Archive for October 8th, 2010

Two trials planned for kidnapping case

| 08/10/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): An application by the prosecution to try three men who have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping together failed in the Grand Court this morning, when Justice Alex Henderson would not allow the crown to postpone Charles Webster’s trial, which is set for 18 October, until next year.  Webster is one of four men accused of kidnapping a local man in the first case of a kidnapping for ransom in the Cayman Islands. The fourth man, Wespie Mullings-Ramon, who was also scheduled to be tried on 18 October, has now pleaded guilty, leaving Webster to stand trial alone. Despite the fact that the prosecution had originally separated the four defendants into two different cases, it was revealed on Friday morning that the crown would now like to join Webster’s case with that of the other two men, set to be heard in February.

The first hurdle for crown counsel Tanya Lobben in the goal to conjoin the case against Webster with the case against Sywell Allan Kelly and Richard Robert Hurlstone was to vacate Webster’s trial date only ten days before the case was due to be heard. Webster’s attorney, Lucy Organ, raised her client’s objections and pointed out that the trial date had been set back in July and Webster, who has been in custody for more then six months since his arrest in March, was expecting the trial to happen and wanted the trial to go ahead.
 
The prosecution said the charges against Webster were very similar to those against Kelly and Hurlstone and the same twenty witnesses would need to be called for both trials, so for the sake of efficiency, prosecuting counsel said, the crown wished to join the two together and have just one trial instead of two.
 
The court heard that a pending judicial review on behalf of Kelly and Hurlstone on their case had prevented their trial, set for February 2011, from being brought forward until after that matter was heard in November. This meant the crown had to request that Webster’s trial be postponed until after the judicial review and then either a new date set for all three men to be tried together or to stick with the February date planned for Kelly and Hurlstone.
 
The judge said that he had to weigh the crown’s request based on “efficiency” with the fact that the defendant could be remanded in custody for a further three months, even though he had done nothing to delay the proceedings.
 
Justice Henderson observed that had the crown presented its application in a timely fashion it may have been possible, but he said it was simply too late. Denying the crown’s request, the judge said that, since Webster was in custody awaiting a trial that had been fixed in July, he had a reasonable expectation of a trial on 18 October and an entitlement to go to trial. Justice Henderson said that unless the crown had any further submissions the trial should go ahead.
 
Webster (28), a Honduran national, was arrested at Owen Roberts International airport on 23 March, a few days after the young man he and the other men are accused of kidnapping had escaped. He is facing charges of abduction, confinement, blackmail, and assault.
 
According to a police report from the time of the incident, the parents of the victim received a phone call on Thursday, 18 March, from a man claiming to have taken their son hostage and demanding a ransom of hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure his release. The parents were told by the kidnappers that they would kill the victim if they contacted the police but the next day the young man was reportedly able to escape from the house in Rum Point where he had been held by his captors
 
Wespie Mullings-Ramon, also Honduran, was charged with the same offences as Webster but has elected to plead guilty and is now in custody awaiting trial. Sywell Allan Kelly, another Honduran national, is also charged with abduction, confinement, blackmail, threatening violence and assault ABH and is also in custody.
 
Meanwhile, Hurlstone, who is Caymanian and charged with abduction, confinement and blackmail, is believed to be related to the victim. He and Kelly are still expected to be tried in February of next year.   

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Free cameras for photo competition hopefuls

| 08/10/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Young people ages 5 to 18 who want to enter Sunday’s 10Ten10 photo competition can obtain a free disposable digital camera through Saturday, 9 October at the National Trust office in South Sound. This photo competition is jointly sponsored by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise, The Rotary Club of Cayman Brac, the National Trust, and the National Gallery. The theme of this nature-based youth photo competition is "A Day in the Life of the Cayman Islands" and it is open to young people in three age ranges: 5 to 9 years, 10 to 14 years, and 15 to 18 years. The photo categories will be Water, Pets/Animals, Floral, Still Life, Lines, Close-Up, and Reflections. Prizes will be awarded to the winning submissions in each of the age groups and photo categories.

To claim one of the free cameras, a parent’s or guardian’s signature is required on the entry form that is available by sending an e-mail to 10ten10@RotarySunrise.ky.

