Archive for February 17th, 2014

Firefighters suspended over crime scene image leak

| 17/02/2014 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Three serving officers from the Cayman Islands Fire Service have been suspended from their jobs in the face of the investigation into a leak of graphic crime scene images at a murder-suicide in Bodden Town earlier this month. On Friday the RCIPS confirmed that it had passed a report to the acting chief fire officer and the chief officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs stating that the source of the leak was believed to be the fires service. On Monday, the Home Affairs Ministry released a short statement saying the officers had been “placed on required leave pending the outcome of an ongoing police investigation”.

At least two images which were taken at the scenes where the bodies of Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas and Devon Roy Campbell were discovered found their way onto the local social media circuits within 24 hours of the incident being reported.

Thomas, the victim of a brutal machete attack, was discovered at her home in Lookout Gardens in Bodden Town and her estranged boyfriend, the man believed to be her killer, Devon Roy Campbell’s body was found hanging from a tree not far from the murder scene, on Sunday 9 February.

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LIME laying off 39 people

| 17/02/2014 | 97 Comments

(CNS) Updated: Local telecommunications company LIME will be making 39 people redundant as a result of a new agreement the firm has signed to outsource the maintenance, installation and repair work on the external components of its fixed, mobile, Internet and data networks. The managed services agreement (MSA) with Ericsson comes into effect on 8 March and as a result staff in LIME’s service support and delivery team will separate from the company. As part of the agreement LIME said all of the impacted employees will “have the opportunity to reapply for roles with Ericsson”, which will be putting together a new team to deliver the services. Government officials said Monday evening that Ericsson must hire Caymanians or it could lose its Local Companies (Control) License.

As the local telecoms company restructures in order to improve customer service, there are no guarantees that all of the staff laid off will be given a new job with Ericsson, government said.

LIME, however, noted that it is offering staff assistance with CV's, interview techniques and free access for the next three months to its online courses at the LIME University to help former staff find a new job if they do not want to work for the new firm or are not offered employment with Ericsson .

However, government said the approval of the LLC to allow Ericsson to do business with LIME was based on six conditions, including that ithires locals.

“When we found out about this agreement we immediately thought of Caymanian workers and insisted on the language in the LLC to ensure our people are hired,” said Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts, who has responsibility for the ICTA.

Employment Minister Tara Rivers was also said to have met with representatives from Ericsson to ensure that the protection of Caymanian workers was factored into the intended workforce arrangement.

Meanwhile, Cayman islands Premier Alden McLaughlin stated that finding jobs for Caymanians who are willing and able to work remains a top priority for the Progressives government.

LIME has traditionally employed a high percentage of Caymanian workers and 37 of the 39 jobs that are going are held by Caymanians. The lay-offs represent around 30% of LIME's local workforce, which will now fall to 91 employees, 82 of whom are Caymanian.

In a press release about the management agreement LIME’s CEO Bill McCabe emphasised that the changes were about providing a better service to its customers.

“This commercial decision is in an effort to improve both the service levels we provide to customers and the efficiency with which we do so. LIME remains committed to enhancing customer experience across our range of services and this partnership best fits that goal. We felt it was strategically important to team up with a global leader in the industry and it is from this perspective that we agreed to go with Ericsson as a partner,” he added.

The firm said it was confident that Ericsson’s domain knowledge, economies of scale, network design, optimisation and field maintenance services are on par with best-in-class operators across the globe. Today 40 percent of the world’s mobile traffic goes through Ericsson networks.

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Lobby ban to oust CIG’s lord

| 17/02/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Members of the British House of Lords will be banned from lobbying in a shake-up of the UK’s parliamentary rules, published Monday. In changes to the Lords Code of Conduct, peers will be banned from lobbying members of either the Commons or Lords, ministers or government officials “in return for payment or other reward”, which means the Cayman Island Government will need to re-think its current employment of Lord Blencathra in the London office. Blencathra, who is paid over CI$19,500 a month to represent Cayman in the UK’s corridors of power, was appointed by former premier McKeeva Bush in 2011.

