Archive for June, 2012

Brac teacher retires after 34 years at the school

| 29/06/2012 | 11 Comments

Ms Downer at graduation.jpg(CNS): Thirty-four years ago a telegramme brought Hyacinth Downer the news that she had got the job she applied for teaching on Cayman Brac. And today, having taught some 1,300 Brac students, both from the high school and the community college, lessons in accounting, typing, commerce and office practice, she is finally retiring from what she calls “the best profession”. Past students at the Cayman Brac High School (now the Layman E. Scott Sr High School) include Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly, Chief Officer in the education ministry Mary Rodrigues and many accountants who now work on Grand Cayman. PTA President James Tibbetts, who was a student in her first class on the Brac in 1978, called her “a ray of sunshine at the school”. 

When she applied for the post 34 years ago, Downer was teaching at Kemps Hill Secondary School in Clarendon, Jamaica, having taught in her native country for two years as a trainee teacher and four years as a trained teacher. She was interviewed for the teaching post on the Brac in April 1978 by Linford Pierson, who was then Principal Secretary for the education ministry, and Chief Education Officer Islay Connolly.

“That same week the teachers went on strike in Jamaica, so that really worked out well for me,” she joked. The interview went really well, she said, and at the end of it the CEO indicated that she had the job because there were few trained teachers in those subjects at that time. However, in May she received that all-important telegramme to confirm the posting.

“I have really enjoyed my time here on Cayman Brac,” she told the PTA at a farewell party in her honour. I always tell my students that teaching is the best profession. I have been teaching for 42 years and I still love it.”

Photo by James Tibbetts: Vice Principal Hyacinth Downer in pink with (L-R) Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues, Vice Principal Pedro Lazzari and Principal Adrian Jones at the LSHS graduation.

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UCCI to host Cayman’s first science conference

| 29/06/2012 | 0 Comments

science_mysteries_01_0111-md.jpg(CNS): The University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) will be hosting the first ever Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Conference later his year. Dubbed STEM Carib 2012 the debut event in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus, Caribbean Institute of Astronomy (CARINA), the Cayman Islands Ministry of Education, Training & Employment and the Cayman Islands Astronomical  Society (CIAS), is set for 17-19 October at the UCCI Campus. “We believe that the challenges of the 21st century are those that can be solved by science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said UCCI President Roy Bodden.

“There is a need for renewed focus on these subject areas as a way into the future,” he added.

The first of its kind STEM will engage educators, students and professionals in a meaningful learning environment about current trends in science,technology, engineering and mathematics. The event will also serve as a venue for experts to share insights and knowledge in the hope of making advances in the country and the region.
Planning Committee member Dr. Bill Hrudey said it was an exciting event to look forward to.

“Following the establishment of an observatory and a successful teachers’ astronomy workshop in the first quarter of 2012, we are now ready to embark on this new project towards numerous other scientific disciplines. STEM Carib 2012 is one that will be of interest to local and regional academic communities, students of all ages, professionals in related industries, hobbyists as well as the general public,” he said.

A line-up of local and international speakers, headed by renowned astronomer and physicist Dr Shirin Haque, Head of Physics at UWI St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, will be attending the event. Apart from giving the keynote presentation and leading a plenary session, Dr. Haque has also agreed to extend her time to include sessions with primary and high school students all over Grand Cayman.

“It is hoped that with the success of the conference, STEM Carib can become a landmark event here in Cayman, rendering our islands as a major science centre in the Caribbean,” said Dr. Hrudey.

To find out how you can support STEM Carib 2012 or to take advantage of the discounted early registration rates, please email or call 623-0561. For updates and other information about the conference, please like their page on Facebook:!/StemCarib2012.

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Cops arrest man in bank heist

| 29/06/2012 | 181 Comments

CNB robbery.jpg(CNS): Updated  Friday 6pm –  Police have arrested a 29 year old man in connection with Thursday morning's bank heist at the Buckinham Square branch of Cayman National snd have also recovered a quantity of cash. Following a police operation in West Bay yesterday evening one man was arrested on suspicion of robbery and remains in custody while police follow a positive line of enquiry.  The three armed, masked robbers who held up the bank had collided with an armoured cash van as they tried  to make their escape in a white Toyota Windom getaway car. The crash blocked their exit from the car park so they fled on foot towards the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, dropping some of the cash as they made their escape.

