Archive for August 3rd, 2009

Election challenge struck out

| 03/08/2009 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Updated 8pm –– Chief Justice Anthony Smellie has rejected the argument presented by the legal representatives of the Bodden Town voters that their challenge to the qualification of UDP Minister Mark Scotland and MLA backbencher Dwayne Seymour to be elected could be brought as an originating summons. The chief justice struck out the summons, stating that the plaintiffs could not be allowed to bypass the process laid down in the Election Law. In an ironic conclusion he noted that if the time limit could be by-passed that would suggest there were not time limits on election challenges at all, which would undermine the law.

In a complex and what is likely to become a landmark ruling the chief justice took one and half hours to deliver his decision this afternoon (Monday 3 August). Although he struck out the proceedings based primarily on the fact that the Election Petition would have been the correct way for the plaintiffs to have made their challenge and not through originating summons, he made it clear that the attorney general (AG) could still, should he choose, make the challenge outside of the restrictions of an Election Petition.

Smellie said he had based his ruling on six points, starting in the first instance with the fact that the Constitution confers in Section 23 the power on the Legislative Assembly to make the laws to govern all election challenges. He said that, as a result, the LA had indeed passed the Elections Law, which has provided the method by which all challenges to elections can be brought, i.e. through an Election Petition. He noted the importance that all election questions are settled quickly with regard to the public interest concerning challenges because of their impact on the legislature.

Smellie agreed with Lord Pannick’s argument (for the defence) that any other remedy outside the Election Petition would be an abuse of process. He added that, as the plaintiffs are not the AG, they were required to bring the challenge via an Election Petition as any other method was, by design or not, by-passing the mandatory scheme laid out by the Election Law. Finally the chief justice noted that if the time limit stipulated by the Election Petition could be by-passed it would mean it was not mandatory, which would in turn undermine the principle of the Elections Law to clarify election questions expeditiously.

He gave his summary after presenting a full and complex reflection of both the arguments presented in the case by the legal teams and used a considerable amount of authority and legal argument to justify his ruling to strike out the petition.

Smellie rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, as set out by Gerard Clarke, that the Election Petition was not appropriate because the matter was a question of qualification, that the Constitution overrides the Election Law or that, because the AGcould bring a challenge outside the Election Petition, so could the voters or candidates.

He said the Election Petition was designed to deal with all questions surrounding elections and that the use of the term “unduly elected” in the Election Law did not rule out questions of qualification. He noted that the reason why the AG was allowed to challenge outside those rules was because that was bestowed upon him by his office. Smellie noted too that the Constitution was not overridden by the Elections Law but had directly prescribed the provision of the Elections Law to be the method of challenge.

Throughout his ruling, the chief justice indicated a number of times that this issue of time was very important as it was in the public interest that any question over an elected member’s qualification or right to be elected had to be resolved quickly.

His position was particularly ironic given that the challenge against Scotland and Seymour, the two United Democratic Party candidates, was based on the fact that they had both gazetted their business interests in government contracts late under the provision set out under Section 19 (1)g of the constitution.

Seymour, whose firm has a contract with Cayman Airways, and Scotland, whose company has various contracts with government departments, did not gazette these interests until several days after the deadline indicated in the Constitution. Both said at the time that it was oversight on their part and not any intention to deceive voters as both their interests were already widely known.

The challenge was eventually brought via the originating summons by five voters and Sandra Catron, another Bodden Town candidate in the 20 May General Election. After Smellie’s decision Gordon Solomon, one of the five voters and the spokesperson for the plaintiffs, said  that he accepted the chief justice’s ruling and that as voters he and his fellow plaintiffs had taken the process as far as they could. If nothing else, he said, the whole process was an education for all voters and he did not regret the decision.

Scotland told CNS that he was pleased with the outcome but that from the beginning both he and Seymour had been advised that they were on the right path by asking to strike out the summons. He said that from the very start he was confident that he was secure in his position as a validly elected member and that from the day after the election, as far as he was concerned, he had been getting down to the business of government. Not in court for the ruling, Scotland said he and his government colleagues had been in meetings discussing the 2009/10 budget.

