Archive for March 26th, 2013

Governor closes parliament

Governor closes parliament

| 26/03/2013 | 23 Comments

temporarily-closed.jpg(CNS): The country’s Legislative Assembly has been prorogued after the Cayman Islands governor, Duncan Taylor, signed the necessary proclamation on Tuesday and the details were published in the Government Gazette. This paves the way for Nomination Day to take place on Wednesday, when more than 40 candidates are expected to formally declare their intentions to run for office in the 22 May General Election. At least half of those candidates will be contesting the six seats in the capital, where more than 7,500 people are registered to vote and where the battle for the LA will be focused. The incumbent members made their “swan songs” in the parliament Monday night, reflecting, with mixed views, on the last four years.

Looking both back and ahead, the MLAs all offered their thanks and congratulated themselves for what they saw as their achievements as well as expressing their hopes to be returned.

The opposition leader described this term as the “most eventful” that he had ever been involved with. While there was no point in going over what had happened, the members were not leaving the parliament on a high note, he said, in passing reference to controversies surrounding the former premier and the charges laid against him for theft and corruption offences.

He pointed to the continued uncertainty at home and abroad and the confusion that he felt would dominate the election campaign with so many candidates, but also with the two political parties, the Coalition for Cayman, as well as the interim government’s team and then the various lone independents. Alden McLaughlin warned that Cayman did not need any more uncertainty but that was what it faced if the country tried to cobble together a government of independents on 23 May.

“It will be much more challenging to come up with the necessary policies needed and for ten disparate people to come to some degree of consensus on major issues," he warned. "It is not an easy undertaking.”

McLaughlin also talked about the myth of the good old days of independents, noting that politicians had always run in teams. Pointing to the one and only election where there were no national teams in 2000, he said he didn’t have to remind people what a disaster that was and how, in the end, it gave rise to the birth of a formal party system in Cayman so that the voters would know what they were voting for.

Although he said he was “a reluctant convert to the party system”, experience had taught him that without a group that has sat down in advance of the elections and hammered out broad policy objectives, it was a recipe for disaster. The opposition leader said voters had a choice of choosing the government or choosing the people who would choose the government for them.

The beleaguered former premier, McKeeva Bush, said he had been in office seven terms and had paid dearly for that support and having the audacity to move forward, but the West Bay people usecommon sense as they know that he is a worker. Bush said he had piloted many projects over the 28 years which had benefitted all Caymanians. 

Noting what he said had been a difficult time over this four years, he said those in “officialdom” had not given him “the support they are supposed to give elected officials” and claimed much more could have been accomplished had they done so. “But there was too much sabotage … everyone knows,” Bush added, saying that time would record what had happened.

Despite the fact that he worked, and worked hard, day and night to keep "the good ship Cayman afloat", Bush lamented the criticism made of his government . He said the UDP had taken up office “under striking circumstances” and had been faced with tough decisions to make. “We had to raise fees or we would have turned belly,” he said as he accused the FCO of trying to force direct taxes on government. However, he claimed they had worked hard and succeeded to some extent to turn things around.

He implied that those who believed that a new administration was "going to be a cake walk” were misguided, and suggested they would have to fire 500 people from the public sector.

Agreeing with the opposition leader, the former premier said the elections were going to be challenging because many candidates were "coming out of the woodwork”, and he pointed to the Speaker as the only person he didn’t think was running. “But we must have an elected body that is cohesive,” Bush added. “No one or two people can do it by themselves; a group has to work and decide together. It’s not party system that’s wrong.” 

The former government leader closed by saying that he knew there were doubts but he said, “God doesn’t take sides … whatever God ordains is best.”

See the proclamation signalling the close of the Legislative Assembly below.

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Parties lay out plans for future government

Parties lay out plans for future government

| 26/03/2013 | 42 Comments

alden_1.jpg(CNS): This weekend the PPM and the UDP both gave a broad outline of how they plan to tackle the economic woes faced by Cayman if they are elected to government in May. The Progressives finalized their 15 member team, while the UDP confirmed the 12 people it is fielding in the three larger districts. A number of very similar policy plans were outlined by the parties as they made early campaign promises. Alden McLaughlin for the Progressives and both Walling Whittaker and McKeeva Bush for the UDP spoke about  micro-financing for small businesses, the need to attract new investment, plans to redevelop the airport and find a partner for the cruise berthing facilities, as well as the replacement of the rollover policy, but there were also notable differences.

McLaughlin spoke about the need to renegotiate the ForCayamn Investment Alliance with Dart and keep the West Bay Road as a through route, while Bush promised more foreign investment. McLaughlin rejected any proposal to relocate the dump to Bodden Town, while Whittaker, who had been a champion of that move, back-pedalled on the Dart proposal and promised to reveal the UDP plans for the dump later.

