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Technology in schools

| 06/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): When Students return to government schools in September, they will find the Cayman Islands’ education system rapidly catching up with available information and communications technology (ICT), a necessary step if it is to fully prepare Caymanian children for the ever-changing and technologically driven world in which they must live and work.

This is the second major attempt to integrate ICT into education here and much has, apparently, been learned from previous mistakes. In 2002, under the UDP administration, then Education Minister Roy Bodden launched ITALIC (Improving Teaching and Learning in the Cayman Islands) for government-funded schools.

This was an ambitious programme that ultimately achieved very limited success. However, a comprehensive review undertaken at the request of the Ministry in 2006 mapped out weaknesses in the initiative – basically, a roadmap of what not to do. It was an expensive learning curve. According to the review, at the end of March 2006 the total expenditure on the ITALIC project for a K-12 school population of 4,322 was estimated at 12 million Cayman dollars. The average expenditure per child per year between 2002 and 2006 came to CI$1,157, compared to CI$ 97 in the UK in the same time frame.

“This phenomenal expenditure on ICT in our schools should deliver extraordinary results for our students, not to mention world-class support service structure second to none! Unfortunately, neither of the claims can be made for the ITALIC project!” the report said. The review, it should be noted, was conducted by former UCCI President Dr Hassan Syed, who left the islands suddenly under a cloud of financial irregularities. However, according to the Education Ministry’s Chief Officer, Angela Martins, the report was based on solid data and the Ministry stands by the its findings.

Although Syed’s report listed some positive impacts, such as raising awareness of ICT, a lowering of student to computer ratios and a high percentage of teachers with laptops, criticisms of the programme in the 105-page report are relentless. It was particularly critical of the reliance on external consultants, as opposed to using and developing expertise within the education system, and the seemingly total lack of financial accountability. Technical support from the consultants, it appears, was woefully insufficient, the network was unstable, and oversight of the programme negligible. But the most damning criticism was that it did not achieve its fundamental objective.

“Although all the associated literature on the ITALIC program emphasized that teaching and learning, rather than technology, were at the heart of the initiative, in reality and especially as the system struggled to recover after Hurricane Ivan, the technology itself appeared, especially to end users, to become the main focus. Operations matters, rather than end-user concerns or teaching issues, dominated the agenda of the Steering Committee.”

As part of a complete overhaul of the entire education system taking place under the current Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, the concept of integrating ICT into the teaching of all subjects is being revamped. According to ICT Teaching and Learning Officer Mark Ray, this includes adding more interactive whiteboards (IWBs) to classrooms to the limited number already in active use, generally purchased through such means as corporate sponsorship or PTAs.

IWBs are already in extensive use in British schools, where a two-year study PDF to evaluate their use with Year 5 and Year 6 students found significant positive impact, concluding, “The observations confirm that there were significant differences in patterns of classroom interaction, both as the teachers learned to use the technology and a year later as IWBs became more embedded in literacy and mathematics lessons.”

There are several different brands to choose from, notably SmartBoard Promethean, and mimio. The first two are very similar in that they include an actual physical board, whereas mimio is an interactive kit that attaches toa standard dry erase board and converts it into an interactive board, says Ray. The latter is significantly cheaper – around US$700 as opposed to around $2,500 for a Promethean or a SmartBoard. What you pay for with the more expensive boards is bundled software that gives much greater functionality, enabling teachers to create interactive multimedia teaching and learning activities in minutes, or go to the brands’ own website and download a pre-created activity. The mimio, on the other hand, is portable and therefore might cut down on the number needed, and it utilizes existing equipment.

Initially, to keep costs down, the Ministry has plumped for the mimio brand and 50 will be installed across the schools system, incorporating existing projectors that will be installed on classroom ceilings with the help of Computer Services. The Ministry will be paying attention to feedback, says Ray, to decide which hardware to go with for the new schools coming online in two years. All teachers have received training on the use of IWBs, but this will be followed up with training in how to develop lessons. The appropriate use of technology in classrooms is encouraged and teachers tend to make use of it according to their comfort level and competence – which in some cases is extensively, Ray says, adding, “We want to get to where technology is no longer remarkable – it’s just like any other tool in the classroom.”

Technology in schools is, as the ITALIC report underscored, not much use without the appropriate support. So for the 2008-09 fiscal year there will be a systems administrator in each the DoES learning communities under the direction of ICT Manager Steven Durksen, whose job it is to keep the whole system running and maintain the educational software, servers, desktops, laptops, interactive whiteboards and other education technology.

“One of the biggest challenges is the stability of network,” he says. However, this will be improved as Cable and Wireless sets up a fibre network between all the schools and increases the bandwidth. Migrations of the school networks to a stable centralized new domain will continue and be completed during 08/09, and the core services will be delivered from a new data centre at Prospect Primary, which has its own generator and is considered the best location, notes Durksen. In addition, there is a back-up site at the Education Standards and Assessment Unit (ESAU) and data is replicated at each school.

All teachers will now have their own email. The pattern is: first initial and last name @ school abbreviation.edu.ky. So for example, John Smith who teaches at Cayman Brac High School will have the email jsmith@cbhs.edu.ky. The principals will continue to have firstname.lastname@gov.ky

The improved infrastructure enables the introduction of a new portal for students, launched at the end of the summer term, called Studywiz, an online space for teachers, students and parents to collaborate in the earning process. Come September every primary middle and high school student have their own log into http://caymanislands.studywiz.com/ , which will provide much more than websites for schools but will be a collaborative space for posting homework, blogs, discussion groups and downloading podcasts, says Durksen.
“Every year, we will be adding a number of computers in the classrooms, making sure there is equity among schools,” he says. Over 500 teachers have laptops, some a legacy of the ITALIC programme, with some of the older laptops having been refreshed. 165 new laptops have been purchased to replace oldest ones, says Durksen, emphasising that this was done by tender. (The ITALIC report noted concern over the lack ofclear documentation of public tendering of the project.)
Technology will also be used more effectively in administration to keep track of student data (such as achievement, attendance and behaviour) with the SIMS management information system (MIS), the most popular student MIS in the UK,which will be implemented across the Cayman system in September. The data, which will have various appropriate levels of access, will reveal, for example, trends in school performance and any particular problems, which will help indicate necessary intervention. In addition, it will keep track of the physical addresses of students – a valuable resource for planning new schools. And, as Durksen points out, the information collected from SIMS will provide a national database, from which national reports can be produced.

And while administrators worry over data, middle and junior primary students might be learning science, engineering, technology and math playing with Lego Robotics, or finding a video in their e-locker to use to produce a PowerPoint presentation for homework – a far cry from their parents’ school experience.

“The majority of teachers are enthusiastic and want to use technology; they generally see the benefits,” says Ray. “We have an ICT curriculum but it can be done in an integrated process with other subjects. We want to be able to use technology to engage students – which goes back to the SmartBoard. Teachers have to have an understanding of what’s available and what’s possible, and then get comfortable with that.”

What’s also needed, given the lessons learned, is continued openness from the Education Ministry in this and future administrations about costs, as well as fair assessments, which are then made public, about schools’ and students’ progress in the information age. However encouraging the signs of advancement in technology in our schools, the $12 million four-year failure can never be allowed to repeat itself.
 

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Time for a new message

| 17/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger – Posted Tuesday, 17 June 2008

George Town (CNS): The Cayman Islands is no stranger to
criticism from the international press and NGOs, or from governments
and law enforcement agencies – the country has always been portrayed
as a safe haven for theworld’s less than orthodox financial
transactions. And while the days may be long gone when bags of cash
allegedly fell from departing aircraft and bounced down the runway at
Owen Roberts International, the image is enduring.

US Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s interest is Ugland House, for
example, is perfectly understandable. To those with little knowledge
of what offshore finance is all about, asking how one ordinary and
relatively small office block can house more than 12,000 companies it
is not an unreasonable question. And asking what these companies do is
not an unreasonable question either. However, as a jurisdiction we
have been exceptional poor at answering it.

The mantra for the last decade has simply been: “We are more compliant
thansome onshore financial centres, so leave us alone”.  In
fact, Cayman has done a tremendous job at signing on the dotted line
for everything and before anyone else. We stick to the letter of law
and comply with numerous international regulations. However, in recent
times the criticisms have changed and we are failing to recognize the
new direction they are now taking and failing to see the potential
consequences.

While Cayman has stuck to the same PR message of how the jurisdiction
is more compliant, better regulated and even more insulated against
money laundering than many onshore jurisdictions, the critics have
switched the focus from the way we do business to what business we
actually do. Issues of legitimate tax avoidance, the preservation of
wealth, facilitating the business of Trans-National Corporations
(TNCs) and the secrecy that surrounds it all are now the key issues
for those who promote the idea that what we do is not questionable
from a legal point of view but from a moral one. US and European
politicians, international commentators, global organizations and, of
course, the media are increasingly pointing the finger at us, not for
helping drug barons hide their ill-gotten gains, but for enabling
global business to evade its responsibilities.

Perhaps one of the most critical reports for some time is Death
and Taxes
written by Christian Aid, an international non-
governmental organization that focuses on global poverty. This report
looks at how various tax avoidance schemes, legal and legitimate ones
as well as those that are questionable, keep the world’s lesser-
developed nations in poverty. While it may be easy to dismiss it as
just one insignificant publication penned by a global institution that
has a strong socialist agenda, its message is one that is being
listened to and repeated around the world. The report’s message is
gaining traction on the international stage and, as Obama begins the
race for a presidency that he is very likely to win, he is certainly
not dismissing the points raised in it, and the powers that be in
Cayman’s Financial Services sector would be wise not to dismiss them
either.

