Archive for January 18th, 2009

Cayman Cookout puts islands on culinary map

Cayman Cookout puts islands on culinary map

| 18/01/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Although the official impact on visitor arrivals has yet to be calculated, anecdotal evidence suggests that Cayman Cookout, the islands’ first official culinary tourism event, has been a considerable success. A partnership event between the Ritz-Carlton and the Department of Tourism, the gastronomic long weekend offered ‘foodies’ the chance to experience some of Cayman’s culinary pleasures. (Left -Anthony Bourdain tries Hot Pepper Jelly).

With culinary tourism playing an ever more significant economicrole in the industry, Cayman has taken the opportunity toshow off its wining and dining experiences and its leading chefs. Hosted by Eric Ripert, the Executive Head Chef at the Ritz Carlton’s five star restaurant Blue, the weekend also featured a line-up of international celebrity chefs and sommeliers. Most of the major events were sold out and have reportedly attracted a wide cross-section of visitors to Cayman — some for the first time.

However, the event was not confined to the extravagant fine dining on offer at the Ritz-Carlton; Cayman’s own traditional cooking took centre stage at a special event on Sunday afternoon in conjunction with Market at the Grounds at Pedro’s St. James. The event saw guests from all over the world enjoying turtle stew, rundown and fish tea, among many other local delights, in the beautiful grounds of the historic building.

A cook’s tour of Cayman was hosted by TV Chef Anthony Bourdain, veteran New York chef who is currently the executive chef of Brasserie Les Halles as well as an author and TV host. Bourdain took his food fans on a guided tour of Cayman’s local delicacies. From Carol Hay’s ‘infamous’ scotch bonnet Hot Pepper Jelly to stewed agouti (aka Cayman rabbit), visitors got the chance to taste treats they were unlikely to find on the menu at the Ritz.

The National Trust offered delicious lemon grass tea and Chef Bergman Ebanks offered turtle stew the way it is meant to be served. There was curried goat, some incredible local jerk sauces and condiments and even jerk sausages. Cassava cakes, local juices, candies and hand churned ice cream gave guests a taste of Cayman’s sweeter treats, all of which was topped off with local music, arts, crafts and dancing.

A cultural as well as a gastronomic experience, it was a great showcase for traditional Cayman cooking within a long weekend that had focused on Cayman’s more international and high end gastronomic offerings. Bourdain was very complimentary about the food he tried and paid tribute to the skills required to cook some of the food on offer.

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HRC rejects compromise

HRC rejects compromise

| 18/01/2009 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Some deft political maneuvering at the constitutional talks may have resulted in a bill of rights that government, opposition and the churches are willing to live with and which satisfies the UK’s international obligations, but it has been rejected outright by the Human Rights Committee. During the closing session on Friday, the HRC described the situation where the non-discrimination section of the bill of rights will not be a stand alone right as “morally repugnant”.

Section sixteen of the bill of rights working draft, which deals with non-discrimination, will be re-written in the proposed document in a way that will set it only within the context of the constitution, effectively removing it as a stand alone right. This would remove any possibility of a horizontal application of non-discrimination but also pave the way for possible discriminatory legislation in future or interpretation of existing legislation outside the constitution as not necessarily being unconstitutional for a number of groups, not just homosexuals or transsexuals.

Commenting on the move, Minister Alden McLaughlin, a former chairman of the HRC, made it clear that this is not unique as the same applies in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that this ensures the Cayman Islands will have an effective bill of rights that will protect the people — something that was not in sight before this compromise was made.

“We have made enormous progress with this,” he said. “When we first started talking this week I wasnot sure we would ever be able to resolve the problems on this section, but this way we have enshrined the right of non-discrimination that meets the UK’s obligations and doesn’t unduly worry the representatives from the religious community. I am surprised at the HRC’s reaction as we thought they were also willing to compromise on this.”

However, the HRC closing statement, read by Melanie McLaughlin, contained a personal message of disappointment from the Chair Sara Collins, who said that because of concerns over discrimination towards homosexuals the bill of rights would now discriminate against many other groups.    

“My personal view, held with great sadness, is that we have not done justice in this process because the HRC, and the views it represents, have literally been pushed aside. In the process, it seems that some of us have shown ourselves prepared to do harm to many to avoid doing good for a few,” Collins stated.

