Archive for March 13th, 2014

Joey awaits fate as sentence hearing adjourned

| 13/03/2014 | 12 Comments

(CNS): With important paperwork still not ready, the former ERA boss remains a free man after his sentencing hearing set for Thursday was adjourned. Joey Ebanks, who recently changed his plea regarding a catalogue of theft andfraud charges relating to his time at the regulatory authority and admitted his culpability, will now return to court on Thursday 3 April to hear his fate. The former talk-show host and political hopeful was charged last year. He originally denied the allegations, claiming there was a conspiracy against him because of the information he had about high level corruption and because he was speaking out against the establishment.

However, in a surprise about face, the controversial character pleaded guilty to all the allegations in January, cancelling the anticipated trial that was scheduled for June this year.

Ebanks admitted 17 counts of theft, forgery, fraud and deception relating to his time as the managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority. Between September 2012 and March 2013, he is said to have stolen around $100,000 from the authority, including spending more than $67,000 on iPads and iPhones

Facing a potential custodial sentence, Ebanks currently remains on bail until the new sentencing date next month.

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DG lauds CS communication in truncated minutes

| 13/03/2014 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The shrinking record of the deputy governor’s meetings with civil service heads which are being released to the public by his office this week reached their smallest to date. The minutes from the 3 March meeting gave very little away and in an ironic lack of communication with the public, Franz Manderson thanked the chief officers for their efforts towards improving communication in the civil service, saying he had “received positive feedback from civil servants in various departments". The minutes reveal that the COs spoke about the draft disability policy and heard updates on ongoing government projects, including e-government, the rationalization of the civil service, a strategic plan for the civil service and the development of a public authorities bill.

The minutes also state that a meeting was held on the 30 January with the Heads of Departments and it was well attended.

See released minutes below.

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Chamber to host jobs expo at UCCI

| 13/03/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Young people looking for work are being urged to go to the Chamber of commerce Expo on Friday where over 30 local employers will be on hand to talk about, jobs and career opportunities with them. The annual event is designed to gather representatives from all industry sectors, associations, government agencies and private sector companies to promote their training & education programmes as well as any job or career vacancies to young people looking for a chance to get into the workplace. The Expo is free to the public enabling them to see which employers may potentially be interested in their skills set and and an opportunity for face-to-face contact with recruiters and a chance for job seekers to polish their skills.

"The Chamber has always been a strong advocate of sound educational, training, scholarship and workplace initiatives to encourage Caymanians to acquire the skills necessary to thrive in our economy," Said the president Johann Moxam. "The event seeks to inform high school, university, school leavers, and those considering a career change about the myriad of career opportunities for Caymanians and legal residents in various industry sectors in the Cayman Islands."

Doors open at 10am Friday.

 

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CARICOM to create ganja commission

| 13/03/2014 | 22 Comments

(CNS): As attitudes towards the recreational and medical use of ganja begin to change around the world, leaders from the Caribbean Community were engaged in intense discussions on the subject at the Intersessional Meeting held in St Vincent and the Grenadines this week. The heads of government have mandated that a regional commission be established to address the issues that have now been identified in relation to the use of the drug, as well as the potential economic benefits for the region from marijuana cultivation. Meanwhile, as Cayman authorities continue to ignore the shift away from zero tolerance elsewhere, the US attorney general has also called for lower sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

With ganja now legal for medical purposes in a growing number of States and in some for recreational use, the war on all drugs and zero tolerance policies are being gradually eroded.

The US authorities are slowly recognizing that the war on consumption and personal possession is an impossible war to fight. With States having directed significant funding away from building prisons towards evidence-based programmes and services, the focus is moving towards supervision and drug treatment and other initiatives that actually reduce recidivism and improve public safety rather than locking people up.

Caribbean leaders still have concerns about the potential repercussions that would come from legalizing or even decriminalizing marijuana, but rather than ignoring it they have opted to examine the issue in detail.The mandated commission is expected to provide clear guidance for the tough decisions that will need to be made. 

“In relation to this issue we have obviously taken more than baby steps. We want the issue to be addressed in a serious, mature manner,” said chair the heads of government, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

The Commission is expected to report to the Regular Meeting of the Conference in July 2014.

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Maples have plenty in reserve

| 13/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): Picture the scene. High Noon. Two teams face off against each other under a blistering Cayman sun.  Winner take all. Who will blink first? Who will draw first blood? Cue Ennio Morricone music. Who would be the Good, the Bad or just the plain Ugly? This was the pre-game narrative before Maples Reserves, fresh from an easy first game whomping of their workplace compatriots Maples’, squared off against low-flying Island Air, grounded after being hit by several SteppingStones in Match Day 1. “Guns” glistening with sweat, at least on Captain Adam Huckle anyway, the Reserves took the ball and in the opening exchanges looked to put speed into their settles and moved the ball easily. Island Air looked sluggish and it was Huckle himself who fired the opening salvo with a fine try inside three minutes.

