Archive for March 27th, 2009

High Rock residents voice concerns to cops

High Rock residents voice concerns to cops

| 27/03/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of the brutal murder of Sabrina Schirn whose body was found in the district residents in the High Rock Road area of East End have, police said recognized their vulnerabilities to crime and are looking at launching a neighbourhood watch programme. In a meeting, with area commander Richard Barrow, Sergeant Ian Lavine, Neighborhood Officer for East End, PC Treva McIntosh and Community Development Officer Delmira Bodden almost all the residents in the area turned up to discuss their concerns.

“The residents were afforded the opportunity to voice their concerns and air their expectations of the RCIPS,” said Barrow. “The main component that came to light is a renewed awareness of their vulnerabilities as a result of recent occurrences.”

Issues discussed at the meeting included lighting and the need for additional lights at strategic locations, additional police patrols in the area, information sharing among residents, PC McIntosh’s role as the RCIPS liaison to the community and how he can help with regard to neighbourhood watch, inexpensive security measures and how people can help ‘design’ out crime through assessing their property and surrounding area.

“We had an excellent turn out with all households represented bar one and the meeting was extremely constructive,” Barrow added. “The neighbourhood watch presentation was very well received and residents were enthusiastic about working together and in partnership with police and other agencies to help minimize their vulnerabilities.”

Barrow commended the residents for taking the initiative and seizing this opportunity to revitalize their community spirit and commitment towards the preservation of a quality of life that a law abiding society deserves.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should

their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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SPIT marks first anniversary

SPIT marks first anniversary

| 27/03/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Twelve months and over $6 million later, the people of the Cayman Islands are still no wiser when it comes to the actions and purpose of the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT) than they were one year ago. Although the exact arrival date of the team remains uncertain, their presence was officially revealed on 27 March 2008 – making today the team’s first official anniversary. On that day the governor called an emergency briefing to tell the Cayman people that an undercover police team from Scotland Yard was working here, that three senior police officers including the commissioner were suspended from duty and Lyndon Martin had been arrested.

Since that day the Cayman Islands coffers are now down around $6.5million, the RCIPS morale is at an all time low, the elected government is divided from the governor, and the country’s judiciary, once considered the best in the region, has been brought into question. However, despite this the Cayman people have been given little to no information regarding the so-called corruption investigation which has cost so much. The real target, purpose or intentions of SPIT and Operation Tempura, as the investigation was named, still remains something of a mystery.

To mark the year anniversary Cayman News Service submitted questions to Acting Commissioner James Smith, Governor Stuart jack and to SIO of SPIT, Martin Bridger, asking what the team considered to be the successes and failures of the investigation, what they would do differently if they had their time over, and for some explanation to be provided about what has happened over the last year and where the Cayman tax payers money has gone. Needless to say, we continue to wait for a response.

From the arrest and search of a Grand Court Judge for an unarrestable offence with a warrant signed by a Justice of the Peace which resulted in a damages payment of $1.3 million dollars to the twelve month suspension on full pay of two senior police officers, the investigation has been plagued with controversy and expense.

Despite the expenditure and the high profile arrests, the seemingly never-ending suspensions and the dismissal of the police commissioner, the only charges brought have been against Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon for unrelated offences and Lyndon Martin for making a false allegation against a police officer.

Following the recent announcement that the lead investigator Martin Bridger would be leaving the island (a condition that was elicited by the elected members of Cabinet before they would allow the most recent request for funding to go before the Finance Committee) the governor issued a short statement lauding the work of Bridger.

Let us not forget that the original Tempura investigation has succeeded in clearing the names of people who were unjustly accused of wrongdoing.  Many of us in the Cayman Islands – including myself  – have acknowledged that some mistakes were made later on, as unfortunately sometimes happens with the best of intentions. But I feel sure that many of the people who came forward with information are glad that Martin Bridger came to the Cayman Islands,” the governor said on 11 March.

During Finance Committee on Friday, the Legislative Assembly voted on an appropriation for the investigation of over CI$4.4 million, which, added to money that was allocated in the last financial year of well over $1.6 million, takes the money spent from the public purse to well in excess of $6 million at a time when the islands’ operating budget is running at an expected deficit of almost $29 million.

