Archive for March 19th, 2009

Candidates have only one day for nomination

| 19/03/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The only day when eligible people may be nominated to stand in the forthcoming General Elections 2009, Nomination Day, is one the most important dates in the election campaign calendar. Kearney Gomez, the elections supervisor, said this year this key day falls on Wednesday, 25 March, the day after parliament is officially dissolved. In each of the  six electoral districts would-be candidates may be nominated for the district’s seat or seats in the Legislative Assembly in the General Elections set for 20 May.

Gomez explained that no one is a candidate under the law until he or she is nominated, and those who have already declared their intention or who are contemplating standing for election should familiarise themselves with sections 18 and 19 of the Constitution. These sections set out the qualifications and disqualifications for election, he said, adding that potential candidates may want to seek legal advice if they have any doubts as to whether they meet the requirements.

“Persons who nominate candidates have obligations under the Elections Law,” Gomez pointed out. “A nominator must be a registered voter in the district for which he or she is nominating a candidate. Further, the nominator must know that the person nominated is qualified to be elected.”

He added that anyone who nominates a candidate and is not registered in that district or who knows that the candidate is not qualified is guilty of an offence. The penalty on conviction is a fine of $2,000.

Nominations can take place between 8:00 am and  3:00 pm  at the following venues:

West Bay: John Gray Memorial Church, 26 West Church Street.

George Town: Church of God Chapel (Family Life Centre) 48B Academy Way (off Walkers Road).

Bodden Town: James M. Bodden Civic Centre, 445C Bodden Town Road.

North Side: Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre, 923 North Side Road.

East End: William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre, 80 John McLean Drive.

Cayman Brac & Little Cayman: District Administration Building (2nd Floor Conference Room) 19 Kirkconnell Street.

District Returning Officers will receive nominations between 8am and 3pm.

Nomination forms may be collected any weekday between the hours of 8:30 am and 6 pm from the Elections Office on the fourth floor of Kirk Building, Albert Panton Street, George Town or the new Elections Office in the Smith Road Professional Centre, 150 Smith Road, 2nd floor.

Following nomination day the revising officer will begin settling the list of electors for each disrict at the court hosue in George Town for the four districts with objections on Grand Cayman and at the district adminstraiotn buildingon Cayman Brac. 

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Government signs more tax deals

| 19/03/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Cayman Islands government has taken advantage of the Tax Information Authority Law passed late last year enabling it to sign request agreements with seven more European countries. The law allows Cayman to sign deals which do not require a bilateral treaty but enable requests to be made in relation to both civil/administrative as well as criminal tax matters.

The latest seven countries are Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic and Switzerland. “The Cayman Islands was one of the first jurisdictions to commit to OECD standards for transparency and exchange of information in tax matters. We have upheld that commitment by working with OECD and non-OECD colleagues to design effective standards, by reflecting those standards in our domestic regime, and then embarking on a programme to extend assistance arrangements to other countries, the first being our tax information agreement with the US signed in 2001,” said Leader of Government Business, Kurt Tibbetts.

“Our actions today in extending tax information assistance to seven more countries is the culmination of many months of technical work, and we are especially grateful to Germany for the insight they were able to provide by virtue of having a unilateral mechanism for cooperation in tax matters themselves.”

The unilateral mechanism is complementary to Cayman’s bilateral negotiation programme. The latest development in that area was the conclusion of technical negotiations with the Nordic countries for a series of bilateral agreements, including tax information agreements. The seven tax information agreements are currently going through the political authorisation process on both sides, to enable execution at a signing ceremony in Stockholm on 1 April 2009, with the commercial agreements to follow in June 2009.

Tibbetts stated that the Cayman Islands is still looking forward in the immediate term to concluding bilateral arrangements with the United Kingdom.

With pressure mounting on offshore financials service centres as a result of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Bill by Senator Carl Levin as well as the forth coming G20 meeting where a list of jurisdictions facing potential blacklisting will be discussed, one which currently includes Cayman – the need to demonstrate openness and transparency may be critical to the future success of Cayman’s Financial Services.

