Archive for May, 2012

Early childhood changes a success, say officials

| 30/05/2012 | 0 Comments

baby genius.jpg(CNS): Over the course of the past year the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Unit has interviewed over 300 early years’ practitioners, drafted and piloted the first Cayman Islands Early Years Curriculum Framework (CIEYCF) and provided training sessions to over 200 practitioners to assist them in the implementation of the curriculum. Officials from the education ministry lauded the success of the unit’s first twelve months this week and pointed to other initiatives such as the Early Childhood Assistance Program that has helped parents in need receive financial assistance to send their young children to pre-school before starting their to primary education.

When elected to office the education minister said he would be focusing on early childhood education which resulted in the creation of the specialist unit and the development of a legislative framework for early childhood care and education.

The unit is led by senior policy advisor, Julie Madgwick who said this week that she is proud of the work accomplished so far. “The first year of operation for the Early Childhood Care and Education Unit has been a strong foundation year, laying the ground work for the years to come,” she said. “Implementing the CIEYCF and providing professional development for practitioners will ensure that the level of quality ECCE settings provide will be raised.”

Rolston Anglin said he was also extremely happy with the progress of the unit. “The early years of our children are the most important and we must ensure that our children receive the best care and education right from the beginning.  I look forward to the continued work of the ECCE Unit and building a world class Early Childhood Care and Education system in our country,” the minister added.

For more information on the ECCE Unit, please visit their webpage under the “Education” tab on the Ministry of Education’s website: www.education.gov.ky.
 

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60 year old turtle to be freed after 30 years at farm

| 30/05/2012 | 46 Comments

unnamed (241x300).jpg(CNS): The Cayman Turtle Farm has announced its intention to release one of its oldest breeders back into the ocean. The decision to release such a mature animal, the farm said, was to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations of Elizabeth II on Saturday, 2 June. The adult turtle, which weighs over 600lbs and is estimated to be sixty years old, has been part of the farm’s breeding stock for over thirty years. The mature male turtle will be fitted with a tracking tag and released into the North Sound at the former Safehaven site, after which scientists will follow his progress and assess his re-introduction in to the wild after three decades in captivity.

Dubbed "Sir Thomas Turtleton" in honour of the jubilee, he is the first turtle of this age and size to be released into the wild by the Cayman Turtle Farm. Sir Thomas will be part of the farm’s “Tag and Track” release programme, which was inaugurated earlier this year with the release of “Jerry”, the farm’s first satellite-tracked turtle.

In the tag and track programme, green sea turtles fitted with satellite transmitters are released into the ocean and monitored online.  When the animal surfaces during a transmission period, the tag sends a signal to a satellite, indicating its location.

As Sir Thomas Turtleton travels following his release, the team at the Cayman Turtle Farm will be able to use the data as signs that he has successfully survived the re-introduction to the wild, and scientists, both at the Farm and in like-minded organisations around the world, can view and assess the turtle's migration path.

It is hoped that the data from Sir Thomas Turtleton’s track may be compared with the track of younger released turtles and determine the behaviour of older turtles versus the younger turtles usually released by the Cayman Turtle Farm at between two and three years of age.

“We felt this turtle release would be a fitting celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee by the Cayman Turtle Farm as it celebrates both history and progress,” said Chief Marketing Officer Tina Trumbach. “Sir Thomas Turtleton has made a tremendous contribution to the breeding and conservation efforts at the Cayman Turtle Farm over the years, and we felt it was an opportune time to celebrate his history and release him back to his original habitat. By making his release a part of our Tag and Track release programme, we can also contribute to progress in research on mature turtles released into the wild.”

The public is invited to attend the unusual release and thereafter it Sir Thomas survives he can be followed online at seaturtle.org  or follow the Turtle Farm webpage link www.turtle.ky/current-project

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LA dissolution 300 days away

| 30/05/2012 | 25 Comments

la gov bench.JPG(CNS):  The current administration has only 300 days left to carry out its programme before the Legislative Assembly is dissolved ahead of the 2013 General Election. Although the country does not yet know whether or not it will be going to the polls under the more equitable and democratic system of one man, one vote (OMOV) in single member constituencies, it will be voting for the next government on 22 May. The governor has now approved the order for next year’s election and the Elections Office has laid out the timetable for the nationwide vote. Registered voters will, for the first time, be electing an 18 strong parliament but how those members will be elected will not be known until after July’s OMOV referendum.

