Archive for April 8th, 2013

Six days at sea sees two Cuban refugees leave boat

| 08/04/2013 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Immigration officials have confirmed that a vessel with eleven migrants arrived off Cayman Brac on Sunday afternoon, 7 April. Two of the men from the group, which included three women, reportedly chose to leave the boat and end their journey in Cayman yesterday after six days at sea. However, the rest of the group continued on with their journey, leaving the Brac around 6pm with no assistance form the local authorities. The two men who disembarked from the vessel were transported to Grand Cayman Monday where they will be processed and likely repatriated to Cuba. This brings the number of migrants currently held at the detention centre to 23.
 

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Animal charity and farm fail to agree on report

| 08/04/2013 | 7 Comments

Turtle flipper (243x300).jpg(CNS): Hopes of a possible working relationship between the World Society for Protection of Animals and the Cayman Turtle Farm have been dashed after the charity said Monday that talks between the parties have broken down as the farm refuses to recognise the animal welfare problems caused by its intensive farming operation. Having spearheaded a major international campaign to persuade the Turtle Farm to begin moving away from farming to a facility committed purely to conservation, the animal activists said that the CTF management wants the charity to renounce the findings of its year-long investigation and accept the farm's recent inspection report as “authoritative”.

Standing by WSPA’s evidence, Campaign Leader Dr Neil D’Cruze said the WSPA had hoped the farm’s recently self-commissioned report would provide a scientific basis for on-going discussion, but the charity said it lacked detail and was not broad enough to be treated as an authoritative piece of work.

“WSPA’s animal welfare concerns are based on robust evidence that demonstrates commercial sea turtle farming is cruel and inhumane. We see no reason to deny what we have already proven through scientific evidence,” he said. “WSPA cannot treat the Farm's report authoritatively as it only looks at the symptoms of poor welfare rather than the causes. Even if the Farm was to fulfil every one of the report’s recommendations, turtles would still suffer and the same problems would continue to re-occur”.

Having reviewed the report, the WSPA said in an official statement that it was not an authoritative piece of work that could serve as the basis for on-going constructive dialogue as the charity had significant concerns regarding the scientific and technical calibre of the report.

While the inspectors are recognized experts in the field of sea turtle biology, their report lacks the level of detail required for the reader to confirm that the report’s findings represent an accurate and unbiased reflection of the CTF’s operation.

No details are provided regarding how the panel assessed the CTF’s operation and there are concerns of bias as several of the inspectors have had prior and on-going collaborations with the farm.

“The WSPA feels that the independent nature of the inspection, subsequent report and recommendations within can be legitimately called into question,” it stated. “There are several key findings that contradict evidence collated via our own on-going in-depth investigation into the CTF and its operating methods.

"The WSPA challenges statements made in the report that there are ‘no significant issues of concern in the public facing aspect of the operation, that the handling of animals by guests raises no concerns or that there is 'strong evidence for the positive conservation impact of the CTF’.”

The WSPA has published photographic evidence of animal health and welfare concerns, such as inadequate captive conditions, stereotypic behaviours, injuries and disease in the public facing area of its operation.

The charity also notes that the report’s recommendations are aimed at addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes and, despite the CTF’s best efforts, severe animal welfare concerns will remain. The recommendations are fundamentally flawed, the WSPA states, as they are based on the false assumption that the green sea turtles housed at the CTF represent domesticated animals when there is no proof that there has a change in their phenotypical expression or genotype that enables them to cope better in intensive captive conditions than their wild counterparts.

Although the farm has not yet become a campaign issue, as there still remains broad support locally for breeding turtles to eat, the WSPA is still hopeful that the new Government will re-evaluate the future of the Cayman Turtle Farm for the sake of the green sea turtles as well as the Caymanian tax-payer.

The most recent annual reports from the farm re-confirmed the continuing subsidies to the tune of almost $10 million per annum that is being pumped into the farm because of on-going losses.

See full statement below.

