Archive for December 12th, 2012

Turtle Farm defends independence of review

| 12/12/2012 | 26 Comments

turtle-swimming-grand-cayman.jpg(CNS): Contrary to the statement from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) about the review of the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF), the local attraction said Wednesday that it was an unbiased and independent investigation, with the primary goal to determine if standards of care meet those required to ensure that the operation is conducted in a “humane manner”. The farm stated that the terms of reference directly related to the welfare of the turtles, and matched the areas of concern alleged by the WSPA in the report. “We therefore are at a loss to understand why the WSPA claims the review does not have the welfare of the turtles in the care of the Cayman Turtle Farm at heart,” the Farm stated in a release.

On Monday the WSPA said it had concerns that the review team was compromised of at least two members that had worked with the farm in the past and that there were no animal welfare experts on the team. The WSPA was also concerned about the standards to which the Cayman Turtle Farm would be held.

However, CTF said that as it is a completely unique facility with nothing to compare to, the terms of reference had to be based on the standards of practice that would apply to a comparable intensive livestock facility.

“The WSPA takes issue with this, arguing that the turtle is not a domesticated species. However, neither were pigs, cows or chickens – until they were in fact farmed and domesticated,” the Farm said.

CTF also stated that the four inspectors are all well-known turtle experts and members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG).

George Balazs, a sea turtle scientist with 40 years of professional experience, has published over 100 journal papers on sea turtles. He has been a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group since 1976, and is currently the MTSG Vice-Chair for the Pacific Islands Region.

Dr Annette Broderick is a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology. She has been researching marine turtle populations for over 20 years, with much of her work focusing on the UK Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands. Her research focuses on the conservation and monitoring of marine turtle populations, in particular reproductive investment; impacts of temperature on hatchling production; migration and navigation of adults and the management of marine turtle harvests. She is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

Dr Thierry Work is a veterinarian, and a wildlife disease expert with 20 years of professional experience on diseases of sea turtles. He is credited with over 40 journal papers on sea turtles. He is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group and the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG).

Professor Brendan Godley is a marine conservation scientist and qualified veterinarian who has been working on marine turtles around the world for over 20 years. He is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Professor Godley was selected by the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to conduct an inspection in 2002 on the Cayman Turtle Farm. He serves on the IUCN Veterinary Specialist Group and the Turtle Implementation Group for the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for Marine Turtles.

“Despite the clear qualifications of these individuals to conduct a thorough review of the Cayman Turtle Farm, the WSPA has complained that there is no animal welfare expert on the review team,” the Farm stated, adding that it did not know how the WSPA defined an animal welfare expert as all of the team are inarguably experts on sea turtles. It said two are qualified veterinarians, while another has three years’ experience on an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) combined with formal training in animal welfare.

The farm also denied that team was compromised and said it believed that if a WSPA expert had been invited to take part then the review would have been less independent.

“For this reason, neither a WSPA representative nor a Cayman Turtle Farm representative are included on the team, for the very purpose of ensuring that the reviewers come to their own independent conclusions,” the CTF said.

Professor Brendan Godley and Dr Annette Broderick have been in contact with the Cayman Turtle Farm over the years in the course of their work, which the farm said is not surprising as the Farm is the only organisation of its kind in the world, focusing on captive breeding of sea turtles and maintaining a stock of sea turtles of various ages.

However, CTF said neither Professor Godley nor Dr Broderick have ever been employed by CTF. Godley conducted a review of the Cayman Turtle Farm in 2002 that was funded by the UK Government and he was selected by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) based on his expertise.

The report is due at the end of January and CTF said it will pursue the recommendations arising from it and make the findings public.

“The Cayman Turtle Farm was not forced into this independent review. We chose to have it conducted and agreed to pursue its findings in order to address the areas of concern which arose due to the WSPA’s allegations, and to reaffirm that the Cayman Turtle Farm is a bona fide research and conservation facility, which does not practice or condone animal cruelty, and which is committed to the wellbeing of the turtles in our care,” CTF said.

According to the review terms of reference, the inspection team is expected to examine water quality; stocking densities; treatment and prevention of disease and injury; levels and causes of mortality; levels (if any) of severe injuries; levels (if any) of congenital deformities; handling of animals by guests (including safety of both animals and guests); and slaughter methods and practice.

