Archive for July 30th, 2012

Gas station robber gets sentence cut on appeal

| 30/07/2012 | 5 Comments

P1010065 (252x300).jpg(CNS): Norval Barrett who was sentenced to twelve years in prison from an armed robbery at a George Town gas station has had his sentenced reduce to nine years by the Cayman Islands Court of appeal. The legal panel cut the term by three years as they said they did not think the judge had given enough weight to mitigating circumstances such as the fact that there was no violence used, it happened quickly and the robber escaped with only a small amount of money.  However, the senior judges denied Barrett’s appeal against his conviction as they did not agree that Justice Charles Quin had misdirected the jury regarding the details of an identification parade where the robber had been picked out by witnesses.

Barrett, who was an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, was jailed when a jury found him guilty of a late night gas station robbery at the ESSO station on Shedden Road in 2010. Armed with what appeared to be a hand gun he threatened to shoot the cashier in the face unless she emptied the till. The robber escaped with only $454 in cash after the stick-up which occurred around 10:30 at night.

The trial judge described the crime as a serious offence and said he could find few mitigating factors as Barrett had planned the robbery, shown no remorse, threated to kill staff and undertaken his crime at night, putting staff at the gas station in extreme fear.
Wearing a dark cap and glasses to disguise his appearance when he held up the gas station, Barrett was caught on CCTV and by sheer coincidence was arrested after the investigating officer spotted and recognized him at the George Town hospital when he was visiting on an unrelated matter a few days later.

As he handed down the twelve year sentence for the robbery along with a further six years for the possession of an imitation weapon to run concurrently, Quin had stated that people contemplating committing such crimes must understand that if they are apprehended and convicted they will receive lengthy terms of imprisonment.

The court of appeal however, decided that the term was too lengthy and set aside the sentenced and imposed one of nineyears. The three judges did not however touch the six years Barrett received for possession of an imitation firearm.

Nor did the judgesentertain the appeal against the conviction. Although they acknowledged that the identification parade had not followed the police rules for such procedures as Barrett had accepted the ID parade as being fair and was with his lawyer when it happened they didn't accept that the judge had misdirected the jury when he spoke to them about the ID by the two witnesses at the gas station.

The appeal court found that Justice Quin had pointed out to the jury not that the ID was done correctly but that Barrett had not questioned the process either at the time or during trial and the grounds were not sufficient to overturn the conviction.

 

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Lone dolphin still swimming in Cayman waters

| 30/07/2012 | 3 Comments

Dolphin_FulvioBonati (249x300).jpg(CNS): A bottlenose dolphin which appeared in Cayman waters several weeks ago is still in the area and the Department of Environment is re-issuing its warning about the dangers the dolphin poses and is telling people not to swim with the young male. The dolphin continues to approach boats in the North Sound, swimming back and forth within small areas for hours or days and rubbing against moorings and anchor chains. While it may be a rare privilege in the Cayman Islands forpeople to observe dolphins in the wild lone males can be unpredictable.

"People who have approached the dolphin have reported "jaw-clapping", which is the dolphin rapidly snapping its mouth open and shut,”  said DOE Research Officer Janice Blumenthal. “Dolphins use behaviours such as jaw-clapping to communicate dominance among members of the pod. In interactions with swimmers, this can convey agitation and aggression and is a clear warning sign."

The reasons why some dolphins become solitary are not well known. While some lone dolphins have become famous for their friendly behaviour, international marine mammal experts have many concerns for the safety of lone dolphins and people when interactions occur. The dolphins sometimes display aggressive and sexual behaviours directed toward swimmers who approach or harass them, leading to serious injuries and even death. In addition, veterinary experts are concerned about the potential for transfer of diseases from dolphins to humans and vice versa.

For lone dolphins, habituation to people often leads to changes in behaviour, infections and injuries such as propeller strikes from inhabiting areas of high human activity.

In Grand Cayman, reports have been received for several years of a solitary dolphin resident in the North Sound. It is not known whether the animal currently being seen is the same long-term resident dolphin. However, given its smaller size when first sighted, DOE believes it might be a young animal which was separated from its pod.

To avoid altering its natural behaviour, DOE asks members of the public who see the dolphin to watch it from a distance, not approach too closely, and not attempt to feed the animal. In order to gather information on the behaviour of the animal, sightings should be reported to DOE by phone (949-8469) or email DoE@gov.ky.

