM 8 1

 

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Bush blames governor for continued Jamaica-visa

| 22/09/2011 | 94 Comments

(CNS): The failure to remove the local requirement for Jamaican nationals with US, UK and Canadian visas to still apply for a Cayman visa,as proposed by government, is down to the governor, the premier revealed on Wednesday evening. Bush stated last year that he wanted to lift the restriction but had accused the PPM of being the ones likely to object. During a public meeting about the limited influence the elected officials have on the UK’s representative, McKeeva Bush revealed it was the governor who had refused the UDP government’s request to change that rule. He said that he had waned to ease that restriction for sometime but despite that he was told by the governor that because of security reasons the UK would not allow it.

In a statement released from his office on Thursday afternoon, Governor Duncan Taylor confirmed that, although he had agreed to the premier’s proposal of removing the visa requirement for children under 15 and people over 70, he did not agree with an across the board waiver for all Jamaican nationals coming to Cayman with US, UK or Canadian visas. This, he said, was because the Cayman immigration department does not have the capability to detect forged visas.

At the West Bay meeting, which was called to discuss the crime problem, the premier was using the point to illustrate that the elected government had no power over the governor and issues of national security. He said the country’s new constitution was not much different from the old one, which is why he warned people not to vote for it and lambasted all of those he accused of supporting a new constitution that still left all of the power regarding security in the governor’s and ultimately the UK’s hands.

In his statement Thursday, the governor said he had taken advice from the UK on the issue and while most Jamaicans were law abiding citizens, the visa restriction had ensured that the few that were not did not get access to the Cayman Islands, which, if the restriction was lifted, might happen.

“I know that the vast majority of Jamaicans are law-abiding citizens. This includes residents who make a positive contribution to our society and economy in the Cayman Islands and short-term visitors, including business visitors, whose visits are welcome and trouble free.  There is, unfortunately, a small minority who have the potential to cause problems,” the governor said Thursday.

He pointed to the “lively market in forged and counterfeit documentation” in Jamaica which, he said, included UK, US and Canadian visas. 

“The Cayman Islands Immigration Department does not have the capability to determine whether such a visa is genuine or not and the respective countries have indicated that they are unable to provide the Cayman Islands with the access to the resources on which they rely to make these determinations.  The authenticity of a Jamaican national’s UK, US or Canadian visa could therefore not be guaranteed and this fact could be exploited,” Taylor said in defence of the decision.  

He also stated that the introduction of the requirement in 2005 led to a direct and significant reduction in the involvement of Jamaicans in crime locally.  The governor added that lifting the visa could potentially allow unscrupulous Jamaicans to gain entry to the islands using forged or counterfeit visas.

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Church leaders volunteer to mediate with gangs

| 22/09/2011 | 73 Comments

(CNS): The country’s pastors have said they are willing to mediate between the rival gangs to promote peace. The Cayman Ministers Association is appealing to the gang members in the community and offering to help them find a better way to resolve the problems. The association said it stood ready to help in any way it could to stop the violence. “We appeal to the gangs of the community.We counsel you to find the better way to resolve your differences. The ministers of the CMA are willing to sit with rival factions to promote peace,” the church leaders said in a statement released Wednesday evening.

“We join with the traumatized citizens of Cayman in deploring and condemning in the strongest way the unlawful taking of human life as well as the unlawful removal of property as acts that are deeply sinful and result in severe and enduring distress to many,” the CMA said in a statement posted to the website. “Such acts, if not admitted and repented from, also do incomparable harm to the personhood of the perpetrators, who remain subject to severe censure not only by the authorities of the State but by the heavenly Father Himself.”

Offering sympathy to the families of those who have been killed they implored both pastors and lay persons to redouble their efforts and not to become “discouraged, either in prayer or in action” during what they said was a critical time.

“In the context of these deeply disturbing recent criminal acts against the human person, as well as the incidents of robbery that have continued throughout the year, we affirm the responsibility of Churches and others to uphold and support the family as the foundation of society, and to heed the Lord's command to love our neighbour,” the ministers added.

See full statement here

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Churches call on shooters to give themselves up

| 22/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The men who are causing the violence need to be shunned by the community until they give themselves up, the Cayman Minister’s Association has said. The group of local pastors said those who are courageous enough to give themselves up to the authorities should be given every assistance and then they can “be restored to any affection” and assured of forgiveness. Asking everyone to pray they also called on the authorities to exercise greater vigilance on the good order of students, for parents to regain control over and for the police to institute “curfews and states of emergency whenever necessary” regardless of its popularity.

“Those who invade the privacy and security of others have given in to cowardice and selfishness,” the ministers stated. “They are not to be admired, but rather shunned by all until they give themselves up to the authorities. Any friend, knowing associate, family member or supporter of every last one of them shares in their cowardice and culpability until they give them in or report them or any information to the police or to Crimestoppers at 800-8477,” the association said in a statement posted on the website.

