Archive for May 28th, 2014

Premier outlines plans for GT

| 28/05/2014 | 109 Comments

(CNS): Among the goals the Cayman government has for the new financial year is the rejuvenation of George Town, which the premier has said is linked, but not tied, to the cruise port development and will start this coming autumn. Outlining various government objectives in his policy statement at the opening of the Legislative Assembly budget meeting Monday, Alden McLaughlin said government had put together a team that is looking at the revitalization of the downtown area of the capital in keeping with the PPM’s election campaign promise. With road works already approved, the team is examining how to bring back business, and the premier said planning zone changes would be made to enable, among other things, residential development.

Hoping to turn the capital back into an economic hub, he said there was no reason why it should roll up its sidewalks "as the last cruise ship sails over the horizon each day".

The premier said that while this project would take into consideration the development of the forthcoming cruise berthing facilities, he regarded the project to re-energise the capital to play an important economic role, as any proud capital should, as independent from the proposed new port.

“Once government has the team’s recommendation, public consultation will follow with the aim to start implementation by the fall of this year,” he said, adding that government was aware of the lack of parking spaces in the city. “Plans are in the works for improved parking as well as a new park and a market at the former Tower Building site.”

That crown land at the heart of the downtown George Town area has been out of formal use since the building was torn down after it was destroyed in Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. For some time it was used as an unofficial parking lot but during the last United Democratic Party administration, then premier McKeevaBush announced that it would be turned into a Christian Heritage Park. Although a groundbreaking ceremony took place In April 2011, the project was abandoned shortly afterwards due to budget constraints.

The capital has been badly hit by the decline in cruise ship calls, the closure of businesses and a drift towards Camana Bay as a central point.

McLaughlin made it clear that he wanted to reverse the decline and make George Town more relevant, not just to visitors and Caymanians but to all those who make Grand Cayman their home.

“The Progressives-led government believes that it is of critical importance that the downtown not be allowed to die but that it regains its once pre-eminent status as a hub of economic, commercial and social activity,” he said, adding that government would propose legislation to amend the development and planning law to ensure the capital is re-developed with a modern Caymanian feel throughout.

“We want to be able to draw new restaurants and businesses back to George Town and for property owners to have the ability to eventually refit some buildings for apartments for residential use or develop new living spaces. It is our plan to make George Town more pedestrian-friendly, with wider sidewalks, trees, benches and one way, or no traffic,” McLaughlin said.

“During the different phases there will be the added benefit of new jobs, companies getting contracts and new businesses encouraged to start or move to George Town. It’s all about enhancing the experience of the capital,” he added.

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North Side school renamed in memory of Edna Moyla

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The district primary school in North side has been renamed in honour of the late Edna Moyle who a resident and political representative of the district who died last May. Moyle had served the Cayman Islands as North Side’s Member of the Legislative Assembly, Deputy Speaker, Minister of Community Development, Sports, Women’s Affairs and Youth, as well as Speaker of the House, a post she held until her retirement in 2009. At the renaming ceremony on Tuesday Premier Alden McLaughlin said she had done much for the education of children not only in North Side, but throughout the Cayman Islands.

“Ms. Edna was more than an important political and social presence in our beloved country. She was an unwavering part of the PPM, The Progressives, a mentor and, above all, a friend whose presence I miss greatly,” McLaughlin said.

Moyle worked tirelessly to see the district of North side got its own library and had a hand in the civic centre, health centre, police station and a community park. She also worked to set up netball and basketball courts and to see that the Old Man Bay play field was finally completed as well as working diligently on behalf of her district’s older residents.

“Edna Marie Moyle had a tremendous zest for life and boundless energy in pursuing those causes that were most personal to her and the people of these Islands,” McLaughlin said. “No matter how far she travelled or how long she was gone her heart stayed right here in North Side and the Cayman Islands.”

He said it was fitting that the school was renamed to honour a great woman who gave so much of herself to the betterment of the entire country of the Cayman Islands and her home District of North Side. “I am blessed to have known her, worked with her and to have been able to count her as a friend and advisor,” the premier said.

