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Mac heads for Venice

| 22/03/2011 | 93 Comments

(CNS): The premier is beginning another overseas trip this week, which will include a trip to the famous Italian canal city of Venice. According to Mckeeva Bush’s press office, he will be visiting the historic city in order to look at a dam built by GLF, the developers who are currently poised to construct the cruise berthing piers in George Town. The premier will begin his travels, however, in Washington to meet US treasury representatives, before heading to New York for tourism strategy related meetings, then to Venice before heading to Dubai to promote the development of the planned technical economic zone.

During the premier’s travels to Italy, aside from reviewing the dam built by GLF to prevent the flooding of Venice, demonstrating the firm’s engineering capabilities, he will also meet with Italian tourism and airline officials to discuss tourism matters, including the possibility of Alitalia code sharing with Cayman Airways.

On Bush’s first port of call on Wednesday in Washington DC he is scheduled for talks with the US Treasury, accompanied by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, CIMA Chairman George McCarthy, Deputy Chief Officer, Financial Services Samuel Rose and accountant Dan Scott. Next on the agenda will be New York, where, accompanied by MLA Cline Glidden, the premier will attend the Department of Tourism’s Global Marketing Strategies meeting.

After Venice, Bush will head to the Arabian Gulf and Dubai, where he joins the developers of Cayman Enterprise City to promote the special economic zone that is proposed by Hon Development Company. “The premier will participate in a news conference and meet with potential investors, including members of Dubai’s royal family, to discuss the possibility of setting up business in the Cayman Islands,” the press office stated.

While the premier is away, Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly will be acting as premier.
 

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Crime down say statistics

| 22/03/2011 | 23 Comments

(CNS): According to statistics revealed by the police commissioner, the number of serious crimes that were reported during the first quarter of 2011 has fallen by almost 27 percent compared to the first quarter of 2010. Although robberies have increased by 215%, a significant decline in burglaries, murders, attempted murders and other crimes have pushed the overall numbers downward. Although there is a perception that crime is on the increase, the statistics tell a different story. Speaking at a special awards ceremony to honour members of the RCIPS on Friday evening, David Baines said the statistics reflected the hard work of the men and women in the police service. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The statistics reveal that the only other serious crime category besides robbery to see an increase in reports in the first quarter of this year was wounding, which had risen to five in 2011 compared to only one in the first quarter of 2010. All other categories of crime were being reported considerably less frequently at the start of this year than last, despite the perceptions as a result of the continued surge in robberies.

“Reductions by over 43 percent in serious crime and 27 percent in overall crime this year, when compared to the same period in 2010, is testament to the hard work of our police officers,” Baines told the audience.

According to an RCIPS press release, there were over 400 people at what was the first RCIPS Outstanding Service Awards event. The gala event was designed to celebrate the contribution of police staff and community members towards keeping the Cayman Islands safe, and six awards were presented.

Among those awarded was Senior Police Constable Davis ‘Scottie’ Scott (right), who won the Police Officer of the Year Award. SPC Scott was honoured for the significant role he played in a number of high profile investigations in East End. His commitment, leadership and dedication to the East End community had been influentialin the lives of young officers assigned to work with him, the RCIPS stated.

Garnet McLaughlin won the award for Support Staff Member of the Year. She was described as helpful, friendly, warm and patient, even during the lengthy hours required in her job in the Financial Crime Unit. The staff of the Caribbean Club received the Community Award for their part in the apprehension of two men with a firearm on their premises earlier this year.

Special Constabulary Sergeant Craig Coe won the Special Constable of the Year Award for his work with the management and deployment of special constables. He played an integral part in RCIPS “Hot Spot” Team which has been instrumental in reducing crime in the Cayman Islands over the last year.

Detective Inspector Winston Forth won the Diversity Award for his dedication to the RCIPS in working with young people, schools and community events.

The Sister Islands Police Staff were given the Police Welfare Award for their donation of almost 1000 hours in accrued time to a colleague whose son needed medical treatment in Miami. The officer had used up all of her vacation time. Therefore, her colleagues pulled together to gift her their own accrued time, thus enabling her to spend time in the US with her son as he underwent treatment.

The event was completely underwritten by corporate sponsorship and tickets sales. It is expected that the Police Welfare Fund will benefit to the tune of around $50,000 from the night.

In his introduction Baines said public display of support for the event sent a strong message to the critics of the RCIPS.

