Archive for April, 2012

Put away your ego and step aside, Mr Bush

| 27/04/2012 | 141 Comments

The barbarians are at the gates of Cayman.  But they are inside the gates trying to keep them closed to the righteous advocates of democracy and good governance. Caymanian nationalism is the latest pawn in this game of political control and backside protection that has been going on for the last several years.  Suddenly it is un-Caymanian and unpatriotic to call for the Premier to step down because it happens to also be what England would think is right.

Some mischievous Englishman at the FCO caused the Premier to draft, sign and fax a letter to Stan Thomas demanding a payment of the balance of $350,000 for apparently accomplishing a rezoning of property on West Bay Beach. Some mischievous Englishman at the FCO set him up by having one of his associates illegally import enough explosives to take down half of George Town and he unwittingly involved himself by apparently ordering the release of the explosives, despite the serious nature of the offence involved!  And some mischievous Englishman concocted some complicated circumstances which formed the basis for some other investigation of “financial irregularities”!

So the story goes that it is some English agenda, some English conspiracy, against the Premier, all cleverly orchestrated by the FCO. Clearly the English want to have Cayman fail and become another Turks and Caicos. They want to be stuck with a bitter pill three times the size of the one they had to swallow with TCI and a liability to guarantee of $1.5 billion. And they are committed to this objective because they don’t like McKeeva Bush and simply want to get at him? I am sure Mr Bush thinks that highly of himself but I can assure you that a country dealing with their own economic problems of a double dip recession in the midst of a political and sovereign debt crisis in Europe has more important issues to focus on.

Why is it that a country of intelligent people should accept any of the nonsense described above? It is completely illogical and defies belief.  In the absence of an Arden McLean approach to immediately clear one’s name, you must blame someone else. Who better to point the finger at than the usual English boogeyman that despots of other current and former British territories have held up as a distraction to conceal their behavior and give the people someone else to direct their ire at?

Mr Bush is the subject of three separate criminal investigations, one of which involves the illegal importation of enough explosives to take down the whole of Camana Bay. And he maintains that there is no reason for him to step aside until the investigations are complete? Let me list some reasons why he must do that which any adult would comprehend:

  • Avoid or minimise the reputational harm to the country
  • Minimise or eliminate the potential that the Premier could use his office to  intimidate or pressure witnessescompromise evidence
  • Minimise or eliminate the potential that the authority of the Premier could be used to 
  • Minimise or eliminate the potential that the Premiercould intimidate the investigators
  • Minimise or remove the potential that the Premier could generally interfere with the investigation
  • Ensure that the investigation can be conducted fairly and completely
  • Demonstrate that  the Premier is not above the law in any way and is treated the same as anyone else in the eyes of the law

It is important to note that for the things under his control it is the possibility that it could happen and not just the likelihood that it would happen that is important. I am not suggesting that the Premier would necessarily do some or any of these things.

Imagine that the Commissioner of Police was the subject of these criminal investigations and not Mr Bush.  Who do you think would be out there screaming vitriol against the Commissioner and demanding that the Governor immediately remove him despite his protests of innocence? He would say it just wouldn’t be right and it is incomprehensible that he could remain in office and expect an investigation to be carried out fairly, and anyway the Commissioner is not above the law and there is no way he deserves to be treated differently than any young civil servant facing such an investigation. If that was Mr Bush, he would be right. But of course his “substance over form” approach and his value of himself is such that the rules are what he says they are and he says they don’t apply to him, and his colleagues all follow the Deputy’s lead and curtsey in agreement.

The constitution does not have a provision to cause the Premier to resign or step aside in the face of criminal investigations because it assumes that the person holding such a post will be a man amongst men, possessed of a degree of honour and capacity to immediately recognise what the appropriate course of action would be. It assumes that he would immediately step down to avoid damage to his office and his country. There is a presumed back up if that assumption should prove flawed. The other leaders of the country should surely be capable of summoning the necessary degree of honour and strength to cause the Premier to be removed either permanently or temporarily in the best interest of the country where he is too weak as a leader to do so himself.

We appear to have had one question answered and will have to wait and see whether the rest are equally weak or if they do indeed possesses the honour and strength to put aside self-interest and shoulder the interests of the Country.  

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CI premier voted VP on new regional council

| 27/04/2012 | 63 Comments

Caribbean OCT heads of delegation (300x293).jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier was elected as vice chair of the Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council (COCTC) on Thursday by regional leaders at the council in Curacao. Despite McKeeva Bush’s difficulties on the domestic front, with three police investigations currently surrounding him, his regional high level colleagues offered him their support and confidence with the election to the new regional body. The ten Caribbean leaders have agreed to establish a regional Overseas Countries and Territories Council to coordinate their relationship with the European Union.

“The formation of this council is an important step for regional territories, as it is essential for our small territories to coordinate and cooperate if we are to make real progress in our relationship with the European Union, and other supra-national organisations,” Bush stated in a release from the premier’s office. “I appreciate the confidence shown in me by my counterparts, and I look forward to the vigorous development of this council."

