Archive for February, 2014

CIFA urges support of local U12 football rally

| 27/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CIFA): With clear weather forecasted for the upcoming weekend parents and football fans are being urged to support by attending the Cayman Islands Football Association U12 Rally at the T.E Mcfield Sports Centre on Saturday. Seven club teams contest the U12 round robin tournament. Academy SC, Sunset FC, Tigers FC, George Town Sports Club, Cayman Athletics Sports Club, Scholars International SC and Future SC. “The CIFA Under 12 league is a critical league for the development of our youth football and is the transition from Primary School football,” said Cayman Islands Football Association General Secretary Paul Macey.

“The rally provides an opportunity for the boys to showcase their talent. We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the football and to show support for the future stars of Cayman football," he added.

Saturday’s U12 rally is one of two planned for the 2014 season.

The one day competition kicks off from 9:00 am and concludes at 3:00 pm.

The tournament rules and full schedule can be found on www.caymanfootball.com

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LA silent on basic wage

| 27/02/2014 | 44 Comments

(CNS): The members of the PPM government all remained silent on Wednesday during the LA debate on a private member's motion regarding the minimum wage. Even though the Progressives' election manifesto clearly states that introducing a minimum wage would be an “early priority” for a PPM administration, following a long speech read by the employment minister criticising the concept and Ezzard Miller’s motion, making it clear that she was not about to introduce a basic wage any time soon, none of the other PPM members spoke on the issue. In closing the debate on the motion, which was voted down by the entire government, Miller reminded the government of its campaign promises.

Taking aim at the employment minister, the North Side member said that during the twenty years that parliamentarians have been wrangling over the minimum wage, he had never heard such adiatribe of excuses from a minister and even suggested that Tara Rivers' response on the minimum wage was even more convoluted than the one delivered by her predecessor, who was very well known for his long-winded meandering presentations to the LA.

Given the manifesto and campaign promises and the premier’s own oft repeated regrets about not implementing the minimum wage when he was labour minister between 2005 and 2009, Miller said that when he last brought this same motion to the LA, the premier had been very much in favour.

Hitting back at many of the objections to the motion raised by Rivers, Miller said most were excuses not genuine objections. One of the many examples he gave was the minister’s suggestion that a minimum wage could impact government finances and wage rates and that would have to be examined. Miller said if she didn’t know what that impact would be she could have just asked the finance minister over the weeks since the government postponed the private members motions in order to consider them.  If not, the rates were available on line, he said, as he pointedout that government’s lowest hourly rate is over $9.

He said the issues about domestics and measuring benefits in kind was already in the labour law so half of any basic wage could be in kind. He said the rate had nothing to do with hours or contracts of employment or any other element of working conditions.

Miller said that if Rivers had difficulties understanding what was meant by a minimum wage, it was simple: it was the lowest hourly wage rate people could expect to be employed. He said $5 was very basic and the government has had plenty of time to ask its experts and technocrats how that low basic rate would impact the economy.

He also pointed out that her fears about jobs being wiped out was unfounded. This was not the problem, Miller said, because there were 20,000 jobs already that Caymanians could not get, but a minimum wage might just change that for some.

After Miller had described the Progressive government a dozen times as the "Regressive" government because of its u-turn on the commitment, the premier called for a point of order from the speaker to prevent Miller from using the term again, as he said it was insulting and unparliamentary. After a consultation in the dictionary, the speaker agreed that the term was legitimate in context but the North Side member should not use it as an insult.

Miller pointed to the criticisms and insults to him from the employment minister, who had suggest Miller was an "arm chair economist", who had done no research into his desire to implement a minimum wage and had plucked it from the sky.

As the debate deteriorated into a disagreement between Miller and the premier, the independent member said it wasn’t him that took the debate “into the mud” but said he was not afraid to go there on behalf of his constituents, as he urged the government to implement a minimum wage and help the people.

The motion was voted down, with all 12 government MLAs voting 'no', despite their election commitments, versus the five opposition and independent members ‘yes’ votes.

The LA resumes Thursday at 10am with the continuation of the debate on OMOV and SMCs following the premier’s revelations that government is rethinking the approach to Cayman’s election landscape and voter equality.

