Archive for October 7th, 2014

West Bay Rd campaign seeks funds for legal battle

| 07/10/2014 | 76 Comments

(CNS): Four West Bay women who are leading the charge to reclaim a stretch of the West Bay Road, which was closed and given to Dart as part of the controversial ForCayman Investment Alliance, are seeking to raise funds for their forthcoming court appearance. Despite a setback in the lower court, where the merits or otherwise of their case were never considered because their application was ruled out of time,  Alice Mae Coe, Annie Multon, Ezmie Smith and Betty Ebanks believe they have a strong case for appeal due to the uncertainty surrounding when the deal became official. The case is set for 5 November and the women need funds to help them meet their mounting legal bill.

As this was a significant public interest case, as a result of how the road was divested and because the crown land involved has been a by-way for over 100 years, the women were able to get legal aid to assist in their case in the lower court.

However, the appeal must be funded privately, and with just four weeks to go before the case will go before the winter session of the Cayman Island Court of Appeal, the women are asking those who back the cause to reclaim the road to help them if they can.

Explaining why they are continuing to fight for the road, the women said that it will be to everyone's advantage to have this section of the 'People's Road' re-opened.

“It has greatly affected many of the taxi drivers, our elderly citizens and many others who have practically been cut off from going to and from West Bay and George Town as they are not familiar with the West Bay highway and want to continue using the coastal road,” they said.

Fighting a number of human rights issues regarding beach access and the use of the original continuous coastal route, as well as their concerns that the deal with government and Dart was made behind closed doors and did not represent value for money for Caymanians, the campaign, they say, is about much more than retaining several thousand feet of tarmac.

They said the closure has impacted and inconvenienced many local people but also overseas visitors, and hundreds and thousands of cruise ship passengers who were once able to use and enjoy that particular section of Cayman’s famous West Bay Road along 7-Mile Beach to go swimming and enjoy the beach. ,

“The closure of this section of road has caused no end of over-crowding elsewhere at familiar beaches in other areas; including 'Smith Barcadere' in South Sound,” the women noted in their appeal to the community. 

“Everyone knows that two road accesses to anywhere is certainly much better than just having one; and many of us Caymanians, residents and visitors alike, much prefer to use that familiar section of the West Bay Road to see and enjoy the sea, the beautiful scenery, and sunset there,” they added.

Hoping that there are many more quiet supporters, the women are appealing to all Caymanians and residents to help win the appeal and regain access to the road.

Anyone who can assist is asked to make their kind and generous financial contributions urgently and before 5 November to help defray the legal costs of the appeal to BANK OF BUTTERFIELD, Account No.  136 142 702 0011.

The stretch of West Bay Road was closed and gazetted in March 2013 but talks between the previous interim administration and the developer collapsed regarding the wider deal and the gazetting of a further stretch of the road just weeks ahead of the general election in May.

Although the PPM government picked up those talks following the election, they had a number of concerns about the ForCayman Investment Alliance, in particular the accommodation tax concessions. Despite comments several months ago from the premier that things had moved beyond the earlier impasse, there have been no further announcements from either side since early June, leaving the deal in partial limbo.

Dart is pressing ahead with the new beachfront resort it is constructing next to public beach on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott, which will see a stretch of the former West Bay Road become part of the footprint of the new resort. However, the second stretch has still not been gazetted and the promised enhancements to the existing Seven Mile Public Beach and boardwalks appear to be considerably more limited than the developer had originally indicated.

See details of the West Bay Road Campaign appeal below.

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Cox: Mac did nothing wrong

| 07/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former premier’s defence attorney spent some four hours presenting his closing argument Monday, as the trial of McKeeva Bush for abusing his government credit card drew to a close. Addressing the jury and a packed courtroom, Geoffrey Cox QC said that Bush had done nothing wrong because there was no rule prohibiting cash withdrawals on the CIG card but there was a witch hunt to remove him from the premiership by the former governor, Duncan Taylor. Painting a picture of a veteran politician who had spent a lifetime working for the people of Cayman, the attorney said the “abiding emotion” that Bush should find himself before a court was “sorrow”.