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Men thrown from jet-ski prompts rescue op

| 03/08/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): A major search and rescue operation was instigated on Saturday afternoon (August 1) after a jet-ski driver and his passenger fell off as they rode through a heavy rain squall in the North sound. One of the brothers was missing at sea for around three hours but he was eventually found by a DoE vessel unharmed. Police said both men had been drinking and the driver had been unable to give an exact location as to where he lost his brother hampering the search, however, with the help of a community effort police said all ended happily.

The jet-ski driver reported the incident to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre at around 1.50pm, he told operators he and his brother had been thrown from a Wave Runner and his brother had been missing for approximately 45 minutes. The joint Customs, Immigration and Police Maine Unit and the Department of Environment were dispatched to carry out searches on the water and police officers were deployed to conduct enquiries on land.

Officers were told that the man and his brother had been travelling from Morgan’s Harbour to Kaibo on a Jet Ski when they hit a heavy rain squall and were thrown from the machine. He said he looked for his brother but could not find him so he travelled to shore to raise the alarm. Both men had been drinking that day and an exact location of where the brother had last been seen could not be given.

DoE and Maine Officers carried out a search and rescue operation across the North Sound and around 4.20pm the missing man was located by a DoE vessel approximately one mile and half North West of Booby Cay. The 30-year-old victim was taken to shore by Cayman Defender where he was met by an ambulance and assessed by medics. He was unhurt and did not need to be taken to hospital.

“We are extremely pleased that this young man was found safe and well,” said Inspector Brad Ebanks of the Maine Unit. “Our search and rescue capabilities were tested and I am pleased to say that both we and the Department of Environment performed well. The assistance offered by the public should also not go unnoticed – we had many people volunteer to assist with the search and for this we are extremely grateful. We saw a real community spirit on Saturday.”

Inspector Ebanks also noted that both men had been drinking that day and stressed the importance of being of sober mind when on the water. “On this occasion the man was very lucky,” he said. “Finding him was hindered by the fact the brother did not know where he had fallen off the Wave Runner. There is no doubt that this slowed down the rescue.”

Jet Ski users are reminded to have safety in mind at all times. The following advice is issued by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service:

 Always wear a life vest – preferably fluorescent or bright in colour.

 Never operate a personal water craft under the influence of alcohol.

 Learn how to operate the machine before you use it.

 Never ride close to other water craft and be aware of what is happening around you. Being aware will help you avoid a collision.

 Never ride a personal water craft without a lanyard and always connect it to your body.

Always let someone know where you are going and your estimated time of return.

Check the weather before venturing out. Conditions can change quickly at this time of year.

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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Busy weekend for police

| 03/08/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): The RCIPS reports that during an active weekend, two men in West Bay, aged 24 and 23, were arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to supply, possession of a drugs utensil and consumption of a controlled drug. Both men have been released on bail pending further enquiries. In George Town a 35-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods, and three men, aged between 24, 25 and 32 were arrested in Barnes Drive on suspicion of selling liquor without a license following an operation by the Hot Spot Team.

Police say they arrested a number of people for various offences including drugs offences, handling stolen goods and the illegal sale of lottery and alcohol.

Other arrests from around the Island include:
• A 26-year-old man on suspicion of illegal gambling.
• 4 men aged 18, 49, 30, 34, and a 49-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
• A 20-year-old man on suspicion of diving under the influence of alcohol, driving whilst disqualified and driving without insurance.
• A 43-year-old man on suspicion of driving without insurance, no certificate of roadworthiness and no registration.
• A 19-year-old man on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident.
• A 43-year-old man on suspicion of driving with no insurance and with no license.
• A 20-year-old woman on suspicion of taking a vehicle and driving it away without the owners’ consent.
• A 31-year-old man on suspicion of assault ABH and damage to property.
• A 24-year-old man on suspicion of driving without insurance.

