Archive for November, 2011

Rollover suspension now in force

| 29/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): With the publication of the regulations of the amendment to the immigration law, the business community can now make applications for a temporary suspension of any worker that was facing rollover and enforced departure. Government is hoping the new term limit extension permit will avert a mass exodus of people and the subsequent negative impact on the already struggling economy that would bring. Following changes to the immigration law last month to put rollover on hold until the immigration review team comes up with a replacement for the policy, employers now have an opportunity to keep staff for two more years without applying for key status. Read more on CNS Business

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Miller to keep elected council

| 29/11/2011 | 15 Comments

_DEW0080.jpg(CNS): Independent MLA Ezzard Miller has said he is very happy with his own district advisory council elected by the people of North Side and has no intentions of disbanding it in order to fit the premier’s view of an appointed local body. Miller stated that if the premier wants to come to the district and create another council, that’s up to him. But the independent member said the people he works with are democratic representatives of his constituents with a proper constitution who have served the district extremely well since the body was created long before government passed the law creating the concept of Cabinet appointed bodies. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

During a meeting in George Town last week, which was hosted by Mike Adam and the premier’s advisor Steve McField, for the people of the capital to submit nominations to the government appointed district council, McField described Miller’s council as not properly appointed.

He listed North Side among the remaining districts that have not yet begun the process to establish a council, along with East End, Bodden Town and the Sister Islands.

Speaking about what he described as a lot of ‘flak’ regarding the district councils, the premier’s legal and policy advisor  stated that Miller’s council was not a “constitutionally adopted council” and that to comply with the law it needed to be appointed by Cabinet.
Miller told CNS that his council was indeed constitutional as the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 does not stipulate how the councils should be formed. He admitted it did not fit with the vision  the premier had for such bodies, which he along with other members of the opposition had opposed because they believe the government’s decision to appoint councils by Cabinet is undemocratic .

“The North Side district council has been constitutionally elected by the people of the district that I represent and I shall be continuing to work with them,” he said. “It might not fit the premier’s view of a democratic body but that’s up to him.”

The opposition has boycotted the process completely as they have stated that they envisioned a local body that would be elected in a town hall-style open vote similar to the one created by Miller. Alden McLaughlin said that the system adopted by the premier would make the councils nothing more than rubber stamps for government policy in the districts, completely undermining the spirit of the concept of local democracy.

McField told the people of George Town that two seats would still be left open on the capital’s council for the opposition to nominate people to the ten member body and said they should participate as it was the law. Seats were left open on the West Bay district council but McKeeva Bush announced recently that he had decided to appoint two people whom he believed could fill the opposition members’ two seats in his district.

Alice Mae Coe, described by Bush as someone who did not support him, and Loxley Ebanks, who the premier said was “independently minded”,  were both nominated at the first West Bay meeting by the people of the district, but they were not selected by the Cabinet. However, Bush said he would appoint them, having ‘labelled’ them as being in opposition to government and because the actual opposition member had persisted with the boycott.

Although the first meeting for the George Town council attracted over a hundred people, the second follow up meeting saw no more than a dozen people attend to collect forms and actually submit nominations. For the second time the government’s backbench representative for George Town, Ellio Solomon was not present as Adam offered apologies on his behalf.

Nominations for the capital’s government-appointed district council will close on 6 December. Although anyone with relevant skills or experience who lives in the district can be nominated to the council, the Cabinet will make the decision on all ten of the appointments. However, according to the law two of the non-office seats should be given to people nominated by the opposition in constituencies with mixed representation. In cases where there are no government members, the opposition is allowed to nominate three of the non-office holding appointments.

So far the only district that has been appointed is the premier’s own constituency of West Bay but the council has not yet met. The meetings are supposed to be public and the members are charged with assessing the needs of their districts and reporting back to advise their political representatives of possible policy positions.

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Appeal opens on GT murder

| 29/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Three men convicted of the murder of Omar Samuels (28) last year were back in court Monday pinning their hopes on the Court of Appeal judges to overturn that conviction as they say their case should never have been allowed to go before a jury. Patrick McField, Osbourne Douglas and Brandon Leslie-Ebanks were found guilty after a Grand Court trial in which the defence consistently argued that the forensic evidence was in complete contradiction to the crown’s two teenage eye witnesses, who claimed to have seen the three men shoot Samuels on 5 July 2009. Samuels died after a bullet penetrated his femoral artery and he bled out as he lay in McField Square in George Town.

