Archive for February 26th, 2014

Alden wavers on SMCs

| 26/02/2014 | 62 Comments

(CNS): The premier has told the Legislative Assembly that while government still supports the idea of ‘equality of franchise’ for voters, it appears it will not be following the Electoral Boundary Commission's recommendations for 18 single member constituencies (SMCs) but is considering 'at large' candidates, changing the number of seats, and by implication the constituencies. Alden McLaughlin said there were concerns among the Progressive and independent members of government over alleged anomalies thrown up by constituencies with very small numbers of voters. But he said whatever the final outcome, government was sticking to the election promise as it would still be SMCs but “with modifications”.

However, what the premier was advocating in his brief contribution to the debate in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday was considerably more than modification. It will require that entirely new electoral boundaries to be drawn up. In addition, the justifications for the decision seemed entirely at odds with what has happened historically in the smaller districts to which he was referring.

The announcement that government is now thinking of a number of alternative options rather than the one recommended by two different boundary commissions came in response to a private member’s motion brought by East End MLA Arden McLean asking government to implement 'one man, one vote' in single member constituencies in a first past the post system, as per the referendum result in July 2012.

Recalling the long and controversial history regarding the voting system, the member for East End made the point that by the time of the last election, it was only the UDP that was still against OMOV in SMCs. All other candidates and the PPM campaigned on a platform of SMCs, the Progressives as well as the independents who were elected.

He pointed out that several members on the government benches had launched their political careers during the OMOV campaign and that in the past they had all favoured the simple, straight forward, fair system. However, he said, he was aware that since then the government was toying with the idea of different possibilities after a retreat with the independent candidates. And despite the premier’s on the record support for that simple system, he was going to be promoting idea of 'at large' candidates.

McLaughlin admitted that there had been a retreat, and because his government included others (non PPM members), he had to listen to their opinions, and OMOV and SMCs had been the subject of discussions at the retreat.  Returning to old arguments about the domination of parties or individuals in smaller constituencies, when in reality in Cayman it has been the reverse, the premier appeared to imply that the discussions were still ongoing and he was hoping to reach a compromise among the entire legislature.

What the premier avoided noting, however, was that his ideas of increasing the seats to 19 or creating 14 or 15 constituencies and then having four or five 'at large' candidates would require an entirely new boundary commission, which would take the process back to square one and ensure a long delayin the implementation of any new system, no matter how that comes about.

Adjourning the LA until 10am Thursday morning, McLaughlin said the government would soon be formally revealing the proposals in writing and in more detail to trigger the debate.

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Plastic bag cash donated to lionfish cull

| 26/02/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): A local supermarket has handed over a cheque for $20,000 to a local group of divers, snorkelers, fishermen and other water and food enthusiasts who are working on the continued battle to cull lionfish in local waters. To control this marine pest, conservation groups are encouraging fishermen and divers to catch lionfish and eat them. Foster’s Food Fair has teamed up with CULL as the group is called and for the second year has handed over the money collected from the sale of plastic shopping bags to help the marine environment.

Foster’s had committed to the public that all funds collected for the sale of plastic bags when it introduce the five cent price tag would go back to the community. The money will be used to support the CULL Tournaments throughout the year with the first tournament this weekend. Known as the CULL #10 March Madness, registration begins tomorrow, February 27 from 5:00pm to 7:00pm at Stingers. Cash prizes provided by Foster’s Food Fair will be awarded for:

Most Lionfish
Biggest Lionfish
Overall Weight
Smallest Lionfish

The public is encouraged to attend the weigh-ins at Public Beach at 4:00pm and 6:00pm on Saturday and Sunday where there will be free lionfish samples and plenty of enthusiasts to share their knowledge of lionfish and how you can get involved in reducing their numbers and their negative impact on the local reefs..

Originally from the Pacific Ocean and popular as aquarium fish, lionfish are colorful with venomous spikey tentacles. First spotted in Florida waters in 1985, the population of the voracious predator has exploded in recent years and spread throughout the Caribbean.

Lionfish arrived in Cayman waters about four years ago and they continue to multiply and threaten smaller reef fish. Lionfish might be colorful and even beautiful but they have venomous spines along the top and bottom. They are incredibly adaptive and reproduce at a significant rate. Competing for more effectively for resources than other fish they are in danger of squeezing out native reef species.
 

