Phony debates and the National Conservation Law

| 07/07/2010

I’ve been following the National Conservation Law since its early gestation. Now that we are (once again) looking at the hopeful possibility of its coming of age in the legislature, I see signs that the discussion is deteriorating into what I call a phony debate. Here are a couple of examples to explain what I mean by that:

Remember when the tobacco industry was first faced with the realization that smoking causes cancer? It seems incredible in hindsight but the industry’s primary concern was to prevent that discovery from damaging their sales and profits. They achieved this for a while by manufacturing doubt. They hired companies who spread misinformation, wrote articles biased toward the tobacco industry and quasi-scientific articles paid to criticise the original research, exploiting a preference the media have to report ‘balanced’ viewpoints from both sides of a ‘debate’. But the debate wasn’t real. Both sides knew the truth.

It worked for them for a while. The broader public started to doubt if smoking really did cause cancer. But eventually the body of evidence grew so huge that even manufactured doubt couldn’t hide it. So then the regulation and court cases began, and we are left wondering how many avoidable deaths were not avoided because of the time that phony debate went on.

The same thing is happening now with the so-called global warming debate, in which some of the same manufactured doubt contractors are using those same techniques. The climate change facts are obvious – really. The denialists are just spreading confusion to try to bury the facts because they don’t like the implications of having to deal with them.

What these two issues have in common is that the fundamental opinion of the people opposing action could not be stated in public debate. The tobacco industry couldn’t say that they valued their profits above human lives. The global warming deniers can’t say they value short term prosperity above the long-term viability of our planet and human civilization.

To bring that back home, opponents of the National Conservation Law can’t easily say they just don’t want any more environmental legislation in the Cayman Islands, because they know that is a minority position.

So instead of hearing that honest but publically unacceptable statement, we are hearing arguments about the details. We are also hearing re-interpretations and even downright misinformation, which both get unmerited currency because few spend the time to read the law and check out what it really says. And we are hearing a debate about small details when the real issue is whether we are going to have a conservation law or not.

To me the situation is simple. The majority in the Cayman Islands would like to see comprehensive environmental legislation passed. There’s plenty of evidence that this is so. Even as far back as the Vision 2008 meetings it was obvious. The same weight of opinion came out in the subsequent development plan revision meetings and tribunal. Look at the CNS poll, where 75% of 410 respondents now say the law is long overdue and should be passed immediately. Or think back to the upsurge of public concern for George Town’s Ironwood Forest.

Here’s why passing this law matters: existing legislation barely papers over the cracks. We have a Marine Conservation Law, which was a fight at the time but has paid off handsomely (even the stone throwers will admit that now). We have a National Trust law, which has allowed privately raised funds and some thoughtful grants of crown land to establish a few key protected areas – again, a vital investment in our future. So there’s two big cracks partly filled and at least primed. But the rest of the wall is falling off in chunks.

Our Department of Environment doesn’t exist in any law. Our endangered species aren’t mentioned in any law. Barkers “National Park” isn’t a national park because there is no such thing in our laws. Someone could plan to bulldoze over and pave a proposed national park crammed with uniquely Caymanian endangered species and not one environmental expert in the entire Cayman Islands Government would have any law-based authority to address it.

So why isn’t this a no-brainer for any government? Because, perhaps, there is a vocal minority trying to drown out the silent majority?

Let’s not have unrealistic expectations for this law or make the mistake of thinking it’s in some way a replacement for the planning law or government policy. It is only an environment law. We should have had one years and years ago. We need it now more than ever. But it won’t happen if those that support it don’t make their views heard.

It’s easy. Email the Department of Environment at DOE@gov.ky and just tell them if you’d like the law to pass (or not, if that is your view). Say as much or as little as you like – one sentence is enough.

Or bring up the comment form at on the DoE website (click here) and fill it out (best to include your name, though that’s not required), and just click “submit”. Or write them an old-fashioned letter and mail it to PO Box 486, Grand Cayman KY1-1106.

It doesn’t matter how you do it. It does matter that you DO it.

