Archive for August 6th, 2009

Conservation at Sea Camp

| 06/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Fourteen young people will spend a week on Little Cayman learning how to use scientific research to help preserve the beauty of the coral reefs at the 10th annual Caribbean Marine Ecology Camp hosted by CCMI’s Little Cayman Research Centre from August 7 to August 14. The students, 10 Caymanians and 4 Americans, will take part in events and activities developed to provide them with a solid foundation of knowledge in marine ecosystems and conservation with a newly developed curriculum. Activities will include SCUBA diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking, among many other fun and exciting opportunities.

CCMI has announce the pledged philanthropic support of The Ball Foundation to fund the Edmund F. and Virginia H. Ball Caribbean Marine Ecology Camp for the next ten years.

Leading the Camp will be Tara Bonebrake, who graduated with a Masters of Art in Teaching from Washington University in 2005. She is currently an 8th grade science teacher at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, but spends her summers exploring her two passions, sustainability and marine science. She has travelled around the world to study and enjoy her love of the ocean and the creatures within, and she firmly believes that it is only through education and understanding that people will come to realize how precious and fragile coral reef ecosystems are. In return, all who visit, study, and learn about our reefs will then become ambassadors for restoring, conserving, and sharing their experiences with others. Sally Coppage, CCMI’s Education Officer, will be assisting Bonebrake, along with Rusty Walton, from Cayman Brac, who participated in last year’s Camp.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. It was later established as an international charitable organization, after becoming incorporated in the Cayman Islands (2002) and in the UK (2004).

Since its beginning, CCMI has proven to be a valuable asset to the efforts of understanding changing coral reef and tropicalmarine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness for the Caribbean and for students and researchers around the world.

For more information on the 2009 Edmund F. and Virginia H. Ball Caribbean Marine Ecology Camp and/or other research, education, outreach and conservation initiatives of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, please visit our website at


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Man died suddenly in George Town

| 06/08/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A 42-year-old man, who apparently drove to his place of work this morning, was found unconscious in his car on Piper Way, George Town, this morning and was later pronounced dead. However, police have said there does not appear to be any suspicious circumstances at this time. The RCIPS reported that the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at 7:40am from a man who was working on a building site near Comfort Suites reporting that he had found a colleague unconscious in his car.

Medics, police and fire responded to the scene and the man was taken to hospital, where he was unfortunately pronounced dead. Police are working with the relatives of the victim and send condolences to all family and friends. Detectives are investigating the death though foul play is not suspected.


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AG says end secret clauses

| 06/08/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): When government enters into any kind of contract or deal with the private sector it should seek to avoid any kind of confidentiality agreement and maintain as much openness and transparency as possible to allow public scrutiny of public spending, says Auditor General Dan Duguay. One of the many recommendations he made regarding the government’s post Hurricane Ivan settlement with Cayman General was that government should not have agreed to a confidentiality clause with this deal.

Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee meeting, convened to begin calling witnesses regarding a number of Duguay’s reports for the Legislative Assembly, he noted that the public was not well served on this occasion over the secrecy surrounding this settlement. Duguay had explained in the report that in order to conduct his audit he had obviously breeched the conditions and he indicated that the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL) entitled him to do so as a function of his office.

However, Duguay raised the concern that, as one of government’s strategic aims is to be more open and transparent, the inclusion of confidentiality clauses is inconsistent with those aims and the principles of the PMFL. Duguay explained that the government made this particular agreement because they believed taking the loss was in the best interests of the country as a whole, and he said the government had an obligation to be accountable for that decision.

As a result of this recommendation, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin was called as a witness in his debut appearance before PAC. Bulgin explained that the confidentiality clause was requested by Cayman General, who had suggested that public exposure of the agreement could undermine any other settlements on claims the firm would make going forward after the deal.

Speaking generally, Bulgin said it was perfectly normal to have confidential agreements. “Any agreement is between two parties and if it is the wish of one party for some sort of confidentiality it is in order for government to agree,” he said. “The presence of the confidentiality clause doesn’t fetter the auditor general, the complaints commissioner or the courts. While the observation is noted, it is not one that should cause the auditor general any anxiety; from time to time we will have them,” Bulgin added.