Moreover, there is something more disturbing about the criticisms now
being thrown at the offshore world and as noted by Stephen Hall-Jones
in his letter to the Net News editor, it could even spell the
beginning of the end. Support is growing around the world to address
tax equalisation, and should there be a concerted effort by Western
governments to do so, Cayman could find itself up the proverbial creek
without a paddle.

There is no doubt that the ostrich position will not serve this
jurisdiction well, particularly if the world’s leading nations make a
concerted effort to undermine the way OFCs work. What Cayman needs to
do is begin explaining far more eloquently how what it does is
beneficial to the global economy. As the international symbol of ‘tax
havenism’with better regulation than most, Cayman is ideally suited to
lead the charge on the global education campaign about OFCs.

If we wishto preserve our golden goose we need to start justifying
its existence, as well as explaining how it lays those golden eggs
and, above all, why those golden eggs are good for everyone and are
not killing Third World babies.

One person who has consistently tried to remove Cayman’s ostrich-like
head from the sand and justify our position on the global stage is
Chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Tim Ridley, who says
that while this recent report is unjustified he recognises its damage
potential.

“The figures thrown around in the report are highly speculative and
without factual support. The danger is that the figures then become
accepted,” noted Ridley. He explained, too, that the development of a
successful offshore sector here is what prevented Cayman from being
one of the countriesthe report writes about. “It is ironic that
Cayman and other small financial services centres are now being
vilified for bettering themselves and providing competitive products
and legitimate services. If we are driven out of business and reduced
to poverty again, are the rich countries of the OECD, EU or G7 and
Christian Aid going to support us? I doubt it, and I doubt they have
even thought about this possible outcome.”

Ridley also noted that the historic abuse of financial services by
criminal elements, including tax evaders, has made life difficult for
OFCs and their role is constantly misunderstood. “There are strong
arguments that OFC’s provide a good neutral and tax efficient platform
for routing investment capital in a beneficial way to the Third
World,” he said, adding that corrupt governments and ineffective aid
programmes rather  than the world’s OFCs are the most significant
problems for lesser developed nations.

A staunch advocate of tax liberalization, low taxation and free market
global economics, Ridley notes that it is more important than ever to
make the argument that OFSc are a positive force. He also believes
that the report and the growing global antipathy to tax avoidance,
legitimate or otherwise, all underscores how imperative it is that
both the public and private sectors in Cayman elevate the campaign to
better inform the world as to what we do and how we do it.

“Cayman simply acts as the facilitator for the most efficient and
frictionless use and investment of funds. We are not depriving anyone
of their just tax take,” he said. In a recent presentation at a
specialist conference in Miami, Ridley noted other serious threats
that all OFCs are facing from onshore economies. While addressing a
number of them, he emphasised the pressing need for a more proactive
approach, with both political and media campaigns to educate and
inform people and to counter the constant negative media image, though
he was seeing some signs of progress.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, when speaking in the Legislative
Assembly during the budget debate recently, suggested that envy was
the root course of international criticism. “For many years now, this
tiny jurisdiction has been feeling the wrath of the rest of the world,
mainly because of our successes as a financial centre,” Bulgin said.
“It’s all about jealousy; they are deeply jealous about the success of
these islands.”

We can parade our regulatory credentials until the cows come home, but
unless we can convince more of the world’s leading powers that OFCs
offer a benefit to them and their economies they will still find ways
of making things difficult for us. The recent absence of Cayman on the
European Union’s latest AML ‘white list’ (of countries deemed to have
satisfactory controls against money laundering) will make life tougher
than necessary for our financial institutions. If Obama gets his way,
there will be a change to US law to make it extremely difficult for
American citizens and corporations to function offshore,which would
be even more worrying. 

For years Cayman has consistently whinged about its overseas image,
with one government official after another wringing their hands about
the unfairness of it all. Yet each successive political administration
and the private sector have persistently failed to do anything to
alter the situation. Last year’s charm offensive, which involved
members of the Cabinet visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, was hardly
the success the government attempted to say it was. Not one of the
senators that the Cayman delegation visited was willing to offer a
single comment about the visit. The only comment CNS received, despite
badgering every senator that was visited, came to us in error: a
staffer erroneously clicked ‘reply’ instead of ‘send’ and revealed
that one of the senators was in no way convinced that activities in
the Cayman Islands were in the least bit benign.

Somehow, Cayman must find a way to convince the world that the
jurisdiction is fundamental in making the global money go round and
not that we are trying to rob it. While transparency is often
considered a dirty word in Cayman, it may in the end be our salvation.

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Conserving the real Cayman

| 08/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger – Posted Monday, 8 June 2008

It may come as something of a surprise to many but there are currently
no legal protections in place at all for any of Cayman’s endemic
trees, shrubs or orchids. Not even our national tree, the Silver
Thatch Palm, or the national flower, the Banana Orchid, are protected
legally, and many of the country’s endemic animals, such as our unique
lizards, snakes, butterflies and bats, also have no legal protection.
 

It was against this background and the desperate need for a more
comprehensive framework for the protection and conservation of our
precious eco-systems that work began on a National Conservation Law
(NCL). On coming to office, the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM)
promised they would enact such a bill to protect the environment.
Three years later, the legislation is due to come before the House at
the end of this summer after what has been described as considerable
consultation.

Cayman’s environment is unique. Formed under a tropical sea some 10 to
30 million years ago, the islands are part of a reefal platform that
has submerged and emerged from the sea throughout geological time.
Emerging for the last time around 3 million years ago, the local flora
and fauna has evolved in relative isolation on unusual rock
formations, giving the islands an impressive number of endemic
species, many of which are now seriously endangered.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the Director of the Department of the Environment
(DoE), explained that some 46% of Cayman’s native flora is currently
threatened with local extinction. “Despite there being numerous
endemic species and sub-species of animals, only iguanas and non-
domestic birds have any protection locally,” she said.

“Every major decision point introduces the requirement for
notification and public consultation and there is an appeals
procedure,” she added.  “Section 38 provides for judicial review
of any act or omission of the Council, Director or any other persons
involved in administration of the law. There is no provision for
compulsory acquisition of land that is recommended for protection, and
the law provides mechanisms where land can be protected and managed as
protected areas, while still in private ownership. Alternatively, the
law provides means by which landowners may be fairly compensated for
voluntary sale or lease of areas recommended for protection. I see
this astransparent, equitable and forward thinking.”

Some activists have even suggested that the proposed NCL does not go
far enough and would not bring Cayman up to the standards established
by the United Kingdom in Cayman Islands Environmental Charter, signed
in 2001. Well-known local environmentalist, Billy Adam, suggests that
there are too many examples where our natural resources are used
unsustainably, and he raises concerns that even under the law some
exploitation of the environment will still take place in secret. He
also accuses the government of being the country’s worst polluter.

“The government is the largest polluter in the Cayman Islands. The
George Town dump, nutrient laden discharges from the water treatment
facilities and the Cayman Turtle Farm continue to be the largest
sources of land based sources of marine pollution,” said Adam. “These
polluting effluent discharges continue to take a toll on our
economically important natural marine environment. The Law must ensure
that government authorities and departments are in full compliance
with the law or suffer consequences.  If this is not done then
the law will be in violation to the letter and spirit of the
Environmental Charter.”

However, by far the most opposition to the NCL comes not from those
who suggest the law may not be effective enough, but from those who
say it goes too far and will herald in an era of compulsory purchase
in the name of nature and a clamp down on development. One area of
opposition has focused on the requirement under the new law for
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

“As the idea that environmental concerns need to be factored into all
decision making processes is one of the main tenets of sustainable
development, it is difficult to see how it will be possible for Cayman
to achieve sustainable development without the application of such
basic tools as EIA,” said Ebanks-Petrie. “There has been some concern
from individual members of the public that an EIA will be required any
time any animal or plant on any of the schedules is affected by any
proposed development. This is simply not the case. Such a law would
clearly be unenforceable, and would make EIA impossibly onerous for
both compliance and policing.”

She explained that the bill was not about stopping development but
ensuring the environment was factored into future development
decisions. The need to protect everyone’s rights to a healthy,
functioning environment, the retention of unique natural capital and
essential ecosystems, along with the concept of sustainable
development are all accepted considerations in most developed nations.
Moreover, Ebanks-Petrie added, protecting the environment means
protecting the economy.

“Desirable investors like to know that there is a level playing field
and that decision-makers are taking the long-term view. The NCL will
encourage and be good for genuine and beneficial investment. The
general trend worldwide is for property near protected areas or green
spaces to increase in value due to aesthetic and recreational factors.
Current thinking points to a failure to take adequate precautions to
safeguard the environment as one of the main factors likely to
negatively influence the global economy. Under current legislation,
landowners in Cayman have no inherent right to develop their land as
they wish.  If this were the case, a residential neighbour might
reasonably establish a quarry or industrial operation in their own
yard.”

To critics of the NCL who say it will retard development, Ebanks-
Petrie says not only is there more to Cayman than development, but
also that not passing the bill would undermine the economy because
tourism, which is dependent on a healthy natural environment, would
suffer, signs ofwhich, she says, are already apparent.

With so little protection for our unique and beautiful endemic
species, the law cannot arrive too soon for many people, and Ebanks-
Petrie believes that the recent increase in attention that
environmental issues are receiving is a reaction to the sudden
realisation that so much of the environment is so seriously
threatened.