 

Fred Burton is the director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme

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  1. Anonymous says:

    To Poster Wed, 07/07/2010 – 23:41

    It is good that after reading the Draft NCL you have taken considered positions on the proposed law whose function is to restore and protect the Cayman Islands natural environment.

    The function of a good natural conservation (management) law is to enable all future generations to enjoy and benefit from our natural environment as did this generation and past generations. Therefore revisions to the draft law must not depart from these objectives with the resulting long term devastating consequences.

    Peoples around the world are increasingly exercising their right to demand from government and business the halt to the destruction of planet earth – our only home. The success of this war of self-preservation will only come when people become fully informed and engaged.

    Most persons interested in the long term future of the Cayman Islands know that we do need a strong, definitive, Cayman Islands focused and enforceable conservation (management) law to ensure that our economically important natural environment is protected from continual destruction, which if not done also causes health problems to the people of the Cayman Islands.

    If we do not halt the short term profitable destructive development practices benefiting a few persons in the Cayman Islands then future generations will suffer economically, in their health and quality of life.

    Is this the future we want our great grandchildren to inherit as a result of our decisions today or will we say enough is enough and demand a stop to the destruction so that all generations will benefit?

    Lobby groups make it very difficult to get laws enacted for the long term benefit of the Cayman Islands.

    One example of the effective well financed business lobby groups successes is that the Cayman Islands still does not have a true Development and Planning Law. The current so called Development Law is in reality not even a zoning law, anything can and has been developed anywhere.

    Debate has been ongoing for decades about the need for a comprehensive Development and Planning Law. The very effective, well politically connected and well financed development lobby groups control all governments so effectively that since the Draft 1975 Development Plan was abandoned there has never been another comprehensive true development plan for hthe Cayman Islands presented to the public and enacted by the Legislative Assembly. This is also another reason why our Country Policy Plan Vision 2008 was killed by the lobby groups to the detrimentof ourpeople.

    As an example of how our so called Development Law is used to destroy our Cayman Islands see the FOI Release of Information posting on the Cayman News Service website on the Dragon Bay 20 ft. deep Quarry Canals permission granted by the CPA. Other developments with canals will also soon have CPA approved environment destroying 20 ft. deep canals.

    The CPA permit was granted in anticipation of Cabinet permitting the dredging of a 20 ft. “Mega Yacht” deep channel through the North Sound reef main channel.

    This 20 ft. “Mega Yacht” deep channel will continue all the way around the North Sound eventually ending at the Rum Point / Little Sound area. The 20 ft. “Mega Yacht” deep channel will be approved by Cabinet to service development in the wetland areas on the Eastern side of the North Sound / Little Sound that are now a so called “Protected Zone”.

    But in reality the CPA can and does allow development different from the zoning in all zoned areas, therefore there are no real “planning zones” in the Cayman Islands. We all know that the well connected developers will be granted permission by the Cabinet and the CPA to destroy this environmentally important area to benefit the few chosen developers.

    When the current Draft NCL is compared with the 2004 Draft NCL issued by the previous UDP Government it can be seen how the conservation law has already been severely weakened by the PPM Government.

    Would you share your specific positions on how the Draft NCL should be revised?

    Looking forward to your response.

    William H. Adam
    whadam46@yahoo.com 

    • anonymous says:

      Mr. Adam, When development stops, businesses of all types close their doors. Remember that when one objects to ALL development.

      Everyone wants to conserve the environment. How you do so is what this draft law should be about. Just because DOE drafted it does not means that it is good. Review what it actually says. Make changes now before it turns into law, even if that takes a few months more rather than kill any chance this country has of improving its economy and getting businesses up and running again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Having attended the public meeting in my district and listened to the presentation by DOE, read the draft law and read the comments on this site, I have a suggestion to make to the folks at the DOE if they are reading this. (Your website’s comment form does not seem to be working this morning by the way.)