The suspects were then seen to enter a red Chevrolet Equinox, which drove along the highway towards West Bay.

The robbery took place around 9:40am, when the armed men threatened staff and stole cash from the tellers.

The first suspect is described as 5’8”, wearing long jean pants, white shirt, a reflective vest and a yellow/orange hard hat. The second robber was said to be 5’11”, with a dark brown complexion and shoulder length dreadlocks.He was wearing a white or light coloured shirt, dark pants and a camouflage cap. The third man was 5’9” or  5’10”,wearing dark clothing, a yellow/orange hard hat and he spoke with a Jamaican accent.

Police say they received the call at about 9:42am following the Seven Mile Beach hold-up. On receipt of the initial call several police units were immediately deployed to the area.

“Officers, acting on the information received about the red car, set up road checks and carried out extensive searches for the vehicle. A short time after the robbery the car was recovered in the West Bay area. Officers are currently carrying out enquiries at two addresses in West Bay in connection with the ongoing enquiry," a police spokesperson stated.

“There have been some suggestions that officers took between 20 – 30 minutes to attend the scene of the bank,” the police said, but denied his was the case. “Initially the RCIPS had responded to those concerns by confirming that the first uniformed officer attended the bank 16 minutes after the initial call. However, having reviewed the incident, we can now confirm that two plain clothes officers were on scene within 8 minutes of the initial 911 call. 

“These officers attended the scene while operational staff set up road blocks and undertook other operational duties relating to the incident.”

This robbery is the latest in a string of armed heists in the last few months. The last bank to be robbed was the downtown George Town branch of Scotia Bank, which was held up on Thursday 3 May at around 11:45am, when three men, two armed with guns, entered the bank and demanded cash. Four men, have been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery in relation to that crime.

Christopher Julian Myles (aka Frank White), Kevin Curtis Bowen and James McLean, appeared in court Thursday 21 June following the appearance of a 25-year-old man who appeared in court on Tuesday 19 June charged with being an accessory after the fact all four are currently in custody.

Anyone who has any information regarding this latest robbery should contact George Town police station on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS).

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Officials aim to create culture of work place safety

| 29/06/2012 | 0 Comments

Inspection (217x300).jpg(CNS): Officials from Cayman’s new labour unit, in conjunction with other agencies, conducted a series of random inspections of building sites on Grand Cayman recently and say they intend to do the same thing on the Sister Islands shortly. Construction sites are regularly inspected, officials said, to ensure that employees and employers are complying with the law and keeping sites safe. Aware of the many risks people face on worksites, under the Labour Law the department can inspect them at any time from ground breaking through to completion. Officials said they want to promote a culture of work environment safety across the islands.

“These types of proactive inspections by the department are simply good business sense and ‘preventative maintenance of human capital’ by contractors and developers,” said Director of Labour and Pensions Mario Ebanks “If we can inspire the construction industry and large contractors and developers to embrace robust safety practices and procedures, and sensibly extend those requirements to their sub-contractors, we will have safer and more productive work places.”

He noted that his unit is reaching out to the Cayman Contractors Association, as well as larger general contractors, to sensitize them to, and assist with, the requirements of the Labour Law and promote best practice.

The safety and security of the work site and the employees are of prime importance to all concerned, officials stated, as negligent work habits can result in injuries, loss of work time, heavy claims on health insurance and in extreme cases fatalities. Inspections cover specific safety issues found in the work environment, such as dangers from fire, electricity, and excavations.

Senior Labour Officer Gene Hydes, an OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) Certified Trainer who conducts many site inspections said construction sites have to meet a safety code in order to continue projects. “Weekly inspections bring cohesiveness between the department and the construction companies,” he explained.
“We attend some of the safety meetings held by the contractors to ensure that every standard is being enforced.”

For all work sites in the Cayman Islands, contractors are required to appoint a Site Safety Officer. The Safety Officer may perform that role full-time or in addition to other duties. The contractor may designate him- or herself as a Site Safety Officer. 

To be a Site or Safety Officer, one has to complete a thirty-hour Occupational Safety and Health course offered by the Department of Labour or endorsed by the Ministry.

A person who has not completed the course may be appointed to the position as long as they have some knowledge about occupational safety and health; and/or is expected to complete the course as soon as a vacancy is available.