Related article on CNS:

Cayman Turtle-Farm-undergoes-review

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Local transmissions of dengue reach 20 cases

| 12/12/2012 | 4 Comments

Dengue.jpg(CNS): Public health officials confirmed Wednesday that the total number of cases under investigation for dengue fever since the beginning of the year had grown to 82 as a result of nine new potential cases being investigated since the previous update at the end of last month. Fourteen results were received this week but only four tested positive as doctors test to rule out rather than confirm the spread of the disease because the outbreak appears to be on the decline. The number of cases transmitted locally grew to 20 however, 16 of which were contracted in West Bay which remains the district with the highest concentration of dengue patients.

Out of the 67 cases for which results have now been received less than half have proved positive. 36 cases were negative, 15 cases are pending and 31 were positive. Of those, 20 had no travel history, suggesting that they acquired the dengue locally – 16 in West Bay, 2 in George Town and 2 in Bodden Town.

During the course of the outbreak, which is now in decline after the wet season drew to a close last month, 24 people with suspected dengue had been admitted and treated in hospital. Of those, 12 were confirmed as dengue while 6 were negative and the remaining 6 are awaiting results.
 

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Bush bailed, no charges

| 12/12/2012 | 63 Comments

mac mary miller.jpg(CNS): Updated — While the RCIPS has emphasised that investigations involving the Cayman Islands premier remain active, a spokesperson said that McKeeva Bush has been released on police bail following a number of interviews with Financial Crimes Unit officers today and yesterday. Police said Bush has been placed on police bail until early February 2013 to allow further investigations to take place both here in Cayman and abroad, in connection with the allegations made against him. They also confirm that a considerable amount of property, including computer equipment, was seized during searches yesterday. "The investigations involving Mr Bush are still very active and the RCIPS will be pursuing all lines of enquiry in consultation with the Legal Department," the RCIPS said.

Meanwhile, Suresh Prasad, who had been questioned by the RCIPS in connection with allegations of corruption relating to the dynamite probe, was also released Wednesday on police bail until February next year while enquiries continue.

Police did not state what, if any, bail conditions had been placed on either the premier or Prasad at the time of their release from custody.

Despite, his release sometime on Wednesday afternoon and the news that the premier will face no more questions from the police until next year, there was no comment from him, the government in general or the UDP on his position. Cabinet, which was cancelled on Tuesday to allow the UDP party to meet, was convened today in the absence of the premier.

 

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SaxonMG sponsors International Men’s Day football tournament

| 12/12/2012 | 0 Comments

IMD.gif(IMDFT): The annual International Men’s Day celebrations kicked off in Cayman last month with a football tournament sponsored for the second year running by a generous donation from local insurance company, Saxon MG. International Men's Day focuses on the health of men and boys, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality and highlighting positive male role models. It is intended to raise awareness about discrimination against men and boys, and also to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular to community, family, marriage, and childcare.

SaxonMG CEO, Brian Williams, said, "This is a great way to honour our youth and men by participating together in a football tournament, and we are looking forward to participating and sponsoring future IMD events.”

International Men's Day (IMD) was inaugurated in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago and draws support from individuals and groups in Australia, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

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Calls mount for premier’s resignation

| 12/12/2012 | 16 Comments

ex n ard (219x300)_0.jpg(CNS): There was still no news at lunchtime on Wednesday regarding the premier’s position in office. Neither the UDP nor Cabinet made any comment as calls mounted from the community and the political opposition. Although the official opposition leader, Alden McLaughlin, fell short of asking Mckeeva Bush to resign in his statement on Tuesday, both independent MLAs said that Bush must now step down or the UDP members should remove him from the top political job. Their sentiments were supported by the Coalition for Cayman, a new political group, which says it’s not a political party, and which also blamed the current situation on party politics.

Growing numbers of bloggers, commentators and radio talk-show callers throughout Cayman's community were calling Tuesday for the premier to step down from the top political job, echoing the sentiments of local politicians.

Speaking on behalf of the two independent opposition members, Arden McLean, MLA for East End, said that while Bush’s arrest was “a blemish on our reputation” the action by the RCIPS sent a clear message that the country respected the rule of law and that no one is above it.

“These are serious allegations and we have maintained and publicly stated time and time again that corruption, or the appearance of it, must not be tolerated in any democratic society such as ours,” McLean said, adding that he and Northside independent member, Ezzard Miller, had confidence in the judicial process.

Following a short formal statement the two politicians both agreed that there was no option but for bush to resign voluntarily, and if he did not then his colleagues in the UDP would have to force his hand. “The honourable thing for him to do now is step aside and let the process take its course,” Miller stated. McLean added that he is only one man but there are 14 other MLAs in the country’s parliament.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Cayman called for Bush’s immediate resignation and asked his party to take action if he did not resign voluntairily. Although the coalition said it had to be careful not to prejudge, the nation had to be clear that corruption in any form would not be tolerated.

