Archive for July 17th, 2014

Trust celebrates International Day of the Seafarer

| 17/07/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): As a part of the National Trust’s bi-monthly Speaker’s Series the environmental protection NGO recently hosted “Tales from the High Seas” in celebration of the International Day of the Seafarer in partnership with the Seafarers’ Association. A panel at the event, held at the Seafarers Hall, included Bob Soto and Clifton Bodden, both seafarers and members of the Home Guard during WWII, Ora Hollebon and National Trust employees Denise Bodden and Karie Bounds. Ivan Farrington recalled how his father, Lawrence Edwin "Eddie" Farrington, had been capture by the Germans during WWII and learned how to make shoes while being held in a German camp. 

Historic Education and Development Manager at the National Trust Denise Bodden highlighted several Trust owned properties which have ties to Cayman’s Seafaring heritage, such as the Eldemire House in the Brac, Mission House in Bodden Town and Fort George, which was utilized from the late 1700’s through World War II as a maritime fortification.

Soto and Clifton Bodden shared several educational details of their training and work during the Home Guard years andof their lives at sea. Their recollection included events at Fort George, during WWII as well as the heroic Caymanian rescue of the crew from the Comayagua, which was torpedoed off our shores in May 1942. 

Ora Hollebon shared facts and stories of a little vessel named The Gravina, which was owned and operated by her father Captain William Crosby Ebanks for about a decade between the late 1930 and 1940's. The Gravina served as a lifeline between the Cayman Islands and Cuba carrying people needing medical attention to Cuba and transporting various goods, including wine from Cuba and Soto's bicycle from Cayman. 

Many of the 50 people in attendance also shared their own seafaring experiences with the audience.

“As a granddaughter, daughter and a niece of seafarers I feel proud of our seafaring heritage as those seafarers left home with so little, but returned with a wealth of experience, knowledge and funds to better the lives of their families" said Denise Bodden, “Supporting the historic properties owned by the National Trust continues to allow our seafaring heritage to have a physical presence in modern-day Cayman.”
 

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OCC lauded by Kilpatrick

| 17/07/2014 | 18 Comments

(CNS): The governor lauded good governance last week as the Office of the Complaints Commissioner was marking ten years of dealing with government complaints. Despite the current fiasco over her own office's battle to keep a record of a complaint about the management of the controversial probe Operation Tempura secret, Helen Kilpatrick, emphasized, ironically, the importance of public confidence in the conduct of government. Regardless of the conduct of her own office and its failure to be transparent over the Tempura complaint, the UK's representative appeared to be telling civil servants 'to do as I say and not as I do' at the OCC event.

“It is essential that the people of the Cayman Islands have confidence in the conduct of their government,” she said, adding this applied to every aspect of the public sector as she pointed to spending of public funds, the provision of education and healthcare to the treatment of prisoners and the management of the islands’ waste, but not it appeared transparency in her own office.

“The public should have a method of recourse when they feel they are the victims of unacceptable conduct, inadequate administration or when there has been an unreasonable interpretation of the law,” Kilpatrick said. “Where there are failings, it is essential that there is an independent body which can address these,” she added, praising the work of the OCC, led by Commissioner Nicola Williams.

The comments from the governor come just days after the information commissioner ordered her office, once again, to release the documents that relate to a complaint made by both the former lawyer and senior investigating officer on the bungled Operation Tempura probe. The complaint was dismissed by the former governor but the report of the dismissal has been the subject of battle lasting more than a year between the governor's office and the ICO that has cost the Cayman tax payer tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees as the British representative in Cayman continues to try and keep the controversial report and the details of the complaint secret.

Kilpatrick has become the third governor involved in the fiasco and has continued on the path of trying to fight the release. It is not clear, however, if she will be continuing the fight in the face of the acting commissioner’s latest direction to her office to release the relevant records.

William's office, which is similar to the ICO in that it too is an independent watchdog for good governance and conducts research into how well government delivers services and deals with problems. One of several institutions created to bolster democracy and transparency in government, it supports the civil service in processing complaints by providing training and encouragement. It also confers awards on government personnel who manage internal complaints.

"This outreach work is crucial to ensure that standards are maintained throughout the Cayman Islands Civil Service,” the governor said at the celebration held last week.

