Archive for September 28th, 2011

UK wants people to have direct say in OT policy

| 28/09/2011 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The UK’s FCO minister with responsibility for overseas territories is inviting the peopleof the Cayman Islands, along with all OT people, to submit their thoughts and ideas directly to the FCO on the future of their relationship with Britain. As part of the consultative process towards the creation of a new white paper next year, Henry Bellingham called on everyone in the territories to have their say, when he was visiting Bermuda this week. The Cayman Islands governor said Wednesday that while the premier had appointed a committee to review this, the people could log on to the Governor’s Office website and submit their contributions directly to the UK minister.

Bellingham is encouraging people to join the debate and said he was keen to see the younger generation in particular take part.  “I want this consultation process to include as many people in the Territories as possible,” he said. “I encourage the private sector and the wider community to engage with their government and their governor, especially the younger generation.”

The consultation is designed to identify what the UK can do to improve the functioning of the relationship between it and the territories. Responding to Bellingham’s request for the opinions of the people, McKeeva Bush announced in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month that he would be establishing a committee, which has now been set up and is engaged in the process.

“But the minister is keen that people in the overseas territories also have an opportunity to provide feedback and thoughts direct to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,” the governor said as he encouraged Caymanians to visit the Governor’s Office website and then click-on Overseas Territories – Have Your Say.

When Bush announced the establishment of a committee, he also revealed that he had concerns about the UK’s wish to speed up the process and bring forward the initial timetable for the new framework being agreed from June 2012 to the spring of next year. “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 had stated.

However, the minister said in his speech in Bermuda that although it was an ambitious agenda, he is keen to progress with the process and will be entering into discussions with government leaders about the issue in a few weeks at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in November.

The main goal of this process is to replace the existing white paper that guides the relationship between the OTs and the UK, which was put in place more than a decade ago in 1999. The territories had very little say in that white paper and Bush, like other OT leaders, is keen to see more input from the territory governments this time. 

Bellingham said this week that the UK government’s strategy towards this was about having a dialogue on how best the vision and values between it and the territories could be expressed in the new document. He pointed out that the UK’s fundamental responsibility and objective was ensuring the security and good governance of the fourteen territories. 

“We recognised that the Overseas Territories are remarkably diverse; and that policies to meet these objectives need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each territory. So there’s no question of one size fits all,” he said this week as he launched the dialogue process. 

He pointed out that on the question of independence the current government followed the same policy as its predecessors and that it is for the territories themselves to decide whether they wish to remain connected to the United Kingdom. “Any decision to cut that link should be on the basis of the clearly expressed wish of the majority of the people of the territory in question,” he said.

Bellingham said the aim for the future was for the UK to strengthen the engagement and interaction with the territories, to work with them to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning where this is necessary and to improve the quality and range of support available to the territories

“We now need to work together to identify what we can do to improve the functioning of the relationship between the UK and each territory,” the UK minister stated. “I am inviting territory governments and communities to make an assessment of the challenges you face and your performance and capabilities, particularly in the areas of good governance, public financial management and economic planning.  I am keen to hear your views on what the UK Government can best do to engage with and support the Territories on these issues.  We believe it is important for the UK and Territories to work together to build partnerships with outside organisations and groups, such as the Commonwealth and the European Union.  We would welcome your views on this too.”
 
The minister spoke too about other UK government departments working with the OTs, not just the FCO, which may mean offering technical expertise or developing the capacity of territory governments.  

“The UK Government proposes to publish a White Paper in 2012 setting out for the wider public our approach to the Overseas Territories … I want to hear about the areas you think we should highlight … The White Paper should help people in the UK and in the Territories understand how we are working to strengthen our partnership,” he added.

There are already partnerships between the UK and OTs involving central and local government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and professional bodies and the minister said he wanted to see many more.

Bellingham also pointed to the “situation that we are now handling in the Turks and Caicos Islands”, stating that it was one the UK did not want to see repeated and it would be seeking, through the strategy and other mechanisms, to ensure that it didn’t.

