Archive for November 20th, 2011

Clampers’ days numbered

| 20/11/2011 | 51 Comments

clamp dennie_1.jpg(CNS): The unanimous passage of the long awaited Traffic Law by the members of the Legislative Assembly on Friday evening heralds in a modern regime for the islands' roads and transport sector, and one that does not include clampers. Alongside improved safety issues, such as banning the use of mobile phones without a hands free set while driving, the law provides for the licensing and use of electric cars and the registration of driving instructors. The law also spells the end of clamping firms, in line with bans in the UK, where the practice had been described as curb-side extortion, a point the deputy premier said she completely agreed with.

As Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who is the minister responsible for traffic, wrapped up the parliamentary debate on the legislation, welcomed by all members, she read a number of reports from the British press regarding the issue of what she said the media had called “cowboy clampers” .

The deputy premier stated that she agreed with the sentiment in many of the articles published in the UK over the last few months, in particular by the Daily Mail, which had led the campaign to ban the practice altogether. O’Connor Connolly said clamping was both disproportionate and counter-productive and added that there had been cases in Cayman like those in the UK where people were intimidated by the agents who had immobilized their cars and marched to ATMs to pay up before they would remove the offending clamp.

Clamping is a relatively recent practice in the Cayman Islands but after just a few short years the parking management firms' high parking fines — up to $85 — had caused considerable concern in the community and had seen the politicians seeking ways to ban the practice. Independent member Ezzard Miller had brought a private members motion last year asking government to ban the practice, which he believed was illegal.

During the debate on the law the PPM member for East End spoke about the frustrations that have been caused by the clamping companies and not least the extortionate rates they have charged people to remove the wheel clamps. He said he had no sympathy for the businesses involved and jobs that may be lost.

“It’s my job to protect jobs for Caymanians and I ain’t ever seen a Caymanian clamp anybody,” McLean told his colleagues as he offered his support to the ban and the traffic law.

The minister confirmed that, as was the case in the UK, where clamping firms had asked for compensation in the wake of the ban and been given none, there would be no compensation for the local parking management firms either.

Parking enforcement will be in the hands of the police under the new law and people wishing to regulate parking on private land will be able to use barriers to limit access.

The new traffic bill repeals the 2003 version of the law and will come intoeffect when the regulations are completed. The minister futher revealed that a law is being researched and drafted that will relate to public transport and therefore parts of the traffic bill will eventually be moved into a separate piece of legislation that will deal entirely with public transport issues.

Dealing with everything from the registration of vehicles to the enforcement of road safety measures, the law covers some 143 different clauses. It has also redefined what a motor vehicle is so that vehicles powered by electricity can be licensed and allowed on all roads. 

The law provides for some foreign nationals to drive in the Cayman Islands without applying for a local licence for up to six months. After that time the foreign licence holder will need to pass a written test to acquire a local licence. Drivers from non convention countries will not be offered the six months and will need to pass both a written and road test before being able to drive here.

The law also provides for the regulation of driving instructors who take money from learner drivers for lessons. Although parents, guardians and friends who are not charging a fee will still be able to teach young drivers, official instructors will need a certificate of registration to charge money. Instructors will be committing an offence if they take cash for driving lessons unless they are registered with the new driving instructor authority and have received a certificate, which must be displayed in the instructor’s vehicle.

See draft of traffic bill here

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Judge directed to release memo over letters scandal

| 20/11/2011 | 9 Comments

Gavel%20and%20documents.jpg(CNS): The information commissioner has ordered the content of a memo sent by the chief justice to the police regarding letters to the press he believed were scandalizing the judiciary to be released. Although the judicial administration had at first denied having the record, after it was discovered the public authority denied the request because it said that the investigation was not complete.  Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert said she remained unconvinced that the investigation was on-going as no evidence was produced to support the claim and ordered Judicial Administration to release the record, which relates to letters sent to Cayman Net News that a former grand court judge was accused of writing.