Duguay noted, however, that while he was aware that the clause did not apply to his office it was the wider principle that caused him concern. “Government should not enter into such clauses as a general rule,” he said, explaining that while confidentiality is the norm in business, for government it should be the exception and only in cases of national security. He said the question that needed to be asked here was if the public was better served by the original secrecy of the deal signed in April 2005 or when his report was made public in 2007, and he suggested it was the latter.

Speaking after the PAC meeting, Duguay noted that the public and public finance is always better served when those involved know that the details will be in the public domain and that secrecy surrounding government finances not only leads to unhelpful speculation but usually results in poorer financial management. He said in every case he has ever seen where governments move towards detailed public scrutiny of spending, expenditure and waste is significantly reduced.

It was not clear if the PAC was persuaded to make a general recommendation in their report that government avoid confidentiality clauses in any future deals or agreements it makes with the private sector.

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Murdoch vows to charge for online news

| 06/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(Financial Times): Rupert Murdoch has vowed to charge for all the online content of his newspapers and television news channels, going well beyond his prediction in May that the company would test pay models on one of its stronger papers within the year. The comments by News Corp’s chairman came as he predicted a "high single digit" rebound in the group’s operating profits next year. The worst of the media sector slump might be behind the company, he said, as he reported "some good signs of life" in advertising. Newspaper and television revenues would be down "very low double digits" next year, but growth in cable properties such as Fox News would leave advertising revenues flat and total revenue up 4 per cent.

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Major civil service meeting to address financial crisis

| 06/08/2009 | 32 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association is holding a meeting this afternoon to discuss the way forward in difficult economic times. All emplyees of government departments, authorities and government businesses are invited to the meeting, which will be held at the George Hicks campus at 4:30pm today (Thursday 6 August). Also attending will be the CICSA President James Watler, Governor Stuart Jack, Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson and Chief Officer of the Portfolio of the Civil Service Gloria McField-Nixon.

While rumours have been circulating about a 20% pay cut for civil servants, Watler told CNS that the association strongly opposed pay cuts or job losses for members. He said a number of measures had been discussed to reduce costs but he would be most surprised that such a decision would have been made without notifying CICSA.

He said that government employees would be encouraged to put their questions and concerns to the panel and that there would also be a drop box if people felt intimidated about speaking up themselves.

Watler told CNS that a meeting for government workers on Cayman Brac is also being arranged. Both that and the meeting this afternoon would be closed to the press and public.

With a deficit of around $76 million last year and the prospects of an even greater one for the next financial year, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has said on several occasions that there will have to be cuts and the cost of the Civil Service is by far government’s biggest outlay.

Last month both the chief secretary and Watler wrote to all government workers pointing out the seriousness of the situation. Watler has said the association will be doing all it can to encourage civil servants to make cuts in the course of their duties such as reducing the use of company vehicles cutting down on utility usage and overtime demands to help reduce the deficit as he has said the association is opposed to cutting jobs.

All government offices, including statutory authorities and government-owned companies, will have temporarily reduced staffing levels this afternoon from 4 pm until close of business to allow members of the civil service to attend the meeting. The public is requested to schedule their business before 4 pm, if possible, in order to minimise any delays.

Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Donovan Ebanks apologises for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciates the public’s understanding so that this extraordinary meeting may be facilitated.

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Man injured during restaurant break-in

| 06/08/2009 | 15 Comments

(CNS): An employee of the Light House Restaurant has sustained injuries to his hand after disturbing four men who had broken into the premise on Bodden Town Road in the early hours of Wednesday morning police have reported.  The 34-year-old victim called the 911 Emergency Communications Centre at 2.40am reporting that four men had broken into the building. Police also said that there were three more break-ins over Tuesday night Wednesday morning in Bodden Town and East End.


When police responded to the scene at the Lighthouse restaurant they learnt from the victim that he had been working in the kitchen when he heard noises coming from the restaurant area. When the man entered the room he saw four masked men in the area of the cash register he was hit on the arm with a crow bar and the men fled from the location. Although the man did not require an ambulance he was advised to seek medical attention. Police said a small amount of cash had been taken from the register and some items were missing from a show case. The fire extinguisher had also been set off in the restaurant.

