Archive for September 24th, 2008

Paulson snubs British PM

| 24/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(The Telegraph): Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, is understood to have rejected a request for a meeting with Gordon Brown, delivering a snub to the Prime Minister during his visit to America. Mr Brown announced in his Labour Party conference speech that he would be meeting "financial and Government leaders in New York" in a bid to resolve the financial crisis gripping world economies. Go to article

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C&W warns of hoax email

| 24/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cable & Wireless is advising the public that an email sent earlier this morning with the subject heading “Cable & Wireless – Some serious stuff read very important” is a hoax and is being sent from a third party and not from C&W. The information in the email is completely false and the public is urged to ignore this email and not respond to sender.

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Judge Arrested

| 24/09/2008 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Justice Alex Henderson has been arrested in connection with the independent investigation, the Governor Stuart Jack announced this morning, saying he was saddened by the event. Martin Bridger, Senior Investigating Officer, said the arrest was directly connected to the original investigation surrounding accusations made against Anthony Ennis.

“I want to make it clear that this is part of the original investigation which commenced with allegations made against Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis and Cayman Net News Editor-in-Chief Desmond Seales,” Bridger said. Offering scant details surrounding the arrest, Bridger said Henderson had been arrested for offences relating to misconduct in a public office and that it was not directly related to the circumstances surrounding the unlawful entry into the Net News offices.

Speaking to the media at the Government Information Service (GIS) offices, the Governor said that the arrest had no bearing on any of the judgements made by Henderson, and the process of justice would not be interfered with. He said the Chief Justice, Anthony Smellie, was currently assessing the implications concerning Henderson’s pay and status while the justice remained in police custody.

Bridger said that while he was aware of the impact of the arrest, the decision was taken after careful consideration of the evidence available and with the benefit of independent legal advice. “I have said previously I will go wherever the information or evidence takes me,” he said, adding that he was now nearing the time when he would be interviewing Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Chief Superintendent John Jones.

“I acknowledge that these are difficult times and the latest development will generate much public debate. That said, I ask the community and the media in particular not to prejudge the guilt or innocence of any individual involved in this investigation,” Bridger said. “I am aware that there is increasing desire from the community to bring these matters to conclusion. I understand that, but at the same time I want people to know that with investigations of this nature there are many strands and processes that one has to go through.”

The Governor acknowledged that there were concerns over the cost of the year-long investigation and he did not deny recent reports that so far in excess of $1.67 million has been spent.

“It is important to know that investigations of this nature inevitably take time and money. I do believe it is of national importance to pursue this specific investigation to its full conclusion, and I again ask for your support,” the Governor said.  “I know there is speculation about the cost of this investigation; however, the price of doing nothing is far greater in regards to the long term credibility and reputation of the Cayman Islands as a safe and economically viable jurisdiction.”

The Governor also said that the decisions he was making surrounding this investigation were very difficult and causing him many sleepless nights.

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Cubans move on

| 24/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Six Cuban migrants departed from Cayman Brac on Saturday, 20 September, Immigration Department officials report. When the six males arrived off that island’s north coast, they were advised of the Cayman Islands immigration policy. Prior to leaving, however, the Cubans were allowed to effect minor repairs to their vessel. On Sunday the same group made a brief stop off East End, Grand Cayman to check weather conditions, before continuing once again.


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PAC Chair rejects criticism

| 24/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and PPM member Osbourne Bodden has accused opposition member Rolston Anglin, who also sits on PAC, of “not being truthful” in his accusations in Monday’s Caymanian Compass that the committee is investigating the Auditor General’s report on government’s financial reporting and jumping ahead of other important reports to the PPM’s advantage.

In the article, Anglin suggested that the PPM wanted PAC to put this investigation ahead of others because it reflected badly on government “and they want to look at that now so they can blame it on the civil servants”.

Furthermore, he said that when the PPM took office after the May 2005 election and installed Bodden as chairman, the government said the chairmanship of PAC would pass over to the opposition as soon as it had completed reviewing all of the reports concerning the previous government. Anglin indicated that, with Bodden still chairman this close to the next election, the PPM had reneged on their promise.