The appointment caused some controversy locally as the head of the London office has traditionally been a Caymanian. Sources close to the governor’s office at the time confirmed to CNS that there had also been some concerns in the FCO about the decision.

Those concerns were raised ahead of a complaint filed by a Labour MP when the UK media revealed that Blencathra was lobbying for what many considered a tax haven. In its report setting out the new rules, the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee specifically mentioned the case of Lord Blencathra as a reason why the changes are necessary.

In 2012 The Independent newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed the former MP and Tory chief whip was being paid by the Cayman Islands to represent the interests of the financial services industry. As part of his job, he also lobbied Chancellor George Osborne to reduce air passenger transport taxes and facilitated an all-expenses-paid trip to the islands for three UK MPs.

A complaint against him was rejected by the Lords authorities on the grounds that there was “no evidence that Lord Blencathra exercised parliamentary influence on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom” and he had not breached the rules at the time. 

However, in its report on Monday the Lords made it clear the loophole would be closed.

CNS contacted the financial services ministry, which is responsible for Blencathra’s contract in the London office, and later received a response from the premier’s office.

“The Cayman Islands Government is aware of and is taking into consideration a report that bans members of the House of Lords from lobbying ministers,” the release stated, but the office made no comment about Blencathra’s contract with CIG. CNS has also contacted Lord Blencathra and is awaiting a response.

Paul Flynn, the Labour MP who made the complaint about the Tory peer, told the Independent he welcomed the change. 

“The previous rules had a dangerous loophole that was not compatible to the principles of transparency that should be fundamental to public life. The idea a peer could divide themselves in two with one half being a lobbyist and the other being a parliamentarian was always absurd and I am delighted the Lords Authorities have recognised this.”

The revised code of conduct will also require members of the House of Lords to register any gift or hospitality worth more than £140, compared to the previous limit of £500, bringing them into line with the threshold for government ministers. The new rules will come into effect once that have been ratified by a vote of the whole House of Lords.

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Star Flyer makes Valentine’s Day call on the Brac

| 17/02/2014 | 1 Comment

MS Star Flyer at Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands(CNS Business): A four-masted sailing ship became the first cruise ship to call at Cayman Brac for six years when it arrived a little before 11:00am on Valentine’s Day. Operated by Star Clippers Ltd of Sweden, the luxury vessel, MS Star Flyer, which sails under the Maltese flag, had 114 passengers on board as it anchored off the northwest coast of the island in flat calm waters slightly ahead of schedule Friday morning. Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, whose ministry includes both tourism and the Sister Islands, noted that the Star Flyer was the type of cruise vessel that was identified years ago as a good fit for cruise visits to Cayman Brac, bringing passengers with more disposable income than on larger cruise ships and cruise visitors who are looking for adventure. Read more and watch the video on CNS Business

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Politics of poverty

| 17/02/2014 | 83 Comments

The finance minister’s response to the Coalition for Cayman may have been long and laboured but it landed on an interesting target when he highlighted the obvious obligations that government has to the people, whereas the private sector feels, on the most part, that it has none. It is easy for the wealthy to harp on with the tired old cliché of "a hand up, not a hand out". Just as racists justify their ugly opinions by blaming black people for discrimination, the rich always like to blame the poor for their lot in life.

Although we generally think the human condition has moved on from the dark days of the poorhouse, when families were punished for being poverty stricken, sometimes it appears attitudes have changed very little. The politics of poverty may be complicated but the reality of it is simple and those that suffer know only too well that they are marginalised, scourged and blamed for their circumstances.

The rich hate parting with their money, so they will object to all fees and taxes except for those that help them hold onto their wealth. If you justify to yourself that poor people are lazy and they are entirely at fault for their situation, then it is easy to demand that "waste" is cut from government by cutting welfareor government jobs.