“I think that locally people are starting to make the connection
between the loss of environmental resources and the erosion of the
Caymanian way of life and are becoming more acutely aware of the
pitfalls of not protecting the environment,” she explained, adding
that many were beginning to suffer the direct consequences of
environmental deterioration. However, her major concern is that this
is a reactionary movement rather than a genuine shift towards actively
promoting environmental protection.

“It is not until something is threatened, critically endangered or
lost that it becomes a concern,” Ebanks-Petrie said.” The virtues and
benefits of maintaining a ‘pristine’ environment or common beneficial
resource are rarely considered. For example, it makes more
environmental, social and economic sense to impose a modest limit on a
fishery when that fishery is abundant than a tough measure after the
fishery has collapsed.”

People are becoming aware that their quality of life is directly
linked to a healthy and functioning natural environment because of
triggers such as dust, noise pollution, seasonal flooding and traffic
congestion, but Ebanks-Petrie suggests people are still not embracing
a proactive approach by planning for a better future. “Perhaps there
is a false sense of security in Cayman, due to the early successes of
the Marine Parks Regulations, now some 22 years old, because many
people do not realize that marine protected areas are only one type of
management tool and we need more and better tools to meet today’s
challenges,” she said. “Twenty-two years later, Marine Parks are no
longer a novel measure. The sad fact of the matter is that Cayman has
slipped from being a world-leader, and has allowed other countries and
destinations to capitalize on more innovative and effective measures
to protect and conserve their natural environment, measures from which
they are now reaping the benefits and will continue to do so.”

The tantalizing promise of the NCL also sits alongside another recent
government initiative to include some environmental protections in the
forthcoming Bill of Rights, which will form part of Cayman’s future
constitution. Ebanks-Petrie pointed to some interesting examples
around the world, such as in the British Virgin Islands and South
Africa, where the right to environmental protection has been enshrined
in constitutions. She said the DoE has asked Cayman’s Constitutional
Secretariat to consider whether there is any scope to include
reference to the “precautionary principle”.

“Where there is a threat of serious or irreversible environmental
damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a
reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation,”
she explained. She also noted that the Secretariat needed to look at
whether the concept of participatory and procedural rights is captured
elsewhere in the “rights” expressed, or whether there is a specific
need to include some words about individuals having the right to
meaningful public participation in the decision-making processes as
far as they relate to environmental matters.

The issue of Cayman’s unique environment has gone under exposed for
some time. The recent campaign to save the Ironwood Forest in George
Town did a good job of raising awareness about some of the incredible
species that are found in these islands and their precarious position.
Anyone who has taken the time to explore that tiny piece of natural
environment in the very heart of George Town, which made its way into
the news recently, could not have failed to grasp what it is that
Cayman has already lost.

The forest is home to some 70 native species, many of which are
endemic and some of which are unique to that particular forest. The
beautiful Ghost Orchid, which totters on the brink of extinction,
flourishes only in that piece of woodland and in a small area off the
Mastic Trail. Found nowhere else in the world, experts admit that
little of its life cycle is fully understood, and the future of this
incredible flower hangs in the balance, offering a perfect example of
how easily our bio-diversity is undermined without proper
environmental legislation.

Cayman has for more than three decades worshipped at the alter of
rampant development, and while Ebanks-Petrie and other supporters of
this bill maintain that the law does not mean the end of economic
growth, future development must consider the environment before
everything that is the essence of Cayman, is lost forever.

 

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An education in sexual health

| 02/06/2008 | 0 Comments

Although sex education is controversial in the Cayman Islands, the
reality is that, despite the continued and wholly futile prohibition
of pornographic magazines like Playboy, most young people today
have access to unlimited graphic pornography on the Internet and late
night cable television. In addition, as a video posted on YouTube (now
removed) ably demonstrates, the simulated sexual acts (hardly
dancing) at clubs and dances in the Cayman Islands leave little to the
imagination.

Unless Cayman society concedes the sexual education of young people to
such sources, a better way to provide them with a clear guide to
sexual health is obviously needed. Moreover, establishing sex
education into the schools’ curriculum follows trends in the developed
world, where teen pregnancy is viewed as undesirable for both teen
mothers and society as a whole.

In September 2008, the Department of Education Services (DoES) will
introduce the new curriculum into government schools that will include
age-appropriate sex education as part of a more holistic approach to
what students learn in schools, covering such objectives as self-
awareness, respect for others, and resistance to peer pressure among
the more traditional academic subjects.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that teen pregnancy is nothing new in the
Cayman Islands, but precise figures are not available. Statistics
on Live births to teenage
mothers
  supplied by the Ministry of Health and Human
Services do not include abortions, miscarriages or births abroad.
Nevertheless, they show an expected correlation between age and birth
rate, with 41 teenagers giving birth in 2007, nine of them 17 years or
less. Figures have fluctuated between 41 and 26 over the last 5 years
(2003-2007), with an average of 35, though the birth rate to teen
mothers in 1995-99, especially to 17-year-olds, appears significantly
higher, reaching 58 in 1998.

 Ã¢â‚¬Å“Clearly by its very nature this is a very personal and
potentially emotive aspect of education,” says Head of Curriculum
Services Clive Baker. “Nonetheless, given the pressuresof society and
the statistics about youth sexuality, it is an area that we have a
moral duty to deliver.”

Baker notes that the national curriculum considers the area of human
reproduction and sex education in separate documents and at different
age levels, and stresses the distinction between learning the biology
of the reproductive system and learning about sexual feelings and
behaviours.

“Whilst the two subjects can be intrinsically linked, they need not
always be so. For example, girls need to learn about changes in their
bodies ahead of them happening (typically beginning at about age 10).
We can recognize the need for them to understand the changes happening
in their bodies, and what its significance is, without them
necessarily considering the broader issues of sexual behaviour, which
would then be considered when the students were more mature.
Undoubtedly, there will be some students identified at higher risk of
premature sexual activity for whom targeted information would be more
appropriate or even necessary – but it is not a one size fits all
solution to give all students this information in Year 6,” says Baker.

A guidance policy from the Department of Education Services for sex
education is under construction and will be completed before the start
of the new curriculum in September 2008, he notes.

The Cayman Islands, however, does not have condoms available at
schools, although studies show that students at
schools in the US with condom-availability programs – as part of a
comprehensive sex education programme – have sex less often than those
at schools without these controversial initiatives. Condoms, both male
and female, which when used correctly help reduce the spread of
sexually transmitted diseases, are available at the Public Health
Clinic and all Health Centres at no cost. (CNS is expecting
clarification of the details of this policy).

Statistics on reported cases of sexually
transmitted infections
  other than AIDS, also supplied by the
Health Ministry, are not broken down to show age and sex distribution,
nor is separate data kept for Cayman Brac. Since 2006, however,
figures for STI’s have been based on laboratory confirmations and
also age and sex, but the report is under preparation, the Ministry
reported.

According to Brent Holt, Head of Student Services at DoES, in addition
to the formal curriculum and the specified topics on human sexuality
and reproduction which are covered in the life skills and science
curriculum, government schools place a great deal of emphasis on the
broader issues of helping young people deal with the difficulties of
adolescence and of preparing them for the challenges of adult
life. 

“For this reason, teachers, counselors and a range of support and
pastoral staff work with students individually and in groups on all
kinds of issues, including sex education. Schools also take advantage
of the expertise of other groups interested in helping young people,
and government departments, non-governmental organizations, service
clubs and churches all provide valuable time and support for young
people in this area and in other aspects of what we would term
preparation for adult life.”

One such organization, the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC), has given
talks in the schools in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac on topics such as
healthy relationships, domestic abuse, and entering into non-
traditional careers based upon sex, says WRC Director Tammy Ebanks-
Bishop. “We would like to expand our services to increase the number
of times that we visit the schools during the year in order to provide
students with information on healthy interpersonal relationships,” she
says.

“We have recently had a staff member trained to conduct information
sessions for a programme entitled ‘Owning Up’. This programme targets
young people and seeks to empower them, either as perpetrators,
bystanders or targets, to stop violence and humiliation in personal
relationships. We see providing information to young persons on topics
such as these as a proactive approach to spread knowledge about
healthy relationships. When young persons are equipped with knowledge
as to what a healthy and unhealthy relationship is, then perhaps they
will be more empowered to not enter into relationships in which they
are either perpetrators or victims of intimate partner violence,” says
Ebanks-Bishop.      

“Social and cultural norms do influence how we raise our boys and our
girls; this is called gender socialization,” says Ebanks-Bishop.
“Gender socialization determines the roles, responsibilities, values,
etc, that we assign our children based upon their sex (which later
translates at many levels into adulthood). This in turn assists us as
a society in determining what we consider ‘normal’ masculine and
feminine behaviour for our culture.”

She points out that, in regards to teenage sexual activity and
pregnancy, there are many gender socialization issues at work, such as
the double standard of sexual activity and fidelity when it comes to
men, young adolescent men and women and young adolescent women.

“It is more acceptable for males to be promiscuous and have affairs
than it is for women. Females are labeled with negative names, and
males are viewed by their peers as being more ‘successful’ the more
partners that they have.  Bearing that in mind, it is almost as
if too often the young girls who do get pregnant are met with
dismissing attitudes that they no longer are worthy of support or are
of no value to society. It does not seem as though the males who are
the fathers of the teenage mothers are met with the same kind of
dismissing attitudes,” Ebanks-Bishop says, noting that another aspect
of gender socialization differences when it comes to boys and girls is
self-image.

