Archive for April 3rd, 2014

East-West Arterial

| 03/04/2014 | 36 Comments

We should take it with pride that our beautiful isles continue to attract countless visitors and investors like Arnold Palmer to our shores. However, we find it to be counter-intuitive for any development to occur in which a fortunate few would profit at the expense of our protected lands. Nor does it say much of our commitment to our islands when such proposals are being touted on the heels of the passage of the National Conservation Law (NCL).

The Law was designed to prevent such avoidable and irreversible damage. As highlighted in the recent Tenth Environmental Audit Committee Report from the UK, such poor planning and ecological mismanagement reflects poorly upon our governance and us as a people.

Given that the proposed northern East-West extension will impact upon some of the last surviving primary dry forest in the Caribbean, the burden of loss will weigh unfairly not only upon the National Trust, but on our collective natural heritage.

The ecological integrity of our islands is tantamount to the preservation of our livelihood.  As a group, we advocate for the sustainable development of the country. It is our firm belief that our wellbeing as a society relies upon our ability to maintain a balance between our shared social, economic, and ecological needs. Our support for the passage of the decade-old NCL was intended to ensure a national commitment to environmental responsibility.

Global efforts to effect such change continue to demonstrate that development can occur with these principles in mind and we applaud the government in ensuring its passage.

However, a number of questions have yet to be answered. Should we not, for one, prioritise the Shetty route to ensure speedy access to these new health facilities as opposed to a development that is still an uncertainty? Are two additional roads really necessary for the Eastern districts? Further, the current proposed route would cut through wetland; Have we assessed the cost to fill that land?

We understand that the National Trust’s proposed alternate route south of the Mastic would avoid wetlands and thus reduce costs. It is the responsibility of the CIG to mitigate any unnecessary expense.

Before any sudden and significant decisions are taken about major infrastructural projects, we think that it would be wise for us to develop an integrated national infrastructure, transportation, and development plan. This would allow us to prioritise and rationalize our infrastructural investments over the next 10 to 25 years. Rather than continuing on the current impromptu method of development based primarily upon the interests of private investors, we should be investing strategically in projects that will serve our foreseeable needs and desires as a whole.

Greed, desperation, and anxiety cannot be the prime motivators in this matter, or any other that will impact upon our islands. Indeed, such recklessness has contributed to our current economic woes. As such, we urge that we take this opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves, and others, that we are capable of building a Cayman that sustains our wealth, identity and beauty.

For more information on the environmental NGO Sustainable Cayman, visit its Facebook page.

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Committee to meet public on disability policy

| 03/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following the publication of a draft National Disability Policy the committee established to help shape the way forward to a much more inclusive society will be hosting a series of public meetings this month. Starting this evening in Cayman Brac (Thursday 3 April) the Cayman Islands Disability Policy Steering Committee (CIDPSC) will be seeking input and comment on the new document, which officials said aims to raise the standard of key services available to persons with disabilities including healthcare, education, employment and social inclusion. It outlines a need to improve data collection on persons with disabilities to better inform policy and service provision in both the public and private sectors.

The committee is comprised of stakeholders from within the sector and includes those with disabilities. Local businessman, Keith Parker Tibbetts, is the policy’s patron and says their involvement had helped to create a more relevant document.

“It covers all aspects of life for persons with disabilities, and seeks to address the very real challenges that we encounter in our daily lives. With input from the wider Cayman Islands community we believe that we have an opportunity to make the document even stronger,” Tibbetts, who is also disabled, added.

The document’s vision is ensuring that persons with disabilities can live with dignity, are respected, and have the opportunity to participate fully in society. To ensure that members of the public have an opportunity to provide face-to-face feedback and to ask questions, meetings are planned as follows:

Thursday, 3 April, at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre, Cayman Brac
Monday, 7 April, at the Mary Miller Hall, in Red Bay
Wednesday, 9 April, at the Sir John A. Cumber Primary School Hall, in West Bay,
Monday, 14 April, at the James M. Bodden Civic Centre, in Bodden Town
Wednesday, 16 April, at the Clifton Hunter High School Performing Arts Centre

All meetings start at 7pm and refreshments will be available.

For more information or to provide detailed feedback contact:

Robert Lewis of the Cabinet Office on 244-3602 or by email, robert.lewis@gov.ky, or;

Shari Smith, Chair of the Policy Subcommittee of the CIDPSC, on 949-3330 or by, email shari.smith@gov.ky

The document is posted below and to take part in the online survey click here

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Jury deliberates Jeffers’ fate

| 03/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The five women and seven men serving on the jury in the trial of Raziel Jeffers for the murder of Damion Ming in a Birch Tree Hill yard in March 2010 will return to their deliberations Thursday morning following their release by the judge at around 4:30pm today, after three hours in the jury room. Justice Malcom Swift sent the jury to deliberate at 1:30pm on Wednesday afternoon following his own four hour summary and direction to them about the two week trial. Summing up the narrative of the evidence presented by the crown against Jeffers and the defence’s response to it, the judge told the jury that they would have to decide onthe truth.

Having directed them on the law, the judge summed up the details of the crown’s evidence against Jeffers, which is based largely on an alleged confession he had made to his girlfriend and the crown’s key witness the weekend after the shooting, corroborated, the prosecution says, by the expert telephone and cell site evidence, as well as the medical, ballistic and other witness evidence.