Meanwhile officers were called to two break-ins during the early hours of the morning at Paradise Villas in East End. The first was at 1.50am when a woman reporting that her house in Paradise Villas on Sea View Road had been broken into. The woman said she had been woken by dogs barking and when she went downstairs she found the front door open.  Officers responded and found the woman’s TV had been taken along with her handbag, some cash, some jewellery and a Nikon Coolpix digital camera.

 A second break-in at the same complex was reported to police at 6.35am when a man reported that an X-Box game and a number of bottles of alcohol had been taken from his house overnight. It is thought the offenders gained entry to each apartment by prising the front doors open. Officers believe the dead bolts on the doors might not have been functioning properly and so would not have been as secure as they could be.

Then at 5.55am police were alerted to the fourth break-in at Chester Watler’s heavy equipment on Bodden Town Road. The office of the company had been entered after a door was forced open. Some alcohol, a box of cigarettes and a small amount of cash has been confirmed as missing and an inventory is being carried out to see if anything else has been taken.

Detectives from Bodden Town are leading on the investigations. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Joseph Wright at Bodden Town police station on 947-2220. Residents are reminded to do all they can to protect themselves from burglary, including locking all doors and windows, not leaving valuable items on display and using stoppers on widows and sliding doors so that even if the lock is broken entry cannot be gained easily.

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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FS defends insurance deal

| 06/08/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS):  Explaining the circumstances surrounding the poor value for money which government received in the Cayman General Insurance deal following Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson said it was “hard to swallow” but was done in the best interests of the country. Attending Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as a witness on Wednesday morning, Jefferson said that the deal, which saw government receive only $50 million in cash and 24% of the company, was never about getting back government’s true claim but about protecting the whole of the Cayman National Group and the country’s economy.

Although it was PAC members that used the term "bail out" to describe the deal, Jefferson also admitted that the deal was as much about maintaining confidence in Cayman National as a whole and protecting the wider economy than it ever was about what government was truly owed.

Although government’s original assessment of its losses was more than CI$108 million, it accepted Cayman General’s assessment that $70 million was fairer because it was not in a position to back up many of the claims that were being made by departments about the true value of losses. Then, when the insurance company said it could only afford to give $50 million in cash, government also accepted a share in place of the $20 million that equated to a mere $2-3 million at best.

During the committee’s discussions based on Auditor General Dan Duguay’s special report about the Cayman General deal (Cayman Islands Government’s Property Insurance Settlement – Post Ivan) the financial secretary said the share part of the deal was never meant to equate to the $20 million and government was well aware of that, but it was not faced with many options.

He noted that as Cayman General was not just government’s insurer but was also the insurer for many other private claims, it was in the best interest of the Cayman Islands as a whole for government to accept it and take the loss in order to ensure the insurer would not only survive but so it would be able to meet its obligations to claimants across the wider community. Jefferson also said there was a belief in government at the time that if Cayman General was left to go down then the confidence in the Cayman National group could also be undermined, which would have had far reaching implications.

“The ultimate decision was made in the wider interests of the Cayman economy,” Jefferson added. “The loss of Cayman General could have caused a loss of confidence in the bank itself.”  He also explained that as part of the deal Cayman National injected some $30 million into Cayman General to help it meet its wider claims.

Speaking about the lessons that were learned, Jefferson explained that government’s insurance is now spread over a number of different firms rather than one major policy, that the Risk Management Unit is tasked with monitoring and assessing the financial stability of the firms it uses, and the insurance law has been changed to ensure that insurance firms can demonstrate their ability to meet claims in the event of a catastrophe along the lines of Ivan.

It was revealed that the government no longer uses Sagicor, the company which emerged from the post Ivan restructuring of Cayman General and the firm which government now has a 24% share, because it does not meet the new criteria.

Committee member Dwayne Seymour asked rhetorically, but not without irony, if that meant government is a part owner in a company that it can’t even use. The problem of government not really being in the business of insurance was also discussed, and it was clear government has still not established any kind of exit strategy from this arrangement. Jefferson said that government had received some dividends on the shares but he did not reveal how much, and as the shares are not in the market place they are in reality only worth whatever someone would be willing to pay for them.