 

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Counterfeit Cayman cash continues to circulate

| 30/07/2012 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Officials from the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) are urging the public to watch out for forged currency notes which continue to surface in the community. The Financial Crime Unit said the notes currently in circulation are mainly CI$50, from the C Series but the CI$25 from the new D Series have also recently surfaced. Residents and business owners are asked to follow the proper procedures for reporting suspicious notes to call the police on receipt of the forged cash and not to rely on counterfeit detection pens but to consider all of the various security measures.

“If you receive a forged note, or suspect one to be forged, we ask that you observe and note the appearance of the person passing the note, as well as that of any companions,” said Detective Inspector Ian Lavine from FCU. “Do not return the note to the passer. Instead, tag the note with a copy of the transaction receipt and call the police. If you have forged report forms issued by the FCU, obtain as much information as possible from the person passing the note and write it on the form.”

The FCU urges business ownersnot to rely on the counterfeit detection pen for Cayman Islands banknotes. A discreet way to check if a note is genuine is to keep a wet sponge handy and discreetly rub the note with wet fingers. If the ink smudges then the note is a forged note.

Lavine also urged people to take into consideration other security features of genuine notes. “People should look at the notes more critically and be aware of other security features, including the turtle and letters ‘CIMA’ which appear as watermarks. The current forged notes in circulation do not have the metallic strip which makes the notes appear genuine, further reinforcing a thorough review of suspicious notes.”

The public are being warned not to try and apprehend those who are trying to present the forged cash but by following the advised procedure the FCU will have the best chance at catching these criminals.

CIMA confirmed that it cannot compensate people who come in to possession of forged notes emphasizing the need for people to be vigilant when handling money.
 

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Cuts could be illegal says CS

| 30/07/2012 | 111 Comments

bigstock_Torn_Contract_349847.jpg(CNS): The  Cayman Islands Civil Service Association has hit out at the government’s plans to cut its benefits and has warned of the wider implications to the economy, saying that essentially cutting public sector pay will not help the current situation. CICSA President James Watler indicated that his members had not been consulted in connection with last week's announcement that government workers would have to contribute to their healthcare insurance and pensions. He suggested that the failure to consult with the wider civil service meant his members were “saddled with unacceptable, unworkable and unsustainable recommendations”, which may be illegal.

In a letter to the Deputy Governor’s Office, Watler pointed out that in previous budget discussions government had been advised to take legal advice over the “legality of unilaterally voiding the mutually agreed contracts of thousands of employees,” and noted that it could expose the government to serious liability if it breaches the contracts held by a significant percentage of the service.

The president also pointed to the human impact of the premier’s proposals, which, he said, “significantly outweigh any potential legal implications”, and queried if any assessment had been done about the economic impact the cuts would have on civil servants and their families.

“The Management Council cannot ignore the realities facing its members, who are already struggling against the ever increasing cost of living and for whom these proposals have already created significant uncertainty and anxiety,” Watler stated. “It is easily recognized that any reduction in purchasing power of public service employees will have an immediate and adverse impact on the economy.”

He noted that in the UK cuts to the public sector had resulted in a further contraction of its economy and pointed to the negative impact in Cayman when government rolled-back the cost of living allowance for civil servants, as people reduced their spending and the private sector bore the brunt, with falling sales in goods and services.

Watler claimed the civil service had done its part to support government during the economic crisis and was doing more with less. “For decades the hard, reliable and honest work of the public service has been the backbone of this society and our economy,” the civil servants representative stated.

“The public service has consistently throughout the current financial crisis done its part in supporting the government to meet the needs of the people. Every ministry and portfolio has added services for the public while at the same time reducing overall headcount. CICSA has in the past contributed effective revenue generating and cost saving measures to the government’s budget discussions. Public servants stand ready to do our part in finding sustainable, realistic, balanced and fair solutions,” Watler added.

There was still time to involve the civil service in the budget discussions, Watler suggested, but “unworkable proposals on civil servants’ remuneration” were not the solution.

