Archive for December 3rd, 2010

WikiLeaks: UK used Diego Garcia marine park

| 03/12/2010 | 6 Comments

(The Guardian): The Foreign Office stands accused of misleading the public over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland to make way for a large US military base. More than 2,000 islanders – described privately by the Foreign Office as "Man Fridays" – were evicted from the British colony of Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 70s. The Foreign Office, backed by the US, has fought a long legal battle to prevent them returning home. The islanders’ quest to go back will be decided by a ruling, expected shortly, from the European court of human rights. A secret US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks suggests the Foreign Office has privately admitted its latest plan to declare the islands the world’s largest marine protection zone will end any chance of them being repatriated.

The admission is at odds with the public position of the Foreign Office that the proposed park does not prejudice or have any effect on the the islanders’ right to return. The islanders have claimed the marine park was a ploy to block their return, saying it would make it impossible for them to live there as it would ban fishing, their main livelihood.

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80 year old woman robbed

| 03/12/2010 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Police say they have arrested a suspected robber after hauling him from the water at Dray Quay. The arrest came after an elderly resident of Magellan Quay, located off the West Bay bypass, called the police to report finding two masked robbers in her home. At about 1.00am Thursday, 2 December, police attended the 80-year-old woman’s home and found that she had disturbed two offenders who had broken into her house and were wearing ski masks. They threatened her in an attempt to locate money but ran off as an alarm sounded. Although the woman was very shaken by the whole incident, she was unhurt.

Police said that a search of the area was undertaken by officers and shortly afterwards a 24-year-old man was arrested near Dray Quay. He had been pulled from the water with the assistance of the Marine Unit and is currently in custody while the criminal investigation continues.

A number of suspected stolen items have been recovered by the police in the subsequent investigation.

Police are appealing for any witnesses or information to George Town CID on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS)
 

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$9B fraud case to stay in CI

| 03/12/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has directed that the multi-billion dollar fraud claim brought by Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi Brothers (AHAB) against Maan Al Sanea, an insider who has been alleged to have misappropriated more than $9 billion, should be tried in the Cayman Islands. Previously, the Grand Court had stopped proceedings in the case suggesting that parts of it might be more suitably tried in Saudi Arabia. Following the CICA decision this week the stay in the case is now lifted and the claim can now proceed to judgment in Cayman.

In delivering the judgment, Sir John Chadwick, President of the Court of Appeal, rejected Al Sanea’s claims that there was no jurisdiction over him and that he was not properly served. The Court also held that the $9.2 billion worldwide freezing order of Al Sanea’s assets should remain in place until trial.

With respect to trying the claims against Al Sanea in Saudi Arabia, Sir John Chadwick, said, "Nor was it possible to be confident that proceedings commenced in the Saudi Courts would lead to a decision determinative of AHAB’s claims against Mr. Al Sanea within any measurable period, if at all."

The Court characterized AHAB’s forgery claims against Al Sanea as "serious."
Al Sanea now has a technical right of appeal to the Privy Council in London, but that appeal is discretionary.

The Cayman Island Court of Appeal also dismissed a finding of contempt against Al Sanea by the Chief Justice on technical grounds regarding the nature of service of the contempt application and also found that the grand court did not adequately state its reasons for its finding of proof of wrongdoing "beyond a reasonable doubt."

 

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Cops release teen and CCTV

| 03/12/2010 | 26 Comments

(CNS): More than ten days after the Butterfield bank robbery, police have now released pictures of the suspects from the CCTV as officers renew their appeal for witnesses and information. Police have also confirmed that a teenager from the West Bay area who was arrested on the same day in connection with the incident has been released from custody on bail. Detectives leading the hunt for the three robbers who held up the bank wearing Halloween masks on 24 November are looking for anyone who may have seen the three offenders entering or exiting the bank at about 11:19 that morning either putting on or wearing the masks. Police also want information on the getaway vehicle, which would have left the open lot at the Compass Centre at 11.20am.

“We are particularly interested in identifying the individual in the brown sweat top with yellow lines down the arm or anyone who has seen someone wearing this around that time. The sweat top has a logo on it that we are keen to identify,” a police spokesperson said of the images. (See below)

A reward of up to fifty thousand ($50,000) USD was announced on Friday 26 November by Cayman Crime Stoppers and Butterfield. To obtain this reward the information given must be passed on before the year’s end and must subsequently lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the crime.

The RCIPS said an extensive police search, roadblocks and the Air Operations Unit were all involved in the subsequent hunt for the offenders. No one was injured in the incident but one member of staff was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

Anyone who has any information about this robbery should call the CID at George Town police station on 949 4222 or the confidential crime stoppers number 800-8477(TIPS).

