Archive for November 18th, 2011

Mac says he will sign FFA

| 18/11/2011 | 99 Comments

macLA.JPG(CNS): The country’s premier said he will be signing the Financial Framework Agreement with the UK next week at the territrories council meeting in London and admitted Friday that the document had been given to his government over a year ago. McKeeva Bush has not yet given a full explanation on why he was called to the UK ahead of the annual council for direct talks with the OT minister but he indicated that the framework document had dominated what was an “urgent” meeting. The governor’s office confirmed that the fiscal agreement was only one reason why the FCO minister had wanted to meet with the premier ahead of the scheduled OT council and that other issues were on the agenda.

Although Cline Glidden accompanied McKeeva Bush last week, the financial secretary, who has led the negotiations regarding the framework agreement, was not present at the meeting with the UK’s Henry Bellingham.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, however, Bush said that he had discussed the framework agreement with Bellingham when in London and solid progress was made and “all things being equal” he would be “in a position to sign an amended FFR document next week” during the planned UK trip to for the consultative council meetings, the premier stated.

Scheduled to leave for London this weekend, Bush revealed that the document presented challenges to the country and it would prevent the government from borrowing money for any capital projects that were not self-financing or that could not be paid back from government's own revenue.

In his statement to the Legislative Assembly he blamed the former administration for the pressure that the UK was applying on the country's finances, and although he acknowledged that his government would shoulder the responsibility for improving the situation, “we cannot, and will not, accept responsibility for causing this grievous fiscal situation” that Cayman was now in, he added.

Bush expected that the opposition would play on the public’s sympathy by saying the government was trying to blame them for its failures but it was their “recklessness in handling the public purse” that had caused the UK to press so hard for fiscal responsibility and that the opposition should hang their heads in shame.

“Instead, they try to divert attention from their own malfeasance," he said. “They talk about our approach to procurements and about our funding of church development activities. This is not what the UK is concerned about.”

He did not go into detail about all of the issues that the UK were reportedly concerned about but said that the FCO had agreed with the government “partnering with churches to get good facilities,” he said, adding that Bellingham did not talk about “such expenditures". Bush said the British minister had criticised “the $100 million schools and the impending costs for their maintenance, and a building for over $90 million without the funds.” He added that the UK cited those projects among the examples of past mis-management, while the UK was “pleased” with his government's fiscal performance.

The premier said the point ofthe agreement with the UK was to set a framework to continue to achieve and sustain a fiscally prudent administration. Bush emphasised that under the FFA government won’t be able to borrow beyond the limits of its ability to pay back from operating revenues. “We know this is a tough position; it calls for both elected representatives and civil servants to work hard and work smart,” he said, adding that the efforts to turn things around so far could go further.

Bush said the goal to improve government’s fiscal position was a huge challenge. “Whether government fully accomplishes this mammoth task in the next 18 months is right now anybody’s guess, given the outlook onthe world economies and given the UK’s dictum for a very long process. But we will continue in doing our utmost in trying to make things better for our people,” he added.

Pressed by the opposition for the reasons why he was asked to go to London last weekend so urgently when the agreement had been around for almost one year, and it was not unique as most OTs had been asked to sign fiscal commitments, Bush said he did not know about other territories. But he said he had made it clear to London that Cayman was different to other territories and had a different kind of economy and should not be lumped together.  He said that Cayman has its problems and the UK wanted to see a new procurement system but he said things had not gone “awry”.

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Calderon Hat Trick eases Bodden Town past Future

| 18/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(CIFA): The Cayman Premier League hosted two re-scheduled mid-week fixtures on Wednesday. Bodden Town took on Future whilst Roma hosted George Town. Bodden Town hit Future for six and solidified their position in the top three in the league standings. Bodden Town now join Elite in the goals for category, both teams boast a scoring total of 23 goals so far this season after seven games. Bodden Town’s Yefry Calderon led the scoring for BT registering a hat trick against Future, Arvid Harris, Charlo Mclean and Jorronie Mclean also got their names on the score sheet for Bodden Town, Ormond Moore responded with a solo consolation goal for Future.

Bodden Town will host Tigers FC this Sunday at the Bodden Town field whilst Future faces another strong test as they head to the Annex to take on George Town SC.

George Town SC will be hoping that their 3:0 win over Roma United on Wednesday night will kick start their season.

George Town has been up and down this season but the signs of consistency seem to be coming back. George Town controlled the game against Roma and went about the business of claiming a much needed 3 points early on when David Harding opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Harding then turned provider on the 20th minute mark as his cross found Cayman Islands International Tex Whitelocke who was lurking at the far post, Tex slid in to notch his second goal of the season and give GT a 2:0 lead. A few minutes later George Town forward Justin Pierre teed up Harding who completed his brace when he stuck a beautiful volley from just outside the box.