Sunday, 10 October, will be the tenth day of the tenth month in the year 2010, and also the day that young people who participate in the 10Ten10 youth photo competition will be taking photos that capture the beauty of the Cayman Islands through their eyes.

Although free disposable cameras are being made available, young people are welcome to use their own digital cameras to shoot pictures on 10 October for this competition. However, all entries must be digital photographs—no film submissions will be accepted.
A group of Rotarians and National Trust staff met at the Grand Cayman National Trust office on Saturday, 2 October, to distribute free digital cameras to young people entering the 10Ten10 photography competition. The youthful entrants were also provided with free photography advice to help them do well in the competition.

The free digital cameras will continue to be distributed this week during normal office hours and on Saturday, 9 October from 9am to noon at the National Trust office. Similarly, Cayman Brac Rotarians will be distributing free cameras this week to youngsters in the Sister Islands.

Rotary Sunrise was chartered in 2002 and has members who are mostly young professionals from Cayman and 24 other countries. They have fun contributing to the Cayman community and meet for breakfast at 7am on Wednesdays at the Grand Old House.

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Shots fired at George Town home

| 08/10/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Police received reports of gunshots being fired in George Town in the early hours this morning and have now launched an enquiry. Police said the home in the vicinity of Saturn Close was damaged by bullets around 2.00am today, Friday 8 October. Police say no one was injured in the incident and that forensic examinations are currently underway at that location. Detective Constable Valentine Reid said, “There were a number of peoplein the area at the time of the incident. On hearing the shots they scattered and ran away."

Reid added, "At this time it is not clear whether anyone was actually inside the house when the shots were fired. We are in the process of carrying out forensic examinations at the scene and attempting to trace and interview everyone who was in the area at the time. It’s essential that we trace the person responsible as quickly as possible and we need the help of the community to do that.”

If anyone was in the area at the time and saw or heard anything suspicious they should contact George Town police station on 949-4222 or the anonymous Crime Stoppers number 800-8477 (TIPS).”
 

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Governor calls on managers to release info up front

| 08/10/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The country’s governor, Duncan Taylor, has said that information should be available to the public unless there is a compelling reason why not. At the end of Right to Know Week, the UK’s representative told information managers to take the initiative and provide information up front on websites before being asked. The message comes in the wake of a report by the information commissioner, called “Operation Fred”, which revealed that there were still significant problems in government departments when it came to releasing information. Following a full week of campaigning about their right to know, Jennifer Dilbert said that just about everyone in Cayman now understood something about FOI.

Speaking at a reception held at Government House, Taylor said he was a great believer in the people’s right to know and that freedom of information success rested on the provision of ‘up-front’ data on websites and other outlets.
 
“I know it’s not always easy for custodians to be forthcoming and the work can be both challenging and time-consuming. However, in the main, information should be made available unless there are compelling reasons why it shouldn’t,” the governor told the information managers gathered for the reception.
 
The final event finished off a week in which the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) conducted activities designed to encourage the public to use and understand the FOI Law. These events coincided with similar international activities. The commissioner’s main message was to get people to use the law and to follow up on requests that were denied and to ensure that their requests were handled in the time frames stipulated under the FOI Law.
 
Despite the controversy that FOI has stirred up with the country’s premier, who has criticized the ability of people to request information anonymously as well as the cost of providing information, Dilbert said that the law is working, and that despite what is being said, when people make their requests the information they seek is coming out.
 
“Just about everyone in Cayman now knows something about FOI,” said Dilbert. “It is indeed a success and we are seeing the benefits on a daily basis.”
 
She also revealed that the ICO will continue with a series of monthly meetings to ensure compliance with the law.
 
For more information on how to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, contact the ICO on 747-5405 or at info@infocomm.ky

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West Bay gas station robbed

| 08/10/2010 | 81 Comments

(CNS): Update 10:38am – The RCIPS have now released a description of the armed man who robbed the 4 Winds Esso Gas station, close to the four-way stop in West Bay, on Thursday evening, 7 October at around 8:50pm. Sources told CNS that one man armed with a gun threatened a member of staff at the gas pump by placing the firearm to his head in a terrifying ordeal. The robber forced the attendant inside the station store and made him open the cash draw. Taking the money, the gunman then made his escape behind the gas station on foot. The robbery comes exactly one week after the Alfresco Restaurant, which is yards from the gas station, was robbed by two masked men, who remain at large. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)  

Police confirmed that no shots were fired and no-one was injured.

