Archive for November, 2014

Fourth man was with missing local fishermen

| 28/11/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that 49-year-old Donald Jennison from Flankers, Saint James, in Jamaica was on board a boat that went missing in September, as well as three Caymanian men whose names were made public previously. Police renewed their appeal for information Friday after more than two months with no sightings of the West Bay residents Alton Eddie Philips, Ray Kennedy Smith and James Michael Ebanks Snr, who left Cayman in a yellow 28 foot canoe.  The police now believe that the vessel departed from the North West Point area of West Bay sometime between 7 and 11pm on Friday 12 September. The boat was powered, it is believed, by an 85 HP Yamaha engine.

The men were scheduled to return Sunday 14 September but never appeared, and on Monday 15 September a family member of one of the boaters made a report to police. Officers from RCIPS Joint Marine Unit (JMU) notified Port Authority and ships within the shipping lanes transiting the Cayman area.

The US and Jamaican coast guards were also notified, in addition to Interpol, through which notices were sent throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. Searches by JMU in Cayman waters were done using drift pattern calculations based on the currents but the boat was not seen.

RCIPS officers also spent four days in Jamaica conducting enquires alongside the local police about the missing men and the RCIPS is now fairly confident that Jennison was also on board with the three Caymanians.

Police said that investigations to date have not revealed any evidence of their whereabouts.

The RCIPS continues to meet with the families and are still trying to determine what may have happened to their love ones.

Anyone who may have seen the boaters depart the North West Point area in their vessel on Friday 12 September during the stated times is asked to contact Inspector Ian Yearwood, Sergeant Richard Scott or PC Adrian Clarke on 949- 7710.

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Watson aims to throw out case

| 28/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Updated: Canover Watson has made an application to the courts for a dismissal hearing regarding the ten charges against him, all of which he has denied. Appearing in the Grand Court dock on Friday morning for the first time following his brief appearance in the Summary Court, the former HSA chair told the court via his attorney, Ben Tonner, that he had made an application for all the charges against him to be dropped. Following the court appearance, Watson's attorney issued a short statement to the media in which he claimed that no evidence had been presented to support the charges. Tonner said the charges against Watson were all transmitted by a magistrate Tuesday without any "examination of the merits of the case".

As a result notice was filed of a dismissal hearing set for later this month. 

"The application to dismiss has been scheduled for hearing before the Grand Court on 22 December 2014," Tonner stated. "To date Mr Watson has not been served with any indictment or with the evidence in support of the charges laid. Mr Watson has stated that as a consequence of the charges laid against him his liberties have been restricted and his reputation unjustly tarnished. Mr Watson has reiterated that the charges laid against him are baseless and that he looks forward to clearing his name and dismissing all charges at
the hearing."

Watson has been charged with six counts of money laundering as well as fraud, breach of trust, conflict of interest and failing to disclose a pecuniary interest.

The allegations relate to a more than $11 million contract awarded by the HSA Board when Watson was chair to a company for a new health care card payment system for the government’s hospital. Watson is accused of having a connection to the company awarded the contract and to have gained a financial interest, relating to a sum of some US$169,000.

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Mother accused of killing child appears in court

| 28/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Tamara Butler (37) made her first appearance in Cayman’s Grand Court on Friday morning but the woman who is accused of killing her six year old daughter Bethany Butler did not answer the murder charge agaisnt her. The director of public prosecutions told the court that there was still forensic evidence outstanding and the defence also noted that they were waiting on the results of a psychiatric evaluation.  Butler remained silent as she sat in the dock before she was remanded in custody for a further three weeks until 19 December.

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Debt turn around promised

| 28/11/2014 | 37 Comments

(CNS): The PPM administration has announced a reversal of the public debt in a move they described as a demonstration of government’s “financial prudence”. Finance Minister Marco Archer revealed Wednesday that over the next three years government will repay around $127.6 million in debt principal, reducing the debt balance to a forecast amount of just over half a million by the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year. He said the reduction in interest payments would fall to $28.2 million — enough to fund the education ministry’s entire scholarship programme. The finance minister also said that with enough operating cash to cover government throughout the entire year, it would no longer need a costly overdraft facility.

