Archive for November 3rd, 2011

Excitement mounts for CNS Business and free beer

| 03/11/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): In less than 12 hours the new Cayman News Service sister site will be going live with a plethora of business news and commentary, not to mention some award winning free beer. CNS Business will launch at one minute past midnight on Friday 4 November with the business news headlines, providing a whole new forum for breaking business news, local and global, as well as the much loved interactive CNS comments. To celebrate the launch of what is expected to be the edgiest news site in the Cayman Islands CNS has partnered with the Makers of Caybrew to give new CNS Business readers a free beer to celebrate.

Just click on the ad at the top of the CNS Business home page, next to the CNS Business logo, to download a voucher for your free beer (just one per person, I’m afraid), which can be claimed at any time on Friday 4 November from one of three participating venues – Brick House and Dog House at Grand Harbour in Red Bay, and Club House at the Treasure Island Resort on the West Bay Road.

Enjoy a Caybrew, CayLight, Ironshore Bock or White Tip Lager (which won the prize for the number one beer in the Caribbean at last week's Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival held in Barbados — read more on that tomorrow) courtesy of CNS and The Cayman Islands Brewery.

Excited about the launch of the new business, site owner Nicky Watson said journalists Wendy Ledger and Lindsey Turnbull had been working hard to pull together a virtual smorgasbord of great news stories.

“I can’t wait to see the community’s reaction to the new site. We are certain that people are going to enjoy reading and commenting on CNS Business, just as they do on the original news website CNS,” said Watson. “We really hope that our readers enjoy CNSBusiness.com and that it becomes an essential read for business news and the virtual water cooler for our business community.”

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Alden vows one man one vote

| 03/11/2011 | 97 Comments

ballot box hand.jpg(CNS): The leader of the opposition has gone on record again promising to introduce one man, one vote if his party is elected to office. Alden McLaughlin has said the only way that the people are going to get straightforward democratic equality is to overturn the current administration. The premier has made it clear on a number of occasions that he does not support one man, one vote and is still in favour of the multi-member and multi-vote constituencies. Despite public opinion now being fully supportive of a single member seats with one vote per registered elector, McLaughlin said it was not going to happen until the current government was voted out of office.

The PPM and the independent member have all committed to introducing one man, one vote if they get the majority in parliament, so the UDP remains the stumbling block, the opposition leader noted at a public meeting in North Side on Tuesday evening.

A member of the audience suggested that the people should make the challenge in the courts under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which comes into force in 2012, about the inequity in Cayman’s voting system. At the next election people in George Town could be voting six times in the same national ballot in which those in North Side would have only one vote. The member of the public argued that such a position was certainly unfair, had to be unconstitutional and therefore could be challenged in the courts.

The opposition leader noted, however, that as part of the compromise made by the PPM administration with the then opposition UDP during the constitutional negotiations in order to gain their support for the whole Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 document, they had allowed for the mode of election to be decided in domesticlegislation and not by the constitution itself. He said that, given that regrettable scenario, a court challenge to multi-member constituents would be hard to win.

“What I can say to you though is when we get this government out of office we will introduce single member constituencies,” McLaughlin added as he once again expressed his regret over not insisting on one man, one vote in the constitution, given how the UDP reneged on the agreement to support the constitution anyway and campaigned against it.

The issue of how the next government will be elected and how the three new seats provided for in the new constitution will be allocated has still not been fully resolved, despite government indications that it wishes to simply add two seats to George Town and one to Bodden Town. The Boundary Commission finished its work last year and made several recommendations to government, the least favourable being the one which the UDP government has said it intends to pursue.

Although efforts were made earlier this year to bring the order regarding the new electoral boundaries to the Legislative Assembly, technical issues with the drafting caused government to withdraw the order and so far it has not returned to the floor of the country’s parliament.

Ezzard Miller raised the possibility of bringing a private member’s motion to introduce one man, one vote, which he said has the backing of the vast majority of the people. Although the motion would be defeated as a result of the government’s majority and the premier’s recorded and emphatic opposition, it would at least create a wider public debate and reveal the position of the entire government bench on the issue.

