Archive for May 17th, 2013

Bush denies buying $1M PhD

| 17/05/2013 | 118 Comments

mac degree.jpg(CNS): The leader of the UDP and former premier has denied any knowledge of a $1 million donation given to the University College of the Caribbean in connection with the honorary doctorate that the college was to bestow on him before his untimely arrest last December. In a statement released to the media in the wake of CNS' headlinestory on Thursday night revealing the details of the donation and the police investigation now underway, McKeevaBush said he knew nothing of the donation and this was the first he had ever heard of it. He said that it was no coincidence that he was arrested just before he was due to go to Jamaica to receive this award and the report was part of a continuing campaign by the Cayman governor, the opposition and others to influence the outcome of the election.

However, the college confirmed to CNS last week that the gift it received was in connection with the honorary doctorate it had planned to give to Bush but that it had been returned given the circumstances. The Anti-Corruption Commission and the police also confirmed that the issue was now the subject of yet another investigation against Bush.

Bush categorically denied any wrongdoing and insisted he knew nothing of the circumstances of the loan, in a statement in which he implied CNS was also part of a conspiracy against him. He said the report regarding the money that paid for the anticipated doctorate allegedly by a New York bank was just part of the ever-growing conspiracy to prevent him not only from being elected but to remove him from the electoral process altogether.

Despite the allegations made by Bush, CNS can confirm it has no connections to the governor's office, the police commissioner, the opposition or other candidates.

"CNS has taken an editorial position to push for transparency and accountability in government," said CNS journalist, Wendy Ledger. "Ignoring this story would have been to neglect our duties as members of the news media."

See Bush's statement in full below.

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Cayman flip flop

| 17/05/2013 | 30 Comments

As a first time voter, I have made a solid effort to watch, listen and read all the different debates in regards to the upcoming election – and I must say I am extremely disappointed by everyone involved. I really hoped that in this election, some candidates (whether party or independent) would have had the guts to speak the truth, but unfortunately, everyone was beating the usual campaign drum as this is just the easiest and most popular thing to do.

So here we go once again, anticipating the new government, which will be the savior of everyone and will miraculously and single handedly, turn around the economic state of the Cayman Islands. The promises are big and as one could expect during every election all over the world: more development, more jobs, and lower cost of living …

The truth is that no matter what government will be put in place (and for all it’s worth, I really hope it doesn’t involve any UDP/PNA candidates), they are likely to fail just as the previous governments have because they have failed to realistically manage the people’s expectation during their campaign.

Unless people’s mindsets shift, we won’t be making any progress for the better. There has to be a message to the people that in the first instance, everyone is responsible for themselves and must do for themselves accordingly. If people want progress in the long run, there must be changes, and those changes may be uncomfortable at first. Cut backs and true enforcement of existing legislation will impact everyone and it may not be to the liking of many – but it will be necessary. If communities want to improve their district, they have to band together and put in the hard work themselves – don’t wait for government to come and do it for you. You want your beaches and streets to be clean, you will have to go out there and help clean them up!

Many people are suffering and struggling to pay their bills. Whilst they are many who really struggle despite trying their best, there are equally many who just continue to live beyond their means and have their priorities screwed up. Government must be able to distinguish and provide or deny assistance accordingly.

Business owners, who want their business to thrive, must be prepared to put in the work themselves accordingly. What I seen in Cayman is that Caymanians want to own a business, employ cheap foreign staff and sell a crappy foreign product to outrageous prices – and are then genuinely surprised that their business fails and hold government responsible. Unless you are prepared to be out-of-pocket for a number of years,  you sell a good product for a fair price, deliver great customer service and distinguish yourself from your competitors, your business will not likely be successful in the long run, no matter how much government will reduce red tape for you while setting up shop. That is a reality throughout the world.

As a society, we must stop looking to government to provide the answers for everything, to provide the funding for everything, to make things easier for everyone because we need to look at ourselves first and do the work accordingly.

I really wished someone would have made this very clear to the people before they head off to the polling stations next week. While it may have been a hard message to send, it would have been a very honest one. I am not sure how others feel, but I would have preferred the honest and realistic route rather than the empty sounds of the usual campaign drums.

The way things are going now, I would not be surprised whatsoever if in four years time we flip flop back again to another government because, as usual, the promises which have been made during this election campaign will be very unrealistic to keep and fulfill over the next four years. In the long run, the people will once again feel let down and betrayed because in the heat of the usual campaign trail madness, we have once again missed the opportunity to realistically manage the people’s expectations for the next four years and to make it clear that government alone cannot do it.