The male suspect is described as being around 5’10” in height, with a clear complexion. He was wearing a grey coloured long sleeved t-shirt, short blue jean pants, tennis shoes, a bandana and a black baseball cap.

Anyone who has any information about this crime, or who was in the area of the four-way-stop last night at the relevant time and saw anything suspicious, is asked to call West Bay police station on 949-3999 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477(TIPS).

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If lightning strikes twice, new kit will measure it

| 08/10/2010 | 5 Comments

(CNS): A lightning detection system, donated to the Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) by the UK’s Meteorological Office, is expected to arrive in the Cayman Islands within the next few weeks. Officers from the UK MET Office are expected to install the components as well as provide technical and user training for the kit, which is expected to provide important information for the weather services and the airport. While they may say that lightening never strikes twice in the same place, from now on if it does here in Cayman, weather experts will be able to measure it. (Photo by Olga Davis)

“A lightning detection system is an invaluable tool for airport operations, in various areas of aircraft safety management,” said CINWS Director General Fred Sambula. “Lightning can negatively impact areas such as aircraft refuelling and deplaning or boarding passengers.”

He explained that the new system would provide weather forecasters with data on lightning intensity and frequency in several weather systems, including cold fronts, tropical waves and hurricanes. “This will afford us better analysis regarding intensity and development of such systems when they threaten the Cayman Islands,” added Sambula. “Overall, our early warning system will be further enhanced by providing the public with better information for protecting life and property.”
 
CINWS falls under the remit of Works Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly who said the equipment would enhance the capacity and efficiency of the National Weather Services.

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Waste eco-parkwill make bid

| 08/10/2010 | 20 Comments

(CNS): The concept of an eco-waste park, which focuses on the reduction and recycling of Cayman’s rubbish rather than incineration and disposal, has not been ruled out under the terms of the government’s request for proposals on the dump. The RFP issued by the Department of Environmental Health on Tuesday opens the door, Walling Whittaker said, for an eco-park that could revolutionize the future of waste management. Whittaker told CNS that his proposal would mean capping and remediating the current dump, which he says could be prevented from leaching into the ocean via a containment trench and wall. He explained that work on the George Town landfill would run parallel with entirely new methods of waste management in the future.

Whittaker said the proposal from his firm, Malcolm Point Environmental Engineering, would put a stop to the leaching of the “garbage juice” from the existing landfill and capture the methane pollution currently coming off Mount Trashmore, not only giving Cayman carbon credits but also enabling the gas to be put to other use.
 
“There are two major problems with the current dump,” said Whittaker. “One is the polluting gases coming off the top of it going into the atmosphere and the second is the garbage juices leaching out from under it into the North Sound. We will have to dig a containment trench all around the dump which will siphon off the liquids that can be processed. The methane gas can also be captured and put to useful purposes instead off adding to global warming.”
 
He explained that the remediation and capping of the landfill would be a long term project which would run parallel to the development of an entirely new waste management eco-park, where recycling and reuse would be the leading methods of dealing with garbage, as opposed to disposal into a landfill.
 
Whittaker said that although the preference would be to limit incineration, the government has specifically asked for a waste-to-energy element in the RFP. “In order not to get disqualified, the Malcolm Point bid will include some incineration and we will partner with a WTE specialist to do that,” he explained.
 
The bid will also include partnerships with people on the island who are already involved in recycling, Whittaker said, adding that Malcolm Point was not competing with recyclers but hoped to work with those already involved in the recycling business here in the Cayman Islands as well as generate new entrepreneurial interest in specialist areas of recycling.
 
Although his firm is an environmental engineering company, it will also be focusing heavily on the education part of future waste management, Whittaker revealed. He pointed out that Cayman had to re-think its whole approach to waste and reduce the amount it produced.
 
It was as a result of his commitment to promoting less waste that Whittaker became involved with the local activist group WISE, which includes interested parties from across the Cayman community that want to see a more holistic approach to dealing with the country’s garbage.
 