    I share the concerns regarding s.22 that others have expressed. There is one other point that no one seems to have posted here. It seems to me that having the "Council" which is effectively controlled by DOE staff and other senior civil servants act as a body that hears appeals in relation to the seizures of people’s property by more junior DOE staff, may be a problem both in perception and legally. Further, it appears that no provision has been made in the law to have anyone legally qualified participating in this "appeals function" of the Council. That appears to me to be just an invitation for law suits against the government which we simply cannot afford.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The rant by Fri 17:20 apart, there are  some very good examples of how useful CNS can be in generating thoughtful comment. Well done Gina and the various Anons who engaged with her.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Burton, speaking of Phony Debate:  You say you,  "…see signs that the discussion is deteriorating into what I call a phony debate".  See the signs? My brother you are a part of the Phony Debate! 

    It seems as if you and the DOE are no less guilty than the other side of crafting spin to further your causes. Not that spin and propaganda are inherently bad things. They are among the tools used to persuade people. Using various techniques of persuasion is the way the world gets things done. Nothing would get accomplished if one could not persuade others to "get on board" with what they need done.

    Your use of the Global Warming debate is a good illustration of your skill at spin: I believe in global warming. I do not doubt that. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that we are in the start of a cycle of global warming.  This cycle is not the first to befall Earth and probably will not be the last. It may well be the last that humans experience, but hey, species go extinct on a regular basis. Dat is how tings bees Bobo.

    My personal leaning is that we are in a cyclical period of warming – complete with a slushy polar ice cap and shrinking ice sheets – if so then we may be well past the last bell and the trend is irreversible. (Good bye Homo Sapiens!)  However, what has yet to be proven to my satisfaction is the theory that man-made emissions are largely responsible. If so, then who was responsible for warming cycles in the past, before hominids possessed clubs much less factories? Dinosaurs passing gas, maybe? I sincerely and passionately believe we do need to curb use of fossil fuels and their emissions, if for no other reason than a healthier environment and a more sustainable economy.

    But then, unlike most of the people who hype up the local conservation issue and whine about needing stricter laws but do not really give two licks about the global environment, I have actually done somethingabout my own carbon footprint. For example, I reduced my vehicle fleet from four down to one economy vehicle, also got some bikes. I reached my goal of reducing my electricity bill. For a large three-bedroom house my goal was to get my electricity bill down to $100 per month. I far surpassed that goal. How do you weigh-in on this Ms. Petrie and Mr. Burton? I would be willing to bet you got those A/C’s in your houses cranked up pretty good while you are at those ConLaw district meetings saving the orchids. I have yet to run my A/C this year. I will wait till August when it is hot. Besides, a little sweat purifies the skin.  Turn off the water heater, Gina, cold baths in the morning are good for ya! I used green bags long before the DOE campaign and some of us have seen many of these concerned "environmentalists" with plastic bags long after you could buy those green or blue reusable/recyclable ones.

    My case for national parks and reserves is that humans need a special place too. A tranquil place to unwind. To picnic; to play. Damn the endangered butterflies and plants, there are lots of butterflies and orchids and big lizards in this huge world. Man needs to set aside a place where he can reconnect with nature, a place to renew his soul and mind and get away from the trappings of civilisation for a while. A place to take a hike, fly a kite, throw a ball with his kids.

    Mr. Burton and Ms Petrie have argued for the critters and plants, but not once have I heard any of the pro-law activists stress the pro-human spiritual aspect of environmental balance and "nature space".

    Perhaps deep down inside Mr. Burton really simply wants to create some "green" spaces where buildings and roads and cars will not be seen so he can enjoy such a place. Perhaps Mr. Burton and Ms. Petrie are only using butterflies and orchids and big blue lizards and similar "Celebrity Species" as their own Phony Debate tools to achieve such places. I would certainly hope that is the case. My biggest beef with so-called "environmentalists" is that they seem to place more value on the happiness of critters and plants that on the well-being of humans and society.

    The truth is,  most "-ists" nauseate me, and environmentalists are among ’em. Too much hypocrisy among the "-ists" of the world. And environmentalists are among the worst of the lot.

