Archive for April 25th, 2012

Bush heads for Caribbean conference in Curacao

| 25/04/2012 | 44 Comments

curacao-buildings (250x300).jpg(CNS): As concern over the premier’s position as leader of the country mounted following revelations of three police investigations, McKeeva Bush flew off to the Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories (COCT) Council Meeting in Curacao on Wednesday to represent the Cayman Islands at a high level meeting. Included in the delegation are local attorney Steve McField, Chief of Staff Leonard Dilbert and the Technical Assistant for European Union Projects Jamaal Anderson. Government officials said the meeting, which takes place on Thursday, will cover a range of matters affecting relations between the overseas territories and the European Union.

“An election of the COCT Council executive body is at the top of the day’s agenda,” a release from the premier’s office stated. “Discussion on a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the COCT Council follows with the meeting culminating with the signing of the MoU. Other matters on the agenda are: areas of regional cooperation around sustainable development; strengthening the development of small and medium sized enterprises; and the regional position within the framework of the 11th European Union – Overseas Countries and Territories Forum.”

As well as the Cayman Islands, other British Overseas Territories attending the meeting are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Montserrat. The Dutch territories and countries participating are Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao.

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Drug council urgently seeks survey volunteers

| 25/04/2012 | 2 Comments

marijuana.jpg(CNS): The National Drug Council urgently needs volunteers to assist with the latest drug survey. Currently in the process of interviewing students for cycle six of the critical survey officials from the council are calling on the community to help with the critical research project which involves interviewing students in both public and private schools grades 7-12. The NDC said it needs twenty people to help on Tuesday 1 May for one in the morning and a further fifty volunteers on Wednesday 2 May also for just one hour in the morning. The survey aims to gain a better understanding of drug use among middle and high school students in the Cayman Islands which will help to create evidence based policy.

As well as providing factual information to create relevant policies and programmes to address drug misuse and meet the needs of young people it also helps to strengthening prevention programmes.

Training is provided for all survey administrators and we welcome all suitable volunteers. For further information please call the NDC at 949-9000 or email us on info@ndc.ky
 

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Road smash slows early morning commute to GT

| 25/04/2012 | 5 Comments

Accident-25-04-2012.jpg(CNS): Drivers were snarled up in traffic on Wednesday morning after a single vehicle smash on the Linford Pierson Highway around 8:00am. A white Chevy truck managed to collide with a light pole, bringing the busy road to a standstill. After the driver was rescued from the wrecked truck, he was taken to George Town hospital, where he is believed to be in a stable condition. The driver was heading east away from town when the smash occurred but it is not clear what caused the driver to hit the utility pole. CUC workers replaced the damaged pole shortly after the accident.

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Cayman’s omnishambles

| 25/04/2012 | 31 Comments

Coined by a British sitcom writer, ‘omnishambles’ has become the new buzz word on the UK Westminster scene to describe political mess-ups of significant proportions. And it seems like the perfect word to sum up the current political situation McKeeva Bush finds himself in as he faces three criminal investigations. But given his defiance, perhaps it's not him but the rest of us that are the real shambles.

It seems that no amount of press coverage, cries from the opposition, outrage on talk shows or even general embarrassment is enough to pressure the premier to step aside.  With his party standing by him and most of the organisations that represent the country’s economic fortunes mumbling into their boots about hurrying things along but not a single request for him to step down, Bush won’t be going anywhere, except on his next overseas jaunt at the expense of the public purse.

Whether it’s because of a wider fear of the deputy prime minister actually taking over the country’s leadership (which, to be honest, is understandable) or because people really don’t care or think it matters that the premier is under police scrutiny is impossible to say but as the people that have the power, namely the UDP membership, its party funders and the business community, are not calling for his resignation, he won’t be stepping down anytime soon. Despite predictions to the contrary, Bush will stumble on yelling at his critics in is usual comedic fashion until May 2013.

The opposition can cry ‘no confidence’ till it's blue in the face, bloggers can blog till their fingers hurt and the talk shows callers can turn their throats hoarse but the only people that can really force the premier to face up to this situation is the party faithful or the party funders. So long as those supporting the UDP coffers continue to offer their support, Bush will not step aside, down or even back.

After all, why should he?

It might be unimaginable that this situation could happen in a democracy anywhere else in the world but that’s only because the pressure from the powerful would be unrelenting in most other jurisdictions.

One would expect that in a true democracy where the leader of a country finds himself at the heart of three police investigations, especially when one involves the illegal importation of dynamite, other members of government would likely seize the opportunity to bolster their own political fortunes and distance themselves from a potential political train wreck at the polls.

But here in Cayman it seems that voters don’t really mind that much and the politicians have very little faith in their own abilities.

Despite the revelations, unless Bush is actually charged and convicted of a crime, legally prohibiting him from holding office, he will stay in his post and will run at the next election. No matter the electoral format, he will win his seat. It is extremely unlikely that the UDP will gain a majority but, government or opposition bench, Bush’s backside will still be on one of them next May.

Most of the UDP members, with perhaps the odd exception, believe they cannot get elected without him and many of them are right. And while there may be grumblings in the business community, one cannot help wonder what it is that Bush knows that keeps them so reluctant to step up and say that he has to go.

While we may not exactly have a significant collection of captains of industry or business, none of the representative associations that fuel the local economy have called for him to be removed, despite the obvious implications for business and the economy. One can only conclude that Mac’s little black book is not that little.

