Archive for December 9th, 2014

Cops investigating major GT crash

| 09/12/2014 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that they are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding a major road crash that happened on Tuesday morning (9 December) in the capital. At around 10:15am officers from George Town Police Station received a call reporting a collision at the junction of Shedden Road and North Sound Road in the vicinity of Jacques Scott Wines & Spirits. The accident involved a car and an SUV, but the details of the models were not revealed. An RCIPS spokesperson said that major damage was sustained by both vehicles, and the driver of the car was taken and admitted to the George Town hospital with head injuries.
 

Continue Reading

The indirect consequences of Ebola

| 09/12/2014 | 5 Comments

10 years ago, I recall desperately seeking home content insurance with the threat of Hurricane Dean looming in our midst. Having experienced the lessons of Hurricane Ivan, all 6 insurance company representatives smiled (some laughed) and told me to come back the next week, (once the storm had passed). 

Whilst Cayman was fortunate to escape the wrath of Dean, the same reaction is being faced now by many emergency response delegates responding to the Ebola crisis. Given the current statistics, insuring health workers and volunteers working in the field is being considered a “Big Ask” and whilst most are covered for general health care and accidents, ‘epidemics’ aren’t often covered under such policies. Hence there are a number of personal risking their lives in the fight against Ebola who have no health insurance. So the question is, “How are we protecting/ supporting our ‘front line’ workers and volunteers, (many of whom are unpaid) in carrying out this heroic task? Are we doing enough?”

If the insurance concerns weren’t enough, many are facing other issues. Whilst these very workers are having a real impact on decreasing the spread of Ebola in West Africa, many who return home having completed their ‘assignment’ are not being treated to the ‘hero’s welcome’ they deserve but to fear, rejection and in some cases, isolation by their friends, family and community.

Having attended the IFRC’s Regional Ebola Preparedness Conference last week in Panama, I heard several stories first hand of Red Cross delegates who had recently been working in Ebola Treatment Centres in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

One in particular commented that returning home was more difficult then the mission itself. Another delegate from Chad was locked up when he returned home only to be ‘sent back’ to Liberia the next day. Others have returned home to “Western civilization” only to be quarantined or rejected and shunned by their communities. By way of example, Martha, on returning home to Spain was hounded by the media after her neighbor ‘exposed’ her.

Despite taking all necessary precautions (testing her temperature twice daily and being closely monitored etc.), she experienced significant adversity as did her roommate who was refused entry to his school for 21 days despite never stepping foot in West Africa. Whilst I thoroughly appreciate the global concerns about Ebola and the need to take precautionary measures, such treatment is fundamentally unjust, disproportionate and will likely reduce delegates’ ability/ willingness to work in affected countries in the future.

On a different note, countries spending significant expenditure to control their borders/ set up internal emergency response structures etc. is somewhat futile if the root of the cause, the affected countries themselves aren’t being substantially invested in (to prevent the further spread of infection).

Furthermore when so many countries are desperately seeking supplies, namely personal protection gear, masks etc, producers of such items simply can’t keep up with the demand. As a consequence, such equipment is becoming increasingly difficult to access, and whilstmany countries can afford to purchase supplies ‘just in case’, priority must undoubtedly be given to those directly affected today. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily the case.

Whilst I have already mentioned the ‘stigma’ associated with emergency response delegates and volunteers, stigmatization and racial stereotyping of African nationals is also on the rise with the epidemic.

As so eloquently put by one of the responders from Sierra Leone (JP), the battle of the Red Cross is to:

1) Fight the Ebola virus
2) Provide a voice of reason against fear and stigmatization

Similar to the post 9/11 reaction, it appears in some countries that anyone who has a connection with ‘Africa’ is considered a potential threat whilst in reality the affected areas are in West Africa (Sierra Leone/ Liberia/ Guinea/ Mali) and are microscopic given the size of the African continent.

Whilst Ebola outbreaks have been around since 1976, it is still a largely ‘unknown area’, often phrased “Fearabola”. The epidemic is largely one of fear as opposed to direct science and whilst there is a real and direct threat to those living in affected areas (in particular those caring for the sick or carrying out ritualistic burial procedures), the threat to the rest of the world is not as critical as some media outlets would like us believe. There is a real need for us to attempt to understand the reality surrounding Ebola in order to prevent further spread of fear and stigmatization.

In keeping with the theme of ‘Fearabola’, rumours amongst many nationals in affected countries as to the root cause of the epidemic is rife. By way of example, as described to a Red Cross delegate, the reason why Ebola started was because an ‘invisible plane full of witches crashed in West Africa’, others believe that ‘Ebola was spread by rain drops’ or by ‘Aid workers who want to take over the continent’ or ‘who are carrying out experiments and want to use West African nationals to practice on’. Several delegates had been chased away by locals or had their ambulances burnt and Ebola treatment centres (where they worked) sabotaged.

