Archive for May 29th, 2013

MLAs choose sides

| 29/05/2013 | 107 Comments

mctaggart n miller.jpg(CNS): The formation of Cayman's new parliament took shape Wednesday, following the formal swearing in of the 18 newly elected officials. With Alden McLaughlin as premier and McKeeva Bush as opposition leader, the MLAs took their seats in the House indicating where their loyalties would lay. C4C member Tara Rivers took up her seat on the government’s front bench while Winston Connolly joined the non-executive PPM members on the government back-benches. However, the third C4C candidate, Roy McTaggart, opted to sit in opposition with the UDP members and sandwiched between the independent members, Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller, in the “southeast corner”. Photo Dennie warren Jr

Bush, as Father of the House, presided over the nomination and election of the speaker, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, without objection, who in turn presided over the appointment of her deputy, Anthony Eden.

Cabinet was then sworn in on the steps of the LA by Governor Duncan Taylor. McLaughlin delivered his first national address as premier, setting out the key priorities for his new administration and pointing to a new more inclusive style of government.

The members then spent the afternoon nominating and voting the various committees of the Legislative Assembly, themost important of which was the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which presented the new parliament with its first disputes and confusion over who is, and who is not, independent.

Although the opposition leader nominated Roy McTaggart as chair of the PAC, he objected to the premier’s nomination of three PPM government members along with himself to make up the rest of the committee. Pointing to the claims of a new and inclusive government, Bush asked McLaughlin to replace one of the PPM members with an independent member. The new premier agreed and moved to nominate C4C member Winston Connolly, which saw the opposition leader immediately rise to his feet to object.

“Let’s be clear and stop messing around,” the opposition leader said, as he pointed out that Connolly was on the government benches. “You are either fish or fowl but you can’t be both,” the opposition leader observed as he asked McLaughlin to nominate either the member for East End (Arden McLean) or the member for North Side (Ezzard Miller).

McLaughlin said the opposition leader was “expecting too much” and refused. As a result, Bush then nominated Miller, which was seconded by Bernie Bush, but confusion reigned as Miller stood to accept his nomination to the committee and proceeded to nominate McLean, a move which was then seconded by McTaggart in his first act of opposition, not just against government but his own C4C colleague across the aisle.

As a result, the three southeast corner rebels managed to force a secret ballot for the committee members in an attempt to overturn the premier’s nomination. However, as was anticipated, the attempt failed and the result ended with McTaggart, a former auditor, as the PAC chair and members consisting of Al Suckoo, Joey Hew, Winston Connolly, and, in an irony that will not be lost on the auditor general, McKeeva Bush.

The former premier and leader of the UDP will now be sitting on a committee which will be scrutinizing the reports from the Office of the Auditor General. A batch of four new reports from the OAG are due to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly over the next two to three weeks, all of which raise significant questions about the inappropriate spending of the previous UDP administration as well as its management of the public purse. With four inexperienced legislators, including the chair, serving on the committee alongside the political veteran, Bush, the next PAC meeting is likely to be one to watch.

Meanwhile, Wayne Panton was elected chair of the Register of Interest Committee, a committee that never met during the last adminstration. Members also appointed committees to deal wih various issues, including the operation of the LA building, the actual business of the House and to deal wih the complaints commissioner's reports, among others.

Vote in the CNS Poll: How do you rate Alden McLaughlin job performance after his first task – choosing his Cabinet team?

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Female body found on 7MB

| 29/05/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS) Updated Thursday 3-30pm: Police have now confirmed that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a 31 year old woman whose body was found outside the Caribbean Club in the heart of Seven Mile Beach, Wednesday. Police said yesterday that the woman’s death was unexplained and were in the process of contacting her family. An RCIPS spokesperson said Thursday that Police had confirmed the woman’s identity who is a British national who was resident in the Prospect area implying she had taken her own life. The woman was found at about outside the entrance to the luxury condos on West Bay Road at about 12:30pm. She had sustained serious head injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

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New premier summoned to UK for tax talks

| 29/05/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The new Cayman Islands premier, who is coming into the job in the middle of a storm of anti-tax haven rhetoric from the British Prime Minister, has been summoned to the UK for a meeting on tax information sharing and transparency, the outcome of which will be critical to Cayman’s financial services sector. Earlier this month David Cameron sent a letter to the leaders of 10 British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, telling them that the UK is hosting a high level event on 15 June, so “this is the critical moment to get our own houses in order”. Premier Alden McLaughlin said that it was very important to address the contents of Cameron’s letter and that he and the new minister responsible for financial services, Wayne Panton, would be travelling to London next month. Read more on CNS Business

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Bridger defends allegation

| 29/05/2013 | 23 Comments

Bridger 24.jpg(CNS): The former Scotland Yard cop who headed up the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service corruption investigation, which took place in Cayman between 2007 and 2009, has defended the allegations that he has made to the British police regarding Cayman Islands Attorney General Samuel Bulgin. In response to Bulgin’s accusations that Martin Bridger’s allegations are "scurrilous", the ex-senior police officer noted that it was the UK police, not him, that had decided the evidence against Bulgin, former Cayman Islands governor Stuart Jack and Larry Covington, the FCO’s security official for the overseas territories, warranted an enquiry .

Following an article on CNS, which stated that a Scotland Yard review has concluded, based partly on documented interviews that Bridger had given the UK police, that Jack, Bulgin and Covington could face a criminal inquiry for allegedly lying to officers during the investigation, Bulgin launched an attack on Bridger. In a statement delivered to the local press Monday, he said that there was not a shred of “independent or contemporaneous evidence” to support the allegations that Bridger has made.