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Rivers rejects wage motion

| 26/02/2014 | 89 Comments

(CNS): The employment minister made it abundantly clear Wednesday that government will not be introducing a minimum wage anytime soon when she rejected the private member’s motion filed by the independent member for North Side. Although Tara Rivers spoke about starting the required research and forming a committee, she raised a catalogue of objections to the principle and posed a massive number of questions to justify the need for analysis and research before considering the implementation of even a $5 staring point, as suggested by Ezzard Miller. In complete contrast to the PPM manifesto, which calls for its implementation as an ‘early priority’, Rivers will be taking her time.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly debate on a motion to introduce a minimum wage brought by Ezzard Miller, the minister who has responsibility for education, labour and gender affairs found just a few beneficial things about a minimum wage against a long, long list of fears that have been put forward by opponents of the principle for many years.

From inflation to jobs losses, the problems ofdomestic helpers and how to deal with tips were just a few objections Rivers raised, as she read a speech in the LA about why government was not accepting the motion. Albeit that it had plans to implement a minimum wage regime, the minister seemed less than keen. Most of what she said related to long held objections of those on the political right and those who believe only the market should decide pay. 

She did say that it could help protect the worst exploited people and perhaps improve the gender pay gap, but as quickly as the labour minister mentioned possible benefits Rivers returned to the well-aired fears associated with the issue mostly by employers. She said small businesses could close down, jobs would be lost, inflation would be rampant, with milk increasing by some two dollars a gallon overnight, she believed, as well as the inability of government to enforce it, given its failure regarding pensions and insurance. She also pointed to single parents who would no longer be able to afford a helper.

Although she said the ministry had started work on collecting the research and analysis and had set up a committee, as suggested under the labour law,  Rivers’ road to a minimum wage, if she is to recommend one at all, is long, in direct conflict with government’s promises.

Rivers, who campaigned on the C4C ticket and not the PPM, is not burdened with an election promise in this regard, as that advocacy group does not support a minimum wage and Rivers herself made no commitment to implementing one on the campaign trail.

The Progressives, on the other hand, spoke often of the need to introduce a minimum wage on the hustings. The premier himself has regularly pointed to his regret that he was unable to persuade the Chamber of Commerce and other special interest groups to support the idea when he was labour minister between 2005 and 2009. In the Progressives' manifesto, released ahead of the general election in May last year, the party lists the introduction of a basic wage below which no one should be expected to work, not just as a priority but an early one.

Talking about creating jobs, the party said, “We will … implement a minimum wage as an early priority”. Nevertheless their minister for labour appears to have a very different view of “early priority” as she spoke about the myriad issues she believes have to be examined, analysed and discussed before she would entertain the concept.

In support of the motion, Arden McLean said that Ezzard Miller had approached the issue with a simple goal to prevent the abuse of workers and the continuing proliferation of cheap foreign exploited labour that is having a direct impact on local unemployment.

Striving to ensure that no worker anywhere in any circumstances working in the Cayman Islands should fall below the hourly rate of $5 as a starting point, which could be adjusted at a later date, he said it was time to stop talking about it and for the House to demonstrate it had the political will to help the country’s most vulnerable. After twenty years of talking about it, Miller said he hoped the government would take the first step.

However, the motion was greeted with an outright rejection, as Rivers said it was presented in a vacuum with no facts and figures and was merely an opinion like many expressed by “arm chair economists”, who said government should bring in a basic wage without any data to support the notion.

Check back to CNS later for Miller's response to the debate and see Rivers' full statement below.

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UK’s OT boss to pay two day visit to Cayman

| 26/02/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS): Peter Hayes, the director for the overseas territories at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will be making a short visit to the Cayman Islands next week to meet with a number of government officials and according to a statement from the governor’s office to promote the shared agendas between Britain and Cayman. Hayes will arrive in Cayman on Monday 3 March and then will leave the following day.  Hayes said he was looking forward to meeting the premier and visiting the new health city. “The visit follows on from the premier’s visit to London earlier this month and will focus on enhancing the relationship between the UK and Cayman Islands and promoting our shared agendas,” said a spokesperson for the governor’s office which is hosting Hayes.

The OT director will have meetings with the premier, the attorney general and the police commissioner and will call in on the Cabinet meeting.  Other engagements will include a meeting with opposition MLAs, a visit to Shetty’s Health City, as well as Northward prison. The FCO bureaucrat will also be taking a tour of the Mission House in Bodden Town with the National Trust.

The premier will also host a reception and Hayes will attend a dinner hosted by Cayman Finance.

“I am delighted to bevisiting the Cayman Islands again,” said Hayes.  “I am particularly looking forward to discussions with the Premier and to visiting the Shetty Health City, a welcome indicator of the diversification of the Cayman Islands’ economy,” he added.

