Archive for March 24th, 2014

Region needs leaders willing to fight corruption

| 24/03/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A critical step in limiting corruption and promoting ethics is to have strong and committed leadership at the helm of the region’s countries, the committee for the recent UCCI conference concluded in its closing declaration. The need to promote ethics and prevent corruption requires a culture of transparency where it matters most at the heart of government, the committee found at the end of the two day event. Recognising that legislation was not the only answer, the conference organisers said effort from the entire society was required to achieve real transparency, accountability and good governance.

The conference committee recommended that every Caribbean country consider the creation of a single independent anti-corruption state agency, with specialist resources, criminal investigation and prosecutorial jurisdiction, as well as full police powers of arrest and detention, over all corruption offences.  It also called for tough criminal and civil sanctions upon private sector entities for the bribery of public officials.

The committee concluded that there was a need for the countries across the region to implement legislation to regulate political party funding and campaign financing filing as well as the disclosure of assets, income and liabilities for all parliamentarians and critical level public officials.

With procurement being the danger area for most corruption, independent procurement regulators to monitor and investigate government contracts and to ensure probity, transparency, competition and value for money, were recommended as the best way to limit opportunities for bribery, as well as strong penalties for breaches of procurement guidelines.

Not forgetting the grassroots, the committee said community organizations can remind elected officials that they in fact answer to the greater electorate and not political factions.

Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of NIA and Professor, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, UWI, delivered the closing declaration on Friday following a three day conference which was described as unprecedented across the region in scale and quality.

The conference entitled, "Towards a Corruption-Free Caribbean; Ethics, Values, Trust and Morality” brought together 120 participants from 15 countries in the Caribbean as well as North America, Europe and Africa. The Conference was multi-sectoral including leaders of government, members of legislatures, and representatives of the private sector, civil society organizations, tertiary institutions, churches, and media houses.

It drewon expertise and experience of political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, ethicists, theologians, environmentalists, attorneys-at-law, medical scientists, accountants, and very importantly, present and past officials of anti-corruption commissions and institutions.

Dr Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Transparency International, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former Managing Director at the World Bank, Perry Christie, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Andrew Holness, MP, Jamaica’s opposition leader as well as Cayman’s own premier, all expressed their thoughts on tackling corruption.

Munroe said that the mantra of conference 2014 was Connect, Share, Inspire.

“The Conference did connect with the broadest cross-section of Caymanian society, which attended its many sessions and tuned into the many radio discussions in which invited attendees participated,” he said. “It shared in the rich diversity of experience and expertise of the speakers in plenary, panels, round tables and workshops and it inspired many to convert words into deeds, talk into action in more effectively combating corruption and building integrity."

Speeches and presentations from the conference are available here

Videos from the conference are also available on youtube
 

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UK cuts costs on passports for ex-pats

| 24/03/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): UK nationals applying for a new passport from overseas will now pay 35% less as a result of savings made following the repatriation of passport applications. All British nationals living overseas will be paying over a third less for new passports from 7 April. The price cut will benefit as many as four million Brits who are living overseas after the British government brought passport processing back to the UK and closed a number of offices around the world. From next month a 32-page adult passport will cost £83, reduced by £45, and a child’s 32-page passport will cost £53, a reduction of £28.50. Meanwhile the jumbo 48-page passports will cost £91.00, a saving of £63.50.

Overseas customers will continue to pay an additional courier charge in addition to the passport fee but the savings were welcomed by the Cayman Islands governor.

“I am delighted that the UK Passport Office has announced these new fees,” said Helen Kilpatrick. “The significant cost reduction will benefit expatriate British nationals that are resident in the Cayman Islands.”

UK Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire, said the UK Passport Office was committed to delivering better value for money for our customers. He explained that the fee cut was down to efficiency savings made over the last three years by taking back the processing and issuing of overseas passports to the UK while still maintaining the highest levels of security and customer service.

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Past student earns overseas award

| 24/03/2014 | 1 Comment
Timothy McLaughlin FIU award(CNS): Florida International University (FIU) selected Caymanian alumnus Timothy McLaughlin-Munroe to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award during the university’s 13th annual Torch Awards Gala in Miami on Saturday 8 March. The award recognizes alumni who have brought honour and distinction to the university through their notable record of service and achievement in a particular discipline, organization or cause. Mr McLaughlin is the Public Health Surveillance Officer/Deputy National Epidemiologist at the Public Health Department. The health minister, Osbourne Bodden, said, “Your dedication, commitment, and professionalism are known to your colleagues, and this recognition by FIU is well-deserved. Congratulations on your award and I encourage you to keep up the good work and continue to make us proud.”
 