With the recent postponement of Martin’s trial and no further news on the situation regarding Kernohan and Jones forthcoming, it is likely to remain a long time before the Cayman people are offered anything like an explanation. The next most likely development in this saga of intrigue and mystery will come from the Auditor General’s Office as Dan Duguay is close to finishing his first draft of a value for money study. And while this AG report is unlikely to offer any insight into the details or purpose of Operation Tempura, Duguay is trying to establish if the Cayman people have achieved value for money on their $6 million commitment.

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SMB properties trend up in value

SMB properties trend up in value

| 27/03/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): A drop in the Cayman property market in 2008 was part of a downward trend and the global financial crisis has so far been less of a factor than the longer term pattern, an analysis by property consultants Charterland has found. However,  most of the Seven Mile Beach condominiums continued to show a steady increase in values on previous years and, as of the end of 2008, demonstrated no signs of a slowing of this rate of increase, a review by property consultants Charterland has found. (Left: review authors Ian Barnard, Simon Watson and Stewart Connolly)

Overall, the value of properties, which has been trending down for the past three years, remains significantly higher than pre-2005 figures, though the total number of property transfers was lower in 2008 than any year since 1995.

According to Simon Watson, the main author of the Cayman Property Review 2008 and Charterland Director, the Cayman Property Market really consist of two parts: the SMB properties which had not demonstrated a downturn, as of the end of 2008, and the more local market where there certainly seemed to be a peak in 2006 and generally more of a market stabilisation since then, which has resulted in a decrease in values in certain sectors. “This decrease was most prominent in the two-bed town house sector, which I think most people in the profession saw coming, due to the large numbers of similar properties being developed, in recent years, creating an oversupply,” Watson said.

“The current slow-down is certainly part of a longer pattern, going back to a peak in 2006; however, it should be noted that because of the time-lag between sales contracts being agreed and the actual date of the registration of these sales at the Land Registry, from where our data is obtained, it may be that the full impact of the financial crisis in the last quarter of 2008 would not have been reflected in the transfers registered by the end of that year,” he said.

The report comes in the wake of the passing in the Legislative Assembly of amendments to the Customs Tariff and the Stamp Duty bills in a bid to boost development and the real estate industry. Duty on construction materials is to be reduced by 5% and stamp duty is being cut across the island by as much as 2.5% for buyers in the Seven Mile Beach area and 1% elsewhere.

This means that the stamp duty has been reduced for SMB properties from 7.5% to 5%, Watson noted, adding, “A few years back it was 9%, so this is a very significant difference.”

According to the report, the total number of property transfers in 2008 fell by over 5% from 1,786 in 2007 to 1,691 in 2008. This drop was the third annual drop in a row since an all-time high in 2005 of 2,640: a total drop in transfers of over 35%. The slow-down in the property market in 2008 is also reflected in the decrease in the total value of properties being transferred for a monetary consideration. 2008 saw a total value of transfers of CI$489 million, down nearly 11% from 2007 and nearly 25% from the highest on record.

The review is not intended to predict future trends but to be a fact-based unbiased retrospective, Watson told CNS. The information on which the analysis is based is taken directly from government departments, including the Land Registry, Valuation Office, Planning Department and Economic and Statistics Office, rather than third party sources, he said. For the review, they collated all the information and presented it in an easily readable format.

While the overview is based on all transfers, the report only focuses on areas of the market where there are a significant number of sales, such as Seven Mile Beach and condominiums in the George Town area. In areas where there are relatively few sales, such as the Sister Islands, the limiteddata available can be easily skewed by a small anomaly, Watson noted.

However, the data did show a boost to the Savannah district after the construction of the Countryside Shopping Centre and the new road, indicating that the real estate market benefitted from those two factors. Watson also noted that the higher end properties were still increasing in value, which may indicate that buyers should purchase the most expensive property they can.

Cayman Property Review 2008 can be downloaded from the Charterland website in electronic PDF format.


