Archive for February 8th, 2012

FOI refusal in court hands

| 08/02/2012 | 52 Comments

(CNS): The failure of the Cayman Islands Port Authority to release documents to CNS as ordered is in contempt of court, the information commissioner believes and she has now written to the chief justice. In her 19th decision, published on 13 December, regarding an application for documents relating to the GLF cruise port negotiations Jennifer Dilbert ordered records be released by 27 January. Although the original applicant withdrew their request, CNS submitted a request for the same documents on 29 January, and as they were already subject to her decision, Dilbert directed the authority to immediately release the documents. However, the port has failed to do so.

When the authority failed to comply in the first instance with the commissioner’s order, the port was already in danger of facing court sanction as it had not met the release deadline or itself applied to the courts for a judicial review of Dilbert’s ruling. The port escaped legal action at that point, however, as a result of the originalapplicant’s notification that they no longer needed the records.

However, CNS then made a request for the same documents, and as the commissioner had already ruled that this information was not exempt under the law, she said they should be immediately released to the new applicant (CNS) in accordance with her December decision. But the authority has failed to release any information to CNS or even respond to the request sent on 29 January.

As a result Dilbert wrote to the courts on Wednesday in accordance with the freedom of information law certifying that the public authority in question had failed to comply with her ruling. According to the law, it is now up to the courts to consider this under the rules of contempt of court. The issue is now in the hands of the chief justice and it will be up to the courts to determine what should happen next in connection with the release of the information and the port’s contravention of the law.

Although the information commissioner has written to the courts on one other occasion regarding a failure of a public body to comply with a ruling, on that occasion the relevant records were released the following day and the courts were not required to intervene. If the documents in this case are not released immediately, the Port Authority could be the first public entity to face court sanction and as much as a $100,000 fine.

The documents that the port is trying hard to keep under wraps include several pieces of correspondence and reports that have already been leaked into the public domain. However, the minutes of the relevant meetings of the authority’s board when the GLF port proposal was under discussion and in particular in the wake of the decision by the premier to pull out of talks with the developer have not yet been made public.

Also the details of the settlement between the Port Authority, the government and GLF over the premier’s decision to move into negotiations with the Chinese firm CHEC also remain in question. Although it has been suggested that the deal has cost the public purse some $3 milllion, this has not been confirmed by government.

The premier stated in the Legislative Assembly at the end of last year that this settlement was not coming out of government coffers. Since then, other government members have contradicted that statement. According to comments made by Cabinet member Rolston Anglin on the local morning phone in show, Crosstalk on Rooster, the cash payment will come from public funds.

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Gov’t facing cash flow issues

| 08/02/2012 | 76 Comments

goab34.jpg(CNS): Despite claims by the government that it is getting to grips with public finances, the opposition leader has said that the administration is once again facing problems paying bills. Alden McLaughlin said that several authorities have not been paid money expected from government, including CINICO, the National Roads Authority and Cayman Airways and, he added, it appears government is now anticipating yet another deficit this year.  The opposition leader said government needed to update the country on what is happening with the public purse and it needed to hold a Finance Committee meeting to regularize the executive spending and budget changes.

“We have not had a meeting of the Legislative Assembly for some time, with no explanation why and, other than during the budget, this government has never held a Finance Committee meeting,” he said. “As well as serious cash flow problems, we understand that government appears to be projecting another deficit. And as well as not paying authorities, it has not paid any money into the past service liability pot.”

Although government has bragged about sorting out its revenue and having also paidback the civil service cost of living allowance because of a surplus last year, McLaughlin stated that it now appears to be in further financial trouble.

With no meeting of the parliament, however, it was not possible for him to know exactly what the financial issues were, he said, as the opposition were not given updates, briefings or information in connection with government earnings or spending.

The only way that the parliament, and ultimately the public, can know exactly what the current state of the public finances are is through an open meeting of the Finance Committee, he said.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned about what we are hearing about the finances,” the PPM leaders stated. “But there has been no discussion by government or any indication when the Legislative Assembly is likely to meet.”

The debate on government’s financial agreement with the UK has also not yet been held in the Legislative Assembly, which McLaughlin said was meant to be discussed at the last meeting but was deferred by the premier.  Although the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility was signed and came into effect in November last year, the final draft has not been made public, nor has it been discussed on the floor of the House.

The opposition leader raised his concerns again about the unpredictability and uncertainty regarding the government’s attitude towards the parliamentary process, and in turn democracy.

“Parliament is supposed to act as a check and balance on the executive and to scrutinize what government is doing. That is part of its major function,” he said. “Given the amount of things that are supposedly in motion and being negotiated, it would be quite right and proper for parliament to be updated on a regular basis about what is happening and for us to ask questions and raise these issues.”

Aware of the many concerns in the community, the opposition leader pointed out that there was little that the opposition members could due to prevent government barrelling ahead with projects, regardless of whether they are supported by the majority of the people or not.

