Archive for November, 2013

13 phones seized in jail

| 28/11/2013 | 0 Comments
(CNS): As the prison service continues to battle against smugglers and the flow of contraband into HMP Northward, officials said Thursday that 13 cell phones and charges have been intercepted over a matter of weeks. The authorities said they seized intercepted over six pounds of ganja as well as the phones between early October and mid-November. Despite the ongoing efforts of the Cayman Islands Prison Service and a zero-tolerance approach, the prison boss said efforts were being frustrated by members of the public who continue to try to smuggle items to inmates, or throw them over the double-perimeter fences.

 
With the continued security breaches, management are struggling to maintain the safety of staff and prisoners and in the case of the use of smart phones those on the outside as well.
 
Although the complaints commissioner's office has recommended that the prison using phone jamming or scrambling equipment to prevent the use of cell phones by inmates and reduce the need for invasive searches which could expose the authorities to legal problems but the prison says such equipment is costly and given the proximity of a local telecommunications tower to Northward technically challenging.
 
However, with the recent seizures it is clear that many people continue to attempt to smuggle phones into the jail for the inmates and the prison director has pointed the finger at visitors and members of the public who hesays continue to supply the prison with drugs as well as phones.
 
“The most concerning part is that, as our information suggests, these drugs are being delivered or transported by members of the general public,” said Neil Lavis.  “It is important to remind people on the outside that it is a criminal offence to smuggle, or attempt to smuggle these items into the prison premises.”

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13 phones seized in jail

| 28/11/2013 | 32 Comments

(CNS): As the prison service continues to battle against smugglers and the flow of contraband into HMP Northward, officials said Thursday that 13 cell phones and chargers have been intercepted over a matter of weeks. The authorities said they intercepted over six pounds of ganja as well as the phones between early October and mid-November. Despite the ongoing efforts of the Cayman Islands Prison Service and a zero-tolerance approach, Prison Director Neil Lavis said efforts were being frustrated by members of the public who continue to try to smuggle items to inmates or throw them over the double-perimeter fences.

With the continued security breaches, management is struggling to maintain the safety of staff and prisoners, and in the case of the use of smart phones, those on the outside as well.

The Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) has recommended that the prison using phone jamming or scrambling equipment to prevent the use of cell phones by inmates and reduce the need for invasive searches, which could expose the authorities to legal problems, but the prison says such equipment is costly and, given the proximity of a local telecommunications tower to Northward, technically challenging.

However, with the recent seizures it is clear that many people continue to attempt to smuggle phones into the jail for the inmates and the prison director has pointed the finger at visitors and members of the public, who, he says, continue to supply the prison with drugs and phones.

“The most concerning part is that, as our information suggests, these drugs are being delivered or transported by members of the general public,” Lavis said. “It is important to remind people on the outside that it is a criminal offence to smuggle, or attempt to smuggle these items into the prison premises.”

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Talent competition tonight for aspiring singers

| 28/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands International Music Fest’s talent show, Xposure, will take place tonight, Thursday November 28 at Beaches, Grand Harbour. Originally launched in 2006 by Mogul Entertainment/DSS Production, the aim of the talent competition is to give local singers a chance to showcase their talent on a world-class stage. “Xposure was a great event, it was also one of the most gratifying things that I have done. I do believe that the next Rihianna is out there just waiting to be discovered – we have some amazing talent in the Caribbean,” said Dwayne Seymour, the creator of both the Cayman Islands International Music Fest and Xposure. The winner will get an incredible chance to share the stage with the headliners at the music fest at Grand Harbour on Friday, 6 December

The event will feature Percy Sledge, Ginuwine, Verse Simmonds and Omi, as well as local acts such as Impulz, Bonafide, Regeneration, Stephon Cottrell, Lonny Love, Jason Campbell and Andy Blake.

Xposure’s sponsor, Lime, is excited about the event, which is inspired by TV talent competition “The Voice”, and has given a number of fabulous prizes for the winner, including a CI$1,000 in cash and one of the latest smartphones.

Many of the young singers to hit the Cayman music scene have performed or were involved with Xposure; they include Jason Campbell, Lonny Love, Big J, Shari Espeut, (the winner of Xposure in 2006) and Stephon Cottrell (a talented music track producer).

The genre of music is R&B/soul and candidates must be 18 years old to enter. To be a part of the auditions contact Mogul Entertainment/DSS on 324-1829. 

