Archive for September 17th, 2012

Off duty cop arrested after fleeing accident scene

| 17/09/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS has opened another investigation into one of its own officers after he allegedly left the scene of an accident in the early hours of Friday morning. The police confirmed Monday evening following enquiries from the media that an officer had been arrested later that same day and bailed in connection with a single vehicle crash in George Town. The police did not say what damage had been caused by the off-duty officer when the smash occurred or what type of vehicle he was driving. A police spokesperson stated that the officer had been suspended from driving police vehicles.

“At about 1:40am on Friday 14 September 2012, police received a report of a one vehicle road crash in Ithmar Circle, George Town. The driver left the scene of the crash,” the police spokesperson stated. “Later that morning a 54-year-old police officer was arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident. He has been released on police bail while enquiries continue.”

 

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PAC to examine Brac paving

| 17/09/2012 | 40 Comments

Acting Premier Controls the Paver.jpg(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has confirmed that the members will be examining three of the auditor general’s latest reports on Tuesday, including the controversial revelations regarding the paving of parking lots on Cayman Brac with public money. Moses Kirkconnell will be calling witnesses tomorrow to answer the committee’s questions regarding the audit office’s performance audit on the cash wasted on overseas medical care, the update on the use of government’s fuel card system and the public interest report that revealed government had spent $500k of tax payer’s money on private commercial lots and driveways.

The committee has examined only one report since the PPM member for Cayman Brac took over the chairmanship of the PAC after North Side MLA Ezzard Miller resigned from the job in April 2011 some eighteen months ago. Last October Kirkconnell chaired the examination, over a period of several days, of a report about government procurement which used the controversial issue of the failed Cohen and Co loan as a case study. Since then, however, the committee has not met in public.

The member for North Side stepped down last year, despite having made relative progress at the time on pushing government entities to complete their annual reports. However, Miller said he did not feel as though he had the support of the membership, given their persistent and consistent failure to attend meetings.

Since then there have been no meetings of PAC in which the state of government financial reporting has been examined. Despite changes to the law to allow government not to complete annual reports for many of the missing years and promises to have entire government accounts completed for the 2010/11 financial year, there has been no sign of that report.

Tuesday's meeting is open to the public and will take palce at the Legisaltive Assembly at 10:30am.

Related articles:

Private Brac paving illegal

Failures revealed at CINICO

Auditor revisits Gasboy-gate

In the CNS Library:

Public Accounts Committee

Office of the Auditor General

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What will it take?

| 17/09/2012 | 64 Comments

The recent news of the demise of Cayman’s parrot and the latest revelations that the ghost orchid has been added to a list of the top most endangered species in the world should have been a rude awakening for our environment minister but there is still no news on the national conservation law (NCL). For more than ten years now government has been toying with the need for a law to protect the environment but for ten years it has persistently caved in the face of objections from developers.

During the election campaign the current government promised to enact the law if they were elected, but since coming to office there have been several rounds of consultation but nothing of substance has been done to move what was already a weakened bill along.

Here we are facing the destruction of mangroves on what is now a regular basis, the possibility of dredging for canals from the North Sound to Seven Mile Beach, the constant clearing of land for subdivisions, few if any environmental impact assessments being undertaken even on major protects, and now one of the country’s national symbols is under threat of extinction. But there is still no sign of the law.

In just over six weeks the Bill of Rights which forms part of the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution will come into effect, which formalises the right of environmental protection and requires government to “foster and protect the environment” and enact legislation to protect the heritage and wildlife as well as the biodiversity of the Cayman Islands, which could see people taking legal action against government in future in the face of any kind of environmental risk.

It now begs thequestion, what will it actually take to force government’s hand over the issue of the environment and the necessary legal protection?

The reluctance of each and every government to push this legislation through is illogical: their reasons for dallying are essentially economic, but the economic loss to the Cayman Islands in terms of tourism and investors could be far, far greater than the reduction in the currently unchecked development. As the environment diminishes, so will the level of visitors and those willing to come and work on the islands. While a few developers and construction firms make money out of the endless building of apartments, which mostly remain empty as well as unattractive, the entire economy slowly loses out as the beauty of the islands fades.

It must have been said by thousands of people, thousands of times that people chose to holiday or vacation here in Cayman because it is beautiful and different. They do not want a replica of the Florida coast but a Caribbean island; they want natural vistas not views of more condos; they want the sound of parrots not cement mixers, and to see ghost orchids not crotons.

Investors who chose to establish their firms here or the companies that serve them do so because this is an attractive place and some of the world’s best financial and legal minds are willing to come here to live and work because it is so beautiful.

