Archive for July 29th, 2009

Civil servants fight for jobs

Civil servants fight for jobs

| 29/07/2009 | 51 Comments

(CNS): With government already facing an operational deficit of almost $76 million from last year and revenue expected to be down again during the 2009/10 financial year, the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association (CICSA) is calling on members to protect their jobs by doing everything they can to cut government expenses in their departments. On the heels of the recent policy directive from the chief secretary that public servants need to reduce costs, James Watler, the president of the CICSA, has warned public servants that jobs could go and salaries could be cut if they don’t play their part.

In a letter to the membership Watler spelled out the dire financial circumstances that the Cayman Islands government currently finds itself in and noted that the only way to avoid potential lay offs, shorter weeks or reduced salaries, government workers have to do all they can to find savings in their departments and to come up with ideas to protect their own jobs. 

“In the hopes of avoiding such emergency measures we encourage you to take up the Chief Secretary’s invitation to put forward your own recommendations of where Government can save money, to your departmental heads or directly to the Budget and Management Unit or the Portfolio of the Civil Service,” Watler wrote to members. “If you have an idea you think will help the CICSA Management Council will be happy to work with you to craft it into a proposal and will even submit it on your behalf if you would rather not do so yourselves.”

Watler told CNS that his letter was a call to arms for the Civil Service as well as a call for unity. He said nothing was set in stone with regards to potential job or pay cuts and there was time for the association to prevent the worst from happening.

“These are difficult time and the purpose of the letter is to make sure everyone is aware of the circumstances and understands the need to play their part,” he said. “From what I can see, we are at something of a crossroads with the country’s finances and I want the membership to come to terms with the realities and the fact that they can help set things right again.”

He said that the Civil Service was in this together and it was a matter of doing what they could as public servants for the love of country to turn things around. “It’s a primary role of the CICSA to protect the service, and that means protecting jobs and we intend to do that by finding cost saving measures whereever we can,” Watler added.

He said that the CICSA council had already proposed some ideas, including the redeployment of staff from one department to others, as he said there were some imbalances. Watler explained that with some ministries being over staffed and others very short it made sense to transfer people around and make sure that all ministries, departments and portfolios were neither over nor under staffed, which would ensure more efficiency.

“If we rally round we can overcome these difficulties and we can prevent the worst from happening and protect our jobs,” he said.

In his letter to members Watler pulls no punches and tells the membership: “As it stands the picture is very grim, we will all be affected …..” He writes, “To put it bluntly, Government finds itself spending far more than it is taking in.  Simply put we have been informed that the finances of this country are in extremely poor shape as revenue intake has decreased significantly, therefore in light of this Government is forced to look at cutting expenditures and you and I are being asked to cut back in order to curb the mounting deficit.”

He warned that civil servants would be asked to work harder and longer for no extra reward, to take on additional responsibilities and to go the extra mile to help cut costs. He also warned them to take care with their own personal finances in case there were salary cuts.

“We would encourage our members to look at their personal finances at this time in preparation for the possibility that some form of cuts may be made to remuneration packages. I know that this will not be easy as we all have commitments but please bear in mind that these are extraordinary times,” Watler warned.

Noting that these were indeed extraordinary times he reminded members that they had weathered storms in the past and could do so again.

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Election enquiry continues

Election enquiry continues

| 29/07/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): More than two months after the election, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has said they are continuing enquiries into allegations of irregularities at polling stations in George Town, Prospect and West Bay. On the General Election Day a number of reports were made to the Elections Office and the police that some political party volunteers may have been attempting to unduly influence voters. A police spokesperson has told CNS that senior officers from CID are very hopeful of an outcome on these investigations very soon.

No details have been given, however, regarding the enquiries so far and police did not say whether they had any intentions of arresting any of the individuals involved.

The first irregularities which came to light occurred outside the George Town Primary school on the morning of polling day when a number of voters said that they were handed small cards (pictured above) by United Democratic Party representatives before they entered the polling station. The cards listed the names and numbers of the four UDP candidates in that district who were on the ballot paper.

Field agents representing other candidates in the area as well as voters said they had seen the cards, which were the size of a normal business card. Election officials also reported that some voters had gone inside the polling stations holding the cards, and when asked where they came from they indicated that they had just been given the cards by the UDP representatives outside. Allegations were also made by a number of observers that it was the George Town candidates themselves who had given the cards to their representatives at the tent to hand out to voters as they arrived.

Election officials and the police were called to the polling station and the Elections officials established another base by the political representative’s tents to keep an eye on the situation. However, at the time Jonathan Piercy, one of the UDP’s four George Town candidates, said the accusations were merely hearsay and there was no proof that any had been given out by their people on Election Day as the cards had been in circulation for about a week. However, Piercy had told CNS that, if the cards were being given out on Election Day, he accepted that it would be illegal. Later that day, police said that they received reports of similar irregularities at one polling station in Prospect and later in West Bay.

Although candidates from both parties and the independents were allowed by law to have their representatives near the polling stations on Election Day, it is illegal to campaign or influence voters in anyway. According to Section 92 (3) of the Elections Law, on polling day candidates are not allowed to publish any printed material which invites or induces the public to vote for a particular candidate or group of candidates and anyone contravening this section is liable to a fine of up to $500 or six months in prison. The question of undue influence, however, could also give rise to a more serious question of whether the vote and ultimately the result would be unfairly influenced.

Following the election in the first sitting of the new parliament on 27 May, Alden McLaughlin, opposition member for George Town, raised the issue and produced one of the cards on the floor of the Legislative Assembly and said he himself 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.

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