The latest decision by the information commissioner centres on a missing document following a request made earlier this year by an applicant who was given access to a number of personal records related to a public tribunal but who was not satisfied that every document that had been requested had been disclosed. With the assistance of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) the missing document was eventually found, but when it was, the Judicial Administration said the FOI law did not apply to it as it related to judicial functions.

Having been given access to the record, the ICO concluded that the document was administrative in nature and not related to judicial functions so it was subject to the freedom of information law. As a result, the courts then denied access on the basis that it was part of a continuing investigation.

Dilbert was also not persuaded by the public authority’s arguments during the hearing that the investigation was continuing, especially given the time that had elapsed in connection with the tribunal in question that the memo related to, and that no evidence was submitted to support the claim.

“The FOI Law places theburden of proof on the public authority to prove that it has acted in accordance with its obligations under the Law,” Dilbert said.  “While there are certainly situations where records relating to law enforcement need to be protected, the law requires that there is a real and substantial ground for the expectation that harm could occur for this exemption to apply. Judicial Administration has not presented me with these grounds.” 

In her decision she noted that the document in question was not a record relating to law enforcement and much of what it contained is information that is already in the public domain, since the tribunal was held in public. With the exception of the last paragraph of the record, which contained personal information of a third party unrelated to the issues, Dilbert gave the judicial department 45 calendar days to appeal the decision.

According to Dilbert’s decision, the document in question is a memo written by the chief justice referring an issue to the police for investigation. Although the tribunal is not mentioned by name in Dilbert’s ruling, the memo relates to letters that were written to Cayman Net News that the courts believed were an attempt to scandalize and effectively undermine public confidence in the local judiciary.

The issue became a key element in the tribunal of the former Grand Court judge, Priya Levers, who was removed from the bench for misbehaviour.  Although the tribunal had concluded that she was not the author of the letters, a point she had always vehemently maintained, it was revealed during the judge’s case that the islands' top judge had referred the matter of the letters to the police in an effort to discover the author, who wrote the letters under a number of pseudonyms.

See the Information commissioner’s full decision below.

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Man attacked outside George Town restaurant

| 20/11/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS is currently investigating an attack on a 42-year-old man that took place in the early hours of Sunday morning outside a George Town restaurant  At about 12:49am on 20 November the Emergency Call Centre received a report that a man had been physically assaulted by a number of other men. Police said the victim "was not welcomed by his assailants" when he arrived in the vicinity of Jah T’s in McField Lane and a fight was said to have erupted, during which he sustained multiple stab wounds, lacerations and bruises to various parts of his body. Emergency personnel attended the scene and the victim was taken to the George Town hospital, where he was admitted and treated for his non-life threatening injuries and was discharged later on Sunday.

A police spokesperson said officers are investigating the matter but no one has yet been arrested in connection with the incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact George Town Police Station on 949 4222, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Motor cruiser sinks after running aground on reef

| 20/11/2011 | 34 Comments

DSC02533.jpg(CNS): Police have confirmed that a 72ft Pacemaker motor cruiser which ran aground on the reef north of the Sandbar late Thursday night has broken up on the reef and lost almost 90% of 2,000 gallons of fuel into the ocean. The crew of the unfortunately named Plight was rescued, but despite efforts by the Marine Unit, local marine experts and the boat’s own crew to salvage the yacht,  the boat has now disintegrated, officials said Sunday. With bad weather hampering salvage operations, only around ten percent of the fuel was removed and some floating debris from the wreck was saved, but the crew was able to salvage the batteries. Almost the entire vessel, including the bow and its super structure, its engines and generators, is now submerged on the reef.

Only part of its stern is still visible above the water. 

A crew from Harbour House Marine, which has been working with police and the boat owners to salvage the vessel, reported that the fuel tank and extra fuel has broken away from the boat and apparently floated away but there were no signs of fuel leakage in the North Sound.

“The RCIPS Marine Unit and the Harbour House crew are searching the coastline in the area to see if the fuel tank can be located,” a police spokesperson stated.

