Archive for June 2nd, 2009

Backbenchers put to work

| 02/06/2009 | 26 Comments

(CNS): For the first time the government’s backbench members of the Legislative Assembly will be put to work within the actual ministries on specific projects and initiatives. Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has said the move is designed to get the backbenchers more involved in the running of government. Bush announced the initiative last week in the LA on the same day as Education Minister Rolston Anglin warned the newly elected members on the UDP team that if they did not work hard they risked losing their seats at the next election. (Left Cline Glidden who has been given a considerable amount of responsibility without a ministry.)

Anglin, the second elected member for West Bay, noted that in the General Election on 20 May the first term serving MLAs had been rejected by the electorate. “If you do not do your work as an elected member you will lose your seat. There are no second chances,” he said adding that the new backbenchers ought to reflect on the election result. “Unless we deliver on our mandate, unless we do the peoples work and unless we make the country better than when we found it, we will be rejected at the next polls.”

Bush told the House last Wednesday that he had cleared the issue with the governor, and the government backbench MLAs would be assigned work that they would be responsible for. He said that the third elected member for West Bay, Cline Glidden, would work with the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) and the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and would be addressing the situation with government CUC contract. In addition, Glidden, who was given a number of projects and initiatives, will head a review of the solicitation process for additional electricity generation capacity and assist with the Hazard Management Unit, as well as the port development, the landfill and the Land and Sea Cooperative.

The fourth elected member for West Bay, Capt. Eugene Ebanks, will be involved in matters concerning the environment, tourism, the landfill and the elderly. Third elected member for Bodden Town, Dwayne Seymour, will work in the Ministry of Culture as well as in the fields of sports, small businessand youth matters, including the Youth Parliament. And the fourth elected member for George Town, Ellio Solomon, will head the National Housing Trust and assist with e-business.

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Europe split on regulation

| 02/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(Spiegel online): The European Union is split over how best to apply the lessons of the global downturn to the regulation of financial markets. Countries like Germany want tighter controls on risky deals and exotic securities, but the UK, Ireland and parts of Eastern Europe are fighting for free markets. Peer Steinbrück’s face always darkens when he is asked how much more taxpayers’ money he will need to bail out the banks. "I don’t know," says the German finance minister.

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Swine flu reaches Jamaica

| 02/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): H1N1 flu virus formerly referred to as swine flu has now reached Jamaica although the Cayman Islands has yet to have any patients test positive for this strain. Government said today that so far 22 cases have been investigated with 13 having travel history to the US and Mexico. Of these cases, 21 tested negative for the H1N1 flu, and one test result is outstanding. Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said however that a seasonal flu is in circulation in Cayman with a patient testing positive for Influenza A (H3N2).

Dr Kumar said all precautionary measures are still geared towards detecting the presence of H1N1 in Cayman. “The Public Health Department and the Health Services Authority remain vigilant in their fight against a possible pandemic. We are aware of the two confirmed cases in Jamaica, and we remain in full surveillance mode,” he said.

Returning residents or visitors, who develop fever with flu-like symptoms within seven days of entering the Cayman Islands from the US and Mexico or any other affected area, are encouraged to report to the Accident & Emergency Unit at the Cayman Islands Hospital for assessment.

“These recommendations are prudent measures to identify the presence of Influenza A (H1N1) early, and limit its spread in the Cayman Islands,” explained Dr Kumar who added that while there are still no World Health Organization (WHO) travel restrictions to affected areas, due consideration of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus should be taken into account when making travel plans. 

“Non-essential travel to Mexico and other affected areas is not advised,” he said.

Dr Kumar also reminded people that there is no cause for concern regarding the possibility of this virus being found in local pigs, andthat properly cooked pork and pork products remain safe for consumption. Influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people via eating processed pork or other products derived from pigs, he noted.

Cooking meat at a core temperature of 70°C/160°F will destroy any possible active virus present in raw meat products. Pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices, will therefore not be a source of contamination.

Government Information Services said that health officials will continue to keep the public informed of any developments and added that residents should remember that personal hygiene and maintaining good health are the best defence.

As of yesterday, 1 June 2009 the World Health Organization said 62 countries have reported a total of 17,410 confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases, including 115 deaths. 


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McLean:Breaches make Cayman a banana republic

| 02/06/2009 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Irregularities on Election Day and the question surrounding the possible disqualification of the two UDP Bodden Town MLAs was raised by both the elected member for East End, Arden McLean, and third elected member for George Town, Alden McLaughlin, in their first speeches for this parliamentary session in the Legislative Assembly from the opposition benches last week. Both former government ministers and PPM members said the issues regarding the breach of the constitution were of immense concern and McLean said such behaviour would make Cayman a banana republic.