“It is a time for the people of the Cayman Islands to come together. We have an opportunity to set aside partisan politics and work together to create a better future for the Cayman Islands that includes independent leaders with integrity and competence who will always put Country First,” a spokesperson for the group stated.

In his statement following the premier’s arrest, Alden McLaughlin, the People's Progressive Movement (PPM) leader and leader of the opposition, called on the UDP to resolve the situation.  He said that the social and economic interests of the Islands depended on Mr. Bush's colleagues acting swiftly. Pointing to the accepted international best practice and the conventions of the Westminster system of government, he said there was clear guidance on the course of action that ought now to be followed.

See political statements below

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CoP warns rumourmongers

| 12/12/2012 | 28 Comments

_DSC7472-web.jpg(CNS): The head of the local police is threatening to take legal action against the people spreading what he says is an entirely false story about his involvement in a road crash after drinking alcohol but not being asked to take a breath test. The commissioner of police (CoP), David Baines, has also pointed out that a picture circulating on social media of a sleeping police officer is not a member of the RCIPS. Baines said he was not oblivious to the fact that the emergence of the rumour and the picture coincide with the high profile sensitive police investigation currently underway, but the attempts to damage the RCIPS and his reputation would not undermine the probe.

“It has come to my attention over the past 24 hours that there have been two very separate but distinct attempts to undermine the credibility of both the RCIPS and me personally,” Baines said in a statement released Wednesday morning.  “It is not lost on me that these attacks come at a time when we are in the midst of a very sensitive and high profile investigation. However, let me assure the public, and those who would seek to damage both my reputation and that of the RCIPS as a whole, that we will not allow them to detract us from the job in hand.”

The top cop said he was aware of rumours circulating that he was involved in a car crash sometime in the past two weeks and, that despite the fact he was allegedly driving under the influence, he was not asked to provide a breath test to the officers at the scene.

“The incident referred to did not take place and anyone who suggests it did is a liar,” Baines stated emphatically. “I do not drink and drive and if I had been involved in a crash, I would expect my officers to act professionally and to administer a breath test, as per our normal procedures. Let me make it clear that it is my intention to take legal action against anyone who has made, or continues to make, pass-on or publish, these defaming comments.”

The commissioner asked anyone who has received such comments to come forward and name the people responsible to allow those proceedings to commence.

“I would urge anyone who believes that they have evidence of wrongdoing by me, or indeed of any RCIPS officer, to contact our Professional Standards Unit. However, if individuals don’t have confidence in the internal investigation process they should send the information to the Governor’s Office for attention.  I expect the highest standards of my officers, not least as that is what the public of the Cayman Islands deserves. Those same standards apply to myself and anyone else on the Island, as none of us is above the law.”

sleepy officer.JPG_.JPG_.jpgBaines also pointed to a photograph which has circulated on social media showing a sleeping police officer wearing a cap with a red band. “This photograph is being circulated with the headline – RCIPS at its best. The individual in the picture is not an RCIPS officer and the cap badge is clearly from another jurisdiction.”

Baines said although the picture has been circulating round the Caribbean for several months – the headline stating it is an RCIPS officer has only just been added for greater local impact.
 

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Crown gives up on appeal over old drugs case

| 12/12/2012 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Efforts by the crown to appeal against a Summary Court decision to quash drugs charges in a case where prosecutors ran out of time appear to have been abandoned. The director of public prosecutions (DPP) had begun an appeal when charges against Richard Parson for possession and consumption of cocaine were dismissed back in August 2010. However, the crown appears to have given up on the case, which now joins a list of cases where charges were dismissed because of a failure by the police to file charges within six months as required by law.  According to an FOI request filed by a local attorney some two years ago, at least 45 cases had gone the same way because of delays in the process.

Enquiries have determined that the Parsons case was last set to be mentioned more than a year ago but it has not returned to the courts. Although members of the public have to post a CI$500 bond to pursue an appeal, this is not the case for the crown so there will be no sanction for the DPP’s decision to abandon this course of action.