If the summer ballot results in a ‘yes’ vote, which despite the odds being tipped against it by government is still a distinct possibility, the 2013 election will see all Caymanians with equal democratic power on election day going to the polls to elect one person to represent a smaller constituency. If not, it is likely that George Town voters will be able to vote for six members — one third of the country’s legislature — while those in Bodden Town and West Bay will have four votes. Electors in North Side and East End will retain their single vote and those in the Sister Islands two.

Government will need to amend the election law before next year’s poll to accommodate the increase in members of the Legislative Assembly provided for in the new constitution. The increase from the current 15 members to 18 is to allow for an extra Cabinet minister. In order to ensure a balance of power between the government executive and parliamentary members, the ministerial post triggered the need for two more non-Cabinet members of the House to maintain a democratic check on the government.

Regardless of the mode of voting in the 2013 poll, candidates who will be putting themselves up for one of the eighteen seats must declared their intentions on 19 March, a week ahead of the official nomination day on 27 March. That date, which is the day after the dissolution of the parliament, traditionally signals the start of the full-on political campaign.

Anyone who is entitled to vote in the general elections but is not already a registered voter must register before 1 January 2013 to make the electoral roll and be able to take part.

Previously, Caymanians had to be naturalized before being able to vote; however, under the new constitution that is no longer a requirement and anyone who is Caymanian or has Caymanian status can register to vote.

See election timetable below.

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Minister looks to lawyers over Brac paving report

| 30/05/2012 | 83 Comments

Acting Premier Controls the Paver.jpg(CNS): The deputy premier and the minister with responsibility for the Sister Islands has said she will not make any comment about the auditor general’s findings over the unlawful paving of private parking lots in Cayman Brac until she has spoken with lawyers. Alastair Swarbrick’s public interest audit into the paving scandal found that Juliana O’Connor-Connolly’s ministry spent more than $500,000 of public cash paving private lots during the road maintenance project in her constituency. The public auditor said the government did not have the authority to spend the money on private property as the country’s legislator had not voted for it and it was misuse of tax payers' money.

In the wake of the publication of the report, O’Connor-Connolly told Cayman27 that the ministry’s attorneys are now looking at the findings and she would not say anything until she had taken advice.

“I am going to reserve my comment because I am taking legal advice for the ministry until they can tell us what it says so I can make my comment so it won’t be at hearsay and so I have all of the information and at an appropriate time I will be addressing the country,” the deputy premier stated.

The Public Accounts Committee will be convening a meeting over the next two weeks to examine both this report as well as Swarbrick’s findings in relation to how CINICO is managing overseas health care costs.

Go to Cayman27 video

See related story and report here.

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Cubans remain on cruise ship after ocean rescue

| 30/05/2012 | 0 Comments

Disney-Fantasy-official-image-600x399 (300x295).jpgCNS): Four Cuban men drifting aboard a raft were rescued by the Disney Fantasy cruise ship Sunday as it made its way to Grand Cayman. The men did not disembark in the Cayman Islands Monday, however, and remained aboard the cruise ship when it left for the next port of call. The cruise ship is currently in Mexico and will be in the Bahamas tomorrow. The cruise line has said it is now working with the US authorities on when and where the men should leave the ship. Crew members of the Disney liner reportedly spotted the men who were signalling for help near Key West as the ship sailed from Port Canaveral down to Cayman. Once on board, the men were provided with medical attention and food.

"We are proud of our Disney Fantasy crew members, who skilfully demonstrated their training and commitment to maritime protocols around saving lives at sea," a spokesperson for the cruise line stated.

The news comes in the wake of a law suit filed against Princess Cruise Lines by Adrian Vasquez, a Panamanian fisherman who alleges the Star Princess passed by the vessel he was aboard when he and his fellow crew members signalled for help in March. The four men were aboard the Fifty Cents, which had been already drifting for 15 days. By the time the Ecuadorian Navy came to the vessel's aid 13 days later; Vasquez' three companions had died.

The ship's captain has denied being informed by passengers that a boat had been seen but the lawsuit includes testimony from two cruise ship passengers who say they saw the disabled boat and reported it to a cruise representative.

