Archive for May 27th, 2014

Turtle Farm says old age behind animal deaths

| 27/05/2014 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Concerns raised by a UK-based charity regarding the fate of animals other than turtles housed at the Cayman Turtle Farm had been dismissed by the management, which claims that a hybrid blue iguana died of old age and the deaths of five sandbar sharks were uncertain but may also have been due to age. The Farm said a remaining shark has been removed from the exhibit as the conditions do not suit sandbar sharks. Because it is not native to Cayman it cannot be released and may have to be put down. The CTF denied any problems at all with "Smiley", the crocodile, which was captured in the wild in 2006 by members of the public and given to the farm to recover from injuries it sustained when it was caught.

In its latest report about the CTF and its aim to persuade Cayman to transition the facility from a turtle meat supplier to a fully-fledged conservation centre, the World Society for the Protection of Animals raised a number of questions about various other creatures the Farm houses as its wildlife exhibits.

The blue iguana hybrid, which the WSPA said had not been seen for several years, is dead, the Farm confirmed.

The management explained that the iguana was part of a hybrid pair with Sister Islands iguana ancestry. The male died in the wake of Hurricane Michelle, while the female lived on until 2011, when she was around 27 years old.

“Their normal lifespan is about 30 years,” the Farm said in response to questions from CNS about the WSPA concerns. “A necropsy was conducted by an exotic animal specialist veterinarian who had been overseeing her care for years. The necropsy revealed that the Blue died of natural causes – complications of old age. The BIRP (Blue Iguana Recovery Programme) and DoE (Department of Environemnt) were both notified of this.”

The CTF management noted that the Farm is currently caring for a Sister Islands iguana at the request of the Department of the Environment. That iguana was brought to the farm for rehabilitation and safe keeping, and it is now thriving in the iguana habitat.

Explaining that Smiley is not a caiman, as suggested by the WSPA, but a hybrid American crocodile that was injured when it was captured by members of the public, the CTF said the DoE asked them to care for Smiley during her recuperation. As she could not be returned to the wild, the Farm agreed to keep her permanently. She is kept in partial shade and partial full sun, fresh water and salt water sections, and is free to move between the sections as she pleases. The management said the crocodile jumps for her food as “part of the enrichment exercise”, which gives “her some mental and physical exercise simulating the species natural activity of leaping and pouncing to catch its prey.”

The situation with the sharks, however, remains in question and the Farm confirmed that five sandbar sharks have died. Vets were unable to determine the cause of death and had suggested it may be age-related. The remaining sandbar shark is in the Farm’s quarantine facility because this species of shark runs the risk of injury in the exhibit, which is an artificial reef and not a sandbar.

As these sharks are not native to the Cayman Islands, the last shark cannot be released into the wild so it may have to be “euthanized for humane reasons rather than risk repeated injury by being returned to the exhibit,” the Farm added.

The nurse shark that had an injury to its pectoral fin was also removed to CTF’s on-site quarantine facility, where it has been treated and has recovered.

“It is a type of injury thatoccasionally occurs in nature, especially during breeding season,” the Farm said, adding it was awaiting a decision by the vet about whether the shark should be returned to the exhibit. 

See full answers from the Turtle Farm posted below regarding CNS questions based on the WSPA concerns, along with the charity’s report. 

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Violence continues with double stabbing in GT

| 27/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Hot on the heels of two violent incidents at the weekend, in which three victims were assaulted with weapons, two men involved in a fight on Monday night in Windsor Park, George Town, were also stabbed. Police said that one of the men is in stable condition in the Critical Care Unit after receiving a number of very serious injuries. The second man, who was also stabbed and released after treatment, has been arrested on suspicion of wounding and is currently in police custody. An RCIPS spokesperson said the two men involved in the double stabbing were related and had stabbed each other during an argument.

The 911 call centre received the report at 9:28pm saying two people had been stabbed in Oak Mill Street, off Walkers Road, and one of the men had collapsed in a driveway. Police and ambulance personnel found that a 33-year-old man had sustained stab wounds to his left upper back and the right side of his neck, multiple lacerations to the left and right cheek and superficial cuts to his hands. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and admitted to the Critical Care Unit but is now in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, his 30-year-old relative also had stab wounds to his right thigh and various lacerations about his body. A second ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital, where he was treated and discharged. He was then arrested on suspicion of wounding. Police said they had recovered and seized both of the weapons used in the stabbing.