    I am certainly more rather than less pro-environment; however, the way I see it, the DOE have given us illustrations of a few species that are critically endangered. Then they slyly make the impression that passing the new law and especially limiting that Great Satan called Development is the only way to ensure survival of these and other endangered species. Pure, undiluted bunk! I do not buy that. It is a clear example of a Phony Debate smokescreen. If one looks at the issue of conservation globally, conservation laws and "green-spaces" are but one small way survival of endangered species is effectively addressed. I would ask: What meaningful pro-active programmes (other than the Blue Iguana breeding programme and the Turtle Farm does the DOE and government currently have in place to enhance the survival of the "Celebrity Species"?

    Having given careful attention to the marketing of the law – and to the law itself – I cannot agree to its passage until the issues of potential abuse of powers and powers of confiscation are corrected. The horrid constitution we now have is a result of idiots who insisted we hurry to pass a mediocre piece of legislation and then "work out the flaws" later. Rubbish! Such thinking is the result of an undisciplined and lazy mind. Why accept mediocrity? Get it as right as it can be – BEFORE it becomes a flawed, burdensome and unpopular law!

    Oh yes! Mr. Burton, I give you props for your skillful adaptations of Phony Debate tactics! You say: "And we are hearing a debate about small details when the real issue is whether we are going to have a conservation law or not."  Well done, Mr. Burton!

    What’s the rush? Contrary to what you seem to imply, delay until we are ready to get it right before we adopt the legislation does not mean a law will never be passed. For decades we tried to pass a building code. It almost got done during the tenure of The Hon. Sir (then simply "Mr.") Vassal who sincerely strove to get the legislation passed. But it was not to be as the mediocre locally draughted code was pure tripe. Mr. Vassal resigned himself to the fact that it would be more time until a building code was to be passed. Then came along the Hon. Mr. Linford and the thrust was revived. A good code was eventually adopted and good legislation finally draughted and passed. It has been said in the press that our building control legislation and infrastructure are a model for the region. Those involved in the building code process would not settle for less than the best as Mr. Burton and his overzealous minions want us to do now. I dislike mediocrity.

    Back then I supported enacting a good building code, I now  support implementation of an updated environmental law. But to me, just as small blue butterflies are important to Mr Burton, the small details of laws ARE important to us all. The "real debate" is whether we want a mediocre law, or a good one that strives to achieve a balance between the natural and built environment.

    Al arger issue is whether such a law is human-focused rather than species-focused. In your zeal to protect critters and plants, Mr. Burton, you seem to overlook the human side of things. This to me is NOT a "small issue"!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I took time this morning to read the draft conservation legislation and I am glad I did.

    The parts dealing with the need to protect native plants and animals from exploitation are good. But there are other parts which I cannot agree with and which appear to be completely inappropriate. Here are some examples of what I as a Caymanian am troubled by.

    I do not agree with employees of the DOE carrying guns as would be permitted under s. 22. There is no provision in the legislation for people to be trained in the use of firearms and even if there was I cannot agree with the idea. If necessary DOE employees should be accompanied by appropriately trained police officers. We don’t arm social workers and they sometimes have to go into dangerous situations so why would we arm DOE employees.

    I do not agree with employees of the DOE seizing people’s property as is permitted under s. 22. If something needs to be taken as evidence let the police do it as they have rules for such activities. As the draft law stands anyone’s property can be seized and there is no provision for it to be given back if no charges are brought.

    The "Council" proposed by the legislation is granted ridiculously broad powers. Not only that but as it stands it is in essence controlled by a few civil servants who in my view should not have the powers that the law proposes. I have no problem with civil servants participating in meetings or giving advice but to give them voting control  of a "Council" that has the powers of a court is just plain wrong (see Schedule 2 for the composition of the proposed Council and see all of Part VI and Part VII for the ridiculous powers that are proposed to be given to this new "Council".

    In my view if anyone is to be fined or imprisoned or have their property taken from them permanently or for any period of time it should be handled by the courts and not by employees of the DOE. I sincerely hope that the politicians involved will not let this bill pass without amendment. The need for a conservation law should not be used as excuse to trample people’s rights. Fix this draft legislation before it goes further, please. 