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TV company offers reward for conviction of robbers

| 29/05/2012 | 3 Comments

WestStar TV robbery Suspects cropped.jpg(CNS): Cayman’s cable company is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, charge and conviction of any of the men involved last week’s armed robbery. The first ever armed robbery of WestStar is one of ten to take place so far this year in the Cayman Islands. Three masked men armed with guns stormed the television centre and threatened staff and customers in the WestStar customer service office last Thursday afternoon (24 May). This is not the first time a local business has put up a reward for help in solving an armed robbery, but all of the crimes for which rewards were offered remain unsolved.

Police are still looking for the television robbers, who were caught on camera. Three men arrested in the wake of the daylight heist were released by police after they were eliminated from the enquiry.

WestStar TV robbery Getaway vehicle crop.jpgDetectives are still hoping that the public may be able to offer some information on the getaway car used by the armed masked men. The robbers drove off towards Eastern Avenue after the heist and a short time later police found what they are confident is the getaway car in School Road. The vehicle is a wine coloured Mitsubishi RVR displaying the license plates 101878.

Anyone with information on this crime can speak to the Drugs and Serious Crimes Task Force on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS).

See Cayman 27 video of the robbery here

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Auditor revisits Gasboy-gate

| 29/05/2012 | 77 Comments

File-photo-of-petrol-drip-005.jpg(CNS): The auditor general will be publishing an updated report next week relating to the abuse of government’s Gasboy fuel card system. Alastair Swarbrick has revisited government departments to see what recommendations have been adopted and looked at new case studies to see if better practices are now in place to avoid the risk of misuse of public funds. In the original report Dan Duguay, the previous auditor general, found that some $500,000 could have been fraudulently obtained from government's fuel station in North Sound as almost a third of the transactions reviewed were suspicious. Swarbrick will be revealing the latest findings on Tuesday 5 June, when he will officially release the report which is currently under wraps.

In the first report the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) blew the lid on the potential fraud, which was facilitated by the failure of checks and balances in the card system being used by government employees. With little or no control over the system, Duguay said it had been severely abused, causing significant loss to the government purse. The original audit revealed that a significant number of the cards issued to civil servants to gain access to fuel were being held by people who had even resigned from government.

The potential fraud and abuse of public money came to the attention of the government’s own Internal Audit Unit within the Treasury Department which had examined the five biggest users of government's fuel depot, one of which is the RCIPS. However, this report was not made public until Duguay and his team took up the issue. Duguay said that when he examined this report he found that practically every control in place to monitor usage has been circumvented or inadequately controlled.

The fuel management system used at the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services is a GASBOY card, which is issued to workers who need to fuel up public vehicles. The audit found that there were 1,600 cards in use at the time or one card for every person working in the public sector. Cards that were active were issued to people who had resigned and there were more than 100 incidences of two or more cards being issued to the same employee.

Management had lost control over who was using the cards and when, Duguay said at the time of the report. "The issue of fuel card distribution indicates a total lack of control and responsibility," Duguay said when he published the controversial report. He pointed to several red flags for that fraud, including multiple transactions on a given card in the space of one hour, as well as purchases on vehicle cards that were in excess of a vehicle's fuel capacity.

Public Works, the National Roads Authority, Environmental Health, Water Authority and the police were the biggest users, accounting for almost three quarters of the fuel consumed by government. At the time Duguay recommended that government take drastic steps to stop this potential for abuse and the current auditor general’s team has revisited these and other agencies in its update to find out what has been done.

During the Public Accounts Committee hearing that took place to examine Duguay’s report many of the witnesses representing the government departments denied the suggestion of fraud or misuse.

Police Commissioner David Baines, however, admitted that a criminal investigation was on-going regarding the abuse of the fuel cards while denying that there was significant abuse by RCIPS officers. He told thecommittee in May 2010 that detectives were following up on transactions made on one card in particular, but the police boss suggested the problem was poor management of the system and not that fuel had been obtained fraudulently.

Nevertheless, Baines conceded that he did not have enough officers to investigate the numerous transactions that were considered suspicious and no update has been supplied to the public regarding the investigation.

See original report below and be sure to check CNS next Tuesday for the auditor general’s latest findings.