Kilpatrick encouraged the public sector to work with the OCC and consider its recommendations. In an ironic twist, she said that only timely action bolsters public confidence that complaints are taken seriously, after her office has sat on these documents for more than two years.

Despite praising Williams, CNS also understands that the current commissioner's contract comes to an end this month. Williams has served five years and so far no recruitment process has begun nor, according to members of the Legislative Assembly, has Williams been given a new contract.

MLA and chairman of the oversight committee, Ezzard Miller, attested to the high quality and high standards upheld Williams and her staff. The committee, comprising sitting House MLAs, receives quarterly reports from the Commissioner about the working of the OCC, he said.

British Virgin Islands’ Complaints Commissioner Elton Georges, a special guest at the ten year anniversary celebration, noted the OCC’s high quality of work had garnered both regional and international attention.

Meanwhile, Williams also unveiled the fifth edition of the OCC-produced Small Claims Handbook, written by local attorney and a former OCC intern, Brett Basdeo. The publication aims to demystify the small claims court process, empowering those who wish to bring claims under $20,000,

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Lawyer argues no jail for cop

| 17/07/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS):  During submissions at the sentencing hearing Thursday for former RCIPS officer Elvis Ebanks, who was convicted in May of two counts of bribery and two counts of breach of trust, defence attorney Laurence Aiolfi proposed a suspended sentence, asking Justice Charles Quin to consider the impact of a custodial sentence on Ebanks, saying he would “run the risks a police officer inevitably does serving time in prison”, pointing to the concerns that would raise and the everyday fears he would face. Aiolfi also asked that the judge take into account the impact on Ebanks’ family, his past good character and record of service. Justice Quin set 24 July for his decision but did tell the court that a “custodial sentence is inevitable”.

Ebanks was convicted of asking for a bribe of more than CI$500 not to pursue a criminal case against a Filipino national who was suspected of stealing a phone. Ebanks is the first public official convicted under the anti-corruption law.

Offering examples of similar cases in the UK, defence attorney argued for a relatively short starting sentence with the possibility of suspending any tariff.

In one of the cases Aiolfi referenced where the “facts are more serious”, the convicted policeman undertook a “course of conduct over 12 months” which was done so for personal gain.  The two-year sentence in that case, following a trial, is an “indicator of a level of sentence for a more serious offence,” he said. 

Aiolfi then cited a case he suggested was closer on its facts to Ebanks, which involved an inspector and thus a higher-ranking officer who would be in a higher position of trust. This inspector helped two people avoid prosecution though did not do it for monetary gain like Ebanks. His 12-month sentence was reduced to six months.

He also spoke of a court clerk in the UK who was convicted of bribery in 2011 for helping 53 traffic offenders avoid fines and disqualifications. He was originally sentenced to six years, which was later reduced to four years.

Aiolfi said that in these previous cases, the offences were more serious than that of his client, so those sentences should be greater.

Acknowledging that his client was aware that an immediate custodial sentence is right according to the sentencing guidelines, the attorney said that Justice Quin “does have the power to suspend the sentence, once he determines the level of the sentence”.

Citing a past case, Aiolfi added that a suspended sentence is appropriate if there is no risk of re-offending. To that Justice Quin said that he never liked that argument, finding it "unattractive" to contend that a suspended sentence indicates an unlikeliness to reoffend.*

Calling a custodial sentence “inevitable” and setting 24 July for his ruling on sentencing, Justice Quin said he would consider everything including the social inquiry report, references and case law.

Aiolfi also told the court that an appeal against conviction had been submitted.
While the Court of Appeal is expected to sit in Cayman in August, it was unclear if Ebanks’ case could be heard at that time.

It was agreed that Ebanks could remain on the same conditions of bail until sentencing — an 8pm-6am home curfew and a $5,000 bond, along with two $10,000 sureties.

CNS: * This sentence has been amended.

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Three arrested for out of season conch and ganja

| 17/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Three men from East End have been arrested for taking conch out of season and possession of ganja. the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has reported. The three suspects, aged 20, 21 and 32, were arrested on Tuesday 15 July just after noon by the newly appointed police officer to North Side Police Station for taking marine life during closed season and for the drug offence, which both reportedly occurred in East End. They were bailed to return to the Bodden Town Police Station, police said.

