Archive for July 6th, 2012

Teen wife admits setting fire to husband’s home

| 06/07/2012 | 8 Comments

(CNS): A nineteen-year-old George Town woman pleaded guilty to arson on Friday and admitted setting fire to her husband’s room at a house in Windsor Park last month. Shaneeke Wellington, who is also charged with endangering life, was released on bail until her sentencing hearing in August but the judge warned the young woman that she was facing serious charges and could expect a custodial sentence. The teenage wife admitted going to the room where her husband was staying in Oak Mill Street on 17 June after the couple had argued on the previous day. She set the fire by burning tissues on his bed which also caught fire.

The fire severely damaged the man’s room and also spread to other parts of the house, from which people had to be evacuated in the early hours of the morning.

The crown revealed that, on arrest, the woman, who was very upset, had admitted that she wished her husband had been in his room when she started the blaze.

The judge ordered a social enquiry report and agreed to her defence attorney’s urgings to let his client remain on bail with an electronic tag until the sentencing hearing next month.  The lawyer said this was his client’s first offence and she was admitting reckless behaviour when she set the fire but in mitigation he would make it clear that she did not intend to endanger anyone’s life.

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Routine stop yields firearm

| 06/07/2012 | 31 Comments

polcie car.jpg(CNS): Police officers who made a routine stop of a vehicle in the early hours of Friday morning in George Town recovered a handgun and bullets from a man who tried to flee. He and two other men with him in the car at the time police pulled the vehicle over are all in police custody. An RCIPS spokesperson said the incident occurred on North Sound Road, near to Welly's Cool Spot at around 1:30am. Police said the officers had cause to stop the car and as it pulled over a man alighted from the vehicle and ran off. He was chased on foot by police who subsequently recovered the firearm and an undisclosed quantity of ammunition.

All three male occupants of the car were arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. In addition, one of the men was also arrested on suspicion of being in possession of ganja.

All three remain in police custody while enquiries are on-going the police stated.
Anyone who has information about crime in the Cayman Islands is asked to call George Town CID on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS).

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Cayman Airways launches Dallas flight

| 06/07/2012 | 0 Comments

dallas launch2.jpg(CNS Business): Following the inaugural Cayman Airways Limited (CAL) flight to Panama last month, the national carrier launched its seasonal nonstop flights between Grand Cayman and Dallas on Saturday, 23 June. Cayman Airways President and CEO, Fabian Whorms, said the airline anticipates much success for Cayman tourism with this new Dallas route. “In starting this new non-stop service to Dallas, on the heels of launching Panama, we are fulfilling our mandate as a lever of national economic growth, especially in relation to supporting our tourism industry. We are also excited to offer our local residents the opportunity to experience all of what Dallas has to offer, including the fantastic shopping and tourist attractions.” Read more on CNS Business

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Candidate equality

| 06/07/2012 | 51 Comments

The push for the proposed one man, one vote (OMOV) electoral system is probably more about candidate equality than voter equality. Nothing wrong with this, but of course this is never mentioned as a motive. In my previous post on “Voter Equality” on CNS readers posted the right question but the answer was not really discussed or debated.

I had alluded to the fact that certain people were doing most of the pushing for OMOV and had concluded thatit must somehow be to their advantage to have OMOV.  One poster asked, what does the MLA forEast End and North Side have to gain by OMOV? The question was posted almost rhetorically, as if they thought these MLA’s had nothing to gain. I believe the opposite is true.

There can be no doubt by anyone who has been following politics in Cayman that both the MLA for East End and North Side would have no problem being the political leader of these Islands. Absolutely nothing wrong with that either.

The present system of voting probably makes it more difficult for independent candidates to be elected.  Just look at the numbers of independent candidates elected if you have any doubts. The present multi-member system also guarantees that candidates will be elected with a wide margin in the number of votes that each receives. The MLAs for East End and North Side get elected with a relative handful of votes. Less than 200 votes can give a candidate a seat as an MLA in these small districts. The leading candidates for George Town and West Bay, on the other hand, can easily get 3000 votes by comparison. Big difference!

