Archive for September 25th, 2013

Woman hospitalized after triple car pile up

| 25/09/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A female passenger was taken to hospital this morning following a major collision on the Shamrock Road. Police have reported that at around 8:14 this morning officers responded to a three car pile-up near Starapple Road in the Lower Valley area.  All three vehicles received major damage, an RCIPS spokesperson confirmed. The injured woman, who had complained of neck pains and was the only person injured in the crash, was taken to hospital. The police gave no further details about how the crash may have happened.

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Affordable housing stalled

| 25/09/2013 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The problems relating to building truly affordable homes that  people on low income can actually buy still exist, according to the National Housing Development Trust general manager, Julio Ramos, who explained to Public Accounts Committee last week that there are still significant  issues surrounding the initiative. After several years of turmoil, Ramos revealed that with no board in place for quite some time and no new policy directives about how the not-so-affordable housing initiative can now go forward, the Trust’s work is stalled. He said there are 41 people still living in homes declared unfit for human habitation and new tenants in the government's housing project are renting and not able to buy.

This has raised concerns among many of the new tenants, one of whom recently contacted CNS to say that some of the government’s tenants who wanted to buy their homes and moved in on the premise of a 'rent to buy' transition are now moving out because they cannot afford to pay rent and invest in a property that they will not be allowed to buy.  The former tenant said that he and many others now believe they were tricked into the homes under the impression of 'rent to own' when they paid the deposits and collected the keys.

“The National Housing Development Trust claims these low income homes were for people that couldn't get or afford a mortgage but who would be able to afford these homes. But I was living in one under the impression of rent to own, but clearly that was just another way for people to take these houses to build up government's budget in my opinion,” Ruben Whittaker, a former tenant, told CNS recently after he was forced to move out. He said that what were meant to be socially affordable homes were turned into expensive rentals.

Despite the promise of better quality homes with the new wave of properties built during the previous administration, Whittaker said that the houses were poorly maintained and the Trust took a long time to address the frequently needed repairs. Whittaker said that something had gone seriously awry with the initiative and the poor people investing rental money now understand that they won’t own.

“The houses were built to get Caymanians on a path to own their home but no one in their rightful mind would go and rent from the government if it was just rent. We would have gone elsewhereand rent places that came furnished,” he added, referring to the hardship of having to buy furniture and appliances on low incomes. Whittaker said that after frequently enquiring with the trust what the status on the rent to buy issue was, he got little response. Seeing a red flag, he made the decision not to spend any more money on the property and moved out.

During the PAC hearing last week Ramos indicated that the policy goal was still 'rent to buy' but it had not been sanctioned and he did not know what would happen next until a new board was functioning. However, he pointed to a significant number of problems.

Ramos said he had families occupying 41 of the old condemned original AHI homes that could not be re-housed in the new properties because they were not in good standing with their rentals. He said the trust needed some direction about what to do with these government tenants who owed back rent and could not, under the current policy directive, be re-housed but who were living in substandard properties. Ramos said this was a major problem but no one had any solutions or suggestions on how to fix it.

With the trust struggling to collect its bad debt, he said that it was now forced to lease the empty newly-built homes to new tenants as the 'rent to buy' programme had been placed on hold, even though he admitted that tenants had been selected on that basis. The issue of the affordability of the homes has also undermined the 'rent to buy' policy because the homes are far more expensive than the original properties.

Although there has been no official government announcement about a new board, Ramos told the committee that he believed it had just been appointed and this issue would be the top of the agenda for its first meeting. Ramos spoke about the frustrations of his position, as his many recommendations to the past board were ignored.

Answering questions from the committee about the scandal of board fees, he said the directors had voted themselves a massive fee increase for their meetings but had never justified that decision.

In October 2011 the board was embroiled in a major corruption scandal and the deputy chair was eventually arrested and charged with theft. Edlin Myles is scheduled to be tried in the case later this year, having been accused of using his position on the board to con new tenants into buying insurance from him. Following his arrest and the subsequent investigation into the entire trust and board, a number of concerns were raised about what had been going on.

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick also found that $4.2 million worth of contracts had been awarded and funded with public cash during the previous government to build the new homes. However, no tendering process was ever completed as the project was broken down into individual house by house contracts and pre-cleared local contractors were all given a chance to build one of the homes.

