Archive for April 26th, 2012

Broadcaster pressured to remove talk-show hosts

| 26/04/2012 | 92 Comments

10430529.jpg(CNS): The management at Hurleys entertainment has confirmed that it has been pressured by the government to remove Austin Harris and Gilbert McLean from its morning radio talk-show on Rooster before the firm can get a duty waiver for a planned Cable TV project. Speaking on the programme on Wednesday, Harris said that the Hurleys group had been “held hostage” because of the show. Cayman Crosstalk has been accused by the premier of running down the government, and despite once being a regular guest on the programme McKeeva Bush now refuses to go on the show and criticises it on a regular basis.

During Wednesday morning’s show when members of the opposition appeared as guests, Harris raised the issue of the pressure the owners of Rooster were under to remove the controversial hosts.

“The deal is fire Gilbert and Austin and you’ll get what you want,” Harris revealed on air on Wednesday when he said Infinity Broadband Ltd, which is a sister company of Hurleys, had been told by government that it could not get a duty waiver for the project, even though all other businesses in the same field have received waivers.

Every other firm that has successfully chosen to take advantage of the liberalisation of television provision and acquired a licence has been offered a waiver in order to encourage development of this sector. However, Hurleys management confirmed that the waiver for Infinity was being withheld.

Despite the ultimatum, Hurleys told CNS that they would not be firing either of the two popular hosts and would seek to find another way to continue with the project. A spokesperson for the entertainment groups said that the project would generate as many as fifty jobs and represented millions of dollars of investment but they were not prepared to be pressured or threatened in such a way.

Hurleys Entertainment and its owner, Randy Merren, is like CNS still facing legal action brought by the premier over comments made on the show about Bush’s leadership, which it is continuing to fight. The management noted that this latest issue over the duty waiver was just another attempt by government to silence its critics.

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Bounty on lionfish could address two ills, says MLA

| 26/04/2012 | 20 Comments

lionfish_579955552.jpg(CNS): The North Side independent MLA is asking government to introduce a bounty on the invasive lionfish in order to avert an environmental disaster and encourage those tempted to take other marine life out of season to go after the legal catch instead. Ezzard Miller has filed a private member’s motion for the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly proposing a $5 bounty on each one of the pesky fish which is rapidly invading local reefs. Miller has suggested that government could use the funds from the environmental fund to pay for the scheme which would have a dual purpose.

“Everyone agrees that the fish is a significant problem and this proposal will only will help address the environmental issues it will encourage those who sometimes take conch and lobster out of season in order to make ends meet go for a legal catch instead,” he said

The first lionfish were spotted in Cayman waters early in 2008 and since then the growth in population has been alarming. The department of the environment has been encouraging divers to help remove the fish from the ocean with various projects and initiatives. Training courses and educational classes have been held and chefs across the islands are being encouraged to add the tasty white fish to their menus.

The fish which while being a voracious predator itself, has no natural predators in our region but divers have however, made efforts to introduce the local Nassau Grouper to the tasty if rather spiny fish to encourage it to help in the fight to keep the numbers down.

The lion fish presents a significant threat to native as it is capable of reproducing year-round and females can reproduce every four days. Given its relative resistant to parasites and fast growth it has advantages over native species with which it is now compete for food and space.
  

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Financial cops charge man in $1M insurance fraud

| 26/04/2012 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police confirmed Thursday that a George Town man has been charged with theft relating to two separate insurance companies and is currently held on remand at Northward prison. David Self, a former insurance manager with Monkton Insurance Services Ltd, where he was the sole director, is accused of misappropriating around US$1 million belonging to the company and its clients, according to the firm's liquidators who filed a petition in the Grand Court this week to wind up the business, described as hopelessly insolvent. Gordon MacRae and Gwynn Hopkins of Zolfo Cooper (Cayman) Limited, the liquidators of the company, claim Self had wrongfully diverted the cash which he used for unauthorized investments and personal expenditure.

Monkton Insurance Services was incorporated in Cayman in 1997 and is regulated by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, which appointed controllers over the company in February stating that Self "was not a fit and proper person to hold the office of director", the liquidators said in the court documents filed Thursday.

Self was arrested on 21 February and charged in March, when he was remanded into custody to Northward Prison.