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Government aims for 4% cut in spending

| 28/11/2013 | 45 Comments

(CNS): Although government is hoping that its earnings will increase during this financial year compared to last in order to meet its predicted surplus, it will also be keeping a tight rein on public expenditure in both core government and its statutory authorities and government companies (SAGCs). Finance Minister Marco Archer has said that over the current and the next financial years government proposes to cut public spending by $22.5 million, or 4%, with a subsequent cap on increases at 1%. The initial reduction in expenses over the next two years is expected to result in early savings in tandem with improved revenue collection. As core government tightens the purse strings, the minister indicated that the SAGCs must play their part in both cuts and earnings.

With prudent financial management (the minister's theme for the public purse when delivering the Strategic Policy Statement earlier this month in the Legislative Assembly), Archer said the government’s “ fundamental responsibility” was to ensure that “every dollar is well-spent”, as he pointed to streamlined resources. “We are adamant that by replacing waste and abuse in government with transparency and accountability and efficiency, our country will realize great savings in the medium and long term,” the minister said.

Aside from plans to continue cutting personnel costs, Archer indicated that the PPM administration would be placing a higher degree of reliance on savings from supplies and consumables, purchase of outputs from non-government suppliers and the purchase of outputs from statutory authorities and government owned companies.

He said that government was seeking to restructure the financial affairs of SAGCs "by mandating that comprehensive reviews of their operations be undertaken with credible and sustainable changes implemented thereafter. The goal is to improve the financial performance of the SAGC’s and make them less reliant on funding and subsidies from central government.”

Archer has not yet said which authorities or companies will face the most cuts but with the Cayman Turtle Farm sucking in $10 million in government subsidy and Cayman Airways still needing around $5 million each year from the central government, those two companies are likely to provide the starting point for government pressure.

Archers also announced during the presentation in the LA that legislation to effect “greater clarity and uniformity in the governance arrangements to be exercised by government with respect to Statutory Authorities and Government Companies is being drafted.” This was expected to be brought to the LA before the fiscal year-end, he said.

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Athletics season opens with new momorial meet

| 28/11/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The 2013/2014 track season will begin next weekend with the staging of the new Damion Rose Sprint & Distance Track Meet at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex. Athletes interested in competing in the memorial event are asked to register as soon as possible. This meet is dedicated to the memory of Damion Rose, one of our fallen athletes who drowned off Public Beach on Sunday, 20 October he was a talented athlete who touched many lives in and out of the track & field arena; he will be missed by all. The meet starts at 9am on Saturday, 7 December and includes Javelin, Long Jump, Discus, 3000m, 150m, 1000m, 600m, 1600m and 300m.

Registration forms are available below or by contacting Coach Williams 925-1943, Coach Yen 925-6917 or Coach Ato on 927-0981. Completed forms may be returned to any of the above persons or emailed to ciaa.meetscommittee@gmail.com. There will be no registration on race day.

See more details attahced

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Ethics bill requires board members to know their stuff

| 28/11/2013 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The long awaited Standards in Public Life bill, which is expected to be debated in the Legislative Assembly early in the new year, will not only clamp down on members of the various boards having conflicts of interest but it will require those appointed to boards to have the relevant skills relating to the authority or government company where they are to serve. The bill also legislates for political neutrality among members to prevent the past cronyism, which has caused genuine concern and led to serious abuses on some boards overseeing public entities. Once this bill becomes law, Cabinet will need toensure it treads carefully when seeking experienced people who are not conflicted and also are able and competent.

The draft bill states that when Cabinet appoints a board member it needs to be sure that the person has the “skills, knowledge and integrity to carry out the duties required in a highly competent and politically neutral manner”, and to have no financial or other interest in the areas covered by the particular board.

“When appointing board members of a public authority, Cabinet shall ensure that, between them, the board members have adequate knowledge, experience and understanding of … corporate governance; strategic and financial management; and the scope of business, outputs and operations of the public authority concerned,” the bill states.

The new bill covers all people in public life and replaces the Register of Interests law. It will require all civil servants, elected officials, public employees and members of government boards to declare their interests in the relevant register. Over the years there have been numerous allegations regarding civil servants who are believed to be closely involved or even running private businesses relating to or conflicting with their public office. Under this legislation all public sector workers will have to reveal the details of those outside business interests.