Aside from the risks of losing our tourism product and reducing the islands' attractiveness to those we want to set up shop here because of the government’s failure to protect the islands natural beauty, Cayman is also particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and sea level rises. Not only should our government be going out of its way to pass meaningful and enforceable legislation to protect our own environment locally, our leaders should also be agitating on the world stage for greater environmental responsibility everywhere to halt the potential impact the major economies are having on the planet.

The melting of the arctic icecaps as a result of global warming, which will in turn increase sea levels, is a pressing and critical danger for Cayman and other small low lying islands. We will be among the first to return to the ocean as global warming takes effect, yet we cannot even protect our own mangroves.

The government has so far listened to developers because they have been both successful in spreading misinformation about the impact of the NCL on landowners and because they have applied pressure directly on successive administrations. In Cayman with no real environmental NGOs that are free to campaign and agitate, the needs of the environment are constantly undermined.

While the Department of Environment and the Cayman Islands National Trust have both pressed for the law, as a government agency in the case of the first and an organisation dependent on government funding in the case of the second, neither is in a position to place significant pressure in the way it is required.

Cayman desperately needs to establish a local chapter of either Greenpeace of Friends of the Earth that can fund raise and, more importantly, galvanise the silent majority that supports the law and that can compete effectively for the ear of government with local developers and have the law enacted.

It may already be too late for the ghost orchid and our national bird, and with almost 47% of local plants on the international endangered ‘red list’, time really is running out for many others. But there are some 415 native plants as well as bats, lizards and marine creatures in Cayman, some of which still have a chance at survival. However, that survival will depend on lawful protection, which is the hands of our politicians.

While we all understand that crime, budgets, cruise terminals or deals with the Dart Group may be occupying people’s minds and government’s legislative agenda, without environmental protection it won’tbe long before there isn’t a George Town in which to place a cruise terminal or a West Bay road to move. 

Cayman’s environment is in serious trouble and the government needs to act. When the election campaign begins next year, every voter should demand to know where potential candidates stand on the NCL and hold those who had the chance to address the issue, but failed, accountable.

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Police recover stolen brewery medals

| 17/09/2012 | 9 Comments

IMG-20120917-00553.jpg(CNS): Staff at the Cayman Islands Brewery were smiling again on Monday after the police returned stolen medals to the local beer-makers this weekend. Caybrew’s marketing manager, Matthew Leslie, said that he and the team were delighted that the RCIPS had been able to recovery the medals, which they consider priceless, and he thanked the officers involved. The medals, which the brewery won at a recent Caribbean beer festival, were taken when the brewery was burgled last month. While cash and other memorabilia were stolen, Leslie said it was foolish for the thief to steal the medals, which he said had no real monetary value but were of enormous value to the brewery.

“We are really happy to get them back,” Leslie told CNS on Monday. “We are really pleased with the attention given by the police to recovering the medals and we are really grateful to officers Bowen and Wade, who worked really hard for us on this and as promised got them back for us.”

Leslie said that the police had kept the brewery updated throughout the investigation on a regular basis and that after extensive enquiries they had tracked the medals down. Although no one has yet been charged in the case, the police are following specific lines of enquiry.

The medals are now back on display at the brewery, which has upped its security measures after the break-in.

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Instant $100 visa offered for visiting workers

| 17/09/2012 | 15 Comments

9500062 (277x300).jpg(CNS): Visitors to Cayman who plan to engage in “non-professional” work for up to five days – such as entertainers and musicians– can now apply for an instant Visitor’s Work Visa (VWV) that can be issued when they arrive on island. The new $100 visa, which was launched last week as part of the latest amendments to the immigration law, offers an alternative to a temporary permit for people coming to engage in short term employment. “It is designed to offer a more convenient service than the temporary work permits, while also discouraging anyone who might undertake work while on a visitor’s permit,” said Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans. (Photo Lennon Christian)

According to a government release, people applying for the new VWV would normally work outside of the Cayman Islands but are sponsored by a local person or business for a few days to do a specific job. Sponsors of visiting workers can download a ‘Letter of Invitation’ form and scan in the completed letter and email it directly to the department at least 24 hours before the visitor is due to arrive.

This letter must provide details on when the person is due to arrive, the job or jobs they will be undertaking while in Cayman and the details of the employment the person does in their country of residence. The visiting worker is then free to travel to the Cayman Islands and will be eligible to receive a VWV and pay their fee of CI$100 at the airport. However, officials warned that the visa will not be granted if the Letter of Invitation form has not been completed.

“Of course, anyone seeking a VWV must comply with all other entry and landing requirements such as a valid entry visa, as applicable,” added the CIO. “Also, these visitors may only work with their approved sponsors.”

