Archive for June 2nd, 2014

OMOV missing from agenda

| 02/06/2014 | 32 Comments

(CNS): Two government members and the independent member for North Side have all raised the issue that the elections law is missing from government’s legislative agenda. While the next election is still three years away, in his contribution to the budget debate Thursday Ezzard Miller raised concerns that, with no plans to address it this year, Cayman could still go to the polls in 2017 under the old system. On Friday PPM member Al Suckoo said he would be doing everything he could to lobby for the change and then on Monday Roy McTaggart, the C4C member for George Town, also suggested implementing a newvoting system sooner rather than later.

With no plans to bring the legislative changes this year, Miller was the first to raise concerns that this was a clear signal that the PPM-led government would not usher in the changes, despite the widespread support across the country, in time for the 2017 national vote. He said that if government is waiting until the 2015/16 year to address it by the time any legislation is ready the government will run out of time to implement the changes.

Despite having campaigned on a platform to introduce 'one man, one vote', the PPM leader and premier made a dramatic U-turn on the issue during a the debate on a private members motion brought by the member for East End, Arden McLean, earlier this year. Alden McLaughlin said that he did not have the full support of his entire government and he would not push through voting reform without consensus.

However, back-bench government member and Bodden Town representative Al Suckoo vowed Friday during his contribution to the budget debate to lobby hard for the introduction of OMOV in single member constituencies, as he said he still believed it was the best option. Suckoo told his colleagues that a lot had been said on the subject and while he recognized there were some different views in government and he would wait for the internal debate to finish, he promised to work hard for the reform during this administration.

Roy McTaggart also raised the issue in his contribution on Monday. He was elected in George Town, where voters had six votes in the 2013 election as a result of the growth in the electors register, which had fuelled the concerns about voter inequity. The C4C member of the government said that he too had noted that the elections law was absent from the agenda. McTaggart said if the government was to achieve a change then the law must be handled in the coming year. The second elected member for George Town said he wanted to see the debate start on how the system could be changed and warned that supporters and the voting public are expecting to see some movement on this subject.

McLaughlin has never said how many of his government members do not support the change in the voting system or which of those members are not backing the move to what most people agree is a more equitable voting system. In the face of the rejection of his private members motion in February, Arden McLean pointed the finger at McLaughlin as being the real stumbling block to OMOV and one of the reasons he resigned from the PPM.

In July 2012 the referendum returned a majority in favour of 'one man, one vote' in single member constituencies, which was still rejected by the UDP government at the time as it was not a majority of the entire electorate but a simple majority of those who voted.

During that campaign, Alden McLaughlin had raised his concerns that the referendum would by hijacked by the UDP government and he had told voters that the only way to ensure that 'one person, one vote' would be introduced in Cayman was to elect a PPM government —
a campaign promise which is looking increasingly likely to be broken.

In the legislative programme for the 2014/15 financial year, which is published in the Annual Plan and Estimated document, there are more than fifty legislative amendments and new laws that the Progressives plan to bring to the LA, but no mention of the elections law.

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Road policy proves costly

| 02/06/2014 | 51 Comments

(CNS): The public of the Cayman Islands has been spending big bucks on private paving companies to pave public roads on Grand Cayman since 2010 while the government's paving machine sits in Cayman Brac. An FOI request to the National Roads Authority filed by Cayman News Service has revealed that during this time there have been eleven public roads paved in the Cayman Islands at a cost of $1.7 million dollars to Caymanians. Officials with the NRA said the cost of bringing the government’s paving equipment would have been CI $5,000. However, they were unable to say exactly where the equipment is or what purpose it is serving there.

“I don’t know exactly the equipment’s location and I assume the equipment is being used for paving,” noted National Roads Authority Works Manager, Engineer and Operations Brian Chin Yee.

Of the eleven public roads that were paved over the last four years, seven were done by ARCP, which is owned by Peter Young, while the other four were done by Island Paving Ltd, which is owned by Hubert and Jay Bodden. Former government minister Mark Scotland was the Managing Director of ARCP prior to running for public office, however he said he relinquished his interest in the company during his time in parliament, which ran from 2009 to 2013.