While the UDP promised a 100 day plan that would reduce unemployment by 25% in six months as a result of a multi-faceted emergency job creation programme, the Progressives spoke about the need to roll back many of the hefty taxes imposed by the previous administration.

The UDP claimed that almost 300 people had attended their general assembly to hear what plans the UDP now had in the face of the party split, following McKeeva Bush’s fall from office as a result of his arrest in December and subsequent charges earlier this month. Meanwhile, the PPM laid claim to well over 500 attendees at their party conference, which included a keynote speech and performance from country star Jimmy Wayne, entertainment from local cultural icons Daphne Orrett and Quincy Brown, as well as an endorsement from former MLA and minster Norman Bodden.

During his speech to the membership the opposition leader spoke at length about the need for open and transparent government and to rebuild trust after the last four years.

“I gave my personal guarantee … that any government that I have the privilege to lead will remain true to the highest ideal transparency and accountability,” McLaughlin stated. Referring to the international news headlines about the former premier’s arrest and charge for theft and corruption offences, he pointed out how damaging this had been to the reputation of the country. "If you were a credible investor, is this the place you would feel that your money is safe?” he asked rhetorically.

McLaughlin promised that the first order of business for the Progressives would be to restore confidence in the government of Cayman Islands both locally and internationally. “Investors must have certainty that the Cayman Islands is a country that plays by the rules and that those rules are equitable and transparent.”

Meanwhile, Mckeeva Bush also made a commitment to integrity in office and announced the introduction of a code of conduct for all of the UDP MLAs.

McLaughlin and the former premier also converged on the need for attracting investment in order to create jobs and get the economy moving again. McLaughlin spoke about the need to strive for a balanced budget to pay down debt and fund government's underfunded pension liability and its liability for healthcare. He also said the Progressives would seek public private partnerships in order to carry out much-needed infrastructure improvements.

Bush spoke about making Cayman attractive to foreign investors and said that a UDP government was an inclusive government that would not turn anyone away. He promised that the UDP would work very hard for everyone in Cayman — all 126 nationalities. Bush said he had always been a hard worker and the 12 candidates that would be running on the UDP ticket would also work hard for the people.

The former premier made a number of passing references to the recent and very public split between himself and five of his party members, who are now holding the helm of the minority government. Speaking about loyalty, he said the people in West Bay had been saying, “Don’t vote for cut throats!” and he hoped out loud that there would be no split among his new team.

The candidates who were confirmed on the UDP ticket included the addition, as expected, of Bernie Bush to the West Bay team with Velma Powery-Banks to complete the slate in McKeeva Bush’s own constituency, along with Capt. Eugene Ebanks. Just two UDP candidates were confirmed in Bodden Town — Theresa Pitcairn and Chris Saunders. Meanwhile, the George Town candidates were confirmed as incumbents Mike Adam and Ellio Solomon, who will be joined by Jonathan Piercy, who ran with the UDP in the last election, newcomer Rayal Bodden, Walling Whittaker, who ran as an independent in 2009, and finally Renard Moxam, a local business man who has not sought political office since the 1990s.

Both political parties have enough candidates to form a government and the numbers to deliver on their policy promises if they are returned. However, both face a split in their votes by an array of independents and the new interim government candidates. Although the lone candidates are disadvantaged under the multi-member system and unlikely to win seats in the larger districts, they and the former UDP members will undermine the straight fight between the parties.

The Progressives leader and the UDP boss, who remains at the helm despite speculation that he was considering handing the baton of leadership over as a result of his legal difficulties, spoke about the virtues of party politics. Bush said the party system worked, given Cayman’s adoption of the Westminster model of government.

McLaughlin said that the Progressives were the best team to take Cayman forward and that he needed them all with him, as he highlighted the 15 members’ mix of skills, talents and experience, both inside and outside the political arena.

The party leaders both urged their respective membership to go out and spread the word and vote for all of their candidates,signalling the start of their campaigns and the goal to win ten seats or more to avoid the need for horse trading and compromise — a situation that could easily follow on 23 May if neither party has a clear majority.

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Caymanian only jobs law passed by legislators

Caymanian only jobs law passed by legislators

| 26/03/2013 | 0 Comments

9536concierge_desk (235x300).jpg(CNS Business): Government pushed through eleventh hour legislation on Monday that will allow Cabinet to designate certain positions, jobs, types of work or business areas as the sole purview of Caymanians. An amendment to the immigration law does not specify any role or business which should be reserved for local people, leaving the next administration to carve out the occupations dependent on its policy decisions. But despite its lack of specifics, the law came in for criticism from across the crowded opposition benches as mere “electioneering” and “unnecessary political window dressing” that will not solve the fundamental immigration problem of boards not enforcing the law. Read more on this and other stories on CNS Business


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Diabetic runaway teen found safe in GT

Diabetic runaway teen found safe in GT

| 26/03/2013 | 26 Comments

Ashley McLaughlin.jpg(CNS): Update — Ashley McLaughlin, the fifteen-year-old diabetic teenager who was reported missing again this week, has been found safe and well. Police said Wednesday afternoon that she had been traced in the George Town area this afternoon. Earlier this week the police said that her family in East End had not seen her since left home at around 7am on Wednesday 20 March to go to the Clifton Hunter High School, where she is a student. Ashley has been reported missing on a number of previous occasions after running away, including earlier this month when she was found in the George Town area a few days later. The teen is diabetic and police said they were unsure if Ashley had insulin to medicate her condition.