Roma battled on well but failed to close the deficit and after starting the season with two consecutive wins Roma have now lost four of their last five. Unfortunately it does not get any easier for Roma as they meet current league Champions Elite SC this Sunday. Elite have been churning out results ever since their opening week loss to Roma, Ironically this has been the only loss Elite have encountered this season.   

Cayman Athletic with face league leading Scholars International this Sunday in the final fixture of Week 8, Scholars draw against Future in Week 7 was seen as two points lost for them and they will be determined to get back to winning ways. Second place Elite SC are now only one point behind the leaders. Cayman Athletic currently sit just one place above bottom side Future after only picking up 4 points from a possible 21.    

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Suspect escapes police after hospital treatment

| 18/11/2011 | 37 Comments

Charlton EBANKS.jpg(CNS): Update Friday 11:55am — The RCIPS has now released the name and photo of the man who escaped from police custody yesterday morning. Charlton Bengar Ebanks (left), aged 21, escaped from his police guard at the Cayman Islands Hospital shortly after 7:00am on Thursday, 17 November. Ebanks, who is described as being 5’ 11’ in height with brown eyes, dark complexion, black hair and of slim build, is not believed to be a danger to the public. However, anyone who sees this man or knows of his present whereabouts is urged to contact their nearest police station. Ebanks was under arrest in relation to the road traffic incident and in connection with an outstanding warrant.

He was injured during a single vehicle road crash in West Bay on Wednesday afternoon and had been detained for treatment overnight at the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town. 

An RCIPS spokesperson confirmed Thursday afternoon that an investigation had been opened into all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, which had triggered concerns in the community as to the identity of the escapee.

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Gun found after car crash

| 18/11/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Police say that two men have been arrested and are now in custody following a road crash, a police chase on foot and the recovery of a handgun. Around 3:25am today (Friday, 18 November) officers from the RCIPS Uniform Support Group were on routine patrol in the area close to the Grand Pavilion, West Bay Road, when they noticed a suspicious vehicle making off from the location. The car drove along West Bay Road towards George Town and turned onto the Esterly Tibbets Highway towards West Bay. Then, at a point close to the rear of the Ritz Carlton, the car collided with a road barrier. As the police vehicle approached the scene of the crash two men ran away from the car.

The officers pursued one of the men into the bush area. The man was detained and a handgun with ammunition was recovered nearby. He has been arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm. The second man from the car was arrested a short time later on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident.

No shots were discharged and no-one was injured and police say that both men remain in police custody while enquiries continue.

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Future UK-OT relations to dominate London meeting

| 18/11/2011 | 0 Comments

HENRY+BELLINGHAM,MP+AND+PREMIER+MCKEEVA+BUSH+8FEB11.jpg(CNS): The future relationship between the UK and the overseas territories will be top of the agenda at this year’s consultative council which takes place on Wednesday and Thursday of next week (23-24 November) in London. Hosted by the Foreign Office’s OT’s minister Henry Bellingham the meeting includes leaders and elected officials from all of the UK’s territories and will focus on Britain's strategy for the proposed 2012 White Paper. The FCO minister said a lot had happened since the last annual meeting but he was pleased that the UK had a clear plan on engaging with the territories.

“Much has happened since Territory leaders gathered here 12 months ago,” he said from London. “I am delighted that the UK Government has developed and agreed a clear strategy towards the Territories focused on increasing our engagement with them; working together to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning, where necessary; and developing external support for the Territories. “

Bellingham will not be the only UK government representative as several of his coalition government colleagues will be attending which the minister said was a sign of the strengthening engagement of the whole of the UK government with the territories. 

“I look forward to discussing with Territory leaders their ideas for the development of our partnership which will help us develop our thinking for the White Paper on the Overseas Territories that we intend to publish next year,” he added.

There will be sessions on a wide range of subjects as well as the white paper including: aviation safety, good governance, criminal justice, economic development, and environment and climate change. 

The Cayman delegation which among others includes the premier and the education minister will be leaving for the UK at the weekend as they will also be engaged in meetings with the other OT leaders as well as private sessions with the UK government.

Alongside Cayman the United Kingdom has another 13 territories spread across the globe, the last of its former colonies which have not yet sought independence. They range from the island of Pitcairn with only 47 inhabitants, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to Bermuda, in the middle of the Atlantic which has a population of over 62,000. The total population of the territories is around 239,000and a significant number of them are in the Caribbean.