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St Ignatius students come top in book reading contest

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Student teams from St Ignatius School came out on top of a literary contest at the George Town Public Library last Saturday. Teams from the school won both age-groups of the Lera Parchment Battle of the Books with the Neurotic Nerds wining the fifth- to sixth- grade competition while the Cadbury Craniums finished at the top of the seventh- to eighth- grade category against Cayman International School. Working in groups of between four and eight students they answered questions drawn from a list of 20 books they had been given three months to read. In total 55 students competed in the book challenge.

The contest was organised by the Cayman Islands Information Professionals (CIIP), in partnership with the library and it is based on an American reading incentive programme. The organisers said they are seeking the funding to make it a recurring feature on the library calendar and plan to invite Government schools to take part in 2015.

Praising the young participants’ level of interest, CIIP Programme Officer and CIS School Library Media Specialist, Ashley Welch said: “It was a great success!  Students read and studied for months in preparation, and this dedication paid off in their battles on Saturday.  It is always a joy to see young people get excited about reading.”

CIIP Chair Paul Robinson, who is also Deputy Director of the Public Library System, says the Battle of Books demonstrates the continuing relevance of libraries. “It was a fantastic competition which shows that, even in a world of e-books, online sources and today’s economic challenges, libraries remain at the heart of free community learning and information”.

For more information email:paul.robinson@gov.ky.

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Police unsure over US man’s death at TI resort

| 28/05/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS has revealed the identity of the man whose body was found at Treasure Island Resort, on the West Bay Road, some time on Tuesday morning but they have not said how the man died. A police spokesperson said James Dean McLaughlin (38) was from Washington State in the United States, but he was living and working in the Cayman Islands as an Investment Analyst. Detectives from CID are still conducting inquiries into the circumstances surrounding his death and a post mortem has been scheduled. However, police said it was still premature to speculate on the cause of death and have not yet given any indication whether or not they suspect foul play.

Officers investigating the death of McLaughlin are appealing to anyone who may have seen or spoken to him or knew where he was believed to have been at any time between Monday 19 and Tuesday 27 May, when his body was found, to contact them as soon as possible.

Anyone who can help is asked to call Detective Inspector Collins Oremule at 516-8746 or Detective Sergeant Charmane Huntley at 525-9395 or Crime Stoppers at 800-8477(TIPS).

 

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Minister aims to fight remaining discrimination

| 28/05/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): A new consultation exercise to gather more information about the situation in the Cayman Islands for women and girls has begun. The ministry with responsibility for gender affairs has published a report based on a gender conference held earlier this year and issued a questionnaire to help towards the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The request to the UK to extend the treaty protecting the rights of women was made some time ago and the current gender affairs minister, Tara Rivers, is now anticipating a favourable response and as a result Cayman will need to address remaining issues of discrimination.

All Cayman Islands residents are invited to participate in this broad public consultation exercise and submit written comments on the situation of girls and women by Monday, 30 June and the ministry will also host an event in Cayman Brac to address the special circumstances of women and girls living in the Sister Islands.

Following what was described by the ministry as an “overwhelmingly positive response to the National Conference on Women”, Rivers, who has responsibility for gender affairs in her education and employment ministry, explained that work was now going on towards the adoption locally of CEDAW. This data gathered during the consultation will be used to inform the local implementation plan for this treaty by identifying priority issues and strategies to address discrimination in local legislation, policies and practices.

“The ministry will continue to build on the momentum that has been created and seek to maintain and increase the level of collaboration as we move forward, using this knowledge and inspiration to help shape the national agenda and to improve the lives of girls and women and, in turn, society as a whole,” Rivers said.

The National Conference on Women report and the public consultation questionnaire are posted below. The documents are also available from the Government Administration Building.

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Public mutuals ‘best solution’

| 28/05/2014 | 23 Comments

(CNS): A local business owner is suggesting that government re-think its strategy to sell off government assets and look at mutualization as an alternative – a solution that he said is “taking off like wildfire in the UK”. Steve McIntosh, owner of local recruiting agency CMLOR, explained that the initiative, also known as public mutuals, involves setting up a government entity or department as a private company, where the existing staff become shareholders, and to contract that company to deliver its service. McIntosh is suggesting that in Cayman, 40% of the government entity would be owned by the staff and the other 60% would be auctioned off in 10% blocks to individuals, maintaining that there are many local investors who are willing to help the country but would apply real market forces and expect accountability.