The aim of the council, which was established through the signing of an MOU, is to work on a joint agenda for sustainable development and a roadmap to establish a Caribbean Agenda with respect to the new Agreement of the Overseas Countries and Territories that is currently being prepared by the EU and should come into effect January 1st 2014, government officials stated.

The council, it is hoped, will help the countries ensure their needs and interests are incorporated on the European agenda.

It also provides a formal institution to work together among all Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories on areas of common interest. Through this council, knowledge and experiences will be shared and joint initiatives will be taken to ensure project funding from the EU on topics that are of joint interest, officials stated.

During the discussions the participants were said to have “embraced the concept of sustainable development" as their starting point and specific areas for cooperation, included transportation and logistics, capacity building, human capital development, waste management, climate change and renewable energy, the development of public-private-partnerships, as well as disaster management and the relationship with the EU.

On each topic specific working groups have been initiated and will present a Working Plan by 1 September. The Cayman Islands will be represented on a number of the working groups of the council, and leading on at least two. The Caribbean OCT Council will meet again on 23 September, prior to the next EU-OCT Forum.

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Fund directors’ database debated

| 27/04/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): A database of Cayman hedge fund directors and the funds for which they act was called for during a debate on corporate governance oversight at last week’s GAIM Ops Cayman conference. It was suggested that if the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority allowed for a database of directors to be available to bona fide investors, this would aid in investors’ quest for transparency and accountability, a suggestion that CIMA’s Head of Investment and Securities said the authority was already looking at. Cayman directors and representatives for investors went head to head during a panel discussion at the conference, with investors airing their concerns that they had not properly spelt out their expectations of directors, while directors in turn agreed that investors’ expectations were not sufficiently clear. Read more on CNS Business

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89% say Bush should go

| 27/04/2012 | 138 Comments

Mckeeva 1.jpg(CNS): More than 850 CNS readers voted in this week’s online poll and 89 per cent of them say the premier should step down in light of the revelations that he is the subject of three police investigations. From the 857 votes polled by Friday morning, 765 people said McKeeva Bush should step aside while only 92 felt he should stay in office. On Saturday the RCIPS revealed that the premier was not just under investigation regarding a letter sent by him in connection with a land deal in 2004 involving Texan developer Stan Thomas but for two other issues as well, including an illegal shipment of explosives.

More than 550 comments have been posted on the Cayman News Service website and on CNS Business over the last week on the issue,since the first revelation on Friday evening that Bush was the subject of more than one criminal investigation.

Most of those comments have pointed to the damage that Bush continues to do to Cayman while remaining in office. There has been some support from a few CNS ‘bloggers’ who have agreed with the premier’s often quoted claim that his “heart is pure and his hands are clean” and this is a conspiracy. However, the majority of commenters on the site are calling for the premier to resign.

Bush, however, is refusing to resign or temporarily step aside while the investigations are resolved, despite the pressure, and at least two of his ministers have publicly stated they are supporting him in that decision.

The opposition members have filed a 'no confidence' motion in the Legislative Assembly, and they are asking the speaker to place it at the top of the agenda when legislators meet again next month. At this stage, however, it appears that all of the UDP members will be supporting Bush and the motion will be defeated.

Although the premier, who is also the finance minister, has not been arrested or even questioned by the police in connection with the three probes, a spokesperson for the RCIPS said that two of the enquiries relate to financial regularities. The third investigation concerns an unlicensed shipment of dynamite, which arrived in Cayman a few weeks ago and was subsequently seized by the authorities.

The probe into the illegal explosives shipment may be very recent but one of the investigations relating tothe financial irregularities began more than two years ago.

A letter sent by Bush on Windsor Development headed paper, a real estate company of which he is a director, was found in a civil case file in which the then leader of government business was asking Stan Thomas for $350,000. The letter referred to the clearance of zoning changes by Cabinet but did not explain what the significant payment was for.

Since the letter came into the public domain Bush has referred to it on one occasion as a “real estate bill” but has never clarified for what service the fee related to or explained the content of the correspondence, which was faxed from his office at the Glass House in October 2004.

The police have given no further details into the second enquiry regarding financial irregularities or when that investigation was opened or how it was triggered. Police have refused to comment further on the investigations or why Bush has not yet been interviewed by the investigating officers.

In the wake of revelations last week  that there are three live police probes, Bush has stated through his press secretary that he has had no formal notice of any investigations and the allegations are “baseless” as he has done nothing wrong. He has suggested that they are part of a Foreign Office Conspiracy against him.

Bush accused the former attorney general, David Ballantyne, and head of the financial reporting unit, Brian Gibbs, of being part of this FCO this conspiracy designed to discredit him and destabilize the Cayman Islands government. However, the governor’s office confirmed that neither Ballantyne nor Gibbs, who both resigned from office in Cayman in the wake of the Eurobank scandal in 2003, now work at the Foreign and Commonwealth office, as suggested by the premier.

See CNS poll: In light of revelations that Mckeeva Bush is at the centre of 3 police-investigations should he step down as premier?

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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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