Archive for September 23rd, 2014

CIG aims to speed up Cuban deportation

| 23/09/2014 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The deputy governor is hopeful that a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Cuban government will deter migrants from trying to leave the country illegally and save the Cayman government money. A new agreement between the Cuban and local authorities, which is expected to be finalized shortly, aims to speed up the deportation process of Cubans who land in Cayman as they attempt the treacherous journey across the ocean, usually to a Central American country. Cayman has experienced a surge in migrants that are forced or who have opted to land here. But despite the increase in Cubans being detained, their repatriation has been taking longer and longer, causing security and cost problems for CIG.

Manderson, who led a five man delegation to Havana, Cuba, last week, said the talks with Cayman’s neighbour were" very productive” and covered a number of issues, in particular speeding up the process for the return of the illegal Cuban migrants.

The deputy governor said the two groups of officials discussed strengthening the mechanisms for preventing and combating irregular migration, as well as preserving the legitimacy of legal migration and observance of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. An MOU has been drafted and Manderson said there would be more discussion through diplomatic channels before it is finalised.

“We are confident that the new MOU will better facilitate the return of illegal Cuban migrants from the Cayman Islands, largely due to, among other things, a significant reduction in processing time,” the deputy governor said on his return from the three day Cuban trip. “This should deter illegal migration from Cuba and, consequently, also reduce costs to the CI Government incurred in detaining and maintaining the migrants.” 

During the 2013/14 budget year the government exceeded its budget for detaining and processing Cuban migrants, leading to an increased allocation in the 2014/15 spending plan. The authorities also had to deal with a number of security breaches at the detention centre where refugees and migrants were being held. The security of the Fairbanks Detention Centre was eventually handed over to the prison after private security employed there proved unable to handle the growing numbers and prevent a near riot and numerous break-outs.

Despite changes in Cuba, the economic realities as well as the remaining political challenges drive many people to leave the country at great risk. The ultimate destination for most is the United States and the authorities there say they have dealt with the highest number of migrants this year for a decade.

The journey that these migrants take in makeshift vessels through shark infested waters is extremely treacherous and many die on the way. Earlier this month 14 Cuban migrants were rescued by the Mexican navy off the Yucatan peninsula badly sunburned and dehydrated afterthree weeks adrift at sea. The migrants, who have now been given permission to remain in the country by the Mexican authorities on humanitarian grounds, were without food and had survived by drinking rain water. They were understood to have left eastern Cuba on 7 August in a homemade boat but the engine broke down and the refugees rigged a makeshift sail. 15 people were said to have died during the trip and two more died after they were rescued.

Many of the refugees that land or pass through Cayman have tried several times before and even when they are deported they rarely give up their goal to one day reach the US, where under the 'wet foot-dry foot' policy they can remain once they step onto US soil. If they are picked up by the US Coast Guard while still at sea they are repatriated. As a result most head for the Central American nations by boat and then to the US border overland.

Because of Cayman’s proximity to Cuba many of the migrants stop here on their journey to Honduras and under Cayman policy if they land and need help they are treated as illegal migrants and repatriated.

It has not been made clear by the CIG why the process of repatriation had encountered so many delays in recent months but the premier had stated the problems were in Havana, hence the need for the delegation to renegotiate the MOU.

The delegation from Cayman headed up by the Deputy Governor included Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, Deputy Chief Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs Wesley Howell, Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans and the deputy governor’s office representative, Patricia Stoll.

They met with the Cuban Ambassador Rafael Dausá Céspedes, Director of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who led the five-member Cuban delegation involved in the talks. 

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Cops seek public opinion

| 23/09/2014 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Some four years after its last public survey about local policing, the RCIPS has launched another initiative to gather feedback from the people. The police are inviting the public to complete an online survey about the crime in their communities and the work of the police. The questionnaire focuses on community perceptions about neighbourhood crime and policing but also encourages the public to evaluate the quality of its interactions with members of the police service in various scenarios. Chief Superintendent, Kurt Walton said the RCIPS are conducting the survey as they believe it will be more efficient for people to find, complete and submit.

“They will be able to tell us what’s important to them and the areas of business they feel we need to improve upon,” he said. “The information we receive will be analysed and taken into consideration when setting our future priorities.”

The survey will be open until November and consists of around 40 mostly multiple choice questions and takes just a few minutes to complete.

“For those who want to complete the survey but don’t have direct access to the Internet, all Cayman Islands libraries offer free access to members,” Walton added as he encouraged people to fill it in.

Also urging individuals to take advantage of the opportunity to share their opinions on the direction that policing should take in the Cayman Islands, Commissioner of Police David Baines added that responses to the survey will help determine how the police allocate resources in the future.

The RCIPS said that the 2010 survey, which was managed by Deloitte, was also going to inform police strategy. Less than 300 people took part in that public opinion poll but more than 70% of respondents were generally not satisfied with the police and the job they do. More specifically, 60% of the small number that took the survey said the police were unfriendly, impolite, and unwilling to help.