Whittaker spoke about the importance of a multifaceted solution to waste management which would depend heavily on reuse processing rubbish at a new eco-waste park, where composting, glass crushing and a re-cycling centre would turn rubbish into something useful. Whitaker estimates that around a third of the country’s waste could be recycled almost immediately, even before specialist recycling projects get underway, such as those that recycle plastics into a material that can be used as lumber.
 
The location of the new eco-waste centre is the most controversial element of Whittaker’s proposal because wherever the new site would be its neighbours are unlikely to be particularly welcoming.
 
However, Whittaker has said that, given the ultimate goal of zero disposal, any new landfill would be a fraction of the size of the existing dump. Not only would it be a properly engineered and lined site, with the introduction of reuse and recycling as well as waste-to-energy incineration, it would also be taking a fraction of the garbage currently going to Mount Trashmore.
 
“Our proposal is to revolutionize waste management and rethink our entire approach. There is no one solution. Everything from reduction to reuse needs to be part and parcel of the future waste management strategies for the country,” Whittaker added.

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Miller says accounts are in

| 08/10/2010 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Following a closed door meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee this week, chair Ezzard Miller said that all of the relevant government agencies have managed to get their latest financial accounts to the Auditor General’s Office. Miller said that not every entity made the 31 August deadline but most came close and the rest are now all with the AG. Miller added that financial officers throughout the public sector were finally beginning to make headway with government’s long overdue accounts, and while the 30 September deadline for the backlog was missed, they were at least coming close to addressing the overall problem of financial delinquency. (Photo by Dennie Warren)

“It appears that things are going very well and I was pleasantly surprised,” Miller said about his latest PAC meeting. “We didn’t make the 30 September deadline to have the backlog completed but, to be honest, it was far more of a target than a deadline. I never had any great expectations that it would be achieved but it was something to work towards.”
 
The government has been wrestling with a backlog of financial reports for over five years. The last time an annual audited report of government accounts was completed was for the financial year 2003/04. Since then government entities have failed to meet the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law and have not been submitting accounts to the AG’s office. The delinquency problem was brought to public attention by the former auditor general, Dan Duguay, in a special report entitled "The State of financial accountability reporting", dated April 2008.
 
The issue became a bone of contention for senior public servants, with everything from Hurricane Ivan to the PMF law itself being blamed for the problem. It also became a hot issue during the election with candidates promising to get the accounts sorted out if they came to office.
 
Miller said the important thing now was that measurable progress was finally being made across the various government entities. Of all of the government departments, ministries and companies, only one entity was still working on its 07/08 accounts. Of the government portfolios and ministries, only one had not started on the 08/09 accounts, and all the statutory authorities that were behind are now working on their 08/09 backlog, the chair revealed.
 
Running in parallel to the catch-up, finance departments had also been asked to ensure that they all got their 09/10 accounts into the audit office by the statutory deadline, which was 31 August. Miller did not name names, but he said that while some did not make the 31 August deadline, every single entity hadsubmitted financial records to the audit office by Thursday morning, 7 October.
 
“We are getting on track at last,” Miller said. “I think there is modest progress for all the entities involved and there is no doubt the difficult part has been trying to go back so far and find records.”
 
The North Side independent MLA, who was voted chair of PAC in the wake of the election in May 2009, said that from the start he hoped that he would be able to get the public accounts back in order and have at least two full annual government reports before the end of his term as chair of the committee.
 
“All being well, we are set to have the 2010/11 accounts done in accordance with the Public Management and Finance Law,” he said. “The PAC and the AG’s office has spent time working on a clear format for accounts submissions and how financials are presented to the AG. As everyone now knows what is expected, we are on a more sound footing for future account keeping.”
 
Miller said the day was not far away when the people would be able to see in detail exactly where and how public money was being spent.      
 
With all hands on accounts, Miller said there were no further AG reports expected for PAC to consider and the next public meeting of the committee was likely to be in December, when the AG had finished his government annual report. “We have asked the AG to focus entirely on this issue, and once the public accounts are back in order we expect he will be turning his attention to value for money audits,” Miller said.
 
He also noted that he was able to get a quorum for this latest PAC meeting as Dwayne Seymour and Moses Kirkconnell were both in attendance. However, the other two members of the committee, Cline Glidden MLA for West Bay, who was overseas, and Elio Solomon, MLA for George Town, did not attend.

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