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Premier back with cops

| 12/12/2012 | 30 Comments

mac face_0.jpg(CNS): McKeeva Bush, the premier of the Cayman Islands, has been returned to police custody following his overnight bail at his home in West Bay. An RCIPS spokesperson confirmed Wednesday morning that Bush was once again being questioned by officers in connection with corruption enquiries. The premier was arrested on Tuesday morning and questioned throughout the day before being bailed in the evening. The RCIPS did not state at what time the premier was arrested or where he was being held. CNS understands that Bush was taken to the new marine base at Newlands yesterday but was moved from that location in the afternoon. Suresh Prasad, the second man arrested in the police probe and also bailed yesterday evening, is expected to return to police custody for further questioning later today.

While a number of Bush’s political opponents, his chief of staff, the governor and industry bodies have all released statements regarding the premier’s arrest and its impact on Cayman, the UDP and government ministers have remained quiet, stating only that they are aware of the “gravity” of the situation and that caucus meetings have been convened.

Several members of the party and Cabinet were at Bush’s House Tuesday evening but no statements or information about that gathering have been released.

Check back to CNS throughout the day for continued updates.

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CI premier may still get honorary Jam doctorate

| 12/12/2012 | 26 Comments

phd_degree_mug (276x300).jpg(CNS): The dean of the University College of the Caribbean has confirmed that the institution has had to change its arrangements for Thursday’s commencement ceremony as a result of the arrest of the Cayman Islands premier; however, it may still bestow an honorary doctorate at a later date.McKeeva Bush was scheduled to give an address on integrity at the ceremony when he was also set to receive a Doctor of Public Service degree for his years of service as Cayman’s longest serving legislator. Bush was described by the college as a friend of Jamaica who took risks on behalf of Jamaicans living in Cayman.

Dr Herbert Thompson, chancellor of the University College of the Caribbean (UCC), told the Gleaner Tuesday that Bush had done a lot of things for Jamaica and other nationalities who were struggling in Cayman. "He did some risky things and the Jamaicans there will sing his praises every day," Thompson told the Jamaican press.  He said that Bush had made his presence felt at a time when several Jamaicans living in Cayman were without status or citizenship. He was referring to the 2003 status grants, when close to 3000 people were given the right to be Caymanian, many of whom were Jamaicans who had lived and worked in the Cayman Islands, in some cases for decades, with no rights.

Bush was taken into custody by police Tuesday in connection with a corruption investigation. The police revealed more than 18 months ago that Bush was under investigation over financial irregularities. Then in April of this year, following comments by the governor that there was a second probe into Bush, the police commissioner confirmed the RCIPS were investigating two further matters relating to the premier confirming that three separate enquiries were on-going.

However, Thompson appeared to believe that Bush's arrest, days before he was to be conferred with the honorary degree, was political. "We don't know what this is about. A lot of what is happening is a political thing, and the timing could not have been worse," he said, adding that while the arrest had forced the university to alter its plan it had not ruled out conferring the honour at a later date.

“We will make some adjustments, but we are not passing any judgement and we hope that whatever difficulties they have will blow over and the truth will come out," he stressed.  "We had made it clear as to why we felt that McKeeva Bush was a good person to be a commencement speaker," Thompson said." McKeeva Bush, as premier, deserves his day in court like any other person."

Local personality Robert Hamaty, the retired Jamaica honorary consul to Cayman, told The Gleaner that many people in Cayman were shocked by the arrest. "It is a sad day,” Hamaty told the paper. “No matter who it is or what it is, it is not a nice situation to have your first premier under investigation…I don't think anybody expected it to come to this. It is a sad day, but we can't say anything until we hear what is happening. A person is not guilty until convicted," he added.

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Bush’s top civil servant says don’t rush to judge

| 12/12/2012 | 44 Comments

LEONARD (234x300)_0.jpg(CNS): The chief of staff from the premier’s office, Leonard Dilbert, has called on the people not to judge his boss as he said that McKeeva Bush had not been charged of any offence. In an unusual move for a civil servant, Mr Dilbert released a statement in his official capacity on Tuesday evening pointing out that "being suspected of having done something is far from it having been proven,” and lamenting his belief that being accused of wrongdoing tainted a person's reputation in Cayman, even if they are cleared. “It is also important to remind the people of the Cayman Islands not to rush to judgment,” he stated.

Dilbert said that negative press regarding leaders and those with a high public profile affected everybody. He urged the community to “all examine ourselves if we feel moved to condemn the person who may be under a cloud.”

The senior civil servant went on to say that, “we all sin every day, in word and thought and deed,” before urging people to pray for the premier.

“I do not presume to speak in his defence, only to say that any fair minded person must acknowledge that he has worked hard and long in the interests of the people of the Cayman Islands,” Dilbert added in his statement about the premier, posted in full below.

 

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