 

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Mac proposes worker alliance

| 26/02/2014 | 56 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader is calling on workers to unite to protect their own rights and advance their skills so they can address some of the ills in the modern workplace and unemployment. McKeeva Bush has denied that this proposal is a union, even though he expected people “to smear it” as such, but he said that while there were enough advocacy groups, such as the C4C and the Chamber of Commerce, in Cayman representing the interests of business and employers, the country’s employees were unrepresented. He said that, given the increasing challenges facing them from the pressure of a global workforce and cheap labour, workers needed to try and advance their own cause.

Speaking on the new series of Cayman 27’s talk show, The Panel, on Tuesday evening, Bush said he would not be leading or setting up this alliance but wanted to promote the idea. He said he wanted to help those who had talked to him about creating a formal association to represent workers, from hotel employees living on low wages to young lawyers not able to find articles.

The opposition leader said participatory democracy meant everyone should have their say but at present most issues are decided by employers, with the people only invited to speak on election day. Bush claimed a long history of promoting workers’ rights, from pensions to maternity pay, as well as holidays and overtime, during his time as a politician. He said that workers' rights have come a long way but new technology had brought many new challenges for the local workforce, not least the impact of outsourcing and cheap labour.

He spoke about past times when workers received fair wages in their jobs and said that before now, Cayman never had a situation where people were living 20 to a room because theywere earning only $5 per hour.

The workers alliance idea, he said, could ensure a level playing field and give local people the opportunity to compete for jobs.

“It is not a union,” Bush stated. He said he wanted workers to start the discussion and create an organisation focused on helping people find work, improve their skills learn about their rights and build awareness in all of the major sectors, while still recognising the commercial realities.

He said the National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA), which was created by the former labour minister, Rolston Anglin, "was practically useless” but whoever formed the workers' alliance would still need to work with government, this agency and within the boundaries of the labour laws.

Asked by the show's host, Tammie Sulliman, why Bush had failed to create or promote such an alliance when he was premier, he insisted that he was fully occupied trying to keep Cayman afloat, tackling the budget and public finances and fighting red tape, as well as dealing with the media, which he blamed for blowing everything out of proportion. Bush said that the current government has four ministers now doing the job he had done, and he said government could not do everything.

He said that no government would be able to help the workers because of the pressure from business and the civil service stopping everything.

See Bush on the panel here.

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Courts sit empty in face of mounting case loads

| 26/02/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): A catalogue of unforeseen circumstances resultedin two silent courtrooms this week, despite a mounting case load in the local criminal justice system. Although three trials were listed to take place in the Grand Court over this week and next in each of the main courthouse building rooms, with a third as back-up, last minute guilty pleas in a robbery trial and a mistrial in a corruption case saw the two scheduled cases end in less than two days. However, difficulties coordinating some 23 witnesses in a reserve trial regarding a fraud case meant that it could not proceed either, leaving the courts empty for the next week.

Although cases are backing up for over a year for those on bail and close to ten months for those on remand, the number of variables in any trial means that the courts are unable to call any last minute cases.

While court staff and the judiciary have plenty to keep them occupied until the next timetabled cases, precious court time is being unavoidably wasted when the local justice system, as noted by the chief justice at the recent opening of the Grand Court, is falling short of international standards when it comes to the time line in disposing of cases.

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Clock ticks on beneficial ownership submissions

| 26/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Only a few days now remain for those who wish to make contributions to the government’s consultation on the critical issue of beneficial ownership. Anyone who wants to let government know their thoughts on how the country should tackle the demands now being place on the Cayman Islands and other financial centres to reveal who really benefits from offshore trusts and companies domiciled here have to make their feelings known by this Friday, 28 February. The questions for the local authorities on this issue relate to how effectively Cayman maintains information on the real owners of companies and to whom that information should be available. Read more on CNS Business

 

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CI riders compete in world contest on home soil

| 26/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Qualified dressage riders from across the Cayman Islands will compete in the Federation Equestre Internationale’s World Dressage Challenge (WDC) on Saturday 8 March when Olympic hopeful, Jessica McTaggart will also be looking for a chance to gain her second qualifying score for the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games. Since October last year, Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation riders have been training to qualify for the WDC an annual dressage competition between countries in the Caribbean region developing in the sport. Riders ride FEI prescribed tests on their own horses in their own countries and two FEI judges travel around the region to judge all competitors.

