Archive for August 16th, 2012

Concerns mount at Safehaven

| 16/08/2012 | 71 Comments

(CNS):  Sea captains facing eviction from the Port Authority marina at Safehaven have been given a reprieve in the face of concerns that the replacement marina, to be built by property developer Michael Ryan, will not be suitable for their needs. The men say that according to the plans the turning area is going to be too small for some of the operators to manoeuvre their boats, but they also have numerous other issues with the planned project. The captains not only fear that the marina will never materialize, they have also queried the legality of the entire deal now that at least one of the companies originally involved in the land swap with the port is in the hands of receivers.

The previous PPM administration had entered into a deal to swap crown land at Safehaven for Ryan’s proposed mixed use resort known as Dragon Bay in exchange for the development of a new modern public marina in the area for local tour operators. The original contract for the swap the boat captains believe was between Fujigmo, Cesar Hotelco (Cayman) Ltd and the Port Authority.

Since then the development has made little progress and following Ryan’s loss of control of the Ritz-Carlton and the companies involved in that hotel’s development, the future of the entire project, which included the new marina, has been in question. But after several years of inaction in relation to Dragon Bay, Ryan recently announced his plans to begin work on the marina and posted a notice for boat owners to vacate the site.

The captains have said that they will not move as they have a number of queries and concerns relating to the redevelopment, not least the danger that it will never be completed and they will havenowhere to go. Since those early fears made the captains reluctant to move, further developments have made them even less keen to leave the sanctuary of the Safehaven marina, which they have been using for some 25 years.

Speaking with CNS this week, Captain Bryan Ebanks said the group of captains had written to both Michael Ryan and the Port Authority about the numerous problems and were also seeking the support of the attorney general, as they now believe there are genuine questions about the legal ownership of the land.

Ebanks thinks that the contract over the land swap between the Port Authority and Ryan’s companies is in question because Cesar is now in the hands of receivers and Fujigmo does not appear to be a registered company in the Cayman Islands.

“Our first concern is that the temporary location where the developer wishes us to move to is not suitable for turning the boats used by some of our operators, a problem that appears to relate to the new marina as well,” he said. Captain Ebanks added that this problem was going to be very difficult to resolve as the land, once owned by Ryan, which could have been dredged to expand the marina and accommodate the boats, no longer belongs to him.

With Ryan having lost control of the Ritz Carlton and the companies associated with it, in particular Cesar, Ebanks noted that the contract regarding the swap between Ryan and government must be invalid and the captains are seeking the support of the attorney general on the matter.

Although Dragon Bay Ltd appears to be a registered company of good standing here and has not been seized by the Ritz receivers, that company was not the one Ryan used to enter into the contract with the Port Authority.

Having already made enquiries to find a lawyer to help them with the legal question, Ebanks says the captains have been asked for a retainer of $20,000, which the group can’t afford. He believes, however, that because as the issue concerns crown land the attorney general and the Port Authority are the ones that should be going out to bat for the captains.

“We are appealing to the attorney general to look into this as we really believe this deal is no longer lawful,” Ebanks stated. “We also continue to be concerned that should we vacate this site and for whatever reason Ryan is unable to complete the project, we will be left without a marina and our livelihoods will be in serious jeopardy.

"We are also concerned that the Port Authority, which is supposed to be our ‘guardian angel’ in regards to preserving a place for us to operate from, especially given our importance to the tourism product, is not properly defending our interests at present,” he added on behalf of the group of concerned captains.

CNS submitted questions to the Port Authority and the board on 2 August in regard to the confusion that appears to surround what is happening at Safehaven but so far we have not received a response and efforts to contact Michael Ryan remain unsuccessful.

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Explosives in legal question

| 16/08/2012 | 0 Comments

roadrunner.jpg(CNS): Legal questions about whether a shipment of material imported by Suresh Prasad, the MD of Midland Acres Ltd, actually is explosive, as defined in law, were raised by his defence attorney Nick Dixey in court Thursday. Prasad is charged with importing explosives into the Cayman Islands without the proper permits, but although his attorney has acknowledged that the shipment contained blasting caps, the chemicals, according to the suppliers, are not explosive  material and need further processing to make them so. With the explosive nature of the cargo in question, the case which was being heard in Summary Court was adjourned until Friday for further discussions to take place.

The crown has already engaged its own expert, prosecuting counsel Candia James told the court, and explained that she was expecting his report by Tuesday on whether or not the materials could be definded as explosives. In the meantime she agreed to continue discussions with the defence expert and the suppliers of the material and agreed to the adjournment until Friday.

The law describes explosives as substances and combinations of substances which are chemically unstable or can be rendered unstable if heated up. It also describes materials that could detonate, or if they were to disintegrate they would have a destructive effect.

Although Prasad claims the material he imported does not fit into the legal definition, in a letter to the premier in March, he described the shipment as “blasting material”. The boss of Midland Acres had written to McKeeva Bush to have the shipment, which had been seized by the customs authorities, released.