Island Air are used to dogfighting and this would have to be another combat at close quarters if they were going to wrestle this one from the ‘Reserves. As the game progressed however two things became abundantly clear. Riley Mullen, like a dashing blond pint-sized Road-Runner (“beep beep”), is in the form of his life, and Jane Hale-Smith has the rugby hands equivalent of a heart surgeon crossed with a streetwise card-sharp. Not only can she deceive a defence by sleight of hand but also thread a pass through the eye of a very small needle. If you include the diving athleticism akin to a Greg Louganis or a Tanya Streeter and you just about have the complete package of two players on top form.

Mullen has always been known for his speed but has often frustrated by running down blind alleys and away from his support. However he has now added a decent pass and, most importantly, improved decision-making to his game. This can be easily illustrated by two examples. Firstly, a length-of-the-pitch try taking a long sweeping arc to go round the entire Island Air team. Knowing where he is going is one thing, stopping him doing it is something completely different. He spots weaknesses in a defensive line like a cheetah targets a sickly gazelle before going in for the kill. Secondly, he played link-man through several plays before a sumptuous offload to allow an easy Maples’ score. His defence was spot on too making several diving touches to frustrate the Island Air attack.

Whereas Mullen may be vertically-challenged, Hale-Smith is long of limb and uses every centimetre to great effect. Twice in the space of thirty seconds she dived full length to prevent certain Island Air scores and then used her tentacle-esque reach to throw a fantastic basketball pass over a defender to Neil Montgomery for an easy touchdown. Her ability to keep the ballmoving at speed is quite a sight as it all seems so effortless. Us mere mortals could learn a thing or too.

Add to this deadly duo, the side-stepping Neil Montgomery, the bullet-train swerve of Dave Acutt, the languid long-striding of Jyoti Choi, the industry of Nicky Keogh and Marida Montgomery and the game turned into an exhibition of Touch. Maples Reserves ran out convincing 13-3 winners and Island Air will need to go back to the drawing board and get a new flight plan as they languish near the bottom of the table with two defeats from two.

In the game between two of the Championships’ smaller teams Maples went head-to-head with KPMG. Whilst neither teams boast the touch rugby superstars of the Big Three they put on a real display of guts and dedication to the cause. Both teams have players new to the sport and whilst it is understandable that simple errors may bemade, they showed in this game that they are learning fast. KPMG started well and took advantage of some miscommunications in the Maples defence, taking an early lead through Mark Bakker and James MacFee. Maples’ squandered some real try-scoring opportunities around the try-line and were down at the break. The half-time talk was brief, mainly because they were all gasping for oxygen, but something must have worked because, like a rabid lawyer deposing a hostile witness, they went for the jugular after the restart.

Paul “Barrel” Johnson rolled back his rugby years and found gaps all over the KPMG defence. With support runners holding their opposition defenders wide Barrel used his deceptive turn of pace to breach the gap and run in for score after score. Mark Bakker added one more for KPMG but the tide had turned against them and supported by tries from Finn O’Hegarty and Sophia Dilbert Maples ran out winners 6-3.

The final game of the day saw SteppingStones take on Heineken Brew Crew. Heineken have plenty of tricks and in the first few minutes it looked like they may take the game away from SteppingStones. They were three tries to the good after ten minutes with scores from Keswick Wright, Biannca Johnson and Eddie Westin while SteppingStones were imploding with an ill-disciplined performance that should worry the team organizers. Morgan Shelver (twice), Jax McCarty and Mike McGrath were all asked to leave the field for a time as officials became tired of the constant querying of decisions.

“Play the game, not the ref” was the useful advice from the crowd as the ‘Stones had to play much of the game with just five players. It was down to the evergreen Scott McCarty to restore some semblance of order before half-time with two invaluable tries, assisted by the restored Morgan Shelver.

Some harsh words, virtually all of which would be unprintable, must have been uttered at half-time because in the second half the ‘Stones dominated. Shelver and Jax McCarty made up for earlier transgressions with tries and although Wright drew Heineken level briefly at 4-4 the game felt like it was slipping from their grasp.  SteppingStones squandered many opportunities for easy tries with errant passing but after scores from Scott McCarty and Shelver again the lead this time was insurmountable. Biannca Johnson pulled one back for the Brew Crew, following fine work by Wright, but it was too little too late and SteppingStones ran out somewhat fortuitous 6-5 winners.

