Archive for October 11th, 2012

Elections Office makes kits for candidates

| 11/10/2012 | 10 Comments

kgomez (243x300).jpg(CNS): With just seven months to go before the governor prorogues the current parliament, the Elections Office is gearing up for the May 2013 general election. As part of its efforts to improve its services it has created a 'candidate kit', designed for anyone who plans to run in next year’s national ballot. To ensure that every candidate is fully aware of the laws and rules, the office has collated the constitution, elections law, important forms and paperwork, maps and details of polling and counting stations, the timetable of the process, information on election officials and a video all about running for office in one package.

The supervisor of elections told the press Thursday that the kit, which is an A-Z of the election, is part of a wider initiative to offer training for all candidates and to ensure that there are no excuses from any one running for office for not following the laws and rules governing elections.

At the last general election two UDP candidates, Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour, failed to meet the constitutional requirement to publish in a gazette all their interests in government contracts before a specific election deadline. Both men were allowed to go ahead and fight the election, however, as no lawful challenge was made to their right to run. When both men were elected to office, there was considerable controversy in the community when the attorney general failed to take any action against the men and what they had both said was an oversight and not a deliberate intention to deceive the electorate.

However, a group of voters from their constituency eventually mounted a challenge in the Grand Court via an originating summons. But the challenge failed after the deadline to file the action under the elections law was missed, which the chief justice ruled was the only way in law to make the challenge to the candidates' election to office.

Gomez said that the combination of the new kits, including the video, taking potential candidates through every step as well as all the rules and requirements regarding running for office, as well as the planned training sessions both ahead and after Nomination Day should fully prepare the fleet of would-be politicians for 2013.

The kits can now be collected from the office in Smith Road, priced at $125, which Gomez said covered the cost of producing the comprehensive kits.

Colford Scott, the deputy supervisor of elections, said that the governor has now approved the timeline for the countdown to the election, which begins on 12 December with the issuing by the governor of the election writ on 12 December.

Other key dates include 2 January, when the register for new voters wanting to take part in the election will close; the dissolution of parliament will be on 26 March followed by Nomination Day for candidates on 27 March. The general election day itself will be on Wednesday 22 May.

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Clock ticks on MLA increase

| 11/10/2012 | 47 Comments

_DSC8018-web.jpg(CNS): Government is running out of time to make its decision on how Cayman will vote for the three extra members of the parliament at the May 2013 General Election. The deputy supervisor of elections said Thursday that although the office has considered, and is prepared for, almost any eventuality that the government could opt for, it must make a decision before 12 December. Colford Scott said the governor had confirmed that the election writ, which defines how many candidates are returned and where, will be issued on 12 December so the Elections Office needs to know by then the shape of the 2013 election landscape.

Speaking to the press on Thursday about the preparations the Elections Office is making for next year’s national poll, the deputy supervisor said the office has not been given any indication by government what  option it is likely to pursue. He said the office had examined all of the possibilities and was prepared for almost anything but by 12 December it must know what that “anything” is.

“It would be very difficult to accommodate any changes after that point,” said Scott, as he pointed out that the writ actually states how many candidates are to be returned and where. He explained that if government reached12 December without having made the order in relation to the Boundary Commission Report 2010, the office would be missing the tools it needed to carry out the election process.

The Boundary Commission came up with three options in its report, and following the referendum on one man-one vote in July, the premier proposed a fourth option whereby the islands would be divided into nine constituencies, each with two representatives and each voter having two votes.

The fifth option, which CNS understands is finding favour with some elected members of government, is that proposed by the two independent members, Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, of deferring the expansion of the House until 2017 and retaining the current 15 members. This would mean that the size of Cabinet could not increase, even though the role of finance minister has been passed to the elected arm of the administration.

Scott explained that if government decided to retain the fifteen members of parliament, it would need to apply to the UK to change the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 as it currently requires an increase in the size of the country’s legislature at the 2013 General Election.

If a decision is made to retain the status quo, in order for the writ to be lawful on 12 December, the government will have to address that issue with the FCO and ultimately the Privy Counsel.

However, if government opts to add the three seats, it must decide where and how they will be fitted into Grand Cayman.

Based on the current population, the Boundary Commission made three recommendations. The first was for 18 single member constituencies along the boundaries defined in its report; the second was the creation of a seventh new electoral district between Bodden Town and George Town, which would have three representatives; and the third was to add two seats to the existing George Town constituency and one to Bodden Town.