A visiting worker can be granted only one VWV for the same sponsor within a calendar month and it cannot be extended except under exceptional circumstances. If so, the visiting worker can receive a further five calendar days and must pay a further $100.

The immigration department explained that the VWV is not valid for professional workers such as lawyers, accountants, medical professionals, architects, surveyors, teachers and ministers of religion who may be visiting for short periods to work here.

The form is attached below or can be downloaded from the immigration department website.

Completed forms can be emailed to IMM-VWV@gov.ky

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Minister appears in dock

| 17/09/2012 | 0 Comments

rolston good.jpg(CNS): Speculation that the crown was not pressing ahead with its case against the education minister for drunk-driving appeared unfounded Monday when Rolston Anglin appeared in the Summary Court dock in George Town. The minister was represented by local attorney Steve McField when he made his first public court appearance. Anglin did not enter a plea to the charges as his lawyer stated that he needed time to review the documentation, having only received the papers on Friday. The case was adjourned until 1 October and Anglin was bailed to return. The minister faces charges of driving under the influence and careless driving in connection with an incident which occurred in May.

According to a report at the time of the incident, Anglin was involved in a single vehicle smash when he drove his car off the road into a ditch near the Avalon Condos on West Bay Road in Grand Cayman. At the time the minister was breathalysed at the George Town police station and is alleged to have been over the limit for driving. The prosecution says thatthe proportion of alcohol in his breath was .110, exceeding the legal limit of .100

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George Town man denies attempted murder

| 17/09/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 20-year-old George Town man has denied trying to kill another man during an incident on Shedden Road in the early hours of the 25 August. Justin Ramoon appeared in court Friday charged with attempted murder and wounding with intent after he allegedly stabbed Andrew Lopez. Ramoon pleaded not guilty to both charges and was remanded in custody to HMP Northward and a trial date was set for next January. According to police, the stabbing was reported to them by a relative of the victim some hours after the incident had occurred when Lopez was already in hospital. Later that same day, however, police arrested and later charged Ramoon in connection with the murder attempt.

Ramoon’s attorney added to the voice of local lawyers complaining about disclosure issues by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and pointed out that an email she sent to the crown some two weeks ago about disclosure of information relating to the case had not even been acknowledged.

She said that, as a result, she was unable to make a bail application on her client’s behalf, which meant he had to remain in jail until the crown dealt with her request.

Related article: 

Crown ordered to disclose

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Crown ordered to disclose

| 17/09/2012 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Following the failure of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to disclose important information to defence attorneys, a mounting number of cases are being delayed in the Grand Court. The crown’s failure on Friday to disclose critical information regarding an arson case by the date of a plea and directions hearing brought the situation to a head and an acting judge issued a court order giving the crown just seven days to disclose critical information and giving the defence lawyer the right to make an application to shut down the case against his client if they failed to respond.

Justice Carol Beswick raised concerns about the issue when she discovered that the lawyer, Nick Hoffman from Priestleys, had been requesting information since May for the hearing and had received nothing from the DPP’s office. This was not the first case for Hoffman, who in the last few weeks has complained to the court on numerous occasions about the prosecution’s failure to disclose or making disclosure at the eleventh hour, hindering and delaying the progression of serious criminal matters. Friday’s case was also one of many others this week held by various local defence attorneys that had to be adjourned because of a lack of documentation to support the criminal charges.

Hoffman told the court that he had been corresponding with the crown asking for the information since May. He said on the 9 August he received an email from a member of the DPP’s office who had said her “hands were tied” but she was sure disclosure would be made to the lawyer before the 14 September hearing. However, Hoffman said that was the last he heard from the crown.

He warned that the trial of Sven Connor for arson, which was set for November, was in jeopardy as the defence still didn’t  know the full details of the case, which was not only a problem for the courts and the witnesses and lawyers involved but more so for his client, who remains on remand at Northward.

“I am more than a little concerned,” the judge stated as she pointed to the crown counsel’s reference to her hands being tied as she waited on information from a police officer in the case. “Is it that her hands are tied?” the judge queried as she pressed the crown counsel in court Friday for a plan.

The judge said she could understand the tremendous concerns that the defence had before she issued the court order compelling the crown to disclose, failing which, she said, Hoffman was at liberty to make a suitable application. Hoffman confirmed that he would be seeking to have the case dropped against his client if the information was not forthcoming.

Hoffman was not the only defence attorney seeking disclosure from the crown Friday as numerous cases over the last few weeks have been stalled. A significant number of cases are backing up in the Grand Court as a result of the failure of the DPP’s office to give the necessary documentation to the defence attorneys of the defendants that they are prosecuting for a catalogue of offences, from murder to rape. There have also been numerous complaints by attorneys that their correspondence to the crown goes unanswered.