Scotland has now rejoined the company.

He explained why a decision to bring the paver back was not made in more instances at the time.

“The installation we have in Cayman Brac is for the most part a permanent one, which involves machinery and personnel that would be costly to move back and forth regularly,” said Scotland. He added that the real question was whether government should be in the business of paving to begin with.

“The government uses private contractors to do their buildings and it should be the same for roads. The thing with this business is that the material-to-labour ratio is about 80 percent to 20 percent. What it means is that you can easily have people sitting around with nothing to do. This is not good for any business, let alone the government.”

He added that the government doesn’t need the overheads and it was already a challenge trying to downsize.

“As the government, you don’t want to get into a situation where you are paving just to create work for your labour force,” said Scotland, who pointed out that business is extremely slow at the moment and it is worse when government competes with the private sector.

The mMinister with responsibility for roads during the period referred to was Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, who is now serving as the Speaker of the House.

The list of Road works done from 2010 to 2013 is as follows:

2010-2011
Windward – Southward to End – ARCP
Frenchman Drive – ARCP
Elgin Avenue – ARCP
West Bay Rd-Fire Station to Four Way – ARCP
Hell Road – ARCP
Batabano Road – ARCP

2011-2012
WaterCourse Road – IPL
Conch Point Road – IPL
Clifton Hunter Frank Sound Rd – ARCP

2012-2013
Boatswain Bay Road – IPL
Fountain Road – IPL

2013-2014
Linford Pierson HWY – IPL

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Two Jamaicans arrested for illegal landing

| 02/06/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS is cracking down on immigration offences, a spokesperson said, as two men appeared in Summary Court Monday charged with immigration offences. The two Jamaican nationals were arrested on Friday in West Bay following a joint operation involving police officers from the Drugs Serious Crime Task Force Unit (DSCTF), the Uniform Support Group, K9 and the Immigration Department. The two Jamaican men, aged 28 and 24, were arrested for illegal landing and were subsequently charged. Following their appearance in court, they were remanded in custody until their next appearance later this month.

DS McDonald of the DSCTF who led the operation said, “local law enforcement agencies will continue to work together to address the threats posed by persons who enter the Islands illegally.”

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Olympic committee urges people to join fun-run

| 02/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee is encouraging everyone in Cayman to join in the annual Olympic Day run -walk, a 5k jaunt taking place on Sunday, 22 June in celebration of Olympic Day. Held annually in June the day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 160 countries to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games and as part of an international effort to promote fitness and well-being in addition to the Olympic ideals of fair play, perseverance, respect, friendship and sportsmanship. The fun-run will be the original 5K route, meeting at Truman Bodden Sports Complex for registration between 6:00 and 6:45am before the race starts on Aspiration Drive at 7am. 

The participants will proceed to follow Academy Way, turning right on Walkers Road, left onto Denham Thompson Way, left onto South Church St to South Sound Road before turning left onto Walkers Road back to Academy Way and on to Aspiration Drive to Olympic Way, finishing at the stadium.

Entry is free, and all those present will receive an event shirt, a certificate of participation, refreshments, and opportunities for performance awards and entered to win random prizes.   With over 100 nationalities represented in the Cayman Islands, runners and walkers are invited to promote the spirit of Olympism with costumes, flags or symbols of their particular home countries.

Later in the day the CIOC is inviting everyone to Public Beach to witness some of the local talent in demonstrations organised by their National Sport Federation between 4:00 and 6:00pm.  Not only can watch some of our athletes perform, but you will be able to find out more information on the upcoming activities for the youth and development of the sport.

“After a large and successful celebration last year in honour of our 40th Year Anniversary, we have decided to move the Run/Walk portion of this event back into George Town because of the road worksin the area of Public Beach,” said CIOC Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Powell.  “We have scheduled the run in the morning to beat the heat and encourage all participants to come out to the beach that afternoon to support our budding athletes and learn more about what our National Federations have planned this year.”