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Bush: strangulating bureaucracy delayed hospital

| 27/02/2014 | 37 Comments

(CNS): When the former premier and now leader of the opposition was asked to deliver remarks at the opening of the Shetty hospital, McKeeva Bush said it would have been opened long before now had it not been for the “strangulating bureaucracy” and opposition from the previous governor and deputy governors. However, the CUDP (formerly UDP) leader said it was the former overseas territories minister, Henry Bellingham, in the end that offered his support to the UDP administration’s efforts to facilitate the development. Lamenting the red tape dominating modern politics in Cayman, he pointed to the same problems facing the current government over the dock and the dump.

Speaking at the formal opening ceremony of the Health City hospital in East End, Bush reviewed the history of the project when the idea of the Shetty hospital surfaced, and the circumstances surrounding it. He revealed it was not until Bellingham took the OT minister’s post that Bush got the support he needed.

“Despite the then governor and his deputy not supporting the project and the then opposition and others not supporting the project, Bellingham understood where I wanted to go with the project and gave me his approval,” the opposition leader said, in a speech that went well over his allotted time and was not as well received by the audience as the opposition leader may have hoped.

CNS understands that at the time the governor, Duncan Taylor, had reportedly raised questions about the legislative changes to medical professional standards that were needed to facilitate Shetty’s hospital, and the North Side member Ezzard Miller had opposed the plan from beginning to end. However, the PPM had been cautiously supportive of that project and of all the planned projects proposed by Bush during the UDP administration, the hospital and Cayman Enterprise City had been backed by the then opposition.

Bush, however, lamented the opposition and challenges he said he faced and said the hospital could have been completed much sooner had there not been such opposition, but he was now vindicated for taking the steps necessary to pave the way for what would be the start of the third leg of the economy.

“When all is said and done, this morning we will have witnessed a significant step towards that targeted diversification of our economy because medical tourism has arrived, although they said we were fools,” he added.

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Londoners to dine at Brixton prison

| 27/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(BBC): A restaurant in a south London prison staffed by inmates has opened to the public. Diners are able to eat food prepared and served by prisoners in the former governor's house at HMP Brixton. The Clink – run by The Clink Charity, which also has restaurants at HMP High Down in Surrey and HMP Cardiff – aims to train prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. The serving of alcohol is forbidden on the premises. Chris Moore, chief executive of the charity, said yeast – which can be used to make alcohol – is also bannedin the prison so sourdough is used in meals instead. "Everyone that works in The Clink has been through the prison service's security procedures and these men are nearing the end of their sentence,” he said.

"The sole aim of the charity is to reduce reoffending and we recruit prisoners throughout the prison and train them up over a period of six to 18 months to gain their City and Guilds qualifications in food service and food preparation," Moore added.

He said the restaurant will give prisoners "valuable skills to get them back in society". The prison is category C and D which, said Mr Moore, means inmates are low risk and unlikely to attempt escape.
A three-course meal with coffee will cost around £21 a head, Moore said.

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Premier: Hospital is ‘transforming moment’ for CI

| 27/02/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier described the opening of the Shetty hospital as a ‘transforming moment’ when he spoke at the opening of the facility, which promises to launch Cayman as a medical tourism destination. Alden McLaughlin said everyone knew that the country, having survived the global recession, could no longer rely on just the familiar two pillars of the economy, but medical tourism had the capacity to create a ”resilience to economic shocks”. The 52-year-old premier said Cayman had changed so much over his lifetime, as there was no tourism or financial sector when he was born, but he pointed to key historic moments that had transformed the islands and led to its success.

“This occasion today … I believe is one of those transformative moments for Cayman as was the case when the first seaplane landed in the North Sound in the 40s, as was the case when we passed the first banks and trust companies law in 1966, as was the case when Benson Greenall built the first hotel on Seven Mile Beach in the 50s,” the premier said. “This is one of those kinds of moments.” He said people would look back on the day and say it was a moment that changed Cayman. 

Commending Dr Devi Shetty, the visionary, word renowned surgeon behind the project and his partners Harri Chandi and Gene Thompson, he acknowledged that the project commenced during the previous administration.

He said, however, that from the onset the team took time to invite the opposition on many occasions to talk about it. From the very beginning, the premier said, the opposition were apprised on what the project was about and, as a result, they were able to offer support in the Legislative Assembly and understand enough about it so that when the government changed, there was a seamless transition to help deliver the project in a short time frame.

McLaughlin pointed to the resilience of the health industry because people get sick in good times and in bad times, andthat, regardless of the economic conditions, people need care when they’re sick. He said he believed they would come to Cayman and bring their families, guaranteeing economic benefit for Cayman.

