Archive for January 18th, 2012

Dart starts West Bay bypass

Dart starts West Bay bypass

| 18/01/2012 | 30 Comments

esterlytibbts.1jpg.jpg(CNS): Although the final agreement between the government and the islands’ largest developer is not yet signed or approved, work on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway Extension to West Bay has begun. Dart said Wednesday that site clearing had started in anticipation of the full road works beginning in March. Only one element of the proposed ForCayman Alliance, this deal was agreed in December, as Dart said it was keen to start this part of the plan to give people work. The premier said the deal was the beginning of the fulfillment of his government’s promise of creating jobs and had the NRA deal not been signed early it would be several more months before any jobs were created.

Caymanian owned heavy equipment firm Shamrock Heights Equipment has been awarded the contract by Dart to coordinate all of the independent operators that will work firstly on the clearance and then the bypass itself.

Owner Kerry Lawrence said he would be giving work to as many struggling small Caymanian businesses as possible.  “We compiled a list of small Caymanian companies that are capable of doing the work,” he said. “In this bad economy it’s great to be able to spread the work out among as many companies as possible. I’m happy to have the opportunity to prove that small companies can come together and do the same thing that big companies do.”

Lawrence said it was just the beginning of the project but more equipment and people would be needed as the work increases.

Final approval on the ForCayman Alliance has not yet been given and though the West Bay Road closure is still conditional on an independent review, Dart announced that in the “true spirit and intent of the ForCayman Investment Alliance,” it had agreed under the separate NRA agreement to move forward with preliminary works and engage local companies.

Last month the government and the developer signed the side deal with the country’s publicly owned roads authority but Dart will be financing and the managing the project. It is also understood that the developer has designed the road, despite the fact that it will be a public highway.

“The NRA agreement is signed which has resulted in jobs,” the premier said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon by Atwater Consulting. “The process for the Independent Review is underway and being led by a technical committee of senior civil servants that is chaired by Dr Dax Basdeo.”

McKeeva Bush revealed that other members include Max Jones from public works, Colford Scott, who is the chair of the NRA, and Jonathan Jackson from the works ministry.

“While it is a few jobs to start with, it is the beginning of fulfilling my government’s promise of creating jobs and work for local businesses through the signing of the NRA Agreement with Dart,” Bush said. “Having a company coordinating the hiring of independent operators ensures that everybody gets a break.”

The premier stated that had the work gone for tender only one company might have got the job but this way in the coming weeks and months,as the road work increases, so will the opportunities for jobs and work.

As the project is being financed by a private company there is no requirement for a public tender.

“Naysayers will say it is only work for a few people – but what they are doing today is necessary so that in two months, when the road works start in earnest; and in 12 months when the hotel construction starts, we can have between 350 and 400 new jobs created,” Bush stated.

“If we had waited and not signed the NRA Agreement in December, we would be more than a month and maybe as long as three months further away from seeing new jobs than we are today. This is a dire economic situation and while it may seem small to us, it is major to the people who are now working for the first time in months,” he added as he justified the start of the project before the review was completed.

Work began on Tuesday 10 January in four locations: site clearanceat Governor’s Way which is a continuation of the clearing done in December; site clearances at both the current terminus of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway/Foster Bay Village working north and the also at the location where Yacht Drive will intersect with the extension of the ETH, working south. They will meet in the middle and then the route for the first phase of the ETH Extension will be cleared of major shrubs and trees.

Clearance for the construction of a “haul road” on the route which the new ETH will follow soon. This will facilitate the trucking of fill when the construction of the extension begins in earnest. Dart officials said that with a positive outcome to the Independent Review, this part of the project will take between four to six weeks.

Subject to the findings of that review, Dart said, it was however already progressing with its discussions with potential hotel operators. Selecting the preferred hotel brand and operator is an essential step in the design process for the hotel because the eventual operator’s needs, brand prerequisites and input must be considered before finalising the design, it stated.

The new four or five star resort will be built on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott and, with the closure of the existing West bay Road, the hotel will be turned into a beach front property. Dart has also committed to enhancing the existing public beach near to the new resort and developing a new public beach area north of the new hotel. 

The closure of the road and the broader elements of the entire proposed ForCayman Alliance have not been welcomed by all quarters. Although four of the heavy equipment operators who have been given the work sang the praises of the agreement with Dart in the release, there is still considerable opposition to the proposals.

A group of activists in Bodden Town are also opposing the proposals in the alliance to relocate a new landfill to the district in exchange for Dart closing then capping and remediating the current dump in George Town.