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Brides catch tax break on wedding dresses

| 27/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The government has been quick to move on the question of duty and deposits on bridal gowns and other clothes for visiting destination wedding parties. The Customs Tariff Law has already been amended to eliminate a duty charge and the policy of requiring a deposit. Recognizing the importance of the destination wedding market, the Tourism Ministry and Department of Tourism worked to address the issue, which caused huge controversy when the little known policy was revealed following an incident over an undeclared wedding dress. The tourism minister said government wanted to provide a "stress free environment" for people coming to get married, as he announced the change in a press release Tuesday. Read more on CNS Business

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Crown faces compensation claim for jail time

| 27/05/2014 | 17 Comments

(CNS): A man who served seven and a half months in jail on a drug conviction which was overturned on appeal is making a compensation claim against the government for his time in jail. In October 2011 Eduardo Swaby was convicted in Summary Court of possession and intent to supply cocaine by Chief Magistrate Ramsey-Hale and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The conviction, however, depended on alleged exhibits which were never placed into evidence by the prosecutor on the case. Swaby was granted bail after serving more than seven months when local attorney Peter Polack picked up the case and filed an appeal. Shortly afterwards, Swaby’s appeal was successful and his conviction quashed.

The Grand Court heard the appeal, in which it was revealed that the alleged portion of cocaine on which Swaby was convicted of possessing was never proven to be an illicit drug. The substance was neither analyzed by the RCIPS nor submitted to the court by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). On 29 June 2012 the conviction was quashed on the basis that the chief magistrate relied on non-existent evidence. Cash seized by the RCIPS Financial Crimes Unit as part of the proceeds of his alleged crime was returned to Swaby in August.

Now his lawyer is arguing that under the constitution Swaby is entitled to compensation for his wrongful conviction and time spent in jail and has approach the Attorney General’s Chambers about that claim.

Polack is understood to be the first attorney to make such a claim on behalf of his client but he believes there are other people out there with a legitimate claim and said he was certain of at least one that could also be brought.

Section 7(8) of the Cayman Islands Constitution states that when a person has faced a miscarriage of justice or a conviction has been quashed, the victim can be compensated out of public funds for any punishment that they suffered as a result of that conviction.

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Budget process leads to parliamentary bust-up

| 27/05/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The premier and opposition leader were in a legislative stand-off Monday over the process of how the budget will be debated on Thursday. The state opening of parliament for the budget meeting began with an exceptionally short Throne Speech from the governor, but the Policy Statement behind the PPM government’s 2014/15 spending plan was delivered by the premier ahead of the finance minister's Budget Address. Although Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush began the practice of delivering a policy statement with the budget when he was premier, he objected strongly to the plan to merge the debate with the budget address, saying government would get to “talk twice” when once was “enough for most people".

When Bush was premier he was also minister of finance, and so he delivered a merged address and was then the only minister to respond to the debate on the Throne Speech, the policy document and the Budget Address. However, in the PPM government Premier Alden McLaughlin is not finance minister and, as a result, after the conclusion of the debate on government’s policy and budget, which starts Thursday, both Finance Minister Marco Archer and the premier will deliver responses to the LA.

When McLaughlin proposed the motion Monday after the budget that members would be given several days to digest government’s spending plans and then return to the LA Thursday to debate it, the opposition leader objected.

In a lengthy speech Bush said he had researched the Commonwealth and could find no parliament where a government was allowed to speak twice and accused the administration of undermining democracy. He said that two ministers could not both respond to one debate, and with no precedent and no justification for his actions, the premier could not manoeuvre himself into position to close for the finance minister on the debate when it wasn’t the premier’s job to do so.

Bush said that when he had introduced the idea of a policy statement, there was still no minister of finance, and with the Throne Speech delivered by the governor and the budget by the financial secretary, the premier began delivery a policy statement on behalf of the elected arm of government. But what McLaughlin was now doing, he claimed, was abusing the parliamentary process. The opposition leader said if the government wanted to review how the budget was delivered that was one thing, but he accused the premier of changing things ad hoc and disregarding democratic principles.