Based upon her observations, Ebanks-Bishop says it appears that young
girls have limited access to contraception. The reasons for this
observation are unknown and could be a result of various contributing
factors, she commented.

“Perhaps it is that Cayman is such a small place and the younger
adolescent women are not comfortable accessing services from clinics
or medical health facilities because of being afraid that their
confidentiality would be breached to their parents. Perhaps it is due
to gender socialization. Some females may not be confident or educated
enough to demand that their partner uses protection during
intercourse. They may not be aware that there is, or have access to, a
female condom. Perhaps it is because of parenting practices and/or
religious beliefs.

“Young adolescents may not feel comfortable talking to their parents
about their sexuality and thus do not get educated at all on (sexual
health). Perhaps there are issues of sexual abuse. We have to be
mindful that in some instances of teenage pregnancy, the young woman
was being sexually abused and therefore there really is no room for
consensual decision making with the male about contraception. Perhaps
there is a legal aspect at work. Does society think that young persons
under the age of consent should not have access to contraception?
Unfortunately, there seemsto be more questions than solid answers.”

Ebanks-Bishop also points to a socio-economic aspect to teenage
pregnancy, since young people who are in lower socio-economic levels
often don’t have correct information about sexual health or lack
information about contraception or access to contraception.

“Additionally, perhaps due to economic situations, young women are
‘groomed’ and exploited by their own family members in order to
reap economic gain from older men. This could be in the form of gift
giving or even covering expense such as rent, etc. There seems to
be an attitude again of blaming the young woman instead of the adults
who have ‘groomed’ her or the older men who have exploited her,” she
says.  

“Finally, I would stress that teenage pregnancy has to be addressed in
a more holistic manner including examining parenting practices, gender
relations and socialization, and socio-economic and education
factors.”

Holt adds, “Young people learn best when the entire community comes
together to support them in their learning and development as
individuals and citizens, and this ideal is enshrined in the
description of the ‘Educated Caymanian’ that is the touchstone of the
new education curriculum.”

When it comes to sexual health, knowledge is power (including the fact
that it’s OK to say “no”) and ignorance can have far-reaching
consequences. AIDS cases and deaths
are still low in the Cayman Islands, but this is a disease that can
lie dormant for years and reap disastrous consequences on a community.

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The constitutional battleground

| 20/05/2008 | 0 Comments

George Town (CNS): Although issues such as the
balance of power between the elected and non-elected members of the
government and single member constituencies have been widely debated
at many of the constitutional public meetings over the past few
months, it is the Bill of Rights, which has, time and time again,
proved to be the subject that has dominated the constitutional road
show. With the open public consultation period now at an end and the
creation of a proposed document ready for referendum imminent,
regardless of the government’s confidence, it still has a long way to
go to win over hearts and minds for an enshrined Bill of Rights.

Whatever the feelings of the PPM or even the silent majority over this
bill, the church has been vociferous in its opposition to enshrining
rights in the constitution and, moreover, has a very high degree of
influence over a large number of people. Pastors, reverends, church
ministers and priests have significant power and their opinion is one
the government must win over if it is to safeguard human rights for
the population at large.

The importance of how the Bill of Rights is formed was highlighted at
a meeting held at the Family Life Centre in Walkers Road on 26 March
with members of the Cayman Ministers Association (CMA). Literally
hundreds of people showed up to voice their concerns over the issue,
by far the biggest turn out for any of the constitutional forums.
While the numbers alone illustrated how suspicious the community is of
“rights”, the meeting also revealed that the battleground for the
constitution would be in the pulpit and not the political arena.

There is little doubt from the evidence of the public consultation
period that the government must now secure the support of the church
community in order to get a ‘yes’ vote in the forthcoming referendum.
However, with only a few months to go before the country’s 14,000
voters go the polls to offer their opinion, the church is still a long
way from being convinced that Cayman needs a Bill of Rights.

Reverend Nicholas Sykes from St Alban’s Church and a prominent member
of the CMA says he believes there simply has not been enough
discussion regarding how Cayman deals with this issue.

“Unfortunately, the idea of having the Bill of Rights in legislation
rather than enshrined in the constitution seems to have simply been
dismissed, and I do not think there has been enough public discussion
about this option,” he tells CNS.

Sykes is not alone. Most of those in the church community have
significant doubts about how Cayman deals with human rights. Sykes
also admits that while he and his colleagues do not necessarily tell
their congregations what to do, the people of Cayman are more likely
to listen to their church ministers than their political ones, and as
such Sykes and his colleagues have considerable influence over those
that come to worship in their churches. Sykes says it is important to
use that influence responsibly but he has no reservations in answering
the queries of his flock, and he says if the final proposals do not
address his concerns, he will advice his congregation accordingly.

While government Ministers, in particular the Leader of Government
Business Kurt Tibbetts and Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, have
said they believed they had allayed the fears of the church and can
move forward with a Bill of Rights that will satisfy their concerns,
there is some disagreement with that position from the church
ministers. Sykes says that if the government thinks that CMA is on
their side regarding the idea of an enshrined Bill of Rights, it is at
the very least overstating the matter.

However, McLaughlin believes the government can and will reconcile the
differing opinions before the referendum. “We are confident we can
develop a Bill of Rights which will meet all the major concerns,”
McLaughlin said recently.

Pastor Bob Thompson, Chair of CMA, says that while he was happier that
government was at least talking to the church and taking their
concerns seriously he still feels that the Association had not
necessarily been won over to the government position.

Unless the Bill of Rights was written in such a way that would satisfy
their major concerns, he says he would still be against a ‘yes’ vote
and is still more comfortable with rights being laws rather than
enshrined in the constitution.

“If we must have this in the constitution document, we have to get the
wording right in order to avoid the unintended consequences that can
arise from the interpretation of rights, as has already happened in
some jurisdictions,” says Thompson. “We need to be very wary of rights
without discussing responsibilities, and we have concerns about the
Human Rights Committee that will oversee this. They are setting
themselves up as a quasi court, they should be there to advise and
help people to understand rights, but not to make rulings.”

The Human Rights Committee (HRC) told CNS that it is not a court but
an advisory body, there to help people peruse the right legal channels
to protect their rights. “The HRC envisages that it can play an
important role in the resolution of concerns involving human rights,
providing informed opinions and the making of recommendations in
respect of complaints received. In addition, if human rights are to be
enshrined in the constitution, the HRC should also be able to assist
individuals in enforcing these rights under a new constitution. The
feedback that the HRC has received from the public has indicated that
this type of assistance is both welcome and necessary,” said the
Committee.

The HRC also noted how important enshrining rights is, as oppose to
having them enacted in law.  “If the Bill of Rights is simply
created as an ordinary law, there is a real danger that it can be
altered or repealed relatively easily by the legislature,” said the
Committee. “This means our so-called ‘rights’ might be redefined or
changed after every election. Moreover, the rights will also be
vulnerable to gradual or potentially inadvertent erosion unless the
legislature remains continually vigilant and focused on how new laws
impact upon individual rights.”

However, it is exactly for that reason that the CMA wants the rights
in legislation and not in the constitution. Thompson, Sykes and other
members of the CMA believe that enshrining rights will lead to
arbitrary judgments that could undermine the local community’s morals
and cultural particularisms.

“Having these rights enshrined leaves it to the judiciary to decide a
rights case, as oppose to our elected officials in the legislature,”
said Sykes, who believes that having the balance of a decision resting
with judges could have unintended consequences.

“You can adjust a law in the legislature but it is very difficult to
change a constitution. While rights are enshrined in law there is room
for conversation about how they impact society,” he added. “We really
need to have a balance of power when it comes to our ethics and morals
that rests with the legislature and not the judiciary, which could
ride roughshod over what the people had intended.”

However, human rights advocates would argue that very point
conversely: if the judiciary cannot make rulings based on enshrined
rights then the people cannot be protected from the legislator – aka
the government, which is the fundamental principal behind a Bill of
Rights.

The HRC also recommends enshrining the Bill of Rights directly into
the Cayman Islands Constitution to ensure that human rights take
precedence over potentially conflicting ordinary laws and, the
Committee told CNS, it is important for the country to ensure that all
future laws take proper account of fundamental human rights before
being passed by the legislature.

The representatives from CMA remain unconvinced, and aside from their
concerns over same sex marriage, Sykes believes that Cayman’s
Christian heritage could easily be undermined if we were to enshrine
certain things into the constitution because of how they could be
interpreted at a later date.

“We could see Sundayclosing, prayer in school and many other elements
of our Christian society lost if rights are enshrined,” Sykes warns.

He says there are numerous examples in Canada where the intentions of
the legislatures when they drew up the constitution are now being
distorted by rulings in the court. He says this evidence has not been
put before the people of Cayman, and that we need to look more closely
at this and many other issues before the people face a referendum.

“We also need to find a way of preserving our Christian culture within
a future constitution that will prevent judicial rulings from
undermining that position,” he says. Although Sykes maintains he is
not advocating a Christian theology, he insists that there is a way of
protecting Christianity as the country’s religion.

Thompson also says he wants to see Christianity enshrined as the
dominant culture in some way. He agrees with the principle of the
freedom to worship, but he says, the intolerance of some religions
would make it difficult to allow those people to worship freely. He
also believes Satanism should be against the law and that the
“fundamentalism of Muslims” made it difficult for Cayman to welcome
the idea of mosques. Furthermore, he says that allowing religious
freedom would make it hard to preserve the local Christian heritage.

“We have to define religious freedom. We don’t want the society to
become anti-religious. We have to choose the wording carefully so we
can preserve what we are,” Thompson adds.