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LA committees fail to meet

| 21/03/2011 | 27 Comments

(CNS): Having been denied the opportunity to respond to the premier’s comments in the Legislative Assembly last week over his resignation from the Public Accounts Committee, the former chair delivered a statement to the press on Monday morning hitting back at the criticisms. Miller also pointed out that while he may have only succeeded in getting PAC to meet 17 times out of 30 attempts, that was still 17 times more than most other parliamentary standing committees have ever met. Since the government was elected in May 2009, most of the other committees, such as the one overseeing the complaints commissioner and the register of members’ interests, have never met to carry out their functions as set out in the rules of the Legislative Assembly.

At the same time that Miller was appointed chair of the PAC, which he said had achieved at least some moderate success, the Legislative Assembly also elected various other chairs to a number of committees, and aside from the business committee, which deals with the agenda for each of the sittings of the Legislative Assembly, no other committee has been convened by the relevant chair. The standing orders make it clear that the committees should meet regularly and publish a report at the end of each session.

Elio Solomon was elected to serve as chair of the Register of Interests Committee but has never called a meeting. This committee is one of the most important committees of the country’s parliament as it is supposed to examine potential conflicts of interests of members and government ministers to ensure that their private interests are not encroaching on their role in parliament. It is supposed to issue a report at the end of every parliamentary session, like other committees, updating the public on the state of the register of interests.

However, since it was established the committee has never met and therefore has not produced a report about its work during the first session of parliament, despite the fact that the second session of parliament is also about to come to a close shortly.

Dwayne Seymour was elected chair of the House Committee, which looks after the needs of members, but he has never convened a meeting, and Cline Glidden has never called a meeting to examine the reports and work of the OCC either and neither of these committees have produced a report of their work (which they have obviously not conducted as they have never met) in accordance with Standing Orders.

Although Finance Committee,which consists of all members and is chaired by the premier, has met during the budget sessions in order to vote on appropriations for government spending, it has never met outside of a budget session to address the many changes to appropriations and executive spending that have occurred.

“I would suggest that the only two committees that are not in violation of the standing orders are the PAC and the Business Committee,” Miller said, as he asked the public to make their own decisions about which chairmen took their job seriously and “who could handle a committee and move the work forward.”

In the wake of denials by McKeeva Bush that even in his role as minister of finance that he was not able to make chief officers comply with the law regarding government accounts, Miller said it clearly states in the Public Management and Finance Law that he is. Quoting the PMFL, Miller pointed to clause 36, which states that a chief officer shall comply with any direction given by the minister of finance which he considers necessary to protect government’s financial interests.

The former chair also revealed that in the wake of his resignation the premier had called him and asked him to reconsider his decision and offered to change up the committee membership. However, Miller said, despite his agreement to consider that, nothing further was said over the weekend in the wake of comments by the premier’s counsellors that Miller was a failure. The independent member said no suggestions were put to him in the LA but instead the premier created a “hoopla of misinformation through his spin doctors”, accusing him of not being able to do the job, despite his evident continuous efforts to address the public accounts situation.

Miller said, however, that he was not surprised government had opted to shoot the messenger rather than deal with the message, but he was disappointed that the time was taken in the Legislative Assembly to criticize him rather than elect a new chairman of the committee.

The former chair said that his decision to resign was not an easy one but he felt he had no other option to force the government and the public to focus on moving the important work of the committee forward. He said he had handed in his resignation to give the premier time to appoint a new chair at the last meeting and the country needed to take note that government has now said it would be at least two months before it intends to appoint a new chair.

See Miller’s full statement over the PAC affair below.

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Pain & suffering cash limited

| 21/03/2011 | 38 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands courts have now been restricted by the government from awarding anything more than half a million dollars to anyone, no matter the severity of their suffering, in medical negligence damages. The Medical Negligence (non-economic-damages) Amendment bill 2011 was passed by the Legislative Assembly on Friday morning, despite concerns raised by the opposition and the independent member. Mark Scotland, the Minister for Health, denied that the only motivation for the law was the agreement with Dr Devi Shetty but insisted it was in order to lower the malpractice insurance premiums of local doctors and in particular obstetricians.

The law will not only cap the awards that a court may give to a victim of medical negligence in Cayman but will also prevent any awards given in courts outside the jurisdiction in connection with doctors that have practiced here or incidents that have occurred here that exceed the $500K limit.

Scotland said the move, which the Law Reform Commission had recommended against, would reduce the insurance premiums at Dr Shetty’s facility once it was built by as much as 85%. The minister said he couldn’t say how much premiums for other local doctors would be reduced but believed it would have an impact. More importantly, he added, if government did not act to reduce the spiralling local premiums it wouldn’t be long before there were no obstetricians practicing on island.