And so, after Match Day 2 Maples Reserves sit on top of the table with two wins from two and a far superior points difference over their nearest rivals SteppingStones. There is still a lot of touch rugby to be played before the end of the season but it is already looking like these two have a date with destiny come Finals day.

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Cayman teen rider takes wins 1st place in Barbados

| 13/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CIEF): Madeleine Aquârttook first place in her age group in the first leg of the 2014 Caribbean Equestrian Association’s Junior Show Jumping competition held in Barbados on 15th and 16th February. Cayman placed 3rd overall and has come away with two points to carry forward to the next leg of the competition.  Isabelle Smith represented Cayman in the 16 and Under age group. The event, in which riders from Cayman, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago compete, has been running for 17 years.  As competitors from the four countries ride horses borrowed from the host country Aquârt and Smith competed on horses they have never ridden before.

In each round of the team event the jump course is changed and becomes progressively more difficult.  This was the first time either Aquârt or Smith had represented Cayman in the competition and Aquârt came away with only four faults, having knocked one fence in the first round of the competition.  Smith had two eliminations and nine faults.

Big C Stables hosted the two-day Barbados event at which the 14 and Under riders jumped a maximum course height of .70m and the 16 and Under riders jumped a maximum height of .85m.  Jessica McTaggart coaches Aquârt and Smith at the Equestrian Centre in Grand Cayman and traveled with the team to Barbados.

After two days of competition Barbados had 12 faults, Jamaica 29 and Cayman 63. Trinidad had four faults but was represented in only one of the age groups.  Country standings are as follows;

Barbados   1st place   5 points
Jamaica   2nd place  3 points
Cayman   3rd place   2 points
Trinidad  4th place   1 point 

Points are carried over for each leg of the competition, which consists of four legs, one hosted in each participating country during the course of the year.  The country with the most points earned in 2014 will be the overall winner. The next leg of the competition will be held in Cayman on 10th and 11th May, with trials to decide the Cayman team being held on 22nd March.

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Hats and horses to help boost Trust

| 13/03/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): With so much of its own land coming under direct threat at the moment, the National Trust more than ever will need to boost its financial coffers to help it fight harder to protect significant natural, cultural and historical property. As a result, the annual fundraising Gala on Saturday 29 March will be even more important, but with the help of the local Equestrian Center, this year’s “Hatitude” will be like the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot. The first of its kind in Cayman, guests will be treated to live show jumping and dressage parade by students from the center in addition to the regular line up of entertainment.

A live auction, virtual horse racing, cigar rolling, and wine tasting while the champagne flows accompanied with plenty of gourmet delicacies should keep guests in good spirits  and a live band will set the tone for dancing into the evening with a top DJ.

Tickets are $150 available at the Trust Office and corporate tables are being offered at the discounted price of $140 per ticket and VIP Cabanas for $200 per ticket (minimum of 10 tickets). NKY will be bringing in one of a kind Derby Hats and Fascinators to their store for ladies and men. Ticket holders will receive 10% discount off all hats. 

All proceeds of the fundraiser will go directly to the National Trust’s Education Programme which teaches thousands of students the importance of protecting our unique environment and preserving our rich history and culture.

For further details or ticket reservations email marketing@nationaltrust.org.ky call 749-1121 or see flyer poster below.

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80% of whistleblowers sacked

| 13/03/2014 | 94 Comments

(CNS): Civil servants have told the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) that they are extremely reluctant to report wrongdoing in government due to significant fears of reprisals against them and their families and believe that no one is ever punished or held accountable, even when reports are made about wrongdoing. Complains Commissioner Nicola Williams found in a new report released Thursday that even though public sector workers recounted numerous instances of intimidation, victimization and reprisals against whistleblowers, chief officers claimed to be unaware of such issues. In the cases used for the report 80% of whistleblowers in the Cayman Islands Government lost their jobs while the other 20% were transferred, demoted or overlooked for promotion.

Williams said in her Own Motion Investigation, entitled “Let the whistle blow", that having no policies or law to protect whistleblowers in government undermines their ability to comply with the Public Service Management Law and fuels public sector corruption.

Having investigated what protective measures were in place for whistleblowers or people who report wrongdoing that they have witnessed in the work place, especially by their superiors or politicians, Williams said there was no adequate protection and has made a number of recommendations in her report.

Calling for stand-alone legislation and government policy, a positive duty to report, encouragement of civil servants to report, accountability when wrongdoers are exposed, confidentiality assurances and a hot line, the commissioner said government should begin an education campaign and even consider appointing a minister for public service and integrity.