Expressing his congratulations to Timothy, the minister responsible for Health, Osbourne Bodden, said, “Your dedication, commitment, and professionalism are known to your colleagues, and this recognition by FIU is well-deserved. Congratulations on your award and I encourage you to keep up the good work and continue to make us proud.”
 
Over the years, Timothy has spent most of his working life serving the people of the Cayman Islands. He was an emergency medical technician for 10 years and has spent another 13 years at Public Health. 
 
In his role he is responsible for monitoring and making recommendations to prevent, eradicate or control all communicable diseases within the Cayman Islands. Timothy has a reputation for taking great pride in his efforts to contribute to healthcare and public health.
 

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Late goal dashes Bodden Town hopes

| 24/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CIFA): An improved defensive effort by Bodden Town FC was undermined by a late goal which gave Unite Saint Rosienne a 1-0 victory on match day two of the Caribbean Football Union championship on Sunday. At the Estadio Juan Ramon Louriel, Ronaldo Barbosa scored a late goal (82nd) and lifted Unite Saint Rosienne past the Cayman Islands Champions. Bodden Town Head Coach Elbert Mclean kept a positive outlook despite the 0-2 record. “Our boys have nothing to be ashamed of, we have seen a great improvement,” Mclean told caymanfootball.com.

“They redeemed themselves after the first game (lost 5-0 to Bayamon) and gave a much better performance,” he added.

Mclean was buoyed by his team’s commitment after conceding the late goal. He said, “The way our boys lifted after the goalwas amazing.”

Bodden Town returns to the pitch on Tuesday against Curacao Centro Dominguito. Like Bodden Town Centro Dominguito will be in search of their first victory after holding Bayamon to a goalless draw on Sunday.

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Schools battle it out in annual athletics competition

| 24/03/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): More than 400 students from all twelve public and private high-schools across the Cayman Islands will be battling it out this week at the 2014 Inter-secondary Track and Field Meet which starts Tuesday. The annual inter-secondary sports meet has become a highlight of the Islands athletic calendar and this year John Gray High School enters as the current champions. Young athletes also use the meet as a qualifier for regional and international competition coming up later this year as well as local bragging rights. Expected standouts include Taj Lewis in the 400m and 800m, Keira McLaughlin in the 800m and 1500m, and Jacob Scott in the high jump.

Tuesday’s programme will focus on track semi-final races, as well as finals in the 800m, 3000m and 110m hurdles. The day will run from 8.30am-4.00pm Field events are set for Wednesday 8.30am – 3.00pm.  The remaining track finals will take place on Thursday.

Members of the public will be able to watch the competition unfold at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

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Athletic Association meet date confirmed

| 24/03/2014 | 0 Comments
(CIAA): The Cayman Islands Athletic Association (CIAA) has announced that the CUC 2014 National Youth & Junior Championships will be held at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Friday, April 4 at 6:00pm and on Saturday, April 5 at 4:00pm.  The Meet, which will be used as a qualifier, is sponsored by Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), a major corporate sponsor of the Athletic Association. This event has been staged by CUC for over 25 years and is one of the major Track Meets on the Association’s calendar. Caribbean Utilities Company has served as a launching pad for athletes within the Cayman Islands. 
 

 
The Meet, which will be used as a qualifier, is sponsored by Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), a major corporate sponsor of the Athletic Association. This event has been staged by CUC for over 25 years and is one of the major Track Meets on the Association’s calendar. Caribbean Utilities Company has served as a launching pad for athletes within the Cayman Islands. 
 
With the Inter-Primary and Inter-Secondary Track & Field Championships looming, competition from a large number of local athletes is expected, notably the performance of the CARIFTA Age Group Athletes, who will compete in two age group categories, Under 18 and Under 20 boys and girls. Some athletes are very close to achieving the qualification mark and it is hoped that they will become successful in their quest as this is the final qualifier for the CARIFTA Games. 
 
The public jus invited to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex to witness homegrown athletes’ battle for a spot on Team Cayman travelling to compete at the 2014 CARIFTA Games in Martinique and for other upcoming regional and international meets. 
 
Registration is open to various age groups; see attached form, which can also can be downloaded from the CaymanActive.com website or by contacting Coach Williams at 925-1943, Coach Yen at 925-6917 or Coach Ato at 927-0981. Completed forms may be returned to any of the above persons or to ciaaa.meetscommittee@gmail.com. Registration closes on Wednesday, April 2. 

