Archive for July 17th, 2012

TCI takes back over 1000 crown acres in settlement

| 17/07/2012 | 14 Comments

SaltCay (281x300).jpg(CNS): Following a settlement with the developer Mario Hoffmann, the TCI government has said that it has taken back around 1,506 acres at his Salt Cay Development. Although Hoffmann and his development companies have not admitted any wrongdoing or liability, Hoffman, who is a native Czech, has given up his ‘Belongership’, the TCI term for Status, and has made a contribution to the TCI government’s legal costs. According to the governor’s office, the details of the settlement remain confidential but all claims and counterclaims between the parties have now been settled.

TCI Attorney General Huw Shepheard said government was pleased the disputes were settled and that the position of Salt Cay was secured with the transfer of all the respective lands to the government. “The government will be undertaking a broad consultation as to the future of Salt Cay," he added.

Meanwhile, Hoffmann denied allegations of misconduct and corruption but said it was “convenient and expedient” to settle rather than carry on the disputes over Salt Cay. “We have maintained our innocence at all times and continue to think that our project for Salt Cay was a good one for the people of Salt Cay and the Turks and Caicos Islands," Hoffmann stated. 

“After litigating these issues for several years, in light of all mutual claims we felt it best to settle these disputes now and move forward with our other businesses,” he added.

The developer had been attempting to develop a resort on the small island since 2000 and had acquired the majority of land on Salt Cay. A UK commission of enquiry in 2009 found that the former TCI premier, Michael Misick, and his government had given Hoffmann’s company a 99-year lease on 239 acres of Crown land for $1 per acre. The TCI interim government has since been trying to get the land back via a protracted courtroom battle over allegations of corrupt transactions.

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Cayman team heads to London as major contenders

| 17/07/2012 | 33 Comments

Send Off Athletes.jpg(CNS): The team maybe one of the smallest to head to London for the 2012 Olympics but the Cayman athletes are serious contenders. The Fraser brothers, Ronald Forbes, Cydonie Mothersille and Kemar Hyman are all competitors that athletes from some of the biggest countries in the world will be watching when the contest begins next week. The athletes, who make up what some say is one of the best teams ever fielded by the Cayman Islands, are all now headed for the UK and Ireland to start training for the big event and getting ready to do Cayman proud.

This will be Shaune Fraser’s third Olympic Games and on the eve of the team’s departure for the UK based games he said it is the strongest team that the Cayman Islands have ever sent. 

“All the athletes are qualified at the Olympic ‘A’ standard for the Games, and should have good performances in their events,’ he said, adding that he and the other athletes will do their very best to make Cayman proud especially as many family members, friends and Cayman residents will be in London for the games. 

Track & Field athletes Ronald Forbes and Kemar Hyman are participating in a pre-games training camp in Surrey, England prior to the Games along with their personal coaches, while Swimmers Shaune and Brett Fraser in Dublin, Ireland to prepare with their coach and fellow university swimmers leading into the competition.

The Chef de Mission Lori Powell who is in charge of the team and here assistant attaché, Bruce Blake are expected to arrive at the Games Village this weekend and the athletes and officials will arrive there on 24 and 25 July.

The delegation includes physiotherapists Ashley Stern and Al Bartice-Smith who will attend to the needs of team which consists of swimmers Shaune and Brett Fraser, with Dr. Sook Lee Yin as their team manager and coach Anthony Nesty, Track & Field athletes Cydonie Mothersille, Ronald Forbes and Kemar Hyman, managed by Dalton Watler with Cayman National Coach Kenrick Williams as Head Coach and personal coaches Ian Weakly Joey Scott and Kenneth Harnden.

At the opening ceremony team members will wear outfits that have had considerable local contribution. The white trousers/skirts with white shirts/blouses, and a blue jacket with white piping and a green tie or bow tie were designed by young Caymanian Rory and the jackets and ties have been manufactured locally by Super Stitch Sewing and Fabric Centre with the CIOC logo applied to the jacket lapels by Island Embroidery. The outfits will be accessorized by a trilby style hat made from local thatch by Caymanian crafter Annie Joy Ebanks, while the blue canvas shoes are sponsored by CROCS shoes, and sunglasses sponsored by Oakley.

The Cayman team will come in the opening ceremony right behind Canada and Cape Verde, and just before the commercials.