But I guess as a country we just don’t seem to want to learn and have never learned to look any further than tomorrow.

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Police begin investigation into alleged Pines theft

| 17/05/2013 | 63 Comments

(CNS) Updated: The police have confirmed that they have finally received a report regarding the allegations of theft at the Pines Retirement Home in George Town. The home released a statement more than two weeks ago stating that the board had dismissed its manager, Sue Nicholson, and was working with KPMG to prepare a report for the authorities. However, it is understood that Nicholson is no longer on Grand Cayman and the police said learlier this week that no report had yet been made to them about the missing money. But on Friday morning an RCIPS spokesperson confirmed that a report had now been filled with the Financial Crimes Unit.

A police spokesperson said, “ A report on this matter has been received by the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit. Officers are awaiting an auditor’s report. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

On Friday a spokesperson for the Home said a preliminary written report had been given to the Financial Crimes Unit on 10 May but the RCIPS had agreed that The Pines would follow up with a full report once the KPMG forensic audit is concluded.

"The Pines is continuing to work with Maples and Calder to secure repayment of funds owing and we hope shortly to report that these efforts have been successful," the spokesperson added.

Nicholson’s husband  released a statement to Rotarians stating that his wife had resigned from the service club in the wake of her dismissal from the Pines and he was working with the home to ensure any missing money was returned.

John Nicholson said he was shocked over the accusations. “It is obviously a very difficult time for my family, but I intend to stand by my wife and if any funds have gone astray I will ensure that every cent is returned to The Pines,” he told the service club at a lunch earlier this month.

The Pines has not said how much cash was missing or under what circumstances but that the sums did not affect the operation of the home and directors were confident that the cash would be recovered.

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The ‘Stones top the bill over Genesis

| 17/05/2013 | 1 Comment

Mike McGrath SteppingStones (273x300).jpg(CRFU): It was the final day of the regular season in the KRyS Global National Mixed Touch Rugby Championships 2013 and play-off places were up for grabs. The three games looked like good match-ups before the kick-off and all three produced moments of great rugby. SteppingStones 10 Genesis Trust 6: Picture an imaginary fistfight between Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger in one corner; Mick Rutherford, Tony Banks and Phil Collins in the other – the bad boys of 1960’s rock n’ roll against the upper-middle class fops of overblown Seventies Prog Rock. The Rolling Stones are a bunch of guys no father would want his daughter to date, whereas the well-spoken Genesis would be the Mum's favourite.

Even if all were at their peak of physical conditioning (which for Richards may be hard to imagine) I think few would put money on anything other than an easy win for the street-fighting ‘Stones. Sure, Genesis may confuse and emasculate with some overly intricate and interwoven verbiage but the simple 1, 2, 3, 4 stop-start riffing by the lads from Dartford would punch through the soft underbelly of the public school boys of Surrey. Exile on Main Street versus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? No contest really in my humble opinion.

Here in Cayman we had our own version of this “Stones versus Genesis” scrap when SteppingStones took on Genesis Trust in a top of the table clash and there was much to give the crowd plenty of satisfaction.

Admittedly McGrath, Shelver, Randall, Weder and Waters doesn’t have the same ring to it as Mick Jagger and Co. but they stay top of the touch charts with a win that sets them up nicely for the upcoming play-offs. Weder and Waters were both a bit subdued, akin to a latter-day Wyman and Watts, but they provided a solid base and rhythm to the ‘Stones play. It was Simon Raftopolous, taking the role of Brian Jones in this labored analogy, who was heavily influential in the early stages by scoring four tries in the first half. Mike McGrath struts around like a manly 6ft Ocker version of the diminutive Jagger choreographing his teammates and bouncing touch rugby riffs off Morgan Shelver and others.

In the early exchanges SteppingStones power-play got the crowd on its feet and the scores came at regular intervals. Genesis never really found their true form and were off key in defensive areas. Lacking a bit of touch rugby nous, gaps appeared in the defensive line which were clinically exploited. A half-time score of 7-3 reflected not so much the possession stats but the effectiveness of what was done with that possession.

Genesis lacked nothing in creativity and may have been guilty of overelaborating at times but every try they scored involved a sweet interplay of missed passes, half-breaks and offloads. It takes a lot of effort and, due to a lack of genuine pace, they don’t get those opportunistic tries from breakaways that championship winning teams seem to be able to pull out of the bag. Lisa Kehoe weighed in with a seasons’ best of three tries, Alex Pineau got a pair and Neil Montgomery added a consolation. On the other hand, SteppingStones took advantage of some slack defending and scored some well executed break-out tries. The try of the game was scored by Karen Hart who superbly finished off a move involving all six players moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other.