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Yacht Club wins Caybrew Chili Cook-Off

| 24/03/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): While the team from Home Gas Ltd won the People’s Choice Award at the International Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, competing against teams from some of the top restaurants and businesses on the island, the judges picked the chili served up by the team from the George Town Yacht Club. As the winners, they will go on to represent the Cayman Islands in the Chili Finals in October of this year. Hundreds of people turned up to sample the various chilis in the return of the popular culinary event. A close second place overall winner was Craft Restaurant, who also won the Top People’s Choice Restaurant award, vowing to come back next year for the First Place trophy. (Photos courtesy of Home Gas)

As well as winning the People’s Choice Award, the Home Gas crew (below with Radio Cayman's Paulette Connolly) took home the third place trophy from the overall judging, and their Texas themed booth was a favourite of the day, with their country music and ‘5 gallon’ hats. 

ElectraTech’s Hillbilly booth took Best Booth Award with their hilarious Country slogan signs but was not so successful with their chili, picking up the “Nice Try” last place trophy for the day.

The Blue Dragon Tattoo team won a special prize from Cayman News Service, the media sponsors for the event, for Best Vegetarian Chili, being the only chili in that class. The team has won a month of free advertising on CNS and CNS Business.

Caybrew’s spokesperson, Matthew Leslie, said that overall the Cayman Islands Brewery was very impressed with the attendance and was already looking forward to next year’s event. 

“This was a real showcase and we learned a few things that we will improve on next year, as we can only make this event bigger and better over time. We really have to thank all the sponsors, who came together and made this all possible.”

The definite crowd favourite was the raffle, with prizes including Cayman Airways flights as well as numerous gas grills donated by Uncle Bill’s. 

Proceeds from the raffle tickets will be donated to Meals On Wheels, Leslie said. Funds were also raised from the Kids Zone for the West Bay Primary School PTA.

Sponsors included The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Home Gas Ltd, Cayman Airways, Uncle Bill’s, Hurley’s Marketplace, CNS Business, Cayman News Service, Radio Cayman, Premier Wines, and Red Bull. 

The Caybrew International Chili Cook Off was a sanctioned event by the World governing body of Chili the ICS.  The Cayman Islands will be eligible to host the Regional Competition in 2015.

See promo video interview for this year's event.

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Inmate appeal fails over 3 months additional time

| 24/03/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Efforts by an inmate to have three months additional jail time, which was added to his existing ten year sentence, run concurrently rather than consecutively failed Friday. Ryan Elijah Ebanks was given the extra time by Magistrate Valdis Foldats as a result of an assault he committed on a fellow inmate, which had resulted in a wound requiring five stiches above the man’s eye. Staging his appeal without an attorney, Ebanks argued that to add the time onto his already long sentence was excessive. The judge disagreed and pointed to his 33 previous convictions, the serious injury he had caused to his fellow inmate and the need for discipline in the prison.

Ebanks was serving a fifteen year sentence for armed robbery at a West Bay grocery store, which was reduced by the Court of Appeal to ten. However, following the assault on another prisoner, in which Ebanks had pushed his victim so hard he smashed his head on the cell bars and cut his eye open, he was given a further three months.

Ebanks argued that he was a human being and it was a difficult time for him when he committed the assault, as he said he “was frustrated” and was "having a bad day" when he pushed his jail mate into the cell bars.

He said that although he had 33 previous convictions, they were mostly for drugs and not many were for violent crimes, having little to say about the obvious act of major violence with the armed robbery. He asked the judge to have some mercy on him as he suggested he could have received another punishment from the prison management rather than more time, given how long he already had to serve.

Justice Charles Quin, who heard the appeal against the summary court sentence, pointed out that it was not manifestly excessive and was, in fact, very fair and reasonable given the aggression of the assualt. He said that inmates had to be protected as well as guards or visitors to the prison.

Commending Ebanks for his efforts to do the appeal alone, the judge nevertheless was in agreement with the magistrate who handed down the sentence. The judge said that if it was not added on, it would send the wrong signal.

“It would undermine the deterrent effect,” Justice Quin said, and if the sentence was not consecutive, “it would give carte blanche for anyone to commit an assault while in jail.”

The judge made it clear that he considered the assault to be violent and aggressive, and despite what may have been his frustrations, “You went too far,” he told the prisoner, as he upheld the magistrate’s sentence.