The Cayman Islands pins which continue to be a huge draw for collectors at sporting events have been designed this time by Jaime Doak. Inspired by true Caymanian heritage the pins are in the shape of the Cayman turtle. There is a set of five pins, representing the five colours of the Olympic rings – blue, yellow, black, green and red. The department of tourism in London and Tortuga Rum have provided giveaways and rum cakes to be distributed in London to each of the 205 countries at the Games; along with a copy of the Cayman Team Booklet which has been produced by the CIOC through local company Tower Marketing. 

The Opening Ceremony will take place on 27 July and the participation schedule for the Cayman athletes in their events for Swimming and Track & Field is posted below.

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Mac accused of abusing office

| 17/07/2012 | 76 Comments

_DEW2501_0_0.jpg(CNS): The opposition leader has accused the premier of abusing his office and misusing public funds in relation to the UDP campaign against the government referendum. Alden McLaughlin says he has set out his concerns in a formal letter to the governor, auditor general, the Commission for Standards in Public Life and the Anti-corruption Commission. The PPM leader believes that McKeeva Bush has used his position and government resources to deliberately undermine what was originally a people’s issue and not to educate the public about voting systems. “The premier has not carried out an education campaign about voting but has launched a UDP political campaign to tell people to vote ‘no’,” McLaughlin told CNS as he pointed to numerous abuses.

He said the food and hospitality provided at the political meetings hosted by Bush in relation to the anti-referendum campaign compounded the issue at rallies where the UDP speakers have used public cash to begin their 2013 election campaign.

The opposition leader pointed out that not only is it odd that the government would embark on a campaign against its own referendum question, having hi-jacked the people’s campaign for one man, one vote, but it was wrong for the government to use public money to push specifically the ‘no’ vote without actually educating the people on the pros and cons of both sides of the debate.

The premier has both abused his office and misused public cash, McLaughlin says, because the campaign is a one-sided political push for a ‘no' vote and cannot in any way be described as an education campaign.

The UDP has admitted to using the public purse to buy full page advertisements in the local print media, the radio and the television (although not on CNS) telling registered electors to vote ‘no’. Bush said at the UDP anti-referendum rally in West Bay that it was spending around $100,000 campaigning against the referendum.

The opposition leader said that as well as mounting a full scale assault against one man, one vote, the premier has spent a lot of the time at the public meetings berating and criticising the supporters of OMOV and the opposition, as well as talking about his government’s general policies rather than the pros and cons and voting systems.

McLaughlin said the blatant misuse of government funds for political campaigning may also amount to offences against the election law.

“This is not about government using public funds to educate the electorate to help them better decide on Referendum Day but a flagrant abuse of office and public money to pursue the UDP’s own agenda, which is vehemently opposed to OMOV,” the opposition leader told CNS.

McLaughlin said that Bush and other members of the UDP were desperate to preserve the status quo because they believe they are more likely to be re-elected under the current system.

“They are not interested in what is the best electoral system for the Cayman Islands; they are interested in keeping their own seats,” McLaughlin added.  The opposition leader said that he is writing to the governor’s and auditor general’s office as well as the two commissions because he believes the issue needs to be properly investigated.

So far, government has held three public district meetings on the issue of one man, one vote and each has been heavily dominated by UDP political rhetoric. There has been very little about the actual mechanics of voting systems and comparisons between single member versus multi-member constituencies and the issue of one man, one vote against multiple notes.

The platforms have been dominated entirely by UDPmembers and no other speakers have appeared that support multi-member, multi voting systems. The MLAs and ministers have heavily criticised the individual members of the PPM and the OMOV committee rather than the actual system, accusing them all of wanting to change the system so it would be easier for them to be elected.

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Caribbean reefs in worse shape than Indo-Pacific

| 17/07/2012 | 1 Comment

dead-coral-reef.jpg(Sail-world.com): Leading marine scientists have said that Coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Great Barrier Reef, recover faster from major stresses than their Caribbean counterparts. Dr George Roff and Professor Peter Mumby from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland told the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns that coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean are naturally tougher than the Caribbean reefs. 'The main reason that Indo-Pacific reefs are more resilient is they have less seaweed than the Caribbean Sea,' Dr Roff says. 'Seaweed and corals are age-old competitors in the battle for space.

“When seaweed growth rates are lower, such as the Indo-Pacific region, the reefs recover faster from setbacks. This provides coral with a competitive advantage over seaweed, and our study suggests that these reefs would have to be heavily degraded for seaweeds to take over,” he said.

Many of the doom and gloom stories have emanated from the Caribbean, which has deteriorated rapidly in the last 30 years,' says Professor Mumby. 'We now appreciate that the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean are far more different than we thought.'

The study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE), includes survey data Indo-Pacific region and Caribbean reefs from 1965 to 2010.