“When we see practitioners stop delivering babies, then it’s serious,” Scotland told his legislative colleagues. He also stated that although the courts in Cayman have not yet made any awards exceeding the cap, the law was meant to be a pre-emptive strike to prevent awards from increasing as they have in the United States.

MLA Ezzard Miller, who has made his objections widely known, raised his concerns about the impact on the court system in the international arena and wanted to know what guarantees the minister had managed to get from the insurance firms covering local doctors about reductions. He doubted that the law would have an effect as he pointed to the fact that, despite the insurance firms being aware that the law was due, they have increased premiums this month.

The independent member said he was “not too concerned” about the reduction in premiums for Dr Shetty, and pointed out that the surgeon said his health facility could make up to $4 billlion a year. However, Miller said he was worried about local doctors, and his concern was that this law would offer no benefits to them.

Miller spoke again about the need for an audit and for the standardising of practice with doctors only being licensed to practice in their specialist field. He also criticized some obstetricians for offering “birthday selections” and scheduling too many unnecessary c-sections, which he felt was contributing to increasing their risk.

The leader of the opposition described the law as ground breaking for the Cayman Islands, noting that it was the first time that the legislature was seeking to limit the actions of the local civil courts. He pointed out that the Law Reform Commission had warned against tying the hands of the courts, which to date had not given excessive rewards.

Alden McLaughlin said the courts, not politicians, were the most appropriate arbitrators of justice in the area of negligence. He said the judiciary was best placed to decide on the merits of each case where the line should be drawn and he raised concerns that the cap would impact those that had suffered the most.

He suggested increasing the cap to $1million, as he did not think that would harm Shetty’s situation but would give the courts more roomfor manoeuvre for those most serious of cases where a child or young person could be facing a lifetime of serious disability because of medical negligence.

McLaughlin, who said he supported the need to assist Dr Shetty, accused the government of “propaganda” by suggesting the law was to benefit anyone else. “I don’t believe the minister should shy away from the reality of the bill, which is to accommodate Dr Shetty,” he said, adding that it was to be expected if the country was to support medical tourism. However, he warned against trying to sell the law as a benefit to local doctors. “Government will pay the price when expectations are not met,” McLaughlin warned.

Scotland denied that Shetty was the only reason for the law, insisting it would have an impact on local doctors, and accused the opposition of neglecting the need for the law previously. “The intent of the bill is to contain rising costs of malpractice insurance,” Scotland said, adding that representations from the profession had been made to him about the problem since he took office. He denied interfering with the courts, stating that it was the job of legislators to pass the laws and for the courts to enforce them, before the bill was passed through its administrative phases and voted into law.

See new law here

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Miss Ester towed home

| 19/03/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Update Sunday 8:45am – The 35-foot fishing vessel Miss Ester and her three man crew have been towed safely to shore and police reported late last night that the vessel was at George Town Harbour, North Terminal. About 5:30 pm Friday, 18 March, the owner of the Miss Ester received a call from his crew to say they had developed engine trouble and had broken down before radio contact was lost. The owner contacted both the police and Cayman Islands Helicopters, which he engaged to carry out a search of the area. On Saturday morning police reported that rescue teams from Cayman and the US were searching for the fishing boat in an operation coordinated by the RCIPS.

The search continued into the early hours of Saturday morning and other vessels in the area were alerted and the US Coastguard was made aware. The US Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft joined the search and it was this aircraft which located the boat.

About 11:35am Saturday the US Coastguard confirmed sighting the boat 49 miles due south of Bodden Town and police said a nearby cargo vessel, the African Lion, went to her location to render assistance. The owner of the boat was informed and the Cruise Ship Tender, Caribbean Temptress, owned by Caribbean Marine Services, set off from South Sound to recover the vessel.

It is understood that the police helicopter is currently in the US undergoing maintenance.

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Masked robber fires shot

| 18/03/2011 | 17 Comments

(CNS): What is reportedly the first robbery on Grand Cayman for almost two weeks, the longest period the island has gone since the beginning of the year, took place around 9:30pm in East End last night, Thursday 17 March, when at least one shot was fired. Police said they received a report that a man had been robbed in Fiddlers Way by a masked gunman. The suspect fired a shot (or shots) into the air before making off with a sum of cash and a bracelet, police stated. No one was injured during the incident and uniform, CID and armed officers attended the scene and conducted a search for the suspect but no arrests have yet been made. Police did not say if any evidence of the gunshots, such as bullets or casings, were recovered.

