Archive for December 10th, 2014

Bodden Town water cut due to burst pipe

| 10/12/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Updated: Customers in the heart of Bodden Town had to wait until almost 11:00 last night before their water was reconnected following a burst water main on Bodden Town Road which impacted homes and businesses from the junction of Gun Square to the Bodden Town Cemetery. A spokesperson for the Water Authority said Thursday morning that work on the pipe finished after 10:30pm Wednesday night (10 December) and then water was restored to a short time later. Thanking customers for their patience the government company also thanked drivers who were affected because of the diversions around the water works. The pipe, which burst around 3:30pm Wednesday.

The work took longer than the expected, with customers in some cases being without water for more than six hours.

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Human Rights 365

| 10/12/2014 | 38 Comments

The 10th of December commemorates the date on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a declaration which recognises equality and dignity for all individuals. Today is referred to as International Human Rights Day (IHRD). This year the United Nations has chosen to recognise IHRD through the theme “Human Rights 365” focusing on the need to promote and progress human rights on a daily basis.

A key focus of the United Nations this year is the use of social media and as such the United Nations is promoting IHRD through #rights365.

Human rights in the Cayman Islands are enshrined in Part One of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 – the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities. They are the rights which the Cayman Islands Government commits to providing to the individuals of these islands.

Human rights are not the cause, or solution to, social issues; rather they are certain protected and fundamental rights which all of us are entitled to as human beings. They encompass such important guarantees as the right to life, the right to religious freedom and the right to a fair trial, amongst others. These rights are guaranteed, in various forms, to promote dignity and equality of all. It is through these fundamental rights that a fair and just society is created and democracy is nurtured. It is because of these rights that as individuals we enjoy the quality of life we do in the Cayman Islands.

Nothing is perfect. Human rights get abused just as other parts of the system get abused; but the nurturing and respect for these principles has underpinned the successes of the western liberal democratic model.  Without the government guaranteeing these rights our islands would be in a far less stable and prosperous position today.

Many persons recently celebrated Thanksgiving and many more are about to celebrate religious holidays in the coming weeks.  This is the time of year to count our blessings and be thankful.  It is also perhaps an opportunity to reflect and ask what can I do to play my part in promoting equality and dignity for those around me on a daily basis?

The Human Rights Commission works to review local draft legislation, government policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Bill of Rights.  Much of this is highly technical work which takes place behind the scenes and is only detailed in the Commission's annual report. So far 2014 has seen the Commission focus on issues such as the protection of privacy, preservation of private and family life, and a reinforcement of the absolute stance against inhuman and degrading treatment. 

The Commission has also been working more publicly to try to promote a better understanding of human rights and to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding them.

Over the next twelve months we will continue working with the Cayman Islands' government and with local and international organisations to protect these fundamental rights and spread the message of human rights progress and equality – #rights365.

For more information on human rights in the Cayman Islands or to contact the Human Rights Commission visit our website www.humanrightscommission.ky or Facebook page www.facebook.com/cihrc. Educational pamphlets are available at the George Town Hospital, the Courts Offices, George Town Library or the District Administration Building. Alternatively you can call us at 244-3685 or come by our offices at Cayman Corporate Centre on Hospital Road.

 

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OMOV inches forward

| 10/12/2014 | 72 Comments

(CNS): Three months after a government motion passed through the Legislative Assembly to establish the Electoral Boundary Commission to assess the political landscape in preparation for changing the voting system, the government and opposition leaders have announced their appointees. It is now up to the governor to appoint a chair to head up the team that will make the recommendations regarding the boundaries of the single member constituencies ahead of the introduction of one man, one vote. In a short statement Monday, the premier said the government had nominated Adrianne Webb, while the opposition leader said he had chosen local barrister Steven McField.

Making it clear where he stood, McKeeva Bush said everyone already knew he was against the proposal.

“Everyone knows I am against what they are trying to do but we have appointed Steve McField,” he said. “I don’t agree with the mess they are trying to create and I hope my nominee will carry the message to them.”

The PPM’s nomination Adrianne Webb is already an experience boundary commissioner having served on the 2010 commission. As well as being a veteran barrister, McField is also considered a constitutional and political expert.

On this occasion the commission, once it is formed, will not be looking at alternative options to single member constituencies but just how to divide the country fairly. It is expected to consider the numbers of voters in each constituency but will also have regard, the premier has said, for the historic boundaries of districts, which should preserve the separate constituencies of North Side and East End.

Relatively well balanced boundaries have already been drawn up and they have been represented, broadly by the polling station boundaries within the existing six multi-member constituencies, so there should be few surprises unless the commission takes the view that East End and North Side should merge, which would stir up considerable controversy and possibly derail the plans for a fair and equitably voting system by the 2017 General Election.