It was no surprise that C4C berated Archer for budget reductions relating to tourism and financial services, on which many coalition members depend for their livelihoods, while at the same time scolding him for spending money on elderly people who get sick or poor people who need food.

As many people commenting on CNS have rightly noted, ranting from an ivory tower about the pesky plebs and proletariats sucking from the public purse like leeches is very easy. But try being a single mother working full time at what would be a minimum wage if those in the ivory towers would stop objecting to it; try to feed, clothe and nurture three kids, keep a roof over their heads, as well as keeping them out of trouble in a country where the cost of living is even squeezing the middle classes till they squeak.

Carrying a far greater tax burden because of the regressive nature of indirect taxation, that working mother is paying a higher percentage of her earnings into the public purse than the majority of those involved with the C4C. So, if she is taking school lunch vouchers for her kids or unable to pay her hospital bill, she is entitled to that. She has already paid for it.

With taxation focusing on consumption rather than wealth, the poverty gap in Cayman has little to do with the meager amounts spent on welfare or an over-bloated civil service. Historically, government’s main responsibility in causing poverty is rooted in past mistakes in education and the high tax burden it imposes on the bottom of the socio-economic pile. Despite the need for better standards of education to help local people out of poverty, C4C berated the government for increasing the budget in this area.

No matter how poor and regardless of our earnings, we all pay the same percentage of duties and fees, so the mathematical reality is that proportionately, Cayman’s wealthiest pay the least tax and the poorest the most. But the C4C made no complaint about indirect taxation.

The poverty that gives rise to the need for government to cover the medical bills or give support to low income families is down mostly to unemployment, low pay or, as noted by Archer, inadequate health insurance cover or past pension provision. If the C4C wants Archer to cut the government’s spending on social support, they would do well to work on persuading the private sector that Cayman needs a minimum wage, to employ more local people and encourage bosses to pay their share of the pension, as required by law, and improve and extend their health benefits .

Health cover for their families and pension contributions for the future, together with a minimum wage of $7 per hour would at least give the poor a chance. If they work a ten hour day six days a week, they will be able to just about scrape by and have something for their retirement. Not a life of luxury by any means and their monthly salary will be equivalent to about an hour’s work for some of the islands’ offshore lawyers, but their burden on the state would be marginally less.

The business community in Cayman will no doubt be fighting tooth and nail against any government attempt to fulfill their election promise on a minimum wage. We all know from the now infamous report and subsequent updates by Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams that hundreds of employers are not paying into pensions as they should. There are also no accurate figures yet on the delinquency regarding health cover for local employees but the size of government’s healthcare tab makes it obvious that employers are not picking up their fair share.

Poverty is now a serious problem in Cayman, as is this case in any society that depends on trickle down from the wealthy to feed the lower echelons of society. Since the economic slump, the trickle down has dried up.

As the middle classes make it clear how much they are suffering and pressure government to cut fees and do something about the economy, it is a shame that the Coalition for Cayman, once seen as a potential alternative to what many believed is the discredited party system, has made it clear that they too have little new to offer.

It seems that they believe those at the bottom of the pile should be the ones to continue carrying the burden of keeping the wealthy in the style they have become accustomed, no matter how heavy the load has become.

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Murder suspect faces two year wait for trial

| 17/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A West Bay man who has been on remand for 18 months in connection with an alleged gang -related murder in the district might not face trial until more than two years after he was charged, the court heard Friday. Brian Borden is accused of being one of two masked gun men who opened fire on and killed Robert Mackford Bush as he sat in a car in the Birch Tree hill area of West Bay in September 2011. He was chargedwith the fatal shooting in August 2012 but a catalogue of issues with the case and with the main witness have caused numerous adjournments, leaving Borden on remand for an excessive amount of time without trial.