Following the official ceremonial swearing in last Wednesday, 27 May, McLean told the Legislative Assembly of the MLAs that there was a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty regarding the Constitution. “I am concerned as it sets an unhealthy precedent,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for all people who are elected, but it is not about those people; it’s about the tenets of democracy etched in stone in the Constitution, which has guided this country since 1972 … If we allow breaches in our Constitution to go unchallenged, we will forever be a banana republic.”

He noted that the governor had made a public statement saying it was not his responsibility. “Obviously he has no responsibility for anything, it appears,” McLean added.

He said there was a lot of finger pointing and blame but it was necessary for future generations to know exactly where the country is going, and he asked why we had just voted for a new Constitution if we cannot uphold the one we already have. “Our constitution must be the supreme law of the land,” he added. “At the very least, there needs to be a legal opinion made public to reassure the people of this country that the good ship Cayman is not going to become a banana republic.”

He said while people may say he is stirring something, he said it was necessary to speak on these issues regardless of who is affected. Mclean stated that he had witnessed a number of things in the general election and campaign that he considered foreign to the Cayman Islands, and while he understood the thrust of politics and the acrimony, he said we had to be extremely careful.

During his speech, his former Cabinet colleague, McLaughlin, said that two things had marred this election, including the question of the disqualification, but the opposition had decided not to challenge the constitutionality of the swearing in of the two Bodden Town members.

“We did that because we feel that as the losers in the democratic process, where there is a clear indication by the electorate that they wanted these two members, it is not the right thing for us to challenge, but we remain concerned,” he said. “It cannot be right for those who are the guardians of the Constitution and the law to simply avoid their duty to uphold the rule of law — they have no higher duty.”

He also specifically raised the accusation made against the George Town UDP candidates that they were handing out cards with voting instructions on them to people who went to the George Town Primary and Prospect polling stations. Producing a copy of the card he said he had born witness to certain activities which were untoward.

“I sat in my car and asked a supporter of ours to attend the UDP tent, where she was handed (this) card with the four UDP candidates and their numbers and she was encouraged to vote for these four,” he said. “This is a pre-printed card, a clear indication of an organised effort to influence voters. We have a duty as candidates … to be sure that this kind of behaviour does not creep in and undermine the election processes.”

He added, however, that he did not believe it necessarily impacted the vote but the matter was now in the hands of the police and the Elections Office.

Both Rolston Anglin and Cline Glidden responded to the two opposition members, with Anglin pointing to the mobile voting as the only thing that marred the democratic process, while Glidden warned McLean not to call Cayman a banana republic. “I know there is much talk and concern about the lack of respect internationally for the Cayman Islands,” Glidden said. “When we consider the challenges that will cause, it will go a long way if the elected representatives in this Legislative Assembly and that past ministers of the Legislative Assembly would refrain from … using such irresponsible statements or referring to the Cayman Islands as a banana republic.”

He said he hoped it was no more than sour grapes and bad feelings about the result. He said that other representatives in the House had not fully declared their interests in the register on time either (although this is not the constitutional question) and he said that he had been in the same position as them, but if people were to look back at the Hansard in the wake of the last election there was no whining and complaining.

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Health screening required for new students

| 02/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): All students entering government or private schools for the first time on all three Cayman Islands are required to have health screenings, which the Public Health Department provides at no charge. The screening comprises obtaining medical and surgical history; assessment of growth and development, screening for vision and hearing; dental assessment and reviewing and administering necessary immunisations. “This must be done before the new school year begins in September,” said School Health Coordinator Joanna Rose -Wright.

For students entering schools in the West Bay and the Eastern districts, health screeningswill be done at the district health centres, which started Monday, 1 June. School entry screening for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman starts this month (June) and continues through August. Public Health Nurse Nelsie Jones will organize school entry screening and she will get in touch with parents regarding the date and time for each child. For all other students, health screenings will take place at John Gray’s medical centre from 7 July to 31 August 2009.

Appointments for students entering Leading Edge, PACE, New Horizons, and Heritage schools, as well as John Gray High School, can only be made at the George Hicks High School administrative office. Please call 949-9488 for an appointment. For all other students, appointments can be made at the respective schools at the time of registration.

Nurse Rose-Wright reminds parents and guardians that they need to accompany their children to the health screening, and they must bring the child’s immunisation records.

