Archive for November 5th, 2013

Turtles can’t be released

| 05/11/2013 | 82 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Turtle Farm has admitted that it should not be releasing its farmed turtles into the wild without putting the animals through a more vigorous quarantine and health screening process. As a result, despite having more than 8,000 turtles at the facility, the annual release, which the Farm highlights as part of its conservation credentials, will not go ahead this year during the Pirates Week festival. Following the independent inspection of the farm last December after an animal rights charity exposed serious shortcomings at the facility, the management had committed to developing a more rigorous quarantine and health check procedure prior to releasing turtles into the wild.

"The farm has upgraded quarantine facilities and enhanced the procedure under the direction of Cayman Turtle Farm’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Walter Mustin, and in-house veterinarian, Dr Martha Keller," the CTF said in a press statement Tuesday explaining why the turtle release would not happen.  "These enhancements have highlighted a need for some additional health screening tests to be run on the turtles prior to release. Unfortunately, those desired tests are not presently available."
As had been highlighted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals in their report about the conditions at the farm, including disease, skin problems, birth defects and many other issues with the farmed turtle populations, releasing the farmed turtles into the ocean may have repercussions on the wild population.
Things are also going to get more complicated for the farm because it is now reaching out to universities and research centres overseas to develop and implement the appropriate tests, it said, but it will also need to get special CITES permits for all biological samples from sea turtles sent off-island because the trade in endangered species is illegal and the turtles which are farmed for meat at the facility are all endangered species.
Despite this significant setback, the farm continued to justify its conservation work, stating that research at the facility "helps biologists and conservationists worldwide better understand and conserve green sea turtles”.
CTF Chief Researcher Dr Walter Mustin said, “It is the only place in the world where scientists have repeated access to known populations of green sea turtles ranging in size from 20 gm hatchlings to 250 kg breeders. This has made possible controlled studies in the nutrition, health, and general biology of sea turtles.” 
The farm once again claimed that over 150 scientific papers have been produced as a result of the  research, which have provided "invaluable information to scientists and researchers" that are involved with engaged wild sea turtle populations.
Tim Adam, the managing director of the farm, said, “We realise that many people look forward to our turtle release event and will be disappointed that it’s not going to happen during this year’s Pirate’s Week, but we are determined to ensure our health screening protocols are updated and implemented.”
Aside from being billed as part of its conservation programme and a justification for continuing with  the farming of the endangered marine creatures for meat, the annual release also offered the farm a chance to raise much needed cash for the facility. The farm sucks in an annual government subsidy of around $10 million from the public purse. 

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Tempura report release closer

| 05/11/2013 | 23 Comments

(CNS) Updated with statement from the governor's office: The senior judge who heard legal arguments between the Information Commissioner's Office and the governor's office last week over a disputed report regarding an internal police probe has ruled that the ICO was right that defamation is not enough to withhold the document from release. However, Sir Allan Moses has ordered that the information commissioner re-hear further submissions from the governor's office about the matter of prejudice of public affairs as he found that not enough attention had been paid to this element of the law during the hearing. Following comment from the ICO on Tuesday, the governor's office issued a statement Wednesday claiming that the judge had "quashed the Information Commissioner’s decision" when he ruled that she had not considered the public interest test correctly over the conduct of public affairs.

On Tuesday morning the ICO explained that while the judge's ruling had not yet been released, he had cleared the way for the parties to reveal the outcome of his judgment.

“Important clarification of the law was achieved, as we now know that simply because a record may contain defamatory matter that will not be a basis upon which a public authority can withhold the record," Jennifer Dilbert, the information commissioner, stated. "This underlines the intent of the law, which is to provide transparency and accountability even where the content of records might be controversial.”

The office pointed out that having ruled out the issue of defamation, which was the major focus of the parties during the hearing, the senior UK judge, who visited the jurisdiction especially to hear this case, had determined that neither party had placed sufficient focus on the exemption related to prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.

"As a result, the judge directed the governor develop and submit arguments confined to this exemption, and the commissioner is to reconsider the matter in light of these submissions and render a new decision," the office said. "We await the finalization of the detailed written judgment which will be made public."