Go to “Have your say” portal

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‘Rollover may cost election’

| 28/09/2011 | 67 Comments

(CNS): The decision to suspend the rollover to reform, or possibly remove, the policy could cost the next election, the premier told members of the business community on Wednesday, but he said he was still prepared to go ahead with the review. McKeeva Bush said that even though people might “twist things around”, he could not see the economy turned upside down and do nothing about it. Pointing to the potential damage to Cayman that the exodus of as many as 5,000 people over the next two years could cause, Bush said he had to something about rollover and was willing to take the political risk. But the premier told the business community that it had to support government initiatives to train more Caymanians.

Delivering the key note speech at the Chamber of Commerce annual legislative lunch, where all members of the country’s parliament are invited to mix and mingle with the business community, the premier said he was well aware of the risk the move to suspend rollover might pose and said, “Our own people probably won’t understand,” but given the situation, as finance minister, he said, it would have been irresponsible to leave it in place.

“If I lose the general election because some ‘bright’ person twists this around and says I am against Caymanians, then so be it,” Bush told the Chamber audience and said he would give opponents a run for their money in West Bay. “But nationally, I am under no illusions about this. We can lose and that’s the risk we take as a political party. But I can’t see our economy turned upside down and not do something about it.”

Bush said that if rollover “has to go, then it has to go,”. He pointed out that it would be difficult to do away with some form of fixed policy and suggested that the country might end up with term limits on occupations. The premier said he believed there was a good committee in place and they would examine what was working what wasn’t and what would be the best way forward.

He told the business community that while the legislation would be amended this week to allow every employer to apply for a work permit for employees due to be rolled over, not every worker would be able to stay beyond the seven year limit. An extension would be granted only when employers have demonstrated a real need and that they have done everything possible to employee Caymanians, the premier stated.

Bush spoke about the need to give certainty to the business community to attract back those who have left and attract new investment, and said it was the uncertainty that had driven business away.

The premier confirmed that he was also bringing an amendment to the immigration bill to the Legislative Assembly on Friday that would empower the boards and the chief immigration officer to grant work permits for up to ten years. These long term permits will provide the much sort after security of tenure for senior management and specialist occupations, which Bush believed would be welcomed by the business community, though there would be pay-back.

“I believe companies that take advantage of this new facility should demonstrate their social responsibility by supporting long term human capital development by contributing financially for a national training initiative,” Bush said.

He added that this would include scholarships and on-going training that would demonstrate that government is serious about training local employees and that the private sector was joining in and doing more to help with that training.

“We must encourage and train,” Bush said and spoke about the need for the private sector to be more involved in the community and encourage inclusiveness. As government helped to create an environment for business, the private sector had to take its responsibility to create jobs and training.  He said the private sector wanted less bureaucracy and business friendly policies and government wanted to help, which was why it was taking the political risk of addressing the rollover policy. In return, the private sector had to help generate opportunities for Caymanians.

“I am willing to take the public and political heat for changing the immigration policies to allow businesses to thrive,” Bush said and asked for the businesses to stop measuring success in the amount of money generated in our economy but in how far and wide the wealth was spread. “I expect you in the business community to support solid training initiatives that lead to job placements and advancements for Caymanians and a more efficient workforce, which will lead to more profits.”

He asked the private sector to help create an inclusive, rather than an exclusive society, and assist with a national training initiative and partner with government to make a change to offer more opportunities to all the people.

The lunch was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Westin.

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Women footballers prepare for tournament

| 28/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(CFU): Fourteen-year-old Janel Ebanks was the stand out in the dreaded fitness beep test. The multi-stage fitness test is used by sports coaches and trainers to estimate an athlete's VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake). The test is the most accurate way to test a player’s cardiovascular fitness, which is a major component of physical fitness. Janel finally ended the test on Stage 30 with a Distance of 1.200 KM with a maximum oxygen capacity VO2  reading of 46.48. To put that number into perspective the average English Premiership Professional Football players VO2 max reading will fluctuate between 56.00 – 77.00. Fourteen-year-old Nicole Whittaker also put up some very impressive numbers, stopping at Stage 28.

Shanice Monteith and Amanda Frederick both stopped at Stage 26.