The premier pointed to the positive benefits and impacts he believed the hospital had brought so far, especially the jobs that had been created during construction, which had been largely taken by Caymanians.

“The impact, I believe, we can only just begin to imagine,” he said, as he described the technology associated with the hospital, which he said could be the kernel for a whole range of new business possibilities.

“Cayman stands today on the threshold of a whole new set of opportunities,” McLaughlin added.

The premier also noted the need to start influencing Caymanians about the world of possibilities offered by the hospital and the potential for careers outside the staple areas locals have traditional found work: finance, law and construction. McLaughlin said the success of the project was linked to the success of Cayman’s future.

Osbourne Bodden, the health minister, said the PPM government would continue what was started under the previous administration and live up to their legacy on this project and keep it going. He said the hospital, which was a centre of excellence, had been built with the sweat of many Caymanians and was offering services that were only previously available abroad. It was also a centre of learning and source of employment, as well as medical tourism. He described Dr Shetty as "remarkable", as he also paid tribute to him and his team. 

The health minister said the government believes Shetty and his team will fit right in here in Cayman as they are roles models for innovation and government had the highest level of confidence in the project. Bodden said the hospital’s potential to save hundreds of lives in Cayman and around world had put the country on the global healthcare map, while lowering costs for government health care.

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Local Under 14s footballers sparkle in Vegas

| 27/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CIYFP): The Under 14 team from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme returned to Grand Cayman last week after competing in the 2014 Mayor’s Cup International Showcase in Las Vegas,  Nevada.  The team returned with a more than respectable record of three wins and one loss, missing out on advancing to the quarter finals in their age group by a single point. This was the second year in a row that the team competed in the popular youth football tournament in Nevada.

The 20 boys, five staff members – including three coaches Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, Antwan Seymour and Ken Downey, team manager Norman Joseph and team doctor Dr. Verley Campbell – and a number of parents, departed Grand Cayman on Wednesday, February 12 brimming with pride and high hopes that come with representing one’s Programme and the country.

The Mayor’s Cup International Showcase is one of two annual football (soccer) tournaments co-hosted by the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club and the City of Las Vegas, the other being the International  Tournament, which is played in October. Each year, the tournament welcomes amateur and professional clubs from Canada, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Poland, France, Australia, Dominican Republic, Denmark and Africa.
The Under 14s from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme (formerly known as the PFL Youth Football Programme) have been together since March 2011, training once per week and playing in as many friendly games and competitions with local and foreign teams in preparation for tournaments such as the Mayor’s Cup.

At the tournament, the Caymanian youngsters defeated Cook Inlet Velocity from Alaska 3-1, the Colorado Rapids Burgundy from Colorado 2-0 and Tucson TSA 00 Red from Arizona1-0, and lost to eventual group winners Michigan Jaguars Green from Michigan 0-1. In contrast during the 2013 tournament, the team only managed one victory and three defeats.

Our young men were true ambassadors for the Cayman Islands as they represented their country superbly on and off the field in Las Vegas. The team’s exploits even caught the attention of one of the many sports journalists from local Las Vegas newspapers who cover the tournament on an annual basis. This particular sports writer compiled an entertaining article about the team and the Cayman Islands and included a photo of Kareem Foster celebrating a goal against the Cook Inlet Velocity team from Alaska.

The trip to Las Vegas was financed through corporate sponsorship and fundraising efforts by the Programme’s players, parents and coaches.  Coordinator of the Cayman Islands Youth Programme Neil Murray said, “The tournament was a great learning experience for our boys. In comparison to 2013, the results this year spoke volumes about how far the Programme has come and how the players have improved in a relatively short space of time.

"Special thanks to the coaches who continue to work tirelessly in preparing this group of players for not only this tournament but for what’s ahead. Special thanks to all the parents and the many sponsors who made this trip a reality and to those who supported the Programme’s fundraising efforts. This group of youngsters is special and they will do great things in the future," he added.

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Teen charged with South Church Street burglaries

| 27/02/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have arrested and charged a teen with a number of burglaries and break-ins which occurred in the South Church street area of George Town and as a result will be able to return some stolen property to its rightful owners. An RCIPS spokesperson said that the 19-year-old was arrested on Tuesday and charged today, Wednesday 26 February with burglary, attempted burglary and consumption of ganja and appeared in Summary Court Wednesday afternoon. The police said a number of stolen items were recovered from the suspect which have been identified by the victims of the burglaries.

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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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