Archive for October 2nd, 2012

Armed home intruder on run

| 02/10/2012 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Police are appealing to the community to help them find a home intruder who broke into a house in George Town on Monday night while the resident was asleep in bed and escaped on foot. The RCIPS said that officers are now investigating the burglary which happened at about 11.40pm on 1 October. A resident at Spring Lane (off Bodden Road) in the Eastern Avenue area awoke to find a male intruder entering the bedroom who was armed with a knife and asked for cash.  The culprit made a search of the room, making off with two white ‘Guess’ watches, a Bulova Gold and Silver watch, a ‘Crescent’ tool kit and a cream bag containing bank cards.

There was no physical contact with the victim and the offender was said to have made off on foot.

The intruder is described as male, approximately 6ft tall, light skinned, wearing three quarter light brown pants, he had a grey cloth/shirt covering his face, and is described as having a Caymanian Accent.

The investigating officer, DC Marcia Myles is appealing for anyone who has any information to contact the CID. If any person is approached to purchase the described stolen items, they are asked to contact the police on 949 4222. The public can also call the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).
 

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People urged to report lone dolphin sightings

| 02/10/2012 | 0 Comments

dolphin.JPGCNS): As three dolphin experts landed on Grand Cayman Tuesday from the United States the Department of Environment urged people to call in any sightings of the lone male bottlenose dolphin, now known as 'Stinky'. The three marine experts — a vet from Seaworld and two marine mammal biologists from NOAA — are visiting the Cayman Islands to help the DoE in its goal to find a long term solution for the dolphin, which is becoming increasingly aggressive and problematic as it attempts to mate with anything that moves. The public can call 949-8469 and boaters can use VHF Channel 16 to let the DoE know where the dolphin was spotted.

As the experts are only here until Friday, the DoE wants to ensure that the visitors make the most of their short time here and study the behaviour of Stinky as much as possible.

For more details on the visit see related article:

Dolphin experts heading for CI
 

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Play review: “Doubt”

| 02/10/2012 | 0 Comments

Arguably, one of Cayman’s best kept secrets is the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s (CNCF) ongoing programme of music, art and theatre events, and the CNCF’s latest theatre production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” is by far one of the most enjoyable ones to date.  

Experienced and novice live theatre-goers alike will be blown away by the sophistication of both the story and performances.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is set in a 1960’s Catholic school where Sister Aloysius begins to have doubts about the fun and popular Father Flynn, who seems to have become overly involved in the life of the school’s first black pupil.  Is she overreacting to the situation, or is there truth behind her suspicions?

Directed by veteran theatre director and designer, Henry Muttoo (who is also the Artistic Director of the CNCF), the story weaves the audience through a number of emotions almost seamlessly.  The suggestion of the equally opposing forces of doubt and certainty is presented within the first minute, which then continues to build, scene by scene, as we bear witness to a series of conversations pitting fact and perception against one another.  Muttoo’s decades long history in theatre shines in this interpretation with not only outstanding performances but a vibrant minimalist set.

The brilliance of the story truly lies in the characterizations because it is only through our belief in the performances that we are drawn into the story at such an emotionally deep level.  Muttoo’s casting couldn’t have been better, with Peter Kosa playing Father Flynn in an effortless portrayal of fun and fervour that is so whimsical and natural, one can’t help but like him.  Dark tension is then built against his brightness so ardently by Sister Aloysius, played by an ominous Marcia Muttoo, her rigidity not wavering for one moment, that we again cannot help but dislike her, despite the mounting deductions being made against Flynn. 

Their scene of final confrontation is perhaps one of the most gripping in the whole play.

Poor Sister James, played brilliantly by Rita Estevanovich, is caught in the middle with her innocent approach to life apparent in every tiny gesture and facial expression.  I particularly enjoyed her scene with Kosa where her gentleness is set against the darkness of the accusation and is confronted before us.  Juliet Garricks plays the determined Mrs Muller with exceptional grace and poignancy, throwing yet another wrench into the complex dynamics already at work in this story.  Though she only has one scene it is one of the most memorable in the play as she and Sister Aloysius politely mount their disdain for one another.

