Archive for July 15th, 2014

‘Demented Dalek’ loses Education in UK re-shuffle

| 15/07/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): Michael Gove, once described as the “most hated Education Secretary in history”, who spearheaded a number of major reforms of education including the transformation of many schools into academies or free schools, has been stripped of his portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinet re-shuffle. As Britain gears up towards the next election, Gove’s unpopularity among teachers had become a liability. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the prime minister had “belatedly realised that Michael Gove’s ideological drive is no substitute for measured, pragmatic reform of the education system”.

“Time after time he has chased newspaper headlines rather than engage with teachers,” she said. “The dismantling of the structures which support schools, the antagonism which he displayed to the teaching profession and the increasing evidence of chaos in the bodies he established has led Cameron to one conclusion – Gove is more of a liability than an asset.

“Successful education systems value the views of the teaching profession, which Gove insulted when he called them ‘the blob’.”

A recent poll by the National Union of Teachers found that 79% of teachers believe that the current government has had a “negative impact on the education system” and more than 80% opposed the academies and free schools programme. 75% thought that morale in the teaching profession has fallen since the last general election.

Recently described by the NUT as "the demented Dalek on speed who wants to exterminate anything good in education that's come along since the 1950s”, Gove departure has been celebrated by teachers across the country.

Christine Blower, the NUT's general secretary, said Gove’s “vision for education is simply wrong. His pursuit of the unnecessary and often unwanted free schools and academies programme, the use of unqualified teachers, the failure to address the school place crisis and endless ill-thought out reforms to examinations and the curriculum has been his hallmark in office.

“Michael Gove’s search for headlines over speaking to the profession has clearly angered teachers. We remain in dispute over the direction of Government policy, which we believe is undermining the education service.”

Gove has been replaced by Nicky Morgan, the Minister for Women and Equality. While he and Cameron claimed that his new non-Cabinet position of chief whip was not a demotion, it is generally perceived as such.

However, the Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said he was "surprised and shocked that this has happened".

"I'm a great admirer of the Secretary of State, I think he's been a transformative and radical minister of education." He said Gove had made some "substantial changes" to education, which would be lasting.

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Putin and Castro brothers sign deal over debt

| 15/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following a meeting with the Raul and Fidel Castro in Cuba on the start of a Latin American tour, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, agreed to write off 90 per cent of the island’s $35 billion debt to Moscow and announced a series of oil and trade initiatives. Putin also laid a wreath at Revolution Square in Havana with Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president and for an hour behind closed doors with his older brother Fidel, the long-time former leader. Visiting the so called American “backyard” Putin said Russia was “interested in a strong, economically stable and politically independent, united Latin America which is an important part in the emerging polycentric world order.

The Russian president’s visit to the region comes as Russia has been excludedfrom recent gatherings of the G8 group of leading industrial powers. But Putin has long sought to undermine what he believes is American and Western European domination of international agencies, even before his Ukrainian policies resulted in sanctions. Russia’s wooing of improved commercial links in Latin America comes as new figures indicate the economic impact of its belligerence in Ukraine.

 

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Scouts need more cash to finish HQ

| 15/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): While progress is being made on the new scouts’ HQ officials from the organisation say that they need more cash. The building is up and weather-proofed and the Scouts’ badge has been nailed to its eave in what was described as a small but significant step but finishing the new hurricane rated building will depend on the generosity of the community. “We have had many generous donors, not only of money but of time and materials, services in lieu, and for that of course we are most grateful,” said Charles Jennings on behalf of the association. “The inevitable truth, though, is that we need more, to let us make that last push to complete this fantastic project – in fact, about CI$250,000 more.”

He explained that once the new building in Middle Road, George Town is finished it will be a centre for not just the scouts but for the guides and the Girls Brigade, and in addition will provide space for other not-for-profits to conduct their activities from. It is also a hurricane-rated structure that will be available for use as a storm-shelter.

Jennings emphasised the transparency of the appeal, stating that the scouts books and records, including all income and expenditure, are available for all to see and question.

Anyone who can help in any way, but particularly with money or supplies, is asked to make contact with the association. Larger donors are being offered commemorative plaques which will be affixed in a prominent position at the front of the site.
 