So SteppingStones finish the regular season on top of the table giving them the number one seeding into the play-off finals. If guilty of taking the game a tad too seriously at times I’m sure they will not let up now they have their eyes on the prize.

STOP PRESS! MAGIC GLOVES UPDATE SHOCKER – it looks a bit touch and go for the magic gloves of Jerry “Glove Me Do” Beck. The gloves sadly had to be pulled off when Beck suffered an awkward inner thigh injury that could see him out for the rest of the tournament. When interviewed afterwards the Magic Gloves said, “We are devastated for Jerry, we have become very close recently and go together like hand in… er… glove!” Beck was unavailable for comment.

DART 10 KPMG 3

With both teams firmly anchored at the wrong end of the league table this was the biggest Battle of the Bottom since Beyonce and J-Lo went cheek-to-cheek at the 2011 Rear of the Year Awards. Before the game DART gathered in a huddle to invoke whatever help they could from a Higher Power. I couldn’t hear all that was said other than, “Our Father, who DART in heaven, Camana Bay thy name…” It must have been inspiring as within a couple of minutes Captain Stacy Ottenbreit, the Queen of Regina, scored the first.

But one thing we have learned over the season is that KPMG has a never-say-die attitude. Ian Roberton replied not once but twice to level DART scores and when a third went down for KPMG it seemed as if the god of touch rugby had forsaken his DART devotees. And then, the clouds broke and the sun shone through bathing the pitch in celestial light. The aptly named Alana Grace scored to make it 3-3. It was clear that the DART Prayer had actually worked. After that it was one-way traffic. Niall O’Sullivan, in his first run-out of the season, put on a fine individual display scoring a hat-trick of tries only to be bettered by Andy Childe who scored four. After the match Childe revealed that he had played manfully through the pain barrier as he had suffered a nasty blister on his little pinky-toe that really was rather distressing.
And so, as 1980’s UK soap actor Nick Berry of EastEnders and Heartbeat fame sang in his popular yet ultimately naff Number 1 hit single “Every Loser Wins”, DART notch up their first win of the season. They are truly blessed.

 

SIDEBAR NWNT 10 Heineken Brew Crew 6

Another interesting match-up saw SIDEbar NWNT take on Heineken Brew Crew whose effervescent season has gone a bit flat of late. The teams shared scores throughout a highly competitive first half with Adam Huckle, Nic Swartz, Simon Crompton allscoring whilst Neal Ainscow, with his distinctive upright running style like a Royal Cavalier charging into battle, galloped through the defensive line time and again to notch up a handy brace. To give their attack real momentum both Huckle and Jyoti Choi have a pick-up faster than a pimped-up Dodge Ram fitted with a jet-pack and cause many a defence to yield under the pressure. Brew-Crew-ers Paul Westin (2) and Marco du Plessis crossed the line to keep Heineken in the game and give a half-time score of 4-3.

The massed crowd on the bleachers could not wait for a pulsating second half to start, expecting more of the same cut and thrust. However, the fizz went out of Heineken and further scores from Jyoti Choi (3) and seven-try hero of last week Riley Mullen stretched the lead as SIDEbar truly began to dominate the game. Whilst the guys scored the tries a shout-out must go to SIDEbar’s women who play an integral part in their play. Clearly to be heard from the sidelines, Jo Ziegler and Chandra Friesen orchestrate a lot of the play issuing instructions like a foghorn over a precipitous sea, whilst Jo Remillard and Sheila Crosby put in the hard yards taking it up the middle. Consolation tries for Westin, Iain Currie and Phill Thompson made the score look closer than the game actually was and now SIDEbar go into the play-offs knowing they have a real chance of taking the title. Doubtless, their preparation for the finals will be intensive as they have a real sniff at glory.  

 

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Activists to fight on over West Bay Road

| 17/05/2013 | 61 Comments

WB road protest_0.jpg(CNS): The various groups opposed to the West Bay Road closure are continuing on with their fight, despite the recent disappointment regarding one of the legal challenges. The judicial review application filed by Rupert Ackermon, one of the leading activists in the Truly4Cayman group, was thrown out by  Justice Charles Quin as a result of the time line, and the legal questions surrounding the deal were therefore never aired. However, a second legal action filed by four West Bay women who are also part of a broader group of activists opposing the Dart-NRA deal with government are awaiting a court date for their writ of summons to be heard.

Ackermon had opted for a JR application but because of the issues relating to the timeline that route was closed down by the judge earlier this month.

