Archive for May 16th, 2013

Cabinet says veterans’ benefits not at risk

| 16/05/2013 | 19 Comments

ship.JPG(CNS): Over the last few months the community affairs ministry has been urging those people who collect veterans' or seamen's benefits as a result of past service at sea to contact the ministry so it can verify that the people concerned are still alive and living here in Cayman. Speaking at Thursday’s press briefing, the current Cabinet said that, contrary to rumours, the monthly payments from government were not at risk. Meanwhile, on the campaign trail the PNA members of the minority Cabinet have been hammering home the message that these and all other social  payments come from central government coffers and are not dependent on McKeeva Bush being in office.

Health Minister Mark Scotland said that John Douglas, a former member of the CINICO board who had been removed, had been spreading “erroneous” information regarding seafarers' cash and health benefits. Scotland said that along with the $550 payment that former mariners and their spouses receive, the veterans are also covered by CINICO with a co-payment of 10% co-pay.

“Government has done nothing to reduce or eliminate those benefits,” Scotland said, following the comments that were made on Radio Cayman and other media this week. “It is all still in place," he added, noting that the numbers of seafarers receiving benefits had increased in the last four years,with up to 200 people now getting the payment.

Scotland said that the idea that the payments would decrease as people passed away was wrong and in reality more and more former sea veterans have been added to the list of those receiving the payment from the public purse. However, the minister said government was committed to ensure all veteran continue to receive the payment and had been trying to improve the health benefits so government covers the 10% co-pay as well.

Rolston Anglin echoed the sentiment and said everyone in government, despite what was happening next week, was committed to the benefits, which have cross-party support. He added that it was not a pension but a direct benefit to seafarers, given more than a decade ago to honour that category of Caymanians.

Dwayne Seymour, whose ministry is responsible for distributing the payment, said Douglas’ comments about the benefits were political, and since taking the ministry he had been involved in the process of trying to get information on all seafarers.

“There is no effort or move to remove the benefit or cut off anyone during my tenure,” Seymour said, adding that his staff said the review was to ensure everyone who was getting the benefit was entitled to it and they were trying to establish that the money was going to people who were still alive. He said there were some 60 to 70 veterans on the waiting list who were not receiving benefits yet because of budget constraints and they could only be added when someone else dies. “These are austere times. That’s the reality of things,” he added.

On the campaign trail PNA West bay candidates Cline Glidden and Rolston Anglin have both raised the issue of what they said was the dependency culture fostered by the former premier. They have been at pains to stress that these benefits or any others, such as help from the department of social services or scholarships, all come from public coffers and are not dependent on McKeeva Bush being in office. The men stated categorically that Bush does not control these purse strings and he cannot take away any legitimate financial entitlement from any Caymanian receiving any official government pay-out.

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Booze ban in place for Election Day

| 16/05/2013 | 32 Comments

056087-no-beer.jpg(CNS): With the General Election less than one week away, the Elections Office is reminding all liquor licence holders that no alcohol can be sold or given away until 7pm in the evening on Polling Day, an hour after the polls close. This includes bars, restaurants, hotels, duty free stores, as well as local liquor shops. Elections Supervisor Kearney Gomez also reminded employers that they must allow all staff members who are registered voters time off to go to the polls and that all political advertisements and banners and other inducements to vote for a particular candidate or party must be removed by midnight on Tuesday 21 May.

Officials had discussed the possibility of amending the law to allow hotels and restaurants catering to tourists the ability to serve alcohol to guests but the amendment never made it to the floor of the LA. As a result, the blanket booze ban remains in place for 22 May across all three Cayman Islands from 7am till 7pm, if the polls close on time as expected at six o’clock in the evening.

Although Election Day is a public holiday, some people will still be working and Gomez said that employers are lawfully obligated to give their workers a reasonable period for voting. No employer can make any deduction from the pay of any elector or impose a penalty due to their absence as a result of voting.

In addition, Gomez reminded the candidates, their committees and agents that no political advertisements, political broadcasting or political announcements are permitted on Election Day. 

“All banners, posters and any other advertising materials must be removed by midnight on Tuesday May 21, 2013.  The wearing of clothing which exhibit the image of any candidate or contains any printed statement supporting any candidate or political party will not be allowed within any polling precinct,” he added.