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Call to abolish pension age

| 26/04/2012 | 70 Comments

PF-work-till-drop_1858792c.jpg(CNS): A member of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly is hoping to persuade the government benches that the current retirement age is too low and that Caymanians should no longer be forced to retire at the age of sixty. Ezzard Miller, the member for North Side, has filed a private members motion asking the UDP government to abolish the mandatory retirement age and let workers choose whether or not they want to work beyond a certain age. Miller told CNS that many of his constituents are facing compulsory retirement from their jobs in the private sector as well as the civil service but few have pensions big enough to support them.

Miller said that all of the laws and other barriers, such as problems with health insurance for the over sixties, should be removed to enable people to work if they want to or in many cases need to. Miller said he is happy for government to maintain a voluntary retirement of 55 years of age for those that can afford to leave their jobs but, given the life expectancy versus the poor pensions some people have, the idea of enforced retirement is simply untenable for many people.

“With a sixty percent over employment problem in Cayman, we don’t face the same arguments against allowing people to work beyond sixty as some other jurisdictions. People cannot say that pensioners would be stealing other people’s jobs,’ he added.

The increase in the quality of life and health care for many people in Cayman today means that reaching the age of sixty should no longer be a barrier to work. Miller said that forcing people to retire years and years before they are likely to die was not only a waste of skills but was condemning them to a life of poverty.

According to research in the US, modern female retirees have a 50% chance of living to age 88 and a one in four chance of living to 94.

As the law compelling employers to pay pensions is relatively new, many people who are now at retirement age have nowhere near enough money invested in their pensions to offer them a comfortable retirement. Miller said they could face years of financial struggle ahead of them if they are prevented from working.

He pointed out that government is circumventing the issue in some cases by re-contracting civil servants after retirement and over the age of sixty in order to retain skilled and experience staff, so it was time to abolish the retirement age.

The motion, which is supported by the PPM member for East End Arden McLean, was filed on Tuesday and Miller said he hopes it will reach the parliamentary order paper for the next meeting of the LA, which is due to start on 9 May.

A considerable body of medical research has also drawn a correlation to the onset of health problems, both mental and physical, with enforced retirement.  Regular retirees can suffer a 16 percent increase in difficulties associated with mobility and a 9 percent decline in mental health, but this can be worse in those forced to retire when they don’t want to.

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Government to invest $15M in solar panel project

| 26/04/2012 | 66 Comments

bipv1.jpg(CNS): Under a new government initiative, the elderly and the indigent will be receiving free solar panels from government to help reduce energy costs. Joey Ebanks, the new managing director of Cayman’s Electricity Regulatory Authority and chair of a new committee to promote the government's new renewable energy programme, will be spearheading the initiative designed to begin reducing Cayman’s carbon footprint. Government has announced a planned $15 million investment in the green project, which will see 1,500 homes fitted with solar panels. Ebanks told CNS that Cayman “has been too, too slow” in making steps towards reducing its carbon footprint and this project represents a serious step towards reducing the 100% dependence the country has on fossil fuels.

Ebanks, who resigned from CUC some two months ago, said that the first people to receive the panels will be those who are being assisted by the social services department to pay light bills, and after that government will then help pensioners who are on fixed income to get panels fitted on their roofs. Where houses are not suitable, free standing panels can be erected on people’s property.

The project will generate new opportunities for local companies as well as create new jobs, Ebanks said. At this point, government has not selected a solar power firm to work with and he expected the work would go out to tender. The former CUC employee, who is eager to see Cayman improve its green credentials, said that the new government initiative alongside the recent proposal for the introduction of net metering will make solar energy more accessible to everyone and help fuel a new local industry and new jobs.

Cline Glidden, who brought a private member’s motion to the Legislative Assembly asking government to remove all the barriers to the domestic generation of solar power, will be on the new renewable energy programme committee alongside Ebanks and Jim Knapp, who built one of Cayman’s first eco homes.

The solar panel project was announced by McKeeva Bush at a press conference on Tuesday to which Cayman News Service was not invited. However, on hearing of the project CNS contacted Ebanks, who was able to reveal the details of the green initiative.

“This is about addressing our dependence on fossil fuel and reducing the carbon footprint as well as helping people in our community cut their light bills,” Ebanks stated. “It is a progressive development in a push towards adopting alternative sources of energy.”

Although CUC’s support will be required to expand the programme and implement a net metering system, CNS understands that government has not yet discussed either plan with the power firm.