Miller stated that as the order for the boundary changes has still not been brought, government was likely to push the argument that there was now notime to organize one man, one vote for the 2013 national ballot.

At a meeting hosted by the constitutional commission in West Bay last month, the premier once again made it clear that he did not support single member constituencies as he said the current system worked fine and there was not need to change it.

See Boundary Commission's report here.

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How Many More Victims?

| 03/11/2011 | 38 Comments

Violent repeat offenders terrorise women in our community and violent robberies have become almost a weekly occurrence. Despite this the government has so far not brought forward legislation that will keep violent criminals off our streets.

A proposal for very minor amendments to the Penal Code has been published in the past few days. While there are a few welcome changes, there is nothing in the proposals that will curb violent crime. Not only that, but rather than toughing sentences for gang activity, the proposed legislation seeks to eliminate the current minimum sentences for gang involvement and therefore to permit much more lenient punishment for gang activity. Who is the government trying to please by doing that?

There is nothing complex in what needs to be done and there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Examples of the types of very simple legislative provisions we need to keep our community safer can be easily found by anyone taking 5 minutes to look for them.  

By way of example, the British government which also has problems with violent repeat offenders, has introduced draft changes to their criminal law. In contrast to what is being proposed for Cayman, the draft British legislation actually appears to be aimed at keeping violent offenders off the street.

Under the changes proposed in the UK there will be a "two strikes and you're out" mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence. I am sure that the vast majority of the electorate would support this type of approach. 

In addition, under the UK proposals all dangerous criminals convicted of serious and violent sexual crimes will be required to serve at least two-thirds of their sentence before being considered for parole. Further, parole of the most serious offenders will require “the approval of the parole board and those paroled will be under a recall licence for at least 10 years”. I am sure that the vast majority of the electorate would prefer that approach over the “slap on the wrist and out the door” policy that is in place here in Cayman. Why is our government proposing to maintain the current revolving door policy for violent criminals?

The UK is also criminalising the activities of the middle men who handle or conceal guns on behalf of other criminals. The UK will have a new offence of possession of an illegal firearm with intent to supply, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. This new offence will be in addition to the existing but harder to prove charge of possession of a gun with intent to endanger life. The penalty for the offence of importing a weapon without a license will increase under British proposals to 14 years. Why has the government not proposed similar changes?

It is not suggested that what the UK is proposing is sufficient to make our streets safer, but it is far better than the current soft on violent crime approach. In my view, the discretion of judges to impose “slaps on the wrist” should be constrained by legislated minimal sentences for all violent crimes, subject to only extremely limited exceptions.  Concurrent sentences for violent and gang related crimes should be prohibited in all but very exceptional circumstances as concurrent sentences provide no deterrence. At present, a violent criminal may get the same soft sentence for 20 violent robberies as for one. A person who rapes 20 women may only be punished for the first rape, if at all. Where is the justice in that? Why is the government proposing to maintain that injustice?

It is only the elected government that can give us the legislation we need to make our streets safer and we need such legislation now. No matter what the government may say to suggest that they have no role in reducing crime in our country, only they can pass the laws we need, and they must be held accountable when they fail to act. 

We must also be aware that only rarely is time taken in the LA to even consider fixing what is wrong with our law relating to the sentencing of violent criminals. We need to demand that our politicians abandon the current soft on violent crime approach and instead immediately bring in legislation that will keep violent criminals off our streets. This can be done by introducing amendments to the recently proposed legislation as it goes through the LA. Perhaps that is what the government has been planning to do all along. If not, I hope one of the opposition MLAs will move the required amendments so that the government can clearly be seen to be opposed to making our community safer. 

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Local media reports corruption arrests in TCI

| 03/11/2011 | 13 Comments

(CNS): According to a report in the TCI Post, the former deputy premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands has been arrested. The online news site states that Floyd Hall, a member of the previous Progressive National Party government, has been arrested by the special investigation team and has so far been charged with one count of corruption. The former government minister has been released on bail but the TCI posts states that more charges are expected and further arrests of former government officials. The TCI constitution remains suspended after the UK government took over the running of the overseas territory in August 2009 following allegations of considerable corruption and major public finance difficulties.