The latest adjournment of the trial, which was due to start last month, was caused by the charge against a second suspect, David Tomassa,  for being an accessory to the killing and the impact that then had on Borden’s case. In addition, the crown now wants to try Tomassa and Borden together and have made an application to the court to join the cases. The two attorneys representing Borden and Tomassa, however, will be seeking to sever the cases and have two separate trials.  

The lawyers will argue that court room battle next month, and although a trial date has been fixed for September, Nick Hoffman, who is representing Borden, told the court that he was hoping to find an earlier date as a result of the circumstances his client now faces.
Although Hoffman has applied for bail on numerous occasions for his client, Borden remains on remand. Hoffman has also fought and lost a human rights case regarding what he argued was a breach of Borden’s presumptive right to bail on the basis of the crime he is charged with and not on the circumstances of the case.

Although it is not mandatory for a murder suspect to be jailed while awaiting trial, it is exceptionally rare that a person charged with murder would be granted bail. This is based on the penalty of a mandatory whole lifesentence, which the crown has always successfully argued makes any defendant in such cases an elevated flight risk, and as a result the suspects, regardless of the level of evidence, are almost never bailed.

Given the possibility, however, that Borden may now have to wait until more than two years after he was charged for his day in court, the question of the right to timely justice is now also a potential problem in this case.

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Jewel robber suspect remains in wheelchair

| 17/02/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The man who was run over by the police commissioner following a daylight heist at a downtown George Town jewellery store remains confined to a wheelchair some six weeks after he was crushed under David Baines’ car. Jonathan Ramoon appeared in court on Friday along with his co-accused, Christopher Myles and James McLean, in order to answer the charges against them, but the case was adjourned until 28 February after the court heard that the crown had just served further information on the defence attorneys. The RCIPS has also confirmed that there are no updates on the investigation into the use of force, when he was struck by the off duty top cop’s car and arrested.

Ramoon, who appeared in court in the wheelchair with one leg still in a cast, is also reportedly suffering from other health and medical problems as a result of being hit and then run over by the commissioner, which his family fear is not being properly addressed since he was remanded in custody to the prison. Speaking to CNS recently, the family said it took emergency personnel some two hours to cut Ramoon from under the commissioner’s vehicle and so far they have been given no details about the progress of the investigation into what happened that day.

Ramoon fired his attorney Friday and was advised by the judge to seek new representation as quickly as possible so the lawyer could be present at the next appearance, when the men are expected to answer the charges against them.

Ramoon, Myles and McLean are accused of robbing Diamond’s International early in the morning of New Year’s Day at gun point and making off with hundreds of thousands of dollars of jewellery.

In a bizarre coincidence, as the robbers fled from the store and entered a getaway vehicle, the police commissioner, who was off duty, happened to be right in the area and spotted the men. He proceeded to crash his vehicle into the robbers’ getaway vehicle and when the robbers bailed and fled on foot, Baines continued after the men in his car, eventually cornering two of them against a fence and running over Ramoon, causing a number of serious injuries.

Despite questions about the level of force used, Baines was not suspended from duty and although the RCIPS said that it was conducting an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, no details about that have been released.

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Shetty hospital finished

| 17/02/2014 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The much anticipated hospital facility in East End is officially built. Health City Cayman Islands received complete ownership of the new building on Valentine’s Day when the contractor Neil Armstrong from Cayman Healthcare Construction Group handed over the keys, almost one year to the day after construction began on 13 February 2013 and within the anticipated timetable. The official opening is set for next Tuesday and Gene Thompson recently stated that the first patients will be treated at the facility sometime in mid-March. The hospital is being heralded as the beginning of a third economic pillar for Cayman of medical tourism.

The installation of furniture and equipment is now underway and tours of the facility will commence next week for most school children over the age of 13 from Monday, 17 February through Thursday, 20 February. An Open House is scheduled for Friday, 21 February, when all members of the community are invited to attend. This will be the only time that anyone will be allowed to view all areas of the facility prior to its operation.