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New York’s trans fat ban working out

| 17/07/2012 | 0 Comments

banned-fries.jpg(LiveScience):  Love it or hate it, the ban on trans fats in New York City restaurants appears to be having the desired effect of lowering unhealthy trans fat and saturated fat consumption there. These first results of an ongoing study conducted by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene appear in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Fattening the pot for New York City officials was the finding that the positive effects of the ban were widespread across high- and low-income neighborhoods. Although city health officials analyzed only a sliver of the amount of prepared foods served to New Yorkers daily, the study demonstrates how public health campaigns — however viewed as paternalistic and strong-armed — can improve health habits when properly designed and implemented, said Alice Lichtenstein, a nutritionist at Tufts University

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Security boss admits Olympic job in shambles

| 17/07/2012 | 1 Comment

ALeqM5iTpYd6HKFrJmuMuyqkMhaCt_cu2g (300x277).jpg(AFP): The head of private security giant G4S agreed under questioning by MPs Tuesday that the firm's failure to provide enough security guards for the Olympics was "a humiliating shambles". Chief executive Nick Buckles said he expected the company would eventually be able to supply 7,000 of the 10,000 staff it had promised. An extra 3,500 troops have already been drafted in by the British government to plug the gap. But he insisted that he would not resign over the scandal and said that G4S, one of the world's biggest security firms, would still claim its £57-million management fee for the Olympics contract.

He admitted that the firm had taken on the Olympics contract to boost its reputation rather than for profit, but agreed when the committee suggested that reputation wasnow "in tatters". Amid mounting pressure for him to quit his £830,000-a-year job, Buckles insisted he was the best person to see the contract through.

The staffing shortfall only came to his attention on July 3, Buckles said, adding: "Day by day we started to realise that the pipeline and the people we thought we were going to be able to deliver we couldn't."

He said G4S only raised it with the government on July 11 when it was sure it would not be able to fulfil the contract.

It emerged Monday that in addition to the military support at least eight police forces have had to deploy extra officers at Olympic venues across Britain — reportedly after employees of G4S failed to turn up to work.

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UK expert offers insight into Cayman budget

| 17/07/2012 | 36 Comments

math2.jpg(CNS): A UK economics expert has been offering advice to senior civil servants this month in the wake of government’s failure to produce a budget for the next financial year. According to the latest minutes from the Deputy Governor’s Office, Richard Holmwood, Economic Advisor in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spoke briefly to chief officers during a meeting on 7 July about the Cayman Islands government’s 2012/13 budget and the expectations of the FCO. The minutes show that during the meeting, public sector bosses also discussed cutting official travel in an effort to reduce operating expenditures and help government balance the books and gain UK approval.

The deputy governor’s regular meeting with public service bosses was focused heavily on the current work to pull together a government spending plan for 2012/13. According to the minutes, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson thanked members of the Expenditure Review Committee for their hard work. The committee was established to give ministers advice on cost saving measures that will allow the government to present credible and sustainable budget.

The chief officers also discussed potential cost saving initiatives, including a reduction in official travel and the use of government vehicles. The civil service bosses will be reviewing all proposed official travel and consider whether it is necessary and what benefits it will have to the organization, the minutes show. The discussion resulted in a decision on the Portfolio of the Civil Service drafting an official policy on travel.

The deputy governor also requested that the policy governing the use of government vehicles be reviewed to determine if there are any costs saving opportunities and that chief officers need to consider additional initiatives and share their suggestions with him.

As government continues to grapple with ways of reducing its operating costs, Manderson revealed that the budget for the next financial year is to be approved by early August and he indicated that all chief officers must be available for Finance Committee around this time.

Following Premier McKeeva Bush's failure to provide a budget before the end of the 2011/12 financial year for the UDP government’s final year in office for this term, he was forced to bring a motion to the Legislative Assembly asking for approval for a stop-gap emergency two month spending plan.

Bush, who is responsible for producing the budget in his role as minister of finance, was criticised widely for the considerable amount of travel he did during the lead-up to the time when the budget needed to be completed and approved by the UK.

In the end the government’s proposed spending plans for 2012/13, which was a deficit budget that included an overdraft facility and new long term borrowing, was rejected by the FCO. The UK hadmade it clear that the CIG should not engage in any new borrowing and should, by this financial year, be showing a surplus.

Because the budget was forwarded to the UK at the eleventh hour, Bush ran out of time to review the spending plans to meet with the FCO’s approval before the year end.

Government was forced to ask for an interim spending plan of $127 million, which was voted in the Legislative Assembly in the last week of June without any scrutiny by legislators.