Businesses seeking information or training on safety and occupational health standards should speak to Gene Hydes at the Department of Labour & Pensions, located on the 2nd floor of Mid Town Plaza on Elgin Avenue. The department is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday; telephone: 945-8960, fax: 945-8961, confidential hotline for labour and pension complaints: 945-3073.

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Mac insists CHEC to do port

| 29/06/2012 | 168 Comments

(CNS): Regardless of the issues and controversy surrounding the decision to keep negotiating with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the development of cruise berthing facilities in George Town, the premier says it will be the company that partners with government to do the project. McKeeva Bush was adamant on Thursday that the development will go ahead with the Chinese partner and no one will stop it. Bush said he was determined to get value for money for the Cayman Islands with this project and not follow “some UN ideal” regarding procurement. He described Chinese money as the cheapest and CHEC as the best partner for the job.  “I am not going to back down,” he said. “They will not stop it.”

Bush has been informed by the UK overseas territories minister that the FCO will not support the port project until the premier gets the process back in line with what Henry Bellingham has described as best procurement practice. However, Bush is determined to stick with the Beijing based firm, which emerged as Bush’s preferred partner following his sudden termination of talks with GLF Construction weeks ahead of the possible start of the cruise port development last April.

The firm has caused controversy across the region because of its parent company’s World Bank ban and as a result of allegations of corruption in its business dealings, as well as a plethora of other issues relating to the infrastructure projects it is involved in throughout the Caribbean, where numerous problems have arisen.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, Bush was adamant that no one would stop the partnership with CHEC and the business plan would be submitted to the CTC, the auditor general or any other regulator. The premier said he was determined to start the crucial facilities and had spoken about a November start date.

Announcing that DECCO, McAlpine and Hurlstone would be joining CHEC on the upland part of the project, Bush said there would be no “soup kitchens” and jobs would go to Caymanians. He said CHEC would also be obligated  to purchase materials on island where possible — all of which would ensure that the money stayed here.

“This is the type of investment that impacts our people the way they need it most, with jobs for those out of work, and business for companies that are struggling,” he told the Legislative Assembly.

He claimed to be the first administration to progress to a new port, though objections by the FCO might still prevent that from becoming a reality, despite Bush’s insistence.

“We are determined to get the best deal for Cayman, and to secure best value for money. We will not shirk from full examination of what we are doing, by the Central Tenders Committee, the auditor general, and any other duly empowered regulatory authority,” he said.

He said Chinese money was the cheapest and no one was going to stop the project as it would bring enormous benefits to the country.

“There will be a thousand people employed on that dock when it is in full swing and the vast majority of them will be Caymanian,” he promised as he pointed to the criticisms he was receiving for working with the Chinese firm when he said the whole world was dealing with China.

“What? So yougonna believe these donkey faced people who talk about corruption,” he asked. “They are some of the ugliest people in the world,” he added as he quoted from the bible and accused those opposing the port development of “dirty ways”.

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Prisoners learning to stay out of jail

| 29/06/2012 | 10 Comments

Table & Pews (210x300).jpg(CNS): Inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Northward are currently rearing cows, goats and tilapia and creating items as diverse as church pews, wine racks and custom engravings as part of the prison’s much needed efforts at rehabilitation. With recidivism in Cayman particularly high, the authorities are focusing on helping inmates learn skills while incarcerated to increase their chances of getting a job on release and hopefully stay away from jail. The opening of a long-anticipated vocational centre, which the inmates built, is bringing more opportunities for prisoners to enhance their employability. Michael Stephens, who coordinates the vocational pursuits, said that when the expanded facility is finished other inmates, including Category ‘B’ prisoners, will also be able to access vocational training. (Photo by Lennon Christian)

The new building is sectioned into six bays, officials from GIS said in a release. Three mechanical areas will soon offer opportunities to learn how to repair engines and perform auto-body work and professional auto painting. Other specialised classrooms will allow inmates to learn computer-repair, as well as air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance.

The use of technology and eco-friendly alternatives is also being encouraged as the new 5000 ft greenhouse is fitted with solar panels that supply the needed electricity.

“It is anticipated that by the end of this summer the vocational offerings will be in full-swing,” said Stephens. “However, participation is voluntary and dependent on the security clearance-level of the individual inmate.”