The Consultative Council, held annually since 1999, is a forum for discussion of key policy issues between British Ministers and Heads of Overseas Territories' Governments.

The Foreign Secretary announced in September the main principles of the Government’s new strategy towards the Overseas Territories. This included cross-Government agreement, endorsed by the Prime Minister, that each Department should recognise its responsibility to engage with the Territories in its area of competence and expertise. The new strategy is currently open to consultation, which can be found here.

 

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Government sends mixed signals on offenderrehab

| 18/11/2011 | 2 Comments

criminal-background-check.jpg(CNS): The government says it is currently assessing the rehabilitation of offender’s law and may provide a way for people who have served sentences of over two and a half years to wipe their criminal record clean after a certain period, but voted down a motion to confirm the issue. During a debate in the Legislative Assembly, Thursday, regarding the need to give former offenders who have stayed crime free for 15 years or more the chance to rehabilitate on sentences longer than 30 months government said the issue was under review. Ezzard Miller’s private motion was rejected, but the attorney general said it was “a work in progress” and as the matter was in hand there was no need to accept the motion.

The North Side member said he filed the motion following representations made to him by a number of his constituents who had, many years ago in their youth, fallen foul of the law. He pointed to the problem created in the law that does not provide for the rehabilitation, or wiping clean the slate for anyone who served 30onths or more despite having decades of a crime free life.

He said people had been convicted of an offence that saw them serve such a sentence as much as 30 years ago but still they could not get a clean police record. Despite having gone on to lead exemplary lives, bring up successful families, make important contributions to the community and more, these people are still, under the law, unable to rehabilitate despite committing no further crimes since their conviction.

Miller asked government to introduce an additional tier to the rehabilitation law allowing those who had served over 30months but not more than five years a chance to wipe the slate clean and become rehabilitated provide they stayed on the straight and narrow.
The lack of rehabilitation was, the independent member said, not only preventing people from gaining visas to travel overseas but the everlasting criminal records were affecting their ability to secure employment.

With employers needing police records for their work permit holders, Miller said an increasing number were extending that requirement to Caymanians which meant people who had been to jail for more than two and a half years no matter how long ago was handicapped in their efforts to find work.

After some two hours of debate during which all members on both side of the House agreed with the spirit of the motion and acknowledged the long standing concerns and complaints from their own constituents, the government benches still voted it down, saying it was already under review.

indicating his disappointment that government had failed to give a specific commitment to what he said was a specific problem Miller was puzzled by the government’s reluctance to say what it intended to do with thelaw. 

He said as a representative of the people when he had genuine concerns from his constituent that he felt could be addressed as a responsible member he could do nothing more than bring the issues to the attention of government setting out a solution.

Miller added that he hoped the issue would be addressed and that the civil servants working on the amendments to the law would not see government’s failure to support his motion as an indication that this problem was not a priority and the legislation would never see the light of day.

 

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One man-one vote denied

| 18/11/2011 | 81 Comments

(CNS): The government voted unanimously on Thursday against the democratic principle of one man-one vote. All seven government MLAs present in the parliament voted ‘no’ on a private members motion to amend the election law to come in line with the country’s constitution. Ezzard Miller, who brought the motion, said the new constitution states that every person eligible can vote for “an” elected "member" and not multiple members. Telling his parliamentary colleagues that he felt so strongly about the inequality of multi-member constituencies, which allow some voters to influence government four times more than others, he said that if they did not support it he would challenge the issue in the Grand Court.

The motion wasseconded by Arden McLean, the PPM member for East End, and despite having the support of each of the opposition members present, the motion was defeated by the government.

Although the premier has stated on numerous occasions that he does not support the principle of one man-one vote, this was the first time that his party colleagues were given an opportunity to vote on the matter. With the exception of Cline Glidden and Dwayne Seymour who were not present, all the UDP members voted against what Miller described as the basic principle of democracy.

Presenting his motion to the assembly, Miller said the inequality in the country’s voting system based on where people lived had to be addressed, not just from a common sense perspective but because it was unconstitutional. He said that as legislators they had an obligation to ensure all laws complied with the constitution and therefore the elections law needed to be amended before the 2013 national ballot.

The North Side member also noted that the current elections law was likely to fall foul of the bill of rights as it was inequitable that one person could influence who would be elected to government four times more than another based purely on their address.

He said the constitution sets out clearly in section 92 that eligible persons can vote for “an elected member” showing the intent of one man-one vote.

“I cannot find any dictionary that defines ‘an’ as four,” Miller stated. “No other country inthe modern day has such a convoluted  system as what we have.” He noted that, depending on where voters live, they may have four, three or two votes, while those living in East End and North Side have just one vote. “It has to be wrong that we go into the 2013 election under this multiple choice system when the constitution calls for a single member vote,” he added.