The PAC also heard that the issue of government being unable to substantiate its claim has not been addressed either, as it still has no real idea of what its assets are worth. Michael Nixon, Senior Assistant Financial Secretary, confirmed that to date no evaluation of government property and other assets has been done. In his report Duguay had recommended that government undertake a full evaluation at the earliest opportunity so that the discussion about under insurance would never arise and the financial implications of over insurance would be addressed. Duguay told PAC that while the various government departments involved, i.e. risk management and lands and survey, are all geared up to do the work, the evaluation has been stalled over and again because of funding.

Ezzard Miller, the PAC chair, said that the committee would be strongly encouraging government to address this in its report to the Legislative Assembly on the issue. 

Although the committee acknowledged the findings of the auditor general’s report, in the absence of Moses Kirkconnell, the only opposition member of PAC, the other members were looking for ways to exonerate the previous United Democratic Party government, which had made the deal, and seized on the message from many witnesses that the deal was made against the backdrop of Ivan and in the country’s best interests.

“I think we can ask if government made the right decision in making this bail out and against the background it probably was a wise decision,” said Cline Glidden, one of the three UDP PAC members on the five-man committee.

During its consideration of the report PAC also heard from a number of witnesses during the day’s session, including Cindy Scotland, MD of CIMA, who explained the changes to the insurance law; representatives from Lands and Survey; the chief secretary and the attorney general.

Miller adjourned the committee until Wednesday 12 August when the PAC will meet to discuss the AG’s reports on the police helicopter, Matrix and the government scrap metal deal, and the gasoline systems at Pedro St James.   

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Immigration to lose deputy in wake of CIO

| 06/08/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Just a month after Franz Manderson, the former chief immigration officer (CIO) moved to take up his post as deputy chief secretary, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Kerry Nixon, has announced her retirement effective 30 September 2009. Thanking Nixon for her service, which spans some 40 years, Manderson said that he intends to appoint a new person to head what is considered one of government’s most important departments within the next few weeks.  

A veteran public servant, Nixon’s entire career of almost four decades has been with Immigration and she was appointed Deputy CIO in1996. Manderson, who still maintains responsibility for Immigration under the portfolio, wished Nixon well.

“I take this opportunity to personally thank Mrs. Nixon for her unfailing assistance and support throughout my tenure at Immigration. On behalf of the government and the people of the Cayman Islands I wish her a most enjoyable retirement,” Manderson said. 

Nixon said it had been a distinct honour to serve her country over the past 40 years, contributing to the development of the modern Immigration Department which exists today. “I look forward to providing advice and support to the new Chief Immigration Officer and to ensuring a smooth transition of the new management team,” she added.

Manderson confirmed that he expects to appoint a new CIO within the next 21 days.

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Swine flu tests reserved for scientific analysis

| 06/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With literally thousands of cases of swine flu or H1N1 flu virus health officials have confirmed that testing now will be as a means to monitor whether or not the virus is mutating in any way and not for diagnosis. In accordance with World Health Organization recommendations and the fact that over 2/3 of flu cases tested are coming up positive for H1N1 the Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar confirmed tests are no longer required prior to treatment.

 “Since 4 June we have confirmed 87 cases but know that in addition we have well over 2000 other cases in the Cayman Islands based on clinical presentation and our usual surveillance system,” he said. “This reinforces WHO’s guidance that testing is not used for diagnostic purpose; our doctors know to make a clinical diagnosis and manage any flu case as if it is H1N1.  This is similar to strategies employed in the UK and other countries throughout the world.”

He added that while people want to know if they have H1N1 or not, now that it is known the H1N1 virus is present locally, we no longer need the test to confirm that.  “If they have fever and symptoms of the flu, then we know they have the virus. Thus we are now focused on caring for those who are ill and on preventing the spread of the virus. It is important to know that reduced testing does not mean reduced vigilance or treatment,” Dr. Kumar said.

He did note that, as per the CAREC guidelines, the laboratory in Trinidad will continue to accept swabs from all cases admitted to the hospital as well as six additional samples per week as part of the WHO routine monitoring programme.