Joining the wider community in expressing outrage over the upsurge in crime and the ministers said they were adding their collective voice alongside to express concern and call for change. They said they were also committed to continuous prayer and asked the whole community to pray constantly for a change of heart by the small number of persons and their supporters.

See full statement here

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5th man killed in East End

| 22/09/2011 | 158 Comments

(CNS): Updated –Police have confirmed that the body of a 21-year-old man found shot dead in East End was Asher William McGaw. The victim's body was found on John McLean drive just behind the clinic at around 3am on Thursday morning (22 September). McGaw appears to be the latest victim in the frightening surge in violent execution-style gang killings plaguing Grand Cayman but police said it was too early to draw any links to the previous four murders. The shooting was not reported but McGaw's body was found by officers from the Eastern districts who were on routine patrol when they came across the victim lying in the road with gunshot wounds to the body.

The male was pronounced dead by paramedics who arrived on the scene shortly after.

Police have not said how many times the young man was shot  or if he received a gunshot wound to the head, which has been the common link in the previous four murders over the last week that police have described as assassinations.

The man is the fifth murder victim in 8 days following the resurgence of the tit-for-tat fatal shootings that have claimed the lives of four others and seriously injured a sixth man.

Since last Tuesday night (13 September), when almost one year had passed without a fatal shooting on the island, every other night one young man has been shot and killed in what is believed to be gang vioence. The first three victims were killed in West Bay and then a fourth man was killed in George Town on Tuesday night when a second man was badly wounded. Both those men were known to police and had conncections with West Bay gangs.

Although this victim was known to police and believed to be involved in gangs, the police have said it is too early to say if his killing is related to those in West Bay.

(Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Police have asked anyone with information on the latest shooting to contact Bodden Town Police Station at 9472220 or Crime stoppers at 800TIPS (8477).

The HSA stated this morning as a result of the shooting the the East End Health Clinic is closed but a clinic will be held in Bodden Town from 9:00 a.m.

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Miller: Rollover not the issue

| 22/09/2011 | 64 Comments

(CNS): The independent member for North Side has said that the government is wrong to suspend the rollover policy as it is not the cause of the country’s continued economic woes. Ezzard Miller pointed again to the high cost of living and the incompetence of government as the roots of the problem, not a policy which he said was designed to keep Caymanians from losing political and economic control of their country. Miller said that if the immigration laws were properly adhered to, Caymanians would be protected at work.  He also said the expected exodus of workers was irrelevant as those leaving would be replaced by others. Employers, he said, were well aware of the policy and should have made succession plans.

“I have no sympathy for firms who say they are losing half their work force,” Miller told CNS. “That is entirely self-inflicted by their own bad management and succession planning. All these firms should be aware of the provisions of the immigration law.” He said ignorance was no excuse and no country should amend its laws to make up for bad management decisions by owners, managers or employers.

Miller pointed out that the term limit is not about creating jobs and protecting Caymanians in the workplace but about political control.

“I supported the rollover provisions in the law to prevent Caymanians who have already lost economic control of our islands' destiny from also losing political control. I never believed the rollover policy would or should provide jobs or promotional opportunities for Caymanians; those should be earned and there are other provisions in the immigration law to ensure this is enforced where applicable,” he added.

The independent member pointed out that the solution to balancing the problem of attracting the best workers and protecting the local population is the fair and equitable enforcement of the current immigration law by the boards.

“I do not believe that the provisions of the current immigration law prevent attracting the best workers to the Cayman Islands as there are adequate provisions in the law, such as key employee, that allow the brightest and the best to remain in Cayman if applied fairly and properly.” Miller also said he was in favour of a seven year permit with no renewal if holders were not granted key.

“There are other greater problems with the economy, such as high cost of living, the high cost of doing business and the ‘rolling’ decision making of the incompetent UDP government and its policies, that prevent the attraction of best talent to the Cayman Islands,” Miller added.

The independent member pointed out that over the past two years the Legislative Assembly had amended several sections of the immigration law that the UDP government and its advisors claimed would solve the economic problems, but nothing has happened.

He noted that the claims made by the government that the policy had to be suspended because people were leaving and thousands of properties were empty was untrue as most of those that would benefit from this decision were here and were not renting these condos. Miller put this down to the low pay that they received forcing them to live in shared cramped conditions.

The independent member also noted that it was clear from the recent budget predictions for this financial year, which pointed to an increase in work permit revenue of some 25%, that despite Caymanian unemployment the UDP government had planned to increase permit holder numbers.

Miller said he would not support the suspension of the rollover policy while the review was underway and stated that Cabinet cannot lawfully suspend the policy. He added that he would be watching with interest to see what creative amendments to the law Cabinet would come up with and how it would deal with the 21 days requirement of the constitution.

On Wednesday evening at a public meeting in West Bay the premier confirmed that Cabinet had agreed to the suspension of the seven year term limit and the amendments would be brought to the Legislative Assembly at the next sitting. He also said the names of those sitting on the review committee would be made public on Thursday.

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