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Local footballer needs Facebook votes for big break

| 15/07/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Local footballer Jiffon Robinson is battling for a chance to play with one of the most famous football clubs in the world in a Facebook contest. With three spots left at the Digicel Kickstart Academy to be held in Barbados in October with Chelsea FC, local players battled to represent the Cayman Islands. Coaches from Chelsea announced at the weekend that Zachary Scott, Tevin Crawford and Kameron D’hue were selected out of 30 of the top players in Cayman who participated in the clinics. Jiffon was selected as the ‘wild card’ and dubbed the ‘fastest footballer in Cayman’ but only three out of 14 wild cards get to go to the academy in October.

A fourth player has been selected as a wild card from each of the 14 participating countries which hosted the Kick Start Clinics. Out of those only three can attend the Digicel Academy by winning a spot based on fan votes in a competition launched on Facebook called “Pick Three”.

James Wynne, Digicel Group Head of Sponsorship, said the firm was proud to see the unearthing of aspiring young footballing talent across the region

“With only three spots left for players to attend the Digicel Academy, the Chelsea FC Foundation coaches have selected 14 wild cards who each possess the talent required to impress at the Academy,” he said. “Every year the selections of the wild card pick becomes harder due to the amazing talent that these young players display and so this year we decided that each of the 14 wild card picks should earn their spot through the support of their friends, fans and family by getting their votes through the Digicel Kick Start Facebook competition.”

While Jiffon didn’t earn one of the top three spaces, he still has a fighting chance to go through to the Digicel Kick Start Academy with the “Pick Three” competition.
A dynamic midfielder and member of local Academy Sports Club, he has posted an eye-catching YouTube video showcasing his footballing skills for anyone who may be curious of his talent. Dubbed the “fastest footballer” by Chelsea FC Foundation Senior International Football Development Officer, David Monk, Jiffon is set on winning a spot in Barbados. Jiffon is asking everyone in the Cayman Islands who has access to a Facebook page, to vote for his video in the Pick Three competition. Voting closes at 5pm on 24 July.

How to Vote: Visit www.facebook.com/digicelcayman, LIKE the page then find the voting link on the page and click to VOTE. At 11-30am Tuesday Jiffon had the second highest number of votes and remained in with a chance to get one of the places.

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UK boss criticises local media

| 15/07/2014 | 82 Comments

(CNS): Despite being under constant threat from over 500 lawyers ready to sue over the slightest infraction, the UK’s representative in Cayman has criticised the local media as being “wholly unregulated and uncontrolled”. The governor’s office has condemned freedom of the press in the Cayman Islands as it battles to keep the lid on a secret report regarding the UK-led bungled internal police investigation, Operation Tempura. In the latest submissions to the information commissioner about the release of documents regarding the discredited probe, the third governor embroiled in this affair has attacked what she claimed is the “unregulated nature of the media”, which would lead to biased reporting about the issue.

In its fight to keep a report documenting a complaint about the management of the investigation and its rejection by the previous governor, Duncan Taylor, the governor’s office implied that the “unfounded” allegations about the judiciary in the complaint and subsequent report would if released pose a substantial risk to the local bench.

This, the governor claims, is down to the media. Her office said in its submission to the information commissioner that if the documents were released there “is a substantial risk that the coverage of the allegations will not be properly balanced by the findings contained in the lengthy report.”

The governor argued that the treatment in the local media of the complaint and report “would be likely to give public currency to the unmerited allegations they contain rather than to clarify the position or promote greater public understanding of his decision.”

However, there was no support for the allegations, which fly in the face of the moves by local media houses, and CNS in particular, to post in full all documents and reports which come into our possession on our website.

Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers came to the defence of the local media and noted that the claims made by the governor were also irrelevant, as he said the questions of access to a record had nothing to do with how that record might be used in the future.

“This would be a shortcut to censorship, and would contradict the fundamental objectives of the FOI Law,” he stated in his decision. “Either a record is exempt under the Law or it is not, but, in either case, any presumed future use of a record can have no bearing on its disclosure. This principle is stated in section 6(3), which states that an applicant is not required to give any reason forrequesting access. In the UK it is known as 'motive blindness'.”

He pointed out that in a democratic society such as Cayman the press has every right to express their views freely, including views critical of government.