The WHO has identified a network of laboratories worldwide to produce data on the current influenza pandemic. CAREC is Cayman’s designated centre to do the testing to help track the regional outbreak of H1N1 2009. While local testing can only establish the presence of Influenza A or B, the CAREC laboratory runs a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to identify the actual flu strain, e.g. the 2009 H1N1. This laboratory also has the capability to culture the virus.

 “PCRs are very useful in testing not only for H1N1 but also for diseases such as dengue fever, hepatitis and HIV. We are always working to expand the hospital’s capabilities to improve health care for the nation.  Since the emergence of this new virus, we have been working to see how we can bring this specialized laboratory capability to the HSA even though currently we do not have the space, equipment, or human resources available to support it,” said HSA Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema.  “People must just keep in mind that even if we had the PCR capability now, we would not be able to perform the test locally because the pandemic H1N1 test kits are in very limited supply.  In the meantime, we will continue to work with the CAREC lab and the experts at the Pan American Health Organization to meet the challenge of the H1N1 pandemic.


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Port focus turns to tourism

| 06/08/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The new chair of the Port Authority made it clear to representatives from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Association of Cruise Tourism that the port is shifting focus towards their industry to redress the long standing imbalance that the facility has had towards cargo. The first ever chair to convene a meeting with tourism stakeholders, Stefan Baraud told them that within a few months he intended to address a number of their concerns that would improve the cruise passenger experience at the port as an interim measure before the development of berthing.

Baraud promised the two industry body members that shade for passengers queuing for tenders, better organisation of the transport system, improvements to the retail facilities and a more welcoming atmosphere would be created at the port within the next three months. He explained that plans were already in place to erect moveable sails to create shade akin to those in Camana Bay.

The Port Authority board chair, who is also chair of the UDP’s George Town Committee, said the new government was committed to creating berthing facilities and that development would begin within this administration. “There is now the political will to build a cruise berthing facility and one that does not include cargo,” Baraud said, adding that the two need to be separated.

Stressing his intention for open and transparent dialogue with the private sector he asked them to reveal their immediate concerns. Not surprisingly, the need for cruise berthing as soon as possible was at the top of the stakeholders’ agenda. Brynley Davis a Director of ACT said that Cayman was underperforming as a cruise destination in what was now a very competitive market simply because it did not have berthing facilities. “Cayman is now the only significant Caribbean port that does not have some kid of docking facility,” he said adding that the new generation of cruise ships would simply not come if Cayman did not address the issue.

Baraud also noted that the new administration was committed to re-engaging the cruise lines themselves in the development of berthing facilities at the George Town Port, something that the stake holders all agreed was a vital component. Steve Broadbelt, President of CITA said that the previous discussions with Atlantic Star and the last government had not been helpful with regard to the cruise lines and that any proposed development had to include them. “We need them to have skin in the game,” he said, explaining that unless they made some form of investment in any cruise project here there would be no guarantee that they would bring the ships.

Education about the importance of cruise tourism to the economy and the need for a mindset change with regards to how the port was managed were also raised by ACT and CITA.  “The public need to understand the value of cruise tourism to Cayman," said Gene Thompson from ACT, who admitted that the association had done a poor job in that respect, but the mentality of the port and its director that it was designed and managed for cargo not cruise tourism also had to change.

Broadbelt also said he believed the messages currently in the public domain about the actual spend per cruise passengers was wrong and that they did in fact spend more than was widely accepted. He said, however, that they needed statistics to back it up and a way of measuring exactly how many people get off currently under the tender system and how much they spend which would help in the campaign to get more people to support the development of cruise berthing facilities.

The members acknowledged that there is still opposition to berthing and it was up to them to begin the campaign to win the argument and promote the benefits to Cayman and Caymanians of the facilities. Stakeholders discussed the Environment Impact Assessment (which was never started) and the idea that past assessments could possibly be used to expedite the process, now that the cargo element had been taken off the table, to analyse the likely impact of a cruise pier on Seven Mile Beach which all stakeholders agreed had to be protected.

During the meeting the issue of how passengers are steered through the Royal Watler facility away from the retail units there, which is extremely unhelpful, was raised by Robert Hamaty. How that could be improved, as well as how that terminal should have more vendors, entertainment and a visitors’ centre were things that Baraud said he could address in the next few weeks.

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