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Veteran diver picks Cayman for last ‘dip’

| 08/04/2013 | 0 Comments

Cayman_Aggressor_Frink_1832.jpg(CNS): Stan Waterman, an internationally renowned diver and underwater photographer who plans to hang up his fins this year, is making his last dive here in the Cayman Islands this week. The scuba veteran will be 90 years old this week when he takes his final dive trip and will be staying aboard the Cayman Aggressor. He is returning to the islands for his last dip where he shot his first film in 1980 about the Cayman Islands dive tourism. Waterman chose Cayman to start his dive film career aboard the Aggressor because, the local owner said, it provided the best platform for filming and had a lot more space than other boats of its kind at the time.

Dubbed his “Last Hoorah”, and hoping for a little assistance as a result of his arthritis to get into the sea, Waterman said on his Facebook page that once he gets in the water, he feels 65 years old again.
 

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Coalition backs West Bay duo

| 08/04/2013 | 13 Comments

c4c candidates (187x300).jpg(CNS): As expected, the Coalition for Cayman has now formally endorsed the two West Bay candidates that are running on the advocacy group’s ticket. In a press statement, the C4C said that Mervin Smith and Tara Rivers, who were two of the speakers on the platform at the movement’s political launch last year, had been given the backing for their bid to be elected to the Legislative Assembly in May. Smith and Rivers launched their co-campaign last month and have already appeared on the national platform with the five other C4C candidates running in George Town. “Mervin Smith and Tara Rivers are honest leaders who will always do what is right for the Cayman Islands,” said C4C. 

“Their passion and love for Country mixed with their extensive business experience make them the perfect fit for our Assembly. We need fewer partisan politicians and more independent leaders like Mervin and Tara who will focus on what’s really important to Caymanian families like schools of excellence, a stronger economy and safer communities.”

The group said that C4C endorsements will be announced in the coming weeks and at present only Sharon Roulstone, who is running on the C4C ticket in the capital, has yet to be given the formal nod. So far, Roy McTaggart, Winston Connolly, Jacqueline “Jackee” Haynes and Jude Scott have all been endorsed by the C4C, which describes itself as an advocacy group and has rejected the party label because of its opposition in principle to the party system.

There remains a question mark over the endorsement of Charles Clifford, the former tourism minister, who resigned from the PPM as a result of disagreements over how the opposition should have handled the UDP administration's proposal to sell the new government building, among other issues. Clifford was understood to be in talks with C4C about his endorsement but it is not clear if the former minister, who is running for office in Bodden Town as an independent, will be seeking the group's backing.

Gregg Anderson, who has been a leading member in the district’s activist group campaigning to keep the proposed landfill project out of the district, has also sought C4C endorsement for his fight for a Bodden Town seat, but there have been no indications if he will be backed by the group.

The C4C has courted controversy since it was launched to high expectations last year because the group acts like a party but at the same time blames the party system rather than the politicians for the corruption and economic failures of government.

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Service club ‘disappointed’ over Levitt’s arrest

| 08/04/2013 | 0 Comments

PC100346.JPG(CNS): Clearly embarrassed by the arrest and charge of its former president, Michael Levitt, who is accused of stealing half a million dollars from his employer, the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise said Monday that it was disappointed by the turn of events. According to the current president, Levitt resigned from the service club on 18 March, more than two weeks after his arrest on 1 March in relation to the alleged fraud and theft from local financial firm Solomon Harris, which discovered the financial irregularities during its annual audit.

The club said in a statement that the club holds itself and its members to the “highest of standards”, as it pointed to the Rotary’s Four-Way Test: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

See full statement below.

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Cayman bottom of OT environment rankings

| 08/04/2013 | 37 Comments

ghost orchid2_1.jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands has come at the bottom of the rankings for environmental protection in the first ever analysis of environmental laws across all of the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories. The Cayman Islands was found to be significantly lacking in its environmental protection legislation. The report assessed the priority policy areas of biodiversity protection and development planning against criteria of environmental governance, and while Gibraltar was ranked top, Cayman was shamefully ranked at the very bottom of the table as a result of the persistent lack of political will to enact laws to protect the country’s natural resources.