Williams said she and her team examined existing legislation, policies and the work culture and the tolerance of wrongdoing in the first place, as well as what has happened to those who have blown the whistle.

During the investigation into the report the OCC found that most of the whistleblowing that people had reported related to financial irregularities. However, all of the civil servants interviewed for the report who said they had blown the whistle said they found themselves penalized, while those who were responsible for the wrongdoing remained in the jobs continuing the same practices unchecked. With whistleblowers exposed and the wrongdoers left in post, these government employees who did the right thing have also suffered victimization.

Williams found that Cayman’s small society was one of the problems that prevented people from whistleblowing, as there seemed to be numerous ways that those who report wrongdoing can be victimized outside of work as well as in and that their future prospects of work if they leave government were also at risk.

Concerns that whistleblowers, not the wrongdoers, are being punished fuels corruption. With no policies or systems in place for reporters, Williams found civil servants asking simply, “What happens to me?” if they reveal what they know.

Despite recommendations made almost six years ago following the report into documents leaked by former permanent secretary Charles Clifford, there is still little or no protection for whistleblowers in the Cayman Islands government. Many believe making a complaint about a colleague, boss or politician is simply career suicide. 

The absence of a safe comprehensive system underpinned by legislation that is enforced does not just impact employees of government but the wider community, Williams said in her report, which lays out detailed recommendations and the need for stand-alone legislation to deal with this issue as part of the overall goal to improve good governance in general.

See full report below.

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Immigration to cross-reference work agency site

| 13/03/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS):The labour department has finally devised an online job registration system that will allow the immigration department to cross-reference employers' efforts to find a Caymanian worker before they grant a work permit. The National Workforce Development Agency job site will show what efforts employers have made to consider local applicants for all their jobs before they get a new permit or a renewal. In the face of continuing high unemployment among Caymanians, Labour Minister Tara Rivers is hoping that the site will get more local people into work and force employers to pay more than just lip-service to the system before they take on foreign workers.

The immigration department will be able to check how many locals applied via the NWDA and what happened to those applicants before they give out any work permits. In theory, if they can see that suitably qualified local applicants were overlooked, officials should refuse employers permission to take on overseas workers.

Given the massive gaps in the labour system to date and the criticisms of the NWDA not being fit for purpose, the new system is being claimed as a major step in the right direction in tackling Caymanian unemployment.

The labour minister said the development and implementation of this online system was one of her campaign platforms when she ran for office in the May General election last year. Tara Rivers described the system as a way to improve the job seeking process and help more Caymanians access employment. 

“The development and launching of this online database and interface is a campaign promised fulfilled,” Rivers claimed. “The NWDA Immigration online job interface should help simplify and streamline the process of employers seeking employees and job-seekers finding suitable employment.  What we have done is to develop an online system that ensures that the work permit process is transparent and holds employers accountable under the law while streamlining the process so that it is easy for employers to furnish the Immigration Department and its boards with the information required, should they need to apply for work permits.”

The system is designed to show what efforts were made by employers to find a Caymanian before they get a permit and to allow job seekers a chance to apply before a foreign national is taken on. The deputy chief officer in the ministry with responsibility for the NWDA explained how the new online interface will function.

“An employer will register a job with the NWDA, who will then vet the job description to ensure it is reasonable,” said Tasha Ebanks Garcia.  “The system will then identify job-seeking clients who broadly meet the requirements of the post and the employment services officer (ESO) at NWDA will review the matches and, with permission from the job seeker, refer candidates that are reasonable for the post."

She said that job seekers can also view the job posts and apply using the online system.  Once a job is posted with the NWDA, it runs for a period of just fourteen days, during which time all referrals must be made.

“The employer who registered the job will receive notification of matches and will be responsible for reviewing all candidates and determine their suitability,” Ebanks said.  “The online system then provides the employer with a section where they can record the outcome of each referral. 

“If the employer chooses to apply for a work permit, the immigration department and its boards will now be able to pull up the referral record and view the list of persons that were referred by the NWDA or self-referred, the rationale for the referral and the reasons the company gave to explain why no suitable applicant was found.”

The goal, the ministry official said, was to make sure the work permit board was aware of every local person that applied or wanted to apply for the post which they are considering for a permit and why none of those applicants were suitable. 

“The board can therefore make an informed decision regarding the work permit application and whether to approve it or not,” Ebanks added.

She also stated that the system aligns directly with the requirements of the immigration law. All Caymanians, those married to Caymanians, people with permanent residency or the right to work and legal and ordinary residents will all have access to apply for jobs on the site.