The commissioner said that Lord Justice Moses had provided clarity on the application of the Freedom of Information Law in many key respects. Most importantly, it determined that records felt to contain any defamatory matter were not automatically exempt under the law, a conclusion reached by the commissioner in her decision that was the subject of the judicial review.

The governor's office commented on the judge's findings Wednesday in a short release.

"Lord Justice Moses ruled that section 54 of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which relates to the disclosure of defamatory material, was not an exemption,"officials stated. "He also ruled that the Information Commissioner had not considered the public interest test correctly when interpreting section 20(1)(d) of the FOIL – that disclosure of the material would, or would be likely to, prejudice the conduct of public affairs.

'Lord Justice Moses therefore quashed the Information Commissioner’s decision and ordered her to reconsider it with reference to section 20(1)(d). He gave the Governor the opportunity to provide a submission on this.”

The judge has instructed the governor's office to re-submit arguments regarding the conduct of public affairs. However, with the defamation issue no longer a hurdle to release, that will remain the only area of consideration remaining to keep the document from release. It is not yet clear what timeline will be required for re-submissions and a new hearing and what further barriers the governor's office may depend upon if Dilbert still orders the release of the controversial document.

The record at issue is a report of a complaint made by the senior investigating officer in Operation Tempura, an internal police probe. Martin Bridger had complained to the governor about the way his investigation had been terminated, among other issues, and the report is an account of why his complaint was dismissed.

The report was then the subject of an FOI request. When it was declined, thesituation ended up as an appeal before Dilbert, who ruled that it was in the public interest to disclose the report. However, the governor's office then sought a judicial review to challenge the decision.

Parts of the report have already found their way into the British press but the document has so far remained under official cover here in the Cayman Islands and has not been leaked.

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2013 Christmas stamps feature heritage buildings

| 05/11/2013 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Postal Service will be releasing the Christmas 2013 stamp issue tomorrow, 5 November, and will feature four buildings of local historical significance — the old Government House in George Town, the Old Homestead in West Bay, the Bodden Town Mission House and the old District Administration Building in Cayman Brac — all decorated with Christmas lights and being visited by Santa Claus. The four denominations for the stamps will be 25₵, 75₵, 80₵ and $1.

“This is meant to be a fun and entertaining issue, blending the old structures with modern holiday decorations,” said Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow. "Christmas is a fun time of the year and Stamp Advisory Committee members decided to highlight our architectural heritage, while embracing the decorative spirit of the season,” she added.

The 25₵ stamp is of the Old Government Building, which was constructed in 1908 while Dr George Hirst was Commissioner of the Cayman Islands. Not only was the building home toGovernment offices, but it was also the house for the Administrators/Commissioners and their families. Unfortunately on Sunday, 23 July 1972, the building and most of the records were destroyed by a fire.

The image on the 75₵ stamp is of the Old Homestead (also known as the Pink House). This house was built in 1909 by Sam Ebanks for Calvin and Ida Ebanks. The house was constructed of wattle and daub in the old Caymanian style, which is typical of that era. The house has a cook room out back, a wide porch trimmed with "gingerbread" in front, a sand yard all around, and a tin roof surrounded by gutters piped into a cistern to supply water to the house.

The 80₵ stamp shows the Mission House, which is estimated to be over 150 years old and is referred to by Bodden Towners as the district's oldest building. It is a two-storied structure that was last owned by the Late Emile Watler, but has become an historic site run by the National Trust. This site rose to prominence in the 1800s and became known as the “Mission House” to early missionaries, teachers and families who lived in the district and contributed to establishing the Presbyterian ministry and school in Bodden Town.

The $1 stamp depicts the Old Government Administration Building on Cayman Brac. This building was constructed in 1933 and housed various government agencies including the Post Office, Customs, Immigration and the Court House. Some 50 years later on 3 December 1983 it took up a new role — housing the island's oldest and most precious artifacts and thus becoming the Cayman Brac Museum.

Minister of Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure Kurt Tibbetts praised CIPS for being innovative with the new stamp issue. 

“This issue should have a broad appeal. It is in keeping with the Christmas spirit and at the same time illustrates the Islands’ past. No doubt kids will look at these stamps and see how much we have grown in terms of architecture and the leaflet provides a bit of history and purpose of the buildings, making this issue educational, functional and aesthetically appealing.”