Each country picks a team of four riders to represent their country and their scores are measured against the teams from the region to produce a winning nation. Last year the Cayman Team of Thea Millward, Jessica McTaggart and sisters Polly and Phoebe Serpell, came third in the Challenge.  Cayman riders are always looking to improve and this year is no exception. Team riders will be hoping for a high finish again in 2014 and this hope is bolstered by the recent arrival of a number of new talented and experienced horses.

McTaggart with her eye on the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games which will be held in Veracruz, Mexico in November said she was really pleased to get the first qualifying score she needed last month.

“My training has been going well since then and it has been extremely helpful to have dressage trainer, Cindy Thaxton, of High Point Farm, Atlanta, here,” she said. “She has been in Cayman to help me, and all the other Cayman dressage riders, to prepare for the next dressage show in March.  Cindy has been my trainer for many years and has a broad experience of overseas competition and training.

The dressage show in March will be my chance to attain a second and final qualifying score for CAC. I'm hoping my horse, Ray of Light, continues to perform as consistently as he has been so that we can represent Cayman in Mexico in November of this year."

As well as assistingelite riders like McTaggart, the CIEF also plans for the future. The youngest riders will also get an opportunity to test their skills at the show next month in the USDF and USEF Test classes which will be offered after the WDC element has been completed.

The word ‘dressage’ is a French term, meaning training. Very simply, dressage is the art of striving for a harmonious and hardly perceptible communication between horse and rider. When you watch the dressage Masters, you can barely see their hands and legs move, but every inch they do move is a separate instruction to the horse to perform a particular action.

Dressage is said to originate from military riding where horses were constantly used in war, but it has come a long way since then and is now an elegant and refined Olympic sport.

“So if you think of ‘passage’ as a corridor and ‘piaffe’ only conjours up for you memories of French divas with no regrets, come along to the dressage show, “officials from the local equestrian federation said.

The event takes place on Saturday 8th March at 3pm at the equestrian centre, off the Linford Pierson highway George Town.

Entry is free and all are welcome.

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Local rugby returns with big scoring games

| 26/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): Domestic rugby took a break recently with successful campaigns against visiting American sides from Middlebury College and Princeton University Alumni but re-started on 22 February with two all important games to mark the midway point of the Alex Alexander Memorial Trophy competition. With the Pigs Trotters having won their first two encounters against the John Doak Architecture Iguanas and the Advance Fire and Plumbing Buccaneers it was up to the Fidelity Bank Cayman Storm to stop the Trotters march to their first league trophy since 2003. The Trotters took no time in finding the score sheet as some quick phase play put Dave Acutt over the try line to open the scoring only minutes after kick off.

But in a surprise rebound the Cayman Storm mounted 17 unanswered points in a stunning display of ball handling and tenacity. The run of form for the Storm was short lived however and the 17 points were to be the Storm’s haul for the day.

The Trotters mounted a comeback of their own and tallied up a further 20 points before halftime to bring in a half time score of 25-17 for the Trotters.

The 2nd half was not to mirror the high scoring first half and instead descended into a display of scrappy, ill-disciplined rugby with both teams losing players to red cards. Only the Pigs Trotters could secure any points in the 2nd half with a solitary penalty kick to bring in the final score of 28-17 to the Trotters

The 2nd game of the day saw the Iguanas pile 31 points on the Buccaneers before the Buccaneers responded in the 2nd half of the game to put their name on the score sheet. The Buccaneers controlled the bulk of the possession and were dominating the Iguanas in the lineout and scrums but it was the Iguanas who took every opportunity possible to find their way to the try line and with an impressive performance from the Iguanas back line the final score of 38-12 was never in doubt.

The big win for the Iguanas saw that team leapfrog the Buccaneers into 2nd place on the league table.

Week four of action may decide the league outcome as the Iguanas take on the Pigs Trotters and with only 3 points separating the 2 teams the Iguanas will be looking to overturn their early season loss to the Pigs whilst the Trotters will be doing everything in their power to stop an Iguana attempt toretain their championship. The Storm face the Buccaneers and the Buccaneers will look to put the embarrassing loss to the Iguanas behind them whilst the Storm will look to build on some promising displays on the pitch to earn their first win of the season.

Upcoming Fixtures
1 March 2014
John Doak Architecture Iguanas vs. Queensgate Pigs Trotters 3:00pm KO
Advance Fire & Plumbing Buccaneers vs. Fidelity Cayman Storm 4:45pm KO

Games are free to watch at the South Sound Rugby Ground or online at www.caymanrugbytv.com

 

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