Archive for July 4th, 2014

Clock ticks on PS review

| 04/07/2014 | 49 Comments

(CNS): The deputy governor said he is expecting the final recommendations as well as the road map for implementation on government’s major public sector reform project before the end of this month. Ernst & Young (EY), the consultants who won the contract to examine which public authorities and services can be sold off, centralized, privatized, restructured or amalgamated to cut the massive $710M+ annual spending by government, are expected to provide the solutions to a modernised civil service in matter of weeks. The firm has been engaging in consultation with civil service bosses and private stakeholders for several weeks in order to offer solutions for cutting the size of the CIG.

“I am pleased that the project is progressing according to schedule and look forward to receiving the final report,” Franz Manderson said Friday but has given nothing away on the specifics of the review so far and those areas identified for sale.

There is considerable anticipation over exactly what government will sell off, what it will cut and what the consequences will be for the existing army of people who depend on government for work. The much talked about Public Services Rationalisation Project (PSRP) is expected to cut the operational costs but there are concerns that government cannot afford to lay off hundreds of workers without finding them new jobs as a result of the impact mass redundancies would have on what is already a very tight job market for local people.

So far, neither government nor EY have given any hints about what the major changes will be, though the premier had stated at a recent press briefing that changes would begin to be implemented even before EY completed its final report. But with just four weeks or less before the report is due, there have been no official announcements on what government will be tackling first. Premier Alden McLaughlin has said, however, that there are “no sacred cows” and his administration is willing to consider any possible suggestions that would improve efficiency and the government’s bottom line.

EY has been examining information from over 80 core-government entities, 25 statutory authorities, government companies, and numerous boards, committees and commissions.  Consultation has included Chief Officers, Heads of Departments and representatives of government as well as the Chamber of Commerce, the governor, Cabinet and elected officials, including opposition leaders. 

Keiran Hutchison, a Partner, with EY Cayman and a Restructuring Specialist who is part of the consultants team on the project, said, “I have been very pleased with the response in providing operational information, as well as the level of engagement by stakeholders as they share their professional insights and contribute to solutions for consideration with the EY assessment team."

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DoT announces winning filmmakers

| 04/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): From what were described as 80 outstanding entries for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (DOT) short film competition three young students were declared the winners recently at a final screening at the local cinema.  Lia Piper, Mckayla Cupid and Raidez Perez came top in their respective division to win the Cayman…Through My Eyes titles. The People’s Choice Award went to Ayana Davis Eden for her “Caymankind Inspires Me” short film with a total of 990 votes. Winners of each division received a 1-week scholarship to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Summer Camp

Competitors submitted Beginning in films between 1 to 3 minutes long for the Junior category for ages 11 – 13, Middle 14 – 16 years and Senior (Ages 17 – 19). The competition was developed to help bring awareness to tourism, history, culture and a sense of pride about the Cayman Islands in our youth though film. It targets the Cayman Islands primary, secondary level and first year college students.

Acting Director of Tourism, Rosa Harris, praised the budding filmmakers: “It is always refreshing to be reminded that the Caymankind spirit resides in all of us here, regardless of our age.  These young stars have showed an awareness of our culture, environment and what it really means to be a part of the Cayman Islands and I believe that competitions like this help to inspire our youth to develop into ambassadors of Cayman,” she added.

Sponsors for the event included the Cayman Islands Department of Commerce and Investment, Atlantis Submarines and the Cayman Turtle Farm. TheJudges for the competition were, Ryan Rajkumarsingh (DCI), Tony Mark (Cathy Church Photo Centre) and Tremayne Ebanks (Apex Video Solutions).
 

Films are available to view here

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DoE hunting for endemic mistletoe

| 04/07/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS): A team of local and overseas experts have been on the hunt for an endemic species of mistletoe which is currently known to be growing only on Little Cayman. No one has seen this plant since 1991 and there is no photographic record – just a single herbarium collection as proof of its existence. While the famous botanist George Proctor, author of Flora of the Cayman Islands, records the mysterious parasite very little is known about it. Records indicate it is growing only within the northeastern interior of Little Cayman on its host the Headache Bush (Capparis cynophallophora) and the Black Candlewood (Erithalis fruticosa).