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Witness says too much ganja spoiled his memory

Witness says too much ganja spoiled his memory

| 18/01/2012 | 0 Comments

joseph hurlston.jpg(CNS): Concerns that prisoners are regularly smoking ganja while serving time at Northward were fuelled in court Wednesday morning when inmate and prosecution witness in the Raziel Jeffers murder trial admitted to smoking before he took the stand. The man, who lived at the house in Bonaventure Road, West Bay where Jeffers is accused of killing Marcus Ebanks and shooting at four other men, told the court he had difficulty remembering the event. Joseph Hurlston, (left) who was called by the crown, was at his home on the evening of the shooting but said he did not have a good memory as he smoked a lot “day and night” and could not remember anything about it.

Despite being in custody since April 2010, he said he was still using the drug and he had a "spliff just a minute ago” before he came to the witness stand. Hurlston is currently servinga nine year sentence for importation of firearms. He had pleaded guilty to the charges, saying at the time that had bought the guns for his own protection because of the Bonaventure Road killing.

The witness told the court that he had smoked ganja since he was sixteen and he assured the judge he had not stopped smoking even though he was in Northward.

Hurlston’s memory was jogged, however, when he read his statement and although reluctant to speak about the incident, he confirmed that he was inside his room at the house when the shooting started. He said he had not seen the gunmen arrive or open fire but he had looked through the window as he heard the shooting and then locked himself in his room.

Immediately after the shooting he said he had left the scene with Jose Sanchez but shortly after the two men were both arrested by the police. “The police they ask me why I shoot the people in my yard … shows how much they know,” Hurlstone told the court, as he indicated that he and Sanchez were, in the first, instance suspects.

Clearly reluctant to say anything about the incident Hurlston said that he had no idea who the shooters were as he couldn’t see through walls but he didn't think it was Raziel Jeffers who was doing the shooting. He told the court that he did not want anything to do with the case and insisted that he had not seen anything. “I don’t feel I should be involved in this,” he said as he asked to leave.

Justice Charles Quin, who is presiding in the case alone without a jury, pointed to the seriousness of the allegations against Jeffers and the fact that a young man had been murdered as he asked Hurlston to assist the court to get to the truth.

Although reluctant to speak about the night of the shooting, Hurlston did say he remembered telling the police about an incident in a West Bay bar a few months before the murder. He told the court that one night in Kelly's bar he had seen the defendant hit his friend, Jose Sanchez, in the face. Sanchez is the man that the crown claims was Jeffers' intended target because of gang animosity between the men, further compounded by a relationship that Sanchez had with a former girlfriend of Jeffers.

When Jeffers' defence attorney, Peter Champagnie, queried the truth of Hurlstone's claim that he had seen an altercation between Sanchez and his client, the witness insisted it was true, stating that what he said happened in Kelly's was right and accused the attorney of having no manners and being a 'Yardie'.

As he left the court Hurlstone told Jeffers he had tried his best for him and wished him luck as he disappeared to the cells below.

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Politics, governance and transparency

Politics, governance and transparency

| 18/01/2012 | 0 Comments

At the Cayman Business Outlook 2012 Conference the panel is asked to discuss “Politics, Good Governance and Transparency – What Does the Cayman Islands Report Card Say?”
“Politics”: a name for activities that some find unappealing, even disgraceful. But they go on in all real democracies. They are necessary for democracy, they are part of democracy.

For politicians and their supporters “politics” means trying to get elected or re-elected, the methods or stratagems that they use to win votes, and, for those who are elected, the performance of their constitutional responsibilities, either in government or in opposition. These activities necessarily involve disagreement, criticism, and confrontation — which is usually what people have in mind when they say that they do not like politics and do not want to get involved. The truth is that you cannot have democracy without some confrontation, though it is also true that political confrontation has a tendency to overheat.

Go to CNS Business toread the commentary and to comment

Vote in the CBO poll: Politics, Good Governance & Transparency: What does the Cayman Islands Report Card say?

Leave a question for the CBO panel

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Justice must comply with BoR

Justice must comply with BoR

| 18/01/2012 | 11 Comments

scales%20of%20justice.jpg(CNS): The issue of the length of time it takes for criminal matters to be dealt with by the justice system will become a major issue once the bill of rights comes into effect in November of this year, members of the judiciary have warned. The forthcoming bill of rights requires not just fairness in the system but timeliness as well, which may present a problem for Cayman’s overloaded court system. On Friday a case due for Summary Court appeal illustrated the problem when it was revealed that a convicted drug dealer had received his judgement two and a half years after his trial had opened, leaving the conviction vulnerable.

Justice Alex Henderson, who has been warning attorneys on both sides of the system for some time about the potential problems delays in the system, no matter the reason, questioned if it could possibly be right for a judgement to be given two and a half years after the start of a trial as he warned, once again, of the legal challenges likely to arise over these kinds of delays.

