Archive for August 28th, 2012

Police on patrol for back to school week

| 28/08/2012 | 0 Comments

school-sign-green-lg.jpg(CNS): Neighborhood Officers from the RCIPS will be out on patrol over the next two weeks to”hammer home' road safety messages when as Cayman's youngsters head back to school. Throughout the first week of the new school year, officers will be reminding motorists to slow down in school zones, pick up and drop off students appropriately and the road rules regarding school buses when they stop on the road. Under the umbrella of the Street Skills programme the road safety initiative will see officers posted outside all schools in the Cayman Islands. During the second week of the new term officers will then deliver road safety presentations to all primary school classes.

Senior Police Constable Fran General, Neighbourhood Policing Supervisor, said it was important to remind motorists and students of the need to be safety conscious on the road.

“Students have been away from school for a number of weeks throughout the summer,” she said. “Parents and carers will also take a few days to get back into the school routine. That’s why our priority over the next two weeks will be to make sure that motorists are aware of the rules of the road and that students are afforded an opportunity to take part in a road safety presentation.”

Officer on mobile patrol will also be on hand to assist with traffic management outside the schools.

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Police urge careful driving on flooded roads

| 28/08/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following inclement weather on Tuesday morning the RCIPS is urging motorists to take extra care whilst driving in the current conditions. Officers noted that a number of areas across Grand Cayman are affected by flooding particularly in Windsor Park in George Town and Mount Pleasant in West Bay. Police said that Anthony Drive in the vicinity of Miss Nadine’s pre-school, Templeton Lane, Oakmill Drive, Windsor Road ( vicinity of #69), and Eastern Boulevard are all in accessible by small vehicles.

In West Bay Brocah Close, located off Meadow Avenue, Mount Pleasant is still impassable police said while Mount Pleasant Road intersection with Meadow Avenue and Garston Smith Road are also flooded. The West Bay Road Public Beach on the beach side is also underwater.

Police said that officers are currently assessing the flooding in the eastern districts and updates will be provided as and when available. Meanwhile, the Red Cross is available to assist residents who require sand bags.

The national weather service said Cayman can expect further unsettled weather conditions associated with an upper level low pressure system over the area. Tonight there will be partly cloudy skies with a 30% chance of showers and possible thunder. Temperatures will fall to the upper 70’s with southeast  winds of10 to 15 knots. Seas will be moderate with wave heights of 3 to 5 feet. Forecasters said similar weather conditions were expected through Wednesday morning.

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Facebook group queries Nation Building Fund

| 28/08/2012 | 48 Comments

Cayman_Islands_Flag (225x300).jpg(CNS): The founders of Cayman United, the social media activist group which emerged from the campaign against the expat tax, have written to government querying the premier’s Nation Building Fund. Joining the chorus of opposition to the controversial fund, which this year amounts to some $4.5 million, the group has questioned why the money has not been distributed among other appropriations dealing with the same issues that appear to have been cut. One of the primary goals of the group is to keep government accountable to the people and, starting as they mean to go on, they are demanding answers from their elected leaders on the budget.

In an effort to inspire other members of the public to seek further information and determine for themselves whether or not the proposed spending plan is in the best interest of Cayman, Cayman United intends to continue scrutinizing this year’s budget, which was finally approved by the UK on Friday evening.

In a letter to the premier, sent by email on Friday, the group said it had identified 26 line items in the appropriations bill for the 2012/13 budget aside from the Nation Building Fund that they felt would fall into the category of nation building, as described by the premier.

“These include initiatives such as national disaster preparedness and response, scholarships and other educational assistance programmes, youth and sports programmes and preservation of national heritage, arts and culture,” the group wrote.

“These twenty-six initiatives fall under the responsibilities of five separate government departments. With the exception of the Ministry of Education, Training and Employment, all of these departments have been asked to reduce their nation building activities. 

Considering the summation of cuts and reductions across these twenty-six initiatives, the five affected departments have been asked to reduce their nation building activities by more than $500,000.”

The group pointed out that this was in sharp contrast to the 50% increase to $4.5 million from $3 million of the transfer payment number 52, which is the promotion of nation building, also known as the Nation Building Fund. 

With the 26 items all well-defined programmes and initiatives that can be described as nation building, Cayman United asked the government why it believes the ideal of nation building is best achieved through the Office of The Premier and an ambiguously titled fund. 