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Pension plans trending towards hedge funds

| 26/04/2012 | 0 Comments

McCaff_Comm-cashflow.jpg(CNS Business): Many pension plans are moving towards investing in hedge funds to try to make up the deficits that they were seeing and the old methods of investing, such as holding large amounts of cash, were not working, according to one expert during a panel discussion at this year’s GAIM Ops Cayman conference in key trends in the industry. Mark Hannoush, a Director with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, said hedge funds looked like a good place to generate returns and a good place for the defence of assets in times of stress. He said there had been tactical changes since the Madoff collapse of 2008 and now pension plans were starting to ask smart questions because they were being asked to do so. Read more on CNS Business

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Police seek witnesses to early morning crash

| 26/04/2012 | 7 Comments

(CNS): One man and one woman are recovering in hospital this morning (Thursday) following a road smash on Sea View Road in East End. Police are looking for witnesses to the incident which happened at around 12.17am this morning. A Toyota Rav 4 was being driven towards Bodden Town and as the car was negotiating a left hand bend it collided with an eastbound Mitsubishi Lancer. The Toyota overturned, trapping the male driver inside, a police spokesperson said. The driver had to be cut from the car by the emergency services when they arrived at the crash scene. The man and the female driver of the Mitsubishi were both transported to the Cayman Islands Hospital, George Town, where they are now being treated and said to be in stable condition.

Any witnesses to the crash should contact PC Holder of the RCIPS Traffic Dept. on 946-6254.
 

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Locals Dominate J/22 International Regatta

| 26/04/2012 | 0 Comments

South Africa rounds (296x300).jpg(CISA): The 6th Annual J/22 International Invitational Regatta was held from 16th to 18th March 2012 on the North Sound and was again hosted by the Cayman Islands Sailing Club (CISC). The event was part of the Race Cayman 2012 regatta which was sponsored by HSBC and the Ministry of Health, Environment, Youth, Sport & Culture. For the first time teams travelled from Germany, Norway, and South Africa to participate, and joined the more regular competitors from the USA, Bahamas, Jamaica and the UK but the local Cayman teams proved to be too strong for the visitors.

The international representatives included from Germany (Peter Karrie), South Africa (Len John Van der Wel), Bahamas (Craig Symonette and Dave Valentina), USA (Marc Fisher and Bill Wiggins), United Kingdom (Olie Dix), Jamaica (Peter Harper) and Norway (Are Huser).

The event was fun-loving and highly competitive and the sailing conditions were simply epic- postcard perfect. The weather was as advertised, with 10-20 knot trade winds blowing all day long all the time, with blue skies, puffy white clouds scudding across the horizonand aquamarine blue waters dotted by white breaking waves when the wind was up.

In the end, the local Cayman teams proved to be too strong for the visitors. Top local sailor Mike Farrington sailing JUST LEAVING from CISC triumphed, and was crowned the 2012 Invite Champion with finishes of five 1sts, two 2nds and two 3rds, tossing a 3rd to win with just 12 points! Not too far off the pace was top local woman sailor, Jane Moon, sailing CIAO! with two 1sts, six 2nds and a 4th (tossing the 4th) to finish with a remarkable 14 pts, not enough to overcome Mike's fast, smart crew.

The perfect sailing conditions challenged the sailors to get off the starting line in clear air, maintain position, get around the marks cleanly with good boat-handling and stay in the battle.  With racing taking place over three days, each day starting at 12 noon, the regatta was exceptionally well managed under the guidance of race officers Peta Adams and Andrew Moon along with visiting international judges Gilmour Manuel and Harry Keith.

Lying third was Marc Fischer from the USA sailing the great yacht WRECKLESS to a strong 4-1-6-3-3-7-4-3 for 31 points. Rounding out the top five was another local boat, Simon Farrington on SUNSHINE finishing 4th with 41 pts and Craig Symonette sailing CALIMA 5 from Nassau, Bahamas just getting nipped out for 4th with his record of 8-4-3-27-8-6-4 for 42 pts.

The regatta organising committee extended true Caymanian hospitality by arranging social events including a Fish Fry, Heineken and Sol specials, Mount Gay Rum cocktails, live country music & dancing with Dexter Bodden and to top it all a prize giving dinner at Guy Harvey’s. Plans are already underway for Race Cayman 2013 with visiting teams eager to return.