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FCO cover-up of child sexual abuse in BOT

| 17/07/2014 | 43 Comments

(CNS): A child protection charity found shocking evidence of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation on the British overseas territory of St Helena, a South Atlantic island with a population of 3,800. The police, which includes many English officers, was also criticized for failing to tackle sexual offenders. Residents told the Daily Mail, which has exposed the cover-up, that the island was "worse than Pitcairn" – another remote BOT where sexual offenses were found to be commonplace. However, the 83-page report on St Helena by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which uncovered a "cultural acceptance of the sexualisation of children", was never publicised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

To boost the economy the UK government has invested £250 million into building an airport on the island, which opens in 2016. But residents told the UK daily newspaper that the island would become a "paedophile’s paradise" when the airport opened, as predators took advantage of a "perfect storm" of extreme poverty, a cultural acceptance of sex abuse and "laxpolicing".

Read the full article and more here on the Daily Mail.

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Lawyer files JP complaint under new rules

| 17/07/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Despite changes in the regulations relating to justices of the peace (JPs) after a warrant was thrown out of court by a local judge when the shocking disregard for law between the police and JPs was revealed, the new rules don’t appear to have helped. A local criminal defence lawyer has brought the first complaint against a JP after the issue of the new Justice of the Peace Regulations that are less than a year old. The complaint arises out of a search in November last year when RCIPS Detective Winston Harrison obtained a warrant from William I Wood JP without executing the requisite information and complaint.

Peter Polack said he received a copy of the search warrant and unsigned information from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) after he was unable to access his client’s court file. He found that the police had raided his client’s house in breach of the Criminal Procedure Code which required them to enter the premises only after sunset.

The potential serious breaches of the penal code were brought to the attention of the ODPP, the Commissioner of Police and the Chief Officer in the home affairs ministry, Eric Bush but Polack said no one has responded to his complaint or even acknowledged it. Polack has taken his grievance to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner and a formal complaint has also now been lodged with the Clerk of Court under the new Justice of the Peace Regulations and he is not waiting on the court’s response.

The Complaint has also been sent to the premier who is responsible for Home Affairs, as well as the Deputy Governor and the Attorney-General.

The lawyer is also pursuing a third complaint of allegations that his client was not allowed to witness the search which resulted in a Summary Court order on 12 June that Detective Harrison furnish a further statement on the search.

It was in June last year that local activist Sandra Catron challenged a search warrant used to sear her home and was successful in getting the search warrant thrown out by Justice Alex Henderson who noted that the Cayman Islands Government would be liable for damages in that case.

The revelations that police had been using JPs who had no knowledge of the law, the rules surrounding searches and that the JP in this case had never refused to sign a single warrant in decades revealed a complete disregard by the police for the law. Deliberately choosing JPs with no legal experience who asked no questions the issue cause something of a controversy and led to a review of the regulations and training for all JPs began January

The recurring theme on search warrants are that the Justices have acted in a manner that the RCIPS knew to be unlawful,” Polack told CNS. “But they have continued on nevertheless because there is no sanction, oversight or proceedings against officers involved in the execution of illegal search warrants outside the lawful time allowed or in the absence of parties who are the subject of the warrant and present but prevented from bearing witness to the entire search.

“The Minister of Home Affairs and his recently re-appointed Commissioner of police are all asleep at the wheel or worse, deliberately ignoring the rights of the voting public,” he added.

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College-bound students receive Minds Inspired grant

| 17/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Two university-bound students have both been awarded Dart’s Minds Inspired William A. Dart Memorial Scholarship. Initially intended to be awarded to one student, Dart has announcded that the scholarship was again granted to two students because of the overwhelmingly impressive applicant pool. Both of this year’s awardees have completed the International Baccalaureate diploma programme. Kirsten Ebanks (left) at the Cayman International School and Madeleine Rowell at the United World College in New Mexico, USA. Kirsten has been accepted to study at Northeastern University in the University Honours Program, which represents the top 2% of the school’s applicants; and Madeleine will attend Stanford University. 

Kirsten is going to study Behavioural Neuroscience, while Madeleine was accepted into Stanford’s Human Biology programme.