The public sector debt has long been a point of contention, with the previous UDP administration often criticizing the PPM for mismanagement of public-sector funds and driving the CIG into the red.

At its peak, government debt reached almost $800m in 2010/11. A fundamental reason for government failing to comply with the Public Management and Finance Law. Archer said that net debt ratio would fall by the 2015/16 financial year to 9.8%, placing government back in compliance with that aspect of the law. He told the LA that government would repay the existing debt at an aggressive pace.

“This will be achieved through a prudent debt management strategy which includes the setting aside of approximately $18 million of future debt servicing payments in a restricted Sinking Fund during the current 2014/15 financialyear. A portion of our future debt repayments will therefore come from this Fund instead of from recurrent revenue,” he explained.

Government has an overdraft facility and the overdrawn balance peaked at CI$22.6 million on 20 December 2013 but this was well within the overdraft limit. On 14 January 2014 the government’s operating bank account balance became positive and remained positive to the end of the 2013/14 financial year. According to Archer, government will not require an overdraft facility to fund its operations during 2014/15 and subsequent financial years, since operating cash will be sufficient to fund its operations.

"If there are no natural disasters, the economy performs as expected … the central government is forecast to have more cash in its bank accounts ($514.5 milion) than the total outstanding debt of the entire public sector ($509.7 million)," Archer said, calling it a “monumental achievement” considering where the balance lay a couple of years ago.

Given that the Cayman Islands lost 183% of its GDP in 3.4 billion dollars thanks to Hurricane Ivan, it is certainly worth mentioning the possibility of another natural disaster to knock this plan off track.

The hoped for turn around with government debt also means more support for local small to medium enterprises, with government credit grants and quarterly payments for businesses with less than 10 employees, as opposed to a single annual payment. Archer described SMEs as having the greatest potential for employment and growth in the private sector, while Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke of continuing to attract multinational companies for our private sector.

It was announced that there would be $47 million for capital investments and expenditures in the 2015/16 financial year. Thereafter, they plan to allocate $57 million and $47 million respectively in fiscal years 2016/17 and 2017/18.

These claims all came along side statements of public sector debt declining and of modest growth in financial services. In his speech Archer stated that the consumer price index is expected to grow 2.3% over a 2 year period and unemployment is expected to fall from 5.9% to 4.9% during 2017-18.

On the topic of local Caymanian unemployment rate, Archer said, "We have to be careful for whom we are building this country." He said that Cayman was currently in a "sweet spot" in regards to economic growth.

There was also an announcement that the immense leverage and buying power of CIG would be put through a central procurement office.

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Gimistory opens with local and global line-up

| 28/11/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): More than a dozen storytellers, both home-grown and from all over the world, will begin spinning their yarns and telling tall tales this weekend as one of Cayman’s favourite free festivals opens Saturday. Gimistory begins its more than week-long tour of the Cayman Islands on West Bay public beach. This year's Gimistory will feature seasoned international tellers, such as Ken Corsbie, Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Mighty Gabby, Edgar Ortiz, Lord Relator and Blacksage, alongside local tellers, such as Dexter Bodden, Matt Brown, Jevaughnie Ebanks, Priscilla Pouchie, and for the first time, Martin Keeley and Colin Wilson. 

Quincy Brown will be making a special appearance at the Cayman Cabana event on 2 December, when Gimistory will also host a special youth event for some emerging local stars, including Vitoria Buttrum, Dairilys Ebanks, Zariah Anglin, Olivia Zimmer, Dior Seymour, Tahiti Seymour and Layah Ebanks.  

This year the East End Gimistory venue has moved to Colliers Beach and will take place on Wednesday December 3 at 7pm.  There will be a free shuttle bus running from East End Public Beach to Colliers Beach.  The first bus is at 6.15pm and runs every 15 minutes until 7pm. The bus will then make one return trip at the end of the show.

Fried fish and frittas will be on sale each night of the festival this year, as well as other local dishes and heavy cakes plus complimentary swanky.