"I and Truly4Cayman are naturally disappointed by the decision,” Ackermon said Friday.  “Since the first announcement of the For Cayman Investment Alliance, I and Truly4Cayman (and its predecessor groups) have endeavoured to obtain information, raise public awareness and voice opposition to the closure of the West Bay Road. At all times government has refused to provide information which would facilitate informed debate.”

The government finally did release the documents relating to the deal on Friday evening, including the value for money reports and details of the minority government’s recent failed attempts to improve the existing deal. Negotiations failed as a result of the myriad shortcomings in the agreement, which were pointed out by the local consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who reviewed the agreement.

Since the proposed deal between government and the Dart group under the umbrella of the ForCayman Investment Alliance was announced to the public three years ago, the activists have made repeated FOI requests, which were refused, Ackermon said. He also noted that government had  refused to meet with members of the group and there was no genuine consultation with those opposed to the closure of some 4,290 feet of the West Bay Road.

During that time documents about the deal were leaked and the community concerns continued to mount as it became clear that the secrecy surrounding the deal and the continued talks between government and the islands’ largest developer were hiding what could be very questionable concessions. These included the revelations that the Dart Group would be able to take 50% of the accommodation tax for ten years on any new hotel it was to build, renovate or acquire over the next three decades.

A petition signed by more than 4,000 people, the vast majority of which were residents and voters, against the deal was dismissed by the government and as a result the activists took to the court room in an effort to stop the road closure. Despite the disappointing result, Ackermon publicly thanked the group's legal representatives from Campbells Attorneys At Law, including  Mark Goodman, a Senior Associate with the firm, and Neil Timms, QC, “for their combined efforts and hard work, for which we will be eternally grateful”. Ackermon described them as “true fighters for justice”.

He also extended his gratitude to the “wonderful people who donated funds to assist us” and everyone who gave their time and worked to make the cause widely known.

“We will continue to fight against any injustice we see being perpetrated on our community, by those whose only objective appears to be that of financial gain,” Ackermon added.

The women who are continuing on with their legal action said that the court room battle was far from over as they are still waiting for their case to be listed to be heard before a judge. They said they remained optimistic that the courts could still intervene to prevent any further closures.

sand1 (218x300).jpgAt present only part of the road which was scheduled to be closed has been formally gazetted and handed over to Dart. The strip that runs from the former Governor’s Way to Raleigh Quay will soon be under some 4,000 tonnes of sand, some of which has reportedly been imported from Colombia and is of an entirely different colour and texture to Cayman’s own indigenous white sugary sand. This may prove difficult but not impossible to reverse. However, the remaining road closure has not been gazetted and following the collapse of talks between Dart and the minority government recently, that issue will be a decision for the new administration.

Thecurrent impasse is reportedly over some $16 million in tax concessions and Dart has said it is expecting the government to honour its obligations to gazette the remaining part of the road. But because Dart changed its plans regarding the redevelopment of the former Courtyard Marriott, the developer and CIG have both failed to meet their proposed commitments on the deal.  

The entire ForCayman Investment Alliance is now in abeyance as Cayman awaits a new government after it goes to the polls next Wednesday. At present, unless the UDP manages to gain a majority government, the deal is unlikely to go forward in its present form.

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BT dump protestors urge voters to avoid UDP/ PNA

| 17/05/2013 | 12 Comments

yard-sign-1 (240x300).jpg(CNS): The group of district activists fighting to prevent the relocation of the George Town dump in Bodden Town are asking voters to pick from all of the PPM candidates and some independents on polling day as they have committed to keeping the district dump free. Alain Beiner, chairman of the Coalition to Keep BT Dump Free, said his group had made the proposal by Dart Realty Cayman Ltd to place a new landfill in Midland Acres a major campaign issue but not all of the candidates had been clear about their opposition to the plan.  In order to protect the district, he urged voters to only vote for candidates who have unequivocally committed to keeping the district dump-free.

Beiner pointed to all of the Progressives — Osbourne Bodden, Anthony Eden, Wayne Panton and Al Suckoo — as well as independent candidates Charles Clifford and Gregg Anderson, who have been heavily involved in the campaign against the BT dump proposal. In addition, the campaigners cited two other independent candidates, Arnold Berry and Vincent Frederick, as hopefuls in the district who also say they are opposed to the relocation.

Although Frederick was also a founding member of the activist group, he left the coalition ahead of the election campaign, having indicated to the membership he was considering running on a UDP ticket, even though the party is still committed to the Dart proposal and has not ruled out relocating the dump in the district.