“School health nurses will offer necessary vaccines for children whose immunisations are not up to date, and then issue a health-screening certificate, which is to be taken to the child’s school,” she explained. Health screenings can also be done by private doctors, who will complete the school health screening forms provided by the Public Health Department.

Parents who take their children to private doctors should hand in the completed health screening records to John Gray’s medical centre any time from 7 July to 31 August, between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. Records completed by a private physician before or after these dates can be dropped off at the Cayman Islands Hospital’s Public Health Clinic. Once the record has been received, a health screening certificate will be issued which then must be taken to the school that the child is entering.

Detailed information sheets for parents and guardians are available at the schools. For more information, please contact Nurse Rose-Wright at 244-2648 or 244-2734, or John Gray’s medical centre at 949-2501.


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Bush singles out former Hyatt for action

| 02/06/2009 | 25 Comments

(CNS): During a meeting with tourism stakeholders last week, the new leader of government business said that he would be contacting the owner (Asif Bhatia) of the derelict former Hyatt Hotel, which has been that way for almost five years since Hurricane Ivan devastated Grand Cayman in September 2004. McKeeva Bush told stakeholders that it was something that needed to be addressed. Although the beach side of the hotel, which is no longer in Hyatt hands, re-opened within a few weeks of Ivan, the main part of the hotel on the north shore, which once held more than 200 rooms, has been  deserted ever since.

Not only is this reducing Cayman’soverall hotel room stock, the derelict site has become something of an eyesore in the middle of Grand Cayman’s main tourist district of Seven Mile Beach. Former Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford admitted to CNS last September that there was no resolution in sight for the property, and although he had been trying, he had failed to make contact with Bhatia, the wealthy owner.

Bhatia has been in a legal battle with Lloyds of London over a reported $50 million-plus insurance claim as a result of the damage to the property. It is alleged that the insurance firm has offered considerably less than this sum and Bhatia has refused to accept the offer or to sell the property, leaving the prime hotel site in ruins.

Throughout his time in office, Clifford said on a number of occasions it was not in the country’s interest to allow the property to stay in its current condition. At one point Clifford did say that a compulsory purchase by government was not out of the question, something that a number of local owners in the neighbourhood as well as local real estate brokers have suggested, although Kim Lund of Remax said the problem was a failure within the local judiciary.

“The government’s focus should not be on forcing the owner of the property to sell, but rather on improving the expediency of our legal system,” Lund told CNS last year. “That would be a much moreprudent area to target, which could also have very positive repercussions for the whole country if some real improvement could be achieved.”

Lund said there had been an opportunity for a Summary Judgment on the Hyatt several years ago but it was thrown out of court.  He said the case was dragging on and on, to the detriment of tourism and property values for owners in Britannia. Lund said the location was a strategic site which has become an embarrassment to anyone entering Britannia or driving along the bypass.

CNS contacted Bush yesterday (1 June) to ask what his plans are to force Bhatia to settle or sell and what he would want to happen to the site and we are awaiting a response.

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Bush says he will lead tourism to recovery

| 02/06/2009 | 26 Comments

(CNS): McKeeva Bush has said that he intends to make Cayman the preferred destination in the Caribbean, and while he said he did not have all the answers, he told the industry that he intends to lead the sector to full recovery. The new leader of government business said he will be meeting with local industry stakeholders on a regular basis and next week he had meetings planned with the FCCA in Miami, followed by discussions with airlines servicing Cayman.  He said there were a number of immediate needs to address but he was also looking at the long term situation.

Speaking at the Westin last week with members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA), Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism (ACT) and the Sister Islands Tourism Association (SITA), along with members of his government, Bush said government would move quickly to help make a positive difference.

The LoGB explained that immediate initiatives would involve Cayman Airways, the cruise industry and particularly the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). He also said that government would receive regular briefings about the national airline.

“I need to be brought up to speed on the internal budgets,” he said. “Then we will look to prioritise our funds for marketing, promotions and product development, especially customer service and human capital development, to make our three islands the preferred destination in the Caribbean.”

Noting that local tourism has weathered trying times in the past, notably 9/11 and Hurricane Ivan, Bush said that the inbuilt resiliency of a well-organised and inherently talented industry would once again prevail. “I am confident that by working hand-in-hand and sticking together, despite our differences and special interests, we can achieve a full recovery in the years ahead,” he added. “Let’s get to work to make the tourism industry and product better. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I am here to lead.”

He also spoke about the plans for theairport and port development and the need to maintain a balance between cruise and stay-over tourism, since Cayman, and particularly the industry’s local businesses, both needed to thrive.