During the original trial the defence attorneys submitted a 'no case to answer' to the judge when the crown closed its case against the three men. The lawyers argued that it was not possible for the judge to place such a wholly contradictory case before a jury as they could not possibly be in a position to make a fair decision, given the evidence they had heard.  The judge dismissed the submission, however, as he said he believed there was a case to answer and one which a jury should be allowed to consider and bring in a verdict, despite the obvious discrepancies.

Opening the appeal, Trevor Burke QC, who represented Patrick McField, presented the bulk of the argument for all three defence teams when he said that the judge was wrong to dismiss the half-way point no-case submission at trial and allow a prosecution case that was such a complete contradiction to go to a jury.

He argued that the forensic evidence clearly indicated that the shooting occurred at the opposite side of the building to where the two teenage witnesses claimed the crime had taken place.  He said there was no forensic evidence at all at the place where the teenage girls had testified that they saw the shooting begin. Pointing to a myriad of inconsistencies in their evidence with each other, but more significantly with the scientific evidence, the lawyer said the two elements of the crown’s case were simply irreconcilable.

Burke drew attention to the fact that the solid forensic evidence of the shell casings, the bullets and the trail of blood left by Samuels as he attempted to flee whoever was shooting at him, having been hit in the leg, were not contested by the crown. The forensic evidence was presented unchallenged, despite the fact that it contradicted directly with its own eye witnesses’ evidence

The lawyer said the forensic evidence could not accommodate the eye witness accounts heard in the courtroom an “inconsistency that could not be overcome,” Burke told the three appellant judges as he pointed out that the trial judge had still allowed the case to go forward to the jury. Burke argued that he and the rest of the defence teams, on behalf of their clients, believed that this raised the very real possibility that the crown’s eyewitnesses were never even at the scene they claimed to have witnessed, otherwise they could never have got things so wrong.

Burke also raised what he described as the hidden agenda of the case. He said that the two teenage girls who gave evidence at trial were linked directly to Martin Trench, whose palm print was found on a gold car parked close to where the shell casings were found but who was never interviewed by police as he had left the island soon after the killing.

The lawyer drew attention to the evidence of another witness who had been with Samuels as he lay in the street bleeding. Marcus Manderson gave evidence that Samuels had reportedly told him that “Martin” had taken his gun and shot him with it.

Burke's arguments were echoed by his co-defence colleagues who all argued that the jury should never have been asked to deliberate on such an inconsistent case with so little evidence against the three men.

In defence of the judge’s decision to allow the trial to go to a jury, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards, QC, argued that the evidence of the crown’s witnesses were not so inconsistent that the trial judge was wrong to allow the case to continue and eventually go before a jury.

She said that the ballistic expert had not been able to say with certainty where the shooter was standing and the witnesses had not claimed to see the shooting incident in its entirety as they had hidden behind a wall. The teens had also both stated they heard 13 shots on the night of the killing, which Cheryl could explain why they saw the shooting in a different place. She conceded, however, that only five casings were ever recovered from the scene.

Richards will continue her defence of the judge’s decision tomorrow before the three appellant judges will consider if the case should ever have been heard by a jury. If they agree with the defence that the judge should not have allowed a jury to decide the case, the three men could walk free. If not, the defence teams still have further submissions regarding the judge’s ultimate directions to the jury about the conflicting evidence, which could still result in the appeal being allowed and the men being released.

Sir John Chadwick, President of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, is sitting with Justice E. Mottley and Justice A. Campbell to hear the appeal, which is set down for three days and is being heard in Courtroom two.

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Port MOU pushed to March

| 28/11/2011 | 65 Comments

cruise ship 22.JPG(CNS): The Cayman premier has revealed that the memorandum of understanding he signed with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) will be extended to the end of March next year. As a result of the UK’s requirement for a comprehensive business case review, government will not be signing a framework agreement to build the port any time this year. Following discussions with the overseas territories minister in London, McKeeva Bush said the work being done on the evaluation by KPMG is detailed and complex and this means the MOU signed earlier this year will have to be extended.

The goal of the MOU when it was signed in June had been to reach a situation where government would be in a position to move to a framework agreement with the Chinese firm with a view to beginning work on the port before the end of this year. Bush also revealed that the extended MOU would now include the Port Authority, despite the original document having been what Bush described as a “ministerial” MOU between himself and CHEC.

The new document will give government a further four months to formulate the business case and justify that the project presents value for money, as required under the new agreement signed last week with the British government.

The premier made it clear that the MOU and the evaluation relate to the proposal to construct the port in the capital, George Town, and not at the alternate site in Red Bay, as proposed by a group of local sea captains.

In a release from the office of the premier Monday, Bush stated that KPMG had been contracted by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands (PACI) in August of this year to make the case for the project.