The main issues that the commission should need to examine are whether or not the current divisions adopted by the previous commission in 2010 are still fair and balanced given the increase in voters in the larger districts of George Town and Bodden Town, and where the dividing lines need to come for the new SMCs between Bodden Town and George Town. They will also need to decide where exactly the dividing line should come to create two constituencies for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Once the commission has done its work, the Progressive government has committed to introducing OMOV by the next election, in accordance with its campaign promise and the wishes of the majority of voters who took part in the 2012 referendum.

However, the premier has demonstrated a certain reluctance to tackle the issue and it was as a result of the pressure applied by the member from East End, Arden McLean, who was committed to repeatedly bringing his private member’s motion until the government fulfilled its election promise, that he eventually agreed to begin the process and start with a new commission.

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NC Council and DoE thrash out new roles

| 10/12/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The debut meeting of the National Conservation Council (NCC) last Wednesday also saw its first heated debate, when members thrashed out the roles of the Department of Environment (DoE), its director and the NCC in implementing its new powers. The debate led to an early divide in opinion in the council over ambiguities in the law and the possible implications for any and all development of the island that could affect the environment. The new process requires those seeking approval for any major development to consult the National Conservation Council (NCC) under the National Conservation Law. Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) will now be compulsory if the council finds sufficient “red flags” over the impact on the environment of any development.

These assessments will take into account the potential environmental impact of developments over one acre, all coastal and marine development, and applications in areas covered by the Habitat Screening Map.

Any large scale residential, industrial or hotel development will require consultation by the NCC, to be screened and approved by them. 

The law stipulates that every government entity, except Cabinet, shall “consult with the Council and take into account any views of the Council before taking any action”, including granting licences or permits they feel “would or would be likely to have an adverse effect on the environment generally or on any natural resource.”

This is all a big step forward for the Cayman Islands in terms of forming its own legal obligations to consider the preservation of the islands' natural heritage versus private and public development.

Even government entities, except Cabinet, will need to follow the law and “apply for and obtain the approval of the Council before taking any action” they feel “would or would be likely to have an adverse effect, whether directly or indirectly, on a protected area or on the critical habitat of a protected species.”

The law grants the NCC the power to issue binding cease and desist orders to anyone who fails to consult with it. The penalties for not complying with the NCC are a $500,000 fine, up to four years imprisonment and/or other punishments that may be imposed by the courts.

This has led to fears of an over extension of power for the government from certain sectors of the media and private developers. Council member Davy Ebanks questioned aloud during the meeting whether the ambiguities in the bill were leading to the creation of a “bloated” bureaucracy, hindering a private individual’s rights to develop their land without having to run through extensive and expensive EIA’s.

He also warned the NCC that this would affect small farmers and landholders principally, saying that when this “unworkable interdepartmental bureaucracy” ran into the problems he described, he reserved the right to say “I told unna so”.

The response from Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the DoE director, was that an EIA would only be necessary if the NCC agrees by vote that significant “red flags” are raised in terms of the projects potential impact on the environment. She said an EIA would take up a minimal percentage (0.1%) of the total cost of the overall development of any property based on  the years of experience the government department has had dealing with EIAs and their costs on average.

She also went on to explain that ambiguities in the law allow for its flexibility in its evolution. While acknowledging the potential for abuse of such powers, she also explained that it is up to the discretion of those appointed by elected officials to preserve the integrity of such legislation.

“The detractors of the law would have us believe that it is going to usurp the authority of the CPA and other government bodies, and that is clearly not the case,” Ebanks-Petrie added

It was also confirmed that the Invasive Species Committee will be chaired by Davy Ebanks and it will give a report monthly to the NCC on matters involving non-native species, such as green iguanas and floral diseases. The attorney general will advise the NCC in legal areas, as the National Conservation Law is not yet fully in force and it is being implemented in stages.

The NCC will meet on the second week of every month and the next public meeting will be held on 25 February.

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Board confirms NYE booze licence extensions

| 10/12/2014 | 17 Comments

(CNS): The chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board has confirmed that people holding booze licence will get a time extension for New Year’s Eve, which this year falls on a Wednesday. Officials stated that liquor-licence holders in all seven categories will get a one-hour extension beyond their existing regular closing times on New Year’s Eve. Board Chairman Mitchell Welds said, however, that it is not automatic and licence holders must apply for the extension. He also explained that the additional hour is added to the closing time, so a business that normally closes at 1am in accordance with its licence can apply for an extension to close at 2am. Welds also noted that all other licence stipulations remain in effect.

“Liquor sales and the playing of music must cease during the last ten minutes of permitted opening hours for retail, hotel, restaurant, and beer or wine categories of licences,” he said. ‘Furthermore, customers are to vacate the premises before closing."

For more information, licence holders and members of the public may contact the Liquor Licensing Board’s Executive Secretary, Marva Scott, on 244-3168 or marva.scott@gov.ky

 

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