Under the mutualization scheme, if a government department is currently costing $1 million to run, as a company it would be paid roughly the same amount as part of its contract but it would be up to the staff, as shareholders, and the investors to make the department run more efficiently, effectively privatizing government without laying anyone off.

The company would be regulated by its contract with government and equity would be distributed so that 20%, at no cost, was given to the management team, according to seniority and length of service; 20%, at no cost, to the remaining staff; 60% to private investors, who would be invited to bid for tranches of up to 10%.

McIntosh suggests that the initial contract would be for a period of five years (non-performance notwithstanding) after which the contract would be renegotiated. The fee paid to the company would be 95% of the prior year budget and would reduce by 5% each subsequent year of the contract till renewal at year five. The new company would be required to rehire all of the existing staff and retain them for at least five years (dismissal for cause notwithstanding) on no less than 95% of their current salary.

He said that some departments and entities with distinct roles, such as DER, DCI, Radio Cayman, the Cayman Turtle Farm, Computer Services, Hazard Management and Lands & Survey, could be turned into public mutuals very easily, while other services, functions and teams within larger government ministries, such as the Education Ministry's scholarship secretariat, could potentially be gradually spun off in a similar way.

McIntosh said there are a couple of departments that he would invest in as a philanthropist, such as the National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA) because he believes, as a professional recruiter, that he can usefully contribute to the running of the department. His investment would get him a seat on the board, and while he would not have control of the company, he would have a say in the way it was run. “In this way, you would harness a great deal of management capability and innovation for free.

“Right now, if a government department is totally dysfunctional, basically the recourse is for the ministry to come in and to micromanage the hell out of it,” he said and pointed out that the failing department would have compounding problems, such staff issues, infrastructure problems, budget problems, and micromanaging rarely improves things.

“Government generally tries to solve problems by taking more control and what’s needed is for it to have less control,” he explained. Some services, such as education, cannot be just about profit, but, McIntosh said, “I also believe that with a total absence of market forces you’re going to have sub-optimal outcomes. Most governments are trying to bring in the effects of market forces without the downside, like monopolies.”

One of the hardest things to do when it comes to management is to fire people who are not performing, McIntosh said, acknowledging that if it wasn’t his own money he was dealing with, he would be tempted to find excuses not to do it. This is one area where market forces needs to be implemented in government services. Each public mutual company would have independent boards with the power to hire and fire, he explained, which would be one of the main areas that distinguished them from the concept of statutory authorities and government companies, where government retains control through the appointment of the boards.

The key to the scheme is the contract and government would have to get good at writing them, he said. If a company that is a former government department failed to deliver, it is far easier to cancel the contract, he noted, and it could also be written in the contract that government retained the ability to de-mutualize the department and take it back into core government if the public mutual is not working. “At the very least they would get a year of people clearing it up,” he said.

“Everyone agrees that government is somewhat inefficient in what it does but the solution to that is not to make arbitrary cuts,” McIntosh told CNS Business. “People like idea of smaller government in the abstract but when it impacts services, they’re likely to feel differently about it. It’s the paradox of government. The solution is to find a more effective ways to deliver services and I think the leaders of the civil service understand that.”

McIntosh said that he came up with this idea a few years ago as a solution for the Cayman Islands, calling it ‘management buy out’, and put it to government officials at the time, but they wanted to know if it had worked anywhere else. “At the time it was just a hair brained idea that some recruiter had come up with. But as I was following the SAGE Commission in Bermuda, they referred to ‘public service mutuals’ and I realised that it was exactly what I had proposed two or three years ago. And when I researched it, I found out that there is a department within the UK government that is set up to create these companies.”

McIntosh said there is a “tonne of willingness to tap into” within the private sector. Many within the business community are ready to assist in sorting out problems within government, he said, and the reason that no one has yet stepped up to help in the rationalization process is that they have not yet been asked. “There’s nothing to step up to yet,” he pointed out.