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Independents carry on regardless

Independents carry on regardless

| 27/03/2009 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Despite the failure of the thirteen independent candidates to gain allbut one of the seats in the Legislative Assembly in the 2005 elections, this time around twenty-two people are still going it alone for the 2009 polling day. Last election, Moses Kirkconnell in the Sister Islands was the only candidate who made it through the ballot as an independent and then became a member of the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) within a few weeks of being elected.  In spite of  recent political history, this year’s ballot shows that Cayman remains unconvinced that the indpendent candidate is a thing of the past. (Left Theresa Lewis Pitcairn – Indpt Bodden Town)

Even though the 2005 election campaign seemed to solidify the party system in the Cayman Islands, three former United Democratic Party candidates have ditched the party colours for Election 2009 and are taking to the hustings as independents. While four mixed candidates are running in a loose group in West Bay, three are returning to the political fray to do it all again, alone, despite their failure to gain seats outside the party system the last time.

Given the results of 2005, it is surprising that only one who contested the 2005 election and failed to win a seat as an independent has joined the party system, that being Ellio Solomon. Speaking after the polls closed in 2005 Solomon had said that while he recognized the trend towards the party system he did not believe that this necessarily eliminated other options for the future.

Sandra Catron who is seeking a seat in the district of Bodden Town says that the independent surge for this election is a reaction to what the candidates hear people want from the doorteps. “Despite what happened in 2005 the people of Cayman have not bought into the party system. People should not be fooled by the result as it owed much to a ground swell of people wanted to remove the UDP purely because of the status grants,” she added. “Many voters are saying they will not vote straight ever again and that they intend to spread their vote not just between a party representative and independents but even across party lines.”

This time around West Bay has the highest number of independents on the ballot, with four people running in a loose group but with very different agendas and three more individuals, including Bernie Bush, who was one of districts the highest polling independent candidates in 2009, taking their places along side the four incumbents from the UDP

In North Side, an interesting battle is already brewing as there is no incumbent fighting for that seat. Joey Ebanks will be taking the mantle from Edna Moyle for the PPM and will be facing off against two independents — Oswell Rankine and Ezzard Miller, a veteran politician who has said he will help the UDP over the PPM to form a government but refuses to pledge allegiance to the party.

In the Sister Islands former UDP MLA Lyndon Martin is choosing to go it alone in the political battlefield despite having a tumultuous and difficult year. Maxine McCoy-Moore is also trying her hand again, even though she was unable to poll enough votes the last time around to keep her deposit.

Meanwhile in East End, John McLean Jr is following in his father’s footsteps and is taking his chances against incumbent Arden McLean, the PPM Minister for Communications Works and Infrastructure, who has a significant majority in the district.

In Bodden Town, one of the districts where this year’s election is likely to be won or lost Theresa Lewis Pitcairn, who offered an intelligent start to her bid for election last night, lines up against the three PPMincumbents, two UDP hopefuls, as well as four other independents — the former UDP member and Health Minister Gilbert McLean, Sandra Catron, Justin Wood and Vincent Frederick. Although new to the political scene, Pitcairn has been courted by the UDP and is seen by that party as a possible convert, but she insists that she will remain independent.

Bodden Town’s three seats will provide a hard and interesting fight for all those who are contesting them. With the safest seat in the country it will take a gargantuan effort for anyone to remove Anthony Eden, though the other two seats are considerably more vulnerable and as a result could produce some interesting surprises.

The nation’s capital, however, is likely to be where the hardest battle of all will be fought. Currently, the PPM‘s home ground, to form the next government the PPM will need to hold on to all four seats. However, the UDP is clearly keen to take these seats away and that party will need to secure at least two to give it a chance at political power. With 13 candidates and the largest percentage of the newly registered voters, it is likely to be, as they say, anyone’s game.  In George Town the five independent candidates are lining up against four brand new UDP candidates and the four PPM incumbents. Dr Frank McField, the former controversial UDP minister, will be battling along side newcomers Eddie Thompson, Burns Connolly, Walling Whittaker and former North Side independent candidate Bo Miller.