He said the CICSA management council was willing to engage in open dialogue and asked for the release of all cost saving or revenue generation methods identified for transparent discussion to take place. He asked the deputy governor to address the membership directly and “explain the true position regarding the budget and any proposals that might affect them in order to alleviate the growing fear and uncertainty amongst public servants,” he said.

See Watler’s letter below.

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Cash take on tax will be low

| 30/07/2012 | 16 Comments

a_few_coins_in_a_mason_jar_42-18365079.jpg(CNS):  Since most work-permit holders are on very low pay and the number of significant earners on permits is small, government's hopes of collecting as much as $50 million from its proposed new tax on foreign workers’ incomes are unrealistic. The independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, said he believes the premier would be unlikely to raise even half of the targeted figure with this controversial tax. Using government's own statistics from a combination of sources, such as the National Assessment of Living Conditions, the ESO's labour reports and the latest census, more than 11,000 non-Caymanian workers earn under $2,400 per month.

It is estimated that less than 8,000 people would fall into the tax net that the premier hopes to throw around foreign workers to extract a 10% tax from their earnings. Experts have already indicated that many of these workers would develop lawful schemes to assist them in evading the proposed direct tax, especially those at the high end of the pay scale.

Miller believes that the premier would be left with less than 5,000 workers, most of them earning less than $4,000 per month, from whom to collect his tax and at most this would bring in under $24 million. Out of that government would be spending well over $1 million to collect the controversial tax as it would need an entirely new agency to assess and identify the tax payers and then enforce collection, making the tax entirely pointless.

The premier has stated that this so-called "community enhancement fee" is the “softest option” compared to other tax proposals, including valuer added tax (VAT) or property tax. Although the direct tax on expatriate earnings does not target voters, it is the most difficult tax for government to collect as there is no infrastructure in place to collect payroll tax, which many experts say would be avoided, both lawfully and unlawfully.

The government has to face the fact that it is attempting to charge a type of income tax in a country awash with lawyers and accountants who specialise in creating products that lawfully enable people to avoid paying tax on the money they earn or own. Coupled with the cost of collection and enforcement, genuine lawful tax avoidance would be a difficult issue for the Cayman government to criticise, given the basis of the country’s main economic pillar.

Other taxes, such as property tax or VAT, might be easier for government to collect as there are systems in place that could facilitate collection. A tax on pay would require the introduction of new infrastructure, not just in the public sector but in the local business community as well, as employers will be charged with taking the 10% from their employees and then passing it on to the Treasury.

Miller has said that government could collect around $25 million far more easily by taking 2 cents on the spread charge for $CI to $US exchanges without putting in any systems and certainly without causing so much controversy and challenging the entire economic structure of the country.

The premier has not yet confirmed the suggested estimate of around $50 million for this new tax proposal nor has he given any details on how government would collect the cash. As the purpose of the revenue is to help balance the 2012/13 budget, government will need to move quickly to begin collecting the money but with no process in place it could be many months before it begins to see any cash.

Furthermore, there are indications from the governor’s and deputy governor’s office that the budget and the so called "community enhancement fee" are far from settled.

Questions have also been raised about the discriminatory nature of the taxation posed by the premier, and while the constitution may provide for it, the UK may not be willing to support this approach.

A public meeting planned by the premier at Mary Miller Hall in George Town Monday evening at 7pm has now been postponed. The premeir will now be meeting with the public in West Bay on Wednesday evening.

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Cops net dozens in road safety crackdown

| 30/07/2012 | 28 Comments

tint and obsured number plate 2 (265x300).jpg(CNS): Following the first weekend of the RCIPS crackdown on rogue drivers and its promotion of road safety, a police spokesperson said dozens of offences were uncovered at the various roadblocks set up across the Cayman Islands. From drinking and driving to illegal tints, as well as people driving while disqualified, police found many drivers who were breaking the law. Although officers were using their discretion this weekend and in some cases merely warned drivers they were on the wrong side of the law, from now on the RCIPS is operating a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for offences detected and all drivers in breach of traffic rules will be ticketed or arrested.

“On Friday we issued a warning to the public that we would be carrying out this crackdown over the next two weeks,” said Superintendent Adrian Seales, RCIPS Operations. “This weekend we have used an element of discretion in relation to some traffic matters and our message to the motoring public was that if their vehicles were faulty, illegal or unlicensed that they should rectify the situation immediately.