See results table below
 

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UK to give TCI over $7million for corruption enquiry

| 26/04/2012 | 10 Comments

henry-bellingham-mp.jpg(CNS): The FCO has given £4.5m ($7.2m) to the TCI government to cover the escalating costs of the SIPT investigation recovery programme for this financial year. Henry Bellingham said Thursday that this was extra cash in addition to the £6.6m the UK gave last year. Over the last two years the TCI interim government has spent more than $14 milliion on the corruption probe, some 4% of the islands’ budget. Speaking in the UK House of Commons today, Bellingham said that so far 13 people had been charged with corruption, conspiracy todefraud and money laundering.  Officials also stated that some 900 acres of crown land had also been recovered.

“In financial year 2010-11 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made a discretionary grant of £6.6m to reimburse the Turks and Caicos Islands Government for some of the exceptional costs of the criminal investigation, including the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team, and related civil recovery and police work,” he said.

As a result of the high cost of the corruption probe and what he called an exceptional situation, Bellingham said the foreign secretary had agreed to make a grant of £3 to reimburse the TCI government plus £745,000 contribution to the cost of setting up a suitable courtroom for the trials thath will be held as a result of the investigation.

In response to the news, TCI Governor Ric Todd said he had approached the UK about financial support for the investigation and was pleased he was able to make a successful case.

Although the UK normally expects the OT governments to fund their own criminal investigations, as was the case in the Cayman islands with operation Tempura, which cost the public purse almost $10 million, UK officials said the TCI  investigation presented a “significant funding challenge" and the UK decided to reimburse the TCI government.

Officials said that the investigation was difficult and complex, working across international borders and dealing with law enforcement and judicial authorities in a number of countries. However, the probe had resulted in some recovery of money and some 900 acres of land has also been returned to the crown.

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Cops mum on Bush probe

| 26/04/2012 | 56 Comments

banes tight lipped.jpg(CNS): The RCIPS have refused to comment on why the premier has not yet been interviewed by the police officers who are working on the various investigations surrounding him. The RCIPS issued a short statement at the weekend following revelations by the governor that the premier was the subject of more than one police enquiry, which confirmed three investigations concerning financial irregularities and a shipment of unlicensed explosives. However, it is understood that the premier has never been interviewed by the police. Last week Bush said that he was unaware of any investigation, despite what people might be saying, and at the weekend he said that he had never been notified by the police of the probes.

Although the existence of multiple investigations has now been confirmed by the police, the governor and the UK Overseas Territories minister, Bush has continued to dismiss the probes. Speaking on Cayman 27’s The Panel programme on Tuesday night, Education Minister Rolston Anglin also stated that, while the governor may have confirmed the existence of the investigations to the press, he has never mentioned the subject during the regular Cabinet briefings to the premier or other ministers.

In a statement at the weekend reacting to the revelations by the police that they were conducting three investigations — two into financial irregularities and a third in relation to an unlicensed shipment of explosives — Bush’s press secretary said that the premier had still not received formal notice of any police investigation into his affairs.  "The premier is confident that whatever these ‘so called’ allegations may be, they are baseless and that he has done nothing illegal whatsoever,” Charles Glidden said on behalf of his boss.

Although the investigation regarding the dynamite started just a few weeks ago, the police probe into the letter Bush sent to Stan Thomas asking for $350,000 in connection with land zoning of property Thomas owned along the West Bay road is more than two years old. However, no one from the RCIPS has questioned Bush about that letter.

The premier has said very little about the letter he sent to the Texan developer, which has been in the public domain for almost one year, but referred to it at one point as a "real estate bill", though he has never clarified for what service. The zoning application had already been made by the previous owner of the land when Thomas acquired the land, and it is understood that he was merely waiting for Cabinet approval on the re-zoning, (see letter here).

However, over the last 26 months since the suspicious letter came to light, Bush has not been asked by the investigating officers to give an explanation for the correspondence sent on Windsor Development letter head from Bush’s office fax machine at the Glass House. At the time he was leader of government business and minister for tourism and environment.

On Tuesday both the opposition leader and the independent member for North Side said they believed that the premier’s continuing in office may be acting as a buffer and the reason why the police have failed to speak directly with Bush or put any allegations to him.

Alden McLaughlin stated that there would be real reluctance to lay charges against a sitting premier. “The reason why he has not been interviewed is because he is the premier … there is a certain deference,” he said. “If he stood aside there would probably be a different view of the matter,” as the office was acting as a buffer, the opposition leader stated.

CNS asked the police commissioner if the premier’s position was preventing his officers from interviewing him about the issues that had given rise to the investigations but he declined to comment on any matter relating to the enquiries surrounding Bush.

See related article:

Premier-faces-3-investigations

Vote in CNS Poll: Should the premeir step down?

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