Archive for September, 2012

A right to know

| 30/09/2012 | 13 Comments

The Cayman Islands joined over 80 countries around the word celebrating International Right to Know Day on Friday, 28th September.  While the importance of openness and transparency is increasingly recognized and translated into Freedom of Information legislation around the world, the Cayman Islands remains one of the trail blazers in the Caribbean in this regard.

While there are at least 12 countries or territories in the Caribbean that have FOI Legislation at some stage of development and implementation – either as a draft, passed or dormant law – research shows that we in Cayman are amongst the most advanced in terms of the implementation and operation of our FOI Law.  Recently our legislation has been copied by the Bahamas, and it has also serves as an example for Bermuda, but so far many FOI regimes in the Region remain in their infancy. 

However, in Cayman we have now seen almost 4 years of a vibrant and active Freedom of Information Regime: a steady number of requests are being responded to by public authorities and the Information Commissioner’s Office is busily hearing appeals and monitoring compliance.  Internal policies and procedures are in place within Government and the ICO to ensure that the objectives of the FOI Law are being upheld.

These objectives are stated in the Law itself, and are worth repeating.  The FOI Law aims to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely – government accountability, transparency and public participation in decision making. This is achieved by granting to the public a general right of access to records held by public authorities, but there are also exemptions to disclosure which balance this right against the need to keep some records confidential for various reasons.

Although in practice finding the balance between the general right to access and legitimate exemptions under the Law can at times be complex, there can be no doubt that the FOI Law has positively changed, and continues to change the way both the general public and public officers view official records and information.

Recently in the UK the Justice Select Committee of Parliament completed a “post-legislative scrutiny” of the FOI Act 2000.  A close parallel can be drawn between its findings and our experiences in Cayman, and it is worth summarizing some of these findings.

The Select Committee’s report calls the FOI Act “a significant enhancement of our democracy”, and agrees with most of the witnesses that the Act is working well, calling FOI a “constitutional right, a fact that can get lost in complaints about the operation of the FOI regime”. On the question of cost, the Committee concluded that “the cost to public authorities must be weighed against the greater accountability the right to access information brings”, since “there is evidence of both direct cost savings, where [an FOI] request has revealed erroneous public spending, and an indirect impact whereby public authorities know that they will be exposed to scrutiny.. . and use resources accordingly.” 

The report reaches these further conclusions:

 – Proactive publication is important in achieving openness and transparency.  It also reduces the number of applications made;

 – there should be no changes to the system of “requestor blindness”, since the focus of FOI is on whether disclosure is justified, not on the identity of the requestor.  As well, it would be prohibitively expensive to police a system that requires each applicant to provide their real name;

– public authorities should continue to use existing exemptions to protectthe necessary “safe space” for high-level policy discussions.  Research shows that the so-called “chilling effect” of FOI on such discussions is negligible;

 – when public functions are outsourced to the private sector, contractual terms should clearly safeguard the public’s access rights.

As the new Constitution is about to come fully into force, we should all strive to uphold and promote the tenets of good governance.  Therefore, we are delighted to boast that in the area of Freedom of Information we have made great strides over the last four years. We encourage the Public Sector, at all levels, to embrace a culture of openness and transparency, to support the proactive disclosure of information, and to comply with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law.  We encourage members of the public to embrace your right to know, and use the Law responsibly to assist you in being better informed citizens.

See more about FOI Below

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Community urged to take more care of elderly

| 30/09/2012 | 9 Comments

41_01_52---Elderly-People_web (234x300).jpg(CNS): Given the vulnerability of the country’s older citizens, the minister for community affairs has called on the public to double its efforts to care for senior residents. In his message to mark the star of older people’s month this October Mike Adam commended non-government organisations, such as the churches and the Meals on Wheels programme for taking on the social responsibility of caring for the aging population, as he urged others to protect the elderly and learn from their wisdom. Director of DCFS Alicia (Jen) Dixon said there is a tendency for the community to marginalise seniors.

“There are many who think that seniors can no longer make a difference or have an impact and as such they do not include them in activities or in any kind of decision-making,’ she said.
“Our senior citizens have contributed significantly to the development of our islands and still have much to offer, especially to our children and young persons. Like all of us, our older persons want to know that they are needed, valued and that there is someone who cares for them and is looking after their welfare.”