Anyone who fails to declare an interest or conflict or lies about an interest or conflict can be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to two years.

The bill also protects whistle-blowers and makes it clear that anyone who releases information on wrongdoing, or discloses a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, as long as he acted in good faith, will not be subject to any legal, administrative or employment related sanction regardless of any breach.

The Standards in Public Life Commission has been waiting on the legislation since it was formed, despite a catalogue of concerns relating to the activities and conflicts surrounding boards, public employees as well as politicians. The commission has stated that this bill will enable it to finally carry out its proper constitutional mandate as the watchdog of public officials and their behaviour.

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Cayman needs NCL now

| 28/11/2013 | 66 Comments

(CNS): With around two weeks to go before the National Conservation Law (NCL) is debated in the Legislative Assembly, environmental experts, activists, politicians and many people in the community at large agree that the legislation is not a moment too soon. Many hope that the years of delay caused by a small but powerful group of objectors won’t mean that the law will be too late to protect what is left of Cayman’s natural resources. With unsustainable development having destroyed so much of the islands’ habitat as well as undermining the survival of the incredible collection of indigenous flora and fauna, even though the law is assured of passage, it could still be touch and go for many unique species.

From the critically endangered ghost orchid to the country’s national tree, the silver thatch, many endemic species here are vulnerable at best or close to extinction at worst. Despite dire warnings from experts, the NCL has been discussed, debated and dissected for more than a decade. However, the end is in sight and while the NCL is far from a panacea or cure all for Cayman’s numerous environmental problems, it is an essential step forward.

Given the recent misinformation that has been published about the bill, Environment Minister Wayne Panton is giving the public yet another opportunity to ask questions and find out more about what the law means before the anticipated debate in the parliament sometime during the week beginning 9 December.

Panton will be hosting a series of open public meetings during the week of 2 December in West Bay, where the people will have plenty of opportunity to ask what they need to know and learn how the bill will seek to protect the environment for the next generation. He said he expects the bill will be debated in the Legislative Assembly in the second week of December and the public is encouraged to get comments to their MLA or to the minister as soon as possible.

“The absence of a Conservation Law in the Cayman Islands could have dire consequences for future generations,” Panton said this week. However, the sentiment is shared by a wide cross-section of the community as well as activists and experts. “This bill, as it is now, is the place to start. It is a sound, rational and reasonable thing to do,” Panton added, as he acknowledged that not everyone supports environmental protection. “But this is something we must put in place now.”

A major misconception that is generating some opposition is that private land could be designated as a protected area, but it cannot without the cooperation of the landowner. Under the proposed law, only crown land can be designated as a Protected Area. Suggestions can be made to designate private land as protected, but that could only occur if the landowner agrees.

“Either the landowner could sell the parcel to government at a fair market value or the landowner could agree to manage the conservation area, receiving a stipend to do so from government,” the minister explained.

But before any land, either crown or private, is deemed to be a protected area the NCL will require extensive public consultation and approval coming from Cabinet and no decisions can be made secretly or in private.

“These will not be decisions that are simply made by Cabinet. They will be based on input and recommendations from a broad range of people,” Panton said. “There’s no power to take somebody’s land but there are a number of very important issues being articulated by people who aren’t being completely honest or accurate.”

Panton recently admitted that the bill is a watered down version of the one that environmental experts had wanted, so there are no guarantees that this will be enough to protect local natural resources, given the immense strain they have been under with the rapid pace and often unchecked development over the past fifty years. Nevertheless, the law is a first step in the right direction and desperately needed.

After almost 11 years of consultation on the issues, the bill presented to the LA is starkly different from the original document. The restrictions on development will change very little for most people here but it will enable government to create environmentally protected zones on its own land, to buy land for that purpose and to protect endangered and endemic species. 

The bill, Panton said, is a compromise as it allows for conservation and development to co-exist.

“That is what sustainable development is all about. Otherwise we lose our identity. Once we’ve lost that, what are we? Once we’ve lost what we had, how do you put a price on that; how do you get it back?,” he said “Our children are the ones we have to be thinking about, but of course it is important to us today as well. It is our intention to protect and defend the environment,” he added.

The new proposed legislation does not give the Department of Environment or the proposed National Conservation Council the powers they were granted in the original draft. Instead, those two bodies will be giving advice to Cabinet.