“Mr Anglin is simply not being truthful to suggest that the committee is rushing ahead with this hearing at the expense of older Auditor General reports,” Bodden said. “This approach was agreed in our admin committee meetings (in his presence) due to its topical importance for the general public.”

He said the committee had decided to call on all chief officers and chief financial officers of all ministries and portfolios to find out where they stood with getting the financials completed and to update the public through these public hearings.

“This is the one sanction that we as Legislators have and Mr Anglin was adamant that we do this. He and I even issued an earlier press release on the matter. It is in everyone’s interest to have this matter resolved and hence we would like to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem,” Bodden said.

“So to say I am surprised by his utterances in today’s paper is an understatement and I am disappointed that a past Chairman of the committee and a long-serving member would bring our actions into disrepute. This is political posturing if ever there was, and there is no need for this with a standing bipartisan committee of the House – such action only dilutes our effectiveness in the long run,” he added.

As for his remaining as chairman, he said this would continue until PAC was through all reports of the previous administration. Bodden maintained that to change over to an opposition chairman at this time would delay the consideration of these reports even further.

Answering a further charge that PAC had not met as often as it could have, the Chairman said, “The committee has met as often as possible and has been diligent in its work. Mr Anglin knows how difficult it is to hold meetings, and as he is often unavailable or late, he should be the last to complain.”

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New book sounds alarm for Cayman plants

| 24/09/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Forty-seven percent of the Cayman Islands’ native plants are now threatened with extinction, mainly because of the tide of deforestation that is accompanying the incredibly rapid growth of the human population, according to local environmental specialist Frederic J. Burton, whose new book, Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands – the Red List, will be available in local bookstores in the Cayman Islands from 27 September.

The book highlights the group of plants that are totally unique to the Cayman Islands – plants like Old George, the Ghost Orchid, the Cayman Ironwood tree, and the Grand Cayman Sage. Many are literally on the brink of extinction, and one purpose of this book is to document which ones are endangered, and to what degree.

Burton explained that the conservation status of any plant (or any living thing) is normally defined by an international standard known as the Red List, which is what he uses in the book. Working from an estimate of the current population size, the generation time, land area occupied, rates of habitat loss and other threats, the Red List process yields a standard measure of the risk of extinction.

“Undertaking the formal Red List conservation assessments for each of the Cayman Islands’ 415 native plants was a daunting task but it wasn’t until I’d finished and started summarising the results that I realized what a shocking conclusion we had on our hands,” Burton said.

The main content of the book is written in non-technical language for all readers. This includes a description of the main natural vegetation communities on the three Cayman Islands, with photographs and maps, followed by the individual plant descriptions. This work doubles as a professional reference, giving the formal conservation status of the entire Cayman native flora in extensive tables at the back of the book, and a scientific paper detailing a new vegetation classification system for the islands on a CD attached inside the back cover.

Published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, in association with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, the book contains 105 full-colour pages and is bound in reinforced softback. It will be on sale locally at a recommended retail price of CI$19.95. The author devotes a full page to each of the 28 plant species and varieties considered unique to the Cayman Islands, with colour photographs accompanying the description for each. A further 14 plants that the Cayman Islands shares with only one neighbouring island are also included.

“The Department of Environment is very pleased to have facilitated this publication,” said Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie. “We see it as an extremely important and timely addition to our efforts to highlight the urgent need for legislation to protect and conserve the diversity of our local flora.”

Dr Colin Clubbe of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew added, “By raising awareness of the status and the threats to Cayman’s flora, and formalising this using the internationally recognised Red List Categories and Criteria, the Cayman Islands is leading the way in the botanical conservation in the UK Overseas Territories. This will provide a model and inspiration for other Territories and we are delighted to have been able to publish this on behalf of the Cayman Island conservation community.”

Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands – the Red List will be launched at Hobbies & Books / Books bythe Bay at Grand Harbour on Saturday, 27 September, at 6:00 pm. Everyone is welcome and there is no entry charge. The author will give an illustrated presentation about the work behind this publication and will be signing copies. Some of the uniquely Caymanian plants featured in the book will be on sale at the event, courtesy of Grand Cayman’s new Native Tree Nursery which will soon be opening in the QE II Botanic Park.

A second event will take place at Books & Books at Camana Bay, on Wednesday, 1 October, at 7:00 pm. The book will also be available at the Book Nook, the QE II Botanic Park, the National Trust offices on South Church Street, and other locations on all three islands.


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DoE fights on for orchids

| 24/09/2008 | 2 Comments

(CNS): According to the Department of Environment, it has not yet given up on the orchids which were seized in the Netherlands by Dutch customs earlier this year on their way to the Chelsea flower show in London. Despite recent rumours that the unique endemic blooms had found their way into the hands of private collectors, Mat Cottam from the DoE said that the orchids are still with the Dutch authorities and the DoE continues to negotiate for their release.

“Discussions are ongoing; however, the legal issues are complicated and will take some time to resolve,” said Cottam. “We are working together with Dutch authorities, DOT and DEFRA in the UK to seek a solution to the situation.”  He explained that this was a genuine red tape mistake and not an attempt to illegally transport endangered species. “We remain hopeful that the Dutch authorities will eventually see this and at the very least let the orchids go to Kew Gardens in London. We have a very robust MOU with Kew who would become the custodians of the plants but they would still belong to the Cayman Islands.”

The Dutch authorities responded to CNS equiries this week and confirmed that the flowers were still in their hands. CITES representative Henk Vonk said that they were in one of Holland’s botanical gardens. "Specialist men are taking care for the flowers," he said. "They are in good condition and one is flowering."

The eight Ghost and Banana orchids which embarked on the journey to Chelsea fell victim to the bureaucracy when one of the documents required under the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was overlooked. Andrew Guthrie, Director of the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Gardens, was the driving force behind the Heritage Garden, which went on to win a silver medal and proved a major attraction at the show. He explained how the paperwork came to be missing.

“Unfortunately, no one involved was aware that the EU had recently imposed further restrictions on CITES level II plants, which required a CITES import permit from the destination country in addition to the CITES export permit,” he said. “This is strictly an EU rule, not an international CITES rule. The orchids had all the permits required from Cayman, but because we weren’t aware of this very recent requirement, they did not have a CITES import permit.”

He said that at some point the CITES management authority in the Netherlands would decide whether the plants are returned to the Cayman Islands or will remain in the Netherlands-designated CITES rescue site, but Guthrie agreed with Cottam that there was still a chance that the orchids would be allowed to go to Kew, where they were originally intended to go after the show, but the plants could not be sold.

Guthrie also noted that the concerns people had in Cayman that these flowers were exceptionally valuable and therefore vulnerable were misplaced. He explained that both of these endemic species of orchids have left the Cayman Islands in the past, and there are a number of commercial growers overseas who have had these plants, especially the Banana Orchid, for decades.

“The Banana Orchid is already in commercial production, people are selling it but no one is making a fortune off of them and no one ever will,” Guthrie noted. “In the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s certain orchid growers in Florida would come to the Cayman Islands, especially Cayman Brac, and collect massive quantities of these orchids to ship back and sell. They also paid people in the Brac very small sums of money for the orchids that they collected for them. So, worrying that these orchids might get out into commercial production is like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.”

Guthrie noted too that the missing orchids had no detrimental impact on Cayman’s exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show, which went on to win a medal. “We wanted to be able to point out a couple of our endemic plants for interest but they were not necessary for the exhibit as a whole,” he added.

Guthrie said the rumours that the plants were being sold for vast sums of money may have started as a result of an idea that a marketing company in the UK came up with to auction the plants off for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, before it had established that this is not allowed with CITES plants. Guthrie added that Cayman’s achievement at the show was significant and the fact that the Cayman Islands’ very first Chelsea exhibit won a silver medal was, in the horticultural world, equivalent to winning a silver medal at the Olympics and far more important than the seizure of the orchids.

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