Jeffers' motive was said to be a combination of gang rivalry and jealousy, fuelled by an affair that he believed his girlfriend was having with Ming, whom he considered an enemy in the West Bay gang world.

However, the judge also noted to the jury that the defence says that the crown’s witness is nothing more than a lying vengeful disgruntled ex-girlfriend profiting from witness protection by making up the allegations, and that the cell and telephone evidence is also perfectly consistent with Jeffers alibi and the alleged corroboration about her details of the killing were all the subject of rumour and conjecture on the street within hours of the murder.

Reminding the jurors that they must be sure the defendant is guilty before convicting, the judge directed the foreman to ensure deliberations were conducted in an orderly fashion and each juror was given a chance to contribute. Justice Swift also said that they must seek to return with a unanimous verdict.

At around 4:15 the jurors sent a note to the court seeking clarification on an element of complex cell phone site evidence and the judge used the opportunity to call the jurors back to the courtroom and dismiss them for the evening, explaining that he would address their issue in the morning when they recommence their deliberations. He gave them strict instructions not to discuss the case with anyone and not to speak to each other until they were all together again on Thursday morning.

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Lover killed in ‘blind panic’

| 03/04/2014 | 1 Comment

CNS): Elsey De Ortega Barralga (29), who has admitted killing Perry McLaughlin at his home in Little Cayman last November, stabbed him out of “fear, desperation and sheer blind panic”, her defence attorney told the court Wednesday. Maura McGowan, QC, said that in a flash of anger McLaughlin had swept everything on a kitchen counter to the floor, including a block of knives, before he dragged Barralga to the same floor by her hair and rained down multiple blows to her head with his fists in an effort to stop her from leaving the house. Barralga grabbed a knife to defend herself, but in the end went beyond self-defence and landed a fatal blow when he was no longer a threat.

Barralga had been charged with murder but on Monday the crown accepted a plea to manslaughter by reason of provocation, averting the need for a trial. During the sentencing submissions before Justice Charles Quin, the court heard that the argument between the couple, which started on their journey home from a night out drinking, had quickly turned physical at McLaughlin’s house, where Barralga had also been living for the two months before the killing.

During the course of the argument Barralga had told McLaughlin that she was going to stay at a friend’s home but McLaughlin became incensed and with a sweep of his arm, scattered all of the items on the counter around the kitchen, including at least seven different knifes from a block that had been sitting there. As he screamed abuse at her, dragged her to the floor and punched her repeatedly in the head she genuinely believed her life was in danger and grabbed a knife. The court heard she began blindly stabbing at McLaughlin landing blows to his arms legs and groin area. However, at some point he let go of her, and as she tried to get out of the house the fight continued.

The couple shouted at each other more and as she ran towards the laundry area he followed. At that point, the attorney told the court, Barralga believed McLaughlin had also picked up a knife – which was believed to be one found by the side of the washing machine by police who came to the scene.

With her exit blocked and McLaughlin telling her she was not leaving otherwise he would kill her, he again grabbed her hair, demonstrated by chunks of matted hair extensions found in his wounds. Barralga stabbed McLaughlin three times in the chest, the last of which was the fatal blow, which the medical examiner said would have killed him within a minute.

McGowan told the court that she had then fled the house running barefoot through broken glass in the kitchen, through the yard, where she dropped the weapon, and then to a neighbour’s house, who gave evidence to the state of shock the woman was in when she arrived.

Unaware of the serious and fatal wounds she had inflicted, she told the neighbours that McLaughlin had tried to kill her, and in what witnesses described as an obvious state of shock and confusion, she had vomited, but had not told them the extent of McLaughlin’s injuries so they had not called the police or medical services.

The next day, when McLaughlin’s body was discovered, Barralga could not believe she had killed him. McGowan said her client had no understanding of what she had done, as she asked the court to show mercy on the woman who had shown remorse, lost her previous good character, her life in Cayman and, above all, the man she loved.

The lawyer told the judge that there was no history of physical abuse between the couple, who had been friends for some time before a romance developed, and she had moved into his house when a former girlfriend of McLaughlin’s moved out. The court heard that McLaughlin was possessive towards her and had become even more so after she moved into his home. And although he was having affairs with other women, which he had told her she must put up with, he was reluctant to allow her to leave the home to go to work.

Many years younger than McLaughlin, who was 54 when he was killed, the court heard that Barralga came to the Cayman Island from Honduras in 2006 with her ex-husband and that she has a 12-year-old daughter, whom she supports. McLaughlin, meanwhile, was well known in Little Cayman and was a very successful businessman.

After listening to submissions from the prosecution and the defence regarding the facts and the circumstances, as well as the level of provocation, it was apparent that there were some discrepancies between the crown and Barralga’s attorney as to the category under which the offence fell.

The crown argued that the circumstances of the fight presented low provocation, while the defence claimed that it was in fact high and up to the very last blow she had acted in self-defence. The final stab wound which killed McLaughlin had taken her beyond self-defence because she had lost control through the provocation.

The possible sentencing ranges presented to the judge by the two sides were widely different, with the crown asking the court to start at 12 years before he considered any mitigation and discount for her plea, while the defence argued his starting point should be much lower at just three years before further reductions for mitigating factors and the guilty plea considered. Both sides agreed that there were no aggravating factors in the case.

Faced with significant detail and evidence in the case, as well as the discrepancies between the sides, Justice Quin said that he would take time to consider the sentence and would deliver his decision on 15 April.

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