Archive for November 17th, 2011

Premier’s radio show canned till further notice

| 17/11/2011 | 24 Comments

P4020016.JPG(CNS): The radio talk show aired on the government-owned station hosted by former UDP Cabinet minister, Dr Frank McField, and local personality Lorna Bush has been silenced. Community Voices, a late afternoon phone-in show which airs Tuesdays and Thursday in the drive-time slot, was cancelled today (Thursday 17 November) and sources told CNS that the programme has been placed on hold until further notice. The show was aired on Radio Cayman at the direction of the premier, and according to his press office McKeeva Bush was paying  “a stipend to the on air talent of Community Voices” from his own money.

The government station confirmed in the summer that the show was not a Radio Cayman production and neither of the hosts were paid or employed by the station but that it was directed to provide the air time by the premier.

“Radio Cayman received verbal directives from the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development,” the information manager told Ezzard Miller in response to the FOI request about the details of the business case to launch a second talk show on the heels of the long running Talk Today programme.

At the time Miller said he had concerns that Community Voices was party political propaganda and government resources should not be used to promote party politics. He pointed out that the premier was using a known party operative to promote himself through the public’s radio station.

The premier has for some time been seeking ways to promote his government’s agenda via the media and has explored several ideas for creating a UDP newsletter or promotional website.

When the premier first came to office he had continued the weekly televised government press briefings started by the previous PPM administration but those meetings were soon reduced in frequency before they were stopped altogether. Bush accused the media of twisting government’s message and began issuing statements in recorded broadcasts on television and radio or from the Legislative Assembly.

Earlier this year Bush announced plans for a government television channel that would broadcast the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, government’s policy position and emergency information, which would allow the public to see the House in action and not, as he said, distorted by the media.

Bush had stated at a public meeting in North Side in April that the TV station would be launched in June. Since then officials have said the launch is anticipated at the end of this year. WestStar TV has agreed to supply the channel free of charge and it will be added to customers’ packages.

Bush said his government had to be able to get its message out and important information across to the people.  “We will also televise the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly,” he said. “There will be a regular news broadcast of government information.

The policy and position of the elected government on issues will also be communicated on this channel,” the premier added at the time, stating that the country could not continue to rely on the skewed reports of CNS.

The opposition has criticised the premier for dropping the regular press briefings, and Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said he understood the premier needed “all the ‘PR’ he could get” but the show, Community Voices, was inappropriate as public resources should not be used for propaganda.

See FOI response on Community Voices here

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Campaigners press on against Emerald Sound

| 17/11/2011 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Following the news that government will not be approving the coastal works license for a controversial development in South Sound, local activists have now switched the focus of the campaign towards the new road plans associated with the project. The Protect South Sound movement is encouraging people to write to the National Roads Authority before next Wednesday’s deadline on the proposed road move connected to the Emerald Sound development which was approved by the CPA. The community action group has created a template letter which it hopes those against the proposal, which includes a swap of public land, will sign before the NRA approves the move.

Protect South Sound members will be making an appearance at Azzuro Restaurant in Buckingham Square, Seven Mile Beach, on Saturday with the letters encouraging everyone to sign and make their objections to the plans known to the National Roads Authority. 

The recent revelation that the UDP does not support the coastal works element has put a hold on the plan to cut a channel from the ocean into the heart of the development and associated coastal works, canals and bridge, but the architect and spokesperson for developer, Burns Conolly, has stated that the landside of the development will go ahead.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has published notice that it intends to enter into an agreement with the developer R.C. Estates Ltd to adjust the boundary of about 2,300 feet  of South Sound Road immediately West of the Old Crewe Road and South Sound Road junction.

This means the land where the existing road currently lies would be exchanged for an equivalent amount of land currently owned by R.C. Estates Ltd, without anypayment based on the equality of exchange, providing for the boundaries of the South Sound Road to be adjusted, in accordance with the plans which were approved by the Central Planning Authority.

People affected by the proposed agreement can make valid representations to the NRA, which under the law it must take into account before the swap goes ahead.  Plans for the proposed land exchange can be inspected at the offices of the NRA during office hours.

The Protect South Sound group, which has appealed CPA’s decision to grant planning permission to Emerald Sound, said the objection to the road move is the next step in continued fight against the development.