Swarbrick described this as “a novel way to procure services” but recognized that this was a social programme and the policy behind it was not only to provide low cost homes but work for local contractors. Nevertheless, the auditor said, the trust should have engaged the CTC when it made a decision to tender the contracts in such an unusual way.

The minister with ultimate responsibility for the initiative at the time was the community affairs minister, Mike Adam, but the direct political oversight had been passed to George Town backbench counsellor Ellio Solomon.

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Cops to hold public crime prevention seminar

| 25/09/2013 | 2 Comments

(CNS): With another increase in violent crime, in particular robberies and home invasions as well as an on-going battle with burglars the police have organised a major crime prevention seminar aimed at local business owners, those involved in the tourism sector and community representatives. AN RCIPS spokesperson said the presentations will appeal to a wide variety of people as they include commercial, residential, marine and financial crime prevention advice. Chief Inspector Angelique Howell, the driving force behind the seminar said she was keen to see as many people as possible attend.

“While overall crime is falling, burglaries continue to rise,” said CI Howell. “ That’s why we felt it was important to bring together our partners in the tourism and business sectors as well as Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators, so that we can all work together to reduce its impact on the Cayman Islands.”

There will be a host of speakers from the RCIPS and the keynote speaker will be William Shagoury, Custos Rotulorum & Chairman of the Clarendon Crime Prevention Committee. He will discuss ‘The Role of the Crime Prevention Committee in the National Crime Reduction Strategy’.

“Over the past three years Clarendon, Jamaica, has benefitted from a consistent reduction in crime,”said CI Howell. “Much of this can be attributed to the efforts of the Crime Prevention Committee lead by Custos Shagoury. We are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to come to Cayman and share some of his experiences with us.  It promises to be a very worthwhile and informative seminar.”

Thanking the partners working with the police to put the event together she said the RCIPS was sure that “everyone who attends will leave better informed and better prepared to play their part in reducing crime in Cayman.”

Her officers are liaising with Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators throughout the Cayman Islands to raise awareness of the event. Invitations have also been disseminated via the Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association for their members to attend and take advantage of the raft of information that will be available.

The event , will be held on Thursday, 3 October, at the Westin Hotel on West Bay Road. It will open at 9.30am and close at 2.00pm. Those attending will also have an opportunity to visit a number of booths where crime prevention information and the latest security equipment will be on display. Partners working with the RCIPS are the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Westin, Cayman Crime Stoppers ,Cayman First, CITA, Book Nook and Cayman National Bank.

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Locals wanted for TLEP jobs

| 25/09/2013 | 83 Comments

(CNS): In the face of continuing controversy regarding the 1,522 Term LimitExemption Permit holders who are all about to get the go-ahead to stay in Cayman, government has said that Caymanians will have an opportunity to apply for all of the jobs. The premier’s office has said that local workers interested in filling any of the jobs for which they are qualified are urged to apply so that the immigration department has all of the relevant information required in determining the grant or refusal of new work permits. With the pending change in the law, if employers do not disclose that a Caymanian applied for a job, they will face a hefty fine.

“Employers should note that it will now be an offence, carrying a fine of up to $20,000 in the first instance, for an employer to fail to disclose to the Immigration Department when making an application for a work permit that a Caymanian, a spouse of a Caymanian or a permanent resident has applied for the position,” the release from the premier’s press secretary said, following the publication of the new Immigration Law Amendment bill, which is expected to be debated in the Legislative Assembly next month.

However, There is still no comment from the premier’s office regarding the suspected Cabinet split over this element of the proposed new law, which will see over 1,500 people returned to the work permit system next month who would have been rolled over last year. Government is pressing ahead with the change in the law, which will allow all of these workers to make a permanent residency application before the year’s end under what will also be a new processing regime that government has indicated will be much more robust and efficient, if the bill makes it through the Legislative Assembly next month.

The TLEPs were created by the previous administration and they effectively kicked the can down the road to the current government to deal with this pressing but controversial problem. Cayman was in facing the problem of around 2,500 work permit holders departing from the islands in a relatively short period, many of whom were in the tourism sector. This was as a result of many workers beginning then seven year term limit more or less at the same time in the post Hurricane Ivan recovery period.

