Archive for November 25th, 2011

McField on ministry payroll

| 25/11/2011 | 82 Comments

_DWJ6412-2.jpg(CNS): A freedom of information request has revealed that local attorney Steve McField has been contracted by the premier’s ministry as a legal consultant to research a range of policy matters, from legal aid to national honours. According to the “scope of services” in the contract, McField is required to review and advise on government business, undertake legal research, assist with the development of a “country strategy” and nation building, as well as interpret opinions,case laws and other documents, advising the premier on appropriate action. McField is being paid CI$7,000 per month and the ministry confirmed that up to September he had received a total of $77,000 from the public purse.

The first contract for this consultancy position of “Senior Analyst, Legal Research and Development” was for a period of seven months and was signed on 1 November 2010. A second was then signed in June this year for a further seven month period ending 31 December 2011, the FOI request, which was made by a CNS reader, revealed.

The contract states: “The consultant is engaged in the business of conducting research and advise on legal issues and will provide advice on policy development, institutional development and historical development and has considerable skill, knowledge and experience in those said fields.”

The list of services in the first schedule on the contract is wide ranging and indicates that McField is being employed as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development, as well as to the office of the premier, and that he takes his instructions from and reports directly to the minister.

The schedule lists nine services with subcategories that require McField to “advise and research policy development, institutional development and historical development,” among other issues.

The requirements go well beyond the legal aid research that McField was originally assisting government with, when the premier removed the budget from the courts during his first year in office with the view to opening a public defender’s office. Since then, that funding has been returned to the chief justice and the legal aid programme is still being managed by judicial administration after the proposal for the office, which McField was earmarked to head up, was dropped in the wake of the review committee’s findings.

The contract still includes a requirement for McField to examine the reform of the legal aid system but it also contracts the local attorney to a much wider remit.  It calls on the lawyer to research and evaluate other government policies and proposals, including investment, the development of Caymanians and the priorities for government to achieve a sustainable economy. It also speaks about advising on nation building, as well as offering legal advice.

During the period of the contract McField has acted as a courtroom advocate for the UDP government backbench MLA Dwayne Seymour, who faced charges of perverting the course of justice relating to an incident outside a Seven Mile Beach Hotel in May 2010, but who was eventually acquitted.

The attorney is also acting on behalf of McKeeva Bush, who has filed a law suit against the owner of Cayman News Service, Nicky Watson and her reporter Wendy Ledger, as well as Randy Merren, the owner of the local radio station Rooster, and Daphne Orrett, a caller to the show.

It is not clear if the premier is paying McField separately from his own funds as his personal attorney in those cases or if the lawyer is undertaking that work as part of this government contract.

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Teenage cruise tourist critical after jet-ski smash

| 25/11/2011 | 35 Comments

(CNS): A 16-year-old girl who was visiting the Cayman Islands from New York is expected to be airlifted to a hospital in Florida today after sustaining critical injuries during on ocean collision on Thursday afternoon, police have confirmed. The teen was riding an inflatable banana boat near the Seven Mile Public Beach yesterday when it was hit by a jet-ski at around 12:45pm. An RCIPS spokesperson said that the jet-ski was being ridden by a 17-year-old boy when it collided with a yellow banana shaped inflatable that was being towed by a power boat. The teenager was riding on the ‘banana’ with a 24-year-old woman and they were both thrown from the inflatable when they were hit by the jet-ski. All three people involved were cruise ship passengers, the police spokesperson added.

The women were taken to the Cayman Islands hospital in George Town in the wake of the incident for treatment and the 24-year-old was released soon after but the teenager is now in a critical condition and arrangements are being made to send her to the United States for treatment.