This sounds disturbing from an outsiders perspective, however who can blame a community when one of its’ members gets sick and are taken away by health workers dressed in ‘alien’ suits who refuse to allow them to say an intimate goodbye to a loved one nor bury family members in accordance with their cultural and religious burial practices? Whilst the reputation of aid workers responding to the crisis is slowly improving and understanding is on the rise, there is still distrust/ denial associated with these ‘aliens’, hence why decreasing the spread of Ebola is rife with numerous issues.

As JP stated, the approach by many response agencies in the field has been a ‘public health’ approach but this alone is insufficient. In the 3 countries most greatly affected, there are significant religious, ethnic, cultural and social aspects that we need to engage in in order that a humanitarian response is effective. We need to be working with community leaders, religious entities and other stakeholders who “know” their own people and who are more likely to be listened to then an outsider.

Just food for thought……..

Continue Reading

Premier suspends political assistant over charges

| 09/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The premier has suspended his political assistant, Kenneth Bryan, after he was charged in connection with an altercation in a night club car park in October. Bryan, who denied the charges when he spoke to CNS Monday, said he was looking forward to clearing his name and getting back to his job. Alden McLaughlin announced in the Legislative Assembly that he was placing Bryan on required paid leave. In response to questions from the opposition leader regarding why, given that Bryan is a political appointee and not a civil servant, he should have to be placed on leave, the premier said it was best to mirror what happens in the civil service.

Although paid for by the public purse, Bryan, a former political candidate, is one of just three political appointments in the premier’s office on contracts and not strictly subject to the civil service regulations. But the premier said that after discussions with the top civil service management, it was decided this was the best course of action.

“It was determined that the best course and the most obvious and fair course was to mirror what is done to civil servants when there are matters such as this,” he said, adding that he was placed on leave in same way as other civil servants under investigation.

However, there are no questions regarding Bryan's conduct in office; the charges relate to Bryan cursing at an on-duty police officer who was arresting the wrong man.

It is understood that the former TV reporter and PPM party member was assisting an off-duty police officer, who was being harassed and threatened by a former boyfriend and came to Bryan for assistance.

In the course of the arguments other people became involved, and when the police arrived they appeared to jump to the wrong conclusions. Bryan attempted to set the record straight, and although he was not involved inany violence, because he swore at an officer he was arrested and subsequently charged with assault.

Bryan is expected to make his first court appearance in January.

Continue Reading

Police confirm cop who left scene of crash resigned

| 09/12/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): As public focus remains on the continuing revelations about wrongdoing among government employees and the consequences, as well as the recruitment of people without proper background checks, the police have recently confirmed that an officer who left the scene of an accident last year was convicted and left the service. The 54-year-old officer was never named but an RCIPS spokesperson said last week that the driver in a smash which happened in Ithmar Circle, George Town, in September 2012, who was at the time a serving police officer, resigned ahead of his prosecution for a list of driving offences.

"The officer mentioned was charged and convicted on June 6, 2013 for the offences of Careless Driving, Leaving the scene of an accident, driving without insurance and using a vehicle without a certificate of road worthiness," the RCIPS spokesperson said. “He subsequently resigned from the RCIPS before his conviction in court.”

The police did not say what damage was caused when the off-duty officer crashed or what type of vehicle he was driving, but he was suspended at the time from driving police vehicles.

Continue Reading

Corruption reporting urged

| 09/12/2014 | 57 Comments

(CNS): Although facing a firestorm himself over the recruitment of a former Jamaican cop charged with murder to the RCIPS, Police Commissioner David Baines is urging the community to report any evidence they have of corruption in the Cayman Islands. Marking the United Nation’s International Anti-Corruption Day on Tuesday, Baines released a short public statement about the issue and asked people to assist the Anti-Corruption Commission, which he chairs, by speaking up. The statement was released the day after the premier said he would be discussing with the governor the “shocking” revelation over the recruitment of the officer, who was convicted of killing a suspect in Jamaica during an investigation.

The premier has not yet joined the chorus of voices calling for Baines to resign but instead urged his political colleagues Monday to exercise restraint after many of them have, both publicly and behind closed doors, called for Baines to go.

Nevertheless, Baines remains in his post as police commissioner and also as chair of the ACC.

In the statement (posted below in full) he said that Cayman, like most jurisdiction,s has been exposed to corruption in many forms and on various levels. But so far the RCIPS Anti-Corruption Unit has succeeded in just one conviction, and despite the continued widespread allegations and recent charges and suspensions in high places, securing the evidence against those accused has proved very difficult for what is one of the smallest and underfunded units in the RCIPS.

Elvis Ebanks, a former police officer, was found guilty of soliciting a bribe in exchange for not investigating a possible phone theft. But having appealed the conviction, he was immediately released on bail and has not yet served any of the three year sentence he was given earlier this year.

Although others have been arrested under the anti-corruption law and some cases are continuing, others were prosecuted under different legislation. Edlin Myles, the former deputy chair of the National Housing and Development Trust, was originally charged with corruption offences but they were not continued. He was charged and found guilty of deception and received a six month jail term, but he has also been on bail since the sentencing in June pending his appeal against the conviction.

The former premier, McKeeva Bush, was also charged under the anti-corruption law in relation to the alleged misuse of his government credit card when he drew cash in casinos to play the slots in Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Florida. However, Bush, amidst much publicity regarding the revelations at trial, was cleared on all counts by a jury in October.