The UDP government came up with the special permit to allow them all to stay for up to two more years, but now all of the 1,522 remaining holders of TLEPs are, as the law stands now, due to depart Cayman on 28 October. Fearing the negative impact of such a mass exodus of these workers and their families on the economy, the new PPM government is proposing to regularize these workers into what will be a new work permit regime, which will allow all foreign workers to stay in Cayman for up to nine years and make a residency application.

In order to ensure greater efficiency and transparency of the immigration policy, the chief immigration officer and people designated by her will now be allowed to process all types of work permit applications, including those where a Caymanian has applied for the position. 

Going forward, permanent residence applications will be processed administratively as well as by the Caymanian Status & Permanent Residency Board. Accompanying the new regime will be much stricter rules, and to discourage abuse of the work permit system, it will no longer be possible to work beyond the date of refusal of an application for a work permit while awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

Among the many other changes proposed in this, the first two major overhauls of the immigration law and regulations planned by the new administration, is a new solution to tackle bad payers. To address the problem of permanent residence fees not being paid on time, or at all, it will now be required that all fees must be paid at the time of making the application for permanent residence. This includes the application fee, issue fee, fees in respect to dependents and the annual fee in respect of the first year. The fee to make an application for permanent residence is being increased to $1,000.

Stronger grounds for the removal of permanent residence right are also in the bill, which would see holders who are delinquent in respect to payment of their annual fee lose their residency. Working in an occupation that is not authorized on a certificate or failing to make the required annual declaration could also see residency revoked.

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Young Brackers enjoy FC International Camp

| 25/09/2013 | 0 Comments

(CBFC): FC International of Grand Cayman hosted a one-day football camp on Cayman Brac on Saturday, 21 September, at the football field on the Bluff. Technical Director Elbert McLean led the camp with 43 children in attendance, ranging from ages 4-16 years old. Brac Sports Instructor Mitchum Sanford introduced the FC International coaching staff, which consisted of Coach Elbert McLean and his son, Carlo McLean. Coach Elbert is also the head coach of Bodden Town FC and the Bodden Town Primary School. Carlo is following in his father’s footsteps and assisting him in coaching duties at football camps across the islands. The camp got underway at 9am with the McLean duo leading the children in a dynamic warm-up routine followed by stretching. 

Camp participants were treated to an assortment of drills, games, laws of the game and knowledge of the field markings. Cayman Brac FC Grassroots coach, Ashton Ferguson, assisted with leading the 4-6 years division, while the McLean duo took the 7-16 age groups.

Camp participants were each treated to a free lunch, plus a t-shirt and a football at the conclusion of the camp. Much thanks to FC International for their continued dedication in providing football camps to communities in the Cayman Islands.

FC International President Kennedy Ebanks was on hand throughout the day to speak with parents and participants. He also presented the participants, coaches and parents with camp t-shirts. Thanks to Zoe Vassel for management of the refreshments and lunch, to Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell for providing the accommodations for the two visiting coaches, and the PWD for providing a tent, which helped provide shade for participants and parents. Thanks to the parents and guardians for making sure the children attended the camp, and the participants themselves for their attendance.

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Bush comes face to face with the new governor

| 25/09/2013 | 17 Comments

(CNS): What could have been a sticky moment went off without a hitch, according to government sources, when Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush formally met the new governor Monday. Although Bush has met the Helen Kilpatrick before, he was in South Africa at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting when she arrived in Cayman, so the former premier missed the first round of official meeting and greeting with the UK’s latest representative in Cayman. After an extremely prickly relationship with her predecessor, Duncan Taylor, whom Bush accused of trying to undermine the economy and advancement of the Cayman Islands and of conspiring against him, it is understood that the opposition leader had a cordial first official meeting with Kilpatrick.

Now in opposition, the UDP leader will not be working as closely with Kilpatrick as he was forced to do with Taylor, when Bush held the political reins of power. However, as leader of the opposition, father of the house, a member of the National Security Council and a leading political figure in Cayman, Bush will still interact with the governor.

Bush formally met Kilpatrick at her offices in the Government Administration Building.