Gimistory began in 1998 and is acclaimed by many who have attended other storytelling festivals in North America, the UK and elsewhere as being among the best in the world.  Audiences fill the picturesque venues – beaches, backyards and parks – to enjoy this annual festival, which has become the official start of Cayman's "winter" season.

Listed below is a full schedule of all the Gimistory events for 2014. For more information please call 949 5477 or email culture@candw.ky.

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Job ads still excluding locals

| 28/11/2014 | 136 Comments

(CNS): Although the government was upbeat this week about the projected fall in unemployment over the next two years, the recent announcements over bank closures and other major layoffs of local workers are compounded by ongoing problems for job seekers. CNS is continuing to highlightthe day to day problems faced by local qualified job seekers. But with almost 20,200 valid work permits held by overseas employees jobs, ads are still being posted in the press that are clearly tailored to existing permit holders and designed to deter local applicants. One such ad causing a significant stir on social media this week was posted on the NWDA job portal.

However, when CNS queried the continued infractions regarding the recruitment practices of some employers, the National Workforce Development Agency said they are working hard on quality control of the ads and asking employers placing job vacancies that don’t appear to comply with industry norms to re-think the requirements.

Officials from the government’s work agency said that an ad on its site for a full time admin clerk paying a maximum of $24k that required an MBA or computer science masters was overlooked and a spokesperson apologized for the chain of events that led to the vacancy being posted without modifications.

“This marks a singular, isolated incident among the many job postings – now totalling 268 live postings as of 27 November,” the agency said in a statement to CNS. “The agency makes every effort to provide quality control measures for these listings and to match these listings against industry norms in order to ensure that the posting is one where able and ready Caymanians have the ability to effectively compete.  If there are mismatches … or if the employer presents a job listing which represents a clear breach of the Labour Law or the Gender Equality Law, then NWDA staff will work with the employer to ensure compliance with the law and to help the hiring manager think more clearly about the ways that their job tasks can be more accurately reflected.”

The NWDA admitted that, as a growing agency, it was still experiencing learning curves over the procedures necessary to screen the increased volume of job postings. This ad, it stated, was an error but also a learning experience. 

“One of functions of the NWDA is to allow our clients to have access to job listings that match their qualifications against an employer’s needs, and job applicants who are interested in applying for a job can then be considered on a competitive, equal footing with foreign workers,” the NWDA said, adding that it will not post jobs in future that give an unfair advantage to a non-Caymanian or have unreasonable expectations for local applicants.

However, despite the efforts of the new agency to help the advertisement process employers are required to go through before getting a permit, this is still being manipulated.

Sandra Catron posted a copy of the job that had required the MBA for the admin clerk on Facebook, which generated considerable incredulity in the community. She told CNS that it was difficult to believe it wasn’t tailored for a particular individual.

“What company needs an accountant, administrator and IT professional all in one person with 9-10 years works experience and a master’s degree but yet can’t find it in their budget to pay them a decent living wage?” Catron queried.

“The glaring issues with these type of adverts have to be addressed and there must be some level of enforcement. Tailoring a job for a particular individual to such a large degree that it excludes reasonable applications is unconscionable. At what point will we see something done about this?” she asked.

One person on the political front who says he is determined to do something about the issue is government back-bencher Al Suckoo.

He said he continues to be astounded by job ads that are blatantly designed to either frustrate Caymanians into not applying for those jobs or artificially raise the requirements above the salary level and expectations one would normally expect.

“It is clearly a slap in the face to many hard working and qualified Caymanians to see ads that don’t take our educational and professional achievements into consideration and instead focus on offering embarrassingly low salaries compared to the educational requirements. It is clear that more and more businesses are taking advantage of the easy availability of cheap labour and if this trend is not addressed the recent economic successes that the government has achieved will not benefit Caymanians because as new jobs become available and businesses grow, Caymanians will not get the jobs,”

Suckoo pointed out that government’s efforts to encourage development, manage public money, and turn the country around are not trickling down to local people.