He said it is only via public pressure or scrutiny and public opposition that there can be an impact on government, but if it is not prepared to listen to the public opinion then the government can go ahead with all of the current plans regardless.

“Under the constitution the government has responsibility for policy,” he said, so whether the people like them or not they are properly within the remit of the Cabinet.

McLaughlin explained, however, that as well as security and civil service issues the governor does have a responsibility for good governance.  “But going to England won’t make a jot of difference,” hesaid, referring to the trip planned by Miller, as he stated that it is up to the governor to address that problem here.

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Haul of ganja found in GT church yard

| 08/02/2012 | 40 Comments

ganja.JPG(CNS): A member of the Windsor Park Wesleyan Holiness church uncovered a stash of hidden ganja while doing some gardening on the property this week. Although police have not yet confirmed it is estimated that around 2lbs of the illegal drug was hidden in the bushes in the church yard several bags were recovered by scenes of crime officers after one of the church helpers called the RCIPS on Monday evening. Donna Bryan told Cayman27 news that she came across the drug haul hidden under overgrown hedge that she was trying to pull out at the back of the church. When she looked in the black garbage bags she realized exactly what had been hidden on the church grounds.

She told the TV station that is was not right that people would use the church yard to hide drugs. “It just goes to show people don’t have any reverence to God,” she said. Bryan noted that the church has an after school programme and the youngsters were around when the contraband was uncovered.

Go to video report
 

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More charges brought in TCI corruption enquiry

| 08/02/2012 | 15 Comments

Clayton-Greene-31.jpg(CNS): The Turks and Caicos Attorney General Hugh Shepheard said two more people have been charged this week in connection with the wide scale corruption investigation in the UK overseas territory. “The Special Investigation Prosecution Team today charged two people in connection to their on-going work,” officials from TCI said in a statement released Tuesday. “The first was a 42 year old male who was charged with conspiring to receive bribes, the second, a 47 year old male was charged with money laundering.” Clayton Greene the leader of the PNP has confirmed he is one of the people that has been charged.

In a statement Greene denied doing anything wrong and said he would be vindicated.

I encourage the special investigators to move quickly to bring me before the courts," he said. "It is necessary that these matters be determined sooner rather than later so that the country and its people can begin again to move forward."

The identity of the second person has not yet been released but they are both expected to appear in the Magistrates Court in Providenciales, on Friday, 10 Feb.

Over the last fewmonths the Special Investigation Prosecution Team  has made several arrests of former politicians as well as business men and recovered millions of dollars of misappropriated government cash.

The TCI Sun reported this week that preliminary court hearings concerning  Jak Civre, Floyd Hall, Lisa Hall, Richard Padgett, Lillian Boyce, Jeffrey Hall, Chal Misick, Samuel Been, Melbourne Wilson, Earlson Robinson and Quinton Hall have been postponed after defence teams were not given enough time to review the documents in the case relating to the charges against their clients.

The SIPT began investigating reports of serious fraud and corruption following a Commission of Inquiry chaired by Sir Robin Auld which led to the UK instigating direct rule of the territory.

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Ambulance hit in suspected DUI

| 08/02/2012 | 24 Comments

IMG-20120207-00018 (250x221).jpg(CNS): A driver who was believed to have been drinking according to witnesses at the crash, collided with an ambulance last night at the junction of Smith Road and Bobby Tompson Way. The ambulance was also conveying a patient at the time of the smash on Tuesday evening at about 7pm. Although no one was seriously hurt in the collision another ambulance attended the scene to take the patient and the ambulance crew to the Cayman Islands hospital. Police have not yet confirmed the details of the incident or if the driver was arrested. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

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Robbery suspect berates court over justice delays

| 08/02/2012 | 0 Comments

_DEW1072-cns(2).jpg(CNS):  A 33 year old man from West Bay who has been on remand for almost one year awaiting trial for the robbery of a small grocery store with an imitation weapon claims he has not been treated fairly by the criminal justice system. Ryan Ebanks who is charged with holding up the Three N’s grocery store in West Bay in March 2011 could now face further delays however, after he became visibly frustrated and sacked his lawyer, Friday morning. Ebanks berated the court and his legal representative insisting that not only had he waited too long for a trial date but he had not been given full disclosure by the crown.

Facing an anonymous witness hearing later this month Ebanks told the court he would represent himself.

Dismissing the charges against him as a “waste of time” the suspect said that his lawyer, the second attorney allocated to him under the legal aid system, was not doing what he asked and speaking up for him.  “I don’t need another prosecutor,” Ebanks told the court as he insisted he no longer wanted his lawyer. “I have been treated very unfairly,” he said referring to the system as he expressed his frustrations loudly.

The judge explained to Ebanks that the role of an attorney was not merely to do everything a client might want. The judge pointed out that a trial date was now set for March and that an undertaking had been made by the crown to supply all of the information he would need.