“Freedom of Expression is guaranteed in section 11 of the Constitution, and the FOI Law is itself explicitly intended “to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy. It is within this democratic context that the present reconsidered decision is being made, and it seems futile to wonder how this case would play out if the media were 'regulated and controlled'.

“No doubt this would reduce the disclosure of information by government considerably, and increase the number of articles in the media favourable to Government, but that is not the constitutional and statutory framework within which this reconsideration is taking place, and such observations add nothing to the question at hand,” he wrote.

Although Cayman does not have a press complaints commission or a regulated press association, freedom of the press has been controlled in Cayman in much more subtle ways through the threats of litigation and pressure from advertisers.

The fall in revenue for most media houses around the world with the advent of the internet has also put pressures on press freedom. Few news organisations in the modern world can fund the major investigative projects which were more common in the hey-day of the newspaper, when advertising revenue in the US and Europe funded investigative reports.The media is increasingly influenced by big business and governments around the world as a result of financial difficulties, and the press in Cayman is also subject to these censoring pressures, despite the governor’s believe that the media here is a law unto itself.

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Cops treat pawn shop car blaze as arson

| 15/07/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police are appealing for witnesses to a car blaze which happened on Sunday night in the car park of a George Town pawn shop. Police said 911 received a report that a vehicle parked at 144, North Church Street (the Cash Whiz parking lot) was on fire. Police and fire personnel attended and the blaze was extinguished by fire officers. The vehicle involved was a Ford Explorer and the right passenger side of its dashboard was extensively damaged when the intense heat blew a hole in the right side of the front windshield. The fire is being treated as arson but no one was physically injured as a result of it.

George Town CID is appealing for any witnesses who were in the area at the time of the fire, or who may have information that could assist the investigation. 

Members of the public are asked to contact Sergeant Graham or DC Ryding at 516-3070 or use CRIME STOPPERS at 800-8477 (TIPS)

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Violence lands three men in hospital

| 15/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Three men who all received stab wounds were treated in hospital on Sunday and Monday morning after two separate incidences of violence. Police said that at around 2:00am Sunday morning a fight between two men at a home in Bodden Town resulted in one being stabbed in the neck and leg and the second being arrested. Another two men said they were set upon and robbed by a gang of three men and two women outside a George Town bar in the early hours of Monday morning. One of the men, who underwent surgery, was stabbed in the chest while the second man was stabbed in the face.

According to an RCIPS spokesperson, the fight in Bodden Town involved a 54-year-old man and a 38-year-old. The younger of the two received stab wounds in his neck and his right leg and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, while the 54-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of wounding and is still in police custody.

On Monday morning at 2:21am the hospital reported that two men had arrived with stab wounds. A 36-year-old man from George Town who was stabbed in the chest was taken to surgery while his cousin, who received a cut to the left side of his face, was treated and discharged. The men were reportedly at a night spot off Shedden Road in George Town having cocktails when they were attacked by three males and two females, who demanded money.

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Mac: PPM should be ashamed

| 15/07/2014 | 72 Comments

(CNS): Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has said that, with the exception of Anthony Eden, the Progressive administration should be ashamed as a result of the position the premier has taken on electoral reform. Alden McLaughlin has claimed that he does not have the full support of his government as the non-Progressive members won’t support 'one man, one vote' in single member constituencies. The premier has said it is unlikely that reform will be dealt with during this administration, despite the election promise. Bush called him a “hypocrite” who never intended to implement the change. And in a move that appears to support Bush’s allegations, the C4C members said they all support OMOV.

Earlier this year the speaker cast the deciding vote to defeat a private member's motion brought to the LA by Arden McLean on the introduction of 'one man, one vote' in single member constituencies after the debate split the government benches. Anthony Eden and Al Suckoo both voted for McLean’s motion in opposition to the instructions from the government front bench, as the premier had implied that the non-PPM members would depart his government if they supported OMOV in SMCs.

During the debate McLaughlin raised the issue of other forms of electoral reform, including the idea of 'at large' candidates, and said there would be a public discussion. However, when several front bench members were absent from the Chamber at the crucial time, the motion came close to winning the day, with six yes votes and six no's and an abstention from the opposition leader. The speaker then made the casting vote to defeat the motion.

