Archive for December 14th, 2011

Government settles with GLF

| 14/12/2011 | 137 Comments

MB Campbells_0.JPG(CNS): The Cayman Islands government has reached an agreement with GLF Construction but there will be no cost to the public purse, the premier has said. McKeeva Bush said that a settlement has been reached with the company previously in talks to build the cruise berthing facilities in George Town but he would not say how much or who was footing the bill. In a statement to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday afternoon he confirmed the agreement but said it was not yet appropriate to release any more details. He said that when it was, the public would be informed of the amount but indicated that the figure was less than $3 milllion.

Although he was questioned by the opposition member for East End, Arden McLean, to clarify what he meant when he said the public coffers would not be paying the settlement to the developers, the premier refused to be drawn.

The agreement appears to be in connection with the premier’s decision to terminate the talks with the Italian company and their local partners, Royal Construction, earlier this year and move onto discussions with the Beijing based firm China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). GLF had taken legal action against the Cayman government over the terminated agreement but speculation had been mounting recently that that government had settled the matter with the company.

The revelation came as the premier adjourned the House sine die for the Christmas break and delivered a statement about what he described as the misinformation and poisoning of public opinion regarding the goal to develop a cruise port. He said there had been too much heat and too little light on the subject.

Bush accused the opposition benches in the Legislative Assembly as well as others who opposed his decision to work with CHEC outside of the parliament of using the talk shows, editorials and the blogs to spread misinformation and rumours.

He said since 2003 it had been a huge battle to try and get cruise facilities, and meanwhile, government continued to lose considerable sums of money as competitors all completed their berthing projects.

Bush also took aim at GLF’s local partners, whom he accused of interfering. Although he did not mention Royal Construction by name, he suggested that during the talks they had been involved in side deals unknown to government with a jewellery store to develop the upland element of the port. He said that there was never any evidence that the firm had the funds to do the project nor did they have the equipment.

He warned the local partners that he “would deal with them in this House” if they did not stop interfering, as he made unspecified accusations against them. “I have taken enough,” Bush said. “And one of these days they are going to understand where I am coming from.”

Encouraging the public to be balanced in their views about the port, he said his government would deliver a facility. He said the press should wait for all of the facts rather than pouring oil on the fire. Criticizing all of the media organisations, he singled out Rooster and its morning talk show, describing it as “nasty”, as he threatened more law suits before the year was out.

Bush said that with CHEC, contrary to the rumour mongering and the bad things people were saying about the Chinese firm, government had finally found a proper partner to develop the facilities. CHEC would not flood the islands with their own labour because the MOU made it clear the job would use local labour and only specialists would be brought from China, he added.

Not only would CHEC deliver on providing local work and business opportunities, the premier stated, but there was also an opportunity for local people to buy shares and invest in the development once it was completed. He said this equity element was already in the MOU and would form part of the final agreement.

Listing what he believed were the positive aspects of working with CHEC, he said they had committed to deliver the upgrade at Spotts and a pier at the Cayman Turtle Farm in West Bay for cruise ships. This alone would save government the $9 milllion subsidy being poured into the farm because, he said, that attraction was always meant to be served by a cruise ship pier. He also saidthat the Chinese had made a commitment to work with Dervyn Scott to build a dock on Cayman Brac.

Working with CHEC, the premier said, government would not need to find any capital or guarantee any loans. He said that KPMG was now working on the independent business case and although he was not able to go into further detail about the plans, government was working on the due diligence.

Bush also stated that in contrast to the accusations being made by the opposition and others, the FCO was content with how the government was managing the project and revealed that it would go to the Central Tenders Committee once it was ready for the final agreement. “Henry Bellingham is very happy and supportive of the steps we are taking,” Bush said.

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Bush confirms new seats

| 14/12/2011 | 26 Comments

vote here 2.jpg(CNS): The premier has confirmed that government will be adding two seats to George Town and one to Bodden Town in order to meet the constitutional requirement to enlarge the country’s parliament at the next election. McKeeva Bush said he would be bringing the draft Order by the Governor which gives effect to the changes for debate in the LA in January and that he had decided not to act on the boundary commission’s recommendation of creating a new district constituency as that would mean some former George Town voters would be voting in a different district and he did not believe there was support for that.

The premier notified his legislative colleagues on Wednesday morning of his decision.  Of the various possibilities that would deal with the population changes, the commission had recommended creating a seventh electoral district between Bodden Town and George Town to accommodate the three seats but Bush said that would mean altering the physical district boundaries which the government was not prepared to do.

In the short statement to the parliament Bush made no mention of the wide public support for one member, one vote. On the contrary the country will now face a situation where in some districts there will be six votes creating an even greater disparity between electors in the country’s capital compared to those living in the eastern districts with only one. George Towners will now have six times the influence on the government than people living in East End or North Side.

For the first time the imbalance will also affect the voters of West Bay who will no longer have an equal influence on the parliament with the voters in the capital as the districts member’s will remain at four which will now be the same as Bodden Town, while the sister Islands will retain their two members.

The independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller who alongside Arden McLean is a single member representative has been making every effort to persuade government to adopt the 18 single constituencies which have already been established and confirmed by the commission and adopt the democratic principle for one member, one vote for the 2013 poll but so far his efforts have been thwarted by both the government and the speaker of the House.

The opposition leader Alden McLaughlin who also supports the concept of one man, one vote said that the only way to ensure the country eventually switches to single member constituencies is to vote out the current administration.