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Minister banned from driving

Minister banned from driving

| 26/03/2013 | 103 Comments

rolston good.jpg(CNS): Fullstory — The education minister and Cayman's deputy premier was banned from driving for 12 months, fined CI$500 and ordered to pay the crown's costs of CI$2,473 by a magistrate. The sentence handed down Tuesday related to Rolston Anglin's conviction for drunk-driving following a single vehicle accident on the West Bay Road in the early hours of the morning of 23 May last year. Speaking on behalf of the minister, local attorney Steve McField told the court that his client was extremely remorseful and had undertaken a driver's rehabilitation course. He pointed to his important role in government and said the circumstances Anglin found himself in after making a foolish mistake were “tragic” as his client had always been honest and had strived all his life for perfection.

Anglin was given 30 days to pay his fine and costs, which amounted to less than $3000, and asked to submit his driving license to the court.

Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said that the defendant had recorded an alcohol level at the lower end of the reading and had completed a driver’s rehabilitation programme at his own cost. With a previous clean driving record, for which he was given credit, the magistrate handed down the minimum driving ban for the offence and the $500 fine, which fell below the maximum penalty of $1000. As Anglin did not plead guilty until after the trial had begun and caused the crown to seek an expert witnesses and incur costs, the magistrate found it was not unreasonable to order the defendant to pay those costs.  

Speaking outside of the courtroom after the sentence was handed down, Anglin said he had taken account for his own actions with his guilty plea.

“I want to apologise to the people of West Bay and to my family for putting myself in this situation. It is a learning experience and I complied with the court and went to a driver’s course and the magistrate handed down the minimum sentence over the loss of my license and I have lots of friends and my wife so I won’t be short of a ride,” the minister stated.

Anglin said he had taken a reality check, despite believing he had a good case, in the face of the charges and had decided that this was “one of those battles that was not worth fighting” as he understood the gravity of putting himself, as a public figure, in this situation.

“I want to say to people, don’t take the chance. Too many times we feel fine and believe you can make it home, even with a reading of 110 and when you are tired. If you throw those factors together, you see what can happen,” he said, as he encouraged people not to drink and drive.

The minister said he did not think the conviction would impact his bid for re-election as it would not be the main reason why people chose to vote for him or not. He said people would judge him but he had given the best years of his life to public service and he felt that it was his work that would be judged.

“I believe the people of West Bay will decide based on my body of work over the last twelve years and in particularthe last four as minister of education,” he added.

Anglin said he would not be abstaining from alcohol completely, as he described himself as a social drinker who enjoyed a drink when watching football. He said he would not be a hypocrite about that and pretend he would never have another drink.

Acknowledging calls for lowering the legal limit when it came to drinking and driving, he said that the next administration may want to look at that. He said it was unrealistic to think that people in the community would stop drinking but the key was not to drink and drive.

“In my case this is going to be well publicised and shows anyone can get themselves in this situation,” he said. “If you are going to drink, don’t drive.”

Until at least 23 May Anglin, as deputy premier, will have the services of a government-provided driver, something that his attorney, Steve mcField, thought Anglin, as a minister, should have had in the first place. During his appeal for the court to be lenient on the minister, McField said that in all other jurisdictions in the region he would have had the services of a driver when he was required to attend functions in his official capacity where alcohol is served.

During his speech to the court on behalf of Anglin, McField emphasised his client’s high office but said the court had to treat him like any other first time offender. He said Anglin had publicly admitted he was foolish to get behind the wheel when he had consumed alcohol, having had nothing to eat and after taking medication and energy drinks because he was unwell, but had been asked to attend the function.

“He is a decent professional person who made a bad mistake in judgment,” McField said, adding that his client “was profoundly remorseful”.

McField said Anglin had succumbed to the power of strong drink but he had sought “redemption” by admitting his guilt, albeit late in the day and part way through the trial, which was triggered by Anglin's initial not guilty plea.

The minister’s attorney argued that, while his client accepted responsibility for the costs of the court's expert witness, he should not be liable for his airfare, which was more than US$500, that the crown was claiming since the expert never came and the flight was cancelled. However, the crown contested that, despite the cancelation, it was so late in the day the public purse was unable to recoup the flight cost and the magistrate included the air ticket in her order for costs.

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