The recent controversy over the law and the now infamous kiss that
occurred in public between two visiting gay tourists illustrates how
ambiguous legal language can be open to various interpretations. Many
here believed that when the laws against homosexuality were repealed,
they were only done so for acts committed behind closed doors.
Furthermore, although the penal code sates that: “Whoever publicly
does an indecent act or, whoever in a public place conducts himself in
a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace,” is committing an
offence, whether or not a kiss constitutes an indecent act is
certainly open to interpretation.

When Professor Jeffrey Jowell QC, a constitutional legal expert from
the UK, visited Cayman recently he tried very hard to reassure CMA
that a Bill of Rights would not affect prayer in school, what the
church could preach from the pulpit, or enforce same sex unions.

However, CMA remains unconvinced because they believe interpretation
in the hands of lawyers would spell the end of certain values they say
Cayman holds dear. Thompson says that, as yet, no one has been able to
defend themselves against breeches of human rights in Canada, and in
every case the judiciary has ruled in favour of the person bringing
the human rights complaint. Therefore, he has serious concerns that
with an enshrined Bill of Rights this could happen here too.

Whether the misgivings of the church are well founded or not is, at
present, less important than the power of the pulpit. Even though CMA
has made more conciliatory noises to government in the last few weeks,
Sykes is not the only member of CMA that has very serious reservations
about guiding his congregation towards voting ‘yes’ to rights
enshrined in the constitution. He and Thompson, as well as many other
members of the church community and lay people continue to voice their
desire to see Christianity enshrined in some way in the constitution.

The difficulty for the government on this issue is that the demands of
CMA will not be easy to reconcile with the UK government. There are a
number of issues on which the British government will stand firm, and
human rights, such as religious freedom, that are considered be
fundamental will be virtually impossible to “Caymanianise”, as has
been suggested.

Jowell noted recently that no one could force anyone to worship in a
specific way and that Christianity could not be forced on society or
enshrined as the only way to express worship.

“I’m sure you don’t want a Christian dictatorship,” he said at the
March CMA meeting. “You cannot impose religion on someone. Freedom of
conscience and freedom of speech protect faith, but you can’t force
your will or discriminate against other faiths. Freedom of expression
is very important. Do you want to suppress all views?”

Moreover, as the opposition United Democratic Party prepares to take
its constitutional proposals on the road at the end of this month with
a similar stance to the church regarding the Bill of Rights,
government faces an uphill battle to persuade the people of Cayman
that enshrining rights in the constitution will not pull the rug from
under their perceptions of what it means to be Caymanian and above all
not undermine the Christian culture.

Rightly or wrongly, winning support for the Bill of Rights at present
remains in the hands of religious, and not political, ministers.

reply@caymannetnews.com

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People power and the Ironwood Forest

| 12/05/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger (Posted Monday, 12 May 2008)

There were favourable indications this past week that the Minister for
Communications and Works may be giving up on plans to build a road
through George Town’s remaining ancient Ironwood Forest. Speaking at a
recent Finance Committee hearing, Arden McLean said he was not
prepared to take anyone’s land and the government was looking at
alternate routes around the northern boundary of the forest. Following
that statement on Thursday, 8 May, his ministry invited all interested
parties to a public meeting this week Wednesday.

From the outset there has been persistent and strong opposition to the
road from concerned citizens across the islands, as well as the
private landowners. There has been a significant amount of
correspondence with the local press, calls to talk shows, and a
turnout of more than 200 people at a recent rally outside the Glass
House last month, where a number of people pledged tolay before the
bulldozers if necessary, in addition to adding their names to a
growing petition to save the forest. An information website
established to inform people about the campaign received literally
hundreds of comments from Caymanians, residents and overseas visitors
in support of this unique environment.

The crown owns a considerable amount of the land in the forest but a
large percentage remains in private hands – but untouched. From the
outset, the private landowners have stated their position and desire
to protect the forest and have pledged not to develop land they own
which lies within its boundaries. However, confusion and
misinformation has surrounded this proposed road development. The
actual definition of the forest boundary and its delicate eco-systems
versus what some consider inconsequential land, the government’s
desire to create a heritage forest, its plans to build the road and
develop the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) site, and
the long term intentions of the private landowners have been part of
accusations and counter accusations. 

The Minister has even suggested that many of the protestors had hidden
agendas because of their own desire to develop parts of the forest,
though these accusations appear to be unfounded. At the weekly
televised press briefing on 1 May, McLean said the real forest needed
to be protected from other development in the future, since at present
there were no guarantees that the owners would not build. 

Andrew McGregor Yates the largest private landowner affected by the
proposed road has said neither he nor any of the other landowners in
the forest have any intentions of building on the land. “This land is
ours to preserve. We don’t want to build on it and we don’t want the
road. The forest has already suffered from encroachment. There are
incredible species in this forest found nowhere else in the world and
I want to preserve it,” Yates said. “Only God knows why these
beautiful things are growing in this forest and we should not disturb
them.”

One very well qualified localexpert told CNS that the reason why the
forest had evolved this way was because it is part of a mosaic of eco-
systems. While he said that some of the land in question was indeed
swamp, that very swampland gave rise to the diversity of life in the
forest itself. “You can’t have one without the other, the systems are
a mosaic and it is the moisture and humidity levels from the swamp
that have given rise to the diverse species in the forest,” he said.

Although the area in question is very small in the grand scheme of
conservation, this tiny patchwork of dry wood forest and swamp is the
end result of millions of years of evolution and the expert described
some of the unique elements.

“There are more than 70 different species there and about twenty are
critically endangered, with another 25 endangered. We also have some
endemic species, not just to Cayman but to the forest itself. Old
George (Hohenbergia caymanensis) is a type of bromeliad that
grows naturally only in the forest.” He also noted that much of the
flora, such as the Ghost Orchid, is there for a reason and attempts to
move them have generally failed.

“Nature chooses places for good reasons, and we can’t replicate those
reasons as we don’t always know what they are. We are not even sure
exactly what pollinates a Ghost Orchid,” he added.

This uncertainty about the orchid applies to numerous other species.
While experts in the public and private sector are making it their
life’s work to study the islands’ flora and fauna, they don’t know
everything, and unless they can continue to observe species in their
natural habitats they will continually be hampered in their
understanding of our bio-diversity.

Around the world the drive to preserve the planet’s bio-diversity is
being fuelled by myriad reasons. Many species on earth are sources of
food, medicines, cosmetics and other things we need and want. Around
90 percent of our food was domesticated and crossbred from wild stock,
found by trial and error. Again, about 50% of the drugs and other
pharmaceuticals that we depend upon were developed in some way from
the genetic resources of wild plants. However, almost 90% of the
plants we know about have never even been chemically evaluated.

Preserving species requires the preservation of their ecosystems, and
experts say that this is also good for our general human health in the
long term. Aesthetics play an important part, too, in the argument for
preserving bio-diversity. The vision of an earth with only a few very
similar plants and flowers on it is at best an ugly thought, but could
even be dangerous. Other reasons reach into moral, philosophical and
religious realms. It is, after all, arrogant of us as humans to assume
the role of judge and jury over what is worth preserving and what
isn’t. Moreover, according to the scriptures of most religions, Man
was given guardianship of the earth by God.

However, as many as 50-200 species are lost every day and it
takes between 2,000-100,000 generations for higher species to evolve.
Across the world, scientists admit they lack knowledge about species
in the most bio-diverse and at-risk areas, so preserving even the
tiniest area could prove crucial in years to come.

When CNS contacted the Department of Environment to talk about the
species diversity in the Ironwood Forest, we were informed that the
Department had been specifically instructed by the Ministry not to
make any public comment on this subject until further notice is given.
In the wake of the shocking tragedy at the Botanic Park, where seven
Blue Iguanas were murdered in a brutalattack, the Minister in
question, Charles Clifford, said that the pending National
Conservation Law had been drafted to help safeguard Cayman’s endemic
and endangered plant and animal species.

“As united as we are in our grief, Caymanians stand together in our
resolve to protect our endangered and endemic fauna and flora,” the
Minister said on Friday 9 May. We can hope, if this is how he feels,
the restriction he has placed on staff speaking out about the species
in the forest will be lifted before next Wednesday’s meeting so the
public will not be deprived of a valuable source of expertise with
respect to the ecological value of the forest and its endangered and
endemic fauna and flora.

Meanwhile, as silent as the DoE staff has been instructed to be, its
website is very informative and explains that the Cayman Islands
enjoys a rich and varied natural heritage and all three islands are
unique. In addition to spectacular marine resources, Grand Cayman,
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac all boast plants and animals that are
found nowhere else in the world. “Protection of our local natural
resources is part of our global responsibility towards maintaining a
healthy and diverse planet, both now and for benefit of future
generations,” the site says.

Under the Darwin initiative, one where countries that are rich in
biodiversity can receive funding and assistance from the UK to help
implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the DoE is now
carrying out an assessment of the key biodiversity elements of Cayman
with a view to learning how the country can conserve the environment
and raise awareness. The Ironwood Forest is one just place where the
project is working to preserveand understand what is left of Cayman’s
natural habitat so that we can all begin to appreciate a little more
what we have – before it’s too late.