 

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Cayman sends back 19 Cuban refugees

| 14/12/2011 | 16 Comments

_DEW7823.jpg(CNS): Government has confirmed that nineteen Cuban migrants were repatriated on Tuesday afternoon (13 December) by the Department of Immigration. The 19 men had arrived on Cayman Brac by boat from Cuba just over two months ago on Friday, 7 October, 2011. Officials from the Immigration Department said the repatriation procedure followed the usual administrative processes that it carries out in such situations. As part of an agreement with the Cuban government that any refugees or migrants that seek assistance when in Cayman waters or come ashore must be returned to the neighbouring island. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

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Mac: Port must be in GT

| 14/12/2011 | 76 Comments

cruise dock 07 016.jpg(CNS): The premier has said that the cruise berthing facilities must be in George Town as a result of the investment made there by many local merchants and because of the infrastructure. Sounding less upbeat about the progress of the berthing facilities than on previous occasions, McKeeva Bush described efforts made to develop berthing facilities since 2003 but said that because of constant opposition and other issues it hadn’t happened. Speaking about the proposals to develop in South Sound, he said he wasn’t qualified to say whether that location was any better but at this time the port had to be in George Town because it was not possible to shift the location away from the capital.

Speaking about tourism at a town hall meeting in Pedro on Tuesday evening, he said he was getting the blame for the failure to develop the port but every time aproposal had been presented it has been opposed and people have criticised the plans. “Hopefully the one we have now will work out,” he said referring to the latest MOU with a Chinese firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), and the talks now headed by the UDP backbencher Ellio Solomon.

Bush said he believed it was the best deal so far, better than either Dart Enterprises Contracting Co (DECCO) or GLF Construction, the two companies that had been in previous talks with government to build the cruise port. He said he would be providing a fully updated statement about the project very soon and hoped to have a positive announcement about it before the year.

In the wake of submissions by a group of sea captains regarding the alternative proposal of developing the facilities in South Sound (Red Bay), Bush said everyone believed they were an expert on where the facilities should be but he had not given an opinion on that proposal. However,  he said that he recognised that George Town was not necessarily the best location as he still believed the best place was the North Sound, but no one wanted it there.

He said the issue of South Sound may well provide an option for the future but right now the facilities had to be developed in the capital, where people had invested millions of dollars in retail and the infrastructure.

Regardless of the back and forth, his government was pushing ahead with the plans to work with CHEC and he intended to do that until “they throw me out”, he said. While many people were criticising the choice and saying that government should not work with the Chinese firm, he said they had offered the best deal.

He said DECCO’s proposals was criticised as people were saying Dart had too much in the country already and the company had wanted a 99 year lease. He said he had to reject the GLF proposal as he was not convinced they had the money, so the Chinese deal offered the best and cheapest option for the country because they required no guarantees.

He also repeated previous comments about opportunities for Caymanians to invest and have equity in the project but did not go into details about how that would be achieved.

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Legislators return for last sitting of the year

| 14/12/2011 | 11 Comments

la gov bench.JPG(CNS): Members of the Legislative Assembly return to the parliament today (Wednesday 14 December) for what is expected to be a three day sitting and the last meeting for this year. Amendments to the liquor licensing law and the firearms law are two of the bills legislators are expected to debate. The government’s Financial Framework Agreement, which was postponed from the previous sitting, was also scheduled to be debated by the members but that may now be pushed into the New Year. The premier signed the document last month and is reportedly now in effect but has not been passed by the country’s elected members.

The results of the national census are also expected to be debated during the three day sitting, as well as a number of other matters.

There are also a number of private members motions tabled by the independent member Ezzard Miller that have not yet been debated. So far, his efforts to submit motions to amend the election law in order to create single member constituencies and one man, one vote have failed to find favour with the speaker, who is thwarting Miller’s campaign to force government into adopting a fairer and more democratic polling system for the 2013 election.

The Legislative Assembly is scheduled to start at 10am and it is open to the public. However all electronic equipment remains banned.

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Cayman’s UK peer hits out at negative online posts

| 14/12/2011 | 0 Comments

_56177869_-7.jpg(CNS Business): Caymanians who are writing negative things on-line are undermining efforts to promote the jurisdiction’s financial services sector overseas said Cayman’s new UK based representative. Lord Blencathra told CNS in an email interview that his aim was to keep selling the positive messages about Cayman, again and again and again. “But it cannot be done if it is undermined by things said and written by Caymanians,” he said. The Tory peer said he was saddened by negative comments on the web as the internet is read not just by local people but by politicians and global financial players as well. Read more on CNS Business

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Drunk driving added to fatal crash charges

| 14/12/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Patrick Raymond Brooks-Dixon, who has already appeared in court charged with killing Richard Martin (52) from Pennsylvania, USA, is now facing an additional charge. Earlier this evening, Tuesday 13 December, he was also charged with causing death whilst driving under the influence of alcohol and it is anticipated that he will appear in court again on Monday, 9 January. Brooks-Dixon (31) was released on court bail Tuesday 6 December, having faced charges of causing death by dangerous driving. Both charges relate to the fatal crash in the early hours of Wednesday, 30 November on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

The victim, a student at St Matthew’s University and a resident of Grand Cayman, was killed in the fatal crash which occurred close to the Lakeside Villas entrance. Martin, who was driving a Honda Logo, was pronounced dead at the scene after his car was hit by a Chevrolet Blazer driven by Brooks-Dixon. A passenger in the Honda was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Brooks-Dixon and his female passenger were also taken to hospital. 

Martin was the sixth person to be killed on Cayman’s roads this year.

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