The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs and prison officials are partnering with a cross-section of local agencies to maximise these rehabilitation options. To aid the process, a new voluntary Inmate Employment Committee is being established.

Officials manage both the Northward and Fairbanks prison compounds. The administrative focus is also on using, and recruiting, prison officers who have practical and teachable skills.  A new deputy director of prisons with responsibility for rehabilitation is also being recruited but Deputy Director Daniel Greaves will remain in charge of prison operations. The new structure with two deputies will allow the director to have a more functional management team, which will assist the prison in meeting its mandate for rehabilitation, an area that officials have previously admitted has been weak.
“Our goal is to have all activities lead to recognised certification or educational diplomas. The subjects are as diverse as electrical and plumbing work, health and safety, small engine repairs,” said Prison Director Dwight Scott. “The aim is to provide prisoners with the requisite skills that match the skill sets required by the labour market, while reinforcing and encouraging good work ethics.”

The education and employment department is also helping with a “work-readiness” certification programme for discharged prisoners to assist the men to use their new knowledge or skills to start cottage industries or small businesses or engage in meaningful work with local companies when they are released.

These efforts address only one area of rehabilitation process and there are many more. Officials have also pointed to areas that the prison cannot control, such as suitable housing for inmates when they leave, which officials say will be the next area of attention.

The rehab training is one of the measures recommended in the recent report produced by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC). It also encouraged authorities to engage in a higher level of inter-agency collaboration within government in order to maximize efficiency and to explore further opportunities for partnership with voluntary agencies and private sector companies.

A team of researchers from theHM Inspectorate of Prisons in the UK will also visit Northward later this month to survey inmates and prepare for the inspectors who will arrive in July to conduct a full prison inspection.

While there are costs associated with these developments, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson explained their importance.

“These developments are moving ahead at full-steam, with the objective of bringing the issue of incarceration and rehabilitation to the standards which have been identified – and in keeping with the expectations of the wider community,” Manderson said.

The ultimate goal, he added, is to reduce recidivism, restore families and communities, and break negative cycles that threaten to undermine the stability of local communities.
Reallocated funds from vacant posts under the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs are being used to fund the new positions.

Meanwhile, men whose lifestyles have resulted in them doing hard time can now opt to take advantage of the renewed attention and opportunities to turn their lives around, GIS officials said.

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Governor to return to LA later with Throne Speech

| 29/06/2012 | 2 Comments

Gov Taylor addresses (223x300).jpg(CNS): Following the failure of the UDP administration to deliver a full budget for the next financial year when the country’s Legislative Assembly opened on Thursday, the governor was unable to deliver a Throne Speech, but he said he would be back once negotiations over the spending plan were complete. Foregoing all of the usual pomp and circumstance for the new session of the parliament, for the first time in Cayman’s history, Governor Duncan Taylor opened the new session with a very short message.

Pointing out that the Throne Speech traditionally marks the formal start of the new parliamentary session, he said it also sets the tone for debates on the government’s legislative agenda and the social and economic priorities of the government.

"As you are all aware there are ongoing efforts and negotiations to arrive at an agreed 2012/13 budget. In the absence of a final budget it would not be possible to use this morning’s occasion to outline the government’s goals and intentions for the new parliamentary session,” Taylor told the members of the LA as they waited to debate the interim stop-gap spending plan produced in lieu of the annual budget.

“It has been agreed, therefore, that an interim budget will be presented to the House with a view to using the intervening period to finalise the substantive full year budget,” the governor added. “Once this has been achieved, I will return to deliver the Throne Speech for the parliamentary session as informed by the full budget.”

