Archive for August 17th, 2012

UK holds out for budget cuts

| 17/08/2012 | 179 Comments

budget10c.jpg(CNS): The premier's efforts to deliver the 2012/13 budget were thwarted once again on Friday afternoon because there is still no approval from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Sources in London told CNS that the minister would not be approving the budget until further cuts were made in the Cayman government's spending plans. McKeeva Bush had stated earlier this week that no further cuts could be made and that he would be delivering his budget statement on 17 August. However, officials at the Legislative Assembly confirmed around 1pm Friday that the meeting was canceled and the budget session had been rescheduled for Monday afternoon.

Despite the protestations of the premier, the UK's economic adviser who is assisting with the budget process is continuing to apply pressure on the Cayman government to make further cuts before he can recommend that the minister give his approval. The latest indication is that the FCO official still wants to see a reduction in operating expenses of some $20 million.

Following the last minute cancellation of the LA meeting, the two independent members of the country's parliament warned that the continued brinkmanship being displayed by the premier with the UK was not helping anyone.

“I am extremely concerned over the continued confrontation that the premier is getting  into with the FCO,” said Arden McLean, the now independent member for East End. “I believe everyone in this country should be concerned as well as he is destroying our relationship with the UK.”

Ezzard Miller pointed out that the constant announcements about delivering the budget followed by announcements to cancel it did little to help investor confidence in the local economy.

“The premier needs to get down to making the cuts necessary to gain approval from the UK before he makes any further announcements about delivering a budget,” Miller added, stating that there was nothing unreasonable about the UK's request for the Cayman government to deliver a sustainable andcredible budget.

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Thieves steal Caybrew medals

| 17/08/2012 | 24 Comments

caybrew empty medal case.jpg(CNS): Staff at the Cayman Islands Brewery were left shaking their heads this morning when they discovered that burglars had stolen the medals they had won at a Caribbean Beer Festival. During the break-in, which happened in the early hours of the morning by what is understood to be a lone burglar, cash and memorabilia were stolen from the home of Caybrew, as well as the medals. A spokesperson from CIB said everyone at the brewery was very upset over the theft of the medals, which he pointed out we're not real gold and of no monetary value at all but of enormous sentimental value to the team. (Photo: The thief left the empty medal cases)

The police were called to the brewery on Shamrock Road by staff who were on site at the time of the break-in and arrived while the thief was still there. Despite giving chase, police were unable to catch the suspect. However the brewery spokesperson was confident that he was caught on CCTV and was hopeful he would be apprehended  and the medals recovered.


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Ammunition case thrown out by judge

| 17/08/2012 | 12 Comments

(CNS): A visiting judge concluded this week that the crown's evidence against a defendant for possession of three shotgun cartridges was so weak it could not conceivably support a guilty verdict. Justice Carol Beswick said there was no case for David Ebanks of West Bay to answer as she stopped the trial and entered a verdict of not guilty. The crown had claimed that Ebanks was in possessionof the cartridges because they were found wrapped in a sock in the pocket of a pair of jeans on which his DNA was found. The jeans were in room of a house in Cinder Lane, West Bay, which police believed was occupied by Ebanks.

However, the judge found that there was no evidence that this was his room or that he had ever touched the cartridges.

The court heard that the defendant was one of several men who lived in the house and there was no evidence presented by the crown that Ebanks was the occupant of the room in which the ammunition was found. The judge also noted that his DNA was not on the cartridges and that the police had failed to carry out any fingerprint analysis of the items found during the search.

“The prosecution evidence falls short of proof that this defendant had the ammunition in his personal possession or knowingly had custody of the ammunition,” Justice Beswick ruled, noting that at its highest the evidence was insufficient for a jury to properly convict. Sitting alone as the trial judge, she said she had to discharge her duties under the law and stop the case. The judge found that there was no evidence, direct or inferential that the defendant knew anything about the cartridges.

Ebanks was arrested after a police operation at a property in Cinder Lane in February of this year. He was one of several men who were there at the time of the early morning operation. When the police arrived at around 6am, Ebanks was found wearing just underwear in the passage of the house but he was not in the room where the ammunition had been discovered.

The prosecution's case was that Ebanks stayed in the room simply because his DNA was found on the jeans and because there was an absence of female clothing. From there, the prosecutors drew the conclusion that Ebanks had possession of the ammunition and filed charges against him that could have resulted in ten years jail time.

The judge, however, concluded  that with no evidence to support the case and Ebanks was released by the court.

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All done?

| 17/08/2012 | 56 Comments

It's a mere 10 months before the 2013 elections and you would be forgiven for thinking that the UDP was elected to office just last month and the PPM opposition party has gone away to restructure. An effective opposition is not just about politicking; it's a key aspect of having a good democracy in any country because at any point in time the incumbents know that if they fail to perform, the people will grant the privilege of leading the country to the opposition.

But the PPM has done little to instill faith among the people that they are a viable alternative and its leader, Mr Alden McLaughlin, needs to address that.

Worse yet, they have had no less than three years to establish themselves as the only viable way forward and instead they seem to have collapsed slowly but surely. This back of the envelope assessment goes far beyond the recent announcement that Mr Arden McLean has resigned. Rather it speaks directly to the way this party has been led and its activities (or rather inactivity) since 2009.