Police enquiries into how the collision occurred are on-going and anyone with information is asked to contact George Town Police station on 949 4222
 

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Story-time for grown-ups as festival opens on LC

| 25/11/2011 | 4 Comments

201.jpg(CNS): This year Cayman’s much loved international story-telling festival will open on the Sister Islands when Gimistory’s first gig is on Little Cayman, Saturday afternoon (26 November) followed by a night time performance in Cayman Brac before heading to Grand Cayman next week. The festival presents a line-up of 25 performers from all over the world as well as Cayman, including Quincy Brown and the much loved Ezekiel and Aunt Sookie, who may have a few stories to tell about the premier this year. Regular performers such as the internationally renowned Ken Corsbie and the incredible Master Extempo Calypsonian the Black Sage will also be on the bill.

Evoking an atmosphere of the old days when storytelling was Cayman’s only form of entertainment the festival is free of charge and takes place on the beach under the stars. Each night will open with steel pan courtesy of Cayman's own Michael Lemay and the free fried fish, fritters and swanky (Cayman style lemonade) will be served at the end of the show.
In 2009, the "fry fish 'n swanky" tradition of Gimistory took a new twist and became a culinary competition. Each district now competes for the honours of Best Fried Fish, Best Swanky or Best Fritters.

During the days, the local and international storytellers will visit local schools making special presentations to students.

Admission to the festival is free and more information on the schedule can be found at Cayman National Cultural Foundation.

 

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New unit created to co-ordinate government policy

| 25/11/2011 | 12 Comments

RLewis 2 (249x300).jpg(CNS): Long serving career civil servant Robert Lewis has been appointed to head up a new government policy unit. The Cabinet Office’s Policy Coordination Unit has been created to coordinate the development and implementation of policies across all government ministries and portfolios, officials said in a release Friday. Lewis is working with a small team to develop independent advice for the Cabinet, the National Security Council, the premier and other agencies – as directed by the Cabinet Secretary. One of the first projects which Lewis has undertaken is to complete an action plan to implement the national Crime Reduction Strategy (CRS). 

The CRS plan offers a four-pronged approach to crime reduction: early intervention, reducing re-offending, prevention and situational prevention.

“This holistic approach holds fast to the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’. In particular we maintain that, for crime to be effectively reduced in the medium’ to long-term, special attention must be given to early intervention,” said Lewis.

Lewis has served government for 24 years – most recently as the Department of Planning’s Assistant Director for Strategic Planning and Policy Development. He also sat on several committees tasked with developing national policies and enhancing departmental efficiencies.
 
At present he also sits on the National Energy Policy Committee, the Census Advisory Committee, and the National Climate Change Adaptation Working Group. He also chairs an energy policy subcommittee, which focuseson energy efficiency and conservation in relation to land-use, construction processes and buildings.

Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor, said, “With proven strengths and experience, Lewis is well-equipped to contribute to government’s strategic growth.”

In a press release government officials said, Lewis conducts occasional lectures and discussions on leadership, management and career development. He has presented locally and overseas to government entities and non-governmental organizations on policy and managerial topics such as strategic planning, smart growth and empowerment.

“I am passionate about facilitating the professional development of government’s aspiring supervisors and managers in the interest of more efficient and effective public service,” he says

The new policy director holds two masters degrees: in Public Policy and Management (University of London); and in Urban and Regional Planning (Florida Atlantic University). He also holds management certifications from Napier University (Scotland); and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The CRS plan can be viewed here

 

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TCI’s former deputy leader denies allegations

| 25/11/2011 | 17 Comments

lillian-boyce1.jpg(CNS): The former deputy premier in the Turks and Caicos Islands has accused the local Investigation team appointed by the UK of a massive conspiracy to tarnish and destroy the reputation of politicians and other high-profile people on the islands. Lillian Boyce admitted that she was arrested and charged with conspiracy, in relation to the sale of land for a proposed hotel and condominium development at North West Point. "They charged me with conspiracy, but they know deep in their hearts that they had no reason or evidence to charge me….I am completely innocent.” Boyce said. "The SIPT should be charged with conspiracy because it is clear that this whole investigation is politically-motivated and premeditated.”