The 2013 Christmas stamps go on sale on 5 November at all post offices. For more information, please contact Philatelic Manager Karen McField 946-4757 or stop by the Philatelic Bureau at the Seven Mile Post Office.

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Port faces environment risks

| 05/11/2013 | 62 Comments

(CNS): The environmental impact of the development of the cruise berthing facilities in George Town is likely to be one of the key issues to come up in the scheduled public meeting in George Town tonight. In the report released by government, which forms part of the strategic business case for the two piers, the environmental risks are laid out and give cause for concern. From the destruction of coral reefs to the erosion of Seven Mile Beach, the cruise port will have significant negative environmental consequences for Cayman. The report notes that the main environmental impacts relate to dredging but there are also concerns that the islands' natural attractions cannot sustain the increased pressure from the growth in cruise visitors.

Worryingly, the report notes that no research, statistics or scientific measurements have been done to see how much more pressure attractions such as Stingray City and local reefs could take in the face of the significant increase in tourist traffic the cruiseberthing piers are expected to generate.

While government remains determined to go ahead with the piers, the community is still divided as the clash between cruise and stay-over tourism remains and people question whether the economic gain for some regarding cruise tourism will undermine the economic benefit for others from the more eco-sustainable and now growing overnight tourism.

The natural marine environment will suffer significant damage at the location where the cruise port project is planned as a result of the excavation of the seabed and regular dredging to ensure sufficient draft is available for the ships.

“This would lead to potential sediment impacts elsewhere. There is concern over potential impacts on the Seven Mile Beach area to the north of the port,” the report found. “Waves and currents will be effected by the presence of large vessels resulting in the potential to impact elsewhere especially on the shore. The marine habitat is likely to be effected with the potential destruction of corals leading to a knock on effect for tourism operators in the harbour area. Dive sites are likely to destroyed or impacted by the construction of a berthing facility, leading to the potential increased use of sites further away and resultants pressures on those more pristine facilities,” the authors write.

The report even goes as far as to say that people may no longer come to the Cayman Islands to dive and some tourist operators’ businesses will be at risk.

The proposed new cruise terminal is also located within a Marine Park Zone and there are very real concerns the project will impact the jewel in Cayman’s crown — Seven Mile Beach. This famous strip of white sand has been experiencing problems with erosion for some time and the project will exacerbate that erosion, which is already under pressure from many existing factors.

Government will begin the public discussions about the berthing project this evening at the Mary Miller Hall in George Town at 7pm.

See the relevant reports which will form the basis of the public meeting below.

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CIG plans consultation on beneficial ownership access

| 05/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): With the announcement last week by British Prime Minister David Cameron that the UK will be introducing a fully accessible and public register detailing the beneficial owners of companies registered in the UK, the Cayman Islands government has said that it continues to make plans over the issue of how beneficial ownership for offshore companies registered here will be handled and will begin an industry consultation process this month. With pressure mounting to move towards automatic exchange of information and greater levels of transparency, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton defended what he called the “robust measures” and channels already in place for authorities to gain information about companies domiciled in Cayman. Read more on CNS Business

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Arson suspect released after weekend in lock-up

| 05/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 37-year-old man who was arrested in connection with a fireat a small apartment block in Cruz Lane, off Bodden Road in George Town, on Saturday has been released on police bail while investigations continue, an RCIPS spokesperson said Monday. Emergency services were sent to what was a significant blaze of a wooden structure at around 8:15 that morning. The fire was extinguished by fire fighters from the Cayman Islands Fire Service and no one was injured but the man was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the blaze on suspicion of arson and was detained over the weekend.

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Man acquitted in retrial of gun in freezer case

| 05/11/2013 | 6 Comments

(CNS): A 23-year-old George Town man was acquitted by a jury following a retrial over a gun found in the freezer drawer at an apartment where he was staying with a girlfriend. Although his DNA was found on the gun and despite having previously being convicted of possession of an unlicensed firearm for the offence, Joshua Brown was released by the Grand Court last month following the verdict. Brown had been serving a 12 year sentence for the crime, as it was his second gun conviction, but the Court of Appeal overturned the original verdict handed down by visiting judge Justice Seymour Panton and ordered a retrial. The second time around Brown opted for a jury trial and was acquitted on a majority verdict.