Police stated, however, that since the report, officers have been speaking to the victim and other potential witnesses to establish exactly what took place and said that an update will be provided in due course.

The robbery is the eighteenth of 2011 and follows a robbery on the evening of the 5 March at 3N’s grocery store, Batabano Plaza, West Bay. Police have arrested and charged one man in connection with that incident, in which the masked man, armed with what appeared to be a gun, entered the store around 8pm, threatened staff and demanded cash before making off with what was described as a “small sum of money”.

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Hoax bomber claims ‘Jihad’

| 18/03/2011 | 1 Comment

CNS): A 35-year-old man called the 911 emergency communications centre on Monday afternoon, 14 March, claiming that he was a member of ‘Jihad’ and had planted C4  – a plastic explosive – in the Cayman Islands, the RCIPS reported earlier today (Friday 18 March). Police  did not reveal where the man said he had supposedly planted his bomb or if there were any confirmed evacuations of public places at the time the call was made to emergency services. Officials did reveal however that a man was subsequently arrested on thesame day as the incident, following a police operation in the West Bay area.

The man who has now been charged with a bomb hoax was due to appear in summary court on Friday but with no magistrates available the accused man’s appearance has been put off until Monday.

 

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One in ten Chinese- US companies engaged in fraud

| 18/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): At least 10% of Chinese companies that have gone public on stock exchanges in the United States are engaged in fraud. The deals often involve establishing offshore holding companies in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Samoa or another offshore jurisdiction in order to conceal illegal conduct, according to Sharesleuth.com, an investigative news web-site controlled by well-known American businessman Mark Cuban. The claim was made to OffshoreAlert ahead of next month’s conference in Miami. Chris Carey, Editor and President of Sharesleuth.com will be sharing the findings from the research conducted by the site in one of the conference presentations.

"Upwards of 400 Chinese companies have gone public on U.S. exchanges through reverse mergers," says Carey. "We’ve identified at least 40 deals – or fully 10 percent – that have involved some degree of fraud or deception. We recently turned up two Chinese reverse mergers in which the U.S. shell companies were controlled by close relatives of people who previously operated boiler-room brokerages that defrauded investors of millions of dollars. Given those connections, why would anyone want to invest in those companies?"

Investors who have been flocking to buy Chinese stocks on U. S. exchanges need to up the quality of their due diligence to avoid losses, Carey warned. “The presence of so many middlemen with previous SEC or FINRA violations should be an obvious red flag for investors and regulators. Just because a stock is listed on a U.S. exchange does not mean it has been thoroughly vetted, or that it has any sort of seal of approval.”

During the session guests will learn how to spot red flags, how to perform deeper research on the Chinese companies, and how to acquire and analyze Chinese tax filings and other documents to compare reported sales and earnings in SEC filings against reported sales and earnings for the underlying businesses overseas.

The conference takes place at the Ritz Carlton Miami 4-6 April.
 

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Bush denies accounts liability

| 18/03/2011 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Following comments made by the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee to CNS last week that it was down to the minister of finance to ensure government ‘s financial statements were delivered in accordance with the law, the premier has denied being responsible. McKeeva Bush said that the claims by Ezzard Miller were inaccurate as the premier did not have any power over civil servants. He said that the attorney general had advised that the finance minister had the power to instigate legal proceedings against those who have failed to submit documents under the Public Management and Finance Law but he did not have the power to make the COS and the CFOs comply.

“I nor any other minister of government do not have administrative control over the civil service,” (sic) he said in a statement delivered to the Legislative Assembly when it met on Thursday morning. “Under the decentralised accounting system and the decentralised human resource system that operate in government, chief officers and chief financial officers do not report to the premier nor the minister of finance.”

Bush said the chief financial officers report to their chief officers and chief officers report to the deputy governor so, he said, it was not possible for the minister of finance to ensure compliance with the PMFL.

Although in a position to do so, the premier said he was not in the “business of bringing proceedings” against chief officers. “Human beings generally do not perform well in an environment of fear,” Bush added, stating that his government believed in encouraging civil servants rather than “tactics of intimidation” and would be making changes to the PMFL instead. After quoting Shakespeare, the premier said government would not slay civil servants but would make the PMFL easier to use.

“If the member from North Side is of the frame of mind of prosecuting civil servants, I have more constructive and much less destructive work to do,” Bush stated.