Kirsten aspires to a career in medical research, primarily in the fields of addiction therapy and abnormal psychology. Last year she attended the Medical Summer School at Emory University, where she toured research facilities, witnessed surgeries and met medical staff. Her goals after university include returning to Cayman and working to improve facilities and programmes available in Cayman for the treatment of mental illness and addiction.

Kirsten has already had a glimpse of university life, after being invited to Northeastern University in March to attend the University Honours welcome programme, where she met professors and toured the school. In her free time, Kirsten has held part-time jobs with Security Centre, Kyrs Global and Eclipze Hair Design and Day Spa, and volunteers with Meals on Wheels. She is musically inclined, playing clarinet and piano; participates in Debate Club – she won the 2014 Fred Speirs Debate competition – as well as Junior Achievement, Junior Parliament and her school’s Model United Nations.

Madeleine’s areas of interest span public health, environmental sustainability and gender affairs. Her longstanding passion for finding solutions to human problems have led to her community work volunteering at The Pines Retirement Home, helping at the Humane Society and taking part in Key Club. These efforts, and her petition to requestthat the government establish sex education programmes in Cayman’s school, contributed to her receiving a 2013 “Proud of Them” community service award.

Madeleine completed her International Baccalaureate studies on a full scholarship at United World College in New Mexico, USA, where she threw herself wholeheartedly into school life, working with the school’s Debate Club and serving in numerous leadership roles such as Group Mentor Leader, voluntary tutor and Chemistry intern. Madeleine also created a Food Matters program at her school which resulted in dramatic improvements in the quality of food served at the school and improved morale on campus. Madeleine enjoys playing piano, diving and photography; she received third place in the under-17 photography category at the National Cultural Foundation of the Arts Festival.

“We are thrilled to welcome Madeleine and Kirsten to the Minds Inspired family,” says Mark VanDevelde, Chief Executive Officer for Dart Enterprises Ltd. “Their talents, experiences and interests are varied, yet both young women are clearly driven by a desire to improve their communities. We are excited to support them as they continue their academic pursuits and are proud they have been accepted to such world-class institutions. We look forward to hearing of their accomplishments in the years to come and to seeing the many beneficial changes they are sure to effect in Cayman’s society.”

The Minds Inspired initiative includes, in addition to high school and university scholarships, an annual Mathematics Challenge and supports on-island events that share the goal of shining a light on STEM education in Cayman, such as the STEM conference held at UCCI and the Rotary Central Science Fair.

The Minds Inspired programme supports the Dart family’s philosophy of promoting education and fostering academic excellence in math and science. The Dart Group believes that mathematics and science are fundamental building blocks for both academic and career success.

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Officials prepare for potential virus outbreak

| 17/07/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Two residents of Savannah have become the latest patients suspected of contracting either dengue fever or the chikungunya virus. Public health officials also confirmed that the a fourth blood sample tested for chikungunya from a a patient in Cayman Brac was also positive for the virus. All three patients who contracted the illness had travelled to countries where the virus is now taking a hold. Two had been to Guyana and one to the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, public health organised a meeting with various government departments at the Cayman Islands Hospital earlier this month to discuss control measures, testing protocols and contingency planning in preparation for a possible outbreak locally.

Along with health officials representatives from the mosquito research and control, environmental health, customs, agriculture and the department of tourism were present. Health minister Osborne Bodden said that he was confident that with cooperation and regular communication the public sector would succeed in its efforts to control the disease in the Cayman Islands.

The Cayman Islands confirmed its first travel associated case of chikungunya on 30 June and has seen three confirmed imported cases since. Officials urged travellers to see a doctor at once, if they experience joint pains, fever and vomiting within two weeks of returning from another Caribbean country or south-east Asia. More than two dozen countries in the region have reported cases of the viral, mosquito-borne illness.

As a preventative measure the public is also asked to remove anything that might hold standing water from around their properties.

Both dengue and chikungunya are transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and symptoms of dengue include fever, headache, muscle aches, joint pains, pain behind the eyes, and rash.  Among chikungunya symptoms are fever, joint pains, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. While joint pain is predominant in chikungunya, as muscle pain is in dengue, both illnesses share some clinical signs that can be misdiagnosed. For this reason, patients with these symptoms are investigated for both dengue and chikungunya. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) also tests, blood samples for both viruses.

Regional updates can be accessed by visiting the CARPHA website on http://carpha.org/What-We-Do/Public-Health-Activities/Chikungunya and US updates can be had by accessing CDC  on http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/united-states.html.