Fiona Robinson, who was also struggling to get information for her client whois facing charges of attempted murder, pointed out that “disclosure is a right and not a luxury”, as she asked the crown once again for the details of its case against her client.

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Delays & lawyers plague FOI

| 17/09/2012 | 6 Comments

mickey-mouse-15.jpg(CNS): While some public authorities have embraced the freedom of information law and are proactively publishing more and more information, others seem to be doing everything they can to prevent information from coming, says the information commissioner. Ahead of this year’s Right to Know Week, when her office promotes the right of the people to access information Jennifer Dilbert said the use of delaying tactics, time wasting and lawyers were becoming all too common with some government entities. Once again, the information boss pointed out that it is not access to information that costs the public purse but efforts to try and thwart that access.

She pointed out that the law helps government save money because when civil servants know everything they do could be under transparent public scrutiny they may think twice about what they spend. Moreover, she pointed out, it is free to publish information on websites or release documents to applicant. The costs come when public sector workers spend time trying to find ways to block applicants and when lawyers become involved.

“Of course it is the right of every public authority to engage lawyers but we believe the information managers need to engage more with the applicants as often requests can be narrowed and time wasting cut down if they communicate,” Dilbert told CNS. “In some cases, when getting down to the finer points of a request, information managers may feel they need a lawyer but in most cases the managers are trained and they should be able to handle the majority of requests, especially if they discuss the issue with the customer and use a more common sense approach,” she added.

Dilbert also noted that slow progress was being made on the review of the law which formed part of the legislation passed in 2009. However, she said, since the review committee began looking at the changes needed to make the law function better, other issues have now emerged regarding the law and her office’s dwindling resources and she said it did need to be reviewed further.

Since the law came into effect in January 2009 up until June 2012, Dilbert and her team have handled 95 appeals where applicants have been denied information. Seventy-nine of those were resolved, including twenty cases which went to hearings before the commissioner.

During this year’s Right to Know Week Christina Smith, the ICO’s office manager, said the small team were doing as much as they could with limited resources to promote the theme of “It's yours, just ask”, which makes it clear that as the government represents the people, the people have the right of access to what it does.

Over the coming weeks the team from the ICO will be out and about promoting this and encouraging people to use the law. The week opens with a church service on 23 September and culminates in an appearance at Market at the Grounds on Saturday.  Right To Know Day will be celebrated on 28 September.

See more on the ICO website www.infocomm.ky

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Reception classes filled up as new school year starts

| 17/09/2012 | 2 Comments

GTPS Students with Teacher (266x300).jpg(CNS): Over 200 local children are now attending the restarted free reception classes at Sir John A Cumber Primary, Bodden Town Primary and Savannah Primary Schools. The roll out of the pre-school class is part of the government’s phased plan to reintroduce the free service to all Caymanian children, officials said. Officials said this will enable staff to identify any problems or learning difficulties with young children before they are part of the official system. The completion of new classroom blocks at each of the schools has provided the additional space to make the classes possible.

Julie Madgwick head of the education ministry’s early childhood care and education (ECCE) unit said each reception class is staffed with a trained Early Years Teacher and an assistant, where numbers rise over 12 students. 

All of the assistants hired for the new Reception classes are Caymanian, most of whom are participating in the Ministry’s new Post Graduate Certificate in Education this year, seeking to become qualified teachers.The reception teachers are using the new Cayman Islands Early Years Curriculum Framework to plan activities for children, to support them as they develop the knowledge and skills to become life-long learners.
“The response to reception has been fantastic,” said Reneé Barnes, a member of the ECCE Unit. “Parents are grateful, the children are excited, and schools are delighted that they have an opportunity to start working with the children before they start their formal education.”

Barnes explained that, as a part of the Government service, children in reception classes will benefit from support from the ECCE Unit, services and resources within the education system, as well as a commitment to identifying and remediating barriers to children’s learning at the very earliest stages.

“There is a commitment for everyone to work together to tackle problems before challenges and failure become the norm. Our Minister’s vision is for every child to succeed. Quality early childhood care and education can help to make this a reality,” she added.

Early year’s education has been a focus for the current education minister, Rolston Anglin

“I believe the work my ministry is undertaking in the early years will prove to be one of the most important investments our country has ever made,” he said in a release Friday. “I also believe incredible gains have been made since the ECCE Unit was launched in May 2011: the Reception programme, our new Early Years curriculum framework, our innovative training programmes for practitioners, partnership with private pre-schools to raise standards, a rigorous programme of oversight and support from our new  ECCE Unit, and a new inspection programme,” he added.

The minister said he believed that in time more children would find success, as they move through the school system, “irrespective of background, income, or special education needs,” he said.

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