The former minister for education told the TCI Sun that it might be her now but there was a lot more to come.

“After more than two years of enjoying an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands and putting pressure on the Treasury, they now have to justify why they wasted millions and millions of dollars, while the country is broke, civil servants are being sent home and poverty is increasing,” she said. “Even MPs in the House of Commons have expressed concern about the millions of dollars that they are spending."

Boyce is understood to be the third person now to face charges in the long running investigation in into official corruption in TCI by the UK. The probe started after the British government implemented direct rule of its  Caribbean territory after the government's finances collapsed.

"The facts are that over the past few months I have been cooperating fully with the SIPT on a voluntary basis,” Boyce said. “They interviewed me extensively on a number of occasions and I was completely honest and open with them. Sometime in early October, they contacted my lawyer Neale Coleman and set a date for me to return to continue the interview process.

“When I returned to their office on November 21st , accompanied by my husband Hayden, the officers sat across from me and in a few minutes told me I was under arrest and asked me to sign a form. Contrary to reports, I wasn't picked up by SIPT, I wasn't handcuffed and none of my documents were taken. They asked me to return two days later, I did so with my lawyer and they said they will charge me with conspiracy to defraud the government. I categorically denied those charges, because I know and they know that I did not conspire with anyone to defraud government."

Boyce, who served as a Cabinet Minister in the Progressive National Party (PNP) from 2003 to 2008, said she was grateful for the support she had received from family and friends, members of her church, the wider Turks and Caicos Islands community and around the region.

"The people who know me can tell you that I've worked extremely hard over the years for everything that I have and to build my reputation as a businesswoman and a true servant of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and I'm not going to allow the SIPT or anyone to destroy any of that," she added. "They are abusing and misusing their power. What they are trying to do to me and many others is unfair and it is wrong, but God does not sleep."

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Murder suspect released

| 25/11/2011 | 19 Comments

kerran_1.jpg(CNS): The police confirmed Friday that they have not charged the 35-year-old man who was arrested in connection with Kerran Baker’s murder but have released him on police bail while enquiries continue. Officers arrested the man on suspicion of murder one week ago following a police operation in the Prospect area on Thursday, 17 November. Although the law only allows the police to hold a suspect for eight days before charges are brought, the authorities can apply to the courts for an extension on the period. It is understood that no application was made to the courts.

Although the body of 25-year-old Kerran (Kerryann) Baker has never been found, police began treating her disappearance as a murder soon after the investigation began as aresult of the circumstances. She was last seen on Saturday, 30 July and captured on CCTV at Foster’s airport location supermarket. The Jamaican practice nurse was reported missing by a friend when she and other friends of Kerryann’s were unable to make contact with her.

On the Sunday after she was last seen and heard from a friend persuaded the landlord to open Kerryann’s apartment where they discover her half unpacked groceries in her kitchen along with her bag. It seemed apparent that Kerryann had been interrupted by something or someone as she was putting away the shopping and left her apartment with just her phone and car keys.

Her vehicle was discovered in Pedro St James a few days after her disappearance and the keys to the car in bushes near by, which was the last trace of the women that police say was the victim of foul play.

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

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GLF may get public cash

| 25/11/2011 | 77 Comments

cruise ship at port.JPG(CNS): The public purse may be forced to fork out millions of dollars to GLF, the group that had been selected to develop the cruise berthing facilities in George Town, because the premier opted to pull out of the talks and begin negotiations with CHEC. Against the backdrop of speculation that government is already talking with the firm to avert a law suit and settle with the Italian company, a legal opinion given to the Port Authority Board in April had warned that the government was in breach of the framework agreement and risked paying the developer damages. Although there has been no confirmation of a deal, sources tell CNS that the treasury may need to find more than $3 million to stop an even costlier law suit.