The Cayman Islands National Women’s Program is preparing for their upcoming trip to Suriname, where they will compete in the Group B of the CFU Women’s U-20 Qualifying Tournament. The Cayman Islands will compete against Suriname on October 18, and face Trinidad and Tobago on October 20, 2011.  The girls have been in training sinceJune this year, the first beep test the girls carried out was taken on June 30, 2011 and the top performer was 19 year old Jessica Ebanks who stopped at Stage 21 with a VO2 max of 43.26

Women’s Technical Director Thiago Cunha complimented his players progression: “The beep test is one of the most physical, and demanding fitness tests, which every footballer dreads, I have to compliment the girls on their attitude and dedication, they comforted this test head on, all 23 players who are currently on Island were in attendance, I am very happy, we have 3 more weeks to work with them and we will continue to improve technically and motivate the girls for the games in Suriname”.

The girls will head into a weekend training camp Friday where they will continue team preparations.

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Techy zone bill tops agenda as MLAs return to work

| 28/09/2011 | 43 Comments

(CNS): The law to create Special Economic Zones, designed to facilitate the proposed Cayman Enterprize City where technology related businesses can set up in Cayman under different rules from other commercial entities, will be up for debate as the Legislative Assembly returns this morning (Wednesday 28 September.) Government will also be amending the national pensions law to allow people to remove money to invest in a property, though this bill has not yet been set down for the prescribed 21 days to allow for consultation. Government will also be amending the rules relating to the cinematography board.

Three private members motions are now filed and ready to be debated during this second meeting of this parliament.  Two motions, filed by the independent member for North Side, asking government to reduce the duty on fuel and remove the duty on medicines and medical supplies, carried over from the last meeting are scheduled to make the floor of the assembly.

The opposition has three new motions for this meeting which relate to the issue of rising crime. The first of those motions scheduled to be debated is an amendment to the firearms law and other relevant legislation to allow the general public to carry pepper spray lawfully.

The Legislative Assembly is scheduled to begin at 10am and is open to the public.

See National Pensions Amendment Law here

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PPM:Focus needs to be on PR

| 28/09/2011 | 49 Comments

(CNS):The government doesn't need to introduce a temporary suspension to the rollover policy but needs to eliminate it right away and concentrate on addressing the permanent residency approval system in order to manage the country’s immigration issues, the leader of the opposition has said. Alden McLaughlin says that the suspension and planned review of the policy are unnecessarily opening up the system to challenges by creating uncertainty. He said that the PPM supports the repeal of the term limit policy and introducing a system that allows everyone who stays on island for eight years to apply for permanent residency and address that application process so the right people and the right numbers are given security of tenure.

“We should fix this issue now as it’s not complicated,” McLaughlin told CNS, adding that the focus had to be on amending the permanent residency application process. “We need to amend the PR provisions so anyone who has been here for eight years can apply through a clear point system that provides a balance where the bar is not too high that no one gets through or too low that everyone does.”

He also stated that anyone who stayed up to ten years would be mandated to make a PR application.

McLaughlin explained that the PR process needed to become the point where the country can decide who gets to stay, ensuring that those who remain in the Cayman Islands, with the possibility of gaining status, will be in a position not only to make a positive contribution to Cayman society and the economy but to take care of themselves and not become a burden on the state in later life.

Offering his support to a complete repeal of the rollover policy and key employee to remove any uncertainty and in favour of addressing the permanent residency application process, McLaughlin added that it could no longer be administered by a voluntary board. He said if the points system was clear, an applicant either scored enough points to be granted residency or not, and there would be no need for subjectivity. The boards should not be making the decisions but only serving as a tribunal to hear appeals or dealing with unique cases. He recommended moving the system to an administrative process and beginning that preparation as soon as possible.

“We cannot continue with the present system where the PR is run by boards,” he said. “We need to put in place a proper system of checks and balances that are based on a clear point system that can be measured and monitored.”

A review of rollover was a waste of time, McLaughlin said, and queried exactly what the original immigration review team had been doing since it was established more than two years ago. He said there was a need now to address the permanent residency application process in order to be ready for any surge in applications that would come as a result of repealing the rollover policy. The plan to suspend rather than repeal was simply pushing the problem down the line.

“I was the first to acknowledge that rollover needs to change,” he said. “But suspending it for two years will just pass it on to the next administration to deal with,” adding that the preparation for the increase in PR applications had to begin now

He also queried claims by government officials that they would be able to suspend rollover now to address the current problem of a mass exodus of workers over the next eighteen month without allowing all of those people to use the time acquired by the temporary situation to apply for PR.