At the end of the week of festivities the facility will undergo sterilization, where various areas will be cordoned off for access by medical staff only.

The 107,000 square foot building will house 140 beds for tertiary care and has been built to the highest safety and JCI standards, officials said, allowing it to withstand the most extreme weather conditions, such as category 5 hurricanes.

Health City Cayman Islands is a partnership of Narayana Hospitals, Ascension Health and support by the Cayman Islands government. The building includes on-site medical waste autoclaving and incineration, a self-contained oxygen generation system, full back up electrical generation for the entire hospital and Category 5 hurricane rating. The HCCI will allow for the harvesting of rain water, and recycling of waste streams and includes composting systems. It will also have an on-site sewage treatment system with treated effluent used for irrigation.

There is a 250,000-gallon water supply (potable, grey and fire protection) available, high levels of energy efficiency and safety standards, such as the facility’s future solar power, which will be operational later in 2014; and in the near future SWAC (Salt Water Air Conditioning) will be available within the site, helping to lower air conditioning costs up to 80%.

The hospital was spearheaded by renowned Indian heart surgeon Dr Devi Shetty, a pioneer in affordable healthcare in his native country. This project is one of his first outside India and was originally targeted at the North American market. Since its inception, however, the model has redirected its attention to the regional and Latin American market.

Shetty believes that socioeconomic background should not determine access to high quality tertiary healthcare.

“With Health City Cayman Islands, patients will welcomed with open arms from all walks of life and provided with the highest level of healthcare services in a self-sufficient building from qualified providers at economical costs,” a spokesperson for the project stated.

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Slavery reparation demands to be released

| 17/02/2014 | 46 Comments

(CNS): The coalition of Caribbean countries seeking reparations from Britain and other European countries over their role in the Atlantic slave trade will unveil a list of ten demands this month. The group is expected to ask for funds totalling billions of dollars, an apology, and assurances slavery will never be repeated. Professor Verene Shepherd, the chairman of Jamaica’s reparations committee, said that British colonisers had “disfigured the Caribbean,” and that their descendants must now pay to repair the damage. “If you commit a crime against humanity, you are bound to make amends,” Prof Shepherd told UK’s Daily Telegraph.

“The planters were given compensation, but not one cent went to the freed Jamaicans,” she added. Estimates suggest that some £4 trillion was extracted from the Caribbean in unpaid labour alone, researchers at the University of Birmingham have calculated.

Although the regional countries seeking the reparations have hired human rights legal expert Martin Day who won damages for Kenyans in connection with the Mau-Mau rebellion who is confident they can win, the UK government has so far made it clear it will not be paying.
Since Tony Blair’s 2007 almost apology when he expressed  “deep sorrow and regret” for the “unbearable suffering” caused by the slave trade, but carefully stopped short of saying sorry the UK has said little on the subject.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, described the trade as “brutal, mercenary and inhumane from its beginning to its end” in his 2008 biography of William Wilberforce, the great abolitionist MP. But although Mark Simmonds, the overseas territories and Caribbean minister, said that “slavery was abhorrent” he dismissed talk of reparations on a recent trip to Jamaica. “Do I think that we are in a position where we can financially offer compensation for an event two, three, four hundred years ago? No, I don’t,” Simmonds stated.

Some experts have dismissed the planned lawsuits arguing that regardless of its evils, the slave trade was legal at the time. But campaigners such Lord Gifford, a British hereditary peer and barrister who runs a law firm in Kingston and advises the reparations committee said the slave trade “breached the natural law that man is free” adding that there is “no statute of limitations” on a crime against humanity.

Many experts also argue that slavery is to blame for a litany of modern ills across the Caribbean, extending to epidemics of diabetes and hypertension allegedly rooted in the salty diets that were forced on the ancestors of sufferers. In 1962, they stress, Britain left an independent Jamaica in which 80 per cent of the people were functionally illiterate.

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