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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Mac: Brac must change

| 03/08/2009 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Announcing that there will be a forum on Cayman Brac at the end of August to discuss the economic future of the island, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush told Brac residents this weekend that he supported the concept of a marina on the Brac and also thought there was the possibility for cruise tourism to come to the island. Speaking at the official opening of the Alexander Hotel, he said he recognized that Brackers “don’t particularly want change”, but that there were some things they would have to accept to move the economy forward.

He said, “To those who say we want everything but don’t want anything to change … you can’t have your cake and eat it too. There must be changes and that’s what’s going to happen if businesses are going to survive.” The LoGB also promised he would cut the red tape for local businesses and hoped that Brackers would embrace the government’s National Development Plan, which would include the Sister Islands.

At a large gathering at the hotel to celebrate the opening of the Brac’s newest, and currently the only, resort, built and owned by Cleveland Dilbert, Bush noted that tourism was a major source of income for the island and the opening of the Alexander played a major role in the island’s recovery from Hurricane Paloma (which severely damaged the island last November). The LoGB said that the Brac Reef Beach Resort was “not far behind”, adding much needed tourism accommodation. (Right: a cake replica of the resort)

Noting some of the Brac’s attractions – diving, birding and also the island’s unique artificial dive site, the Lost City of Atlantis —  he said that Cayman Brac always attracted a special type of visitor, one that is interested in nature, adventure and relaxation. “While we want to see Cayman Brac develop, because that is what it takes, we want to keep what you have,” he said, and promised on behalf of the government that they would help restore tourism to the island through international marketing. He further encouraged local Cayman Islands residents to consider a “staycation” to the Brac and local businesses to consider holding smaller meetings at the Alexander instead of travelling to the US.

“As a country we need to do all we can to encourage and support local investors like Cleveland who dare to put their money into projects like the Alexander,” Bush said, noting that the government would not add tax to businesses that would discourage investors. “For us as Caymanians, we must be understanding of what investors need to operate and create an environment that makes investment feel wanted. This means a better immigration policy and a cutting of red tape which undermines businesses.”

Addressing business owners on the Brac, he said, “It is much more difficult to be profitable on this little island but over years you have withstood many storms and shown entrepreneurial spirit.” Having discussed the situation on the Brac with the Minister for District Administration, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, he said they had decided to hold a forum towards end of August “to listen to concerns and get ideas that you may have to address the environment businesses must operate in here in the Sister Islands.” (Left: Owner of the Alexander Hotel, Cleveland Dilbert)

“There are things I would like to see done,” he said. “I recognize that Brackers don’t particularly want change but there are some things you will have to accept to move forward.” Bush said he believed it was time for a proper yacht facility and marina in the Sister Islands and hoped the two MLAs for the district would support the idea. “Many governments over the years have talked about it but been afraid to touch environment.”

Referring to West End Cemetery Pier, known locally as Scott’s Dock, Bush said, “I asked my friend Dervin (Scott) how far he was going with his dock, and he said he was going to go all the way to Cuba. I believe that holds out the possibility for cruise tourism.”

He said government would work with Scott, entrepreneurs like Dilbert and other investors to ensure that businesses on the Brac succeed, and said change was necessary for businesses to survive. “Business is not going to come by itself. Whilewe are pleased with the sleepy little island of Cayman Brac, we are going to move forward,” he said.

Government is in the process of drafting a National Development Plan that would include the problems of waste water and refuse collection, Bush said and hoped that Cayman Brackers would embrace this initiative. “You can’t be successful unless you plan properly,” he said.

The opening of the Alexander Hotel was attended by all UDP ministers and the event was emceed by MLA Moses Kirkconnell.

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‘Law-thor’ shares his book

| 03/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): An attorney and a writer Murali Ram was sharing his book, his insight and his humour on Friday evening (31 July) when he made a special appearance at Books & Books in Camana Bay to read from and promote his debut novel, the book of Walla. Banned in his native Malaysia the book is the result of Ram’s own curiosity about the world’s religions and his experiences as a lawyer. Having grown up in Malaysia and lived in England before moving to the Cayman Islands, Ram drew on his experiences of the human condition to produce the book.