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Minister remains silent on DUI charges

| 29/05/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The education minister refused to make any comment Monday regarding his arrest last week and the charges he now faces for DUI.  Rolston Anglin said that the issue was now in the court system and it would not be appropriate for him to comment on what had happened. He said that he did not believe that it would hinder his position as education minister, even though Cayman is approaching graduation season when it is customary for the minister to appear at the ceremonies and offer inspiration and leadership to the country’s young graduates when he makes his addresses to the students.

Anglin was involved in a single vehicle smash on the West Bay Road in the early hours of Wednesday 23 May, though no one was hurt when the car ran into a ditch near to the Avalon apartment complex. After being charged with Driving Under the Influence, Anglin was released on police bail.

Details of how much the minister was over the limit have not been released but the Cayman Islands already has one of the more generous legal limits in the world at 100 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, compared to 80 milligrams in the UK, the US and Jamaica, while it is 50 across the rest of Europe and in Canada.

Police have been attempting to clamp down on what they described as an endemic problem. At the end of last year, during the seasonal road safety campaign, operation Christmas Cracker, senior police officers said they were outraged at the number of people who ignore the drink-driving laws

“Forty-four people who thought that the traffic law did not apply to them are facing court in the New Year,” said Chief inspector Angelique Howell at the end of December. “The figure is deplorable and a sad indictment on the behaviour of drivers in the Cayman Islands.”

She described drunk drivers as selfish and irresponsible people who continue to put their own lives and the lives of other road users at risk.

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April brings disappointing fall in tourism arrivals

| 29/05/2012 | 0 Comments

250px-Boarding_ORIA_june_2011.jpg(CNS Business): Following more than a year of growth in air arrivals, April statistics showed a disappointing fall in the number of passengers flying into the Cayman Islands. Although the constant growth in the passenger figures for the airport was interrupted by a dip of 0.4% this January, a decline of 2.6% in April represents a more significant decline. However, 30,027 people still flew into Cayman last month which, 2011 aside, is the best April since 2004. Cruise arrivals also experienced a slight fall last month following an optimistic start to 2012 for the cruise tourism sector. April saw 145,798 passengers visit Grand Cayman this year compared to 146,829 last hear, which is the lowest arrival numbers for the month since 2002. Read more on CNS business

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Cayman rises in world rankings

| 29/05/2012 | 0 Comments

CayBah1 (235x300).jpg(CRFU): The Cayman National XV men’s team put their recent 4 point loss to Bermuda firmly behind them with a resounding 20 point win over the Bahamas on 26 May at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex at “BIG GAME 2”. Cayman took time to get their game flowing against a dogged defensive performance from the Bahamas for the first 40 minutes in front of an estimated 1500 people. A lone Morgan Hayward penalty kick was the only score separating the two teams after 40 minutes in what looked to building towards a mirror image of the Bermuda game played only the week before. Half Time Cayman 3-0 Bahamas. Photos Caroline Deegan

A converted Ben Blair drive over try from a Cayman lineout secured by Cayman lock Yohann Regnard gave Cayman some much needed breathing room to take the game to 10-0 and Cayman’s opening try started a flow of points for the local boys which featured a Vanassio Tokotokovanua try and 2 Robbie Cribb tries to earn Cayman not only a win but a much needed bonus point.

Bahamas earned a consolation try with the final play of the game when powerful no. 8 Devon Woodside crossed the line to ring in the final whistle in front of a jubilant home crowd.

CayBah2 (300x163).jpgFinal Score Cayman 27-7 Bahamas

The bonus point win over the Bahamas and the bonus point loss against Bermuda puts Cayman in a strong position going into the 9 June clash between Bahamas and Bermuda and whilst the defensively weak 2nd half performance by the Bahamas will raise doubts that the Bahamas will be successful at home against the current Caribbean champs Cayman will be cheering on Bahamas in their next venture. Should Bahamas lose to Bermuda the Cayman National XV’s Caribbean Champs and World Cup Qualification process will be over.

The win over the Bahamas sees Cayman leapfrog Barbados and Singapore in the IRB world rankings to 66 and secures Cayman’s position as the 4th highest ranked Caribbean Nation behind Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda and Guyana.

Should Bahamas beat Bermuda and the Cayman Men’s XV progress to their 2nd Caribbean Championship Final they will likely meet either Guyana or Trinidad and Tobago away on 23 June.

Photos: Top left: Phil Fourie made some great ball carries for Cayman
Middle right: The first half of the game saw lots of scrums due to handling errors

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