This year’s theme for Older Person’s month is ‘Shaping the Future for Our Senior Citizens’ Beginning with the United Nations designated International Day of Older Persons on Monday, 1 October) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS have organized a number of event to bring attention to the fact that older persons have much to contribute to the community.

Although October is dedicated to honour, respect and care for the Islands’ elderly, a key part of the celebrations is ensuring that the resources allocated for their care, whether by government or others, are used for the intended purpose. 

“There are many seniors who continue to make a difference through work in their churches; volunteering in education; in health and other spheres of life," Dixon added.  “This month we want to ask persons to show care and make our seniors feel like they are a valuable part of the community and the family,” she said.

See the minister’s full message below and for more information contact DCFS at 949-0290.
 

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Two Cubans on the run

| 30/09/2012 | 19 Comments

carlos.jpegpedros (218x300).jpg(CNS): Updated — Police are still hunting for two Cuban migrants who escaped from the Fairbanks detention centre in George Town, where they were being held, having landed in Cayman recently. The RCIPS say the men left the detention centre around 3pm Saturday afternoon. The police are asking people to report any sightings of 30-year-old Pedro Luis Diaz Cruz (left) and 18-year-old Carlos Ramon Maria Gomez (right) to the RCIPS on 9494222 and provide the time and location where they were last seen.

Sightings can also be reported to Deputy Chief Immigration Officer (Enforcement) Gary Wong (526-0480), or Enforcement Inspector Joey Scott (526-0433) or Assistant Chief Immigration OfficerJeremy Scott (326-2984) or any police station.

Officials are also asking people with boats moored near the coastline  to ensure they are properly secured.

Further decriptions of the men were also offered on Monday. Cruz has black hair and brown eyes and is five feet, eight-inches tall, weighing 135 pounds. While Gomez has brown eyes and hair and is five feet 10-inches tall, weighing 180 pounds.

See details below on wanted poster.

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Borden pleads not guilty to gang related murder

| 28/09/2012 | 0 Comments

brian borden_0.jpg(CNS): Brian Borden from West Bay pleaded not guilty to the murder of Robert Mackford Bush (28) on 13 September last year. He also denied possession of an unlicensed firearm. Borden is accused of being one of two men who opened fire on Bush while he sat in his car at the junction of Birch Tree Hill Road and Capts Joe and Osbert Road in West Bay. The killing was believed to be gang related and triggered a tit-for-tat spate of killings, in which another three young men were to lose their lives in the local gang war. Borden will now stand trial for the killing on 18 February 2013.

The trial is expected to last two weeks and is heavily dependent on the evidence of one key witness who was involved in a bank robbery at Cayman National in Buckingham Square in June.

 

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Murder appeal verdict delayed till April ‘13

| 28/09/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A West Bay man heard that the results of his appeal hearing against a conviction for murder will not be revealed until 8 April 2013. Local attorney, Richard Barton, told the Grand Court Friday morning that he had been informed by the registrar of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal that the ruling in the case of Raziel Jeffers would not be delivered until next year. No reasons for the long wait were revealed but with two other murder cases pending on the outcome of this verdict the crown said it would now have to consider setting dates for those trials regardless.

Jeffers made his appeal in July regarding his conviction for the murder of Marcus Ebanks and the attempted murder of several other young men including Adryan Powell who was only 14 at the time and has since been confined to a wheel chair. Jeffers had been found guilty of being one of two masked gun men who opened fire indiscriminately on the group of young men who were sitting outside a yard in Bonaventure Lane one evening in July 2009.

In the appeal Jeffers’ attorneys focus on the possible bias of the trial judge, Justice Charles Quin, as he had also seen a police intelligence report describing their client as a dangerous and notorious gang member before the trial in which he sat alone without a jury. Secondly the lawyers focused on telephone records which failed to go before the court that demonstrated that the crown’s key witness, and former girlfriend of Jeffers, was not being truthful about her whereabouts and actions on the day of the murder.

While the defence is eager to hear the outcome of the case the crown has also been awaiting the result of the appeal as Jeffers is charged with two other counts of murder. He is accused of killing Marcus Duran and Damion Ming in two separate shootings that occurred in West Bay in in March 2010. In both these cases the crown is relying heavily on the testimony of the same witness and as a result the outcome of the appeal is directly linked to the progress of the other matters.