The Port Authority receiveda distress call from the captain of the Plight late on Thursday night stating that the vessel was on the reef and taking on water. The Niven D from the RCIPS Marine Unit was sent to resuce the boat but not before the captain was forced to abandon the ship and take to the life boat. The marine rescue vessel got to the location at around 1am and escorted the two crew members who were on board  to the North Sound Bacadere safe and well.

The Plight was crewed by two men, aged 35 and 38, both from New South Wales, Australia, who are still on island and are not suspected of breaching any laws.

The vessel had about 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel in its fuel tank and was travelling from Miami, Florida, via Cuba to the Panama Canal, destined for Australia. The captain of the vessel decided to stop in the Cayman Islands due to an approaching Nor’easter.

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Hobson’s choice

| 20/11/2011 | 0 Comments

I thought I would set myself a goal to try and write a commentary on the markets and not use “Europe”, “periphery” or “debt”. As you can see I just failed, which is a good thing as this commentary would be decidedly short if I hadn’t.  The past couple of weeks haven’t been a good time to be a prime minister. Having seen two go, Greece’s Papandreou and Italy’s Berlusconi, there must surely be a bit of unease being at the top. 

To read this and other Business Viewpoints and to comment click here.

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Adam calls on George Towners to nominate council

| 20/11/2011 | 11 Comments

mike adam_0.jpg(CNS): The UDP’s George Town representative, Mike Adam, is asking residents of his constituency to submit nominations for the district's new advisory council at a meeting Tuesday evening. With the two opposition MLAs boycotting the process because of the government’s decision to appoint rather than allow a vote on members, the UDP minister appears to be spearheading the process. At the first meeting in George Town regarding the process earlier this month, the district’s fourth elected member, UDP backbencher Elio Solomon, was not present. Adam, who is also the government minister for community affairs, encourage the capital’s residents to join in the process of forming the council.

“It is from these nominations that Cabinet will select the members of the Advisory District Council. To those who are approached to be nominated, I say this is a great opportunity to serve and influence the betterment of our community and the country,” Adam said.

All nominations can be handed to any George Town MLA, according to the law, but Adam advised people not to give theirs to opposition members. “Although residents have the right to hand their nomination to any of the four George Town MLAs, people should hold in mind that the PPM have publicly stated that they are boycotting the nomination process,” Adam said as he asked people to attend Tuesday’s meeting, when the deadline for acceptance of nominations would be announced.

Residents can make nominations for general membership or for a particular office, such as chairman, vice chairman, treasurer or secretary. Each district council is allowed a total of ten members. Nominations must be submitted in writing and signed. The nomination must also be countersigned by the nominee to indicate that the person is willing to serve. Both the person making the nomination and the nominee must be residents of George Town. The nomination must be accompanied by a brief biography or resume that indicates the suitability of the person to serve on the Advisory District Council.

According to the law, council members must live in the relevant electoral district and because of special qualifications, training, experience or knowledge of the district be “suitable for appointment to a council”, and according to government, Cabinet will define and decide who is suitable.

The law calls for councils to advise their MLA or MLAs on matters affecting their district as well as issue that may affect the country as a whole.

Nominations can be mailed to: ADC Nominations c/o The Ministry of Community Affairs, Gender & Housing, Government Administration Building, Box 109, Grand Cayman KY1-9000.

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CIMA warns directors of regulatory enforcement

| 20/11/2011 | 0 Comments

RJerBry.jpg(CNS Business): The days of non-compliance by fund directors are done, according to RJ Berry, head of compliance at the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.  Speaking at the Cayman Fund Focus, hosted by Campbells, the regulator warned that the fund sector would see an increase in enforcement. Berry admitted that CIMA’s powers had been weak but he wanted to see a new regime where the authority had  the power to disqualify directors. "You are going to see a drastic increase in the number of regulatory enforcement actions this year, simply because over the last two to three years we’ve had our nose to the grindstone and the days are done when you redeem your investor out and ignore the regulator with your termination requirements,” Berry warned delegates. Read more on CNS Business

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