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Governor starts new J22 season in style

| 25/09/2013 | 0 Comments

(CISC): Governor, Helen Kilpatrick, was at the Cayman Islands Sailing Club at the weekend to meet sailors before heading out onto North Sound to start the first race of the 23rd annual J22 Governor’s Cup regatta. The two day regatta is the traditional start of the J22 season and is always closely competed. “I am not a sailor myself," said Mrs Kilpatrick, “but I have learned a lot today from Peta Adams and her Race Committee and am delighted to be part of it. It was especially pleasing to meet the youth sailors”.The light winds were unusual for this event and added a different flavour to the racing as strategy became all important.

Mike Farrington, who has won the last four Governor’s Cup regattas, was out in front early but did not enjoy the dominancethat they have become used to. Simon Farrington, skippering “Sunshine” was close behind with his awesome Stingray spinnaker close on his brother’s stern serving as a warning that this year would not be a runaway event. Tomeaka McTaggart was also challenging hard and the Youth Team aboard “DMS”, who had very little spinnaker experience were sailing well enough to mix it up with the best.

On the second day of racing the winds started out too light to race and after a two hour delay the fleet ventured out onto glassy seas. Race Committee had however got it right and the breeze picked up enough to run two more races. Pablo Bertran and the youth team showed they had learned quickly the mysteries of the big baggy sail and led for most of the first race being just beaten by one second at the finish line by Mark Edmunds. They were at it again in the second race showing no fear of their adult competitors but could not quite beat off Mike Farrington who finished comfortably in first place ahead of Simon and Tomeaka.

Commodore Farrington was quick to praise the youth team. “The light conditions favoured the lighter crews and the youth took full advantage showing that under the coaching of Raph Harvey they have really upped their sailing skills across the board. We hope they will now challenge us at every J22 event if they can find the time away from their Youth Olympic campaign”.
 

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Kidney disease increase alarming as new unit opens

| 25/09/2013 | 3 Comments

(CNS):A modern, purpose-built dialysis unit near the entrance to the Cayman Islands Hospital was formally opened last week. The service provided by the haemodialysis unit is crucial to those suffering kidney problems and this new facility is fully equipped to meet the specific needs of up to 11 patients at a time. According to health officials, the number of patients with kidney disease in Cayman has leapt over 400% in less than 15 years. With diabetes and hypertension a major factor in the increase, the HSA said the new unit would provide a comfortable and convenient treatment centre for those battling kidney problems as medical staff tackle the burgeoning and worrying problem of non-communicable diseases here.

“For the patients that are currently undergoing dialysis, this unit plays an integral role in their everyday lives,” said Health Minister Osbourne Bodden when the unit was formally opened. “With the new advancements to the facility and scheduling, those patients will be able to accommodate dialysis treatments into their personal schedules.”

The Dialysis Unit serves local outpatients and inpatients, visitors and in-transit cruise ship passengers six days a week, Monday to Saturday, and a dialysis nurse is on call for emergencies.

“As comfortable and  beautiful as the unit may be, I want to assure everyone that our long-term goal has been and will always be to reduce the patient load in the unit by confronting  squarely the menacing epidemic of chronic kidney disease,” said Dr Nelson Iheonunekwu.

In 1998 there were only 10 dialysis patients in the Cayman Islands but by 2012 there were 52 patients on dialysis, representing a 420% jump over a period of 15 years. Dr Iheonunekwu said diabetes and hypertension were the major drivers of chronic kidney disease in the Cayman Islands and had serious morbidity and mortality implications.

“They impose serious financial burdens on the individual and government as treatment of CKD, including dialysis and transplant, is prohibitively costly. Fighting this disease should therefore be a priority,” he said.

Last year the Cayman Islands unveiled its National Health Policy and Strategic Plan for the Cayman Islands 2012-2017, which this government and new minister fully support. One of the strategies under the policy is to educate and empower residents to ensure the Cayman Islands has a health conscious population. To achieve this, the ministry is committed to a comprehensive programme of life-long learning to educate the public on health and wellness.

Another strategy is to promote increased research for the production, dissemination and use of health relevant information, knowledge and scientific evidence for decision making. The objectives of this strategy are to develop a national research policy and establish a regulatory mechanism to conduct research.

“This second strategy will assist us to fulfil the objectives of the first. With research we will have the necessary data to develop education programmes to help people stay fit and healthy,” Bodden said.