“History will judge us for what comes out of this process. We should be judged, therefore, on an accurate record. I speak for myself and the Committee in saying that we will not support a Bill of Rights which is not built on the principle of equality for all. I speak for myself, and wish it to be on the record, when I say that we should be clear that this includes homosexuals, for all purposes.”

The non-discrimination section within the bill of rights which deals with the rights of people not to be discriminated because of a number of issues, not least their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation, has been the persistent stumbling block to the formation of a new constitution for Cayman since the discussions began back in the 1990s. Moreover, the power of the churches here is such that those wishing to advance the constitution were concerned that if the Cayman Ministers’ Association and the Seventh Day Adventists were not on board with the final document, the entire constitution could be thrown out as a result of community pastors preaching against the whole document because of one clause in the bill of rights.

The HRC stated, however, that it believes the weakening of the right to non-discrimination will significantly restrict the right for all. In the original draft working document it was a free-standing right which also relates to many groups and types of vulnerable people, including the elderly, children, mentally and physically handicapped persons and women.

“None of the grounds of non-discrimination, apart from sexual orientation, generated any controversy or public debate. However, in an effort to minimise the protection given to one group – namely homosexuals and transsexuals – it is now proposed to limit the right of non-discrimination for all these other persons as well. This is a retrograde and appalling move,” Melanie McLaughlin stated. “The HRC remains firmly of the view that it is ill-conceived and morally repugnant for the Government to now limit the right of non-discrimination for any group of people. Equally, the Government should not sacrifice the better constitutional protection which was being given to everyone else in our community in order to give less protection to one particular group, namely homosexuals or transsexuals.”

The HRC had a number of other concerns including the treatment of juvenile offenders, which McLaughlin said had not been addressed. “The current practice of incarcerating youth offenders, including girls as young as 13, at an adult prison, while making no provision for treatment or education, is a disgraceful state of affairs,” she stated.

She also raised the issue of self-determination and a need to provide future scope should Cayman wish to move towards independence in the future, and she again mentioned widening aspiration rights to include health care and housing for all. McLaughlin also reiterated the committee’s desire to see the constitution written in plain and understandable English.

Sir Ian Hendry, leader of the UK delegation, stated that the bill of rights would be discussed further along with nine other issues when the talks moved to London for the final round of deliberations in February, chaired by the Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Overseas Territories, Gillian Merron.

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Ten issues to address in UK

Ten issues to address in UK

| 18/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): When the constitutional talks move to London next month there will be ten points that the delegation still has to resolve before the Cayman Islands has a draft constitution that can be put before the people for referendum this coming May. At the closing session of last week’s talks, Sir Ian Hendry, leader of the UK delegation, stated that the talks had moved further ahead than expected as a result of give and take but there was still work to do.

The ten points include the bill of rights as a whole and whether to include a future right to self determination; a requirement to consult with the Cayman government over the appointment of a governor; the question of whether it should be enshrined that the governor be expressly required to act in the interests of the Cayman Islands; the definition of the powers of newly proposed security council and the involvement of the role of the leader of the opposition; the governor’s reserve powers; the language on how Cayman will be consulted on legislation made by the UK that impacts directly on the territory; the question of term limits for what will become the premier; the issue of a gap for those leaving the civil service before running for political office; the question oflimits on public debt; and lastly, the requirement for changes in the constitution to be made only by referendum.

Hendry said some were merely technicaland language issues while other points would require political decisions by the overseas territories minister. He stated that a revised working draft of this round of talks would now be put together as quickly as possible and sent back to Cayman and that he was happy for that to be a public document. After that, if the London talks set for the first week of February were successful, then a proposed constitution would be written as quickly as possible and returned for the referendum. “With further help and cooperation, we will see the ship safely into port in a few weeks and then it is up to the people to decide if the work we have done is acceptable,” Hendry added.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said in his closing statement that he believed a modern constitution was finally in sight, one that he described not as an off the peg model but designed to meet the unique needs of the Cayman Islands. “I am optimistic we can deliver a modern constitutional framework to the people,” he said. “We must await the next draft and the final round of talks but there is broad agreement on key features.”