“As of today we will prosecute any and all traffic offences. For example, this weekend people have been given the opportunity to remove illegal tint or be ticketed. From today that option will not be available.”

Police launched the two week campaign on Friday morning with a major road block at Linford Pearson Highway, which caused traffic tailbacks as all drivers were diverted through the block. The goal, according to officers and representatives from the vehicle licensing department, is to improve road safety and fight crime by ensuring registration plates are not obscured and window tints do not exceed the legal limit.

Officials from licensing and police estimate that more than a quarter of all drivers are breaking the law in some way by not having a licence, registration insurance or a road worthiness certificate for their cars.

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Appeal court to hear crown on Anglin’s acquittal

| 30/07/2012 | 0 Comments

devon.JPG(CNS): The crown will present its case in November for the retrial of Devon Anglin for the murder of 4-year-old Jeremiah Barnes, following the appeal court's decision that the question of jurisdiction should still be argued alongside the merits of the appeal at their next session. The narrow point of whether or not the the appeal court had the jurisdiction to hear the crown's appeal against the verdict following a judge alone trial in September last year, when Anglin was acquitted, was argued in court Monday. The legal panel queried whether the crown's case for appeal met the requirements of the law in an effort to avoid a full hearing if the appeal court turned out not to have jurisdiction.

Following arguments from Andrew Radcliffe QC on behalf of the crown and David Ryder QC on behalf of Anglin, who was found not guilty of the child's murder by Justice Howard Cooke, the appeal courtconcluded that it was not entirely obvious whether it did or did not have jurisdiction and ruled that the full appeal be heard in the next session.

During the legal arguments questions were raised over the interpretation of the new appeal court law and the ambiguity of section 28 in the 2011 amendment and whether this went as far as allowing an appeal by the crown — leading to double jeopardy — in regard with mixed issues of law and fact in the circumstances of a judge alone trial.

In a jury trial the judge's jurisdiction is confined to the points of law, while the jury is charged with assessing the facts of the case and the truth of the matter. However, without a jury the judge must also assess the facts as well as the law. As a result, the ambiguity of the new amendment has left open the question of whether or not the legislators intended to allow the crown to appeal an acquittal on almost any grounds of fact, threatening the rights of an acquitted man.

The poor drafting of the new law appeared to leave too much open to interpretation and the appeal judges ruled that the matter of jurisdiction itself should also be heard alongside the merits of the appeal. The crown claims the trial judge in the case was wrong when he did not give due consideration to significant expert analysis of the CCTV evidence and the debate now centres around whether this is an issue of law or fact.

Anglin was acquitted of being the masked gunman that opened fire on a car belonging to the Barnes family in West Bay in February 2010 at the Hell Road gas station. The crown's case is that Anglin was the masked attacker who was trying to kill his gang enemy, Andy Barnes, the father of the child who was shot in the head during the gang related shooting.

Barnes and the boy's mother, Dorlisa Ebanks, and his brother were uninjured during the incident, when several shots were fired at the car as it was about to pull out of the gas station forecourt.

Both of the child's parents gave evidence that the gunman was Anglin, which the crown said was supported by CCTV footage. The judge, however, rejected the evidence of the Barnes as inconsistent and unreliable and therefore did not give any weight to the CCTV footage and consequent analysis.

The crown claimed the judge misdirected himself when he failed to give weight to the supporting evidence because he had already rejected the Barnes' testimony. It claims that the judge had to consider the CCTV evidence to see if it gave any weight to the ID witness evidence from Jeremiah's parents before he rejected their accounts. As a result, the prosecution wants to try Anglin again in what would be another case of double jeopardy in Cayman's Grand Court.

Jose Perez was tried twice for the murder of Martin Gareau, who was killed at his Beach bay home in May 2009. Perez faced two judge alone trials in the jurisdiction's first case of double jeopardy but was acquitted on both occasions.

During the November session Anglin will also have his own appeal against his conviction for the murder of Carlos Webster in a West Bay Road nightclub heard.

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Other options to tax

| 30/07/2012 | 39 Comments

There is no need for any form of direct taxation, or any VAT or any other such measure either now or in the foreseeable future. What we as voters require, and what the UK also requires, is sustainable government spending. The most sustainable government financial system is one that limits expenditures. What is required is for government to eliminate waste, corruption and patronage. That may be hard for any politician whose core political constituency is based on these elements. 