Registration prior to race day is encouraged and may be accomplished online through www.caymanactive.com/olympic.  The CIOC thanks Andy Bonner for all of his hard work on our website, and continued support of Olympic Day in the Cayman Islands.For additional information please contact the CIOC at CIOC@candw.ky or on 946-6984.

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MLA blames mass status grants for gangs

| 02/06/2014 | 174 Comments

(CNS): Government backbencher Al Suckoo said the 2003 mass status grants to thousands of people is still causing problems in the community more than a decade later. Admitting he was a member of the UDP when it happened, Suckoo said that the failure to properly integrate the new Caymanians has created a divide in Cayman in which both sides suffer. He said there was animosity between the Jamaican and Caymanian cultures and it has encouraged gang development. The Bodden Town MLA said it was not the fault of those given status that there were so many social issues but because there was no effort made to assimilate so many new Caymanians, many of whom had not been in Cayman very long.

Speaking during the budget debate in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Suckoo said that he was seeing the effects every day in his constituency and said that grants had created two societies that were not fully meshed. It was “a social experiment gone bad”, he said, as the local society was not prepared to deal with the creation of so many Caymanians and the population increase. He said that the gang development was a part of the failure to encourage integration but now there was even greater competition for jobs, especially at entry level, which had been compounded by the economic downturn.

Suckoo said that while working with the National Workforce Development Agency and trying to assist his constituents to find work he had discovered that although some Caymanians were not workplace ready and needed training, he had also seen discrimination against Caymanians by employers.

Cheap labour, he said, was a significant barrier to local people getting work, and while in the boom years people overlooked the workforce problems, the economic downturn required a new look as employers are not training people like they used to, creating a vicious circle.

“We now need to take a step back and re-look at how we deal with locals in the workforce and see if the policies are working and guaranteeing locals a part in future industries,” Suckoo urged, adding that the neglect of those Caymanians that cannot get work was showing up in the courts, the streets and homes.

He raised concerns about employers misrepresenting facts to get permits and urged immigration to be more vigilant as instances of abuse of the system fuelled the belief that government is not looking out for its people, just business. Aware too of employers in several cases telling Caymanian applicants that the adverts they are responding to are for work permit renewal and there is no vacancy, Suckoo reminded employers that was illegal.

Talking about the job drive which began last year when the immigration law was changed and work began on making the NWDA more effective, Suckoo said he had some success helping Caymanians get work but it was not all he had hoped for. Nevertheless, changes at the agency have vastly improved compared the situation before the work started. He said the task force which he chaired met numerous times between September and January and put forward several recommendations to re-engineer the NWDA, which have been implemented along the way. The full report is expected to be published shortly, he said.

Suckoo told the LA members that one of the most important positive changes was the interface between immigration and the agency so those approving permits can now see much more easily if there are Caymanians available for those jobs before they grant the permits. The MLA acknowledged, however, that there was still a skills gap and training was required to help the local unemployed to be workplace ready and align the needs of employers with the training.

During his contribution to the debate Suckoo also pointed to the pressing need for a minimum wage, as he said he wholeheartedly supported the implementation and was aware the labour minister was moving towards its introduction. The Bodden Town representative said he firmly believed that it would go some way to address the problem of cheap labour and competition for entry level jobs, opening up new opportunities for Caymanians. He said reasonable basic minimum pay would improve Cayman’s reputation and make it clear we don’t allow exploitation of foreign workers.

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Lawyer files complaint over early morning search

| 02/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A local attorney is putting pressure on the legal department to follow the law in relation to an illegal search warrant. Peter Polack is making a formal complaint against the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions' crown counsel on the case for failing to act regarding the possible criminal offence committed by police who executed a search of his client’s home in the Northward area before sunrise last November, breaching the criminal procedure code. Polack says officers arrived at his client’s house to execute a search warrant in connection with a potential drug bust at 5:49am on the day in question when it was still dark, as according to the weather services the sun didn’t rise that day until 6:39am.

In his complaint to the ODPP Polack points out that every search warrant may be issued at any time and may be executed on any day between the hours of sunrise and sunset, unless otherwise directed by a judge.