     

    • Caymanian at Heart says:

      This how it works it most other places in the world.  Marine & Terrestrial Officers need real authority for this law to work.  Otherwise if we wait on the courts poachers will just head right back out and take more wildlife illegally.

      In Canada if you are caught without a proper fishing license and are caught not only fishing gear will be seized, you also will probably have to fork over your boat.  Strict laws and immediate action will encourage responsible fishing.

      In my eyes there is no other way.  If you’re caught with an illegal catch you should suffer the consequences immediately.

       

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually no. In Canada and other countries if a conservation officer takes your car or boat or even your fishing line but no charge is laid within the specified time then by law you get it back – end of story. There is no such provision in theConservation law proposed in Cayman. Instead, even if you are never charged with anything, under s. 22 (7) of the proposed legislation the "Council" can do whatever it wants to do with your property. That is simply unacceptable to any thinking person. 

    • Green Mango says:

      Meep – Fail!

      Though I bow to your skilful bit of misinformation. See how its done, folks? You start with an agreable statement "I read the law; I’m for conserving wildlife". Then you move one to something that casts doubt, but not too much. "DOE should not have guns, use the police instead." Then you start misinterpreting things. "DOE will seize people’s property and not give it back." "The council has ridiculous powers." Then you just plain start making things up. "The Council has the powers of a Court." "DOE employees will be fining and imprisoning people; not the court."

      Fortunately anyone can go read the Law for themselves. The question is will you, or will you believe the disinformation? The choice is yours.

      http://www.doe.ky/laws/national-conservation-law/

      • Anonymous says:

        Green Mango – I started out seeing things as you suggest, but then I took a look at section 22 of the draft law that DOE is proposing. Section 22 and in particular clauses 5, 6 and 7 of section 22 appear to permit exactly what the previous objector said. Take a look at clauses 5,6 and 7. They say that if property is seized by DOE employees, but there is no conviction for anything (or maybe even no formal charges of any wrong doing at all), the DOE Council can still dispose of whatever property they have seized from the innocent person in any way that they choose. That sounds wrong to me.

        Wouldn’t it be better for a totally innocent person to get their property back if there is no charge or no conviction after a charge? Why should DOE employees and the proposed Council be able to take innocent people’s property and do with it what they want? We have courts to deal with serious issues and make sure that justice is done- lets use them.

        On a more general note, wouldn’t it be better for all of us to carefully examine the changes that people are proposing to this legislation. Those of us in favour of protecting the environment need to be careful that we do not go overboard in our enthusiam, destroying our credibility and undermining democracy and the rule of law in the process. I hope that my opinion does not make me a bad guy too. 

        • Green Mango says:

          So, lets say you’re arrested and your car confiscated. But you’re not charged. And they don’t give it back to you. You walk in to court and say "Mi Lud, dem took mi car and nah charge me w/ nutin." Do you know what the learned judge will say? Meeep – Fail Gov, he’d say. He’d slap the government with such a breach of natural justice, due process, human rights and a few other things that they’d still be trying to remeber what day it was when you drove off in your car, with damages awarded. Remember, this law doesn’t take away any of your other ‘rights’. So, trying to scare people into thinking that it does? Meeep – Fail. (And for suggesting that the DoE employees & council are as dunce as you think everyone else is to believe they could actually do that? MeepMeep — Double Fail. Thanks for playing.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Speaking of dunce, why exactly do you think that  it is too much to ask the DOE to spend 15 minutes clarifying the proposed draft law now rather than having completely innocent Caymanians forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars and days or weeks of their time in order to get their property back after the law comes into effect?

            • Green Mango says:

              Because I don’t think that "completely innocent Caymanians [will be] forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars and days or weeks of their time in order to get their property back". I see nothing in the law that suggests to me that the DoE or anyone else is going to start going around and stealing people’s property. Any claim that they are is, I believe, a FUD attempt to derail the law and an insult to the comon sense of you and I. In other words, the previous poster thinks we’re dunces. Please note, the previous post did not "ask the DOE to spend 15 minutes clarifying the proposed draft law now" it said "DOE employees and the proposed Council [will] be able to take innocent people’s property and do with it what they want". 