He went on to deny suggestions by Miller that his government didn’t care about accountability of government accounts. He said that “sterling efforts” had been made by the present government to enhance the public sector’s accountability to the country. He boasted of 70 annual reports being tabled since they were elected to office but failed to point out that only four of those were for 2010 and only a handful had been in compliance with the law.

Bush said that Keith Luck, the consultant from the FCO who was reviewing the PMFL, had completed his work and his report was being finalized. That together with the information he had from his visit to Jersey would pave the way for better management of public finances. The premier announced that he intended to move towards a centralised accounting and human resource function and away from the current decentralised model.

“I am absolutely convinced that the difficulty the Public Service is experiencing with meeting the full requirements of the PMFL stems from the fact that the regime was too sophisticated and complex for the size of the public service that exists in the Cayman Islands,” the premier stated. He compared the situation to having a Ferrari when it was a Honda Civic that was needed.

Bush went on to further criticise the article on CNS entitled ‘Miller packs in PAC’, saying he found Miller’s comments particularly offensive when he had suggested government may be trying to avoid accountability.

“There are too many games being played by the member who is only gearing up to introducing his own team or party – call it what you may – but these games being played, which are said to be for the people, are not doing the country any good and only goes against our real national interest,” Bush told his legislative colleagues. “I don’t know of any politician in recent years who has gone through the fire and discouragement as I have had to bear for love of country since 1988 and McKeeva didn’t and will not quit. I have no time for the political games.”

Despite the premier’s claims that government was committed to getting the accounts up to date, he revealed that government would not be addressing the problem of the now chairless Public Accounts Committee until May when the House met for its Budget sitting.

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Mac targets Constitutional commissioners

| 17/03/2011 | 44 Comments

(CNS): The premier has accused the Constitutional Commission of going beyond its remit and made it perfectly clear that he does not believe the members should be opposing government. Reacting to commentsmade by the commission in the press recently about the law to create advisory district councils, McKeeva Bush said their poor performance was embarrassing as they had “gotten so far adrift” from their “real role”. He said if they wanted “to play powerful’ they should “go get the money and get elected”. Bush said they could not run government from behind the scenes and were misusing their position and trying to influence public opinion.

He said his opposition to the commission was not against any individual member but against its “poor performance” of the mandated functions, but went onto say that he knew most of them had opposed him over the years.

In a damning speech to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning about the commissioners, the premier said it was absolutely outstanding that a body serving in the context of good government could be so “misguided in its understanding of its role" and said its misstatements were confusing for the public.

The governor was going to speak with the commissioners, Bush said, and he was encouraging them to speak with the attorney general to be better “schooled in their role and functions”, as it cannot be right for them to go on as they have and “frustrate my administration”.

The premier’s criticisms surround comments the commission made earlier this month about government’s failure to listen to its recommendations on the make up of the new advisory district councils. Bush said that the public needed to understand that no government is intended to base its executive decisions on the advice of a Constitutional Commission.

Pointing to opinions expressed by the commissioners that they did not support what had been established under the new law, he criticized them for saying the existing district council in North Side was more like what had been envisioned by the commission. Bush accused them of trying to re-open the debate on the subject and influence public opinion ahead of the proposed constitutional public meetings.

“The business of canvassing public opinion is a delicate undertaking for a body such as a Constitutional Commission, a body whose credibility rests on their clear and unequivocal non-partisanship," Bush told the Legislative Assembly, saying their comments had destroyed any chance of not leading public opinion.

He said the comments about the North Side district council was a blatantly partisan political view. “It’s as though the Constitutional Commission is out to revive January’s debate in the House by saying in effect that ‘we agree with the MLA for North Side and we oppose the UDP government, and we encourage people to adopt the same view’,” the premier said.

The more the constitutional commission muddied the water the more embarrassing it became, Bush said, adding that they should not be advocates of specific policies.

Despite his unequivocal criticisms, Bush went on to say that he had no power to tell the commission what to do, as he believed the elected government should. “The Constitutional Commission should be the remit of the people elected,” the premier stated, going on to say that there was no measure of accountability for the performance of the commission. He said it should have been something that the people’s elected representatives have some say in, not the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“But some of our people don’t seem to learn that there are those who are not as impartial as we need them to be and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will play us like pawns upon a chess table. Some of our people would rather trust someone they don’t know and not our own. And then there are those who, when they can’t have their way because the election process put people like McKeeva Bush in place, are prepared to do what they can to conjure, obstruct, deter and smear elected politicians, as a blanket group,’ he said.

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