At first, the premier indicated his preference for the third option and brought the report and an order to the Legislative Assembly for debate last year; however, the drafting of the order created some legal implications which forced government to withdraw  the documents.

As pressure built in the community for one man, one vote, government organised a national poll and Cayman had a national referendum in July. Although the majority of voters said ‘Yes’, the government opted to treat the poll as a people-initiated referendum and required 50% of all registered voters to vote ‘Yes’ and not just a simple majority.

Acknowledging that the idea of voters in George Town having six votes while others had one was not satisfactory, in the wake of the referendum result, Premier McKeeva Bush proposed the idea of creating nine double-member constituencies following the current single member boundaries and then merging them into pairs.

This would comply with the Boundary Commission's findings regarding the population across West Bay, George Town and most of Bodden Town, but North Side, East End and the eastern side of Bodden Town would have to be merged into one two-member district to make the voter numbers equal.

Although Bush said a committee would be appointed to examine this option, to date there has been no further developments regarding the proposal.

Members of the Legislative Assembly are scheduled to return to the country’s parliament on 5 November, when government faces an already packed legislative agenda and there has been no indication of how long members will sit.

Government’s priority will be to steer through laws that will enable the collection of revenue it needs to balance the public books during this financial year, but in order to meet the election deadline the government will also need to find time to finally decide how Cayman’s electorate will decide on its next government.   

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Elections Office makes kits for candidates

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FCO had nopower to stop lord’s appointment

| 11/10/2012 | 5 Comments

bellingham_0.jpg(CNS): The former overseas territories minister has told a local newspaper in his constituency in England that the FCO never had the power to either authorise or block the appointment of Lord Blencathra as the Cayman Islands representative in the UK. In the wake of news that the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards has cleared the Tory peer, who was appointed as Cayman’s London office chief by McKeeva Bush, Henry Bellingham, MP said the FCO had only ‘approved’ the appointment in the sense that it was willing to work with Lord Blencathra in that role.

The appointment had stirred up conflict between the Cayman premier and the FCO as McKeeva Bush had appointed Blencathra as the UK Cayman office boss before the FCO had checked whether the post could bring Blencathra into conflict of interest. Bush had also accused the Cayman governor, Duncan Taylor, of trying to stop the appointment when FCO officials took advice regarding the decision.

Speaking to Lynn News a Norfolk-based paper in the East of England, Bellingham said, “It was their decision, nothing to do with us. We took advice as to whether we had any say in the decision and the advice was no, we didn’t. When we ‘approved’ it, it wasn’t a technical approval. It doesn’t mean to say we had a say over the appointment. We approved it in the sense that we wanted to have a productive relationship with Lord Blencathra. We were basically neutral on it in a sense.”

Documents released under the UK’s FOI law to the Bureau of Investigative Journalists showed that Bellingham had written to Bush in December last year giving “provisional approval” for Blencathra’s appointment as the London office director.

The appointment of Blencathra has proved controversial as the role is normally held by a Caymanian. The premier made a decision to appoint the Conservative member of the House of Lords in an attempt to have greater understanding and influence in London for Cayman and in the European Union.

The appointment has also stirred up concerns in the UK because parliamentary rules bar members from accepting payments for parliamentary services. Labour MP Paul Flyn and Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron both queried whether the role would place the Tory peer in conflict.

However, Paul Kernaghan, the House of Lords commissioner for standards, cleared the peer recently and in a letter released by the Cayman government last weekend he said he was satisfied that the member of the House of Lords had not breached its code of conduct.

Related article: UK commissioner clears Lord

See UK article here.

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Smokers reminded to stub out in public

| 11/10/2012 | 30 Comments

smokefree.jpg(CNS): Government officials issued a reminder this week to smokers that smoking is not permitted inside public places or within ten feet of public buildings. The 2008 Tobacco Law and 2010 regulations prevent people from smoking in bars and restaurants, office buildings, businesses and other enclosed areas as well as up to10 ft. from any entry, exit or other opening. The Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said a public place means any place, including a workplace or public conveyance to which members of the public have access whether or not a fee is charged for entry.

The Law describes an “enclosed place” as a place which has a full or partial roof with at least 50% of its sides covered with walls, windows, blinds or curtains. Anyone who smokes in a public place is liable forsummary conviction to a fine of $2000 for their first offence and up to $10,000 for the second offence.