Control was expected to be returned to the people via an election this year but the UK postponed the national vote until several milestones were reached, including the completion of the alleged corruption investigations. If the TCI Post report proves to be accurate, this will be the first charge made after nearly two years of investigations.

The former premier, Michael Misick, has been accused of building a multimillion-dollar fortune financed from questionable dealings that gave property developers access to crown-owned land, but so far no charges have been brought against the PNP leader, who has persistently denied the allegations.

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UK talks cause concern

| 03/11/2011 | 41 Comments

(CNS): The independent and opposition members have raised a number of concerns about how the review of Britain’s relationship with the overseas territories is being handled. The premier’s failure to inform the public about the consultation, despite knowing about it since March, resulting in the current rush to consult is just one of many concerns that have arisen over the UK’s decision to replace the existing OT’s White Paper. The premier will be presenting Cayman’s input on the new paper in London later this month but the MLAs have warned that the public will have no idea what that position is until after the event.

During a packed meeting in North Side on Tuesday evening hosted by Ezzard Miller, who was joined by opposition members, the district representative said he was very disappointed in the secrecy that had surrounded the whole effort to pull together a national position and what he described as the “last minute road show".

A committee was recently formed by Premier McKeeva Bush to host a series of district meetings and collect opinions from the wider public. But the MLAs all noted that the premier has known for many months that the UK was seeking to review the existing white paper and that it expected the local OT governments to consult with their people and bring their position to the annual November OT council meeting. Yet he left the formation of the committee to the last minute and established its membership behind closed doors.

Miller said he could not understand why things had been conducted so secretly and queried why parliament was not given the opportunity to debate such an important issue openly.

“They have votes to pass whatever they want but they should have at least given us the opportunity to articulate our constituents views on this,” Miller said “This is a denial of the people and a serious trespass on your democratic rights. We need to find a way that the UK understands that in the end the Caymanian people have no idea what is going to be said on their behalf.”

Miller pointed to comments that had been made earlier this year in the British Virgin Islands at an OT meeting, where he said Bush was “chest thumping” about the UK instead of seeking positive ways to negotiate how local governance institutions can be improved and to properly exploit the window of opportunity to review the relationship with the UK.

I am concerned as I have no idea what is going to be said,” the independent member told his constituents. “I place trust that the civil service will compile the public consultation properly but I have no confidence that the current political administration will present what the people want.”

The North Side MLA said that the only indication about the premier’s position regarding Cayman-UK relations was the comments he had made in BVI, where he said he was going to tell the UK to leave the OTs alone.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin added his concerns as he agreed that the process to collate a position about the new white paper was being so rushed that people did not have the opportunity to understand the issues that matter, never mind go on to make a constructive contribution. “The people are being deprived of a proper opportunity to make representations,” the opposition leader said.

McLaughlin also noted that the direct contributions being made on the FCO’s website would allow for anyone to comment about Cayman even, if they did not live here, which may give a false picture of the view of the Cayman people.

He said it was a very important issue but the way things had been handled by both the UK and the local government had prevented any real and careful national discussion. It ought to have been subject of public discussion and national debate in Legislative Assembly, he said, so that when the premier went to London he would have gone armed with a document that reflected the views of the people of the Cayman Islands.

Despite the lack of time, however, McLaughlin said there was nothing to be gained by boycotting the process as he encouraged people to speak up during the remaining window of opportunity. The MLAs were urged by the audience to go to London themselves, a move which they said they were considering. “There are several flights leaving directly for London each week,” the former speaker, Edna Moyle, noted as she urged her PPM colleagues to go.

Bo Miller, a former political candidate, warned the people they had to take advantage of the UK’s offer to comment directly on the website and make sure their voices were heard before it was too late as this renegotiation with the British could have tremendous implications for Cayman’s future.

Overseas Territories Consultation on FCO website

Cayman Islands Governor on FCO website

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