See related story: Man charged over dynamite

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Mac hopes for UK approval

| 16/08/2012 | 97 Comments

_DSC8098-web_0.jpg(CNS): Although the UK has not yet given the Cayman government the go-ahead for the latest budget submission, the premier has called a meeting of the Legislative Assembly for Friday afternoon. McKeeva Bush, who is also the finance minister, plans to present his delayed budget statement on government spending for 2013/13 following the Throne Speech, which will be delivered by the deputy governor. However, the premier will still need to wait on the UK’s approval to pass the appropriations law, otherwise the governor will not assent to the bill. On Thursday afternoon there was still no word from the UK, which had asked on Monday evening for more cuts on the CIG’s latest budget proposal — a request the premier refused.

Members of the Business Committee met at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning and the premier confirmed that he intended to present the budget on Friday afternoon.

The delivery of government’s spending plans is already almost two months overdue after Bush was forced to bring an emergency motion to the LA in June after his government was unable to put together a budget that met with the Foreign and Commonwealth’s approval. Aside from breaking its own guidelines regarding the Public Management and Finance Law, the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility that he signed with OT minister Henry Bellingham last November requires that Cayman’s budgets have UK approval. 

In the last few months the government’s financial crisis has reached unprecedented heights with the premier going to the brink of implementing direct taxation on the earnings of ex-pat workers. That controversial  plan was averted at the eleventh hour when the private sector, and in particular the financial services industry, offered to shoulder more fee increases on directors, hedge funds and other areas as well as increases in work permit costs.

The new package of revenue raising measures was presented to the FCO at the end of last week and the UK's economic advisor responded to the CIG verbally Monday night asking for further cuts. Public spending for 2012/13 is believed to be in the region of $580 milllion, the largest ever core government spending billin the islands’ history. Bush plans on raising $650 million in revenue to cover the spending and produce a $70 million surplus — some $6 million short of the target set by the UK of $76 million.

It is understood that the UK continues to exert pressure on the CIG to cut costs further as they still have concerns about the credibility of the projected revenue. Sources say that the FCO wants to ensure that Cayman does not fall into deficit in the forthcoming financial year and instead begins to get back on the track of fiscal responsibility.

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Police seek owners of stolen items

| 16/08/2012 | 5 Comments

5576.jpg(CNS): Police at the George Town station are looking for the owners of a number of items, mostly jewelry, that have been recovered by the CID and are believed to be the spoils of burglaries and thefts that occurred between May 2011 and June 2012. The RCIPS is hoping to identify the owners, whether the thefts were reported to the police or not. Anyone with information regarding the jewelry is urged to contact DC Ian Wade at 949-4222 or 325-6566 or at ian.wade@rcips.ky. See below for pictures of all the jewelry items.

jewelry1.jpg

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Police bust Bodden Town man for growing ganja

| 16/08/2012 | 27 Comments

(CNS): A 32-year-old man has been arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Law for cultivation and possession of ganja as well as suspicion of consuming a controlled drug, following a drug bust in the Spotts-Newlands area on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the RCIPS said that officers from Bodden Town Police Station, OSU and X-Ray 1 carried out an operation in the afternoon of 14 August as part of the ongoing police operation's island wide focusing on proactively tackling criminal and traffic related offences. Acting Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks, OiC of the Eastern Districts, warned that the RCIPS was watching those involved in crime.

“We will be paying close attention to persons who commit these and other offences.  At any given day persons involved in illegal activities could get an unexpected visit from the police,” he stated.

Anyone with information about crime in the Cayman Islands is asked to contact their local police station or the RCIPS hotline on 949 7777. Alternatively people can also call CrimeStoppers at 800 (TIPS) 8477

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Panama flight cut three months after $71,000 launch

| 16/08/2012 | 0 Comments

le-meridien panama.jpg(CNS Business): The much heralded Cayman Airways direct flight to Panama will end in less than three weeks, according to the airline’s website. Booking staff said they did not know when, or if, the flight would return to the schedule next year. After government spent more than $71,000 on a two-day promotional event and party in Panama City at the end of May, the flight is being axed from the schedule on 3 September after only three months. An official from CAL told CNS Business that this was always the plan, despite the money spent on promoting Cayman in Panama, while a number of customers told CNS they were surprised by what appeared to be the sudden axing of the short-lived route. Read More on CNS Business

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Should extremely obese children be taken into care?

| 16/08/2012 | 0 Comments

013_small_world.ce_.jpg(BBC): Does allowing a child to become morbidly obese qualify as child abuse? Some health and social care professionals believe it is a question that needs to be considered more seriously. Just a few months ago, the town of Aberdare in South Wales, was the scene of a dramatic rescue. A 19-year-old girl was pulled from her house by a crew of fire fighters – not because of a fire, but because she weighed more than 50 stone (318kg). The girl needed urgent medical treatment but could not fit through the front door of her house and so a wall was knocked down so she could be taken to hospital.