There is no doubt that the forest is a place of exceptional peace and
beauty in the heart of the country’s busy capital, and well worth
preserving for that alone, never mind all of the other sound and
sensible reasons. Those wishing to preserve the forest are also in
favour of creating a small limited boardwalk or hanging bridge, which
would enable more people to enjoy a small piece of this forest without
causing damage because, they say, its unique nature needs to be
promoted and that it would form an excellent educational exhibit.
Anyone brave enough to venture in will be rewarded with nature’s
bounty very quickly, as both Old George and the Ghost Orchid are
growing close to the forest’s edge. There is, however, plenty of
Maiden Plum and Lady Hair, neither of which are quite as friendly as
some of the other species, making it a little dangerous for those who
are not familiar with these plants – hence the need to find a way for
people to enjoy the forest safely.

At present, the future of this unique forest, which is clearly very
special to many people, as demonstrated by the outpouring of support
to conserve it, hangs on the decision of the government to build or
not to build a road. According to Minister McLean, to alter the route
would require taking out four or five homes and not taking the Linford
Peirson Highway through to Walkers Road and could amount to more
traffic woes for drivers coming in from the eastern districts. “If we
were to do it without taking out houses, it would mean sharp 70 degree
corners. If you’re going to do it that way you’re going to have to
take out at least four or five homes,” he said recently.

Some, however, would and have said that this is a very small price to
pay to preserve George Town’s Ironwood Forest. The environment is no
longer something people in Cayman want to take for granted, and the
issue of conservation is beginning to take precedence over development
at any cost. While we may not yet be able to collectively call
ourselves real “Friends of the Earth”, we are, at least, trying hard
to get to know her a bit better.

For more details on the campaign to preserve the ironwood forest visit
www.ironwood-
forest.com
. The public meeting will take place at 7:00 pm on
Wednesday 14 May at the Sir Vassell Johnson Multipurpose Hall on the
UCCI campus.

Continue Reading

A battle lost but a war to wage

| 05/05/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger (Monday, 5 May 2008)

Against the backdrop of a surge of environmental and conservational
interest across the Cayman Islands, the low-key, but persistent,
campaign against the two captive dolphin facilities currently in
development in West Bay soldiers on. With more than 1,700 people
joining the Chamber of Commerce’s Earth Day clean up last month and a
significant body of support for George Town’s last piece of remaining
Iron wood Forest, the Keep it Wild and Keep Dolphins Free campaign is
still seeking more hands-on support and has by no means given up the
fight.

There is no doubt that the campaign failed to prevent the facilities
from going ahead, something that activists say was already a fait
accompli before they really got going, but Billy Adam continues to
spearhead an awareness and education programme about what he calls the
deception and dishonesty associated with the dolphin trade, and other
campaigners still believe there is hope, that in the end, the war
maybe won through the purse.

One of Cayman’s original activists said the campaign direction is now
focused towards persuading people simply not to visit the facilities.
She said that the hope was local people and especially schools 
would not patronise the parks and that in time the cruise ships could
be convinced to stop selling ‘swim with dolphin’ excursions to their
passengers, who are expected to be the main patrons of the two parks
due to open in Cayman in the next few months.

Adam says that one cruise liner at least, Radisson Seven Seas, has
already stated it won’t sell the dolphin tours and that a number of
countries around the Caribbean are turning against the idea in
principle. Imports of dolphins are also being halted more frequently,
most recently in the Dominican Republic, where the particular dolphin
importation documents proved to be false.

“These were the same papers, however, that the Cayman Islands’
government was willing to accept,” said Adam, who added that the
captive dolphin business was not just cruel and unpleasant but one
associated with dishonesty.  He said that he would continue to
educate people about the industry and why we should not entertain
these facilities in Cayman. “It’s easy to find information
demonstrating how unpleasant this business is. The whole industry is
based on deception and we will keep on bringing forward the evidence
about it.”

Cayman’s two facilities, which are due to open in the summer, are both
based in West Bay. Dolphin Discovery Cayman Ltd is on a site leased
form Boatswain Beach and the other, Dolphin Cove Cayman, is along the
coast from Morgan’s Harbour. The facilities were granted government
approval before the current administration took office. However, in
spite of significant opposition within the community, the People’s
Progressive Movement (PPM) government did not halt the earmarked
projects but instigated a moratorium in 2006 to prevent any further
facilities being developed before a more comprehensive law to govern
such facilities was established – one that has not yet emerged.

Some 2,000 people signed a petition against the dolphinariums and the
government is, according to Adam, in receipt of more than 5,000
letters from Caymanains and others from around the world raising the
numerous objections to such facilities and the reasons why. The vast
majority of members, some 75% of the Cayman Islands Tourism
Association, as well as leading members of the dive community, were
also against the development of the dolphin parks.

Moreover, the objections go beyond the problems of cruelty.
Humanitarian concerns, reduced life expectancy of the dolphins, 
environmental degradation to our delicate marine eco-systems, in
particular the reefs from dolphin excrement, the overall potential PR
disaster such facilities present for the country as a whole are all
important considerations weighed against who benefits from such a
project. Campaigners say the only people benefitting from the parks
are those developing them.

CNS contacted  the Minister of Tourism and Environment, Charles
Clifford, the Director of Planning Kenneth Ebanks, both of the
developers and owners of the proposed facilities, Dales Crighton and
Kent Eldemire respectively,  and the Turtle Farm asking them
among other things to explain the benefits of the facilities to the
Cayman Islands in general, and to answer the numerous accusations
about cruelty, environmental degradation and the considerations given
to the two projects from a political and development point of view.
However, CNS received only one response from a representative of the
Eldemire family stating they did not wish to comment.

Back in 2007, Gene Thompson who is partnering with Dale Crighton on
the Dolphin Discovery project, said that, while everyone was not happy
with the planned development, he strongly believed the facility would
be of benefit to the Islands and that the dolphinarium would be built
to the highest standards. “I have visited several swim-with-dolphins
programmes over the years and they were phenomenal experiences. I
strongly believe it will benefit the Island,” he had said. In past
media reports Thompson has noted the Dolphin Discovery facility would
be a first-class attraction, with space enough for 20 dolphins but
would hold only eight dolphins in the first instance.

These dolphin facilities have received criticisms the world over, and
the concept of captive dolphin facilities has become increasingly
controversial across the Caribbean region. The fact that that none of
the people involved in the development or facilitation of these sites
here in Cayman was prepared to defend them speaks volumes in the face
of considerable documented evidence to suggest the practice is at best
unpleasant and at worst fundamentally corrupt.

However, across the World Wide Web there are numerous reviews from
people who have visited such facilities throughout the Caribbean
literally raving about the experience, and while there are so many
people willing to pay to swim and ride on dolphins, some suggest it is
unfair to point the finger at those who are tapping into the lucrative
market. With so many other questionable animal activities taking place
around the world, from circuses and bullfighting to horse and dog
racing, the question remains why the developers of the dolphin
facilities in Cayman should be any more vilified than those who are
willing to attend.

However, with Cayman’s overseas image constantly balancing on a
delicate thread many continue to ask whether such facilities would
offer any real benefit to “brand Cayman” when there is a significant
risk that it will cause damage to the islands’ overall image.
Considering the current efforts to attract higher net worth
individuals to the islands since the opening of the Ritz Carlton-Grand
Cayman, and a desire to offer the Sister Islands as a green tourist
option, these facilities could certainly be detrimental to the
development of these aspects of Cayman’s tourism brand.

By and large, the vast majority of customers to the two dolphinariums
will be cruise passengers. They are unlikely to attract overnight
guests that choose Cayman specifically for these parks, as the exact
same facilities are available across the Caribbean.  Balance the
very low net gain to Cayman overall with the very genuine concerns
that, as the two developments near completion, they could have a
negative effect on the ecological integrity of our marine environment,
perhaps more pressure needs to be brought to bear on government to re-
assess the issue and to police these facilities very closely.

In 2006 the government said it had to honour the approval awarded by
the pervious administration, and that if the developers were obeying
the law then there was little to be done. Clifford said it was
important to understand that if the dolphin entertainment facilities
satisfied Planning Department requirements and all other regulatory
demands there are no further impediments to their operation.

“Even if we decide that it is not something we want for Cayman, we
need to put legislation in place for this. However, the legislation
cannot apply retroactively,” Clifford had added at the time.

Even before the doors open, accusations that one of the facilities has
not submitted anti-degradation reports before receiving planning
permission, and an absence of reports from the country’s animal
welfare committee concerning the husbandry of any imported dolphins,
suggest that the parks may not be meeting the country’s current
regulations regarding the welfare of the animals and the marine
environment.

One of the major problems is the growth of algae on the reefs from the
extra nutrients that will be in our local waters from dolphin
excrement, which experts say is already a problem in Cayman because of
the turtle farm and hotel septic tank effluents, which trickles
through the rock and sand into the water. 

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD President, Global Coral Reef Alliance said that
he was alarmed to see a lot of algae in Grand Cayman waters. “To my
surprise, every place I dived around Grand Cayman had too much algae,
and it is urgent that the Cayman Government get a handle on
controlling the problem before it ends up like Jamaica, where the
reefs are now almost entirely dead and covered with masses of weeds,”
he said.

Another issue is maintaining the health and welfare of dolphins in
captivity, which is not easy. The life expectancy of these sea mammals
declines dramatically in parks and the unfortunate death of a dolphin
in Cayman would certainly be damaging to the country’s image. Even
more damaging would be the death of a visitor.

Dolphins themselves can be very dangerous – they are after all wild
animals, even if they are bred in captivity. Earlier this year in the
Netherlands Antilles, three people came close to death when a pair of
performing dolphins reportedly turned on some swimmers because,
experts said, the creatures were exhausted from over performance.
During mating season, it is not unheard of for dolphins to become
extremely aggressive and attack humans biting and head butting them.
There have been several reports over the years of visitors to marine
parks experiencing the other side of these creatures, which are
usually billed as cuddly, sweet, friendly creatures who just love to
play.