In September 2011, following a mysterious tip off, police found the Springfield Colt .45-caliber and six rounds of ammunition wrapped in a T-shirt in the freezer at an apartment in the Prospect area where Brown was staying with one of two women he was reportedly having a relationship with at the time.

Brown pleaded not guilty to the charges following his arrest and claimed that jealousy was the motive and suggested that the DNA on the gun was planted as he was having an affair with two women. However, in the judge alone trial in March last year Justice Panton found Brown guilty and handed down a 12 year sentence.

That verdict was then overturned in April this year by the appeal court as a result of the failure of the crown to reveal pertinent information that had led the police to where he was staying and because of how the judge had treated the DNA evidence.

In the retrial Brown’s attorney said that all the evidence against him was circumstantial as no one had seen Brown with a gun and the DNA evidence was consistent with transference rather than someone holding or loading the gun.

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Deputy governor urges fitter civil service

| 05/11/2013 | 8 Comments

(CNS): While government is seeking ways to make the civil service leaner when it comes to costs, the deputy governor is also encouraging public servants to get a leaner, too. In a September meeting of civil service heads, recorded in the latest minutes released from his office, Franz Manderson focused attention on the vision of a healthier public service. The government workers' boss and other officials are working on designing a sports programme that will assist with the promotion of health and wellness throughout government. One of the first events will be the participation of civil servants in the Intertrust Half Marathon, which takes place in early December.

Manderson said the programme will complement the work that is already being done by the Department of Sports, which organizes a number of sporting competitions within the civil service. The deputy governor, who will be participating in the half marathon himself, is aiming to have at least 50 civil servants take part in the 13 mile run, and training sessions are being now being organized, the minutes revealed.

Meanwhile, Manderson said his awards scheme for government workers had proved to be very successful after its first full year, based on the positive feedback, and the awards had been a catalyst to showcase the talent in the civil service as well as rewarding excellent performance. The deputy governor said he wanted to improve on scheme and to encourage greater participation in the nomination process. To help that goal, the nomination form will be redesigned to make it more user-friendly, the minutes record.

As a part of the award programme, he revealed plans to promote effective communication by recognizing government entities that excel in this area. He said this would be an annual award and would be based on criteria that are currently being drafted.

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CS cashier denies $5k theft

| 05/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A former civil servant who worked at the lands and survey department has denied stealing almost $5,000 from government coffers when she worked there as a cashier and account handler in 2010. The Summary Court trial of Lavania Hume-Ebanks, who faces 16 counts of false accounting, opened on Monday before Magistrate Kirsty Gunn. According to the crown’s case, Hume-Ebanks used at least three different methods to steal money from cash transactions made at the counter for atlases or other surveys provided by the government department and stole $4,761.30 over a sustained period.

During the explanation of the case against Hume-Ebanks, the prosecuting attorney said that the multitude of questionable transactions which occurred on her watch was too great to be carelessness or merely mistakes and that she had deliberately and dishonestly taken the money.

The crown alleges that Hume-Ebanks would either issue a receipt to a customer and then later enact a fictitious refund transaction and pocket the cash or that she would hand over a receipt to a customer but use an old receipt number. Alternatively, she would not make a copy of the receipt she issued to match the cash taken, enabling her to claim a different transaction amount and steal the difference. However, the crown claimed the outcome was the same In each instance, in that she stole public money.

Hume-Ebanks has denied the allegations.

During cross examination of the crown’s first witness, the financial administrator in the department, it became clear that until the investigation was triggered as a result of suspicions surrounding Hume-Ebanks, the management and security of cash taken at the counter for lands and survey appeared to be quite lax. Cash was left unattended and not locked up, staff appeared to borrow money from the cash draw for lunches and other sundry items and there were no strict procedures in place for how cash was to be handled once it was collected by cashiers before it was handed in to the financial administrator at the end ofthe day.

The trial continues in court three on Tuesday morning.

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