If the rationisation process goes ahead and civil servants are laid offt, he said there are jobs in the private sector to absorb them. “The employment market is not as difficult to understand as a lot of people think it is,” McIntosh said. “In a country where there are twice as many jobs as members of the workforce, which as far as I know is a unique situation, the one and only reason anyone is out of work is that of salary expectation.” Stressing that this expectation is not always unreasonable, he said that if civil servants were made redundant and the salary expectation is in line with the market, there is no reason why they will not get hired.

However, he does not think the government’s plans to sell off various public entities is going to result in a loss of many jobs because it’s just not going to work, being, for one thing, politically very difficult.

“Mutualization is by far the best solution – it's a no brainer. It doesn’t involve a single layoff and converts departments from public to private entities and the employees of the department become owners in their own department,” McIntosh added, noting that the system would fit well with the existing Public Service Management Law and budget documents, which set out the deliverables. “We’re already halfway there,” he said.

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Burglar suspect in jail after crashing stolen van

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 41-year-old man from Bodden Townhas been charged with burglary after he was caught with stolen goods, in a stolen van which he had crashed in George Town. The man was arrested on 22 May after police attended the scene of the road collision and found stolen power tools in the back of the van taken two days previously from a house in North Side. The man was also accused of stealing jewellery from inside a truck parked at Kaibo before he had fled the scene in the stolen van headed for the capital. Police said that he has been remanded in custody. Police received a report on 20 May of a burglary at a house on Old Robin Road, North Side, where a Makita jack hammer anda Makita grinder were stolen. Then on 22 May a Chevy Avalanche was stolen from George Town. 

The suspect is believed to have driven that to the Kaibo area in North Side, where he then allegedly broke into a truck and stole some coins and a ring. The owner of the truck was alerted and confronted the man, who jumped into the stolen Avalanche and fled back to George Town. 

When he then crashed the van, police caught him with the power tools from the house on Old Robin Road and he was subsequently arrested, then charged with the burglary and taken to court, where he was remanded to HMP Northward.

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Tennis lessons resume at East End Primary

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(TFCI): Pupils at East End Primary were delighted to welcome back tennis pro Noel Watkins last week, as weekly tennis lessons once more resumed at the school thanks to Cayman National’s ongoing sponsorship. Ethana Villalobos, a prefect at the school, has been part of the Cayman National-sponsored tennis programme at East End for the past three years. Ethana, who celebrates/celebrated her 11th birthday on Thursday 29 May, reported, “Tennis is one of the best things of the week. Tennis and football are my favourite things at school.” “East End’s young players are carefully selected to join the Cayman National programme by three criteria: good behaviour, talent and enthusiasm,” reports coach Watkins. 

Players are drawn from all age groups. Each weekly lesson lasts one hour, with the youngsters using short-handled racquets, slow balls and mini nets specially designed for juniors.

“East End is a super bunch of kids, I really enjoy working with them and their tennis has come on well,” reported Watkins. “They can now serve and rally, and are having great fun with tennis while learning the necessary skills.” Watkins is being helped this term by an assistant coach, Aine Leonard of Ireland.

East End is not the only school that benefits from Cayman National’s generous sponsorship: Bodden Town, North Side and West Bay schools are also treated to tennis lessons, which are organized via the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands in conjunction with Watkins at Cayman Tennis Academy. 

“The youth of the Cayman Islands is one of the focuses of Cayman National and we recognise that participation in sports provides opportunities for leadership, socialization as well as development of skills in our youth. In addition they are offered an opportunity to learn new skills, while having fun interacting with their peers. Cayman National is pleased to see the programme off to a great start this year,” said Shari Whittaker, Cayman National Bank Marketing Manager. (Below: East End students with Noel Watkins and Aine Leonard)

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Catron charged over NBF allegations

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local activist Sandra Catron has been charged with nine counts of uttering false documents in connection with certificates for courses funded by the controversial Nation Building Fund initiated by former premier McKeeva Bush. When she was arrested for the offence last December, she was also charged with obtaining property by deception in connection with the scholarships for courses at her on-line training centre from the government fund, but that charge has been dismissed. The Financial Crimes Unit is now pursuing Catron because she printed and supplied copies of certificates the students would receive to government officials, at their request, before the courses were completed.

The 40-year-old campaigner was charged yesterday morning around 6am (Tuesday 28 May) and is now due to appear in Summary Court on 3 June.