Go to latest survey here, where it will be available for completion until 1 November.

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Ex-minister in labour breach

| 23/09/2014 | 38 Comments

(CNS): Mark Scotland, the former health minister during the previous UDP government and the later minority Cabinet, is facing possible charges over breaches of the labour law alongside his business colleagues at ARCP Ltd, according to information released by the Department of Labour & Pensions. Scotland is listed as one of the owners of the firm, along with Peter Young and Justin Woods, charged with failing to pay outstanding wages. Although the officials said the cash has now been paid, the matter remains in the Summary Court. The former minister’s company is one of eight businesses that are now being named and shamed for labour law infractions that have reached the courts.

Although the enforcement arm of the labour department has been naming and shaming employers who are breaking the pensions law, this is the first list released to the public listing bosses whose labour law breaches have taken them to the courts. With hundreds of employers suspected of breaking numerous labour related laws, the eight cases represent only a tiny fraction but demonstrate some action by the authorities to hold employers to account.

Island Builders Ltd, owned by Dean and Jennifer Scott, face 106 charges of Failure to Pay Overtime Pay, contrary to section 25 (1) of the Labour Law (2011 Revision). That case was mentioned in Summary Court on June 11 and was adjourned to March next year.

The former president of the CITA, Harry Lalli, is also facing 38 charges of not paying overtime, officials revealed, in relation to his company Front Door Cayman Ltd. That case was adjourned last week until next month.

Meanwhile, the owner of Sail Inn Restaurant, Mario Rankin, is also facing 28 counts of failing to pay overtime and his case is expected to be back before the magistrate in January. Michael Witter’s M&R Construction has four charges against him for failing to comply with an award of a Labour Tribunal contrary to section 76 of the Labour Law (2011 Revision). This case is expected to be set for a trial date next month.

Aralco Ltd, owned by Winston Salmon, faces one charge of failing to comply with the Labour Tribunal and a trial date is expected to be set for that case next week.

Blue Eyes Granite, owned by George and Sally Craig, faces five charges of failing to comply with the Labour Tribunal. Their case has been adjourned sine die but officials said matters still remain on file.

K9 Security Services, owned by Sterling and Penny Rivers, is the only case on the list in which officials indicated that the 45 charges of failing to pay overtime had been disposed of and the cash owed paid.

At ARCP Ltd, Scotland, Young and Woods faced seven charges of Failing to pay Outstanding Wages contrary to section 30 of the Labour Law (2011 Revision). The labour department said all outstanding monies have been paid to employees, but it did not state when the debts were made good. The matter is still in the Summary Court awaiting further actions as per the rules of the court, the officials stated on the naming and shaming page on the department which deals with labour and pensions enforcement.

See the detials on the NPO Website here.

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Police Taser use reaches 9 direct hits and 25 draws

| 23/09/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Trained police officers have fired Tasers and hit suspects nine times now, according to the latest statistics released by the RCIPS. However, since the weapons were adopted by the service and given to officers trained in their use at the start of last year, they have also drawn the stun guns a further 25 times as a threat. Described as a non-lethal weapon, several people have been killed by police using Tasers in other jurisdictions. Last month, authorities in Florida began an investigation into the death of a 41-year-old man who was shot with a Taser while resisting arrest in Columbia County, and in July a 23-year-old ice-cream man in the UK who was shot with a stun gun during a domestic dispute also died.

There are believed to have been ten deaths in the UK and over 60 in the United States related to the use of these weapons, including an incident in the UK where a man who had doused himself in a flammable liquid burst into flames when the police fired a Taser at him.

Cayman police introduced the weapon into this jurisdiction in January 2013, and according to the RCIPS. In addition to firing the weapon nine times during various incidents, the police confirmed that on six occasions the weapon has been ‘arced’. This means the Taser cartridge was removed and fired at another target and not the subject, showing an ‘arc’ and used as a negotiating tactic to demonstrate that 50,000 volts could be fired at the person who is resisting arrest or law enforcement instructions.

Police said that they have also drawn the weapon and selected ‘set to fire', which automatically deploys the red laser dot 16 times. On those occasions officers took no further action as the subject complied with the cops after seeing the target dot on their body and aware of what could happen. On a further three occasions officers have simply drawn the weapon from its holster.

Although the Tasers are fitted with video to record the deployment of the weapon and any incident where they are used, so far this footage has never been released to the public.

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New rules: Exports to be checked before loading

| 23/09/2014 | 31 Comments

(CNS): All good being shipped off island by individuals or small businesses will now be inspected by customs officers before they are packed. In an effort to address the illicit export of stolen goods as well as what customs officials said were containers which were dangerously loaded, individuals will no longer be able to pack their own containers. The new export process starts next month and anyone exporting goods, except for major traders and customs brokers, will have to deposit their goods for export directly at the Port Cargo Distribution Centre (CDC), for inspection by Customs Officers before they are loaded.