To determine if the country to which you are travelling has chikungunya, please contact the Public Health Department at 244-2648

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Bush condemns ‘hypocrisy’

| 17/07/2014 | 36 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader has said the premier's announcement that he won't be pursuing the promised electoral reform agenda is all the more hypocritical because of the amount of energy he gave to the idea when the UDP held the reins of government. McKeeva Bush said that when Alden McLaughlin was in opposition he dedicated all of his energies to 'one man, one vote (OMOV) and attempting to derail the government by colluding with Duncan Taylor, the former governor, in what Bush described as "undemocratic antics". The veteran politician said while he was trying to put the country on a sounder footing, McLaughlin was using electoral reform to disrupt his administration.

Yet now that the PPM leader has become premier, with twelve MLAs on the government benches (not counting the speaker) out ofa total of 18 members and in a position to implement change, he appears to have abandoned plans for electoral reform.

Bush told CNS Tuesday, "All my energies were focused on trying to get our country on sounder footing with projects that were good, getting people employed and bigger and sustainable reserves," he said. "But Alden's energies were on OMOV, electoral reform and derailing everything that the UDP proposed. Duncan Taylor and him joined together to push us deeper and deeper into an abyss, with undemocratic antics, of which they succeeded."

Pointing to what he said were the "vindictive efforts" of the UK's representative at the time to smear him and his leadership, Bush said this was because he was prepared to, and continues to, stand up to the Foreign Office when it mistreated the overseas territories.

Comparing his own time in office to the current premier’s one year plus at the helm of government, Bush said the present administration is 'worthless' and it will soon become apparent to the entire electorate what is going on.

Bush said the decision by McLaughlin to U-turn over the introduction of one man, one vote, in single member constituencies when he was in a position to introduce the change proved the premier's "unreliability" and he said it spoke to "his character as a leader".

The whole of the PPM had made electoral reform a major campaign promise, Bush said, claiming it was an attempt to derail his efforts in moving the economy forward and to get Caymanians employed, while forcing the country to the expense of a referendum. "Now" the opposition leader said, "no OMOV and still a worsening economy."

Although Bush had held back for the first few months of the PPM administration on handing out extensive criticism, saying he would not be the objectionable opposition that he accused his long-time political foe of being, the opposition leader has become increasingly critical of the current government. He has recently taken it to task over a number of issues, including the marinas on Cayman Brac, the management of government boards and the financial services minister's cooperation over the new international regime of automatic disclosure in the offshore sector.

He has, however, taken particular aim over the hypocrisy he says is being displayed by the premier on electoral reform. During the debate on the issue in the Legislative Assembly in February, when Arden McLean, the member for East End, tabled a motion to change the elections law to pave the way for OMOV in SMCs, McLaughlin made his first public comment about the need for more consultation and the departure from OMOV in SMCs and the possibility of 'at large' candidates.

During the debate Bush said that in more than 20 years in politics he had never seen such a turnaround as that taken by the premier when he stood up to reveal the change of heart on electoral reform. Bush said he was “shocked” when he heard the premier talk about 'at large' candidates and changing the number of constituencies and warned the government that it would be held accountable for “this broken promise”.

Since then the premier has said on two further occasions that because he does not have the full support of his entire government for the electoral change, despite the PPM campaign promise, it is looking increasingly likely that the status quo will remain. While McLaughlin has implied that those objecting to reform are the non-Progresssive members of his team, Tara Rivers, Roy McTaggart, Winston Connolly, all three issued a joint statement this week saying they supported OMOVs and were looking forward to seeing electoral reform before the end of this term.

The independent member Ezzard Miller has also criticized the premier's position and questioned his leadership abilities, given his claims that his government is split over the issue as he demanded that McLaughlin lead as he is meant to do. He told CNS, that he had concerns the PPM election promises on major issues such as labour law reform, minimum wage and OMOV were “nothing more than sound bites to get elected”.

He added, “If the premier really believes it, he should lead.”

In the latest twist, however, Al Suckoo, a member of the PPM back-bench, has revealed that he will be filing a private members motion on the issue as he believes he has a duty to try and fulfill the election promise he made.

See related stories on CNS:

Suckoo to file OMOV motion

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