Mr Miller made some very good suggestions Friday evening regarding both additional revenue sources and areas for possible expenditure cuts. He is to be commended. Perhaps some of our other highly paid politicians might now make equally clear suggestions for getting our finances out of the current mess, rather than just waiting their turn to board the gravy train.

Here are some areas of expenditure that I suggest can be cut. These are derived from the Government’s own June 2012 interim budget. I have merely annualized the expenses they published. See here

The government is currently subsidizing Cayman Airways to the amount of almost $2,000,000 per month. (See budget items CAL 1, CAL 2, and EI 1.) Over the years some $300,000,000 has gone this way, a large part of the total debt of the Cayman Islands. As part of this subsidy the government has been subsidizing essentially free travel for a vast number of Cayman Airways staff and their families and former staff and their families and dozens, if not hundreds, of current and former political appointees and their families, over many years. That needs to end. The entire subsidy to Cayman Airways needs to end. As an older Caymanian I understand the emotional attachment to Cayman Airways, but cutting the subsidy to Cayman Airways would eliminate half of the government’s projected deficit. It has to happen.

The government is also subsidizing the Turtle Farm to the extent of approximately $1,000,000 per month. This is what is shown by budget item EI49. That subsidy has been going on for years at a total cost of many tens of millions. I understand the emotional appeal of the Turtle Farm for Caymanians, but eliminating that annual subsidy would eliminate almost one quarter of the government’s projected deficit. It has to happen.

The premier proposes to keep the various “nation building” and other questionable funds that he controls to the tune of some $5,000,000 per year. (See budget item TP 52.) If that was eliminated another 10% of the government’s deficit would disappear.

The government also spends/wastes something like three quarters of a million dollars per year on what it calls “protocol services”. Perhaps that is where they put the bills for the personal servants, fencing, gas guzzling vehicles, personal Christmas lights, home electricity bills, etc., that are claimed (without any Constitutional basis) as “perks of the job”. See Budget Item CBO 9.

Credit card bills for luxury travel as well as “consultants” pay are buried in vague one line budget items. Double dipping by politicians, which costs the country an estimated a half million per year, is buried. The ministries controlled by the premier have a budget item (OE86) of something like $45,000 per month spent on “Compensation”, presumably to an entity outside government, with no indication of any benefit that the country receives for such an expense.

It is too easy for our politicians to say, “We really enjoy spending more and more of your money without any accountability and we don’t care how much it is going to cost you for us to get that money.” Perhaps that statement is too harsh. Perhaps it is more correct to say that the government has not even a glimmer of an understanding of what it will cost to implement new revenue measures of the type they have presented. 

Introducing any new forms of taxation, whether in the form of an income tax such as the proposed payroll tax or in the form of a VAT, will require government to greatly expand the civil service rather than shrink it. The proposed new taxes will also require government to put in place very expensive systems for collection and enforcement. Either of these tax systems will cost many millions for government and the private sector to implement. That will negate most if not all of any additional revenue and it will lead government to raise the rates of such taxes time and time again.

Sustainable government finances require prudent spending above all else. All the revenue in the world is not sufficient for a wasteful government. Forcing expats (and in a few months Caymanians as well) to subsidize government waste is not the answer. Every person and every organisation in the Cayman Islands should insist that every possible expenditure is cut to the bare minimum BEFORE we even think of raising taxes. If at the end of the day more money is required for government, then existing collection systems should be utilised to minimise the cost of obtaining revenue.

I would encourage everyone and every organisation to make yourself very clearly heard on this issue. If you do not, you will have only yourself to blame as you watch our country implode.

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The extremes of political cynicism

| 30/07/2012 | 10 Comments

The premier's latest bombshell announcement (merely one in a long line of many) of his intention to impose a payroll (income) tax on expatriate workers has quite predictably drawn the consternation and ire of so many in this community over the past few days. I would venture to guess that the anger and disillusionment is not because people do not understand that these are austere times and further belt-tightening will continue to be the order of the day.

After all, we do not live in a bubble, and we all know that countries far better funded and equipped than the Cayman Islands now find themselves on their knees financially, or else are going cap in hand for a bailout, wherever that may be found.