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Irish rugby legend to star at annual bash

| 16/05/2013 | 1 Comment

GM Dinner.jpg(CRFU): The Cayman Rugby Football Union has confirmed that Geordan Murphy will be the guest speaker at the Union’s Annual Players Dinner to be held at Ristorante Papagallo on 14 June 2013. Murphy, who retired from International Rugby in May of 2012 having attained 74 caps for Ireland, 2 caps for the British and Irish Lions and 1 cap for the Barbarians recently announced his retirement from Professional Rugby this month after 16 years and over 320 games with premier English club side Leicester Tigers. Whilst Murphy is set to hang up his boots and take up a coaching position with Leicester next season he is still seen as one of the finest attacking fullbacks in the northern hemisphere.

His long list of career achievements includes;
– Earning his first Ireland cap against the USA in 2000 (scoring 2 tries on debut).
– Winning the Irish Sport Writers Player of the Season award at the end of the 2003 season.
– Being selected for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005.
– Featuring for Ireland in the 2007 & 2011 Rugby World Cups,
– Winning the 6 Nations Grand Slam with Ireland in 2009
– Winning the Premiership for Leicester 7 times
– Winning the Heineken Cup for Leicester 2 times.

Following on from last year’s speaker Shane Williams the Cayman Union is excited to host yet another great player from the modern Rugby era!

Tables of 10 at the dinner can be reserved by emailing crfu@candw.ky and individual tickets can be purchased over the Cayman Rugby Club bar at a cost of CI$100.00 per head or CI$125.00 for non union members. The dinner includes a cocktail reception, 3 course seated dinner and a bottle of wine per person.
 

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Officials urge Cayman to prepare for hurricanes

| 16/05/2013 | 6 Comments

house882 (255x300).jpg(CNS): With the country’s attention firmly focused on the political storms, the impending arrival of the Atlantic Hurricane Season on 1 June has taken a back seat for many people. However, local officials are urging everyone to begin their preparations during the forthcoming holiday weekend. Monday 20 May is the National Day of Preparedness, with this year’s theme focusing on things people need to survive a major storm. The theme "Get your preparedness kit together!" urges residents to consider what they need and get stocked up before the season starts.

In past hurricanes, such as Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Paloma, many residents lost passports, photographs, computers and even their vehicles. In some cases people were hungry and thirsty in the days immediately following the impact, but with proper planning most of these hardships and losses could have been avoided, officials from Hazard Management said.

“When a hurricane threatens there is a lot to do and many important decisions to be made. If you leave things to the last minute there really is only time to scramble to gather some vital supplies — if there are any left in the stores,” the department warned as it urged people to prepare now.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said that with an active season forecasted, at a minimum residents should have a supply of non-perishable food for at least three days and a week’s supply of water.

“Before the season starts, try to determine where you plan to shelter if a hurricane threatens,” Manderson said, as he urged Caymanians to use Monday as an opportunity to plan for the season.

“Storm surge is the primary threat to life. The surge (not including the waves) has exceeded 20 feet in past hurricanes that have impacted the Cayman Islands; so if you live on the coast or in a low lying area, it is likely you will want to move to a less vulnerable location. Residents are reminded that shelters are not equipped to take pets therefore alternative arrangements should be made.”

He also asked people to take steps to minimize their dependence on government, family or friends to support them in the aftermath of a storm by taking the steps needed to get prepared. The deputy governor asked residents to put together emergency supplies of food and water and for those who have them to get their generators serviced and check shutters. He reminded people to remove debris from yards, trim back trees and get a battery operated radio and a flashlight.

“September is the peak month of the hurricane season, but early and late season storms sometimes form in the western Caribbean. When this occurs, as was the case with Hurricane Paloma, the lead time for preparation can be short. Don't get caught out, set aside food and water for 5 to 7 days,” he said.

Manderson also reminded civil servants that they have a duty to maintain a high level of personal and family preparedness.

“The country depends on our emergency services and first responders to be ready in a time of crisis, however following the 'all clear' I expect all civil servants to contribute to the recovery, including the performance of additional duties above and beyond their regular work schedule during the response phase,” he added.

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighbourhood. Help might not reach people for days after the hurricane. Given those circumstances, the Hazard Management team said, people need to be as self-sufficient as possible and listed the things people should do and think about:

  • Where do you plan to ride out a hurricane?
  • Where are you going to keep your pets during a hurricane?
  • Where will you store your car during a hurricane?
  • Test emergency equipment such as generators and flashlights
  • Trim trees that could fall on your roof
  • Check shutters are working properly

Review insurance coverage for your home and business and determine your flood insurance eligibility. Also review your home owner's insurance policy periodically with your insurance agent or company representative to make sure you have sufficient coverage to rebuild your life and home after a hurricane.