As a result however, of the now extended and unexpected wait on the appeal result, the crown said Friday it wanted to set trial dates for the two outstanding murders not least because of the escalating problem of the Grand court time table. Prosecuting counsel warned that unless dates were sought for the trials soon it could be 2014 before Jeffers was tried for either of the outstanding murder cases.

Justice Alex Henderson who was sitting for the Friday morning mentions in the Grand Court said it was “unwise to keep the cases in abeyance” and urged he crown to seek out a trial date for the outstanding matters. Jeffers was ordered to be brought back to court on 30 November when dates would be set and other house-keeping issues regarding legal aid addressed. 

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Mac needs UK help with EU

| 28/09/2012 | 45 Comments

(CNS): At a time when the premier’s relationship with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not at its best, McKeeva Bush has revealed that he is seeking the British government’s support for his lobbying to change what he says is a damaging article in an international treaty. The premier and leaders of other territories have concerns about Article 70 of the draft Overseas Association Decision (OAD) document of the European Union. The paper governs the relationship between the EU and the overseas territories and the new draft is said to be at an advanced stage. But Cayman and other territories with financial services interest hope they can stop the goal to converge financial services regimes in the territories with the EU.

Speaking at the 13th meeting of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) in Greenland this week, the Cayman premier said there was a pressing need to change Article 70 of the draft Overseas Association Decision (OAD) document of the EU. Article 70 calls for the "convergence" with EU legislation of the financial services regimes of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT).

A release from the premier’s office stated that this would require Cayman bringing its legislation relating to financial services in line with EU legislation.

Bush has reportedly opposed this measure since it was initially introduced in the draft OAD and is the reason why he travelled to the icy location this week. During his speech to the members of the European Commission he called for recognition that if this provision were enacted, it would seriously damage the financial services industry in Cayman and other OCTs.

"Cayman's current regulatory regime is compliant with robust international requirements, providing a strong foundation element to attract investment that is safe in our jurisdiction," Bush said. "Those investments in turn fuel growth of the world economy."

Bush and other leaders are now hoping that the UK government will offer support for changing the article, which, according to the premier’s office, it has promised to do, as the matter goes forward to the Council of the EU for finalization.

The OAD is a legal instrument governing the EU and OTs relationship which is currently undergoing a revision process which will lead to a new OAD coming into effect in January 2014.

Related article:

Mac may reject some of FFR

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Dolphin experts heading to CI

| 28/09/2012 | 15 Comments

stinky.jpg(CNS): Two marine mammal experts from NOAA and a specialist vet from Seaworld will be heading to the Cayman Islands from the US next week for a short visit to assist the Department of Environment (DoE) with the problem of Cayman’s rogue lone dolphin. As a result, the team is asking everyone in Cayman to call in any sightings over the coming days of the young male that has been attracting considerable attention over the last few months. As the experts are here for such a short time and will want to monitor and survey the dolphin's health and behaviour closely, the DoE needs to ensure they keep track of ‘Stinky’, as he has since been named, ahead of the important visit.

The three experts are offering their time free of charge; rooms for their stay have been donated by the Grand Caymanian and flights provided by the DoT.

The experts' goal will be to ensure that the young male dolphin is not suffering any health problems and to check if his behaviour is in line with that of other lone young males. They will be observing his behaviour as he interacts with people and trying to gain some insight. Once the assessments are made, the DoE hopes that the visitng experts, along with other marine biology specialists the department has been talking to, will help come up with a long-term solution to the problem the rogue dolphin poses.

“We understand that at present we are taking the right course of action by asking people to stay away from the dolphin and get out of the water if they are approached by him,” Gina Ebanks-Petrie stated on Friday morning as the DoE announced the forthcoming arrival of the US experts. “We are seeking a long-term solution but we need to know more about the dolphin in the first instance.”

She said the DoE was not expecting that there would be a quick fix to the problem, so it was important to keep up the warnings to swimmers and divers to stay away from the dolphin so they do not reinforce its sometimes aggressive behaviour as it attempts to make sexual advances to almost anything that moves in the ocean.