 

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Elmslie and Camana Bay win top design award

| 03/12/2010 | 21 Comments

(CNS): Governor Duncan Taylor decided to award excellence in design for both old and new Caymanian architecture at the first ever Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence, with the iconic Elmslie Memorial Church and expansive Camana Bay Town Centre receiving joint first place, out of a short list of seven. The Elmslie Memorial Church (built in 1922) and Camana Bay Town Centre (which has been growing ever since ground was broken in 2005) beat off competition from an eclectic mix of well-known Caymanian buildings, old and new, that included Lighthouse Point, the Legislative Assembly Building, The West Indian Club, Cotton Tree Cottages and Water’s Edge, Seven Mile Beach, which were all also short listed.

Taylor was asked to make the final decision, working closely with the Cayman Society of Architects, Surveyors & Engineers and the Cayman Contractors Association, aftera panel of judges had whittled down a total of 34 nominated submissions for the award.

The governor said that he felt it was important to place his stamp of approval on the project because the environment, whether it’s at home or within a city, influences how we live and he was therefore keen to continually look out for ways to improve the environment.

“With the Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence, I hope we have established a new benchmark for excellence in the construction industry,” he said to a packed audience at Government House, with representatives from all walks of the community gathered to attend the awards ceremony.

The panel of judges also came from a variety of industries, including construction, the arts and the environment, and included: Norman Bodden, Jimmy Powell, Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie, Rupert Ackermon, Bendel Hydes, Garth Arch and Rayal Bodden. They were tasked with assessing each nomination’s design excellence, creativity and innovation as well as its sustainability and its impact on the environment.

Garth Arch said he believed the Elmslie Memorial Church and Camana Bay Town Centre, which both topped the judges’ final top seven list, were specifically selected because they were projects ahead of their time.

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Long lease will equal loss

| 03/12/2010 | 23 Comments

(CNS): The dangers of giving a developer too long a lease on crown land are evident in Cayman’s history books, a number of concerned citizens have stated. The current impasse between government and DECCO, the developer of the proposed George Town cruise berthing, revolves around the length of the lease, which many people have said should be no more than 30 years as anything more would equate to an ultimate a loss of that public property. Charles Clifford, who had begun negotiations with Atlantic Star to develop the cruise port when he was tourism minister, says that if the developer cannot make the project work in 25 years, the plan is not a viable business option.

Pointing out the historical dangers of long government leases, Clifford told CNS that a 99 year lease is tantamount to the sale of crown land, or public property.

“If the current cruise port facility proposal was a viable project, the developer should be able to get a return on his investment in less than 25 years; if not, it is evident the business plan is not suitable,” Clifford said. “A 99 year lease is completely ridiculous and is akin to handing over ownership. History tells us that every time government has entered into such long leases, when they begin to fall back they are generally topped up.”

There are a number of prime sites across Grand Cayman that belong to the people but the land has been leased to developers over long periods which are constantly renewed well before the time is up, making the lease agreements essentially into sales for nothing more than a few dollars.

Sources told CNS that in the 1950s the colonial government leased out land along Seven Mile Beach where the Coralstone Condominiums, the Westin, Villas of the Galleon and the Ritz are all located — land that government is unable to now profit from – and where the lease has been constantly topped back up. When government is short of cash there is a temptation to renegotiate these leases for just a few dollars each time, returning the lease back to 99 years almost perpetually.

Although it is unclear exactly what lease term DECCO has requested, as the time frame ranges from 20-99 years, it is understood that whatever time has been requested, government is reluctant to agree and the negotiations with the developer are near collapse. Almost a year after government was hoping to break ground on the facility, the project is stalled before leaving the starting gate.

Clifford said that he had warned the government in the wake of the UDP winning the election that the negotiations regarding the port would be lengthy and complex. Having gone a fair way down the road with Atlantic Star, Clifford said he had offered to assist the Port Authority with the project but he said his offer was ignored.

“I believe if government had picked up the plans which were started during the previous administration it is likely at least one of the piers would have been completed by now,” Clifford told CNS. “I am not surprised by the current situation, however, as I do not believe the government understood at the outset the incredible complexities involved in such a project.”

Clifford noted too that government had not taken the environmental impact assessment (EIA) seriously.

“From the very beginning the premier said he believed enough assessment had been done in the area in the past and he was going to get the cruise terminal done. However, I took the approach that the environment had to inform the project and we would seek to mitigate any negative impact in the design of the development. However, we said from the get go any threat to Seven Mile Beach would be a show stopper.”

The former tourism minister said that the meetings he held to gather the information just to lay out the terms of reference for the EIA were extremely difficult but he said it was essential that every possible contingency was covered and that the Department of Environment (DoE) were involved in the process. He queried how thorough or revealing the current EIA would be since it is paid for by a private company without supervision from the DoE.