During this weekend, representatives of Hazard Management Cayman Islands will be on hand at sponsoring hardware stores, meeting with residents, answering questions and handing out disaster awareness information. Residents are encouraged to visit the stores and enter to win. There is no cost to enter to win a preparedness kit.

At the start of hurricane season, five lucky winners of the disaster preparedness kits will be drawn on live television on Daybreak on 3 June. The participating hardware stores have sponsored the National Day of Preparedness activities for a number of years, and as a result HMCI has been able to personally engage thousands of residents about preparedness issues.

On Saturday 18 May the team will be at A.L. Thompson's in the morning and at Progressive Distributors in the afternoon. Then on Saturday 25 May they will be at the Kirk's Home Centre in the morning and Uncle Bill's Home Improvement Centre in the afternoon. On Saturday 1 June they will be at Cox Lumber.

For more information about the hurricane season got to www.caymanprepared.gov.ky

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PPM stands up for Alden

| 16/05/2013 | 95 Comments

alden (218x300).jpg(CNS): All fourteen PPM candidates running with party leader Alden McLaughlin have declared their unreserved support for him following accusations made by the C4C on Wednesday that some of them were disloyal, and asked voters not to fall for the claims. In a statement signed by the PPM team released Thursday afternoon, the candidates said the C4C was causing “political mischief” but had not named a leader of its own, as the Progressives pointed out that McLaughlin was elected leader by the party membership. The candidates said they would not be sidetracked by the “spurious claims” of the coalition, which has failed to gain a broad base of support from the electorate.

The Progressives said the C4C’s allegations were an attempt to cause disharmony and to question the PPM’s loyalty to McLaughlin.

The statement came in the wake of one issued by the C4C candidates yesterday in which they stated their desire to see a coalition government and confirmed the position that they would not help McKeeva Bush form a government. They said they were willing to work with what they said were disgruntled PPM candidates, whom they claimed had been in backdoor talks with them because they were unhappy with the PPM leader.

The declaration posted below offers the PPM's full support to McLaughlin and, like him, they say they will work with anyone chosen by the electorate who shares their philosophies of honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability and compassion.

So far, the only person that the PPM and its leader have ruled out working in government with is McKeeva Bush.

See declaration below.

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Garden’s visitor centre named for local orchid man

| 16/05/2013 | 0 Comments

PR 4 (194x300).jpg(CNS): Botanist, orchid enthusiast and retired long-serving Chief Fire Officer was honoured last week at the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park in a ceremony that saw the Visitors' Centre renamed for him. A large granite sign now proclaims the Kirkland Nixon Visitors' Centre which was unveiled by his wife. The renaming of the Visitors' Centre was proposed by Tourism Attraction Board's CEO Gilbert Connolly last year in "recognition of Nixon's connection and contribution to the park. Nixon served as the first chairman of the steering committee created in 1994 to establish the Botanic Park and as Chairman of the Tourism Attraction Board since 2002.

The naming comes in the wake of several buildings that were recently named for civil servants including the weather radar which has been named after Kearney Gomez and the MRCU hanger after Dr. Bill Petrie.

Nixon has deep associations with the Botanic Park as well as being something of an amateur botanist and orchid grower.  During the ceremony tribute was paid to several other individuals who had been instrumental in the Park's development. In particular special mention was made of the Consuelo Ebanks, who served on the original committee to develop the Park, and who died last week.

Acting as the Master of Ceremonies for the unveiling ceremony, Connolly said the Botanic Park is a success story and the product of 21 years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice by several individuals.  "It is that hard work and sacrifice that we acknowledge and it gives me a tremendous sense of pride to know that we are making this effort and taking the time to honour our own Caymanians who were dedicated to the development of the Botanic Park. Mr. Nixon provided the leadership for the development of the Park from its inception," Connolly stated.

In a message read by the local independent MLA Ezzard Miller for the Tourism Minister, Cline Glidden he said it was a positive message not just to us who live here but also to the thousands of tourists who visit this very popular attraction.

Nixon thanked the many volunteers who made the development of the Parkpossible and recalling some difficult days at the beginning of the project, he said when asked by Joanne Scott, wife of the then Governor how he intended to build the Park he said: "By doing it the Cayman way — one brick at a time."
 

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Mac accuses C4C of professional dishonesty

| 16/05/2013 | 51 Comments

i_lied_get_over_it.jpg(CNS): The former premier, who is the target of much of the criticisms regarding the lack of integrity in the local political landscape, has questioned the honesty of some of the Coalition for Cayman candidates. Appearing as a guest on the local TV network’s talk show Tuesday, alongside Oposition Leader Alden McLaughlin and Roy McTaggart, who is emerging as the C4C’s leader, McKeeva Bush suggested that members of the C4C running for office were guilty of professional dishonesty. Without naming anyone, Bush said that as part of Cabinet he had learned about the “skeletons” in their closets but investigations were not instigated to protect Cayman from the UK.