“We are creating the economic circumstances where our people and industries should prosper but we are not seeing significant improvements in opportunities for Caymanians. Government must push ahead with the minimum wage implementation, complete our immigration reform and finally make the connection between labour requirements and immigration policies,” the Bodden Town MLA urged. “Some 50 years after the economic boom there still not many Caymanians taking leadership positions in the accounting, legal, tourism and technology sectors.”

He added that major improvements in education,immigration and labour were still needed.

“We are on the brink of social unrest and unless we begin to seriously address the blatant discrimination, the situation will get much worse. I hear Caymanians now talking about moving abroad to find opportunities because they believe their children will not find any opportunities here for themselves,” Suckoo told CNS.

Concerned that the issue is fuelling crime, he warned employers that those who deliberately try to keep Caymanians out of the job market are contributing to the continued social and economic problems.

See job sample ad below and the NWDA full statement.

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Sex offenders jail terms stick following appeals

| 27/11/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Two men both serving similar prison terms for sex offences will continue to serve the sentences handed down to them by Grand Court judges after the appeal court upheld their sentences last week. A local sports coach, who cannot be named for legal reasons, convicted earlier this year of having sex with a 13 year old girl when he was 29, was told that his sentence of 4 years and 8 months, despite being a first offence, was not manifestly excessive. While the term of five years and four months given to Randy McLean, who was 30 when convicted of having sex with a 15 year old girl, was also seen as appropriate as it was his second offence for having sex with underage girls.

The appeal court heard the arguments for a reduction in both men’s sentences at the same, even though they were two very separate offences, as the judges considered that the same points were at issue. Both men were a similar age at the time of their offences and their victims were teenagers. Both of the girls involved had been described in the court as willing participants but both were under the age of consent. The main aggravating factor in McLean’s case was the repeat offending, while the sport coach’s case was aggravated by the breach of his position of trust.

However, despite the efforts of their attorneys, the appeal court was satisfied that the judges in both case had considered all of the elements and had arrived at the right decisions.

 

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Local officials meet regional health boss on Ebola

| 27/11/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Although there are no reported cases of Ebola in Cayman Islands or anywhere in the Caribbean, local medical personnel and the health ministry said they are continuing preparations for the unlikely event of an Ebola (EVD) patient arriving in Cayman. Dr James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), met with the health minister, Osbourne Bodden and members of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority senior management team on 22 November to review the preparedness plans.  “Though we have not had a case, we cannot be complacent,” said Dr Hospedales.

“We must take measures to strengthen individual national and regional preparedness, which will also serve us to face future threats beyond Ebola….I am pleased with the preparedness plans Cayman Islands has put in place for quarantine, isolation and management to be ready to meet the challenge, in the unlikely event of a case being imported.”

Here have been only a handful of visitors to the Caribbean during the past five years from the most affected countries, particularly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and the chances of importation of cases from that region are remote. However, the recent incident involving a US health care worker who had, had contact with an Ebola patient who took a Caribbean

cruise, demonstrated how easily the virus could be spared almost anywhere in the world.
However, the investment required to be fully prepared for what is still a remote but very dangerous possibility can be significant and Cayman has already allocated some $3million to ensure that should an infected person arrive here, officials can contain and treat the patient.

Dr Hospedales noted the problem faced by small nations when it comes to preparations for the arrival of a contagious patient of such a deadly disease.

“As it is very difficult for small nations to be fully prepared, CARPHA is working towards the development of a Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Ebola, the establishment of which was mandated by a Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Port of Spain on November 4th, 2014.”

Bodden said he was satisfied with the preparedness measures undertaken and assured the public that the funds approved will be used diligently. Thanking Dr Hospedales for his words of encouragement Bodden noted the available regional support should the need arise. While government is taking appropriate measures, he urged the residents not to travel to West Africa unless it is absolutely necessary.

A total of 15351 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported across six countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria, Senegal) up to the end of November 18, 2014.  This is the largest and longest ever outbreak of the disease.

There have been 5459 reported deaths. A total of 588 health-care workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with EVD, and 337 HCWs have died.  The outbreaks of EVD in Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Nigeria were declared over.