Clifford still believes it is essential for the country to develop the piers, especially since the cruise industry faces a potential 25% decline next year as the cruise lines deploy to the bigger ships which will not call in Grand Cayman, but he says he had always warned that the project had to be handled with care. 

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Dump RFP not too ‘wise’

| 03/12/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): A group of advocates that are campaigning to move the George Town dump and change the way the country manages its rubbish have said they have a number of concerns with government’s Request for Proposal on the future of Mount Trashmore. WISE said that while government had not restricted the RFP to waste-to-energy solutions, its preference for mining as a way of remediating the dump presented public health and environmental risks as well as problems with time and cost. The activists have also criticised the RFP for a lack of critical information and says the shortcomings would make it difficult for bidders to comply with the proposal.

“The RFP requires the successful bidder to finance its proposed undertaking to build, own and operate a Comprehensive Solid Waste Disposal Management and Waste-to-Energy Facility,” Theresa Broderick, a member of the community group’s coordinating committee said. “While the RFP states that WTE must form the ‘core technology’, it also calls for economical balance; yet, WTE is not necessarily the most economically appropriate approach.”

The members of WISE say they remain sceptical as to whether the economics of WTE are sustainable in the long term, so the financial modelling by any bidder will require careful analysis.

The group has called on government to allow proposers to make technical presentations to the
Technical Advisory Committee/Central Tenders Committee to spell out the possible options.

WISE also said that government’s goal to reduce the height of the dump as a priority was misplaced as top of the list should be to stop the leaching into the North South, avoiding air, odour and noise pollutants.

“As far as the aesthetics of the dump are concerned, aggressively remediating and capping the landfill — in other words, remedying the environmental hazards then covering with impermeable layers and green landscaping — remains the most expedient way and cost-effective way of reversing the ills of the dump,” Broderick stated.

The group has also raised concerns that the RFP has been significantly compromised as any proposed solution has to have the benefit of being able to review the current condition of the dump. However, no Site Characterization Study has been carried-out — the only way, the activists say, to fully determine the specific remediation measures required in addressing environmental and public health concerns.

Although the RFP does not rule out an alternative site, the RFP indicates that the existing landfill is the preferred location, but WISE says the site is too small for a comprehensive solid waste management disposal facility that would include reuse and recycling. It also criticises the RFP for not properly addressing the recycling issue.

“While the concept of comprehensively dealing with disposalof solid waste has been articulated, there is very little detail required on this component of the facility’s system,” WISE stated. “Recycling targets should be specified. At a minimum, the goals set forth in the 2008 Draft Development Plan should be adopted. This would ensure at least 12% is recycled with that target increasing to 32% over the following 20 years.”

See WISE statement in full below.

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Manderson says raises are promotions not pay hikes

| 03/12/2010 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The chief officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs has said the recent increase in earnings by a number of civil servants is as a result of promotions and not pay hikes. Speaking to the Cayman27 news team on Thursday, Franz Manderson said an article in the country’s local daily newspaper was wrong as the earning upgrades were down to changes in the job descriptions of public servants who took on more work, as well as new promotions. He said that two Caymanians who had completed training were promoted to permanent jobs and that was why they were given 18% increases, despite government’s earnings freeze.

He explained that people who had worked hard and completed their training and were confirmed in a new post could not be kept on the same level of earnings as they were before they had completed that training.

Manderson also revealed that others were given a 12 percent increase because they were taking on more work to prevent the need for extra staff. Manderson said that had they not done so the government would have had to employ more people costing the public purse some $90,000 more per annum.

Manderson said he was disappointed by the Caymanian Compass’ call for his dismissal over the article, which said civil servants in the portfolio had received “whopping pay rises” as a result of information the paper received via an FOI request.

In a letter to the paper’s editor Manderson expressed his concern that he was not given an opportunity to explain the reason for the pay increases and accused the paper of "convicting him without trial" after it suggested his "head should roll". Manderson said the goal of the portfolio was to continue reducing costs by retraining and increasing the responsibilities of existing civil servants to avoid the need for more staff.

"In keeping with Portfolio’s Strategic Plan, these types of initiatives are utilized in order to prioritize succession planning for Caymanians and promote the effective use of resources," Manderson wrote. "At the end of this exercise we were able to increase the services provided to the public without increasing personnel costs. In fact in 10/11 we reduced the department’s total budgeted personnel costs compared to the 9/10 budget year."

He said that he was not ignoring the efforts of the elected government to balance the budget, as stated in the paper’s editorial, but was in fact following the mandate of government by providing opportunities for the professional development of Caymanians and reducing expenditure.

Go to Cayman 27 video

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