Justice Seymour Panton pointed out to the defendant that the courts and the lawyers were doing everything they could to assist but with a limited amount of judges and court rooms facing a growing list of crimes, delays were inevitable.  “Accused persons need to understand that things happen,” the judge said, adding that he hoped there would be no further postponements regarding his case as he pointed to the growing case loads.

“Where there are less cases, the cases will be tried quicker, but when there is a rise in numbers there will be delays but the courts are trying their best to prevent them,” he added. The judge went on to express his surprise at the apparent rise in crime and noted that accused persons will find they are waiting longer for their trials as the state tries its best at great expense.

Having worked in the Cayman Islands in the past the visiting Jamaican judge pointed out that crime was becoming a serious problem in Cayman which was the simple explanation as to why things took longer than people would like.

Justice Seymour said when he worked for the attorney general’s chambers in the 1970s there wasn't a single robbery or shootings in the entire five years he was here. However, during his first five days in the Cayman Islands during this visit he said there were two robberies and two shootings.

Ebanks’ attorney, James Stenning said he had done his best for his client and understood his frustrations but if he no longer felt comfortable with his representation then he must come off record.

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All the fun of the ‘farm’ at the annual Ag fair

| 08/02/2012 | 0 Comments

slow food farmers 2 (187x250).jpg(CNS): With just three weeks to go preparations for this year’s Agriculture Shows are well underway, officials from the ministry said this week. The Grand Cayman show is in its 45th year and offers an opportunity for everyone to find out what’s going on in Cayman’s farming community. From keeping chickens to major life stock farming the event show cases a variety of agricultural related issues and products as well as traditional arts, crafts and local foods. This year’s shows take place on Ash Wednesday, 22 February on Grand Cayman and Saturday, 25 February on Cayman Brac and Saturday, 25 March on Little Cayman.

There will be many activities inside the Agriculture Pavilion in Lower Valley. One of the new attractions this year will be an interactive tent where farmers will engage the public with talks about what is happening in the farming community and provide backyard farming tips.

A Youth Services Culinary Competition – for children aged 10 to 14 who have been attending cooking camps held by the Youth Services Department and taught by one of the chefs at the Ritz-Carlton – will end with a cook-off and  cooking demonstration.
Alongside the farm animal showcase there will be Pony rides, line dancing demonstration, a rodeo show from the Equestrian Society, the Beautiful Baby Competition and a wide variety of other cultural entertainment.

The Cayman Islands Agriculture Show, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Ministry of Agriculture and corporate sponsors A.L. Thompson and LIME, is the largest event family event on all three islands.

“We are committed to the farmers in the Cayman Islands,” said the agricultural minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly. “My administration fully supports the three shows which bring together the farming community, entrepreneurs sponsors and the public, in general. I would like to encourage the public to attend, support our local farmers and have lots of fun in the process.”

There are two types of tickets for the show. General admission – adults $10 and $5 for kids, aged two to 12. Raffle tickets cost $25 with a grand prize of $20,000 and allow general admission to the show. Tickets outlets: Funky Tangs, AL Thompson’s, Agriculture Society members, Seymour’s Jerk Chicken, Welly’s Cool Spot, Blue Marlin, Meringue Town and Cayman Coating. 

On Cayman Brac General admission is $10; Children 11 and up $4; Raffle tickets, which allow entry are $10; Grand prize is US$2,500.

For more information, log on to the Cayman Islands Agriculture Society website at www.cisa.ky and the society’s Facebook page.

 

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Legal decision may lead to fat tax for chubby fliers

| 08/02/2012 | 82 Comments

fat-airline_2107136b (249x250).jpg(Daily Telegraph): A court ruling could pave the way for the introduction of a “fat tax” for obese fliers, a leading barrister has claimed. The judgement, made by the Court of Appeal, could also prevent passengers with a disability from seeking compensation from their airline if they receive unsatisfactory or inconsistent treatment during a flight. The ruling confirms that disabled passengers have no right to dignity once the wheels leave the runway,” said Daniel Barnett, a barrister at Outer Temple Chambers. “It also means that airlines are immune if they choose to embarrass overweight passengers by demanding a fat tax.”

Judges decided that key elements of Britain’s disability and discrimination laws do not apply once passengers have boarded an aircraft. They made the judgement after considering two cases involving wheelchair users who sued their airlines after they were unable to sit next to their carers on board a flight. Both subsequently suffered “embarrassing” incidents.
But both cases were dismissed after the court ruled that the Montreal Convention, a framework of international rules and regulations on air travel, should take precedence over British law.

Barnett,  says the ruling would give airlines “laissez-faire to disregard seat allocation promises” made prior to boarding, and meant that passengers could not sue airlines for “hurt feelings” or emotional distress.

The introduction of a “fat tax” has been mooted by Ryanair in the past, following a survey conducted by the airline which suggested around a third of passengers supported it. A number of carriers already insist that obese customers buy an extra seat if they are unable to comfortably fit into one.

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