The general strategy of the PPM seems to be to leave the UDP alone because, as the saying goes, if you give them enough rope we know what to expect. To a certain extent this has occurred in the sense that the UDP have failed so miserably that all that's left is for the ministers to put all their personal belongings in a small box in one corner of their respective ministries.

But a successful strategy for the PPM is about much more than letting the UDP self-destruct; it must be about demonstrating to the people that a new vision and leadership is a must for the good ship Cayman to steer away from the rocks.

The PPM's appearance on the radio to criticise the premier's most recent blunder without offering solutions, a failed attempt at a no confidence vote and the staging of its own parliamentary session under a tree outside the LA are not sufficient to demonstrate an effective opposition.

What is required is a clear articulation of the alternative approach, the solutions, and the vision for the country that the PPM brings to the table. Instead there is over reliance on highlighting the tendency of the UDP to attract allegations on corruption, and just pointing fingers at incidences of incompetence that we are already aware of.

Alden, we get it. The PPM are not susceptible to allegations of corruption. You are far more statesmanlike. You have more integrity, etc. But your political strategy must ride on much more than that. The country is facing difficult economic times and needs real solutions. We need a proper assessment and, just as important, an articulation of it from you as the country's alternative political leader, that you understand the causes of our problems and know how to start addressing them.

The PPM won convincingly on the basis of integrity in 2005. But the country has now had a chance to see its record on economic and fiscal management and, as most are aware by now, that performance was far from great. That is all the more reason for the opposition leader to speak to those issues, not avoid them for fear of facing criticism.

If the party is still, or intends to continue, taking political advice from "H squared", it must at least consider the following in these discussions:

A) You cannot win with fresh faces if they cannot demonstrate leadership experience. Whatever opinion one has about Arden McLean, he is a strong leader and that loss needs to be made up with serious candidates.

B) You need candidates who can show economic leadership, notjust a concern for social issues. You can sing "pro Cayman" and "anti Dart" until the cows come home, but if people don't see how food will make it to the table or jobs created, that singing will be for nought.

C) Alden must work harder to remove the perceptions of being arrogant, disconnected and unapproachable to too many, aside from the PPM hard liners.

D) Alden must relax a little (a lot?) and be open to speaking with independents as well as those persons whom he may even consider as UDP supporters. In short, the man must be open and connect, because the cocoon that is the PPM is a lonely and ineffective shell from which to launch a successful political campaign.

The leader of the PPM must now rise to the challenge with far more conviction and direction or step aside. The country's democracy deserves better.

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DoE seeks public input to save local sharks

| 17/08/2012 | 30 Comments

Shark in local waters (300x267).jpg(CNS): With many of Cayman's shark species under threat, the Department of Environment is engaging in a public consultation process to see what options people would support to protect these often misunderstood marinaanimals. Although regarded by some fishermen as a nuisance, sharks are a critically important part of the marine eco-system and also an important attraction to Cayman’s dive tourism. A study undertaken by the DoE has revealed that sharks could be worth as much as $25 million a year directly, and much more indirectly, to the islands but the various species common to local waters are under increasing threat. DoE officials said Thursday that there is a pressing need to enact legislation to protect their future.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday morning, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin explained that recent research work involving shark tagging has given a clearer picture of the numbers and the worrying decline. With no doubt that sharks are under threat, the DoE is now looking for input from the wider public on the possible way forward and policy development for their protection.

Nurse sharks may be the species at most risk because they are easily caught on lines and, albeit unintentionally, many become casualties of fishing. But Austin noted that white tips, hammerheads and other species are also at risk and more work was required to understand why numbers have fallen.

While the main study was now complete, Austin said, with the help of donations coming from the sale of the Cayman Islands Brewery's White Tip larger, the tagging project would continue, offering researchers more information on the elusive creatures.

The focus now for the DoE is arriving at the best method of protecting sharks and other large marine animals. Even if people don't recognize the need to protect them from an environmental perspective, the DoE experts believe their economic value should persuade the public of the need to enact legislation to secure their future.

The study shows that the direct value is as much as $25 million but the indirect value could be even more because of the sharks' contribution to maintaining a healthy marine environment, which has a knock-on effect to the wider tourism product.

The department is posing several possible options for protecting the local shark populations, which will also include rays, dolphins and whales. The first is extending marine parks and protection zones, in which all of the species would be protected,.

Another is making Little Cayman alone a safe zone because of the comparatively healthy numbers around the country's smallest island. Alternatively, more protection could be added by extending full protection to all sharks, rays, whales and dolphins throughout Cayman waters, or at least within 12 nautical miles from shore.

As a result of the mobility of local sharks, Austin said, protection zones would not be an immediate quick fix to the problem of declining shark populations but it would be a step in the right direction. Tagging shows that some species, such as white tips, can travel over 80 miles in a day and even move from the Caribbean region into the Atlantic.

Even local tiger sharks are roaming all over the Caribbean, Austin explained, so a 12 mile zone around Cayman has only limited value, but combined with the protections under international covenants, local laws could give the sharks and other large marine species more of a fighting chance. At present, even Cayman's famous stingrays are not protected once they go outside a wildlife interaction zone.

The DoE is appealing to the entire community to fill in the questionnaire by mid September to help guide the future protection policy.  A hard copy is also available from the DoE.

Find out more and fill in the survey

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