“The corrupt practices and behaviours we have witnessed have affected us all,” Baines said in his statement Tuesday. “They have caused us to become angry, shameful and embarrassed; they have caused us to question some of our public officials, and they have brought unwanted attention to our islands.

“Being able to combat corruption is an important part of any jurisdiction’s quest to promote and encourage democracy. Whilst the Anti-Corruption Commission is responsible for the administration of the Anti-Corruption Law, the Commission cannot properly discharge its duties without your help. The Commission needs you to speak up, to take a stand, to report corruption. If you have sound evidence or solid information about corruption-related offences, in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Law, you have a part to play,” he said, as he urged people to break the corruption chain in line with the UN’s theme for this year.

Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon and many activists still believe and accuse Cayman and other offshore jurisdictions of facilitating corruption as a result of the secrecy laws surrounding the financial system. Cayman continues to deny that it is any more likely to harbour the ill-gotten gains of corruption than any other jurisdiction but it remains under fire.

In his own statement about the issue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “To dismantle corruption’s high walls, I urge every nation to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Corruption. Its ground breaking measures in the areas of prevention, criminalization, international cooperation and asset recovery have made important inroads, but there is much more to do.”

The UN believes attitudes on corruption are changing and that as recently as ten years ago corruption was only whispered about. Now there are signs of growing intolerance toward corruption and more and more politicians and chief executives are being tried and convicted, the organisation stated.

According to global estimates, every year over one trillion dollars are paid in bribes, while an estimated $2.6 trillian is stolen through corruption. In developing countries, the United Nations Development Programme said that funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

The latest Transparency International report on the Corruption Perception index reveals that the top five most corrupt countries are Somalia, North Korea, Sudan, Afghanistan and South Sudan. The least corrupt countries in 2014 are Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway and, ironically given its reputation for banking secrecy, Switzerland.

To report corruption in Cayman call the confidential reporting line on 928-1747.

For more information on the Anti-Corruption Commission or anti-corruption efforts visit the website at www.anticorruptioncommission.ky or call 244-3685.

See the latest local anti-corruption commission annual report here.

Continue Reading

Robbery suspect jailed after charge

| 09/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 39-year-old man from Bodden Town who was arrested in connection with a knife-point mugging in the Countryside Shopping village car park last week has been remanded in custody to HMP Northward following charges and a Summary Court hearing over the weekend. The man has been charged with robbery following the mugging at around 5:00 Thursday evening, when he threatened a woman who was with her two youngchildren with the knife and demanded cash before making off on foot. He was arrested a short time later.

Continue Reading

Ebanks acquitted of murder

| 09/12/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): A jury took until late in the evening Monday to reach the unanimous verdict that Leonard Antonio Ebanks was not guilty of murder but guilty of accessory after the fact in the killing of 40-year-old Swiss Banker, Frederic Bise, in 2008. During his summation, the judge explained to the jury that if they did not believe Ebanks was one of the killers but that he may have assisted in the aftermath of the murder, they could return the alternative guilty verdict of accessory. Following the murder acquittal, an emotional Ebanks, who is already serving a life sentence for the murder ofTyrone Burrell in 2010, was scheduled by the court to be sentenced on Wednesday.

The evidence that supported the case against Ebanks came only from two women who claimed that he had confessed to being involved in the murder with his cousin, Chad Anglin, who was convicted of killing Bise earlier this year. There were no eye-witnesses or forensic evidence or any other circumstantial evidence that placed Ebanks at the scene of Bise’s killing. 

There were differences in women’s evidence against Ebanks. One implied that Ebanks may have turned up after Bise was dead and  the other said he had claimed to be part of the killing.

There were also significant inconsistencies in the evidence given by both of them, not just between the accounts they each gave on the stand during the trial, which they said had come from Ebanks, but in their own witness statements and interviews with the police over the five years since Bise’s body was discovered in the back of his own burned out car in Mount Pleasant West Bay on 8 February 2008.

Ebanks had emphatically denied killing Bise when he took the stand and insisted the evidence from his ex-lover was a lie made up out of malice, as she went to the police on the night he left her to go back to his wife.

The second woman was the helper at a local drug yard in West Bay, where Ebanks, a self-confessed crack addict, frequented. He claimed she had lied because she was desperate and was saying what she did for money, as the police had placed her in a paid witness protection programme after she gave what Ebanks claimed was untruthful evidence against him in the Burrell murder case, which led to his conviction in that case.

On this occasion, however, the evidence from the women raised doubts about Ebanks' guilt regarding his part in the brutal murder, leaving the jury to conclude that Ebanks was not the killer but may have assisted Anglin and whoever else may have been involved in the banker’s death.

Bise, the crown believes, was killed following an encounter with Anglin and Ebanks in a sex-for-money deal. During the trial the court heard that, having recently divorced, Bise, who was homosexual, began living a fully open gay life, and according to friends, was engaging in increasingly risky behaviour, seeking sex with multiple men and looking for partners to engage in outdoor sex romps.

Continue Reading