However, using specialist technology researches hope to catch sight of this elusive species not ut on the smallest of Cayman’s Islands but in the eastern areas of Grand Cayman.
The Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE) has teamed up with researchers from its long-time partner the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (RGB Kew), in the UK and with local plan expert and head of the blue iguana recovery programme director Fred Burton.

To try and find the Dendropemon caymanensis the team have been using a mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This is a small flying vessel with a camera which weighs less than a kilogram and is controlled by a sophisticated remote computer system. It takes aerial photographs on a pre-programmed course, mapped using GPS coordinates.

Having cleared the techy search mission for safety reasons with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as well as the Lands and Survey Department, the flights were coordinated by the Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac Air Traffic Control towers prior to take-off, the landing sites were also cleared by relevant land owners.

The Colliers Reserve and Salina Reserve in Grand Cayman, where the host plants grow were surveyed an images taken from these areas will be compared with images taken in Little Cayman to find out if the species is present her after all. Once the project is complete andthe images analysed the DoE said it hopes to determine the true status of the mistletoe across the islands.

While collecting the date the DoE was also using the flying camera to examine the current status of the booby breeding area in the Booby Pond Reserve on Little Cayman. The experts say that this new method of monitoring the boobies could prove highly time and energy efficient compared to previous monitoring techniques.

The search team included DoE’s Research Officers Jessica Harvey and Jane Haakonsson, Jeremy Olynik from Lands and Survey, Fred Burton who was acting as the local plant specialist as well as Kew’s Species Conservation Assessment Officer Steven Bachman and Justin Moat. Bachman and Moat are highly trained and certified UAV pilots with previous experience in the UK and Peru, and both are off to Burkina Faso after their trip to Cayman. 
This project was possible with assistance from the Mohamed Bin Zayed Conservation Group, which donated just more than US$3,000 to the project through a grant; the Cayman Islands National Trust including BIRP; the CAA; and RGB Kew.

For more information, contact the DoE at doe@gov.ky, 949-8469 or the Facebook page.
 

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Mac pushes for duty cut

| 04/07/2014 | 71 Comments

(CNS): The Legislative Assembly will be debating further duty cuts when the members next meet as well as amendments to the immigration law to equalize the status of foreign spouses married to Caymanians to that of permanent residents' spouses and to reinstate the special provisions for caregivers. Two of the motions were brought by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and one by government back-benchers but all three were deferred from the recent budget meeting in order to accommodate motions brought by Bush regarding the airport issues and the marinas in Cayman Brac. Bush’s motion on duty presses government to meet its election pledge to cut the duty he had placed on fuel.

In an ironic twist, the opposition leader’s motion asks the current administration to consider cutting the import duty levied on fuel to bring down “the cost to the consumer in a meaningful manner”, in line he says with election promises. Bush points the finger at the PPM over the duty’s imposition as he states that his UDP government was forced to levy the extra duty because of the cost of the high schools, the Government Administration Building and the high deficit of 2008/09.

So far, government has only cut duty on fuel imported by CUC by 25 cents a gallon and this will not come into effect until January 2015. Although the Progressive administration has said it plans to make further cuts, that won’t be until government finances have stabilized further.

The tone of the opposition leader’s motion, however, is likely to continue to stir up the animosity, on full show during the recent budget meeting, between Bush and Premier Alden McLaughlin. Regardless of the passage of time since the 2008/09 deficit, the opposition leader is still pointing to that and the high schools as the cause of all Cayman’s public finance ills.

Bush will also likely provoke argument with his motion asking for the reinstatement of special provisions for caregivers, which was removed in October when government amended the term limits to remove the seven year rollover and allow all work permit holders to stay long enough to apply for permanent residency. This means that caregivers can also make the application but Bush is seeking to allow those taking care of elderly people in particular to be allowed to stay indefinitely.

Meanwhile,a motion filed by veteran member and government backbencher Anthony Eden, backed by Alva Suckoo, is expected to raise less concern as it is aimed at addressing an inequity in the immigration law as it relates to foreign spouses of Caymanians and residents.