The report, Environmental Governance in the UK’s Overseas Territories, was published and presented to the UK Government last month by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which wrote the report in conjunction with the Foundation for International Environmental Law & Development.

“Whilst some of the UK’s Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar have excellent environmental legislation, the gaps uncovered in this analysis are worrying and have the potential to allow damage to the environments and wildlife we are responsible for protecting,” said Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations. “We hope this review will encourage the UK Government to fulfil its ambitions ‘to set world standards’ in the Overseas Territories and begin a programme of work to strengthen the most pressing gaps in their environmental laws.”

The report determined that the Cayman Islands and Pitcairn were the weakest in all of the four categories of analysis, which were Species Protection, Site Protection, Development Control and Accountability.

The assessment comes nine months after the UK Government published its Overseas Territories White Paper in which UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to ‘cherish the environments’ and ‘help ensure their good government’.

The UKOTs hold over 90% of the threatened wildlife for which the UK is responsible, including the Cayman Islands' blue iguana and the Cayman ghost orchid. The report’s brochure uses the Cayman Islands as a case study, outlining a number of major gaps in environmental protection.

“We are pleased to see that such a respected international organization is urging better protection of Cayman’s biodiversity, which will hopefully enhance the level of protection offered by the National Trust, which is currently 5% of the landmass of the Cayman Islands,” said National Trust Executive Director Christina McTaggart.

In addition to its findings, the report offers seven recommendations, including urgent action on stalled legislation. A follow-up report is planned for 2015 to measure progress.

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Candidate forums start Monday in East End

| 08/04/2013 | 6 Comments

john mclean_0.JPG(CNS): The candidate forums hosted by the Cayman Chamber of Commerce kick off this evening in East end when the incumbent candidate for the district Arden McLean will go head to head with his sole opponent John McLean Jr. The Former PPM candidate who is now running on the independent ticket beat out McLean junior at the last election with almost 60% of the vote as a PPM candidate. Although the young challenger is running on an independent ticket he was endorsed publicly by the UDP leader McKeeva Bush, in a public meeting in the district last year. The then premier promised to give the would-be candidate money from the public coffers which had been given by the Dart group to undertake local projects, by passing the incumbent member.

The former premier acknowledged McLean was planning to run as an independent but Bush made it clear he did so with the full support of the UDP. And although Mclean is running for the first time as an independent since the formation of the PPM the current member still also has the support of his former party.

The forum starts at 7pm, and will also be broadcast on Radio Cayman, when the men are likely to be tackling district issues such as the arrival of the Shetty hospital and marine parks conservation as well as national issues from corruption to unemployment.

Tomorrow the political forums which have developed a reputation for generating interesting debate as the candidates do not see the questions ahead of time will move to Bodden Town for the first of two in that district. Over the next three weeks the forum will move to all of the districts where every candidate is expected to take part.

See related stories on CNS:

Mac backs 'new' McLean

Mclean resigns from PPM
 

For more information on the forums go to www.caymanchamber.ky

 

 

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BT landfill EIA published

| 08/04/2013 | 92 Comments

dump report.JPG(CNS): Despite the dwindling political support for the proposal by the Dart Group to relocate Grand Cayman’s landfill to Bodden Town the firm has published the Environmental Statement in relation to the project for public comment. The details of the EAB, which was conducted by Cardno ENTRIX who were paid by Dart, are now public and the department of environment officials are asking for comment on the findings. The draft statement is the written report of the EIA process and provides a technical based evaluation of potential environmental impacts from the controversial proposed waste-management project. The EIA claims however, not to have identified any significant environmental impacts that cannot be addressed.