A legal opinion by local law firm Priestlys, which was acquired by the local television news station Cayman27 this week, reveals that the lawyers believed the premier was not in a position to legally terminate the exclusive talks. The legal advice indicates that the agreement government had signed with GLF and their local partners Royal Construction prevented it from legally ending the negotiations with the firm on the basis that it didn’t have funding in place.

On 14 April Premier McKeeva Bush, who is also the minister for tourism and the finance minister, had written to GLF telling them that, in agreement with the port chairman, he was terminating the talks as he did not believe the firm had the money in place. Shortly after the announcement it was revealed that government was already talkingto China Harbour Engineering Company about the cruise port development. In addition, Bush had already indicated that the Chinese were interested when he spoke at the CBO conference several months earlier, in January.

In their legal opinion to the Port Authority, the lawyers said that the framework agreement between government and GLF required that the developer only have a plan in place for financing, which the firm clearly did, as evidenced by the letter from Citibank.

The advice also notes that the agreement had required the government to give notice to the developer for any breach, which was not given, and that the deal had been an exclusive arrangement. With at least one very public comment about the Chinese developers prior to the termination of the deal, it is clear that government was already talking to China Harbour Engineering Company before it pulled out of the deal with GLF.

Priestlys warn the Port Authority Board that if the firm was to mount a successful action, it would likely be awarded damages to cover the more than $1 million the company had spent directly on the project and significant compensation for the loss of potential profit, which could run to millions of dollars more.

With the situation of the board directors' liability in question, especially if they knew of any potential breach, as well as the risk to the public purse, the directors themselves could also be financially liable. In the wake of the decision by the premier, a number of board members resigned as a result of their objections to the move by Bush.

The lawyers also revealed in their assessment of the move by government to close down talks with GLF and move to CHEC, that the Chinese firm would fund the project outside of the agreement which had been made with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association on guaranteed passenger numbers. To build the port without pinning down the cruise lines to a commitment on passengers and fees was a substantial risk, the lawyers warned.

The decision by the premier to terminate the deal with GLF without warning and move to negotiations to a third party also created reputational risk for the Cayman Islands, Priestlys said, “which could have a material effect on future procurement” and increase costs for government and ultimately the public purse in the future.

See details of the termination and correspondence between premier and GLF here

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Bull’s penis case closed

| 25/11/2011 | 17 Comments

6940530-a-cartoon-bull-with-an-angry-expression.jpg(CNS): Bodden Town businessman and former MLA, Osbourne Bodden, is crossing his fingers for an early Christmas present this year with an acquittal on charges against him for assaulting a man at his gas station last year with a cow-cod. The case against Bodden was closed on Thursday afternoon and Magistrate Nova Hall said she would deliver her ruling on 20 December. Bodden has denied hitting Kirk Watler with a five foot long bull’s penis but has conceded striking the complainant with a stick in self-defence. The altercation between the two men took place in October at Bodden’s business, Lorna’s Texaco, after Watler was refused an exchange on a bottle of rum at the shop.

The court heard how Bodden had given Watler a flask of rum and a packet of cigarettes earlier that day after he had assisted a member of the gas station staff to unload a truck. Watler had shared the rum with a group of friends who were also hanging around the public beach by the local gas station that afternoon, enjoying a drink or two.

Sometime later on the same day, after Bodden had left, Watler returned to the liquor store at Lorna’s with a flask of rum, which when giving his own evidence he had said was a different bottle from that given to him by Bodden. He indicated that this was certainly not the dregs of the original bottle watered down, as suggested by the defence.

Watler had wanted to exchange the ‘rum’ but it was not clear to the court whether he had wanted cash, as he had told the police in his first statement, or bottles of beer, as he told the court. Either way, the cashier at the store had told Watler she would need to contact Bodden to clear the exchange with him. As a result Watler became agitated, angry and upset and caused a scene in the store, insisting that she made the exchange without calling her boss but when the police were called Watler left the premises.

Later that evening, at around 6pm, Bodden arrived back at Lorna’s when Watler was still on the beach drinking. Witnesses said that Watler had called to and taunted Bodden about calling the police on him.