The current immigration law provides for a spouse of a permanent resident to be added as a dependent, allowing both to apply for naturalization as British Overseas Territories Citizens of the Cayman Islands following one year of such grant. However, a foreigner married to a Caymanian who is granted PR has to wait for seven years of marriage before they can apply for status.

In his motion Eden says the apparent anomaly has been in the law for many years but it appears to be that the restrictions on foreign spouses of Caymanians is causing tensions within the community and viewedby Caymanians as unfair treatment.

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Lost Public Confidence — the case of the ODPP

| 04/07/2014 | 9 Comments

I imagine that a number of good workers can be found among the many that work at the Office of the Director of Prosecutions (ODPP) – this Viewpoint is not about them. If anything, I hope it articulates their feelings that they’re unable to personally express. This Viewpoint is about those who work at the ODPP who collect a good paycheque in return for poor work, and those who instead of furthering the cause of justice impede it due to their undeserving, giant egos.

My personal experience with the former Department of Legal Services, now the ODPP, is that they are woefully disorganized, reckless, wasteful, unfocused, far too often wrong, and in way over their heads. They are usually stubborn when it comes to cases where it makes no sense for them to be so willfully obstinate and laissez-faire about cases where prosecution ought to be vigorously pursued. Far too often, as in my case and numerous others, they persecute instead of prosecute. Where common sense dictates that a person is innocent, they purposefully ignore the obvious, or often fail to recognize it. 

Voltaire’s famous quote “Common sense is not so Common” must be without a doubt the ODPP’s most oft used screen saver, followed closely by “Appearance must always trump Substance” – apparently, one of the greater deciding factors as to whether or not a case is pursued. The claim that each case is carefully scrutinized is laughable at best – it ought to read that the law is applied willy-nilly, depending on the day of the week, and in which direction the wind so happens to blow. 

In my case (for those unfamiliar with it) the Legal Department, in one of their more brilliant moments, wasted 21 Summary Court sessions, 8 Grand Court Sessions and 4 Cayman Island Court of Appeal Sessions over a matter of 0.004 oz of ganja (including tobacco) that did not belong to me. This, despite that 99.9% of the evidence pointed to my innocence. As some of you may recall, the ganja spliff was half smoked – if it belonged to me, as they claimed, it would have shown up in my urine test, it would have contained my DNA, etc. My urine test did not contain drugs, I was not a contributor to the DNA found on the half-smoked spliff, there was no motive for me to carry a half-smoked spliff given that I was not a ganja smoker (I was not about to gain millions of dollars by trafficking 0.004 oz of ganja into the United States), my explanation remained the same from the beginning to the end, etc. 

At the time, my case was being pursued at all cost while many other cases involving far more serious charges were being routinely lost and dismissed in the Cayman Islands Summary and Grand Court. For example, between 2005 and 2010, a total of 38 cases of possession of an unlicensed firearm were dismissed in the Cayman Islands Summary Court and Grand Court.  In August 2010, the Cayman Island Court of Appeal castigated the crown for appearing unprepared in front of the court – the case involved a firearm. One can only wonder what may have happened if the crown had devoted more time to their more important cases. 

There are some commentators who defended Director of Prosecutions Cheryll Richards’ and the ODPP’s appalling record by claiming that the RCIPS provide the ODPP with poor, sloppy, unworkable evidence. My suggestion is that they stop pursuing those cases where the evidence does not exist to convict, no matter how badly they’re itching to get their suspect. Innocent people, and there are a few among the many guilty, should not fall prey to the ODPP's convict-at-all-cost, even if there is not evidence, mentality. More importantly, I would suggest that Ms Richards use her position and influenceto demand and bring about better work by some of her staff and some of the police.

I could write a few more pages on this matter, but I don’t have thetime, or the interest. Besides, most readers understand the problem. The fact of the matter is that the ODPP suffers from any number of maladies as a result of a lack of leadership, a lack of focus, and poor choices that they continue to make, etc. Perhaps one commentator sums up the problem best:

“They too bust trying to get Sandra Catron…LOL”

This Viewpoint is in repsonse to an article on CNS: DPP not cops' rubber stamp

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