I would also suspect that the indignation is hardly because the expatriate community sees itself as exempt from "fees". After all, as one example, it is grappling with the burdensome doubling of work permit fees that was levied some three budget cycles ago to raise revenue.

What is particularly galling about this latest announcement from the premier is the apparent callousness with which this proposed income tax has been considered and thrown out to the public.

According to the premier's statement this past Wednesday, "Government had a choice. We could have introduced income tax, property tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) or something softer such as the community enhancement fee … Government has opted to introduce a community enhancement fee that is linked to the remuneration level received by work-permit holders in the Cayman Islands."

Well, first of all, to refer to a tax on people's income as a "community enhancement fee" is nothing but a cynical ploy. It is a tax, plain and simple, and no one, particularly those who will be directly affected by it, is fooled by the premier's nomenclature. It is what it is — income tax.

Politicians do what they have to do to secure their voting blocs and to guarantee their return to power in the next election. So they avoid those things that would upset that particular agenda. Or they actively court the people important to their pursuit of power.

The expatriate community has no vote. Therefore it merits none of these considerations. It doesn't even merit consultation, discussion or prior notice of a drastic measure that will directly affect its business. We now know from organisations such as Cayman Finance, that they were learning of the proposed tax the same time as the rest of us. This is clearly not a government concerned about discussion and consultation with some of the prime economic stakeholders — people and organisations who directly contribute to the main revenue streams of this country.

Just exactly how this proposed tax will "enhance the community" is anybody's guess, especially when by the very nature of the announcement, it is doing anything but. What's really happening is that this so-called community enhancement fee is already serving to further divide the community. There goes even the verypretence of social harmony.

Some expatriates, commenting elsewhere on this website and in other fora, have indicated that they are withdrawing plans for further investment in the community, such as buying property, as a result of Wednesday's announcement. There goes new investment and business growth, at least to some degree.

The international media has already picked up this story and it's becoming a source of ridicule for the Cayman Islands. There goes reputation and standing and a concomitant erosion of the ability to attract investors and employees.

It remains to be seen whether this tax will in fact be implemented. And if it is, whether it will generate the expected revenues to fill a gap in the budget — because that's all it is designed to do. Or whether the bloated bureaucracy and increased costs necessary for its implementation will be worth it in the long run.

To the premier and his government, the new tax is "something softer" than any of the other revenue measures they supposedly contemplated. That's because they are not accountable to the people on whom they are laying this burden.  The selective and punitive nature of this tax is not just economic fallacy. It is political cynicism at its most egregious.

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Thousands plan to demo over Mac’s ex-pat tax

| 30/07/2012 | 38 Comments

imgres_3.jpg(CNS): Updated with cancelation of public meeting — With the community already subject to massive amounts of fees and duties, the proposal by the premier to introduce a discriminatory income tax on work-permit holders has seen both Caymanains and expatriates unite against the move. From the CNS blog pages to a new Facebook group, the internet and social media is buzzing with opposition to the move from every corner of the Cayman community. According to a new Facebook page, some 6000 people have indicated they will be going to, or are supporting, a peaceful demonstration planned for this evening at the Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay.

Caymanians and Expats United Against Taxation was set up by work permit holder Nick Pitman as a reaction to what he called the latest “ignorant and discriminatory policy from the current administration” which he said was vote hunting and now has close to 10,000 members.

Pitman said it is not a PPM page or an expat page; it's a united page. “It is the Caymanian people who are suffering the most already because of the rollover policy with empty houses that need tenants increasing in number," he said.

The group has organised a demonstration at the location where the premier is holding a meeting about his proposed 10% income tax on work-permit holders earning $20,000 per annum and above in an effort to balance the ever-growing Cayman Islands budget.

"This is your chance to speak out against (this) crazy decision to introduce the ‘community enhancement fee’,” Pitman said. “Bring your friends, placards, banners and a nice non-aggressive attitude. Let’s show him how much we love Cayman and how we feel he is killing this beautiful place we call home, hurting the very people he claims to protect.”

A public meeting planned by the premier at Mary Miller Hall in George Town for Monday evening at 7pm has now been postponed. The premeir will now be meeting with the public in West Bay on Wednesday evening.

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