"Customs has decided to implement this new procedure to help with the issue of dangerously packed containers which can be hazardous for Customs inspection purposes and to curtail the growing problem of stolen goods being shipped overseas via consolidated container shipments," said the Collector of Customs, Samantha Bennett.

At the moment people can pack containers destined for export anywhere, including on open lots and at personal residences. From 1 October individuals intending to export personal goods using shipping agencies will have their goods inspected first and after that Port Authority staff will load the goods onto shipping agents' containers specifically placed on the CDC ramp. The goods will not be loaded unless inspected by Customs officers the department stated. The port Authority has reserved Wednesdays and Thursdays to receive goods for export.

Bennet added: "This new procedure will allow for a more detailed Customs inspection and, we are confident this closer scrutiny of goods for export will help decrease the growing problem of thefts and burglaries on-island in the long run."

The Collector can relax the new requirement by permitting those who meet specified conditions and restrictions, including major traders and customs brokers, to package containers elsewhere. Those exporters will have to seek the Collector's approval in writing and customs will inspect the goods as they are loaded into the container, explained Assistant Collector Jeff Jackson.

Shipping agencies and all persons in the trade of shipping consolidated goods overseas using shipping containers are required to hold a valid trade and business licence for this purpose, which must be kept current. These agents also need to register with the Customs Department as shipping agents.

Direct deposit of goods at CDC will be verified by Customs Officers during normal working hours (8.30 am to 4.00 pm). Documents must also be presented to port staff to sign off on all goods received, Assistant Collector Jeff Jackson explained

For full details about the new procedure, please visit www.customs.gov.kyfrom Monday, 22 September 2014.

 

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CIG plans oil depot move

| 23/09/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The minister for planning has said that government has entered into an agreement with a consultant to help it find an appropriate partner to not only move the diesel storage facility at Jackson Point but develop a much larger facility, sealing the island's dependency on oil far into the future. Kurt Tibbetts told his legislative colleagues recently that the current facility in South Sound is dangerous as it is now in a congested residential area and in the flight path for the airport. Although Tibbetts did not say where the new bulk facility will go, he said it had to be located in a remote part of the island.

As well as concerns over the dangers posed by the location of the current bulk storage facility as a result of the development in South Sound, Tibbetts told members of the Legislative Assembly during the recent meeting that it was also impossible to expand the current terminal, which was impacting the cost of fuel.

“The government is aware of the growth restriction at the fuel terminal site, which has a direct effect on the premium price we pay for fuel,” Tibbetts stated. “It is inevitable that we expand our fuel capacity to meet the islands’ demand and to do so we must make plans to move the terminal from Jackson Point to a less developed location on these islands.”

Answering a parliamentary question posed by the member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, about how much government was paying the consultants, Navasota, Tibbetts said that no cash had or would change hands between government and the consultant according to an agreement which he laid on the table of the House making it a public document.

He said Navasota, an oil and gas expert, is working as some form of agent or broker and will help CIG find a fuel supply partner to finance and build the facility and it will then take a commission from that company. The firm was one of the bidders on the original ERA tender to supply an extra 36 MW of power to meet CUC’s future generating needs, but the bid collapsed owing to allegations of irregularities surrounding the tender.

Tibbetts explained that Navasota would not be directly involved in the development of any new facility, but would do the research to find out what was possible, practical and sustainable for Cayman.

“The oil companies need a storage hub to hold fuel in a location that is close to their buyers, along with the ability to allow timely transshipment of product to buyers,” Tibbetts said, implying that the project may be much more than a holding facility for CUC and the airport ‘s fuel needs.

Tibbetts said discussions were ongoing but nothing would happen until there has been a full discussion with legislators. “We met with them very recently … and have an outline proposal,” he said.

According to the agreement, which is posted below, the new terminal would be developed in a duty free enterprise zone in East End.

While the movement of the terminal as a result of safety concerns is unavoidable, replacing it with a major facility that could include transshipment facilities may not receive support from the wider community.

The announcement also comes as Cayman is beginning to explore alternative fuel options from its costly dependence on imported diesel. CUC is in talks with companies to supply wind and solar generated power and a firm pioneering the development of ocean thermal energy is hosting an open house meeting in North Side Tuesday about a proposed project off the coast of that district. OTEC International (OTI) is currently asking input on a planned EIA for the floating platform which could see the first power plant of its kind in the world established in Cayman.

While there has been some cautious optimism and wide community support for alternative energy initiatives, a proposal by developer Joe Imparato, which was considered by McKeeva Bush when he led the former UDP administration, to develop a terminal and transshipment port in East End in the area close to the Shetty hospital received considerable opposition. A plan for an oil refinery in Grand Cayman also proved unpopular.

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