“Residual impacts anticipated were limited to intermittent odor issues that may occur based on weather conditions, an increase in noise levels along Bodden Town Road in proximity to the Project, and minor (non-measurable) impacts from stormwater discharges,” the report finds in its summary. “In consideration of residual odor control, the phasing of landfill construction is proposed to occur in a south to north progression. This phasing of construction will decrease the potential for odor impacts over time, as the distance between active landfill cells and existing development increases.”

The publication of the environmental statement on the proposed project comes in the wake of revelations by the former UDP representative in Bodden Town, Dwayen Seymour that he was not supporting the initiative. Although Seymour had appeared to offer his backing for the controversial decision which was set to form part of a deal government made with the Dart Group to close the GT landfill and open a new waste-management facilityin Bodden Town on Thursday voluntarily revealed that he had never been in favour of the move.

With the new UDP candidates also looking as though they are taking a different position on the proposal and all of the independent candidates and the PPM vehemently opposed to plan the project is now looking increasingly less likely to go ahead.

The full document and relevant appendices relating to the environment statement however are now available for all to see on the DoE site or a hard copy can be reviewed at the following locations: can be reviewed at the Government Office Building, Elgin Avenue, George Town, Bodden Town Public Library, Bodden Town Post Office and George Town Public Library.

Comments on the Draft ES must be submitted in writing over the next three weeks up to 29 April either during the two open house sessions later this month,  electronically via e-mail to doe@gov.ky,  mailed to Department of Environment, P.O. Box 10202, Grand Cayman KY1-1002, or hand delivered to the department at the Environmental Centre, 580 North Sound Road, George Town, Grand Cayman.

Two Open House sessions are being provided to inform the public about the EIA Process and invite comments on the ES. Representatives from Cardno ENTRIX, the Proponent and the EAB will be available at both sessions to provide information and receive comments concerning the Draft ES.  These sessions will occur on Wednesday, April 17, at the Bodden Town Civic Center and on Thursday, April 18 at the Elmslie Memorial United Church. The sessions open at 5pm with the formal presentation starting at  7pm.

See the report here
 

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How not to ‘treat’ democracy

| 08/04/2013 | 32 Comments

This year there seems tobe an attempt by authorities (and political motivation by some political opponents looking for a 'level playing field') to stamp out 'treating'. In short, treating means giving stuff to voters to influence their vote and this apparently has included food and beverages for some time. Both the giver and the recipient commit the offense.

No one knows why this was never enforced despite being widely discussed during the last election. But we can assume that the fact that this year there will be election observers combined with a more competitive election scene are the reasons for the sudden urge to issue strong 'warnings' on this provision for the first time.

The political activist group C4C has jumped on the bandwagon, launching ads against appliances and turkeys. This is all good. But specifically on the subject of food and beverages at public meetings, is this provision 'good' for democracy?

There is the very reasonable observation raised by bloggers, including a few on CNS, that no one is going to swear allegiance to a candidate based on a piece of jerk chicken or some fruit punch.

A law is a law is a law and obviously breaches of it cannot be ignored. But that does not stop us from questioning whether the law is in fact a good one. The treating provision cannot simply be assessed as 'good' because it discourages the giving of food for votes at a meeting. It also needs to be assessed from the perspective of whether it is practical to discourage thousands of voters from bothering to attend a public meeting where they can get information directly from candidates in order to make that very important decision on May 22nd. If that means providing a basic amenity, such as some food or a soda, so they are comfortable, then why is this practice (which has been around for the past 70 years, not just in the Caribbean but all around the world) so terribly 'offensive' to democracy?

Like it or not, the democratic process simply will not work if people are asked to be as uncomfortable as possible to participate. No one supports the giving of money, appliances or anything of other material value to voters. But organising a public meeting and providing refreshments does not seem unreasonable.

At this stage the law is set but the Elections Office and the sitting government should seriously consider taking some form of action to correct or amend the treating provision to enable food and drinks at public meetings, or they should be prepared to enforce the provision fully and change the face of local elections (including risking a reduction in public participation in the democratic process) in 2013.