However, the leader of the ill-fated "Operation Tempura" investigation said that the evidence he had presented was supported by witness statements from former RCIPS commissioner Stuart Kernohan and his deputy, John Jones, and as far as the London police were concerned, the evidence had reached the threshold to warrant investigation

“As with all criminal allegations, made either in the UK or the Cayman Islands, it is for the police to decide whether or not there is 'reasonable grounds to suspect' that a criminal offence may have been committed and whether or not an investigation should be commenced,” Bridger noted. “The Metropolitan Police have decided that this threshold has been reached and that the allegations warrant investigation.”

The Met is conflicted in this case, however, because at the start of Tempura the London-based police force had oversight of the Tempura investigation and was, therefore, Bridger’s employer.

Whoever investigates what really happened during the bungled internal enquiry and whatever the outcome, Bridger pointed out that the start of the investigation will not point to anyone's certain guilt or innocence. 

“Once the investigation is complete, the police will submit a file to the prosecuting authorities for them to make a decision as to whether to charge the people concerned or not. If the decision is made to charge, then it is for the courts to decide on guilt or innocence,” Bridger added, making it clear that he has merely given his evidence to the police that a crime might have occurred, and in turn, the UK police have decided that there is enough to suspect criminal behaviour.

“I have read, with care, the statement made by the Attorney General, Samuel Bulgin, in response to this criminal allegation,” Bridger stated Tuesday evening.  “He would be familiar with the above procedures. What he has said is a matter for him. I do not intend to get involved in a debate with the AG or anyone else concerning these matters whilst they are still under consideration by the governor, Duncan Taylor. If an investigation is sought by the governor I will support that investigation in whatever way I can.”

Bridger added that he had not instructed legal counsel in this matter.

However, the former police investigator is currently in a number of legal battles with the attorney general to clear the way for him to use documents relating to the Tempura enquiry to defend himself in a civil action brought by Stuart Kernohan regarding his ousting from the police commissioner’s post in 2008, following a chain of events triggered by Bridger’s Tempura probe.

Meanwhile, the governor, Duncan Taylor, who has received a letter about the allegations and the position of the Met that an investigatoin is required, has not yet made a decision on whether to launch such an enquiry. The UK's representative, however, is currently fighting an order by the information commissioner in the local courts to release what is believed to be a damning documents related to the Tempura enquiry.

See related stories on CNS:

AG denies Bridger allegations

Jack and Bulgin face enquiry

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Kurt rounds out new Cabinet

| 29/05/2013 | 92 Comments

_DSC7918-web.jpg(CNS): Political veteran and former leader of government business Kurt Tibbetts will not be sitting on the back-benches during the new PPM administration but will be taking a leading role in the new Cabinet as the health, works, agriculture and community affairs minister. Alden McLaughlin revealed Tuesday evening, when the new premier was finally able to announce his front bench after days of negotiations, that Tibbetts, his long time mentor, will take a ministry. He confirmed that, along with C4C Cabinet member Tara Rivers, Winston Connolly will also be sitting on the government back-bench and, following the rearrangement of the various portfolios, he will be appointed councillor to work with Rivers.

Meanwhile, C4C member Roy McTaggart has not yet made up his mind about which side of the chamber he will sit. The former auditor, however, has accepted the chair of the Public Accounts Committee. Although that job has traditionally been held by an opposition member in Cayman, it is not always the case across the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, McLaughlin stated Tuesday that McTaggart had been invited to join the government benches but he was still considering that offer.

Keen not leave out his own back benchers, especially the younger members, McLaughlin said that Joey Hew and Al Suckoo would also be appointed as councillors to assist the various ministers when all of the departments were assigned.

With Connolly on board and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly now a card carrying member of the PPM, set to take the speaker’s chair, McLaughlin has a comfortable majority in a government which, he said, was not a coalition but an inclusive PPM administration.

“It has been a tense time for Cayman,” McLaughlin said at the press briefing, broadcast live on TV and radio Tuesday evening, as he spoke about the time it had taken to put together a viable government before confirming the various portfolios.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell said he had met with Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller earlier that day and, in an effort to also include them in government, offers of support roles had been made. Miller had declined the deputy speaker’s job but Kirkconnell said that McLean, a former PPM member, is said to be still considering the possible roles offered to him, which were not stated.

Despite the rift which has now emerged between the PPM and the two independent members from the eastern districts, Kirkconnell said he had a “very engaging and good conversation” with the two members, who accepted that the election was over and that the PPM has a mandate to move forward. “I am confident that they are both excellent representatives and will do well for their constituencies,” the deputy premier added.

With an enormous amount of work now ahead of the team, McLaughlin confirmed that in addition to his role as premier he would take on the new public affairs ministry and also play an oversight role of the entire Cabinet. His deputy will dealwith tourism and district administration, while Marco Archer will take on development and planning with the finance ministry. Osbourne Bodden has been given education and sports, while Tara Rivers has confirmed her acceptance of labour, youth and gender affairs. Wayne Panton, who will be dealing with financial services, will also be taking on the environment.

McLaughlin said there were a significant number of subjects or departments not yet assigned to ministers and it would take some time to go through the long list, as he had been forced to delay his Cabinet decisions because of the negotiations.

Despite having a struggle on his hands to find the comfortable majority he was seeking, McLaughlin said that, given how hard his team had fought for victory at the polls, he was never prepared to increase his offer to the C4C, as far as the number ofCabinet seats was concerned, more than what was made immediately and unconditionally to Rivers in the wake of the result last week.

Vote in the CNS poll: How do you rate Alden McLaughlin job performance after his first task – choosing his Cabinet team?

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