The IMF recently concluded an assessment of Cayman, details of which have yet to be revealed, and Michael Foot is currently here leading a delegation from the UK Treasury reviewing the industry as a result of instructions in the UK Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Budget review.

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Minister achieves ambition

| 19/03/2009 | 36 Comments

(CNS): His long held and ambitious goal of completely overhauling the country’s education system was achieved this week when Minister Alden McLaughlin’s long awaited Education Modernisation bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly. Underpinning a number of policy changes that have already been implemented during his tenure as Education Minister, the bill addresses all areas of education and learning for young and old alike.

He said the fundamental overhaul of the system had been a long and challenging process but vital to the future of the Cayman Islands and one that hadbeen put off for far too long. Presenting what he called the hallmark legislation to the House, McLaughlin said the far reaching systemic changes were long overdue and part of an overarching programme to deal with every aspect of teaching and learning, from early childhood education, compulsory school and tertiary learning. He said it liberated teachers and educators, put the unique individuality of children at the centre of learning and completely modernised the country’s education system.

“The existing education bill is more than 25 years old and was in desperate need of revision. This new legislation underpins many of the revolutionary changes that have already been made in education over the last four years,” he said, adding that it provided a brighter future founded on increased educational opportunities. “I fear for the future if we were to return to the disorder and mismanagement of the past. The future would be worse, not better, dimmer not brighter, literally as well as metaphorically.”

He asked voters to consider the criticisms from the opposition and from those candidates seeking political office in the forthcoming general elections against what he had already achieved and the plans for so much more, and to ask those would-be members what they would do instead.

Justifying all of the changes and explaining what he said was an overriding need for the new schools, he asked. “What did this minster do wrong with education?” He said the electorate should wonder if the policy changes would be carried forward in his wake or if they would be rolled back and dismantled to the problems of the past.

Speaking about the bill itself, he said it contained 16 parts which dealt with every aspect of the education system, from discipline issues and attendance to additional education for students with special needs, and career and technical education. Obvious changes include the introduction of an extra compulsory school year, the inclusion of non-government schools in the standards and assessments and their registration, the regulation of early childhood learning, the official prohibition of corporal punishment and the overall management of the education system.

The new legislation, he said, formed part of a much bigger picture that would see teaching and learning transformed and new opportunities created for the country’s children. Despite criticisms regarding the development of the new schools, McLaughlin said they were desperately needed not least because of the growing population.

“The stark reality is that the secondary intake for our schools will soon reach 400 per year,” he explained, adding that by 2011 there will be 398 children moving from government primary schools to the secondary schools and there would be more added to that from those children which came into the government system from the private and assisted schools sector. 

He said it would be a tragedy of enormous proportions if the country put into office people who did not understand the magnitude of issues concerning education. The minister said he was very happy that the second elected member for West Bay had offered his support to the legislations and would have been disappointed had he not, as he knew he also had an abiding concern for the future needs of our young people.

However, during the debate Rolston Anglin raised a number of concerns, in particular concerning the issue of an office that would take responsibility for ensuring children of compulsory age attend school. He also said he had concerns about the details surrounding technical and career education.

Anglin told CNS that although the new legislation provided  a framework to work from, there was still much to be done to the new law, and he said while he offered his qualified support he had a number of reservations. The UDP member said he would be awaiting the implementation of the planned regulations, which he said would be the meat on the bones of the law.

During the committee stage, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly raised her concerns that the minister was attempting to remove the mandatory obligation for schools to teach religious instruction by mandating a broad national curriculum in the law but not stipulating that it must include RI. “It may seem like my objection is trivial but I think this is a slap in the face to almighty God himself,” said the First Elected Member for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Despite the fact that the bill had been in circulation for comment for more than four months, the minister said the opposition had failed to turn up to debate the bill or ever seemed very interested in discussing its contents with him or his office. However, he was willing to offer an amendment that he hoped with address O’Connor’s concerns.

The amendment included added the word ‘religion’ to clause 15 sub-section 3 to read:

“The core and other foundation subjects shall include studies related to the history, culture and religion of the Islands ….” enshrining religious study in the curriculum.