Cox said that far from proving guilt, almost all of the crown’s civil service witnesses, with the exception of Franz Manderson, had given evidence that proved Bush was not guilty of the charges. They had all said that there was no policy in place and no rule to break about the personal use of the CIG card.

Spending a significant part of his speech to the jury emphasising the lack of a formal policy or specific rule that prevented the personal use of government credit cards, Cox said Bush could not be guilty of breaking the rules when he had followed the rules. To prosecute him two and a half years later, when no one had ever said at the time it was wrong, was simply unfair, the lawyer said.

Cox spoke at length about what he said was a lack of any prohibition against taking cash on the government credit card. He also suggested to the jury that, as there was no rule to prevent cash withdrawals, there were no strings attached to the use of any cash which was taken on a government card. The only rule, he said, was that it should be paid back and government should not be short-changed. Admitting that some of the money Bush withdrew on his card may have found itself in slot machines, he said that this was still not a crime.

The lawyer said Bush had followed the rules established to deal with any personal use of the card and all of the civil servants in his office had helpedhim to do that. Not one of them ever said a word or advised him against it until the policy was implemented in July 2010 and Bush stopped any further personal use. He said Bush was honest with his staff about his personal use and had marked it off and had even gone as far as giving blank cheques to ensure that his use was paid.

As he emphasised the fact that there was no prohibition against personal use, Cox claimed that “everyone was doing it” and said there was no difference whether the personal use was for an expensive Swiss watch or for cash to put in slot machines.

He added that for two and a half years nothing at all was said to the former premier about the alleged misuse which he had never tried to hide. No civil servant ever indicated there was anything wrong. Cox noted that the civil servants were the people with a legal responsibility to advise the premier but they had never once pulled him up about it. Furthermore, he said, they had helped it happen by creating the system to identify his personal use and pay it back. Not a single other person, he noted, had ever been censored, or received “so much as a slap on the wrist”, despite what Cox suggested was the extensive personaluse by many other senior civil servants and ministers, until Bush came under investigation in 2012.

And it was to the conspiracy theory that Cox turned when he said this was why the use of the card was suddenly an issue for the former premier.

Describing the behaviour of the then governor Duncan Taylor as both disgraceful and unconstitutional, Cox delivered a dramatic attack on what he called Taylor’s cynical behaviour in his attempt to bring a democratically elected politician down.

Cox, who is also a UK government backbench MP as well as an attorney, said he was embarrassed to read the emails that had been sent by the former Cayman governor to the FCO bureaucrats regarding their advice to the overseas territory’s minister about the Bush case.

Nevertheless, he read extensively from the correspondence and said Bush was right that there was a political witch hunt against him and the emails proved it. Cox said the emails demonstrated that there was a “personal vendetta” against Bush and an attempt to bring the maximum damage against a sitting premier. He said that far from being objective and detached, he was manipulating the progress of the investigation and seeking ways to expose what Bush and turn his political colleagues against him, all before the election in May 2013.

The lawyer told the jury that if anyone had misconducted themselves in public office it was those who taken part in a “plot of breath taking proportions” and “orchestrated and planned the subversion of a democratically elected premier”.

Raging against the governor, he illustrated the damage done to Bush by the false allegations of theft, which were later quietly dropped. He said the governor had told Bush's political colleagues that the case against him was very strong, when in fact there was no case at all, Cox said.

Describing what he called Taylor's manipulation of public opinion as disgraceful, he said the former governor had asked his FCO colleagues to tip off members of the British press and had spoken about also tipping off local journalist over other charges that Cox said were never brought.

Cox also read out what appeared to be Taylor’s concern that the charges would not happen before the election and the governor’s evident eagerness to see Bush charged in at least one of the cases that the police were investigating, in particular the credit card case, before the national poll.

As he drew his long speech to a close, the attorney said the “overwhelming evidence proves he is not guilty or dishonest”. “Mac Bush is an innocent man,” he said, as he indicated that he was confident the jury would see through what was happening.

When Coxconcluded his closing statement, the presiding judge, Justice Michael Mettyear, indicated that he would give his summary of the case and directions to the jury on Wednesday before sending them to deliberate.

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