“The work being done by PACI through KPMG is detailed and complex; because it should be completed prior to the signing of a Framework Agreement, the current MOU will be extended beyond its expiry date of 30 November 2011,” the premier's office stated. "Accordingly, the Cayman Islands Government, PACI and China Harbour Engineering Company have agreed to extend their MOU to 31 March 2012.”

The extension confirms speculation that work on this project would now be unlikely to start before the middle of next year, if at all, almost one year after the previous developer had stated it was ready to start. GLF Construction had stated at the time the premier decidedto pull out of talks with the Italian company and their local partners that it would have been able to begin work by the end of May 2011.

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Thieves steal booze but forget to fill up getaway car

| 28/11/2011 | 0 Comments

article-1322037452362-0EE6F22100000578-85984_636x407.jpg(Metro): Rose Devlin and Denise Egan tried to steal £400 worth of supermarket booze – but forgot to put petrol in their getaway car. Devlin, 59, and Egan, 52, were caught on CCTV wheeling the alcohol out of a supermarket. But they came unstuck when their blue Citroen ran out of fuel and they were forced to push it to the store’s petrol station. They then paid to fill up before driving off – unaware the whole fiasco had been caught on camera. Devlin and mother-of-four Egan, both from north Manchester, admitted theft at Manchester magistrates’ court. The pair struck at the store in Oldham on June 6.

One of the women distracted a security guard while the other pushed the trolley into the car park, the court was told.

The haul was so big Devlin  struggled to shut the boot. She then jumped behind the wheel only to realise there was no petrol in the tank. Egan then helped push the vehicle.

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Technology measures up for on-line shopping

| 28/11/2011 | 0 Comments

body measure.jpg(Reuters): Asaf Moses is in the midst of displaying a new way to measure body dimensions. A virtual instructor prompts him to turn 90 degrees to the left and adopt various poses such as "The Penguin," aimed at capturing over 20 different measurements using a device that many people have embedded in their laptops — a simple webcam. "It's capturing everything that's needed to tailor a shirt to your measurements", said Moses. And it's all online. Shoppers generally flock to malls during the holidays beginning on Black Friday, although in recent years many have headed to the Internet. A recent survey by analytics firm comScore predicted online shopping would increase 15 percent this current holiday season.

Yet buying apparel from a website can cause problems finding the right size, look and fit for your body type and personal tastes. As a result, several technology companies have created new ways for people to size themselves up at home.

Moses, the co-founder of one such technology company from Germany, UPcload, said his system takes just three minutes and generates measurements as accurate as a tailor.

Once measured, shoppers will be able to access their measurements at supporting retailers' websites so they can see, for example, if a size small-sized t-shirt will fit around their chest or be long enough to drape down their torso.

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Corals ‘killing themselves’ as oceans warm

| 28/11/2011 | 0 Comments

coral_bleaching_250373.jpg(Science Daily): Australian scientists have thrown new light on the mechanism behind the mass death of corals worldwide as Earth's climate warms. Coral bleaching, one of the most devastating events affecting coral reefs around the planet, is triggered by rising water temperatures. It occurs when the corals and their symbiotic algae become heat-stressed, and the algae which feed the corals either die or are expelled by the coral. A team of scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University has shown that a complex cascade of molecular signals leading up to the self-inflicted death of corals and their symbiotic algae is triggered as sea water begins to warm.

There have been seven major bleaching events globally in the past 30 years, the most recent being in 2010 across the Indian Ocean and Coral Triangle. Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered eight events since 1980, the worst being in 2002 when 55% of the total reef area was affected. The frequency of these events appears to be increasing.
Working with Acropora corals from the reef at Heron Island, the researchers found the cascade begins at ocean temperatures as much as 3 degrees lower than those normally associated with coral bleaching.

And the process culminates in 'apoptosis' or programmed cell-death — a situation in which living organisms (including corals and humans) deliberately destroy their weakened or infected body cells, effectively a form of 'cell suicide' or amputation designed to protect the organism as a whole.

"Our results suggest that the control of apoptosis is highly complex in the coral-algae symbiosis and that apoptotic cell death cascades potentially play key roles in tipping the cellular life or death balance during environmental stress prior to the onset of coral bleaching," explains lead author Dr Tracy Ainsworth.