“Would it not perhaps be more productive to proportionately distribute $4.5 million across the various initiatives which strive for this same ideal?” the group asks in their correspondence to McKeeva Bush, who has vigorously defended this particular controversial line item.

Critics on the opposition benches and the wider community at large have referred to the fund as a "slush fund" and it is understood that the auditor general will be examining the fund when he takes a close look at government’s transfer payments.

Bush spent some time defending the allocation during his closing remarks in last week’s budget debate, claiming that helping churches with youth projects or building hurricane shelters that can also be used as community centres was far more cost effective than having government build a separate shelter, which would be closed up when not in use.

He said the money given to young people who could not get scholarships through the Education Council or money spent on training initiatives was cheaper than the cost to government if those young men ended up in jail.

The premier maintained during his debate that the reasons why it should be under his office was because he had always been “a social thinker” and because he was the minister of finance.

“They can dig all they want but I am not cutting these church-based programmes,” Bush told the Legislative Assembly last week.

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FCU gives back cash in quashed drug case

| 28/08/2012 | 8 Comments

(CNS): The Financial Crimes Unit handed back several thousand dollars to a 28-year-old man from West Bay last week after a seizure order was revoked by the courts. Following a successful appeal in June against a drug dealing conviction, Eduardo Swaby-Gutierrez got his money back when the FCU was forced to apply to the Grand Court to have their own seizure order revoked. In October last year Swaby-Gutierrez was convicted in Summary Court of possessing 21 grams of cocaine with intent to supply and given a twelve year jail sentence. However, the conviction was overturned on appeal, as a result of missing evidence, and replaced with simple possession.

Defence Attorney Peter Polack, who had successfully argued the appeal this summer, said the seizure was based on his client being found guilty of intending to supply drugs.

“The original seizure order was entirely predicated on the conviction. When the conviction was quashed the Financial Crime Unit and Customs had no recourse but to facilitate return of the funds. To be fair, neither the Customs nor the unsuspecting Financial Crime Unit were aware their hard work would be for naught due to the missing evidence,” he added.

Swaby-Gutierrez was found guilty by former Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsey-Hale, who had relied on particles of evidence to convict him that she assumed to be cocaine. However, it was later revealed that they had never been analyized or confirmed to be a controlled drug or even handed to the court as evidence. 

As a result, Justice Alex Henderson overturned the drug dealing conviction and changed it to the lesser charge of possession. Swaby was then given a sentence of seven months, which amounted to the time he had served since being convicted and was therefore released.

Related article:

Missing evidence leads to quashed drug conviction

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60% of nothing

| 28/08/2012 | 35 Comments

Some of our old laws are doing Cayman more harm than good. Our current hard economic times and high unemployment can’t all be blamed on the US economy and world recession. We have built blockades to progress right here on our own. Although our currency is tied to the US dollar at a fixed rate and we depend heavily on the US for our supply of tourists, investors and goods and services, we must also realize that in trying to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed from outsiders, we have written certain laws which have had the opposite effect and done ourselves a grave injustice economically.

Government has exhausted measures to increase revenue through taxes and fees and yet still searches for more ways to get a few more drops of milk from the cow. I would even suggest that if proper cost-cutting measures and downsizing of government took place that revenue would still be a primary concern.

Decades ago, protectionist laws were written which were intended to be beneficial to Caymanians and to give them a fair chance at making a decent living in their own country. Specifically, expats coming here to open businesses must have a Caymanian partner with 60% ownership and control of the company. Of course, very few expats were willing to take this gamble of giving a stranger in a foreign country total controlling interest in their ideas and hard work but some did take this gamble. For some it paid off but for most the relationship ended bitterly as you might expect. Also know that for this to be a legally formed 60/40 company, the Caymanian is obligated by law to come up with 60% of the funds needed to build stock and run the business. This law too is more often than not bypassed since the Caymanian doesn’t have that kind of money sitting around waiting for a foreigner to come along with a good idea.

We are seeing business closings now at an alarming rate. Some are of the 60/40 type while others are owned outright by Caymanians. I totally understand the sentiment and intentions of those who made these laws but now we can see that  not only do they not work very well, they are unfair and often result in business failure or a block to inviting outsiders to attempt to open a business here.