He noted some areas of disagreement, including the bill of rights, which he said had been the most difficult and potentially deal breaking part of and talks. Tibbetts said the need for it to conform to the UK’s treaties and international obligations while preserving the distinct culture and Christian heritage of Cayman had been difficult to reconcile.

“We believe that we have settled on a text for the bill of rights that everyone can support even though everyone could not get everything,” he added. The Human Rights Committee however, later rejected the compromises in its closing statement and criticized the changes made to the non-discrimination clauses. (See here for full details)

Tibbetts said another difficult area had been the issue of the powers of the governor and getting the balance between those and elected officials’ powers. “While we want to maintain strong links with the UK, we feel the country is mature enough to manage its affairs in accountability of the elected officials and I am pleased that there will be more consultation with the elected cabinet,” he added.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush noted that, as important as the talks were, they were not necessarily the most important thing in view of the many problems the country faced at the moment. He described them as tedious and noted that, while the UDP was in agreement in several areas, there were still key points on which the opposition was not moving from its position.

“At the end of day, the public will vote for what they deem is necessary for good governance. It is our duty to fully inform them of what is being proposed and the ramifications on their lives,” he said. “We must be careful of trespassing on areas where there is no support from the public.”

He also warned of the dangers of the legislature jumping at every whim or fancy because they exist in other territories. “I have listened carefully to the people, and while the UK might want modernization, people here are weary of politics that encroaches more and more on the serenity and peaceful nature of these islands,” he said. “More politics won’t help us. A constitution that places power in the hands of politicians when the people don’t fully understand why and without the necessary experience and knowledge won’t help us.”

Bush also said the politics proposed in the constitution is not going to enhance government but would create more money to be spent and more adversarial politics.

Speaking on the behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, President Eddie Thompson said the organisaiton was pleased to see that most of the positions it had adopted over years had been incorporated in the document, but like the HRC it was keen to see the final draft written in plain English.

The Seventh Day Adventists representative, Pastor Eric Clark, said he was pleased with the progress but still raised the point that there should be no compromise over spiritual issues and was still concerned over the bill of rights. Pastor Al Ebanks, the Chair of the Cayman Ministers’ Association, said he was very optimistic that the CMA would be able to throw its weight around the principle points with regard to the difficult section of the bill of rights. He said that it looked like the talks had carved out a document conforming to international standards but reflecting Cayman’s heritage. He said he knew that the presence of the church representation was unusual but he believed it had added value to talks and that CMA had been involved for ten years, with particular interest in bill of rights.

The HRC was the group which was clearly the most disappointed with the outcome and noted five serious points of concern, not least the fact that the non-discrimination right would not be a stand alone right but be restricted to the context of the constitution. 

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Police hunt for car dumpers

Police hunt for car dumpers

| 18/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): People who have dumped vehicles in the Cayman Islands will be prosecuted, and all of the Royal Cayman Islands Area Commanders say they are poised to clean up their districts. “The amount of cars being abandoned in West Bay is shameful,” said Angelique Howell, Area Commander for West Bay.

“Those who have dumped their vehicles should be prepared to be prosecuted in the near future. Not only are they affecting the environment adversely, but they also affect the quality of life for those living in the area.”

Warnings have been given to some people who have been identified as being responsible for dumping cars, but the time for warnings is now over she added.

“My job is to make the district of West Bay as safe as it can be and this includes making sure people feel safe in their surroundings. We will work with the Beautification Committee to clean up the district and ensure prosecutions are made to hold those responsible to account,” Howell said.

Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, Area Commander for the Eastern Districts echoed her concerns, saying he has noticed an increase in dumped cars, particularly in Bodden Town. “We are seeing more and more vehicles being abandoned along the highways. It’s unsightly and dangerous. We all have a responsibility to keep the Cayman Islands clean and tidy and I urge everyone to take this responsibility seriously,” he said.

Residents are being urged to report anyone seen flouting the law by dumping waste or littering in their neighbourhood to the police or the Department of Environmental Health (DoEH). The public can contact the DoEH to make a complaint at 949-6696 or their local police station.

Under the 1997 Litter Law, it is an offence to drop litter and dump waste punishable with a five hundred dollar fine or a prison term of up to six months.


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