The proposed Council will consist of 13 members, including the Director or his nominee from the Department of the Environment, the Deputy Director of Research in the Department of Environment, the Chief Officer of the Ministry, the Director of the Department of Agriculture or his nominee from the Department, the Director of Planning or his nominee from the Department, someone nominated by the National Trust and appointed by Cabinet, and seven other people appointed by Cabinet, with at least three of them having relevant scientific or technical expertise.

“The Council itself will not have broad ranging powers to make decisions,” Panton explained. “It will only give advice, for example, to the planning department. That advice must be considered or it can be ignored. Obviously, if it is ignored it is at our own peril. And clearly I am not suggesting that it should be; I say it could be ignored to highlight the fact that the Council cannot dictate the outcome on 99 percent of the decisions. The limited circumstances under which the Council’s views must be followed, i.e. it can dictate the outcome of a decision, is when the proposal involves a potential impact on avaluable protected area. For example, you would expect if somebody was going to do something next to Stingray City that the Council should be able to say no. Stingray City is too important an asset to this country.”

The bill is also needed because of other obligations. Section 18 of the Bill of Rights states: "Government shall, in all its decisions, have due regard to the need to foster and protect an environment that is not harmful to the health or well-being of present and future generations, while promoting justifiable economic and social development."

“This is a large part of why this government is taking this forward,” the minister said.

What’s more, there are international agreements concerning environmental conservation which apply to Cayman. Speaking at the JMC this week Premier Alden McLaughlin said the planned passage of the law would help Cayman meet its obligations regarding international treaties and help in the UK’s goal to preserve the bio-diversity of its territories. McLaughlin said this important legislation "has our full commitment” and pointed to the need to do all that we can to protect the environment on all three Islands to ensure that we preserve paradise for future generations of residents and tourists alike.

McLaughlin also pointed to the need to address climate change, given the sobering message of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as enhance the local marine parks

“Cayman simply cannot afford to ignore the conclusions of this worldwide committee of eminent scientists. The government therefore intends to adopt the draft climate policy, produced in 2011 by a multi-disciplinary public/private sector initiative led by the DoE, and to begin urgent work on an implementation plan,” he said. “Cayman created our now famous system of marine parks 26 years ago, 24 years ahead of the UK; we have rescued our blue iguana from near extinction,” he added and pointed to the PPM government’s commitment to protecting Cayman’s “wonderful bio-diversity”.

Panton, who is also in London with the premier this week, will be returning at the weekend in time for next week’s public meetings. Encouraging everyone to read the bill for themselves and not listen to misinformation, he urged people to attend the district meetings and ask questions.

“Read the bill, go to the district meetings. This is a bill that is important to this country. It’s not a piece of legislation that is of limited application and that people can’t understand,” he said.

Each meeting will begin at 7:30pm and refreshments will be provided. The meetings will begin with a short overview of the National Conservation Bill, but the majority of the time will be for members of the public to have their questions answered.  The Bill is posted below and it as well as other information is available on the DoE website.

Questions on the bill can be sent directly to the Department of Environment, DoE@gov.ky, for answers. Those who wish to contact the minister can write to him at PO Box 102, Grand Cayman KY1-9000, Cayman Islands or email wayne.panton@gov.ky.

Vote in the CNS Poll: Should Legislative Assembly pass National Conservation Bill into law

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More cash recovered in TCI corruption case

| 27/11/2013 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The team investigating corruption and questionable land deals in the Turks and Caicos Islands have recovered $1.35 million plus interest from Richardson Arthur, a local pilot who was accused of "flipping" crown land. Two civil recovery related court rulings this week handed down by Justice Margaret Ramsey Hale, a supreme court judge there and former chief magistrate in Cayman, were described by acting TCI Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite as  “substantial judgments for the civil recovery team”. Arthur reportedly bought a piece of crown land for just $50,000 from government and sold it immediately for a whopping $1.35 million for development.

"We welcome the judge’s finding that McAllister Hanchell, then minister of natural resources, breached his fiduciary duties as minister by directing the use of an out of date valuation in connection with the sale; and that he also exceeded his delegated authority to transfer crown land and abused his position in order to convey the freehold title to Mr Arthur,” Braithwaite stated, referring to justice Ramsey-Hale’s ruling. "We also welcome the finding that Mr Arthur knew that the transfer to him on the beneficial terms that Mr Hanchell directed was wrong.”

Braithwaite said the claim was an important milestone in the civil recovery programme. 