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Robber gets knocked on the head and runs off

| 17/11/2011 | 13 Comments

Crime-Scene.jpg(CNS): Update Thursday 4pm — A would-be robber ran off empty handed after being hit on the head with a cup by one of his intended victims. An RCIPS spokesperson said that at around 11.00 pm last night a married couple returned to their home in Palm Dale Avenue, George Town. As they were entering their porch area, an unknown man wearing a Halloween mask and holding what appeared to be a handgun emerged from the yard and demanded money. As the offender went to search a bag, the male victim struck him on the head with a cup. This disorientated the gunman, who then fled on foot.

No descriptive details were given about the suspect other than the fact that he was wearing a long sleeve shirt, black denim pants and black gloves.No property was stolen and the victims were uninjured, police said.

Anyone who was in the area at the relevant time and has information which could assist the police is asked to contact George Town police station 949-4222.

 

 

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Arrest for Kerran’s murder

| 17/11/2011 | 31 Comments

Kerran_0.png(CNS):  The RCIPS has announced that a 35-year-old  man was arrested this morning on suspicion of murder in connection to the disappearance of Kerran Baker, who was last seen three and a half months ago. The arrest took place earlier this morning (Thursday 17 November) following a police operation in the Prospect area. The man remains in police custody while enquiries continue. Kerran Natalee Baker, a 25-year-old Jamaican nurse, was last seen on Saturday evening, 30 July, driving her white Honda Civic in the Red Bay area. One of Kerry's friends tried to call her on that night and on Sunday but received no response. When she went to Kerry's home in Arrow Drive, Bodden Town, she found Kerry's bag and groceries on the kitchen counter and contacted the police.

The victim's car was found on Monday 1 August parked off the road close to Pedro Castle, and a set of keys, later confirmed to be Kerran's, was found in the bushes near the car, along with a small patch of blood. The police also release CCTV footage of Kerran in Foster’s Supermarket by the airport at around 7pm on the night that she went missing in the hope of sparking new lines of enquiry.

However, despite the full scale murder enquiry with regular police press briefings and numerous appeals to the public for information, in mid-September police raised the possibility that the young Jamaican nurse had joined a short list of people that may never be found, although they said the case was not closed. 

Anyone who has any information in relation to the disappearance of Kerran should call George Town police station on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line  949-7777, or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Techy zone gets career development office

| 17/11/2011 | 0 Comments

CEC-Special-Economic-Zone.jpg(CNS Business): Government made a further change to the immigration law on Wednesday in order to create a new career development bureau inside special economic zones. Designed to accommodate the proposed Cayman Enterprise City, which promises a new string to the local economywith the development of technical, science and media based business, the bureau will be the point of recruitment for the zone. The premier told the Legislative Assembly that the law will help to ensure that qualified Caymanians will also be employed in the businesses that the developers have promised to bring and open up new opportunities for training and career development for local people. Read more on CNS Business

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Bodden Towners begin campaign against dump move

| 17/11/2011 | 74 Comments

GTLF 1.jpg(CNS): A group of local people who do not want the new landfill sited in their district have come together to mount a campaign to urge government to think again about the decision to relocate the dump.  The group currently formed under the banner of the 'Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free', says the people of BoddenTown have not been consulted or given their consent to the plan and believe that the district’s residents need to have their say. The objectors say the planned move is a threat to the integrity of historic Bodden Town and they believe most people in the district oppose the move.

“We seriously question the motives behind the proposal to move the present dump, and the need to move it anywhere,” the coalition stated in its first public statement. “We’ve recently been asked to 'Speak up Cayman!', 'Be Heard'.  If this applies to a review of our relationship with the UK, it must certainly apply to an issue which directly affects our environment and daily lives. We respectfully implore the government to consider the interests of the Bodden Town population before those of a private company, and we await a positive reply.”

The coalition members say they are calling on the government "to unconditionally cancel the agreement with Dart” that includes the plan to remediate the George Town landfill and open a new facility in the Midlands Acre area of the district.

The activists are planning to develop a public strategy this week and say they will, depending on the reaction of government, begin their campaign to stop the movement of the dump.

The plan to move the landfill forms part of the ForCayman Alliance, which is a complex deal of land swaps involving crown land, in order to see more investment in development from the Dart Group. One element includes swapping the public land where “Mount Trashmore” is currently located next to Camana Bay with a piece of land owned by Dart in Bodden Town.