Although portraying an intense story line, the characters are also so unique that there are many instances where the audience will find themselves laughing.  This was a welcome though unexpected relief and also added another layer of complexity to the unfolding drama.  Each character is portrayed so naturally the audience truly feels transported into this world.  It is as if the audience becomes a jury to a bizarre trial being played out before our eyes.  The passage of time occurs so swiftly across the two act, two hour performance (with intermission), it is yet another testament to the brilliance at work between director and actor.

The decision to present “Doubt” in the recently renovated Studio Theatre instead of the main stage at Harquail was, in my opinion, perfectly on point as the intimate nature of the space lends beautifully to the subtle nuances of character acting.  Although Muttoo’s use of the arched theatre seating is occasionally distracting when an actor’s back is to you, it also presents an interesting dynamic setting you into the stage as opposed to simply in front of it. 

I cannot express how much I enjoyed my experience of the CNCF production of “Doubt”.  The thought-provoking story explores subjects such as repression, freedom, Puritanism, modernity, hierarchy, equality, sexuality and celibacy all within the already controversial backdrop of the Catholic Church.  I strongly suggest bringing a group to watch the play and then later watching the film, which was not only directed by the playwright himself but also nominated for four Academy Awards.  There is no “doubt” that great discussions are to be had by all.

“Doubt” continues its run from 5 to 14 October, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm in the Harquail Studio Theatre.  Tickets are $20 for adults $10 for children and available from Foster’s Food Fair, Funky Tang’s and the Harquail Theatre Box Office (949-5477). Group rates are also available.

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Cops hunt bank fraudster

| 02/10/2012 | 84 Comments

3625653.jpg(CNS): According to a circular released by the RCIPS, officers from the Financial Crimes Unit are conducting an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of mortgage commitment fees from the Scotia Bank and Trust Cayman Limited that has directly affected a number of police officers. In a message from the FCU to police and civilian staff, the FCU reveals that as the investigation progressed into “complexities of this internal bank fraud”, investigators found that many of the potential victims of this fraud were police officers.

No arrests have been made in the case but, according to the internal circular, the police appear to be looking for Ilsa Archibold, who CNS understands has already left the jurisdiction. On Monday evening Cayman27 reported that Scotiabank had released a statement regarding the investigation.

“We are taking this situation very seriously and our preliminary assessment indicates that no Scotiabank mortgages were affected by this incident,” the bank said. “We have notified the police and are working cooperatively with them during their investigation. We hold employees to extremely high standards and do not tolerate any actions that do not meet those standards – at the hint of wrongdoing we take swift and decisive action.”

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No EIA on Shetty hospital

| 02/10/2012 | 61 Comments

front pic.jpg(CNS): There are no plans on the first phase of the major medical centre development by Dr Devi Shetty in East End for an Environmental Impact Assessment, CNS has learned.  According to records released by the health ministry on 28 September following an FOI request, the ministry has confirmed that up to date no EIA has been done. Correspondence between the developer’s local partner, the ministry and the Department of Environment  reveals that significant clearance of land in the area had been done without any consultation with local experts on the previously undisturbed habitat, which was described as ‘obscene’ by the DoE director.

Pictures that circulated recently showing the extent of the clearance of primary shrub habitat on previously untouched land triggered major concerns from the DoE about the failure of the developers to undertake an EIA before that work started. The clearance was undertaken at a time when neither the hospital nor a proposed supporting resort in the area had planning permission.

inside pic shetty site.jpgIn her correspondence to the chief officer in the ministry with responsibility for the environment, released to CNS under the FOI law, DoE Director Gina Ebanks- Petrie expressed her frustration at what is apparently the increasing inability to do anything to protect the country’s dwindling habitats and endangered species. Pointing to what she describes as the “obscene amount” of clearance at the site, she noted that the DoE were not even asked about the planned removal of so much important habitat.

Following the director’s email, Jennifer Ahearn contacted the minister but there appears to have been no response from him to her email pointing out that there has been no dialogue with the developer about the need for an EIA.

On 9 August last year Ahearn invited Gene Thompson, one of the local developers, to meet with the Environmental Impact Assessment Board. In his response Thompson stated he would let the ministry know when the team was ready to “move forward” to meet the EAB.  According to the FOI request, there appears to have been no further correspondence in mor than a year regarding any plans to mitigate what experts believe may be a devastating impact on the environment in the area.