There are certainly a number of concerns surrounding the opening of
Cayman’s latest tourist attractions. From the welfare of theanimals,
and the safety of the visitors to the damage to brand Cayman. However,
there is, it seems, nothing to stop the impending opening days.

Nevertheless, Adam says he will not give up the fight, and other
campaigners say more support is needed now from the community to put
pressure on the cruise lines who will be the ones selling the
excursions. Preserving the environment and the concept of sustainable
tourism is gaining popularity here, and there is no doubt that
Caymanians are demonstrating a greater willingness than ever before to
object and speak out about things they perceive could be detrimental
to their country. So, even if the first dolphin battle has ended in
defeat, it does not necessarily mean the war is lost.

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Cyber bullying

| 29/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Felicia Rankin (Year 11 JGHS)

George Town (CNS): Everyone imagines their home as
the safe place they run to at the end of the day. But things have
changed. Harassment has been taken to a whole new level. Today’s
technology has turned your very computer into an enemy to be wary of.
Cyber Bullying is a new threat on the scene.

Teens have always bullied or been bullied at school, but now teens are
being bullied at home through their computer. This type of bullying
has been increasing in the US, UK and also, shockingly, on our island.
And sadly it’s becoming more common.

Teens are using popular websites such as Myspace and Facebook to bully
other children. They have done this bullying in all kinds of forms,
such as blogs,inappropriate images, messages containing profanity,
threats and even websites solely to embarrass the victims, which are
all done with the same intention to humiliate and exploit other teens.

But luckily the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) and Family
Support Unit (FSU) are taking this issue seriously and are determined
to stop this problem in its tracks. This is a problem that, when not
dealt with, can go out of control. For example, a 13-year-old girl
from Missouri committed suicide in 2007 after she experienced harsh
cyber bullying. So this demands serious attention. It is not something
you merely glance at and turn your back on.

“We’re using the media to get through to parents to educate them. We
were hoping to speak to students, butbeing the end of the school year
we won’t be able to do so now. So hopefully next school year we can
speak to students for them to become aware of what is happening. We
will be appearing on Youth Flex Radio on the 25th of June to broadcast
this problem,” said Sergeant Doris Morris.

It is true that the majority of teens today are a lot more computer
savvy than their parents may be. So it is advised that parents become
more involved and try to gain more knowledge on computers and ask kids
to show them the websites they access on a regular basis to show what
they do and how they are used. When asked what parents should do about
the issue, Morris replied, “Parents should monitor kids on their
computer, give specific times as to how much time they spend on it and
even purchase security software.”

Anyone who is still not fully aware of the seriousness of this problem
should also know that it is punishable by law. So this type of
harassment won’t be ignored. It is punishable under the ICT
(Information Communication Technology) Law, which is for when devices
are misused.

“Once you have experienced some form of cyber bullying, be sure to
save whatever you have received. Then you report it to the police and
then they will begin to investigate into the issue,” said Morris.

But the reason why many of these cases are unheard of is because most
families don’t want to go through all the trouble and negative
attention that it could bring to them, and because most families
understandably want to keep their personal matters private.

So, as a community we should come together and stop cyber bullying
before it can get any worse.

 

 

 reply@caymannewsservice.com

 

 

 

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Cayman’s war on drugs

| 17/04/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger (Friday, 17 April 2008)

The international illegal drug trade is estimated to be worth more
than US$322 billion per year, according to the most recent United
Nations statistics, significantly more than the Gross Domestic Product
of over three quarters of the world’s nation states. Around 5% of the
global population uses drugs at some point during the course of a year
and it is by far the most profitable illicit international business.

 The Cayman Islands, like every other nation, is impacted by
misuse as well as drug trafficking and it is the Royal Cayman Islands
Police Service (RCIPS), in conjunction with HM Customs, that faces the
consequences of this tenacious and profitable trade. From handling
those who suffer the multiple social and anti-social problems of
addiction, to seizing the substances that find their way into our
waters and on our streets, the RCIPS is at the front line. Leading the
charge is Kurt Walton, head of the Drug Task Force (DTF), who notes
that, since he started his career in the police service, fighting this
war has never become any easier.

“The fight against drugs is not necessarily a police problem; it is a
social problem but there is no doubt that it has become a police
problem,” he said. “We cannot, however, address this issue purely
through policing. It requires a multi-agency approach.”

Regardless of the need for support from Health Services, the Education
Department, community leaders and other sectors of the community, on a
day-to-day basis it is down to Walton and his men to tackle the bulk
of the problem, and it’s the DTF team that is under pressure to
achieve results.  In 2007, of the 350 charges made relating to
drug offences, the vast majority, around 300, were for possession and
consumption, or what are termed by the RCIPS as level one offences.
Level two and three offences, which are concerned with dealing and
trafficking, accounted for around 50 of the charges, which Walton
acknowledges is disappointing.

“I would be the first to admit that I would like to see more level 2
and 3 drug offenders arrested, charged and convicted,” said Walton.
“This is part of the RCIPS DTF strategic plan for 2007- 2010. Last
year we seized over 7,700 pounds of marijuana, arrested 11 persons for
importation and being concerned in the importation of drugs, whilst
seizing two canoes in the process. Have we managed to catch the level
3 major traffickers and financiers? Probably not as successfully as we
would have hoped for – I would say that it is always going to prove
more difficult – getting the ‘bigger fish’.”

He explained that netting these so called bigger fish is difficult, as
they are rarely the ones getting their hands dirty. “Perhaps I could
compare it to the way management works. The orders are usually sent
from the top, but you never see them physically doing the manual
labor. We would like to see persons who are at the lower end of the
chain in these organizations come forward and work with us in a very
discreet manner. By doing so, we can actually get to the heart of the
organization,” Walton added.

Getting those at the bottom of the chain to cooperate, however, is not
easy in any circumstances but it is even more challenging for Walton
working in a small community such as Cayman, as it is difficult to get
witnesses to appear in court and more difficult to gather
evidence. 

“We do not encourage the use of witnesses to testify against persons
involved in the drug trade. We have a very robust intelligence
gathering system that seeks to protect the identity of witnesses and
informants. There are exceptional circumstances where we may have to
use a witness in a drug case, but these types of cases are limited to
those witnesses who themselves are co-defendants; for example, ‘drug
mules’ who will testify against the named recipientof the drug.”

Protecting witnesses from the violence associated with the drug trade
and organised crime is difficult without a witness protection
programme.  Walton believes that if the RCIPS could manage to
secure MOUs with other jurisdictions, in particular the UK, it would
be possible to offer witness protection to those higher up the chain
that may want ‘out’ of the drug business.

“If we could offer a guaranteed secure witness protection programme,
we might see people willing to expose major drug trafficking. The
larger movement of drugs is associated with organized crime, so the
only way we could get this is to offer secure protection through
outside agencies,” he said.

Moreover, in a small community where everyone knows everyone’s
business and everyone’s face Walton has to be very creative with
resources when running undercover operations.

“It is almost impossible to use local officers for any kind of
undercover operation, so we utilize officers who come to us on
secondment from outside agencies that have this kind of experience.”

He also noted the it takes time as well as a lot of resources to
gather the necessary evidence to ensure a charge will result in a
conviction for those dealing in large quantities. He said that in one
recent operation that resulted in a conviction, it took more than
three weeks of a concentrated operations to arrest  just one
dealer.

Cayman’s drug problems, like other jurisdictions, are multifaceted as
we have both a local and a trans-shipment market. Although the local
market is considerably smaller, Walton says that his team has seized
substantial quantities of ganja destined for local use, although
normally the larger seizures are in transit. But last year the DTF
seized two canoes in separate operations totaling over 1,100 pounds of
marijuana destined to be sold on the streets of Cayman.

Alongside drugs usually come guns, and Walton explained that there are
two supply routes for them. “These routes are via the Jamaican canoes
and go-fast vessels, and the vessels fishing off the banks of Central
America. Our partners HM Customs have had success in seizing firearms
and drugs from these fishing vessels in the past,” he explained,
adding that containers are often used for getting the drugs out, and
in 2003 the DTF seized 19,971 pounds of marijuana, of which 14,000+
pounds were found in shipping containers for export. 

By partnering with the Port Authority and HM Customs, the DTF is
continuing to tackle the container import/export movement and the
Marine Unit will be up to its full potential in a few months with the
addition of more vessels for border patrol.  “This should assist
greatly with the Jamaican canoe problem,” Walton said.

Although not wishing to point the finger at any one nation, Walton
indicated that one of the most significant problems facing the DTF was
the Jamaican canoes, although drugs do come from Central and South
American countries.  “Last year an individual was arrested in St
Andres, Colombia, for attempting to export out of that country a
significant amount of cocaine. That individual was about to get on a
plane destined to Grand Cayman,” said Walton. “As well, last year our
partners, the Customs Narcotics division seized several kilos of
cocaine smuggled into the Cayman Islands from Honduras.”

The recent incident of an apparent drug mule death from an overdose is
nothing new to Cayman when it comes to means of trafficking, but
Walton noted it is less common these days as a result of the right
training.