Meanwhile, Catron continues to pursue a civil case against government in connection with the same issue as she says that she has still not been paid for a number of the students who were awarded scholarships and who have completed the relevant courses.

Despite the controversies surrounding the fund, Catron is the only person to be charged in connection with it. She told CNS that “four times in four years” was no coincidence, as she referred to the times she has been charged, which Catron firmly believes is because of her ongoing challenge to the local authorities over a number of issues and her insistence that the police and the public prosecutors do things in accordance with the law and because she has exposed their short comings several times.

“The RCIPS and DPP continue their personal vendettas against me – sadly I am not surprised,” Catron alleged. “At this stage I think it's obvious to any objective person as to what is actually going on. My decision to challenge the establishment has proven to be one I will continue to be punished for. However, I remain confident that justice will prevail and I will be victorious in the end as I have always been. These challenges have only served to strengthen my resolve and faith and make me more determined to hold my head high and continue to speak out for the voiceless.”

The outspoken activist has already proved her mettle in the court room against government lawyers in a number of civil and criminal cases in which she has prevailed, despite not yet being a fully qualified lawyer.

Catron has fought the authorities on a number of issues, from her arrest over a rescued dog she was accused of stealing to her well-publicised victory during a judicial review when she exposed the fact that the police were using JPs to sign warrants who had no clue what the cases were about.  Her successful courtroom challenge resulted in a change of policy at the RCIPS, which now claims officers no longer go to JPs with no legal qualifications and led to the implementation of training programmes for those given justice of the peace status.

Her public support for a Facebook page naming and shaming Cayman’s sex offenders created in the United States has also provoked the authorities as a result of the possible identification of victims, as well as those convicted of the sex crimes.

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‘Ice on Ice’ cocktail gala to benefit Cancer Society

| 28/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman's party crowd are getting ready for the coolest event of the summer. This year's 'Ice on Ice' Cocktail Party will be at held at the National Gallery in aid of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society on Thursday 29 May.  The organisers, Z99, promise an evening with some great music from DJ Jonesian, incredible prizes -including diamonds for four lucky winners – as well as some exciting fundraising incentives for the community to help support the Cancer Society's Chemotherapy Unit. Tickets cost just $39 at the door and each includes a complimentary signature 'Iceburg Cocktail', adorned with a cubic zirconia jewel, but the twist is that four will actually be prizes of half carat diamonds from Kirk Freeport.

Anyone that raises $500 by 29 May to donate to the Cancer Society will get two complimentary tickets to 'Ice on Ice' and the person or company that raises the most money for the charity will be honoured at the gala event and will also win one of a huge range of prizes, like a trip to Strawberry Hills in Jamaica, a Red Sail sunset cruise for ten, or a day of pampering at your office courtesy of Posh Spa.

"This is our eighth annual 'Ice on Ice' Cocktail Party to benefit the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and we wanted to make it fun forthe whole community to get involved," said Jennifer Steele from Hurley's Entertainment. "The event is extremely important to us and I'm sure everyone in Cayman knows somebody that has been affected to some extent. Of course, none of this would be possible without our sponsors: Butterfield, Britcay, Iceberg Vodka, Kirk Freeport, Holy Cross Hospital, The Security Centre, Personnel 2000 and Greenlight Re, so I'd like to thank them all very much."

All the money collected will go towards the Cayman Islands Cancer Society's New Chemotherapy Unit at the George Town Hospital, which will more than double the current capacity for healing treatment in Cayman, allowing more people in need to be closer to  their family and friends.

Jennifer Weber, Operations Director at the Cayman Islands Cancer Society said: “We are so excited to have Ice and Ice… with a twist!  It’s going to be a great event where guests can win diamonds and who doesn’t like diamonds?!  More importantly the funds raised at this event are going to help us help others in our community.  The money raised in Cayman stays in Cayman so I hope corporations and groups of friends will take on the challenge and support Ice on Ice in some way.”

The fun starts at 6pm on Thursday 29 May until 9pm and as well as being available at the National Gallery on the night, tickets can also be purchased in advance from the Cancer Society or online at http://www.active.com/donate/iceonicecayman  .

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