There have been 4 cases and 1 death in the United States of America.  All patients have been discharged from hospital, and all contacts in the country have completed the 21-day follow-up period. 

Although there is only limited treatment for the deadly haemorrhagic virus, recent human trials of a new vaccine are said to be showing promise according to the latest international reports.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body fluids such as saliva, mucus, vomit, urine or faeces of an Ebola Virus Disease infected person (alive or dead).  Officials say that people with the virus who symptom free cannot transmit Ebola. Any person who has travelled to, from, or through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Mali within 21 days of planned arrival in the Cayman Islands will be subjected to health screening and quarantine measures on their arrival.

The team that met Dr James Hospedales included Osbourne Bodden, Minister of Health; and the Health Services Authority Senior Management Team: Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer; Dr Delroy Jefferson, Medical Director; Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health; Hazel Brown, Chief Nursing Officer; and Andria Dilbert, Director of Corporate Services.

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Police charge North Side burglary suspect

| 27/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Detectives from the Bodden Town police station have charged a 32 year old man with burglary following his arrest earlier this week in the wake of a house break-in on Monday in the district of North Side. The man who is resident of the district is expected to appear in summary court Friday in connection with the burglary. Although the numbers of both commercial and residential burglaries are causing concern across Grand Cayman, North Side endures a significant number of burglaries at the many tourist condos in the district.

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4yrs for road racing death

| 27/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 24-year-old George Town man was jailed for four years Wednesday for causing the death of his close friend, Zak Quappe (21) in a major road collision last year. Igor Domladis pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving when he admitted racing with Quappe along South Church Street as they headed home after a night out. The court heard the drivers were both doing over 60mph when the crash happened, described by the judge as “excessive speed”. Domladis, who was driving his father’s Mitsubishi Lancer, had tried to overtake Quappe, who was driving a Ford Taurus, but both drivers lost control as they took a left hand bend. While Domladis walked away with minor injuries, Quappe was killed on impact.

With a number of aggravating factors in the case, the judge passed a six year sentence, which he reduce to four years for Domladis' admission of guilt.

The smash happened in the early morning hours of18 May 2013. Although there was some dispute between the crown’s accident reconstruction expert and the report tended by a defence expert, the two sides agreed that which car had collided with which first was less relevant as both of the young drivers were racing for more than a half mile. The judge had stated that the “furious and wanton driving” by both the young men had contributed to Quappe’s death.

Justice Malcom Swift, who sentenced the young driver, noted a number of aggravating factors in the case: that Domladis had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the potential danger and that other innocent bystanders could have been killed.

He said that Domladis had been drinking but had refused to give a sample in the immediate wake of the smash and had not done so until some ten hours later when alcohol had still been present in his blood. The court also heard that Domladis’ driver’s license had expired some six weeks before the crash and the car did not have a valid inspection certificate as that had also expired a few weeks before. The roadworthiness of the vehicle was not considered a contributing factor to the smash, however, which the court found was down to the speed and the competitive driving of the young men.

The court heard that as a result of the smash a passenger travelling with Domladis had also suffered a serious injury and there was considerable damage to other parked vehicles as the two cars spun out of control, hitting a light pole, a concrete post and concrete walls. The judge said the young man was “no stranger to speeding” as he had received two speeding tickets in his first year of driving.

The judge also noted a number of mitigating features, including the significant remorse that Domladis had shown over losing his closest friend and the fact that both men were culpable, as they were racing and showing off. Justice Swift described the attitude of Quappe’s family to the incident as both “generous and very reasonable”, as they acknowledged that both families of the young men in this smash had suffered a devastating tragedy.

The court heard that Domladis, a university graduate, is a high academic achiever and was planning to do post graduate studies in education policy until this incident derailed his future plans. Nevertheless, defence attorney Ben Tonner said his client would do what he could to use his time in jail wisely until his release, when he still hopes to pursue a career in education.

The court also ordered a five year driving ban to commence on his release from jail and he will be required to sit a driver’s test before ever being granted a new licence.

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