    • Gina Ebanks-Petrie says:

      Thank you for your feedback. In order not to perpetuate the distribution of misinformation we provide the following by way of clarification:

      1.     It has never been the intention to “arm” DoE Conservation Officers (who will be the only DoE employees enforcing the law) with firearms. Unfortunately the standard definition of “arms” which was copied from another piece of legislation included firearms. A note has already made to amend the definition to exclude firearms from the definition in the final draft. It will however be necessary to keep the section referring to arms as the officers cannot legally carry even batons or handcuffs without being duly authorised as these too are defined as "arms". For the record, all DoE Conservation Officers have received training from the Police, and they regularly encounter hostile situations with individuals wielding spearguns, knives and other manufactured weapons. Standard Police procedures are followed and the Officers successfully prepare their own case files for prosecution in the Courts.

      2.     DoE’s Conservation Officers already seize evidence under the powers given to them as Fisheries Officers under the Marine Conservation Law – these powers are carried across under the NCL as the Marine Conservation Law will fall away once the NCL is passed. Section 22(7) clearly indicates that the seized property will be returned to the owner should a Court or Appeal decision so order.  

      3.     The Council proposed in the law has a variety of duties and responsibilities but very few powers. All of the decision making power rests either with Cabinet (as in the case of the establishment of protected areas or the approval of species Conservation Plans) or, in the case of environmental assessment provisions, with the CPA, DCB or other originating authority. All the law requires is that (i) these government authorities, agencies andofficers consult with the Council before making a decision or giving any undertaking or approval and (ii) they consider the Council’s views when they are making their decisions. The ONLY time the Council has any decision-making authority over the approval of projects is when the proposed action will negatively impact a Cabinet-approved protected area or the critical habitat of a protected species.

      4.     The Council’s membership is deliberate. This is a conservation law, not a Planning Law or a Development Law. The Council is not meant to dilute advice or seek compromise – their job is to provide the technical and environmental advice to other decision-makers (such as the CPA) who will weigh it alongside other factors in their decisions. For this reason the Council needs to be populated in the main by technically proficient and scientifically trained individuals.

      5.     Finally, the Law does not propose that DoE’s Conservation Officers will be able to fine or imprison anyone! All such matters will have to be dealt with by the Courts as you correctly point out.

      Again, thank you for your input. We will revisit the areas you have identified to ensure that the drafting is a clear as possible.

      Gina Ebanks-Petrie – Director, DoE

      • Anonymous says:

         

        Thank you Ms. Ebanks for a very comprehensive response to clear up some of the confusing misconceptions on the draft law which I know is needed but must also be practically right.

        Could you please assist others and myself:

        1.    Post on the website all of the different versions of this draft law that was done to arrive at the draft law currently being discussed. 

         

        2.    It would also be very helpful if we could see all of the comments from various persons and groups to understand better why some further changes are necessary to the draft.

        3.    I cannot attend all of the public meetings but would like to read what those in attendance had to say.  Could you put the recording of the meetings on the website or publish the minutes of the meetings?

        4.    In your reply above you refer to some sections in this law being copied from conservation laws in other countries, could you also put these on the website so that we can see how other countries have enacted laws protecting their natural environment.

        Thanks

        • Gina Ebanks-Petrie says:

          1. The draft NCL has been around for about 8 or 9 years and there have been several versions, some of these are only available in hard copy. For practical reasons we cannot give an undertaking to get all of these up on the website at this time.

          2. The DoE will be preparing a Public Consultation Report and we intend to post this on our website.

          3. There are no formal Minutes of the public meetings as we are asking people to submit written input. Meeting summaries will, however, be included in the Public Consultation Report.

          4. The reference to something being copied from other legisation was only in relation to the definition of “arms”. The definition was not taken from legislation from overseas, it was taken from our own Immigration Law.  

          • Anonymous says:

            Ms. Ebanks

            Thanks for your answers.