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd about the book of walla and without giving too much away Ram outline the premise of the book which is about Dr. Shoorab whose world is ripped apart following violence outside a Hindu temple. Convinced that religious dogma is liable for his loss, he decides to sue God, naming the various religious councils as joint defendants. The litigation forces bishop, mufti and swami to temporarily put aside their differences and pull together in defense of their respective faiths – and God.

Ram told the crown that the book was some8 years in the making and was inspired by a number of his own experiences. A lapsed Hindu himself he said he has a curiosity about religion and faith and growing up in Malaysia which is a multi religious society with Islam as the leading faith questions of why people believe what they do is fascinating to him.

An Associate at Mourant du Feu & Jeune Ram specialises in dispute resolution the book was published this year by Llumina Press.

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Jobless graduate sues college

| 03/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(MSNBC): A New York City woman who says she can’t find a job is suing the college where she earned a bachelor’s degree. Trina Thompson filed a lawsuit last week against Monroe College in Bronx Supreme Court. The 27-year-old is seeking the $70,000 she spent on tuition. Thompson says she’s been unable to find gainful employment since she received her information technology degree in April.

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CCRIF assists climate change strategy preparation

| 03/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(Insurance Journal): The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) announced that it is "assisting the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) climate change negotiating team in finalizing the AOSIS position leading up to the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in December. "CCRIF, through staff from the Facility Supervisor, Caribbean Risk Managers Ltd, participated in a Negotiators Preparatory Meeting held in Grenada from 22 to 25 July 2009. This meeting formed part of the ongoing and intensive work of AOSIS in lobbying for enhanced global action on climate change."

(Insurance Journal): The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) announced that it is "assisting the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) climate change negotiating team in finalizing the AOSIS position leading up to the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in December. "CCRIF, through staff from the Facility Supervisor, Caribbean Risk Managers Ltd, participated in a Negotiators Preparatory Meeting held in Grenada from 22 to 25 July 2009. This meeting formed part of the ongoing and intensive work of AOSIS in lobbying for enhanced global action on climate change."

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Cayman fund sued in Ireland over Madoff connection

| 03/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(Sunday business): A subsidiary of the Fortis banking group is using the Irish courts to pursue an offshore hedge fund over its involvement with Bernard Madoff, the convicted American fraudster. The Dublin-registered subsidiary of Fortis is suing Harley International, a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund which invested client money with Madoff for more than a decade. Madoff is serving a 150year prison sentence after his $65 billion ‘Ponzi scheme’ fraud was uncovered. Fortis Prime Fund Solutions Bank (Ireland) is based at Spencer Dock in Dublin, and is used to administrate hundreds of millions of euro through loans and investments within the Fortis Group.

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Bahamas plans tax deals

| 03/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Currently listed on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD grey list with only one Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), the Bahamas has announced that it intends to start signing agreements with a number of countries including China. The country’s PM said that in light of the progress made toward the implementation of what he described as a “level-playing field” among financial centres, the Government of The Bahamas intended, to enter into negotiations.

In a statement from the Ministry of Finance Zhivargo Laing said that as the world’s leading financial centres have made significant progress toward broader application of the standards for transparency and information exchange in tax matters that all significant financial centres that were formerly opposed have now declared their commitment to the internationally agreed standards, and are all engaged in implementing the standards to accommodate the sharing of tax information.

He said that negotiations have commenced with the Bahamas and Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, and the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands) for Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs).

“It is the intention of The Bahamas to conclude negotiations on these Agreements by the end of this year,” said Laing. “Additionally, the Government has initiated discussions for an agreement on tax information exchange with the People’s Republic of China, and proposes to initiate discussions with Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, South Africa and India.”

He also said the country had introduced new legislative framework to support the expanded network of tax information exchange arrangements. “The Government is confident that these activities will allow The Bahamas to meet the Exchange of Information standards that have been set by both the G-20 and the OECD on the shortest possible timetable and within the given timeframes, while avoiding any potential adverse listing,” he added.

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