Miller said he felt so strongly about the inequality of the current system that he was prepared to take the matter to the Grand Court and challenge government’s refusal to address the issue there. He said he could not stand by when his constituents faced such direct inequality. But his urging fell not only on deaf ears but also faced complete silence in the chamber.  Not a single member of the government benches spoke to justify why they did not support the basic democratic system of one man-one vote or to defend the current multi-vote system. 

Following the silent response to his proposal, Miller said he was exceptionally disappointed that not one of the government representatives was prepared to say why they did not support his motion and why they were not willing to do the right thing for the people of the Cayman Islands.

He also questioned how the members in West Bay would deal with the inequality that their own constituents would be facing in the next election without a change to the law.  It is anticipated that George Town voters will be given six opportunities to influence government against the  four in West Bay if government opts to increase the legislative body by simply adding the three seats to two of the existing six constituencies – two to George Town and one to Bodden Town.

Accepting the fate of his motion, Miller said, “I expect I shall meet with the government on this issue in the courtroom.”

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Bush: OT paper ‘not my fault’

| 18/11/2011 | 33 Comments

_DEW9466(1).jpg(CNS): The premier has hit out at critics regarding the limited period of time given for the public to consult over the UK’s proposed 2012 White Paper on the relationship between Britain the Overseas Territories. McKeeva Bush denied having any control over the process and in particular the short consultation time. He said he did not know anything about the consultation process until 14 September, when it was announced in the UK parliament. The process has followed a timetable set by the FCO, Bush stated as he denied being at fault and added that his government was still fighting to push back the date for agreement on the paper to June next year as the UK aims to bring it forward. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday afternoon, Bush said the criticisms of his role were misplaced and calculated to mislead the public as he had no control over the timetable. While he agreed that the issue was rushed, he said it was no fault of his. 

He indicated that Ezzard Miller had suggested government knew about the consultation a year ago but the country was now rushing to complete it by this month’s deadline, and had accused him of secrecy regarding the new white paper. Bush said the claims of secrecy were untrue the only thing he knew after last year’s Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting was that there would be a review of the UK-OT relationship by the FCO.

“There was nothing more at the time. I gave notice of the review when I came back … in December 2010,” he stated.

Bush said that if people were deprived of the opportunity to make representations, it was not his doing.

“The pubic consultation process on the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories is not an undertaking by me or the Cayman Islands Government. This review and consultation is at the behest of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

He said the FCO was driving the entire process and he was not in a position to announce that process without the Terms of Reference, which the FCO has determined. He revealed that he had received a letter in March from Henry Bellingham, the FCO minister, but that made no mention of a public consultation. “The letter detailed the three strands of the OT strategy and it says the Foreign Secretary plans to present the thinking outlined in the letter to the National Security Council this spring,” Bush stated.

The letter spoke about discussing the relationship and opportunities for exchange of views and towards a new White Paper later in 2011. Bush said he had made his concerns about the timetable set out by the FCO clear as it would prejudice the prospects of territories to put forward the best position.

“I expressed my concern about the time we were given to present our views from September 7th. How, in view of these facts, could anyone come now and say that it is my fault that the time for consultation is so short? Except that the opposition and the member for North Side have done nothing but twist the truth in all that they do,” Bush exclaimed, adding that it was not until September that the UK indicated they wanted to see a consultation process that included the general public. 

“If the minister for the Overseas Territories is telling me on September 16th that he wants responses froma consultation process that includes as many people of the Cayman Islands as possible by November 18th, how is that my fault?  I have no argument with the point that the consultation process was too brief. But for the opposition leader to say it is my fault is misleading the country, which it seems he has no problem doing,” the premier claimed.

Questioning the motives, intent and sincerity of the opposition and independent members, whom he accused of misleading the public, he said they were at best “negligent” and at worst “malicious” and had calculated to undermine people’s confidence in the very institution of government.

Bush also noted that people who have access to the internet can still make their views known to the FCO through the website until the year end and reveled that there would be a progress report after the OTCC meeting in London next week.

“Our relationship with the UK is of great importance to us as a government, as it remains of great importance to all of Cayman,” he said. “We strive robustly on a daily basis to advance the best interests of the Cayman Islands and will certainly do so in this White Paper review. We will push for a true partnership, for mutually beneficial objectives, and to begin with, both a definition of principles and a timeframe for an agreement, which will effectively realize those ends. We do our utmost for the betterment of Cayman and we have no fear of accountability for the service we render,” the premier added as he adjourned Thursday’s sitting of the LA.

See full speech below.

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