The issue of party vs independent candidates will not lie down in Cayman and the question of horse trading before or after election day remains at issue as, in the end, people need to co-operate in order to get down to the business of government. Last year, even before he crossed the floor to join the PPM, Moses Kirkconnell was extolling the virtues of the party system when he said, “The positive side of the party system is that voters already know the proposed policies of the new government.”

Conversely, George Town independent Burns Connolly recently said that an independent candidate has the advantage of being able to debate and vote completely in accordance with their constituents wishes or interests and not be forced to toe the party line. “They do not have to follow any party consensus or the party leader’s wishes,” he said. “The truly independent candidate is free to vote for or against any proposal put forward to ensure that it is in the best interest of people.”

Whether, 2009 will see the return of the independents of consolidate the party system remains to be seen but there is no doubt that during this election the 22 candidates without party affiliations will play an important part in the political battleground.

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Ezzard throws down gauntlet

Ezzard throws down gauntlet

| 27/03/2009 | 27 Comments

(CNS): One of the most unpredictable campaigns of the 2009 Election is likely to unfold in a district that has been conversely one of the most predictable in recent times. Over in the quiet, genteel community of North Side a firestorm is brewing as three candidates begin the battle for a now empty seat following the retirement of Madame Speaker Edna Moyle. Facing off against the People’s Progressive Movement’s late selection and director of the Turtle Farm, Joey Ebanks, as well as Oswell Rankine, Ezzard Miller has already offered “a head to head to head” challenge to his opponents.

At his first district meeting on Thursday evening, Miller, a political veteran and former health minster, asked his opponents to join him at some point on the campaign trail in front of the people of North Side where they could openly answer and debate the questions that the electorate put to them. “I am asking them to come and stand here with me and debate. I’ll even pay for the hall,” he said last night in front of a small but supportive crowd.

Whoever wins the North Side seat could have a significant influence on the formation of the next administration, a vote for Ebanks is a vote for the PPM, and although Miller is running as an independent he has stated openly that he will support a the formation of a UDP government. However, he said it will then have to win his support for each and every bill as he will not join the party ranks under any circumstances.

A plain speaking candidate who has even included a testimonial in an advertisement campaign that said he wasn’t very likeable, Miller believes that aside from his experience and track record his honesty, integrity and straight talking attitude will see him through to seat in the Legislative Assembly.

At his first public meeting, moving away from the topic of immigration on which he is normally very outspoken, Miller chose to speak about education and the need to include disaffected young people and to be more inclusive with those in trouble. He said the community had to be more creative and committed to dealing with young people

He criticised the Minister of Education, Alden McLaughlin for not debating the entire contents of the Education Bill with the public at large before it was passed and said he would like to see the people of North Side taking more control of their district and suggested leasing North Side Primary School from government to make it the first charter school in the Cayman Islands.

Although the new Cayman Islands Constitution, if passed, will provide for the election of district councils, Miller has already created one and is proposing to work through them to organise the needs of the district of North Side and, promising a new kind of democracy, he says he will discuss all of his parliamentary decisions with the residents in the district.

“I intend to come back here and discuss everything that I will do in parliament with the people of North Side,” he said. “We need to make sure that what government does is good for North Side and good for Cayman.”

Demonstrating his democratic credentials he also faced a question and answer session last night jumping from the problems of excluding students from the school bus to the state of the North Side Hurricane Shelter. Running on the slogan "Cayman for Caymanians", Miller, a former chair of the Immigration Board has been exceptionally critical of the number of work permit holders in Cayman, which he says is committed to reducing. He has also raised the idea of a national lottery to help raise revenue for government coffers.

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Turks and Caicos democracy “under threat”

Turks and Caicos democracy “under threat”

| 27/03/2009 | 4 Comments

(Jamaica Observer): The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is concerned that democracy is under threat in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), which is an associate member of the 15-nation regional grouping. In a statement Tuesday, Caricom broke its silence on the recent political developments in the British-administered territory, where the United Kingdom government is preparing to resort to direct rule. The drastic move comes in the wake of a scathing interim report released by a commission of inquiry, led by Sir Robin Auld, which has pointed to "clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and general administrative incompetence" in the territory.

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