It's obvious that the pressure from his opponents to step aside will continue and some media headlines will serve as a constant reminder that the country’s leader is facing criminal investigation over an illegal dynamite shipment as well as financial irregularities, but Bush’s recalcitrant position in the statement released at the weekend shows he hasno intention of resigning, no matter what we write.

Of course, it is truly absurd that he accuses his critics of destabilizing the country when they object to his policies or because they wish to introduce a more equitable voting system, while claiming the fact that although he is at the heart of three police investigations, this has no effect on the country’s stability — but he believes it.

The ramblings of paranoia in his statement on Saturday demonstrate his genuine belief that there is some kind of conspiracy against him and that these investigations are all “nunsense” as he knows of “nun”.

Unless the Stan Thomas letter turns out to be a forgery and the “emails” that none of us are allowed to see because they “are part of the investigation” also turn out to be figments of people’s imagination, then of course it’s far from nonsense and there are obviously questions to answer.

But the problem is that the police don’t seem to be asking them and if the investigation continues to drag on without any advancement, either towards innocence or guilt, without him being questioned or cleared, the premier will continue in office, abusing his critics, defying calls for his resignation and washing his already clean hands.

Yep! It’s definitely an omnishambles …

Vote in CNS poll: Should Mckeeva Bush step down as premier?

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Port could face retender

| 25/04/2012 | 107 Comments

video (252x300).jpg(CNS): Concerns about the development of the George Town cruise facilities and the need to get the project back in line with what the UK Minister for OTs called international procurement best practice may see the project retendered. During his visit to Cayman last week Henry Bellingham said he had “numerous concerns” about that project and wanted the premier to seek advice from the auditor general and the chair of the Central Tenders Committee on how to ensure the project will, going forward, meet the standards of good governance expected. He did not spell out exactly what he meant by that but it could mean the project may have to be bid all over again.

It may be very difficult for the premier to reach the standard of best practice which the UK is calling for as the CHEC proposal was never part of the original tendering process. At the very least, Bellingham made it clear the port would be the subject of much wider scrutiny before the premier would be in a position to sign a definitive agreement with the developers, China Harbour Engineering Company.

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick confirmed that so far the premier has not asked him for any advice. "If and when I am asked for my advice I will provide that to government,” he said but would not elaborate on how he would advise the premier to get the project back in line with best practice.

However, Swarbrick said his concerns regarding the procurement process generally were outlined in last year's performance audit report. “We made the shortcomings of the current practices very clear and our concerns relating to the involvement of politicians in the procurement process known. Those concerns still exist and we are looking to see how the government will address them.”

During his visit last week the overseas territories minister emphasised over and over the need for good governance and for the Cayman government to follow best practice in procurement. Bellingham said he was not concerned about the nationality of the proposed developers and was not opposed to international investment.

“There are concerns on a number of issues, including procurement and the major projects,” Bellingham said. “I believe it’s vital that such important projects be procured in-line with international best practice to ensure value for money. I have concerns over procurement of the cruise ship terminal project, which I have raised with the premier. I have made it very clear to him, for me to be able to support the project it must be in line with international best practice.”

The minister said he was seeking reassurance as to how the premier would achieve this and spoke about the importance of trust and confidence. “This is a huge project for the Cayman Islands and one that’s incredibly important to get right,” he said.

The FCO minister stated that the financial framework agreement which the premier signed last year went further than the issue of public spending. It is also about good governance across the whole of the public sector andprocurement, Bellingham said, adding that the Cayman people needed to have confidence in the procurement process. 

In the most recent public comments about the project Ellio Solomon, who is leading the negotiations with China Harbour, stated that construction would start in September, which may well be wishful thinking since there are numerous hurdles that the government will have to jump before the FCO is satisfied that the project meets with the requirements of the financial framework agreement.

When government first announced its own plans for the port after winning the 2009 elections, the project was put out to tender. DECCO, the Dart Group’s construction company, came out top in the first bid from the Port Authority’s short list. However, the islands’ largest investor pulled out of negotiations with government when the parties reached stalemate over the period of time Dart wanted to lease the upland development area in order to recoup its investment.

GLF construction was the next bidder on the shortlist, so when the DECCO talks collapsed, Cline Glidden, who was the government’s lead negotiator at the time, moved into talks with the Italian-based firm and their local partners, Royal Construction. Just weeks before the company was ready to mobilize, the premier, going over the heads of the port board and his own back-bencher, announced his decision to terminate those talks as he did not believe GLF had the cash, and moved into negotiations with CHEC.

The Beijing-based firm, however, was not next on the port’s list as it had never taken part in the original bid. As a result, in order for the project to get back in line with what the UK considers international procurement best practice, the bid may have to be retendered.

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Business nervous over Bush investigations

| 25/04/2012 | 0 Comments

_DEW7157-web-0.jpg(CNS Business): The Chamber of Commerce and Cayman Finance have both raised concerns over the revelations that the Cayman Islands premier is the subject of three police investigations but have both stopped short of asking the country’s leader and UDP party boss to step down. The two organisations have called for a speedy resolution to the police probes in order to protect the jurisdiction’s reputation. CITA, which represents the tourism sector, made no comment about the revelations as it said its membership was not fully informed, a sentiment echoed by the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, and the Law Society declined to comment on the police probes into McKeeva Bush over  two alleged cases of financial irregularities and his involvement with an illegal shipment of dynamite. Read more on CNS Business

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