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Scientists to recreate Ancient Egyption perfume

| 19/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(ScienceDaily): The Ancient Egyptians cherished their fragrant scents, too, as perfume flacons from this period indicate. In its permanent exhibition, Bonn University’s Egyptian Museum has a particularly well preserved example on display. Screening this 3,500-year-old flacon with a computer tomograph, scientists at the university detected the desiccated residues of a fluid, which they now want to submit to further analysis. They might even succeed in reconstructing this scent. Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a power-conscious woman who assumed the reins of government in Egypt around the year 1479 BC.

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$1.2 trillion more for markets

| 19/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(Washington Post): The Federal Reserve yesterday escalated its massive campaign to stabilize the economy, saying it would flood the financial system with an additional $1.2 trillion. The decision by the Fed to buy government bonds and mortgage-related securities is designed to lower borrowing costs for home mortgages and other types of loans, thereby stimulating economic activity. The central bank, effectively, will print more money to pay for the purchases. Combined with the billions already deployed by the Fed, the new money dwarfs even the biggest government bailouts of financial companies.

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US state scraps death penalty

| 19/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in the US state. Mr Richardson, a former supporter of capital punishment, said it had been the "most difficult" decision of his political life. He said he had decided to approve the legislation because DNA evidence had shown that innocent people had been sentenced to death in the past. New Mexico joins 14 other states that have done away with capital punishment. It is only the second to do so since the US Supreme Court reinstated the states’ power to impose the death penalty in 1976. New Jersey was the first, in 2007.

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Fritzl sentenced to life

| 19/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Austrian Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter in a cellar and fathered her seven children, has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Fritzl, 73, was found guilty of all charges against him, including rape, incest, murder and enslavement. The defendant sat still for the verdict, telling the court that he accepted it and would not appeal. The court ordered that Fritzl would serve his sentence in a secure psychiatric facility. Fritzl’s lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said outside the court after the verdict: "He showed in his confession that he realises the dimension of his crimesand offences and as such the verdict is the logical consequence."

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Hospital to establish charitable fund

| 19/03/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Hospital will soon be soliciting public donations and taking charitable contributions to help finance health care provision in the country as a result of a change in the law tabled yesterday (Wednesday 18 March) in the Legislative Assembly by the Minister for Health and Human Services. The Heath Services Authority Amendment bill will facilitate the establishment of a charitable trust for the hospital. Moving the debate, Anthony Eden said that the creation of a foundation would have an important impact of the hospital’s finances.

“Funding health care is a critical issue for all modern jurisdictions, and a hospital foundation can help to raise money for all sorts of different projects,” he said. “There are many generous people inside the Cayman Islands and regular overseas visitors who are wealthy that may want to contribute, and this offers them a way to do so with confidence.”

He said it was common throughout the US for hospitals to establish charitable funds and that this mechanism would help as the CI Heath Services Authority continued its goal to achieve international health care standards. The new fund, to be known as the Cayman Islands Health Foundation, will be managed by a new committee of seven members.

The amendment also provides for the variation of the composition of the HSA Board. The idea behind this is to ensure that the people who come on to the board have specific qualification and skills that the hospital needs. Eden said the board had recently appointed individual professionals with IT, HR and financial skills, as these have proved to be essential skills. It also prohibits civil servants and other health professionals from sitting on the board to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Furthermore, it seeks to streamline the board’s broader operations and enables it to determine the fees for services.

Eden said that the HSA had endured turbulent times but things were improving and one more step in that overall goal to improve health care was to sort out the muddle regarding the board.

“The decision has been made to improve the board management and create a regulated fund raising mechanism,” Eden said of the bill, adding that the need to find people withspecific areas of expertise to help improve hospital management was critical. The minister recently announced the appointment of six key professionals in keeping with what he described as a fresh approach to the Board’s governance responsibilities. Patricia Muschette, Krishan Welcome, Canover Watson, David Shibli, and Eddie Ebanks were appointed to serve one-year terms. Dr Delroy Jefferson, served for four months, and functioned as deputy chairman, with the special assignment of orientating the Board to this new model of governance.