See the minutes from the deputy governor’s latest meeting below.

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Auditor general defends his work

| 17/07/2012 | 20 Comments

swarbrick_0.jpg(CNS): The auditor general has described his office as "the watchdog of government spending” working on behalf of the people of the Cayman. In the face of the mounting criticism and insults hurled at him by the premier, Alastair Swarbrick has declined to comment directly but has stated that his office is committed to open and transparent government and would continue its work regardless without fear or favour. In an explanatory piece posted on the office’s website, Swarbrick, who has been described as a "hit-man" by Premier McKeeva Bush, spells out what the audit office does and why. Having been in office for two years, Swarbrick is now being subjected to the same type of abuse by the premier as suffered by his predecessor, Dan Duguay. 

Not only has Bush insulted Swarbrick regularly, but he has also accused him of “bureaucratic harassment" and preventing government from doing its job.

In his piece explaining his role, however, Swarbrick denies getting involved in the political process.

“We are politically neutral and therefore do not comment on government policy,” Swarbrick states. “The only time we discuss the role of politicians is when they cross the line into the implementation and administration of policy, which is the role of civil and public servants as mandated under the Public Management and Finance Law and the Public Service Management Law."

The mandate of the Office of the Auditor General is to report on whether government has used public money properly, economically, efficiently and effectively, and to support the Legislative Assembly in its role of holding government managers to account for their use of public money.

Stressing the independence of his office, Swarbrick states that the work his team undertakes is impartial and objective and based on International Auditing Standards.

“The freedom to determine the content, timing and publication ofreports is a fundamental principle of an independent audit office,” he pointed out. “It promotes transparency in the use of government resources and enables our objective findings to be made available without any political interference or manipulation.”

Pointing to the importance of ensuring the timely release of his reports, as delays can make findings obsolete and erode accountability, he said that they are all subject to a formal clearance process with the relevant officials and legal advisors to ensure factual accuracy before they are made public.

Supported by a United Nations resolution backing the independence of public audit offices around the world, Swarbrick makes it clear that he intends to continue with the work of the office and to protect its independence regardless.

For more about the auditor general and this office go to www.auditorgeneral.gov.ky

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OMOV, a layman’s point of view

| 17/07/2012 | 13 Comments

One Man One Vote (OMOV ), in my opinion, will not be the panacea that will solve all our problems.  What it will do is it will cause a slight, but very important, power shift in three areas of politics in Cayman. This shift, in all cases, will be in favor of the people, the electorate. The first of these areas is the balance of power between the politicians and the people.

In recent administrations we have seen our elected officials, once they are elected, seem to forget the people and do as they please with little or no consultation from the people. As if the attitude is, you elected me now leave me alone, if you don’t like what I do talk to me in four years. 

They seem to forget that they were elected to do our will, not their will.  With the smaller one man constituencies it will be harder for the politician to hide behind the numbers, passing responsibility back and forth. They will know who elected them and there will be no question in the minds of the voters exactly who they elected and who they need to, and can, hold accountable.  This will not be a larger power shift towards the people but a significant one.  It will be a shift that a politician who truly wants to work for the people will welcome and that the ones who are in politics for their personal gain will fight with all their might.

The second area is that of allegiance or loyalty.   We are all aware of what many call the ‘coattail effect’,   when a candidate slides into office on the coat tails of the party or stronger party candidates.  These are the politicians that generally you hear little from but they are always there voting the “party line”.  Who do you think they owe their CI$ 100,000.00 paycheck to?  Who do you think they are going to be more loyal too, the people or the party/leader with the “coat tails”?

I think we have seen over the years it is the coattails in both cases.  OMOV will help to separate these individuals from the party a bit and pressure them into answering to their electorate, thereby forcing them to be stronger representatives.  Some fear this will weaken the party system;  although that might not be a bad thing, I do not believe that will be the case. In fact it may make them stronger and in a good way. It will do this by giving us stronger leaders across the board. Not weak ‘yes’ men.  

Once again, from this aspect a politician who truly wants to work for the people will welcome this change and the ones who are in politics for their personal gain will fight it with all their might.

The final shift will be a shift in importance, a shift in the balance between the importance of the party and the country. OMOV will, over time, cause a shift in the mindset of the elected officials. Since they will be moreaccountable to the people they will look to use the party to help the country.  Now it seems they have been using the country to strengthen the party.  The country is and always should be #1, not the party. Once again from this aspect also, a politician who truly wants to work for the people will welcome this change and the ones who are in politics for their personal gain will fight it with all their might.