“We’ve succeeded in making Dart’s proposed dump deal a major issue in the election campaign. And, given the widespread opposition to needlessly establishing a waste management facility in Bodden Town (BT), it’s no surprise that many candidates have ‘jumped on the anti-dump bandwagon’, including a few who were previously key dump proponents,” he said. However the group’s leader, who owns the local award winning hotel in the area, The Turtle Nest Inn, queried how committed all of them really were to protecting the district.

“Coalition supporters are concerned by the vague opposition of several candidates to moving the dump,” added Arlene Whittaker, another member of the coalition, and a Midland Acres resident.

“We fear that many may just be after our votes," she added. “Our supporters want to know who is really opposed to putting a waste management facility in Bodden Town, regardless of what it’s called, regardless of how the proposed landfill may be ‘attractively packaged’ with promises of adding recycling, waste-to-energy, etc., whether immediately or ‘sometime in the future’. Which candidates can we count on if they’re elected?”

Whittaker said an e-mail message was sent to each candidate in BT who has expressed “credible” opposition to the Dart dump deal.

“We have excluded any candidate who has been complicit in the dump deal,” she said, which meant that the question was not put to candidates from parties that have been promoting the dump deal — the two UDP and the two PNA candidates running in the district.

In the message sent Wednesday, the coalition asked, “Do you promise the people of Bodden Town that, if elected, you would vote against any proposal in the LA which involves establishing a waste management facility in Bodden Town?”

In response, all of the Progressives along with the coalition’s three former members as well as Berry all responded with a clear ‘Yes”, Whittaker stated.

“These candidates have given us their promise,” she revealed.  “If you feel, as we do, that a dump would be disastrous for BT, and that the GT dump can and must be fixed where it is, these are the candidates we can count on to keep our district dump free.”

Since October 2010 the group has been campaigning hard on this single-issue and the group said it has continued on as a non-political community organization open to anyone who opposed moving the GT landfill to BT, regardless of their political affiliation or opinion.

Beiner said that, given that position, the group could not endorse any particular candidate or political party as it had no common position on any other issue or a mandate to advise the electorate who to vote for. But he said the group does have a mandate to challenge the candidates, to present the facts, and to list those candidates who are clearly committed to the fight against a landfill in the district.
 

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‘Gift’ for Mac’s PhD probed

| 17/05/2013 | 225 Comments

Micky Mouse degree.png(CNS): The police and the Anti-Corruption Commission are currently investigating a money transfer made to the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) of US$1 million in relation to the honorary doctorate that the former Cayman Islands premier was scheduled to receive before he was arrested last December. The UCC chancellor confirmed this week that a donation was received in relation to the special degree that was to be given to McKeeva Bush but it was returned after the college deferred awarding the honour. When asked about the transfer, which is understood to have been made from a bank in New York, local officials confirmed that a joint investigation was underway.

“We can confirm that an allegation of corrupt behaviour, as you describe, has been received by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC),” a spokesperson for the ACC and the RCIPS stated Thursday in response to questions from CNS about a large donation to the UCC from a US bank that was involved in re-financing talks with the former Bush administration.

“As with any allegation made to the ACC referencing corrupt behaviour, the complaint is firstly registered and the details are then reviewed to determine the validity of the accusations made and the existence of evidence. We can confirm that a joint investigation involving the ACC and the RCIPS is now underway and, as such, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage,” the spokesperson stated, making it clear that the commission had determined that there was merit in the accusation.

The UCC chancellor, Dr Herbert Thompson, responding to CNS questions via e-mail from Jamaica, said the gift to the UCC Foundation, which was made last year, was returned when the honorary doctorate was not conferred.

“The UCC Administration is satisfied the matters were amicably and adequately handled and does not wish to make any further comment at this time,” Dr Thompson stated, directing further enquiries to the UCC Foundation’s attorneys, Hamilton Brown Hamilton & Associates.

Bush was scheduled to receive the honorary doctorate at the college in Jamaica on 13 December 2012. However, he was arrested just days before and questioned by police for two days. Following his release on bail, he headed straight to the college, where he delivered an address on integrity but did not receive the degree.

The gift to the college, which was made on behalf of Bush, was reportedly transferred back to the original bank. Although the ACC has remained relatively tight lipped about the issue, other sources have informed CNS that there are concerns that the funds represent a payment made in connection with a potential re-packaging of government finances, which was transferred to the regional university on Bush’s behalf.

In addition, other sources have told CNS that several potential charges against Bush in relation to theft of public funds and further misuses of the government credit card have been passed to the director of public prosecutions for consideration. However, no further charges have been laid against the former premier, who is only days away from a general election and currently facing 11 counts of theft and corruption.

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