Since then, the premier has continued to backtrack on the campaign promise that the only sure way to get OMOV in SMCs was to vote for a Progressive government, by indicating that it is his non-PPM colleagues that are derailing the process.

Speaking to Cayman 27 in an interview this week he made it clear that it was very unlikely he would be pressing ahead.

While it is common knowledge that Speaker Juliana O’Connor Connolly is not in favour of the reform, the C4C members of government have been less clear about their position. However, on Tuesday evening in a joint statement Tara Rivers, Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolly set the record straight. They told CNS that they were behind equality of voting and were looking forward to electoral reform during this administration, flying in the face of claims by the premier.

“As the minority members of the PPM led coalition government, we are and have always been committed to the principle of equality of franchise and to implementing the concept of 'One Man, One Vote' in the Cayman Islands in time for the 2017 General Election,” the three C4C members stated. “We support, encourage and look forward to voting on electoral reform prior to the next General Election and support the premier and the government making this a priority."

But with the premier stating that not only is this not a priority and unlikely to happen at all, the opposition leader, who has always rejected OMOV in SMCs as he believes Cayman is too small, has accused McLaughlin of never backing the voting change and merely riding the coat tails of the campaign during 2012 in response to the referendum.

"It is no surprise that the current premier has backtracked on his campaign promise to implement OMOV,” Bush told CNS Monday. “Everybody knows he is a hypocrite and never had any intention to do so. He never supported OMOV from the beginning. Alden McLaughlin rode the coat tails of the OMOV movement before and during 2012, just like he has always been riding Kurt Tibbetts' coat tails to get elected from day one. The latest statement proves his unreliability and speaks to his character as leader. How can he be trusted?” the opposition leader asked.

Bush said the premier would say and do anything for political power, but he was proving to the world who he really is. “People are seeing the real Alden now,” he added.

Describing the premier as “duplicitous and hypocritical”, he said it was not just McLaughlin who was failing to keep his word to the people but the PPM party as well.

“The whole PPM made this OMOV a major campaign promise to try and derail my efforts in moving the economy forward and get Caymanians employed, while forcing the country to the expense of a referendum in July 2012,” Bush lamented. “Now all of them look to be running for cover by forgetting all the promises made at every opportunity to the country, all of them except Anthony Eden should be ashamed, and the people finally must see them for the lily-white charlatans that they are … Now no OMOV. And still a worsening economy. Why have are all the promoters of OMOV gone quiet?" he queried.

Along with Eden, Al Suckoo also voted with McLean on his motion during the debate in the LA in February and he is still giving his full backing to voting reform. Regardless of what has been said by McLaughlin in an interview, Suckoo said Monday that he was not aware of any decision to not move forward with electoral reform.

“I am operating on the understanding that we will discuss this in caucus and decide on the way forward with SMC, OMOV and at large members,” he said. “I assume the premier is giving his personal opinion and not making an official statement but I have been off island for a week and I am not aware of any discussions that took place in my absence, so I will wait to hear more from Caucus,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ezzard Miller, who seconded McLean’s motion and was, alongside McLean, a leader in the referendum campaign, told CNS that he was not at all surprised by the premier’s comments.

He said, “I am not shocked nor surprised by the premier’s revelation that he has no definitive plans to introduce OMOV in SMCs in time for the next elections,” he said. “I have never been convinced that the PPM really, truly, genuinely supported or wanted OMOV.”

The independent member for North Side said that at every opportunity they found someone to blame for not doing it and he described their election promise as mere sound bites to get elected.

“The premier needs to stop hiding behind this idea that ‘someone is stopping it’. He needs to lead,” Miller said. “He needs to name the people in his government that are so powerful that they can override the manifesto promise.”

Although McLaughlin has signalled his reluctance now to press ahead with any kind of reform, the leader of the country will still have to face the debate on what may become the single most damaging decision of his administration as the pressure for change within as well as outside the PPM remains strong.

McLean, who brought the recent motion and the man who made it clear that he believed that McLaughlin has never supported OMOVs in SMCS during his impassioned debate, has said he will continue on his campaign.

He told CNS, “I will be re submitting the motion that did not receive definitive resolution in January. A definitive conclusion is required to close this chapter in our political life. All will get that opportunity soon,” he added.

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