The developer has announced that it is willing to incur the cost of capping, remediating and stop the leeching of the current dump into the North sound and will eventually turn the land into an attractive public leisure area. The developer will then develop a new environmentally friendly waste management facility which will include composting and recycling at the new site in Bodden Town, which will be managed by government or whoever is contracted to manage the facility and the collection of garbage.

The contract to manage the country's waste issues was won by the US firm Wheelabrator in partnership with local firm CWML almost one year ago in 2010 after an open tendering process. There were ten responses to the request for proposals, according to government officials, four of which did not meet the requirements, including the submission from Dart.

Less than a month after the announcement from the deputy premier’s ministry that Wheelabrator had emerged as the front runner, the premier made an announcement at a business conference that Dart would get the dump. In the summer government then announced its plans to enter into the ForCayman Alliance with Dart that includes the landfill swap, but as yet the government has not signed a definitive deal with the islands’ biggest investor.

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Plane crash remains a mystery as investigators arrive

| 17/11/2011 | 17 Comments

crash_0.JPG(CNS): The authorities were still unable to say why the Cessna 210 which crashed in Cayman Brac was in local airspace on Sunday night as special investigators arrived on the island Wednesday. Officials said that two aircraft accident investigators had arrived from the UK and had flown to the Brac this morning to begin their investigation but there were still no clues on the mystery plane or the pilot and his passenger, who were killed when the aircraft smashed into the Bluff on Booby Bird Road. Police said that they were liaising with the Mexican and Colombian consulates to trace the next of kin of the men killed in the smash. (Photo courtesy Cayman27)

The bodies will be transported to Grand Cayman later this week and it is anticipated that post mortem examinations will be carried out early next week.

Meanwhile, the RCIPS is said to be continuing land and air searches in the area surrounding the crash site to try and piece together where the aircraft may have come from, where it was heading and why it tried to land in the Cayman Islands.

 

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Cops slammed over records

| 17/11/2011 | 27 Comments

PF-AA451_smpape_F_20110504170510.jpg(CNS): The information commissioner made one of her most damning criticisms yet this week when she slammed the RCIPS in her latest ruling, describing their handling of a request as “atrocious”, as well as finding that they were not in compliance with the law. Jennifer Dilbert said proper records management was essential to the functions and success of the RCIPS and its crime-fighting responsibilities but she found that there were not sufficient resources, policies and procedures in relation to the manner in which it keeps records. In her decision she ordered the police to release information refused to an applicant and condemned the way the cops had handled the request from start to finish.

“Procedurally, the handling of this case, from the initial response to the internal review, was atrocious” said Dilbert. “The RCIPS need to take steps to improve the way they process and handle FOI requests.”

During the course of the hearing, the information boss said there were delays in identifying and submitting the responsive records for review, and even the hearing itself had to be adjourned when Dilbert was forced to order the police produce the records.  Owing to the number of procedural and administrative failures, the information commissioner said the police were not in compliance with the FOI Law and required them to take actions to correct their deficiencies.

Not a single one of the legal requirements and best practice rules which applied during the course of the request were followed in this case, the information boss revealed. Dilbert also noted that there are what she described as some “very serious record-keeping issues” within the RCIPS.

“There seems to be total confusion as to what files exist, do not exist, cannot be found, or have not yet been found. A proper paper trail of investigations is obviously not being maintained in all cases,” she wrote in her decision.

“Given the manner in which this request and appeal were handled by the RCIPS, I can only conclude that the vital importance of record keeping is insufficiently understood and acted upon within the Service. It appears that not all RCIPS officers, particularly in PSU, are cognizant of the requirements of the FOI Law in order to deal with requests for information,” she added.

The hearing was triggered after a request for records of a number of Professional Standards Unit (PSU) investigations as well as personnel records of the applicant was partially refused by the RCIPS.  In her ruling, the commissioner ordered the RCIPS to release not only the bundle of responsive records that had been identified in the hearing but also required the service to search for a number of other records previously identified but not submitted during the processing of the matter.

In their submission, the RCIPS claimed the records were exempt from release under section 16 of the FOI Law which relates to law enforcement, saying they could affect the conduct of an investigation but submitted no evidence to support these claims. 

Instead, they suggested that a number of investigation files were not yet officially closed and if the applicant chose to return to the RCIPS at a future date the investigations could be continued.  The commissioner did not accept the speculative reasoning put forth by the RCIPS, which now has 30 days to conduct a further search for records and 45 days to seek a judicial review of the Commissioner’s Decision if they so chose.

See full ruling below or go to www.INFOCOMM.ky

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