The new Dialysis Unit has been in use since 12 August and patients were able to transition from the previous location at the side entrance to the hospital to the Atrium without interruption. The ribbon cutting of the unit was the first official act for Albert Anderson in his new role of Chairman of the HSA Board of Directors.

“At the Health Services Authority we are committed to ensuring that all our patients receive a fully rounded service while striving to provide excellence in every area of service that we deliver. Because of this commitment, we continue to look at ways that we can improve how we deliver care to meet the needs of our patients,” said Anderson. “I believe that this new Dialysis Unit is a great example of how we have been able to improve the service to our patients.”

HSA has also recently started a home based dialysis programme in the form of continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, which offers the patient the chance to take control of his or her treatment, flexibility and independence and obviates the need to go for treatment three times a week.

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Community beat officer meets with residents

| 25/09/2013 | 2 Comments

(CNS):  Police Constable Cornelius Pompey, who walks the beat in the George Town area of Scranton, listened to the concerns of the residents in that area recently at an RCIPS community meeting held on 17 September. About 20 people attended the meeting, including George Town MLA Joey Hew, Community Development Officer Dorline Welcome, and Martin Drive community activist Dale Ramoon. Residents were keen to engage in discussion with the police about their plans and areas of concern, such as speeding, drugs activity and loud music. Chief Inspector Angelique Howell expressed her disappointment at the meeting that younger members of the community were missing.

The George Town cop shop boss was able to reassure those present that patrol officers will continue to have a visible presence in the area. Impressed with the passion displayed by the residents, nevertheless, Howell said she hoped to see younger people in the neighbourhood taking part in the discussions about crime prevention.

“They have a great dealof pride in their Martin Drive community and expressed a desire to work with the police and other agencies to improve the area,” she said. “It would have been great to see some of the younger residents at the meeting as they have a pivotal role to play in developing and enhancing the community. One of PC Pompey’s aims is to engage with the young residents and involve them in the community enhancement programmes.”

PC Pompey, who served in two police forces before joining the RCIPS ten years ago, will work with community leaders to develop programs that will benefit the area. Addressing the meeting, PC Pompey pledged that he would do his best to address any concerns they had about crime and community safety, and that he would work diligently with them to come up with solutions to their issues. He asked for the support of the residents and stressed that it was important for them and the police to work together.

The next George Town community meeting will be held at the All Nations Pentecostal Church in Washington Blvd tonight Wednesday 25 September at 7.00pm

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US ambassador opens agent’s office in Cayman

| 25/09/2013 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela Bridgewater, visited Cayman last week to officially open that country’s consular agent’s new office in Grand Cayman. The new better equipped and secured facility, which is located in the Cayman Centre on Smith Road, is expected to enhance how the local consular agency engages and works with US citizens. Matters include passports, registration of births, as well as services for US citizens who break local laws,and are imprisoned. Consul General Michael Schimmel explained the various features, including a vault to secure the local assets of intestate US citizens who pass away in the Cayman Islands on behalf of families.

Last year, there were 17 deaths and 70 births of US citizens in the Cayman Islands, she reported. There is also a facility to better cater to emotionally distraught US citizens seeking the consular agency’s services.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Bridgewater highlighted the close cooperation between her country and the Cayman Islands on several matters, notably law enforcement, security and legal jurisdiction of children.  The ambassador also pointed to the “enduring friendship between the people and government of the United States and the people and government of the Cayman Islands” as she and Franz Manderson the deputy governor snipped a ribbon to open the new office Thursday.

Expressing his delight at the consular agency’s expanded operations the Deputy Governor said that the humanitarian assistance provided by the US authorities for those wishing to leave the Islands during Hurricane Ivan’s aftermath helped further cement the Cayman Islands’ relationship with the US. This relationship, he went on to say, has moved “from strength to strength”. “The Cayman Islands Government (CIG) looks forward to a continued working relationship with the Consular Agency in the Cayman Islands,” he added.

While here, the ambassador also had her first meeting with the new governor, Helen Kilpatrick and later that evening, the Deputy Governor led government attendees at a reception for invited guests hosted by the Ambassador at the Wharf.

The office’s new location is Unit B1, Cayman Centre, Smith Road. The mailing address is PO Box 12204, Grand Cayman KY1-1010. The office phone is (345) 747-8172 and fax is (345) 945-8192. The web address is: http://kingston.usembassy.gov

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