Many are saying all is fine, “it’s not broke, we don’t need to fix it!” (Not so many years ago in history the ruling class said that about slavery).  But if we do not make the change now it will break, and if it does it will not be easily fixed. The time is now. It has been talked about and kicked around over the years and many respected individual s over that period have endorsed it.  Today individuals and organizations from all aspects of Cayman life are supporting it. I ask you to look at who it is opposing it; have they proven to you by their leadership that their main priority is the wellbeing of the people for the Cayman Islands?

One Man One Vote will not change things overnight.  What One Man One Vote will do is to cause these slight balance shifts in the favor of the people.  This will give us a stronger government, stronger more receptive political parties, it will give us stronger representation. It will empower our representative to work on our behalf and mandate them to do just that.  It is about a slight shift of power in favor of the people.  I can only surmise that those who oppose it do not want to give up any of their power, and that by itself speaks volumes.

Agree or disagree please vote July 18th.  Let’s make sure we have a true read of the wishes of the people.

To those who agree remember:  the only thing that can defeat us is apathy. Please take the personal responsibility to be the one to push it over the top.  Make sure you vote Yes on July 18th. 

Related point of view:

Why we needed One Man, One Vote YESTERDAY
A response to “Now is Not the Time for OMOV”
by Darlin’ and Sweetheart

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Last minute push for OMOV

| 17/07/2012 | 66 Comments

ballot box hand_0.jpg(CNS): With the time for campaigning almost over, supporters of the OMOV campaign are urging people to go out and vote ‘Yes’ on Wednesday. Given the high bar the government has set in order for the 18 July referendum to carry, anyone who stays home will be indirectly voting ‘no’ even if they support one man, one vote and the principle of equality in democracy. As they make the last minute push to persuade people that apathy will be this ballot’s biggest enemy, the OMOV campaign has made arrangements in each of the electoral districts for transport to take people to the polls if they have no means of going under their own steam.

The opposition leader and head of the PPM said that, with the bar set so high by government after it hijacked the campaign, which had been led by a groundswell of grassroots support for equity in the community, people cannot be apathetic about their vote. The referendum will only carry if 50% plus one of the entire electorate vote ‘yes’, regardless of the percentage of turnout.

The greatest challenge on Wednesday will be the turn out,” said McLaughlin. “Voters ought not to be intimidated or frightened by the premier and his cohorts as they have a vested interest in preserving the current system as it has served them well and they are relying on it to secure themselves in office at the next general  election. The UDP is not interested in the best system for Cayman but the one that they believe is more likely to see them re-elected,” Alden McLaughlin told the electorate on the eve of the historic referendum.

Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA who spearheaded the original petition for a referendum on the subject to take place in November, urged everyone to go to the polls on Wednesday and make sure that they carry someone with them and vote “yes”.

“It is very, very important that people come out and vote in order for OMOV to win the day,” he said, adding that anyone who had any difficulties getting to the polls could call one of the numbers posted below to get a ride to their local polling station. “If you stay home your vote will be counted as a ‘no’," he warned. “Be part of history and be one of those 7,583 people needed to bring about democratic change.”

Miller said that throughout the campaign the supporters of one man, one vote and single member constituencies have been consistent with their message and educating voters on the reasons why they believe OMOV is more democratic and equitable.

“By comparison, the government has changed its position over and over again in relation to this critical issue as members of the front and backbench offer different ideas and opinions from day to day,” he said. “The UDP is not interested in true democracy but manipulating voters to vote straight.”

With considerably less resources at its disposal and relying entirely on private cash to fund the campaign, the OMOV team has worked on campaigning door to door and holding small meetings to explain their position. Bo Miller, one of the committee members, said the campaigners would continue Tuesday as member try to persuade a few more voters who are still unaware, unsure or undecided to vote ‘yes’ before midnight, when the election law prohibits further campaigning.

“We are still optimistic,” Bo Miller added. “And we intend to make the last push on Tuesday and take the campaign on to the streets.”

Anyone needing a ride to the polls on Wednesday 18 July can call the following numbers:

NS — Ezzard Miller 327-5757
EE — Arden McLean 916-0630
BT — Al Suckoo 916-1689
GT – Barbara Conolly 916-5419
WB – Woody DaCosta 916-2470
PPM Office — 945-8292, 945-1776, 926-4717 or 916-5419

Check CNS throughout Referendum Day on Wednesday for crucial updates on the voter turnout across the six electoral districts, which will be critical to the overall result. Once the count starts, stay close to your computer to check for the live results.

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