The list of smoke free places includes all offices, office buildings, warehouses and places of work, common areas in apartment buildings, condominiums and retirement homes, health care facilities and their grounds, educational facilities and their grounds, gyms, parks (including marine parks) and sport stadiums, beauty parlours, barber shops and Laundromats, enclosed bars, and restaurants, any means of transport (including boats) used for commercial, public or professional purposes and used by more than one person, all government owned facilities, public toilets and public transportation terminals (e.g. the cruise terminals), all shops and shopping centres, concert and convention halls, pool halls and shopping centres.

Dr Kumar also reminded merchants that cigarettes can only be sold in full packages as prepared by the manufacturers. Hence, it is illegal to sell single cigarettes.

If anyone has any doubts about the legislation, please contact the Public Health Department to avoid prosecution. Further information on the Tobacco Law 2008 and Regulations 2010 can be had by accessing ministryofhealth.gov.ky and www.hsa.ky

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Chamber looks for next class of local leaders

| 11/10/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a number of orientation sessions next week for its Leadership Cayman programme for next year. Already in its fourth year the community focused programme was designed to develop and enhance leadership skills by providing the opportunity for participants to assume active roles in meeting community needs.  Those who feel they can benefit from the six month long programme are invited to attend one of four sessions over the next two weeks.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 17 October between 5:30 – 6:30 at GT Library the second on Monday 22 October at  5:30 – 6:30  at the Chamber of Commerce office in Governor’s Square and then the third and fourth  will be on Wednesday 24 October and Monday 29 October also at the Chamber offices starting at 5-30pm.
Individuals taking the course will interact with diverse, community leaders and decision makers by organising and attending a series of seminars and retreats in areas ranging from business, government, education, media, social services, criminal justice, diversity, the arts and more.

Anyone interested in applying for the 2013 LC Programme can contact Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks on 949-8090 ext.123 or email tiffany.ebanks@caymanchamber.ky
More information can also be obtained from www.leadershipcayman.ky

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EPF misused as tax goes up

| 11/10/2012 | 25 Comments

264146_522238624468617_1692311998_n.jpg(CNS): Government will soon be increasing the tax it collects from people departing the islands as part of its revenue raising measures for this year’s budget. Some of those tax dollars should be earmarked for environmental protection but they are being used instead to help government remain compliant with the Public Management and Finance Law and not for conservation. Ever since the Environmental Protection Fund, drawn from departure taxes, was established in the 1990s, government has misused the fund by dipping into it for road maintenance or post hurricane clean-ups and more recently as a way of maintaining the necessary bank balance to meet its own public finance parameters.

With the exception of $200,000 spent on the Brac Parrot reserve some time ago, the more than $43 million that currently sits in government accounts, accoording tot he latest budget documents, has never be used as it was intended —  to buy land that can be used to protect some of Cayman’s unique but endangered habitat.

As Cayman faces multiple environmental problems and more and more land is cleared in the face of relentless development, the money that should be accessible to address problems such as the critically endangered ghost orchid, the declining parrot population and the desperate need to protect certain habitats from the bulldozer is cut off from the purpose for which it was intended and tied up in government’s reserves.

Although government will be increasing the money it takes from those passing through the airport and those travelling to Cayman by boat, other than on a cruise ship, it is very unlikely that the new cash will be channelled into the EPF.

Government is expected to steer the bill to amend the Travel (Departure Tax and Environmental Protection Fee) Law (2003 Revision) when it returns to the Legislative Assembly next month. The fee increase of $10 is part of a number of increases to various revenue measures which formed part of the delayed 2011/12 budget in order for government to gain UK approval for its spending plans for this financial year. This increase, together with an increase on the tourism accommodation tax from 10% to 13% is expected to generate over $3.1 million

Government currently takes $3.20 from air passengers and $1.60 from each cruise passenger from the departure fees for the Environmental Protection Fund. It is not clear yet if any of the new revenue generated from the departure tax increase of $10 will be directed to the fund. Even if it is, there is no indication that environmental protection issues are set to improve.

Currently, most of the environmental projects that are undertaken by the Department of the Environment or the National Trust are either funded through the private sector, individual donations, or grants from international organisations and transnational bodies and NGOs.