A few minutes later a member of the staff who was working the pumps at the gas station told the court that he saw the two men engaged in a tussle across the street on the ground and he ran over to pull them apart. He said he did not see Bodden strike Watler but he saw that Bodden did have a stick and that Watler had two green beer bottles in his hands.

The complainant had claimed that during the altercation Bodden had struck him several times with a cow-cod, described as being some 4 inches in diameter and around 4 to 5 feet long. The witness was asked if he had seen this implement.

“No, Sir,” he told the prosecuting counsel Kenneth Ferguson. “I’m Jamaican. We don’t waste those things we eat ‘em,” the witness added.

During their summary for the magistrate the lawyers agreed that the credibility of the complainant, who had clearly been drinking on the day, was in question and the magistrate would have to consider if he was bolstering his case by manufacturing things. Ferguson noted, however, that the injuries sustained by Watler were consistent with a weapon which was pliable rather than a stick.

The court heard that there were a significant number of inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence, which the defence referred to as not just immaterial inconsistencies but ones that went to the very heart of the matter.

Lloyd Sampson, who was representing Bodden, asked the magistrate to consider the incredulous nature of the complainant’s evidence, whom he said had “lost the plot” in the shop on the day in question, which had been shown to the court as it was captured on the CCTV.

Sampson pointed to his previous convictions, which he had tried to hide, and the numerous contradictions in his evidence, as well as his demeanour in the witness stand when he again “lost the plot” in court, against his client’s position that he had struck Watler with a stick in self-defence.

Sampson said the complainant, who was also armed with two bottles, had approached Bodden first and it was him that had struck the first blow, leaving his client with no option but to find something to defend himself with.

Sampson pointed to the absurdity that his client, who is a well-known member of the community, would “lick someone, in broad daylight for all and sundry to see, in the middle of the street with a five foot long bull’s penis.”

Given the many questions and myriad issues relating to the reliability of Watler’s evidence, Sampson said the magistrate could not be sure enough to rely on his claim that Bodden was the aggressor in this case. The magistrate, he said, would have little difficulty making the right decision.

Magistrate Hall confirmed she would deliver her written ruling on the matter on 20 December.

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Chinese doing manual work on Jamaican project

| 25/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(JamaicaObserver): Jamaica's opposition People's National Party Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal Phillip Paulwell has warned that trouble is afoot over the imbalance in the number of Chinese workers compared to Jamaicans on the Palisadoes Shoreline and Rehabilitation project. "There is a serious problem that is about to explode on the Palisadoes road, and when I say explode, I mean an explosion of no mean order. As member of parliament I have had to contain it but it is not goingto be contained much longer," Paulwell told a meeting of the Public Administrations and Appropriations Committee of Parliament yesterday.

The East Kingston and Port Royal MP said that he had photographs in his possession showing Chinese persons carrying out manual labour on the Palisadoes project.

"We wish them well and we love the Chinese but when they come in the wake of a minister's pledge to the people that this work is going to create hundreds of jobs and for the Chinese to come to be doing manual labour it is going to create problems in this country, and I am warning," he told the committee.

 

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Waterfront restaurant catches fire

| 25/11/2011 | 7 Comments

Lobsterpot_DEW.jpg(CNS): The Lobster Pot Restaurant along the harbour front in George Town caught fire this evening, officials have confirmed, but the customers and employees were all evacuated safely. Police said that at around 5:24 pm on Thursday evening 911 received a report that the roof at the Lobster Pot Restaurant was on fire. Smoke was reportedly coming from the restaurant but no one was hurt. The Fire Service, medical emergency personnel and Home Gas also attended the scene and attempted to determine the source of the smoke, which was billowing from the ventilation ducts of the restaurant. Although police said that there is no longer any danger to the adjacent buildings, as a safety precaution traffic has been diverted around the restaurant.

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