At a recent meeting in Bodden Town to talk with potential workers for the development, Thompson confirmed to CNS that there were no plans at present to do a full scale EIA on phase one, which is a 140-bed hospital. Since then and following on from the correspondence between government and Thompson, CNS has learned that a significant amount of the clearance was undertaken on land still owned by local developer and investor, Joseph Imparato.

It is understood that he has plans to develop a resort and supporting infrastructure on the land around the hospital site to take advantage of what is expected to be an influx of people that will eventually work and visit the Health City. The DoE and the National Trust have both confirmed that the developer did not contact either organisation to assist, at the very least, in the rescue of important plant species before the clearance.

National Trust chair Carla Reid told CNS last week that when she called Thompson about the possibility of at least rescuing orchids and other critical plants from the site, he confirmed that the majority of clearance in the area so far has been undertaken by Imparato. He stated, however, that he would be willing to allow the Trust onto the hospital site in the coming weeks to remove some important species ahead of plans to clear that area in preparation for the start of construction.

This once undisturbed area of unique habitat will be transformed over the coming years as a result of the hospital project and the proposed resort. Aside from the myriad different species in the area, many of which are endangered, that are now under threat, the site is relatively close to the reserve set aside for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and was the type of habitat that those iguanas returned to the wild could have colonized.

Speaking to a Canadian environmental journalist this summer, Fred Burton said that not even counting the iguanas, this land is important shrubbery that contains hundreds of rare and threatened species. “A few weeks is all it will take to destroy it all and cover it with concrete,” the local conservation expert stated.

See e-mail correspondence released by the ministry over the clearance below.

Blog entry on blue iguanas on Radio Canada by environmental journalist visiting the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme at the time of the clearance on the Shetty/Imparato site.

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Stingray rescue sees captives returned to wild

| 02/10/2012 | 39 Comments

stingray-3 (295x300).jpg(CNS):  Stingrays that normally spend their time at the Sandbar and Stingray City were returned to the wild on Monday after Department of Environment officials rescued them from captivity at a local dolphinarium. DoE officials told CNS on Monday that they were able to successfully transfer four tagged stingrays from Dolphin Discovery to the Sandbar after the owners agreed to give up the creatures, which were identified as ones associated with the wildlife interaction zone (WIZ), after a local vet spotted the tags while visiting the facility. However, six other un-tagged rays still remain in captivity at the facility.

On Friday DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that the dolphin facility had also been asked to release the six rays that were not tagged but werelikely to be from the local population that frequents the Sandbar. However, the owners had not responded to that request and appeared reluctant to let these creatures go, she said.

It is understood that while less than half a dozen male rays were counted at the Sandbar during the most recent survey of the dwindling numbers, five of the six stingrays which the West Bay dolphinarium is continuing to hold captive are male.

The revelations that the Stingrays were being held at the tourist attraction highlighted the plight of these creatures as they have no protection in law. Although the Stingrays are supposed to be protected while they are inside the wildlife interaction zone around the Sandbar and Stingray City, if the rays swim outside that zone, as they frequently do, they have absolutely no protection.

Although there has been considerable public outrage about the stingrays being kept at the dolphinarium, because there is no evidence that the four tagged rays were taken from the WIZ there is nothing to prevent the facility from keeping the six untagged rays.  

Dolphin Discovery, as well as many other animal related businesses in Cayman, including the Turtle Farm, does not have a license to hold animals because the Department of Agriculture, inexplicably, is not enforcing the law, there is no possible sanction against the facility.

If the Animals Law was being enforced and the dolphinarium did have a license to hold these marine mammals, the acquisition of Stingrays would have required the facility to apply for a change of use license and the issue may have come to light sooner and created an opportunity for officials to refuse such a change and see all ten creatures released.

The recent situation has highlighted, once again, the inadequacy of current legislation and the failure of other government departments to protect wildlife in the Cayman Islands, despite the efforts of the DoE and the significance of Stingray City and the Sandbar to the wider tourism product.