            1. Still do a .pdf and post the previous draft versions on the website.

            2 and 3 Thanks

            4. So are you saying that Immigration officers with their extensive raiding parties can carry arms but a lone Marine Officer on a boat facing an angry law breaking person or persons miles from land is unarmed?  Seems to be an unequal valuation of life and the protection of those brave Marine Officers.  By the time back up arrived he / she will be over the wall – gone bye bye. 

            Are the lives of Immigration Officers more important than Marine Officers?

            Just wondering about our screwed up value system.

             

      • Anonymous says:

        Mrs. Ebanks – Petrie,

        Thank you very, very much for your detailed response to the concerns noted. There are a number of us that will be relieved to learn that the draft law will now be amended to reflect thefact that there is no intention to issue guns to DOE staff.
         
        In relation to your point 2, it may be that the wrong draft of the law is up on your website, as it does not appear possible to reconcile the point you make with the actual draft that is on your website.
         
        The draft that I downloaded today has the following for s.22 (7) of the draft law:
         
        Anything seized under subsection (5) shall, subject to any decision of the court or to the results of an appeal under s. 32(1), become the property of the Crown and shall, subject to subsection (8), be disposed of in such manner as the Council may direct.
         
        Subsection (8) of the version I downloaded from your website then goes on to say:
         
        The owner of a vehicle or vessel seized under this section shall have the right to recover ownership of it on payment to the Crown of such sum not exceeding the market value of it as the Governor in Cabinet may specify.
         
        This language appears to have a number of lacunae. For example, it seems to assume that every person who is arrested will then be charged and dealt with by the courts. That is not how things necessarily work as I am sure you are aware. People are frequently arrested and then released without any charge once the facts are known.
         
        Nowhere in the current draft that I downloaded from your website does it say that a person arrested, but not subsequently charged and tried, gets their property back. That may be your intention but it is not what the draft says.
         
        It might ease a number of concerns if the draft legislation specified that if a person is not charged with the offence for which he or she was arrested within 10 days or whatever, then they get their property back. Similarly, the way s.22(8) is above, it reads like a completely innocent person who is arrested but never charged, would still have to buy back their own property from the government. Further, the way that subsection (8) is written, your officers could seize thousands of dollars worth of rods, etc. without every having to give them back to an innocent person as subsection (8) refers only to vessels and vehicles.
         
        The powers of the Council, other than in relation to the treatment of the property seized from people, appear to be entirely reasonable and quite desirable to me.  I suspect it is the current drafting of the powers of the Council set out in s.22 that may be causing some people the greatest concern. I would with respect suggest that s. 22 be clarified to make it abundantly clear that neither the DOE nor the Council has any power to seize indefinitely, or to dispose of, the personal property of persons not charged and convicted of an offense.
         
        Thank you also for your clarification of the rationale behind the composition of the proposed Council. I am not entirely convinced that the subject matter to be considered by the Council is so uniquely technical as to justify the proposed composition. There are existing examples in our society where highly technical matters are dealt routinely by appropriately selected Boards on which only one public servant has a vote. The Monetary Authority comes to mind, but I am sure that there are others as well. It may be that a further explanation of the unique features of the material to be dealt with by the Council would allay other concerns being expressed in the community. Please keep in mind that there are now quite a number of us outside of the DOE with one or more university level degrees relating to the environmental sciences and a keen interest in preserving out natural environment. 
         
        Thank you once again for taking time to listen and respond to our concerns. Your professionalism and patience in this regard is an inspiration.
         
        A (somewhat) relieved Caymanian.
        • Gina Ebanks-Petrie says:

          Again, thank you for your input. I am happy that we were able to address some of your concerns and am hopeful that we can resolve the remainder of your issues with Section 22. What section 22 (7) does is make it clear what happens in the event that someone is successfully prosecuted, or when appeal against a decision fails. If there is no court case and someone is not charged it will not be possible for DoE’s officers to hold any item seized as it would no longer be considerd evidence and our Officers would be liable to a charge of theft of private property. The fact is that only items used in the commission of an offence will be able to be seized as evidence; if there is no case to be heard those items are no longer evidence and under standard procedures would have to be returned to the individual/individuals concerned. As I mentioned in my last post, our Officers already seize evidence under the existing legislation and exercise this power in combination with standard law enforcement procedures. A recent example would be the case of the fishermen prosecuted for taking a turtle illegally. The officers seized the boat used in the commission of the offence but allowed the owner to remove all the rods, electronic equipment etc from the vessel prior to it being locked up as evidence. The case went to trial and the owner was found guilty and fined. The Court, however, ordered that he could purchase his vessel from the Crown at a fair price and this was done. This is essentially what sections 22(7) and (8) provide for. In the event that the “evidence” is not a vehicle or a vessel, but a case has successfully been prosecuted, the law allows for the evidence (which becomes Crown property) to be disposed of as the Council sees fit. This means that the Council can order for example the destruction of illegal spearguns, fish traps etc and Section 22 (6) allows the Council to direct that any conch, lobster etc seized as evidence shall be handed over to the Pines (which is the current procedure followed by the DoE).

           

          As for the makeup of the Council, 5 of the 11 members are senior, technically trained Civil Servants and the majority are suitably qualified members of the public so it seems that we are in agreement on this one.

           

          As mentioned in my previous post, we will re-examine the sections you have identified to ensure that the drafting is as clear as possible.

           

          Respectfully,

           

          Gina Ebanks-Petrie

          • Anonymous says:

            Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie,

            Thank you once again. Your explanation outlines precisely what I understand should happen to physical evidence and I am relieved that your staff will look once again at s.22..

            At the moment the draft wording of s.22 (7) appears to me to suggest that any physical evidence seized becomes the property of the Crown immediately upon seizure rather than only subsequent to an order of the court after conviction. Further, it appears that the return of property to a person not charged or not convicted is at best at the discretion of the "Council". I am sure that my interpretation is not what you intend so once again I thank you for taking the time to respond to my concerns. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree with previous calls for everyone to voice their opinion.

    Mr Burton’s Viewpoint led me to read the actual proposed legislation which I had not before. Having read all of it, I had to change my initial plan from simply ticking the box saying I endorsed the bill, to ticking the box saying that while I endorse most of it, there are sections dealing with the administrative and enforcement processes that may cause real problems for ordinary people and others that I think are just plain wrong in principal and perhaps bad law, (no offense intended to those who worked on it as I can see that it must have taken an enormous amount of work).  Hopefully these concerns can be looked at and if necessary changes can be made quickly.

    Remember people, we are NOT being asked if we are in favour of conservation. We are being asked whether we approve a SPECIFIC DRAFT LAW. Please use this opportunity to provide real input – take the time and read THE ACTUAL DRAFT LAW to see what the folks at the Department of Environment are proposing and then give them your feedback. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Are you kidding???  Did you hear Gina and John on the radio this morning?  They said if you have any comments on the NCL that you should email them in, then they said ESPECIALLY if you have something good to say about it.  They clearly don’t want to hear anything like criticism, even if it is constructive.

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Quite a cynical interpretation. I would actually think they encourage people with "good things" to say so because generally the most vocal are those against. The vast majority of comments in response to any public consultation are those who are against the proposal. Those who are for it assume it’s going to happen and are complacent, and those that are indifferent are worse. Encouraging people to give feedback especially if they fall into a group that traditionally does not make its voice heard is encouraging a more balanced debate. Yes, the DOE wants this law passed, but they’ve also sacrificed a whole lot during the compromising drafting and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging their supporters to speak up. The people against the NCL already have.

  8. Jab-Jab says:

    What He Said!

  9. anonymous says:

    Here is the bottom line and call for action:

    The Government has tasked the Department of Environment with gathering public opinion about the National Conservation Law.  Too many supporters of the law are remaining silent.  I know this, because until I read this viewpoint, I was one of them.

    The result of this is that it will appear that public opinion is AGAINST the law, since it will be the opposers who are motivated to speak most loudly.

    Even if you aren’t the type of person who usually gives feedback, this is the time to take a moment to do so.  Everybody is affected by this law, and everybody, everybody should say what they think.

    Please take 2 minutes to fill out the form below. 

    http://www.doe.ky/law_form/