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Adaptive divers boost Cayman Brac tourism

| 29/06/2012 | 0 Comments

Alex with Arrowhead Crab.jpg(CNS Business): This week one of the two hotels on Cayman Brac will be 100% full with a single group of divers. The Dive Pirates, a non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas, teaches people with quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputees and other mobile disabilities to dive and brings them on a diving holiday to the Brac Reef Beach Resort. Last week Eels On Wheels, a group from Austin, Texas, brought 76 people including 14 wheelchairs. DoT Director Shomari Scott says the Department of Tourism is steadily increasing its support for the growing market of adaptive divers and physically challenged tourists. Read more on CNS Business

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Annual art prize goes to mixed media work

| 29/06/2012 | 0 Comments

1stPrizewinner_Rasitha Sanjeewa_GiveUpOne (259x300).jpg(NGCI): The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands and Ogier joined forces once again this year to host the annual Ogier Art Award. Now in its third year, the competition was created as part of the Ogier Corporate Giving Philosophy to support new currents in the local art scene and to provide a platform for both established and emerging local artists. This year over 75 artists submitted work in a wide variety of mediums ranging from acrylic, oil, pencil and ink through to multi-media and sculpture. The result was a highly diverse collection reflecting the variety of artwork currently being created in the Cayman Islands.

The judges tasked with the difficult job of selecting the four 2012 Ogier Art Award winners consisted of three representatives from the art community — Wray Banker, Art Pasquali and Eme Paschalides — along with three members of Ogier Arts and Culture Committee — Jody Powery-Gilbert, Joyce Judge and Jonathan Bernstein.  After four hours of discussion prizes were awarded as follows:

First Prize: Rasitha Sanjeewa for his mixed media artwork entitled ‘Give Up One’
Second Prize: Gordon Solomon for his painting ‘Back to my Roots’
Honourable Mention: Cara Stock for her ‘Fish Scales’ series

Emerging Artist Prize: Allison Hill for her painting ‘When I am not Around’
Honourable Mention: Chelsea Walton for her painting ‘Red Shank’

Photography Prize: Raymond Michael Bush for his ‘Wrong Turn’ series
Honourable Mention: Svitlana Gilyun for her triptych ‘Whispering palms’

“We are delighted by the number of local artists who submitted pieces this year and were impressed by the wide-ranging collection. The significant increase of artworks submitted each year demonstrates how much the event has become established in  Cayman'scultural calendar,”  said Ogier Managing Partner, Nick Rogers. “On behalf of Ogier and our Arts and Cultural Committee, I would like to congratulate the Award winners and to acknowledge the quality and artistic merit in each and every work.  It is a true reflection of the diverse and talented artistic spirit that resides in the Cayman Islands.”

“It has been very exciting to see the expanded scope of works on display this year and to see artists experimenting with new materials and subject matter. It bodes well for the future of our art scene,” said National Gallery Director Natalie Urquhart. “We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Ogier on this event for a third year. The National Gallery is committed to providing support and exposure for the local art community and it is through partnerships with organisations like Ogier that we hope to continue creating such opportunities for all island-based artists.”

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New policy document to shape future TCI economy

| 29/06/2012 | 2 Comments

(CNS): As controversy mounts in the Turks and Caicos Islands over the introduction of VAT, officials there have published a new Green Paper, described as the beginning a new economic development strategy for the country. The Interim Administration said the document drafted by the interim government’s finance ministry will kick off the public consultation period. “The Green Paper recognises that the TCI has real potential for economic growth,” said TCI Governor Ric Todd. “It also recognises that in order to achieve and maximise this growth, the way that things have traditionally been done here may need to change; these issues require public debate.”

Listing the advantages of TCI, from its use of English, its stability and safe friendly environment to its use of the US dollar and short flight from the American markets, he said the economy was very good in terms of tourism.

“What can we do, not only to build on this success but also to encourage the growth of other industries, agriculture or financial services, to name but two?” Todd asked ahead of the public consultation.

Facing a number of challenges since the British imposed direct rule three years ago amidst a corruption scandal involving the previous administration, the people of the islands will be electing their own government again in November. However, changes to the constitution have ensured that the Britishwill still be keeping a tight hold of the public purse strings and have recently proposed introducingVAT, which is being strongly opposed by the business community.

Todd said the economy was in much better shape than it was when the Interim Administration took over in 2009, but he said he recognises that not everyone on the islands may feel that they were benefitting from these improvements.

“The draft strategy recognises that there is probably too much bureaucracy in the TCI and that this hinders business development. Do we require so many regulations, restrictions, permits and licences? One of the advantages of VAT in that it will replace six different sets of tax legislation and reduce customs duties, making that aspect of the system easier to comprehend.”

Todd also pointed to the need to look at work permits and immigration and the need to balance the encouragement and protection of employment rights and opportunities for TC islanders with the overall growth of the economy.

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