Related article:

CITA calls for stingray laws

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Scheme aims to create martial arts scholarships

| 02/10/2012 | 0 Comments

design_lil-karate-white.jpg(CNS): One local student will be given a scholarship  to attend a local martial arts course after the first of what organisers hope will be seventeen corporate sponsors stepped up to the plate recently. The youngsters who will be chosen for the scholarships for the Purple Dragon Martial Arts programme come from all walks of life, some with mental, behavioural or physical challenges, some victims of broken or disadvantaged homes and some who would love to be a part of the dojo, but simply can’t afford to. The cost per student is $1,500 per year which includes tuition, full uniform, safety gear and “belt grading”, promotion through the ranks.

The scheme will offer selected candidates a chance to learn martial-arts discipline in a programme designed around associated values of self-confidence, self-control, motivation and respect.  It is aimed at primary and secondary students, offering youth an opportunity for personal growth through training in self-defence and self-discipline and organisers hope to find funding for another 16 individuals, already identified by schools, social services and Purple Dragon administrators.

Conyers Dill & Pearman (Cayman) said it has invested in the scholarship programme to fund a deserving student for one year of instruction at the facility. As the first of the corporate backers, Kevin Butler said the law firm was pleased to lend its support to the Purple Dragon dojo and was confident in the integrity of the organisation as well as the positive impact it has on young people. “This programme is something we can do directly to invest in the country’s future. We embrace the opportunity it presents for everyone. It’s a privilege,” he said.

Sponsors will gain a contract from each student, committing to regular attendance and timeliness, maintenance of school grades and behaviour reflecting respect for individuals and property.  They will also receive twice-yearly reports from the Purple Dragon teachers, parents, school and counsellors, tracking the performance of each student. Additionally, each participating company will gain invitations to such special events as demonstrations and gradings, offering a chance for first-hand observation of sponsored students, creating a comprehensive system of accountability for both pupils and the Purple Dragon dojo itself.

Sensei Geddes Hislop who founded Cayman’s dojo in 1989 said sponsors would have “the opportunity to make an important difference in the life of a child and within the community…leading to a brighter future tomorrow. He said the martial arts instruction “is proven to have a positive impact in people’s lives, no matter their age, working to increase strength and ability” while the formal discipline, “provides a foundation for personal development and growth for all of use, but chiefly in children and teenagers.

“We seek to achieve not just physical strength in our students….but also to instil a kind of emotional maturity, producing well-rounded persons with a drive to succeed and prepared to act from a position of quiet personal strength,” he added.

Michael Myles, government’s liaison officer for at-risk youth said the mentoring, structure and discipline the programme had had led to an improvement in behaviour and academic achievement of students.

Anyone interested in further information should contact Cathy Williams at 916-9900 or email her at cathy.williams@remax.ky. Alternatively, the Purple Dragon dojo is on 946-1241 and purple@candw.ky. Visitors to the dojo’s Facebook are welcome at Facebook@PurpleDragonCayman or welcome to visit the facility at any time.

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1st public sector monthly gong goes to school head

| 02/10/2012 | 0 Comments

DG Awards (222x300).jpg(CNS): Lyneth Monteith, principal at the John Gray High School was awarded the first ever employee of the month, on Friday, in a new public sector scheme initiated by the deputy governor. Described as a shining example of a hardworking, dedicated civil servant who was awarded this first internal government accolade as a result of consistent, positive, careful and prudent management, the deputy governor stated.  Franz Manderson, who is also the head of the civil service alongside other officials presented the award to Monteith at the school. 

“Ms Monteith has …proven herself to be a committed, caring and fair leader,” Manderson stated. “Ms Monteith’s consistent, positive, careful and prudent management is demonstrated through the steady growth and improvement of the John Gray High School and the positive development of the students. I would like to again thank her for demonstrating such a remarkable level of performance and commitment to the Cayman Islands Government, and encourage all Civil Servants to continue to strive for excellence,” he said.

The new accolades are an internal rewards scheme for civil servants, who will be nominated within their departments on a monthly basis. The awards set high standards which are expected from all Cayman Islands civil servants, a release from government stated.

Mary Rodrigues the CO in the education ministry said she was especially pleased that the first candidate for the awards scheme was a school principal. “Ms Monteith is a shining example of a hardworking, dedicated civil servant and she is a true servant leader. I congratulate her on this recognition and thank her for her outstanding contribution to our children and education system,” she added.