“It demonstrates that a serious abuse occurred in the management of crown land, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ prime asset,” she added. "We are very pleased that this abuse has been dealt with by the courts.  It also adds significantly to the judgments obtained by the Civil Recovery team.”

Since April of this year nearly $4m has been recovered through the courts as well as some 600 acres of land in the corruption scandal first exposed by the Sir Robin Auld enquiry, which has drawn in businessmen, developers and local politicians, including the former leader of the overseas territory, Michael Misick.

"The Civil Recovery team has now obtained cash and judgment orders or agreements to pay totalling over $23.3m, and has recovered nearly 3,100 acres of land, which has been or is being re-registered as crown land,” the AG added.

However, not everything has gone the way of the special investigation team leading the corruption investigations. The team is now reviewing a judgment in connection to a claim against former minister Clyde Robinson and his former wife, Susannah Bishop, in which the authorities have failed in their claim that the couple also flipped land. Clyde Robinson reportedly acquired the piece of crown land adjacent to that acquired by Arthur for $70,000, then transferred it to his wife, who sold it for $1.5m to the same developer as Arthur. 

Welcoming Ramsey-Hale's finding that government minister McAllister Hanchell breached his fiduciary duties by directing the use of an out of date valuation, the AG raised concerns about other findings.

“It is, however surprising that the Judge found that Mr Robinson’s conduct was not unconscionable, nor was it a breach of his own fiduciary duties as a senior government official. We are troubled by those findings and we will be considering the judgment carefully and whether we should appeal,” the TCI government’s lawyer said.

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195 local people selected to sit cop exams

| 27/11/2013 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS has created a long shortlist after its recent recruitment campaign and selected 195 Caymanians to move through to the next stage of the job selection process and sit the written exam. An RCIPS spokesperson said all 195 people who have applied for the post believe that they have what it takes to become police officers and they have been selected from the 495 applications received by the RCIPS during the month-long campaign. Three hundred applicants did not meet the selection criteria either through nationality or age. However, 195 did make the first grade at least, and now 185 people from Grand Cayman and another ten from Cayman Brac will sit the test next month.

It is anticipated that the exams will be graded by the end of December and those who pass will be invited to take part in stage three of the selection process, the physical test, in January.

Felicia Deslandes, RCIPS Human Resources Manager, said the campaign was a huge success.

“It caused a real buzz in the community and we received hundreds of enquiries about employment from people on Cayman and from overseas. We are delighted that almost 200 Caymanians have now been shortlisted to go forward to the exam stage. Our goal is to start a recruit class in late March 2014, and so far it looks like we are right on target for that," she said.

“To help us manage the process we need those who have been invited to take part in the exam to confirm their attendance by Monday, 2 December. We wish all of the candidates the best of luck in this stage of the recruitment process,” the HR boss added.

Two dates have been scheduled for the exams: Saturday 7 and Tuesday 10 December. All shortlisted candidates have been contacted by email or by telephone and have been asked to confirm their attendance by 2 December. Exams will take place both on Grand Cayman and on Cayman Brac. RCIPS Training staff and Human Resources officers will invigilate the process.

Attendance for the exams can be confirmed by replying to the email invitation, or by contacting the RCIPS HR Department at rcipsrecruitment@rcips.ky or 244-2900.

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Cayman football association launches website

| 27/11/2013 | 3 Comments

(CNS): As football becomes ever more popular in the Cayman Islands, not least because of the inspiring elevation of Cayman’s own Jeffery Webb to one of the world’s highest positions in the sport, the local association has launched a new website designed to maximise the user experience of all local football fans. The site is designed to provide up-to-date information on local teams, leagues, players, schedules and key officials involved in the national sport. The launch of the website comes as Cayman prepares to host an eight team CONCACAF Women Under 20 Championships in January next year and features content designed for the championship, including profiles, schedules and the group designation.

Each week, CIFA will post updated information on all its competitions, including CIFA Premier League to the Grassroots development initiative.

General Secretary Bruce Blake urged clubs to participate in the content gathering and sharing process.

“The website is a medium of communicating and sharing information. I encourage our clubs to submit information to post on the website, so we can share our various perspectives of thesport. The ultimate goal of the website is to act as a one stop shop for all things football in the Cayman Islands,” Blake said.

Meanwhile, CIFA has also released the fixture list for the Foster’s First Division until December 2013, which is posted below.

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