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CPA blocked eco-meeting

| 24/03/2014 | 58 Comments

(CNS): The Central Planning Authority (CPA) issued an order to planning officials not to attend an Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) meeting with the Department of Environment (DoE) regarding applications made by developers from the proposed Ironwood project in Frank Sound last year. This proposed $360 million development does not have planning permission but the investors, formally known as Eagle Assets, have successfully made a number of piecemeal sub-division applications very close to the Botanic Park and blue iguana re-settlement areas, raising concerns. In February 2013 the DoE called for planning staff and other relevant public officials to convene an EAB to discuss the potential size and impact of the project, however the CPA ordered them to stay away.

In a shocking indictment of how the current planning authority still regards environmental concerns in relation to development, the minutes from a February 2013 meeting reveal that the CPA believed that an environmental assessment board would undermine the planning process, despite the evidence before it that the project was continuing to grow. It said there was no need for an EAB because it had no standing and the authority did not want such a meeting.

The board then went on to direct planning staff – public sector workers paid for by the public purse – not to attend this meeting because if they did, it may look like they were representing the CPA’s wishes.

By this time, Eagle Assets had managed to get planning permission to sub-divide over 535 acres of land, all of it very close to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. However, having managed to get permission piecemeal, it was the DoE which raised concerns that the project was emerging into a major development but that the cumulative impact was not being considered, especially given its proximity to the park and the potential threat posed. The DoE recommended a planned area development (PAD) application be made, which was ignored by the CPA.

In its notes to the CPA while the application was before the authority in October 2012, the DoE said it was very concerned about the cumulative impact and “the lack of comprehensive consideration” of the wider project plans, as this was the third parcel of land in the vicinity of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park that was the subject of a subdivision application by Eagle Asset Investments of well over 500 acres.  

“We understand that the current application for a two-lot subdivision is potentially going to be developed into a golf course. However, to simply seek planning permission for a series of subdivisions on this scale, to facilitate future uses, is considered inappropriate. The mix, type and location of the various land uses being proposed by the applicant should be comprehensively assessed in order to ensure that uses are appropriately located within the context of a number of considerations,” the environmental officials stated.

The DoE listed issues regarding supporting infrastructure, the general environment, the commercial viability against the potential environmental damage, as well as its impact on the park and the areas where the critically endangered blue iguana were being released.

The department recommended a PAD application rather than a series of piecemeal subdivisions, which they said could not be assessed comprehensively, to ensure that any future development is appropriate, necessary, economically viable, sustainable and based on sound planning principles.

“This approach is not unusual or ground breaking; it is common practice worldwide and is not intended to serve as a tool to prevent development but to ensure that development is planned and carried out in a way which does not compromise current or future generations", the DoE stated, all of which was ignored by the CPA.

The DoE pointed out that, despite earlier advice from the DoE regarding the significant adverse impact on the blue iguanas, the application had been approved and the original protective buffer of 40 feet had been subsequently reduced by the CPA after an application to modify it down to a mere 15 feet.

Government has now offered its wholehearted support to the project, having signed an MOU to extend the east-west arterial to the project, which has raised even more issues regarding the environment, National Trust land and many other issues.

The premier and planning minister have stated that the developer will be required to undertake an EIA. Nevertheless, as the National Conservation Law continues to gather dust in the ministerial corridors because the ministry of planning and agriculture has still not made the necessary legislative changes to other laws, there are no guarantees that the Botanic Park, the blue iguanas, the critical wetlands, water lens and other important habitat in the area, as well as the Mastic Trail and Reserve will be protected.

See relevant minutes below.

DoE concerns are located under 2.6 on pages 34-36 of 24 October 2012 minutes and the order issued by the CPA banning planning staff from the Environmental Assemssment Baord meeting can be seen under 6.7 on page 73 of the 6 February 2013 minutes.

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Suicide PC found murder victim’s body

| 24/03/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): PC Rapael Williams, who was to take his own life this year, was the officer who found Damion Ming’s body lying under a boat when he and his colleague were the first police to arrive on the murder scene in Birch Tree Hill Road back in March 2010. Although several men had been present working on a boat at the West Bay yard when a gunman opened fire at the location, none of them realized that Damion Ming had been hit.  When PC Williams arrived at the scene just minutes after the 911 call was made, he was the officer who found Ming’s body and cordoned off what was then clearly a murder scene, the court heard Friday.

Williams’ evidence was read to the jury without being tested by the defence and was the second statement which had to be treated this way as a result of the death. Tyrone Burrel, who was also shot and killed in the very same yard some six months after Ming was murdered, had also given a statement to the police, though he had not identified Raziel Jeffers, the man accused of killing Ming.

The case against Jeffers continues this week in Court One before a twelve person jury and Justice Malcolm Swift. The crown’s key witness, Jeffers’ former lover, is expected to give evidence Monday.

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