“There is much talk about integrity and finger pointing by the PPM and the C4C and why they won’t form governments with whomever and why they are supposedly the paragons of virtue in this country,” Bush said in the final segment of Cayman 27’s The Panel, hosted by Tammi Sulliman. “What they are not telling you is that they themselves have skeletons in their closets,” he added.

After serving in Cabinet over the years, the political veteran said, his government had been made aware of “unethical practices and huge cases of over billing” here in Cayman.

“Had these allegations been investigated, some of these persons would not be able to get up on a platform speaking about integrity and honesty as they wouldn’t have reached partnerships within their respective firms and would have lost their professional qualifications and, worse, they and their firms would have been put before the courts,” the former premier claimed.

Bush’s accusations came after both McTaggart and McLaughlin had made it clear that no matter what happened on the morning of 23 May, they would not be joining any government led by Bush.

After making his allegations about C4C and leaving it to viewers to read between the lines about the who he was referring to, Bush turned to McTaggart and said, “Now if you don’t want to work with me that’s your business but when the people elect me I am going to try to form a government with whoever is there.”

During the debate Bush had emphasised his position that he was willing to pull a government together with anyone who was there, as all elected officials had a duty to work with whomever the electorate sends to the Legislative Assembly. While McTaggart and McLaughlin were fighting about who should be premier, he said, he would get on to work for the country.

Following his first dose of a vintage Bush performance, McTaggart asked the former premier to clarify his allegations regarding the questions of professional dishonesty regarding C4C candidates. “I don’t know where he is coming from with this but if he knows something, we deserve to know,” McTaggart said.

In response, the former premier was quick to point out why the issue had never been raised publicly before and suggested that the former KPMG partner should know all about it.

“We kept it down because we are small and as Caymanians we said we are not going to destroy Caymanians, which is what the FCO would have wanted. But I can tell you, you go way back and you know about it,” Bush told McTaggart, as the programme drew to a close.

During the two hour long debate Bush also implied that McTaggart and other C4C candidates were part of the 600-strong meeting of business leaders in 2009 that had supported the budget package, when Bush was forced to begin the implementation of more fees on the business community to balance the books. He also suggested that it was C4C candidates who had come up with the controversial payroll tax as an alternative to property, income or sales tax, which the UK was trying to force on the CIG.

Bush, who came armed and ready to defend any allegations of dishonesty that were thrown at him, also made a point of hurling his traditional allegations against the opposition leader that all of Cayman’s ills could be laid at his door because of the money he spent on the schools.

Watch all of the show here.

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The one man election

| 16/05/2013 | 48 Comments

As we get closer to May 22nd, the political campaigns become more desperate as each group or individual tries (hopefully) to place one effective lasting point in our minds to ensure we vote for them. There is nothing unusual about this if it were not for the glaring observation that many of the arguments actually aim for the same result: the removal of McKeeva Bush from any scenario where he could regain his former position as premier.

Over the past few days the best example of this is the perfectly timed statements from virtually all of Mac's opponents telling voters that they would not work with the UDP if elected.

Very few, aside from Mr Bush's most ardent supporters, would take issue with that result. The problem is that voters are being manipulated to vote not just against the big man or the policies of his running mates, but to vote proactively for certain groups and in particular the PPM.

The argument seen right here on CNS recently goes like this: don't split your vote between the C4C, PNA, etc, because Mac and his colleagues have a reasonable size voter base so 'they might win'. And we don't want that. So, as beautifully articulated by Roy Tatum in a recent viewpoint, we should vote straight for the PPM. Don't vote for any independents, the C4C or PNA. Just vote for "us". In fact, voters should not even bother to assess any of the non PPM candidates; they would do well to ignore everyone but Alden and crew.

It's not just that this strategy is plainly a manipulative move by the PPM (or any other group that uses it to get your 'straight' vote), it's also a complete mockery of the democratic process and a complete lack of respect for a voter's right to exercise that very private choice on May 22nd.

If you feel that McKeeva needs to retire, by all means don't vote for him if you are in West Bay, and even if you aren't, say what you wish as loudly and effectively as you can to ensure he gets the least support. But don't water down your right to assess any other candidates that will be on the ballot in your district by swallowing the scaremongering tactic suited solely to help some other group win.