“This was a common method used in the mid to late 1990’s, but Customs
and DTF officers received training on profiling such persons, which
led to a significant amount of success,” he said. “Drug trends change
with time like any other business, so the recent events have only
resurfaced. These matters are normally first dealt with by the Customs
Narcotics Division, seeing that the airport is the first point of
entry. I want to stress, however, that these two individuals were
valid work permit holders in Cayman and not here as visitors. A rigid
visa policy by our immigration partners may have curtailed some of
these issues experienced in the past.”

 Aside from being a transshipment point, Cayman also has its own
street drug problems. ganja, cocaine and crack cocaine remain Cayman’s
drugs of choice but Walton says we are also seeing significant
quantities of ecstasy. Crack cocaine is the most problematic and
cannabis is the most widely used.

The local trade is connected to local gangs, and Walton admits that
the recent spate of stabbings and shootings is almost certainly
associated with gangs and drug territory. “As long as there is a
demand for drugs, someone is going to supply. Our local drug scene is
no different. There will always be rivalry within these organizations
and that is because money is usually the common denominator. People
are going to rip each other off and that is where your problems start.
Unfortunately, unlike a legitimate business contract dispute, drug
dealers resort to violence in order to settle their problems. This has
an immense impact, especially on a small society like ours.”

He also noted that Cayman, like all western societies, suffers from
drug-induced crime, and even with our low crime levels most of it is
drug related. He said that a report by Yolande C. Forde, a consultant
criminologist, found that drug traffickers represented the largest
percentage of the prison populace in Cayman and that almost three
quarters of the inmates interviewed said they used drugs.

“The report showed that 64.8% of inmates were incarcerated for drug
related crimes.  More alarming is that a higher percentage of
drug inmates first entering the Criminal Justice System were between
the ages of 15 and 19 years,” said Walton, who added that this
illustrated the need for an holistic approach in future drug strategy.

“We must take a look at the overall problem by addressing a
Prevention, Intelligence, Proactive and Partnerships (PIPP) strategic
approach. What troubles me most is how much more acceptable marijuana
usage is growing amongst our youth. In most instances, these
youngsters don’t recognize marijuana use as harmful, but one look at
the survey above contradicts this. The trouble with any drug is that,
in most instances, persons will want to try a harder drug to get a
different high. As such, we have seen persons graduate from marijuana
smokers to crack cocaine smokers. I need not go into details on the
problems associated with crack cocaine.”

Walton is also pleased that the Criminal Justice System is beginning
to utilize the drug courts as a way to address the issue of addiction
rather than just punishment. This special court service will also help
the DTF gather relevant information. Walton said that the country
needs to know more about the levels of drug misuse and addiction to
create relevant polices and deal with the social problems. He noted
that, in his experience, drugs are at the root of a huge percentage of
crime in Cayman, and he said there was a pressing need to help people
out of addiction and dependency on drugs

 In an ideal world, with no budget or policy restrictions on how
he could fight the war on drugs, Walton notes that he would like to
see a much wider approach to the problem and that requires the
community to accept that Cayman, like almost every other country in
the world, has a drug problem and that we need more research.

“The fact that we have seen a gun culture creeping into our society
merits an analysis of the entire problem. If I had an unlimited
budget, my suggestion would be to inject more funding into information
gathering, a massive injection into our technical capabilities,
training and hiring narcotics officers, an air wing, a marine unit
solely dedicated to border protection and drug interdiction, constant
operations utilizing outside agencies, MOUs in place with outside
agencies for witness protection, and a significant injection of funds
into a drug prevention strategy,” Walton said. 

He said that he believes he could build a good case to create a drugs
entity similar to that of the DEA in the US, with an independent
budget. “I guess you could call it the CIDEA (Cayman Islands Drug
Enforcement Agency). Of course, such an entity would come with a lot
of scrutiny and, as such, would require an experienced director in
this field, who is held accountable and answers to the Governor and
Chief Secretary. I know what I am suggesting here sounds like a break
away from the RCIPS, and as such I expect some raised eyebrows. But,
things happen in the drug underworld that is not quite so obvious on
the surface, and sometimes these types of entities are best suited to
discover those underlying issues,” Walton
explained.      

“On the realistic side, the fact that the current government has
provided significant funding for a new Marine and DTF base in addition
to more vessels has certainly been welcomed. I am anxiously awaiting
the arrival of the new helicopter as well, which will be a huge boost
in our arsenal.”

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Time to force the issue

| 11/04/2008 | 0 Comments

Time to force the issue 

By Wendy Ledger (Friday, 11 April 2008)

The owner of theproperty, Asif Bhatia, recently lost the Hyatt
Regency brand and is now operating the 58 room beachside part of the
property as Grand Cayman Beach Suites. However, the other half, which
consists of around 240 regular hotel rooms, is now completely
segregated from the beach side by the new Easterly Tibbetts Highway
and remains derelict and untouched since Hurricane Ivan took its toll
in September 2004, more than three and a half years ago.

Kim Lund, one of the islands’ best known property professionals and
owner and broker with Re/Max, believes that the circumstances
surrounding the derelict property are such that the sanctity of
property ownership should now be broken.

“This situation has gone on for far too long,” said Lund. “The
property is in a prime location and it is becoming a problem for other
owners and investors in the area. The government should force a
purchase.” He noted that the properties on the Brittania development,
which were linked to the Hyatt, are being negatively impacted by the
situation. At the end of last year, one luxury home in the development
was dramatically reduced in price and Lund said it was as a direct
result of the current state of the former Hyatt hotel.  

“Demand has been so weak at Britannia, largely due to the ongoing lack
of resolution for the insurance of the main Hyatt Hotel, that prices
in some cases are below replacement values,” Lund said, and explained
just how much of a real impact the situation had on the particular
price of the particular luxury home.

“A lot of this weakness relates to this current uncertainty as to what
will happen with the hotel and facilities like the golf course. 
This extraordinary house would probably be worth around US$5 million
if it were located on the Ritz golf course, and could not be built for
what it is currently listed when you consider the land value, building
costs, and soft costs.”

Lund said the former Hyatt is an important factor in our tourism
product and thinks the issue should now be forced and that government
must step in to rectify this situation. He is not alone. Reports of
rat infestations have raised concerns among the businesses at
Buckingham Square, which is across the highway from the derelict
property, as well as the residents in the Britannia development
adjacent to the derelict property itself. Those residents have also
complained that, aside from the property being an eyesore, they have
lost access to facilities such as the tennis courts, which were
supposed to be part of the home-ownership deal.

The idea of a compulsory purchase order has much support, even though
it would normally send the property industry into a frenzy of fear, as
the rights of property owners are extensively protected in law in
Cayman and have much to do with why we have such a lucrative overseas
investment market. The idea of any government coming along and taking
property from owners for a nominal sum would act as a serious
deterrent for any future investors. However, there are exceptions,
according to Lund, and the current condition of the former Hyatt is
one of them.

“Whatever they decide to do they must now force a solution,” he said.
The issue now is whether or not the government will have the stomach
for the fight to take what Lund refers to as the necessary
action.  Minister Clifford has persistently said there is little
the government can do and has always insisted that Bhatia would settle
quickly. More than one year ago he publicly stated that he was
convinced that the property would not remain as it is for much longer,
and that either Bhatia would settle or someone would buy it.

“I have had discussions with the owners and impressed upon him the
need to get the project back on schedule,” theMinister had said in
March 2007. However over a year on, nothing has changed.

The details of the case seem to surround Bhatia’s claim for business
continuity payments that he lost as a result of the hotel’s
destruction by Ivan, as well as actual replacement costs. Bhatia and
his insurance company remain in legal battle with no resolution.
Moreover, sources very close to Bhatia say he will not settle for a
penny less than his claim, which although unconfirmed is rumoured to
be in the region of US$ 50 million, and that the insurers have offered
only half that claim.

Meanwhile, Bhatia is also in the courts over the drying work conducted
immediately after the storm on the beach suites side by a firm based
in New York. Commercial Drying Technologies were the experts who dried
the hotel, and one of the owners of the company recently confirmed to
CNS that the bulk of the bill remained unpaid and that the New York
firm was continuing its legal proceedings to recover the full costs.
The work was evidently carried out successfully as the Beach Suites
side of the Hyatt was relatively quickly re-opened on 15 December
2004, only three months after the hurricane struck.

Bhatia is no stranger to the courts and to fighting financial battles
to the bitter end. He is also one of the world’s richest Asians; he
and his family members appear on numerous rich lists and between them
they own an extensive portfolio of properties, hotel businesses and
other investments all over the world.

If, as the circumstances would indicate, Bhatia is not prepared to
settle and rich enough to fight, the government is facing little
option but to step in to avoid a worsening situation. With competition
in the tourism sector across the region ever more fierce, the
situation of the Hyatt reflects badly on brand Cayman and, contrary to
the government’s position that its hands are tied – it is after all
the government – it does have powers to force a purchase order. The
question is not can it, but will it?

This week Clifford noted that the situation was serious and that
government would be forced to take some kind of action, but declined
to say exactly what. Several months ago, he said that he was expecting
to meet with Bhatia in “a few weeks” to address the situation.
However, despite repeated attempts, the government has failed to meet
with him and Clifford said that the circumstances surrounding the
Hyatt were no longer acceptable.

“We will have to make a decision as the current circumstances are not
in the best interests of the tourist industry. I am examining the
options but cannot yet commit to a position,” he said, adding that the
idea of compulsory purchase wasn’t ruled out.

In the meantime, as the years pass, the combination of indecision by
government and the failure to settle by Bhatia means that the former
Hyatt property, once one of the jewels in Cayman’s tourism crown,
continues to crumble before our very own and our visitors’ eyes.

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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