McLaughlin pointed out that legally anyone who is due for rollover in the next eighteen months and can now apply for another permit will pass the eight year lawful residency barrier, and he could not see a way that it would not count. McLaughlin warned that it was extremely unlikely that such a claim by government could stand up in court as people were either lawfully resident in Cayman or they were not.

He said these issues were creating unnecessary uncertainty, which could all be eliminated by changing the focus to the permanent residency application. At this point, the country could lawfully control who it wanted to stay in the Cayman Islands and advance towards status based on a fair, transparent and sensible point system, where expat workers could see clearly what they needed to do if they wished to remain here.

Cayman could not return to the way things were before the term limit was introduced, the opposition leader stated, as he pointed out that people could not be allowed to remain in the islands indefinitely without any security of tenure, potentially creating a situation that had occurred before the mass status grants of 2003. The opposition leader said that had created tremendous ill-will and the country could not afford to repeat that mistake.

With the term limit having failed, McLaughlin said it was now time to allow all those who remained on work-permits for eight years or more to apply for PR, but to speed up, streamline and improve that process.

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UK super-cop to advise RCIP

| 28/09/2011 | 72 Comments

(CNS): One of Britain’s most senior police officers and gang experts will be visiting the Cayman Islands next week to offer some advice and support to the RCIPS regarding the surge in gang related murders this month. Jon Murphy, the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and the man who led a UK initiative to tackle gang crime in the UK in 2007 and who is now the National Serious & Organised Crime Coordinator for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), will be offering the benefit of his extensive experience in gang crime to the RCIPS. He will be examining the Cayman police service’s immediate response to the recent murders and offer advice on what more the police could be doing about gang related crime.

The governor announced Murphy’s visit at a special meeting on Tuesday evening at the Westin, organised by the Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, with government officials and the business community to update them on the current situation regarding crime on island and what efforts are being made to stem the resurgence of gang violence.

Governor Duncan Taylor explained that since the police commissioner had written to CC Murphy to request a temporary delegation of Merseyside officers to come to Cayman to assist with the investigations of the five murders in eight days this month, the UK’s own ‘super-cop’ had also agreed to make a visit and offer what advice he could to the local police.

The commissioner had written to the UK senior officer asking for a team of sixteen officers from Merseyside to help with the investigations into the recent killing spree on Grand Cayman and Murphy also offered to visit. The Merseyside super-cop heads up the service which also polices Liverpool, where local cops have faced an entrenched gang culture. Murphy has used tactics in the city that involved disrupting every aspect of the lives of known gang members, which garnered noticeable results.

The governor said that it was great for Cayman to have someone of Murphy’s stature and extensive experience to visit and get his views on how things have been handled so far and going forward. The governor also revealed that consideration was being given to establishing a gang unit within the RCIPS and that this would also be area for discussion with Murphy, who, he said, was expected to arrive in Cayman on Monday.   

Taylor also revealed that one of the commitments made to the members of the Legislative Assembly recently after they voted extra crime fighting funds was to have an independent review of the work of the RCIPS and their tactics from someone from a different jurisdiction outside of the UK.

Taylor said that there had been some arguments posed that the Cayman Islands needed to adopt more American-type tactics as the RCIPS was not hard enough. Although the governor said he did not agree with that argument, an external review was a worthwhile exercise. Taylor told the business community that as a result he had been in touch with law enforcement officials in Canada, who were now arranging for an expert from that country to come out to Cayman for a short period and look at polices and tactics to see whether the RCIPS could be doing more, or doing things differently to improve the effectiveness of the service.

Taylor also revealed that he was considering bringing a prosecution specialist from the UK to examine how recent cases have been put together and presented in the Grand Court. Pointing to the recent string of acquittals in serious cases, the governor said that while he was not criticising the judgements handed down, it was clear that lessons could be learned in how those cases were presented and how forensic evidence was compiled.

“Can we present our cases better than we did?  Were some of those acquittals partly the result of the fact we didn’t present the cases in the best possible way?” the governor asked as he spoke to the members of the business community. Agreeing with the commissioner’s recent comments, he said he believed that some of the recent crime may have been prompted by the acquittals and it would be useful to have someone from outside review the recent cases.

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