The reasons for the delay in this particular case was explained by the attorneys involved, which began with an appeal against a decision by the magistrate a part way through the trial, which stayed proceedings until a Grand Court decision was made. Following this decision, a packed Summary Court docket and busy lawyers on both sides delayed the restart, which resulted in the decision being handed down so long after the case was first aired before the magistrate. 

The judge, however, pointed out that once the bill of rights is implemented the constitutional rights of the defendants will over-ride the issues of defence and crown lawyers' packed diaries.

The appeal, which is due to be heard in February, is just one case among many that is impacted by the problems faced by the local court system, which does not have enough court rooms and magistrates to deal with the summary court criminal cases, nor does it have enough lawyers willing to take on legal aid cases. Less than ten percent of local advocates have submitted their names to be considered for public defending work.

Of the list of 50-plus lawyers that are willing to take legal aid cases from the 520 licensed attorneys in Cayman, most deal with family and divorce cases, leaving around a dozen lawyers to handle the massive case load of criminal work passing through the summary and grand courts. Cases are perpetually adjourned because defence counsel are simply unable to be in three or four places at once.

The onset of the bill of rights will also see the introduction of a formal duty solicitor programme at the police station to ensure that an attorney is always available 24/7 to advise those who have been arrested and face immediate police interview. This shift system will place a further burden on the limited pool of legal aid criminal lawyers.

The bill of rights forms part of the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 and its implementation was delayed by three years to give the local government time to meet the legal requirements of the bill. It will be officially in effect, however, regardless of whether or not government is ready, by November of this year.

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TCI investigators make another arrest in fraud case

TCI investigators make another arrest in fraud case

| 18/01/2012 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Officials in the Turks and Caicos Islands confirmed that another arrest was made this week by investigating team which is delving into allegations of corruption and misappropriation of government cash in the UK overseas territory.  “A 47 year old man was arrested on Tuesday by the Special Investigation Prosecution Team (SIPT) in relation to their on-going investigation. He was released on police bail pending further inquires,” the spokesperson from the TCI governor’s office stated. The investigation which is said to have cost around $17.5million so far and included several charges against four former government ministers and the islands investors.

The investigators have reportedly recovered funds during the probe from unpaid Crown land leases, underpaid stamp duty for land transfers, civil settlements of criminal charges, and recovery of Crown land that was illegally leased or granted.

There were no further details available regarding the identity of the latest person arrested in the islands’ on-going two year bribery, fraud and corruption scandal.

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Witness accused of lies

Witness accused of lies

| 18/01/2012 | 0 Comments

court good.jpg(CNS): The defence counsel representing Raziel Jeffers in his trial for the murder of Marcus Ebanks and the attempted murder of four other boys said the crown’s key witness in the case against him was lying. Peter Champagnie accused paraplegic teen, Adryan Powell, who was shot in the spine on the night of the killing, of being a witness of “untruth” as he crossed examined him on behalf of Jeffers. The defence counsel suggested that, given the lighting, the fact he was shot and lying on the ground face down bleeding from a wound in his face in poor light over five feet away, it was “nigh on impossible” for the teen to identify the gunman.

During his questioning of the young witness, who gave his evidence via video link, about the night he and his friends were gunned down outside a house in Bonaventure Road West Bay, on 8 July 2009, Champagnie pressed Powell about his failure to identify his client as the gunman until his third statement. The lawyer suggested that the witness had come with the extra details late in the day to bolster the lies he had made in his third statement.

He said his claims in court about the lighting that night that he could see “perfect like daylight” were different to the description in his statement of just one light pole illuminating the scene. The defence attorney queried the inconsistencies between the three statements Powell had given to the police during the week after the shooting and his evidence in court but the teen remained steadfast in his account.

“I seen his face,” Powell told the attorney. “I am 100 percent positive it was Raziel.”

Despite the probing by the defence counsel, the young teen did not waiver in his certainty that the gunman he saw was the defendant. The defence attorney accused the teen of lying over the length of time he claimed to know his client. Powell has said that he knew Jeffers for around two and a half years before the incident and had played in a football tournament with him and had watched him play football. 

However, Champagnie said that was a lie and he had never played with Jeffers. The lawyer also told the court that his client had been in custody for a “long time” prior to the shooting incident, only being released just over a year before his arrest in this case, so it was not possible for the witness to have known the defendant as long as he claimed.

During the questioning Powell maintained that Jeffers was the man who shot him. He told the court that he only remembered giving the police two statements and the court heard how the teenager was heavily drugged when he gave an account of the event in the immediate aftermath and again a few days later. So much so that he had to be assisted to sign his name at the bottom.

He told the court that he had been afraid to say who he had seen because he was worried that the man may come “and finish me off”. However, one week after the shooting when the teen learned that his close friend Marcus was dead and that he himself would be paralysed for the rest of his life, Powell said, “Then I never cared no more so I came forward.”