Rivers encouraged employers to register all their jobs through the NWDA and to support this process as the government is keen to create a system to help them employ qualified Caymanians before applying for new permits or renewals.

“The launch of this online interface is one of many key changes we are implementing to support employers and job seekers at the NWDA,” the minister stated, adding that since she took office the ministry has hired the extra staff necessary  to assist job seekers and to provide and coordinate training opportunities for clients. She also pointed to the outreach programme in all the districts starting this month and thanked all those involved who had been working tirelessly to create the new system, as well as Darice Pinedo at Computer Services, who built the online interface.

Linda Evans, the chief immigration officer, said the site would make a significant and positive change in the way immigration and the NWDA work with each other. “It will increase the transparency of the work permit process,” she said. “I encourage all employers and job seekers to take advantage of this system.”

The system went live on 25 February and is now available for employers and job seekers through the NWDA website.

For more information please contact the NWDA at 945-3114 or email NWDA.jobs@gov.ky

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Memorial trophy promises thrilling final

| 13/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CRFU): The Alex Alexander Memorial Trophy is once again heading for a thrilling finale on 15 March 2014. After 5 weeks of play the top 2 sides are still only separated by 1 point in the league standings and 5 points on point difference. After a stuttering performance in the first week of play where the John Doak Architecture Iguanas (2013 Alex Alexander Memorial Trophy Winners) were surprised by the Queensgate Pigs Trotters the Iguanas have mounted a 4 game winning streak to take pole position atop the table. It all boils down to the final week of play where the Iguanas face the so far winless Fidelity Cayman Storm and the Pigs Trotters face the ever dangerous Advance Fire and Plumbing Buccaneers.

Week 5 action saw the Iguanas take on the Buccaneers and although the Iguanas started strong and scored first through back row Matthew Dors the Buccaneers came back hard and took the lead through a converted Joel Clark try followed by a further James McGinn Try. The Buccaneers maintained a good half hour of dominance and marched out a 21-10 lead by half time thanks to solid kicking from Morgan Shelver. The Iguanas could only manage a further Johnny Doak penalty.

The Iguanas rebounded in the 2nd half with their forwards again seeking to maintain as much possession as possible with tight play around the break down and further scores from Yohann Regnard and Peter de Vere put the Iguanas into the lead for the 2nd time of the game. 

A fourth try for the Iguanas came from centre Adam Keenan to make the score 29-21 to the Iguanas and the Iguanas ground out the final 8 minutes of play  to secure their 2nd bonus point win of the season over the Buccaneers.

Before the kick off the Buccaneers (even though they sat in 3rd place) were with a chance to make a charge for the league title but the 3rd loss of the season puts them out of the running with only 1 gameto go.

Final Score Iguanas 29-21 Buccaneers

The 2nd game of the day between the Pigs Trotters and the Cayman Storm looked to be building into a tight affair before the Pigs Trotters got into a flow and dismantled the Cayman Storm.

The first quarter of the game was low scoring with the Cayman Storm scoring first through Josh Brown penalty kick but the Trotters were soon on the board with a Keswick Wright converted try.

Albeit for continued pressure from the Trotters the Storm were resilient in the 2nd quarter. The Pigs Trotters were, for long periods, camped close to the Storm try line but could not get past the Storm forward pack.

Trotters wing James Waters broke the stalemate between the teams 10 minutes into the 2nd half when a fortunate bounce confused the Storm back 3 leaving the speedy Waters time to collect the kick and run under the posts to make the score 14-3.

Try no. 3 for the Trotters came though Shaun McDermott after some kicking “ping pong” between the teams led to a miscued kick from the Storm right into the hands of McDermott who, collecting the  ball on the Storm 22 meter line, marched in unscathed to score in the corner. Although the Pigs had extended their lead to 17 points the Storm had a final flurry on the hour mark and some continued pressure put Storm no. 8 Paul Smith over to score in the corner. Josh Brown converted (on his 2nd attempt) to ring up the Storm’s final points of the game.

The Pigs rung up their bonus point in the final 20 minutes with a drive over try 5 meters out from the Storm try line and again managed a 5th try to improve their points difference and close out the game soon thereafter.

Final Score Pigs Trotters 36-10 Cayman Storm

Upcoming Fixtures 15 March 2014
John Doak Architecture Iguanas vs. Fidelity Cayman Storm 3:00pm KO
Advance Fire & Plumbing Buccaneers vs. Queensgate Pigs Trotters 4:45pm KO

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

Photos by Caroline Deegan

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