“We shouldn’t change rules on the fly to suit the government or the premier’s personal whims,” he said, adding that parliamentary procedure simply does not allow government to speak twice. He said one minister alone should reply at end of the debate, speaking for all of government. He said government did not need “to speak twice as once was enough for most people".

McLaughlin then accused Bush of ignoring the facts, since he had set the precedent. The premier also pointed out that the speaker ruled on the issue last October when the decision to merge the debates was agreed as a result of time and practicality.

The premier said that parliament should not allow “the opposition leader’sparanoia to go against good sense and reason”, as he urged the deputy speaker, Anthony Eden, not to overturn the ruling made by House Speaker Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who was absent Monday.

McLaughlin explained the thinking behind the move as he pointed out that the Throne Speech was exceptionally short, providing just a review of government’s position while his speech provided the policy behind the budget. Then Archer’s speech addressed the practical application of the policies in the financial plan – essentially three elements of the same thing, making it sensible to debate the issues together.

However, the opposition leader objected further to McLaughlin’s justifications and the two men engaged in a heated argument across the chamber, with both refusing to give way to the other as they yelled incoherently.

Interrupting the shouting match, Eden stepped in and said he was upholding the previous ruling that the budget debates would be merged but acknowledged this was another area where the parliament’s Standing Orders needed to change to represent the constitutional position.

Eden said that at the risk of “being crass”, he urged both leaders to get to the point where they stopped “playing last lick”.

See Throne Speech below.

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Tax breaks on duty, licenses

| 27/05/2014 | 87 Comments

(CNS): The finance minister has managed to find a little bit of room in his 2014/15 spending plan to help everyone out with a cut on the fuel duty paid by CUC, which should cut electricity bills by 4.3%, and on duty for goods bought by licensed traders that he hopes will be passed on. In addition, Marco Archer revealed that there will be some significant cuts in the cost of trade and business licenses for small business in the districts and to provide for payment in installments across the year. He said he hoped the reductions would make a difference across the whole community with cheaper fuel bills and a cut in prices, as well as giving small businesses a break.

The tax breaks were revealed by the premier in his policy statement and detailed by Archer when he delivered his budget address.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the fee cuts were aimed at helping small businesses because they are key to Cayman’s economy, with 60% of local businesses classified as small, employing under 11 people. Alongside the cut in fuel duty for CUC, which should see bills come down for commercial and residential customers starting on 1 January next year, the cuts include a reduction in duty for licensed retail traders only on most goods from 22% to 20% starting on 1 July. Trade and business license will also be cut starting in July and a payment scheme will be introduced for those fees.

McLaughlin said these were just the start and there would be additional cuts as government revenue strengthens. He also pointed to the possibility of Sunday trading, which he said would be subject to public discussion, and the introduction of daylight savings to help tourism and financial sectors coordinate with the North America.

Detailing the tax breaks, Archer said the 75 cent duty on fuel imported by CUC will be cut by 25c from 1 January. Although it cost the public purse more than $8 million, the anticipated beneficial knock-on effect in the economy would outweigh government’s revenue loss, the minister stated. Aside from the essential direct relief to customers, Archer is hoping it will also improve local spending power.

That too should be assisted by the cut in duty to retail licensed traders. Archer said that government plans to cut duty for merchants from 1 July, and although government will lose some $4 million in revenue, again the spending boost that government hopes will be triggered will help alleviate that loss. He said that government would also be watching prices closely to ensure the 2% reduction on goods is reflected on the store shelves. 

Archer is also giving all small businesses a break with a cut in trade and business license fees. Business in George Town will see the fee come down by 25% while in North Side, East End, Bodden Town and Little Cayman license holders will get a 50% reduction. In Cayman Brac, licenses are being slashed to 75% and other breaks on that island include 100% duty free building materials, a duty cut for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Power and Light Co. and a 75% stamp duty waiver on land developed within two years.

Archer said that the multiplier effect of this fee reductions should help boost the domestic economy and help address what he said was the worrying problem of a shrinking middle class.

For full budget documents and details of the 2014/15 spending plan see related story on CNS: Archer exceeds his targets.

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