And what about all the non-PPM candidates out there? Are we saying there is nothing worthy of considering in the proposed solutions of any candidates within the C4C, PNA or even any of the true independents? And what about some of the new UDP candidates?

Democracy may not always give us the result we want, but nothing could be worse than
getting a government that got elected not by virtue of the policies they set before us, and not because we wanted to vote for them, but by default. Ironically, this is the point argued by the PPM regarding how the UDP got elected. But now they are advocating an equally absurd approach because it works for them.

The vote on May22nd belongs to you, not the PPM, PNA, C4C or anyone else. What you do with it and the consequences of your actions are but for you only. Vote for the person or group that convinces you that they can take this country out of the current mess and let the chips fall where they may. Anything else and we will all simply be reduced to being puppets due to the political strategy of one selfishly motivated group or another.

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Political non-party releases political non-manifesto

| 16/05/2013 | 42 Comments

mctagg (239x300).jpg(CNS): The Coalition for Cayman candidates, who still insist they are not a political party, have released a national plan, which they insist is not a manifesto. However, the ‘non- manifesto' lists the collective agreed policy positions of the seven candidates on six key areas, from education to political reform. The candidates say that manifestos are long documents containing ‘big, lofty promises’ but their plan outlines their top priorities for the country, based on discussions and feedback from the people, that they say they will tackle f they are elected and able to form a government.  The C4C said that if they are elected, they will not implement any new initiatives without consultation.

"Successive governments have left behind many problems that we will address because we are committed to improving the lives of our people,” the C4C candidates state in their national plan. “Successfully implementing these national priorities that affect all of us will enable the country to focus on the many other issues that need to be improved to ensure that our children and future generations have the opportunities that they deserve.”

The seven candidates running in George Town and West Bay say they will establish the Cayman Islands as a centre of educational excellence; promote job opportunities and liveable wages; implement a comprehensive crime reduction policy; provide responsible and prudent financial management; ensure planned and managed growth and development in harmony with our environment, society and economy; and lead with integrity, honesty, accountability, and competence.

Even if all seven of their candidates are returned after Wednesday’s election, the group will still need to sell these policies to the other three MLAs with whom they will join forces to help them form a government.

Ironically, in the group’s sixth national priority regarding political reform, and despite many of the coalition candidates and previous members of the advocacy group being heavily involved in the one man, one vote campaign last summer, there is no mention of introducing the new voting method. Although most of the candidates on the C4C platform advocated for the more equitable and democratic system that would be far more likely to favour independent candidates if implemented, there is no commitment in the C4C national plan for OMOV.

However, the group does focus on integrity and, echoing the PPM campaign, they highlight the need to restore confidence, trust and respect to re-establish good governance. The first step, they say, is for Cayman to elect responsible, accountable leaders who are committed to putting the interests of the country first.

“Political partisanship has divided Cayman, limited ideas, and taken away the voice of our people. Smart, honest, independent minded leaders working together can form a robust government that will draw strength from diverse ideas,” the national plan states.

Another important point raised in the plan is the need for the wider public to understand exactly what  constitutes conflict of interest and corruption in public life, which is a valid point given the tolerance across the community for a lack of integrity in their politicians.

When it comes to the environment, the group is promising to pass a National Conservation Law but it appears that they, like most of the parties and groups running in this election, will be going back to the drawing board rather than bringing the existing law, which has been through a dozen consultation periods, to the Legislative Assembly. The C4C states it will: “Pass a National Conservation Law that is holistic in its approach, balanced in its perspective, and informed by public, private and civil society interests”, but makes no mention of the pressing need to amend the marine parks legislation and protect Cayman’s precious marine environment.

When it comes to finances, the team is promising a plan to make Cayman debt free by 2030. While they talk about expenditure, not revenue, being Cayman’s stumbling block to that goal, they do not say what they will cut. Instead they point to inefficiencies as the source of the local government’s financial recovery and the need to “eliminate unnecessary spending in the budget” and “a revised and comprehensive procurement process".  The C4C also say they will “assess all government-owned companies and services to determine whether privatisation is appropriate” and “review the Public Management and Finance Law PMFL to reduce bureaucracy”.

The crime plan includes developing a crime reduction strategy, but while the candidates have embraced the current education minister’s recently published education strategy, they do not state how the crime reduction strategy developed during this administration will fit into their crime plan.

Finally, in the plan for the economy and creating jobs, the group has set out a long list of what they call 'Strategies For Success' that range from reforming the work permit system to apprenticeships for young Caymanians.

See the C4C’s National Plan below.

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