Janice Blumenthal, a research officer with the DoE asked everyone on the water this weekend to be extra vigilant and let the DoE know where the dolphin is. She also asked for any pictures or footage that has been taken of him to be sent to the DoE.

“We are not advocating that people film him but if they already have the pictures or video they would be very useful for our US visitors," she said. Older footage of previous dolphin sightings would also be welcome, Blumenthal added, as she said the DoE has still not been able to confirm if ‘Stinky’, who was first sighted in June, is the same lone male dolphin that has been reported in the North Sound on and off for several years.

The DoE team said anyone that has video and pictures of dolphins in local waters should email them to doe@gov.ky and any sightings of the dolphin over the weekend can be called in on  949-8469

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Mistreatment of local stingray captured on camera

| 28/09/2012 | 63 Comments

qIy69 (269x300).jpg(CNS): Despite repeated warnings by officials about not lifting stingrays out of the water, another photograph has emerged showing a handler at the Sandbar raising one of the marine creatures completely out of the ocean behind what appears to be three terrified women. The picture taken at Cayman's famous tourism attraction has circulated around the world via the internet and shows further mistreatment of the local stingrays. In the wake of news that ten of the rays were being held captive at a local dolphinarium, the photograph shows that even in the Wildlife Interactive Zone, where they are meant to be protected, the creatures are still subject to mistreatment.

The director of the Department of Environment has warned yet again that lifting stingrays completely out of the water is not only illegal but harmful and distressing for them. “The Wildlife Interaction Zone regulations make it an offence to remove rays from the water. This is because rays are marine creatures which, like fish, breathe with the aid of gills while in the water – if they are out of the water they cannot breathe. It is cruel and creates a stressful situation for the animal which will cause health issues if it happens repeatedly,” Gina Ebanks-Petrie said.

Although no one has ever been prosecuted for lifting rays from the water at the WIZ, it happens more frequently than conservation experts would like as handlers attempt to entertain tourists. Although people are able to touch the rays when visiting the Sandbar at Stingray City, they are encouraged to do so while the creatures remain in the water.

This latest photograph is further illustration that the local rays need more support, and while the picture may have attracted global attention for Grand Cayman's Sandbar, it is a further indication of a pressing need to protect these valuable and unique creatures.

The photobomb, as it is being described, was posted on Reddit.com and has been picked up by the media around the world.

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Minister tells parents to keep kids’ hearts healthy

| 28/09/2012 | 7 Comments

girl_healthyeating.jpg(CNS): The country’s health minister has said that cutting adult rates of heart disease will be “nearly impossible” unless there is a focus on child health. In his World Heart Day message, Mark Scotland stated that the risk of for heart disease can increase during childhood due to unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to smoking. “Since children have limited decision making control, we must take responsibility for the hearts of our children,” he said. “From parents and caregivers, to doctors and teachers, everyone involved in a child’s life must work together to promote heart healthy behaviors.”

The Cayman Islands joins countries all over the world in observance of World Heart Day on Saturday 29 September when cardiovascular disease prevention in women and children will be the main theme. It is an initiative of the World Heart Federation which was started in 2000. Its key message is that at least 80% of deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if people gave up smoking, had a healthier diet and did more exercise.

See the minister’s full message below
 

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Scammers didn’t hack systems says LIME

| 28/09/2012 | 0 Comments

textscam.jpg(CNS): In the wake of a text message sent directly to LIME customers' telephones across Cayman on Wednesday declaring that everyone had won $500,000 from scammers in Thailand, the local phone company said its systems had not been compromised. Although it appeared that private numbers of LIME customers had been hacked, LIME said this was not the case as the message came through to the local system via a recognized carrier and was delivered to customers' numbers by the company.

“We want to assure all LIME customers that based on our analysis our systems were not hacked,” said a spokesperson for LIME. “The text message came in from a carrier via a route that we recognized and therefore we delivered it.”

The firm said that all of its number ranges are published on the ICTA website, which means it is very easy for hackers to use that information to generate a list of numbers.

“However, following on from Wednesday we are now looking at some additional technology for this route type that will be able to recognize when messages of this nature are being sent to multiple numbers so it can be stopped and examined before being forwarded on or deleted,” LIME said Thursday.

The scam text followed the lines of the usual IT con telling recipients they had won $500,000 and needed to send their details to an email address to claim their prize.

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