However, in the wake of the planning department’s decision to allow a developer to rip out mangroves that had been part of a replenishment project in South Sound, funded by an outside international grant, Cayman’s applications for future funding may well be viewed more sceptically on the international stage. With government appearing to be contradicting itself when it comes to its position on protecting the environment, access to grants in a competitive world are likely to dwindle.

The failure of government to pass the National Conservation Law has already seen Cayman lose out on some international awards for conservation regarding parrots, because the government is not seen as being committed to environmental protection and because it appears to already have $40 million earmarked for such projects that it is not properly utilizing.

The original intention of the fund, which was set up in 1997, was to acquire land for conservation purposes but it has been used instead to pad out the public purse and allow government to meet obligations in the PMFL that require a certain level of funds to cover 90 days of the costs of government at any given time.

The DoE has persistently taken the position that the money is meant to be used to buy land identified as critical habitat for conservation. The sentiments were echoed by National Trust chair Carla Reid recently when she spoke to CNS about the challenges faced by the Trust in its goal to increase the percentage of land currently protected in Cayman from a meagre 5% to 10% before 2020. She, too, said that with millions of dollars sitting in the fund government could help conservation efforts by buying up land and giving it to the Trust to protect.

The DoE director has also noted that her department cannot plan with any confidence what land it should be seeking to purchase because it does not know to what extent the fund is going to be tied up helping government comply with its financial legal requirements.

With the NCL still gathering dust after numerous consultations over the last few years and little political will for the law to be steered through the Legislative Assembly, the problem of the fund being diverted from the environment is compounded. The current environmental minister has proved to have very little interest in that part of his ministerial responsibilities and while, like his predecessor, he has said on many occasions that the government is committed to the bill, there is zero evidence of that claim.

With no comprehensive law to protect the natural environment, a minister with little interest, other arms of government undermining the work of the DoE, the National Trust funding cut and fundraising becoming ever more competitive, the diversion of the Environmental Protection Fund is just one more nail in the coffin, many conservation experts now believe, for Cayman’s natural resources.

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Woman stabbed for groceries

| 11/10/2012 | 89 Comments

(CNS): A 24-year-old woman was repeatedly stabbed by an armed man for her grocery shopping during a street mugging in George Town on Wednesday evening. The woman, who was taken to George Town hospital for treatment, received lacerations to her stomach, leg and left hand. Police said that the knife attack occurred at around 5:45pm as the woman walked from Courts Road to the rear of Lakeside Apartments on Esterley Tibbets Highway. The victim was approached by the suspect, who was armed with a knife and described as around 6 feet tall, slim build, light brown skin with low cut hair.

The man was wearing blue shorts and a white short-sleeved t-shirt. He spoke with a Caymanian accent.

After the attack on the woman, the man ran off with the victim’s groceries, and although police searched the area, the perpetrator was not found, an RCIPS spokesperson stated.

Anyone who has any information about the crime or the suspect should contact DS Teekel Cowans at George Town  Police Station CID on 949-4222, the RCIPS tip-line on 949-7777, or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).
 

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Delays expected as construction work closes roads

| 11/10/2012 | 4 Comments

(CNS): As Dart continues the work on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway Extension the police are warning drivers that roads in the area will be closed for around three hours on Thursday. The RCIPS said that the junction of the West Bay Road and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway by Tiki Beach and the junction of Lime Tree Road and Esterley Tibbetts Highway by Lime Tree Bay will be closed at 10am for approximately three hours on Thursday morning to facilitate construction work.

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Shots fired in West Bay

| 11/10/2012 | 9 Comments

crime-scene-tape.jpg(CNS): Two men from West Bay have been arrested over the suspected possession of an unlicensed gun after shots were fired in the district Wednesday afternoon. Police said they are now investigating the incident after responding to a report in the district at around 3pm. A report was received by the 911 Emergency Call Centre that gunshots had been heard in the Watercourse Road area. Police officers attended the scene, where they discovered spent shells on the road, but no one was injured as a result of the incident. A search of the surrounding areas by Uniform/USG and Air Support was carried out and two men, one aged 34 and one aged 28, were detained at a private residence shortly after.

"Both men were subsequently arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm," a police spokesperson said.

Anyone who has any information about the crime or the suspect should contact West Bay Police Station on 949-3999, the RCIPS tip-line on 949-7777, or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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