What this means is that it is more difficult for the MLA for East End and North Side to rise to the top of the heap and take the reins of political power. This is clearly evident as you look at history. We have to go back to Jim Bodden to find a political leader that has not come from West Bay or George Town. Charisma and personality gave him the edge. Since formal political parties have emerged, the top vote-getters in George Town and West Bay have always been our leader/premier.

Another example is the most recent competition for the internal leadership of the PPM. The MLA for East End tried vying for this top position, however I suspect it was very difficult to get the votes needed against his George Town colleague. No real surprise there, considering the mathematics.

If we go to OMOV this should help level the playing field for candidates and will make it easier for candidates from the existing smaller districts to emerge as premier. Independent candidates may also have a better chance to get elected as an MLA and subsequently as premier in a coalition situation. No reason to be ashamed of this. 

The top position of premier is given to the person who is leader of the party/group commanding the majority of elected MLAs.  One thing is for certain, under the OMOV system, the competitiveness for leadership will be more intense, and the likelihood for changes at the top amongst colleagues from the same party, even during a political term, will be increased.  Remember the premier can remove his/her ministers at any time. 

A vote for OMOV should bring greater numerical equality for both voters and candidates. Whether it will improve the caliber of our representatives, overall good governance, create greater unity, national perspective and our quality of life remains to be seen, but I have my doubts.

I still don’t know how to vote on referendum day. HELP!

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Panama party cost $70k

| 06/07/2012 | 136 Comments

hotel-le-meridien-panama (285x300).jpg(CNS): Government spent over $70,000 on a two-day promotion in Panama at the end of May when it took some 38 delegates on an excursion to the new Cayman Airways destination. Records released by the Department of Tourism following a freedom of information request by CNS revealed that the two-day event marking the launch of the Cayman Airways direct service into Panama City cost the public purse $ 71,489.16. Officials said the trip was designed to promote the Cayman Islands as a new leisure destination to travel trade professionals and to Panama’s media. The 38 delegates included guests of the premier, the Chamber of Commerce and CITA representatives, as well as private sector tourism stakeholders.

The event took place between the 28-31 May, while civil servants back in Cayman were struggling to produce the 2012/13 budget. The premier came in for severe criticism from the opposition and the public over this and other trips he took against the backdrop of the ongoing budget crisis.

The two-day party followed the inaugural flight by CAL to the destination, which is hoped will develop into an important trade route for Cayman and produce future dividends. As this was an inaugural trip, the premier invited a contingency of people, described as “influential Caymanians” in a release from the department following the trip.

“The goal behind this action was to help enhance future package development for the route and to also help to educate the Caymanian public as to the potential benefits of such areas as cost-effective overseas medical care,” officials said.

Panama is currently being cited by government as a possible alternative to reduce Cayman's overseas medical care. The country is also believed to offer trade and tourism expansion projects, as air traffic routed through the country to and from Latin America is set to increase; and the Panama Canal is projected to double capacity starting in 2014.

Meanwhile, the director of tourism said the Cayman party was necessary to help promote the Cayman brand as it is little known in Panama.

“As The Cayman Islands has very little brand awareness in the Panamanian market, it is important that the rich sounds, colours and excitement are incorporated into marketing and promotional activities such as this, to help paint a vibrant image on a previously blank canvass and give a sweet taste of what we in the Cayman Islands have to offer,” Shomari Scott he said in the release.

He added that between 60 and 75 of the top travel agents attended and some of the leading TV programmes in Panama were on hand to cover the information session.

“We were able to excite, educate about the destination and introduce the wholesaler that will be distributing the Cayman Islands product to the travel agents, and this is ultimately the channel that will influence and facilitate travellers from this region,” Scott said of the $70k promotional investment.