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Miller opens MLA’s office after years of disuse

| 02/06/2009 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Fulfilling one of his campaign promises to have regular office hours and rejuvenate life around the civic centre in his district of North Side, independent candidate Ezzard Miller has refurbished the local MLA’s office and reception area to encourage his constituents to come and visit. Having vowed to represent his people in the most democratic way possible, Miller says he will be having the first of his district meetings on 18 June, where he wants to hear from residents what they see as priorities so he can make the necessary financial requests as the new government prepares the 09/10 budget.

Miller, who says the office has not been used for years, said he intends to encourage people to come see him there but to also to get involved in the initiatives he is introducing to fulfill his campaign promise of participatory democracy.

He said that he was also hoping to begin the process of establishing the North Side District Council. He said his team had already done a considerable amount of work on how district councils operate and they were looking at the English model. He said that he wanted as many people as possible in the district involved and that he hoped that people who were born or raised in North Side but had moved away would also get involved in the local democracy he hopes to inspire in North Side.

“I want all North Siders to have a say, and when I go to the Legislative Assembly I will go to represent what it is the people of this district want and need,” he said.

Having examined some of the possible priorities that he thinks the people want to see addressed, Miller said the public beaches in the district needed reviving and he would like to see a public beach created in Old Man Bay, but the civic centre was one of the major issues to tackle with the start of hurricane season.

 “We need to get the civic centre back up to standard as a hurricane shelter,” he said, adding that while he and a team of volunteers could address the landscaping and make the area more attractive, the main internal repair work that was required would need government finance.

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Anglin condemns mobile vote

| 02/06/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): In his inaugural speech as a Minister, Rolston Anglin told the Legislative Assembly last week that mobile voting was a major mistake which disrupted the democratic process as people knew who others had voted for and that the “experiment “ was over. However, the Elections Office told CNS that there had been no complaints filed about the system and that mobile polling was equally secure as regular voting. Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott said that aside from those who had requested assistance, it was impossible for people to know how others had cast their vote.

During the adjournment debate in the opening session of this sitting of the LA on 27 May, criticising the new PPM opposition, Anglin said their creation of mobile voting had been the one thing that had disrupted the democratic process “like nothing he had ever seen”, in what was otherwise a strong election with an emphatic result. He said that moving through the community he had heard that people’s votes were out on the street.

“People knew who other people had voted for as a matter of fact. The ultimate tenet of democracy is the right to secrecy of one’s vote. I may be speaking out of turn, but as far as I am concerned the experiment of mobile voting is over,” Anglin said.  “I am not going to sit in a Cabinet that refuses to deal with a system that was one of the biggest mistakes and blunders to democracy in this country.”

However, Scott said that not only were there no complaints about the system of mobile voting, which he said had gone very well with people telling the office how pleased they were with it, the system was equally as secure as regular voting at polling stations.

“No one can know how anyone voted,” he said. “The only person that can offer assistance to an elector is a presiding officer who has sworn an oath to maintain the secrecy of the ballot. This is nothing new. A presiding officer can also help someone at a polling station in the same way.”

Scott explained that those who are incapacitated and cannot physically make their mark can only be assisted by a presiding officer or one witness of their choosing who also swears an oath. He added that with mobile voting all the candidates agents and representatives can witness the secrecy of the ballot unlike postal voting which had been the only alternative way to vote for those who could not get to a polling station on Election Day.

Scott explained that the introduction of the mobile polling stations was to reduce the large number of postal ballots sent out, which is a long and cumbersome project, slows down the count and is not as secure as mobile voting. He said that while those overseas would continue to vote via postal ballot, the introduction of mobile voting allowed even those that were incapacitated in Cayman to vote under circumstances much more reflective of a polling station.

“The process at the mobile station is exactly the same as the regular polls. It is just in advance of polling day,” Scott stated. “The ballot boxes were sealed and secured at the close of every mobile event. No one could put anything in or out of those boxes. There is nothing different about the mobile voting system.”

Anglin had, however, told the LA that when the past government moved the bill to introduce the mobile system, the United Democratic Party had done the research and showed the government that it had a shady and spotty reputation across the world. Yet the PPM administration had chosen to adopt the system. He said that while there was no perfect system, one which allowed people to have first hand account of who people voted for was an intrusion that could not be allowed to continue, especially in a small tight knit community. “It cannot be right,” he said.

Anglin invited people to Google for themselves and see the criticisms of mobile voting.

However, there is in fact a considerable body of research to the contrary which cites mobile voting as a far more secure system than the traditional postal ballot, which is itself more susceptible to fraud.

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