With the question mark over the warrant, Polack accuses police of Criminal Trespass, Forcible Entry and Neglect of Official Duty. Polack is also complaining that the crown counsel on the case also broke the law by failing to take any action regarding an investigation into what Polack says in an illegal entry and instead suggests that it should be dealt with when his client’s drug case comes before the Summary Court.

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Numbers men shot at

| 02/06/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Two men were shot at in George Town on Sunday lunchtime in an attempted robbery that police say was related to illegal gambling. The two men, who were believed to havetakings from the local underground numbers game, were in the AL Thompson parking lot in the capital when they were approached by an individual who demand cash. The victims then drove off towards Welly's Cool Spot but the would-be robber fired shots at the vehicle. People at the scene said the armed man had arrived as a passenger on a dark coloured scooter with another man. Wearing a white cloth wrapped around his face, he demanded cash from the suspected numbers men.

The rider of the scooter was dressed in dark T-shirt and dark helmet and both he and the gunman drove off west towards Eastern Avenue and Shedden Road direction after the shooting, in which no one was injured.

Police are asking for anyone who was in the area off AL Thompson parking lot, Welly's Cool Spot or the junction of Shedden Road and Eastern Avenue locations at the time to contact George Town Police Station at 9494222 or Crime stoppers at 800-(TIPS).

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Immigration creates ready reckoner for PR points

| 02/06/2014 | 26 Comments

(CNS): The immigration department has introduced an on-line "ready reckoner" which will allow people considering applying for permanent residency to work out how many points they will get and what they would need to do to reach the 110 points now required to be granted the right to permanently reside in the Cayman islands. Recent immigration law changes have eliminated the seven year term limit and the need for people to gain key employee status, allowing everyone to reach the point where they can make a PR application. While the process has become more transparent, the revised point system has been introduced with criteria that are more strict and more precise.

The development of a “ready reckoner” allows would-be applicants to gauge their own points beforethey submit an application and involves the same tool as the one used by the Cayman Status & Permanent Residency Board to calculate the points, taking potential applicants through each of the 10 elements.

Available on the Immigration website, applicants can see more easily how they can accumulate the minimum 110 points required and see other details about the process.

The department has also introduced the electronic submission of Employer Declarations for those employing Permanent Residents. It is now mandatory for all employers to submit a first declaration of the permanent residents that work for them and then they need to update the department when there is a change to any of their working conditions.

These conditions include: employment, status, and change in occupation, salary or other pertinent information. Officials from the department reminded employers that failure to do so is an offence. Although it is not clear why, officials said that holders of permanent residency are not able to submit their own declarations electronically. 

Employers who are members can electronically submit their “permanent residents – change to employment circumstances declaration” form (R17) via the IOL system. The on-line forms require the same information as that submitted on hardcopies and thereis now no need to submit a hard copy to the Immigration office. Once the electronic data is complete it will be conveyed to the department.

Customers who wish to become IOL members should visit the Department of Immigration website for detailed instructions.  Those with questions or comments can email IMM_IS@gov.ky or call 949-8344 with any enquiries.

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Seed bank grows with latest collection

| 02/06/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Some 10,000 wild seeds have been collected this year by the Department of the Environment as part of a seed bank project, which aims to have a stock of endemic species safely preserved in case of potential extinction. Cayman first became involved in what is an international project, funded by the Darwin initiative grant, in 2010 and renewed its partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, UK, last year for another three years. The Millennium Seed Bank Project aims to collect seed samples from the world’s plants and trees to store them safely and now has 10% of the world's plant species saved.

Local collectors from the DoE and the National Trust have been focusing on the Mastic Trail and the Botanic Gardens to ensure it preserves seeds for the countries unique flora.

From Wild Strawberry (Eugenia axillaris) to Satinwood (Zanthoxlum falvum), the collected seeds have been processed according to guidelines provided by the MSB. After the cleaning process the seeds were dried and the samples divided in two. One set will be kept for freezing at the DoE and the other will be sent to the Central Millennium Bank in the UK. A small number of seeds from each species were retained in order to compare germination success before and after the drying process.  

For more details on this and other news from the DoE’s terrestrial unit see the latest edition of Flicker below.

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