I would suggest that this law be scrapped and replaced with a newer version which offers true opportunity for Caymanians and gives outsiders the incentive to want to come here and open businesses. The new law would state that an expat may come here and apply for a business license. Approval will be decided by a board on several levels. First and foremost, the new law will state that at least 60% of the business will be staffed by Caymanians at all times. Proper training by the business owners will be necessary in some cases to assure his workers are up to the standards needed by the company. The review board will also determine if the business is needed or wanted in the community or if it will be able to unfairly compete with and hurt existing local businesses. Healthy competition will be invited but on a level playing field which helps rather than hurts existing business. It would not be advantageous to have a Wal-Mart or Target come here and put all the smaller stores out of business. Discretion must be used as to which companies are allowed or refused in building the look and feel of our community.

This 60% requirement for Caymanian workers acts with the same intention of the original protection law but instead of giving one Caymanian controlling interest in a company he knows nothing about, we now accomplish two very important things. First, we have removed the blockade which kept foreigners from wanting to come here to open a business, and second, we now have the assurance of many more jobs for ordinary Caymanians. They will be trained where training is needed and they will be able to make a decent living. The added bonus is that there would be an increase in the number of work permits by virtue of more existing businesses, which is one of the pillars of government revenue.

We all say that the civil service is bloated and far too big for the size of government we need. The best way to downsize the civil service is to make it more lucrative financially to work in the private sector. With an open door business policy, there will be high demand for locals in the private sector in order to meet the 60% rule for Caymanian employees. There will be competition for local labor and wages will be higher by demand for the best employees. Civil servants will migrate to the private sector for better wages and benefits.

Another way to see this is to look at the US – Mexican border problem. Mexicans cross illegally into the US in search of jobs. You can be sure that if Mexico suddenly was creating more jobs than the US that illegal immigration would flow in the opposite direction. Mexicans would cross back to their homeland and build a wall to keep the US citizens from crossing illegally into their country in search of work.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. This pretty much says it all about the current 60/40 rule. We are trying to catch flies with vinegar and it doesn’t work. Let’s remove this barrier to economic growth and try some honey to see how that works.

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Sea ice retreats to furthest point on record

| 28/08/2012 | 0 Comments

Pg-10-water-ap.jpg(The Independent):  The news that came yesterday should be, environmental campaigners said, a global wake-up call. The ice cap covering the top of the world is now smaller than it has been at any point since scientists started to measure it precisely from space. Satellite data released last night show that the sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean has reached a record low, retreating further than it has done since detailed records began more than 30 years ago. The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado said that the 2007 record was broken on Sunday with two or three weeks of the melt season still remaining, suggesting that this year's sea ice will retreat substantially further than at any time in the satellite era.

The snow and ice centre said that the surface area of the Arctic Ocean covered by floating sea ice fell to 4.10 million square kilometres (1.58m square miles), which was 70,000 square kilometres below the previous record minimum of 4.17 square kilometres set in September 2007.

This means that since 1979, when satellite readings began, the six lowest sea-ice extents have all occurred in the past six years, from 2007 to 2012. The sea ice retreat was particularly rapid this August and may have been exacerbated by an intense storm over the Arctic region.

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Trinidad minister fired for refusing breathalyser

| 28/08/2012 | 21 Comments

partap (241x300).jpg(CNS): Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister has fired her junior national security minister in the wake of his arrest at the weekend after he refused to take a breathalyser test. Just hours after Collin Partap was detained by the police, Kamla Persad-Bissessar stripped  him of his post. In a brief statement the prime minister said that she had advised the country’s President, Professor George Maxwell Richards, to revoke the appointment of Partap as a result of reports received from the national security ministry and from Partap himself.

“I have decided to advise the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Prof George Maxwell Richards, to revoke the appointment of Minister Collin Partap with immediate effect. This decision was made subsequent to reports received from the Ministry of National Security and Mr Collin Partap,” Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar stated.

According to media reports from Trinidad, the former minister was stopped by officers in Port of Spain because they had seen him with a bottle of alcohol before he got into the driver’s seat of his car. Police say Partap refused to give a breathe test and was taken to the Belmont Police Station, where he contacted his lawyer and continued to refuse the test until more than an hour after he was detained but was then found to be within the legal limit.

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