The bill for the Panama party included $14,717.36 for accommodation at Le Meridien Hotel, Panama City, for delegates and $19,000 in airfares and around $25,000 for the main Cayman Nights event.

See details in released records below. The DoT has redacted the names of the delegates under the provisions of section 23 of the Freedom of Information Law, which deals with personal information .

Related articles:

CAL launches Dallas flight

DoT targets Panamanians

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Filling GAB could save $2M

| 06/07/2012 | 29 Comments

goab34.jpg(CNS): One of many shortcomings identified in the latest report by the auditor general, the failure to establish proper business needs on major projects before embarking on them has been extremely costly. The new government administration building is, according to Alastair Swarbrick’s latest findings, only 60% occupied but could be saving the public purse some CI$2 million a year in leases if government entities actually move into it. Although government entities such as CIMA and MACI had signed on to move into the building and had offices designed for them, the failure to establish a proper process before the project started to assess who really should, or needed to, utilize the building has resulted in wasted space.

Despite having 100s of square feet unoccupied in the building, government departments and agencies continue to lease accommodation all over the George Town area. Swarbrick stated that if the new energy efficient building was properly utilized there could be significant savings to the public purse as he urged government to use the building.

Speaking at a press briefing Thursday about his latest report, "Management of Major Capital Projects", he said someone needed to take the lead and fill the building.

“Government could save more than $2 million per year if it used the space effectively and reduced the existing commercial leases," he said. “It is a highly efficient building.”

At the end of the audit, the General Administration Building housed about 580 staff. The problems stemmed from the failure at the outset to properly define government’s needs in a strategic business case and no one officially signed for the responsibility at the beginning to see which government departments would move in, Swarbrick explained.

The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands (MACI) had both signed on to move to the new building but a decision was made later that they would not do so after all. Swarbrick said it was unclear why the decision was made so much later but there was no coordination at the beginning with the various groups involved in the development of the government building. Throughout the life of the project, which entities would and which would not move in constantly changed.

The auditor stated that the building should have been designed based on a proper business plan that properly defined and set out the exact needs of government, which may have resulted in a smaller building and some savings.

“There was a lack of clarity over the responsibility for identifying which government agencies were to be tenants in the new building,” the report states. “We could not identify a Government ministry that had the overall responsibility for determining the Government’s accommodation policies and needs.”

They pointed out that the relevant ministry and its steering committee did not have the mandate to determine which agencies would eventually be housed in the building and that was left to the project management team.

“Numerous lists of potential tenants were prepared, considered by the steering committee, and then presented for approval by Cabinet. However, for various reasons, some of which are not clear to us, the lists continued to change from the date of Cabinet approval to proceed with the project, throughout the development of the request for proposals, after the construction began, and even after construction was substantially complete,” the report says.

The constant changes pushed up the cost of the building and led to delays in the project leaving the building under-utilized.

“While Cabinet was warned about the impact that changes could have in terms of additional costs and project delays, the changes continued nonetheless. The ineffectiveness of the reporting relationships to ensure that there was better control over project governance was clearly documented in the files we examined. These documents reflected a situation where some agencies refused to relocate to the GAB and others made unreasonable demands for changes to the design even into the construction period."

Swarbrick noted, however, that the foresight of the project manager's proposal that the building be designed for flexible use ensured that the extent of that cost has been minimized.

Although there are problems over government’s use of the GAB, Swarbrick said that the CTC process was followed properly and the project was well managed and could be used as a standard for future projects.

“Government assigned a well-qualified and experienced project manager … who employed industry accepted project management practices that should be considered as standard practice for the management of all future major capital projects,” he said, adding that it was the manager who in the end saved money for the public purse by overcoming the significant challenges and changes associated with the project.

By contrast, the report is considerably more damning regarding the management of the three high school projects and points to serious losses to the public purse.

Check back to CNS next week for more on Swarbrick's latest revelations.

See full report below.

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