Monteith said she was very surprised by the honour of being the first recipient “I am committed to ensuring that my school provides the best educational experience for the students in our care as we prepare them to be tomorrow's leaders,” the head teacher stated.
 

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Spending cuts not being implemented

| 02/10/2012 | 30 Comments

throwing-money-away-252x300.jpg(CNS): Less than a quarter of the recommendations for spending cuts made during government’s review of the public sector that were accepted by Cabinet have been implemented, according to minutes released by the Deputy Governor’s Office. The minutes covering a meeting of civil service heads last month show only 21 of 97 (just over 21%) of potential cash saving measures have been adopted so far. The reasons for the delay in execution vary, the minutes record, but CS bosses heard that implementation targets will now be set as part of this year’s performance agreements for COs and other public sector heads.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said that a project oversight committee would also be created to monitor and report the progress of implementation to him.

The minutes show that a report on a number of other reports is also due in connection with the review of the Public Management and Finance Law, the Miller Shaw Report and Keith Luck Report.

In what appeared to be a case of bureaucratic overload, the minutes recorded that the recommendations made in those reports are to be categorized and then placed into yet another report for the deputy governor before the end of November. Then, in relation to queries about the status of the comprehensive review of the PSML, which made recommendations for improvement within the civil service, Manderson suggested that a small committee of chief officers and himself also review that report and determine which recommendations were outstanding and “ensure their timely implementation”.

Manderson revealed that he had been invited to attend the Heads of Civil Service conference in London this month. Chief officers engaged in the Phase 4 Review of the civil service will travel to London to meet with the Cabinet Office team involved in a similar exercise in the UK. The civil service heads will also meet with their counterparts in other UK agencies, the minutes stated. The FCO is covering the cost of Manderson’s travel and contributing to the cost of travel for the CO in keeping with the commitment made in the White Paper.

Meanwhile, the minutes also show that, despite the clampdown on spending and the need to cut jobs across the civil service, the moratorium on recruitment was not necessarily a blanket policy. Civil service portfolio head Gloria McField-Nixon said that recruitment requests that were put on hold during the budget proceedings were now being dealt with.

“Every request is being looked at in light of the budget for that particular ministry or department,” the minutes state. The deputy governor heard that he would be provided with reports on headcount and human resource related costs and “moratorium requests” would be become a monthly exercise.

Among the other issues raised at the 17 September meeting, Courts Administrator Kevin McCormac noted that the recent passing of legislation such as the Children’s Law and the Traffic Law were likely to have an impact on the court and suggested that a planned timetable about new laws should be issued to the relevant agencies from the drafting stage onwards to allow proper preparation.

See minutes in full below.

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Command centre upgrades to help LC weather storms

| 02/10/2012 | 0 Comments

LC Command Centre opens.jpg(CNS): An extension to the Little Cayman Command Centre which is expected to help residents on the smallest of the Cayman Islands was opened last week by the district administration minister. Work began in June on the existing multi-purpose building which serves as part of LC PWD’s residential quarters and also acts as a hurricane shelter. The 1,254 square-foot addition comes with a conference roomextra storeage capacity for hurricane supplies, bathroom facilities and an office for government staff. The windows, doors, walls and roof of the new facility are hurricane safety-rated and the building floor is 22 feet above sea level.

There is a backup generator to provide electricity if there is a power outage as well as internet service, to enable real-time access to Hazard Management Cayman Islands and Ministry officials  and to track approaching weather during a hurricane, officials revealed in a release from the ministry.

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly the minister responsible congratulated all the parties involved in the project for delivering it on time and within budget.

“This project was very important to the residents of Little Cayman because of the dire need for such a facility. I have been tracking hurricanes for many years and in particular Ivan, Gustavo and Paloma and we have noticed how easy it is for Little Cayman to be cut off in terms of communications and supplies, so this shelter will provide crucial back-up until unfavourable weather conditions pass," she stated.

Contractor James Thomas who was awarded the contract said it was a challenge to get material on the island but he and his 11-man crew made the most of it to complete the job on time.

Meanwhile, the district officer and PWD Project Manager Larry foster said he was relieved to have the new facility up and running. “We now have the privacy to make command decisions and we will be better equipped in the event of a storm.  This is a big improvement on what we had before,” he said.

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