Champagnie said that this was the first time he had mentioned being afraid as he pointed to the third statement where Powell identified Jeffers for the first time one week after the shooting.

“I am suggesting you are a witness of untruth,” the lawyer said but the teen denied lying.

“I have no reason to lie,” he said. “Why would I put an innocent man in jail? It makes no sense,” he answered.

“You know the reason for that,” the lawyer concluded but did not indicate to the court the possible motive for Powell to lie.

As her son concluded his evidence, Powell’s mother, Tammy Tibbetts, was called to the stand and she recalled the harrowing night she got news of her son being shot. Having just arrived in Jamaica for a short break to celebrate her birthday, she revealed how she had begged and pleaded to get a flight back to Cayman.

Tibbetts also told the court how she had told her son of the death of his friend Marcus Ebanks when he had asked around 13 July and how a day or so later, on the 15 July, he had told her what he had seen that night. She said she then called the RCIPS so he could make his third statement.

She also confirmed that Powell had been extremely drowsy and heavily medicated when he made his first two statements to the police but much more alert when he gave the final account in which he identified Jeffers.

The case continues in court two on Wednesday morning with further crown witnesses from the scene of the shooting on 8 July.

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Robbers in 3rd doorstep heist

Robbers in 3rd doorstep heist

| 18/01/2012 | 79 Comments

crime-scene-tape.jpg(CNS): In the third robbery of its kind in a matter of a few days the police were on the scene of a home in George Town on Thursday night. A police spokesperson said that an investigation had opened into a doorstep heist in George Town. Two armed men reportedly confronted a woman at about 7.25 pm tonight (Tuesday 17 January 2012) in Antoinette Ave, Webster Estates as she arrived home. The men demanded cash before making off with a small quantity of the woman's money and some jewellery. Police said no shots were fired and no-one was injured in the incident but no descriptions of the suspects were available at the time of the report.

The robbery comes on the heels of two similar crimes at the weekend when a West Bay man was robbed in his own home Sunday evening by a masked armed robber at around 6:53 who stole his wallet and two cell phones and a mugging again on the doorstep of a home in Palm Dale. In the early hours of Sunday morning two masked men armed with a knife and a gun stole a cash bag containing an undisclosed sum before escaping on foot from a home owner as he arrived at his house.

Anyone who was in the area at the relevant time of the latest crime, tonight and has information which could assist police 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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UK-Caribbean relations unequal says Hague

UK-Caribbean relations unequal says Hague

| 18/01/2012 | 23 Comments

william-hague-pic-getty-images-663996526.jpg(CNS): The UK’s relationship with the Caribbean is unequal and backward looking, the British Foreign Secretary said on the eve of his visit to the region. William Hague said the relationship should be a modern partnership and he wanted the UK and the Caribbean to cooperate more closely on what he described as the big international issues. As well as fighting crime and building resilient economies, he said the partnership should involve business, civil society and ordinary people.  “I believe that our relationship in recent years has been too backward-looking and less equal than it should be for the twenty-first century,” Hague wrote on the FCO website.

“There is no need for this, as there are many areas where our interests, values and views coincide, where our people, companies and NGOs interact and where we work together in partnership to tackle the scourge of drugs and crime.”

The Conservative Cabinet minister said that the delegation he was leading this week was one of the strongest groups of UK Ministers and senior officials to attend a UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum.

“This is both a sign of the strength the UK attaches to our enduring friendship with the Caribbean, and of our desire to use the Forum to mark a step change in our relationship. We believe this will herald a transition to a more modern, dynamic and forward looking affiliation,” he said.

Hague referred to what he called “the strong bonds that tie the UK and the region together” in all walks of life, from music to food, sport to prominent international figures. “We in the UK value these ties highly,” the minister stated.

He said that the UK government’s aid donation of £75million over four years was focused on creating a brighter future for the next generation but he noted there was also British private sector investment in the region.

“The private sector is the engine of growth for our economies, so it is right that they frame the questions that we politicians will discuss,” he said, noting that the first meeting would be with the business community. “The UK is a major investor in the Caribbean. BG has recently made a large investment in Trinidad & Tobago, and Pinewood Studios are building a state of the art film studio in the Dominican Republic with local partners Grupo Vinci.”

He said there were more business opportunities available, which was why Nick Baird, Chief Executive of UK Trade & Investment, was among the delegates and would lead a discussion with a range of UK and Caribbean businesses at the forum.

Hague added that 2012 provided an unprecedented opportunity for the UK and Caribbean to come together – in marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating fifty years of independence in Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago, and in cheering on our athletes at the London 2012 Olympics.

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