Medics and social workers were on standby to give the girl much needed support, but the question some people have asked is why social workers did not take preventative measures – such as taking the girl into care when she was younger – before such extreme action was needed?

The question of whether extreme obesity is a child protection issue is a sensitive subject, but one which is gaining traction with some health and social care professionals.
"It is my view that child obesity should be treated as a form of child mistreatment, as any type of under-feeding is," says Joanna Nicholas, a child protection consultant who has been a social worker for 17 years.

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Independent MLAs call for deferral of new seats

| 16/08/2012 | 53 Comments

_DSC7998-web.jpg(CNS): A motion to defer the introduction of three new members to the Legislative Assembly at the next election will be filed by the Independent member for North Side when the country’s parliament resumes for the next sitting. Given the current financial difficulties facing the Cayman Islands government, Ezzard Miller believes that there is no need to increase the size of the legislature in May 2013 and that the additional seats can wait until the 2017 election, when hopefully the public purse will be in better shape. The motion is being supported by Arden McLean, the member for East End who recently resigned from the opposition People’s Progressive Movement.

Miller, in partnership with the newly independent McLean, said he hopes to garner support for his motion, which he believes could save government a considerable amount of money over the next four budget years, not just on the three salaries and benefits but by avoiding the creation of a new ministry.

“The constitution says ‘may’ and not ‘shall’, so there is no legal requirement that forces government’s hand,” Miller said. “We simply cannot afford the extra politicians at the moment and it seems sensible to both myself and Mr McLean that the government could reconsider installing the three extra seats and save some money.”

The proposal is certainly likely to gather support from those in the wider community who believe that Cayman’s parliament is already too big for the size of the country. However, both the premier and the deputy premier have ministries which have been described by officials as "super ministries" because of the number of departments falling under their care.

The plan to grow the country’s parliament by three new MLAs, one of which would also be a Cabinet member, is set out in the constitution and is driven mostly by the change in the constitutional position of the financial secretary, who is no longer a Cabinet minister. The 2009 constitution took the responsibility for financial matters from the administrative arm of government and placed it in the hands of elected members, creating a minister of finance, a post taken up during this administration by McKeeva Bush.

The added ministry, coupled with the belief that the workload in the country’s public sector was too small for five elected officials to handle, resulted in the need for a sixth ministerial Cabinet post. As a result, the parliament needs to be increased by three members in order to retain the important democratic balance between Cabinet and backbench MLAs on both government and the opposition sides of the Legislative Assembly.

The purpose of that is to ensure that the people’s representatives on the backbenches could, if they were so inclined, work together to oust an unpopular government. However, in practice, where the government has a majority its own backbench MLAs have proved very reluctant to utilize that parliamentary power.

Although the proposal was written into the constitution to add the three MLAS at the general election in 2013, Miller believes that it is not a compulsory requirement and government can seize the opportunity to defer the growth of the Cayman Legislative Assembly for another four years

The move to add the three seats and increase the size of Cabinet will add to government expenditures from 2013. It has also already caused considerable controversy over how the seats can be absorbed into Cayman’s electoral system, more so since the premier rejected the results of the referendum on one man, one vote, leaving the continued likelihood that two of the seats will be added in George Town and a third in Bodden Town.

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Jamaican MP faces enquiry over public contract

| 16/08/2012 | 3 Comments

Greg-Christie_w370.jpg(CNS): The contractor general in Jamaica has opened an investigation into public contracts awarded to a company owned by a family member of one of the country's MPs. The office will be examining the circumstances surrounding the award of a National Works Agency (NWA) job to contractors that were allegedly selected by Derrick Kellier, MP, one of which is a company that is owned by his brother. Greg Christie says documents now held by his office indicate at least one of the alleged contracts, in the sum of $270,000, was awarded by the NWA on the written instructions of the MP for South St. James to M & K Heavy Equipment Hireage, his brother’s firm.

M & K Heavy Equipment Hireage Co Ltd. is listed by the Registrar of Companies as a company that is 80% owned and controlled by Martin Kellier, who sits as the Peoples National Party (PNP) Councillor for the Welcome Hall Division of the St. James Southern Constituency. The Constituency is represented by his brother, Derrick Kellier, who is a PNP Member of Parliament and the government minister for labour.

According to a release from Christie’s office, staff from the NWA’s St. James office have also alleged that contractors were selected by the MP, who had provided the names of the contractors on the work programme which was sent to the implementing agency. The preliminary enquiry into the issue was triggered by a written complaint and allegation sent to Christie’s office in July 20 from a concerned citizen.

The OCG said itis also in possession of other official documents which establish that another government contract for $840,000 was awarded last year to the same firm, which matched a request by Kellier MP for $840,000 from his Constituency Development Fund to carry out local emergency road works.

Christie said this week that his office’s investigation will seek to examine the particulars of the contracts that have been subjected to the alleged arrangement, whether government procurement procedures were followed and whether the contracts were awarded impartially and on merit, without  impropriety or irregularity and if any other laws or regulations were contravened.

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