Standing to support the bill from the opposition benches, Rolston Anglin noted that the fund should not send a message that access to health care has become dependent on the goodwill of donors.

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Anglin invited to cross floor

| 19/03/2009 | 39 Comments

(CNS): The debate on the Education Modernisation Bill took an interesting turn on Wednesday, when the Minister for Education, Alden McLaughlin, who tabled the new legislation, invited his opposite number Rolston Anglin to cross the political floor and join the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM). Concerned that his legislative peer could be lost to the political wilderness on the opposition benches, McLaughlin said he did not wish to see Anglin waste his best years.

As a result of his, albeit qualified, support of the new education law, the minister said that the second elected member for West Bay’s support for the bill was important as he considered Anglin the most progressive member of the opposition benches.

“I would have been concerned if he did not support this bill as I know he has an abiding concern for young people. Quite often his views accord with those of this government and the question is often asked by many why he is not on this side of the House. I value his contribution and I believe he has much to offer this country,” McLaughlin said with a wry smile.

Inviting him to step across the floor in order to develop and achieve his future, full potential, McLaughlin said Anglin might want to consider changing his current party allegiance with the UDP for the sake of his political career. “I would not want to see him spend the best years of his life wandering in the political wilderness, ensconced for eternity on the back benches,” McLaughlin added.

Not surprisingly, when asked by CNS during an adjournment of the House proceedings how he felt about the invitation, Anglin said the PPM was clearly in trouble and confirmed his own continued membership of the United Democratic Party. “I am where I am,” he said taking the minister’s invitation in jest, but not actually saying outright that he would not cross the floor. However, Anglin did say he was confident that the UDP would beat the PPM at the forth coming general elections in May.

Anglin also noted that his support for the new education bill was not as enthusiastic as the minister would suggest and he still had concerns about a number of issues. He said he felt the legislation may well be the bones for the future of education but the meat was yet to come, which would  be in the regulations, he said.

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From turtles to politics

| 19/03/2009 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Native North Sider and Managing Director of the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm Joey Ebanks has finally confirmed that he will be contesting the seat, currently held by Madame Speaker, Edna Moyle, in the forthcoming general elections on behalf of the People’s Progressive Movement. Ebanks said that he has always dreamed of standing for office in his home district and is delighted to take up the reins from Moyle, who has decided to step down from the competitive side of the political arena after more than 16 years.

The much anticipated anouncement finally came on Wednesday afternoon, 18 March, at the Legislative Assembly when Ebanks said he would be the PPM representative for the district of North Side.

Ebanks moved to the top job at the Turtle Farm in 2007 following the controversial departure of Kenneth Hydes and has made his mark with an environmentally focused strategic policy that has introduced a new culture at the facility. Rumours suggest that Joe Parsons may well pick up the Turtle Farm’s top position as Ebanks turns his attention back to politics. However, Ebanks said that the board would make that decision and whoever takes over will have that defined strategic plan to work with.

Ebanks said he had always hoped to run for office again as he is no stranger to the political battle ground, having fought the 2000 election in Bodden Town as an independent candidate. He joined the PPM in 2005 and he said he has a tremendous amount of respect for the incumbent members. As a result, Ebanks added that there was never any question that he would run with the party once he was given the opportunity.

He said that he had long wished to return to North Side as that was where his heart is, and had been working alongside Moyle in the district since 2005, though his recent responsibilities at the turtle farm had prevented him from being involved in the community as much as he would like. However, having tendered his resignation he is now ready to start the campaign.

Ebanks also said he believed he had a lot of experience that would qualify him for the role of MLA. “I believe I’m well qualified to represent the people. I have a Master’s degree in Business and experience in the business and public sectors,” he added.

Moyle said that she was delighted to hand over to Ebanks, who she was confident would attain the level of popularity that she herself has enjoyed over the years in the district. She confirmed that she would be out campaigning alongside him as she was certain he would gain the support of her constituents. Speaking of her own future, Moyle said the matter of her remaining as Speaker of the House had not been discussed but it was something she would consider if asked by any future administration.

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