Archive for December 4th, 2013

Forensic experts sue immigration over unpaid bill

| 04/12/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A specialty forensic service company is suing the Cayman Islands Department of Immigration for $54,000 plus interest, claiming that it has not be paid for a report it conducted into systems for individual background checks and unearthing fraudulent travel documents that could be used by immigration staff. In the statement of claim filed by Cayman Islands Forensic Service Ltd the firm said it had a contract with the immigration department for a report, which it completed in 2008, but has not been paid the $54,000 owed for the research and report. The company claims the immigration department agreed the job in July 2008 and the 18 page report, which required 176 hours of work, was handed to immigration and signed for on 4 November 2008.

In the claim Cayman Islands Forensic Service said the department has “subsequently remained in possession of the report” and it has “been used and or referred to being in the possession of and or referred to by Members of the Government and Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands."

Although the forensic firm submitted invoices to immigration, the director of the company, Andrew A. Miller, a certified fingerprints expert, said the bill has never been paid.

The writ asks for the principal sum of $54,000 and interest at over 2% plus costs.

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NCL not being rushed

| 04/12/2013 | 22 Comments

(CNS): As government’s environmental officials host the final round of public meetings regarding the National Conservation Law, the environment minister has dismissed allegations that the law has been rushed, not least because the country has been talking about it for more than a decade. Wayne Panton said that the “time is now for this legislation” and since the draft bill has been in the public domain and consulted on for years, every stakeholder has had more than enough time and plenty of opportunity to comment. Nevertheless, local lawyer Samuel Jackson, who specialises in assisting clients through the planning process, revealed that he has never submitted comments or concerns on the law until now.

Despite his expertise and experience and, as he admitted, being on the frontline where this law is concerned, Jackson appeared at the public meeting with a list of eleventh hour concerns and comments about the legislation.

Although his legal practice focuses on development application and even though he has had to deal directly with environmental questions surrounding some of his clients' projects and the Central Planning Authority, Jackson said he had never made comment before and he believed the law was being rushed through, despite the more than four years that the bill has been in public circulation.

Panton asked Jackson to submit his concerns in writing, regardless of their last minute appearance, to give the technical experts a chance to consider his points and to ensure that the questions and comments were already covered in the legislation. Panton pointed out that the law had been modified and adapted many times to take into consideration the many contributions that have come from the public.

When asked by CNS why he had never contributed formal comments to the debate before, given his business and the fact that the bill has been in the public domain for so long, Jackson said he did not believe the law would ever see the light of day.

“It has been talked about for so long and because there have always been issues I never believed it would be supported by Cabinet and brought to the table of the Legislative Assembly,” he said. Jackson is not alone in his sentiments, as the ongoing discussion regarding the law has made others believe it would never be passed.

However, Panton pointed out that the PPM and the C4C members of the current government had all campaigned before the election on the promise of bringing the law. Following his appointment as environment minister, Panton made it clear in June the bill would be brought to the LA before the year end. He pointed out that this draft had been through two further consultation periods and more amendments during the last administration, which had watered down the law to meet stakeholder concerns.

“It aims to conserve and protect the existing state of nature around us …There are many reasons to introduce this legislation, but none more important than what we will leave as a legacy for the children of the future,” Panton said, as he stood behind the legislation and the pressing need for its passage.

During the West Bay meeting, where around 20 members of the public were in attendance, Jackson was the only person to raise concerns and object to the law. One other member of theaudience raised concerns about marine conservation but Panton explained that the NCL was not dealing with the enhancement of marine parks, which was a separate issue that would be dealt with next year.

Meanwhile, Creswell Powery, who joined several others who spoke in support of the legislation, pointed to the need to enforce the legislation once it was passed. 

“They used to call us ‘cockeyed-conservationists’ when we advocated for conservation laws 40 years ago. We’re not too late, but once the law is passed it also needs to be enforced,” he said.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie noted that going forward under the new legislation DoE enforcement officers would have powers arrest. Despite misinformation about them being armed and other misleading allegations, she said that at present when her officers see people poaching they have to stand by and watch as they wait for the police to arrive to put a stop to it because they have no powers of arrest.

The director also noted that there was nothing rushed about the legislation. In addition to the bill, all of the plans the DoE has about the regulations and how the law will work in practice, such as the process by which species will be designated for protection, have been on the DoE website for more than five years, she noted.

“There are no secrets in this legislation,” Ebanks-Petrie said. “This law has been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed, again and again,” she stated, adding that it was not legislation dreamed up by a few people at the DoE but a law that had been drafted based on massive stakeholder and public input.

From consultation with the planning department, the Water Authority, the roads authority, the private sector, environmental experts from far and wide and empirical research, the law was a major collaborative effort. Ebanks-Petrie said everything that had been raised during the many, many meetings over the years had been considered and there was no remaining genuine concern that is not addressed in the law.

The public meetings continue tonight when the minister and the DoE team will be in North Side.

See meeting schedule.

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Cannabis debate moves to Morocco

| 04/12/2013 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Lawmakers in Morocco are the latest group of national leaders to begin examining the use of marijuana for medical purposes. According to the local media, politicians there will look at cannabis consumption for medical and industrial purposes for the first time on Wednesday at the request of those campaigning for its partial legalisation. The special research day session will look at the positive uses of cannabis cultivation "in creating an alternative economy" in Morocco, one of the world's top exporters of the drug, known locally as "kif".  Meanwhile, the latest research also states that cannabis may help to reduce brain damage following a stroke.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham conducted a meta-analysis of experimental studies into cannabinoids, chemicals related to those found in cannabis, some of which also occur naturally in the body. The findings showed that the compounds could reduce the size of stroke and improve neurological function. The research, announced at the annual UK Stroke Forum, indicates that all three classes of cannabinoid could be effective in shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke and in recovering neurological function.

In Morocco, Mehdi Bensaid, an MP with the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), a liberal opposition party founded by a politician close to the king which is promoting the campaign for medical marijuana there, said, "The idea is to start a debate on that, to see what others' experiences in this field can tell us, looking at controlled rather than total legalisation."

Cannabis is cultivated in large quantities in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco, where it was only outlawed in the 1970s. Those campaigning to have cannabis legalised again say it would boost much needed development, benefiting poor farmers rather than people illegally trafficking the drug.

Cannabis use for medicinal purposes has been authorised in a growing number of Western countries, including Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, Australia, several US states, and most recently the Czech Republic.

The legalization of medical marijuana in New Hampshire has led a college in Portsmouth to create a class about the subject. The medical marijuana industry is projected to generate $600 billion in the USA annually. In an era in which most businesses have reached saturation and stagnant profits, medical marijuana represents an array of opportunities. Robert Calkin, one of the nation's premier medical marijuana experts and one of the school's instructors, said dispensary owners lawfully growing medical marijuana can potentially earn upwards of $10,000 per day and a master grower can realize $250,000 a year.

Meanwhile, here in Cayman the Facebook page created by Burns Connolly, who is trying to get discussions started locally, is going from strength to strength and a recent CNS poll came down 80% in favour of legalisation for recreational as well medical use. Only 7% of the 514 plus voters supported the current criminalization of its use.

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