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Captains appeal to governor

| 28/11/2011 | 22 Comments

red bay port.jpg(CNS Business): With the recent announcement by the premier that the UK requires a comprehensive review of the business case for the cruise port  in George Town, sea captains campaigning for the port to go to Red Bay have appealed to the governor to ensure their proposal forms part of that review. The business case for the cruise berthing facilities is being examined by KPMG and the captains say that the firm should include an examination of the alternative Red Bay location. Listing what the local seafarers believe are the problems with the George Town location, Capt Arlen McCoy has written to Duncan Taylor saying that since the early 1970s Red Bay was touted as the best location. Read More on CNS Business

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CIG has 4 years to sort debt

| 27/11/2011 | 64 Comments

(CNS): The agreement signed by McKeeva Bush this week in Londongives the Cayman Islands government just over four years to address its debt problem. In the meantime, the Financial Framework pins the government down to some stringent rules and will see the UK taking a closer eye on how money is spent and managed. The agreement calls for “robust cost benefit analysis” on all development projects and the need for independent accounting, legal, financial, environmental and other technical advice on all public-private partnerships.  All future projects will need to be properly justified and the appraisals published for public scrutiny before procurement.

According to the final draft of Framework for Fiscal Responsibility agreement (FFR) (attached below), from now on the Cayman government will need to retain sufficient expert advice “to ensure it is an intelligent customer” when it comes to private sector suppliers and partners on major projects. It also calls for “competent teams to manage all projects” and ensure quality of service.

The deal requires government to monitor civil service spending and performance as well as monitoring actual results against the annual budget. In future government will need to pay much closer attention to its liabilities, such as health care and the public sector pension’s burden. The FFR also calls on government to publish actuarial assessments publicly at least every three years.

The new arrangement requires the local government to send information to the UK regarding Cayman’s finances on a regular basis and on request. From tri-annual reports of contingent liabilities to monthly reports on its liquid assets, the UK will also be able to request, among other things, detailed updates on the progress of projects on demand as well as proposals for projects

Any breach of the arrangement will see the UK more or less take control of the local public purse and prevent government from making any significant spending decisions.

The stringent requirements of the new deal will put pressure on government to spell out the full details of any proposed project which involves government assets and public sector involvement, such as the proposed port development, the airport renovation and the ForCayman Investment Alliance.

Furthermore, the FFR highlights the risk of government companies and statutory authorities that may need significant funding to prop them up and has ratedCayman Airways, the National Housing Development Trust, the Tourism Attraction Board and the Cayman Turtle firm as having an 80% risk of requiring further government subsidies.

See final draft of FFR signed in London last week below.

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Internet bullying suit filed

| 27/11/2011 | 0 Comments

_DEW4857-web.jpg(CNS): In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the Cayman Islands, a law suit has been filed in the Grand Court in relation to accusations of internet bullying. Local community activist and former political candidate Sandra Catron has filed a suit against a former boyfriend and two women for web-based harassment as a result of the failure of the local authorities to protect her from the bullying, which she fears may escalate. In the suit Catron said that Jose Venner and the other defendants undertook “a systematic defamatory attack” on her character and “committed both libel and slander” against her on internet sites including Facebook. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Catron said the defendants made false police reports about her and accusations that were completely unfounded as they bullied and harassed her on the internet. She is claiming $100,000 indamages.

She approached the authorities but was told by the police that there was not much that they could do to prevent the harassment. She said that she felt her only option was to try and put an end to the problem via a civil suit.

The local activist told CNS that she had genuine concerns that the online harassment could go further. Since the police say they cannot do anything, by filing a suit Catron said she may prevent what she fears is a dangerous escalation and put an end to the cyber-attack, which has gone on for several months.

Although Catron tried to put an amicable end to the harassment, her efforts were met, she said in the claim, by further attacks by all three defendants.  Catron said she continues to pursue her complaints with the police and has complained to the employers of the people she said are bullying her, as well as filing complaints to the immigration department, but the bullying has continued.

“Several cease and desists emails were sent directly to all three defendants,” Catron stated, adding that  Venner has been warned on at least three occasions via email and other times verbally to remove his defamatory comments but Catron said he hasn’t done so and has added further postings.

In the statement of claim Catron said the man with whom she had a relationship, his current girlfriend and his mother have used both Facebook and other sites to attack her and ruined her reputation both in the Cayman Islands and abroad to satisfy “a personal vendetta".

“Throughout the entire relationship Mr Venner was extremely dishonest and apparently only sought to use me for financial gain and obtaining job security here in the Cayman Islands,” Catron said in the statement of claim. “I have email evidence in Mr Venner's own words to support this statement. It appears that both he and Ms Keisha Christian concocted a scheme for him to be able to use me to find a new job etc. and then return to her once my usefulness to him expired,” Catron stated.

The issue of online bullying, and in particular on Facebook, has reached the courts in other jurisdictions and there have been a number of criminal cases in the US where people have been charged with harassment. In the UK, under the new cyber security strategy, the police and courts are being encouraged to make more use of existing "cyber sanctions" to restrict access for online bullies.

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