Doing nothing is simply setting everyone up for failure. At this stage at least one group has broken the law and if we are enforcing it then they should technically suffer the consequences now without further delay. The Elections Office and other parties within the entire elections administration face a very serious credibility issue if they continue to say that food at public meetings "may" be considered as treating while allowing it to continue without enforcement.

Either it is or it isn't treating and they know very well what the answer is because the law is clear. Ironically, their unwillingness to enforce the provision is a sure sign that they realise how impractical it is. And if that's the case, then take some action now to avoid the ridiculous situation that sets everyone up to commit a criminal offense by giving or drinking a free fruit punch by making a legislative or policy change to maintain some credibility in the Cayman Islands' democratic process.

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Miller expects mudsling in North Side campaign

| 08/04/2013 | 8 Comments

Ezzard Miller (224x300).jpg(CNS): Ezzard Miller, the independent incumbent member for North Side, said he was expecting lies and mudslinging from his opponent, Joey Ebanks, in the district’s head-to-head fight between them. Launching his campaign on Thursday night at a meeting of some 300 people, the populist member said his opponent was “sowing seeds of hatred and division and all manner of evil" to detract from his own difficulties. Ebanks is expected to answer police bail Tuesday in connection with his arrest in March regarding financial irregularities at the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA). But he has claimed he is the victim of a conspiracy and has entered the North Side fight threatening to expose corruption.

However, Ebanks is also now the subject of several civil legal threats as a result of allegations that he has made on his Facebook page since his arrest.

Miller told his constituents that Ebanks, who declared his intention to run the night before Nomination Day, had been sent by “none other than McKeeva (Bush), who simply cannot bear to think that you will send me back as your representative”, and he pointed to the alarming situation that no one in Cayman ever expected to see.

“Did any of you imagine that we would have seen the day in Cayman when we would have a premier removed from office because he was under criminal investigations that have now led to criminal charges?” he asked. “Did you think you would see the day when you have a candidate in this district who is also under police bail for serious criminal investigations and who is nominated by a person under criminal charges before our courts?”

Miller asked for the help of his supporters to be returned to the Legislative Assembly after what he said was a successful four years, even though he was an independent on the opposition benches. He said the achievements were possible through the participatory democracy of the North Side District Council, established four months after the 2009 election, and what he described as the “most satisfying accomplishment” of past four years. Despite the achievements, which had been listed by several of his constituents from the CCTV installation to the North Side dock project, he said there was still a lot to be done in the district.

Campaigning on a platform of representation for the district but with an eye on Cayman as a whole, Miller said the country needed leaders who cannot be bought or corrupted.

“We need leaders who look out for Cayman and Caymanians, not themselves. In this election, we need to vote for persons who have a track record of success, who have demonstrated the ability to take the tough decisions, who are willing to consult with you on all matters, and who are not afraid of transparency. A whole lot of light needs to shine on government’s and our leaders' activities,” he added.

With defined policy positions on the major issues of the day, Miller said Cayman did not need more imported  developers “to plunder” the economy while sending profits overseas, but pointed to initiatives such as those suggested by independent candidate for George Town, Bo Miller, to encourage Caymanians to invest in their own economy.

Miller said tackling unemployment in the short term required the political will to reduce work permits and give the jobs held by foreign labour to local people who are out of work and to introduce a minimum wage. “I call for the appointment of a jobs czar and the removal of the work permit board, which has become little more than a place for political favours ordained by the political directorate on behalf of those who got them elected,” he added.

He also pointed to the need for a fundamental switch in tackling crime, which is directly linked to drug use, as he recalled his own 1989 National Drug Plan, which had a focus of spending on demand reduction rather than interdiction, that was ignored.

Claiming that independents can play a key role in government, he said that he and his running mate in the neighbouring district of East End, Arden McLean, had demonstrated that they could have a significant impact. From putting a stop to the proposed East End port facility and exposing the shortfalls in the ForCayman Investment Alliance, as well as the China Harbour cruise port deal, he said they had shown what can be done when independents work together.

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