Archive for October 29th, 2012

Wheel thieves target Honda cars, cops warn

| 29/10/2012 | 31 Comments

images_39.jpg(CNS): The RCIPS has issued a warning to the owners and drivers of Honda motor cars following more than a dozen reports of stolen wheels. A police spokesperson said Monday that owners should be extra vigilant following this spate of wheel thefts in the George Town area. Since the beginning of September thirteen reports have been received by police regarding this unusual theft.  Senior PC Fran General, of George Town police station, said drivers can protecttheir wheels relatively inexpensively with locking wheel nuts and by avoiding parking cars in poor light.

“One set of locking wheel nuts can protect all four wheels on your car”, she said. “You should also try to park your car in a well-lit area to deter potential thieves.”

Although the recent thefts have been from Hondas, SPC General urged all car owners to invest in locking wheel nuts. “Although Honda is the vehicle of choice today, tomorrow the thieves may decide to target other makes and models of cars, so my advice is that it’s better to spend a few dollars now than face the huge expense of having to replace your wheels and tyres.”

Anyone who wants to speak to a police officer about crime prevention matters should contact their local police station.

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Inaugural conservation nominees revealed

| 29/10/2012 | 3 Comments

ghost orchid2_1.jpg(CNS): The list of people and companies that have been nominated to receive the first ever Governor’s Conservation Awards has been unveiled. The shortlisted finalists in the Conservationist of the Year category are Arie Barendrecht, Bonnie Scott Edwards and Mike Vallee. Finalists in the Corporate Conservation category are Cayman Islands Brewery, Montessori-by-the-Sea, and Yellow Pages. And Peter Hillebrand, Neil van Niekerk and Sea Elements are in the running for the Tourism Conservation award. In the Heritage category the finalists are the Cayman Islands Catboat Club, Deborah Truchan, and Roy Bodden.

The panel of judges convened by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor released the shortlist of the finalists this week ahead of the awards gala celebrating the National Trust’s 25th Anniversary at Grand Old House on Friday, when the winners will be announced.

National Trust General Manager Christina McTaggart said the Trust, which launched the awards in liaison with the Governor’s office, was delighted by the response.

“We were very impressed with not only the number but also the calibre of the nominations,” she said as she thanked everyone who took the time to nominate.

Nominees in each category had to meet a comprehensive set of criteria in order to be considered as a finalist. The winner in each category will be announced the evening of the Trust Gala, which is an important fundraiser for the organization which is in critical need of financing to help it conserve Cayman’s dwindling natural resources and heritage.

Tickets to the Gala and Awards are still available. To book a table or purchase tickets please contact Basia McGuire at 749-1129 or bmcguire@nationaltrust.org.ky.

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$584k added to Tempura bill

| 29/10/2012 | 32 Comments

Bridger 24.jpg(CNS): Although lead investigating officer Martin Bridger and most of his special police investigation team (SPIT) left the island well over three years ago, the discredited enquiry he led into alleged corruption within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is still costing the local tax payer money. According to information released by the Portfolio of Legal Affairs, since the last public trial relating to the investigation in October 2009, the attorney general has run up a bill of almost $600,000 dealing with other legal claims and battles that relate to both former police commissioner, Stuart Kernohan, and Bridger in an effort to prevent the former Scotland Yard cop from using documents to clear his own name in Kernohan’s law suit.

The investigation into the RCIPS, which was paid for by the Cayman tax payer, failed to uncover any wrongdoing. It began as an undercover operation in September 2007 and reached the height of notoriety when the team wrongfully arrested Grand Court Judge Alex Henderson. The arrest was found to be unlawful following a ruling by Sir Peter Cresswell, who now sits in Cayman’s financial services court.

Two more major courtroom dramas followed, the first involving former MLA and Cayman Net News reporter, Lyndon Martin, for breaking and entering into his own workplace, and the second in which former deputy commissioner ofpolice, Rudolph Dixon, was charged with misconduct in a public office. Both men were cleared and the investigation was eventually closed down.

Since then, however, Kernohan has filed a wrongful dismissal claim and Martin Bridger has gone to battle with the Cayman authorities over documents he holds regarding the corruption investigation, which he believes was prematurely halted.

In response to an FOI request by CNS, the Portfolio of Legal Affairs wrote to the news website stating that three separate matters relating to Operation Tempura were on-going since the Dixon trial, two of which are taking place in Cayman and one in the UK. The total cost to the public purse so far is $584,107.42 but these cases are far from over.

Although there has been no official confirmation regarding the status of thevarious on-going cases, it is understood that Burman Scott is still waiting on a settlement on damages he claimed from the Cayman government relating to his arrest in the Dixon case. 

In addition, Kernohan is continuing his case against Bridger and the Cayman government over his dismissal, which he says was unlawful. The former top cop was dismissed by the then governor Stuart Jack when he refused to return to the island during his suspension in connection with the investigation.

Finally, Bridger is now engaged in a legal battle with the attorney general as the authorities here try to prevent him from using certain documents in his possession in the Kernohan case. The documents relate to the investigation and some believe they might prove embarrassing for the Cayman and UK authorities.

CNS understand that the documents may support Kernohan’s contention that both Stuart Jack and the overseas territories security advisor, Larry Covington, were well versed about the plan that Kernohan and his officers were following in connection with the trigger that resulted in Operation Tempura.

The investigation centred on claims made by Lyndon Martin to Rudolph Dixon that the Cayman Net News editor and proprietor, the late Desmond Seales, was engaged in a corrupt relationship with Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis. On hearing the accusations, Kernohan had informed the governor and Covington, telling them both that the police were working with Martin and his reporter colleague, John Evans, to try and find evidence for the very serious accusations before action was taken against Ennis.

Given the sensitivity of the accusations and the involvement of the media, Kernohan wanted to move with caution before issuing a warrant to search the offices of the newspaper, which could have easily have been misinterpreted as a threat to free speech.

As a result, Kernohan and Chief Inspector John Jones sanctioned a late night exploration by Martin and Evans of the newspaper offices where the men both worked before taking the step of issuing a warrant.

The bungled attempt by Evans and Martin to find corroborating evidence failed to recover any supporting documentation for the allegations but set off a train of bizarre events which resulted in the Operation Tempura investigation, which has already cost the Cayman public millions of dollars and is likely to cost it much more.

Visit the CNS Library for documents relating to Operations Tempura and Cealt.

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Local artist triggers petition for conservation law

| 29/10/2012 | 21 Comments

article-0-15B96A53000005DC-403_964x574 (257x300).jpg(CNS): Guy Harvey has joined the growing chorus of voices pressuring the Cayman government to pass the National Conservation Law. The internationally renowned marine wildlife artist is leading a petition drive asking government to immediately put the law into effect following the recent discovery of several stingrays from Cayman’s famous Sandbar at a captive dolphin facility. Harvey is now publicly backing the law as it will close the loophole that currently only protects stingrays from being taken when they are actually in Cayman’s designated Wildlife Interaction Zones. The petition was launched earlier this month and at the time of posting this story had attracted just over 1,200 names. (Photo Claudio Gazzaroli – Barcroft media)

Harvey’s campaign, which is targeting 10,000 people, comes after the four tagged rays found at Dolphin Discovery were returned to the wild after a public outcry. However, the facility still holds six other rays that were not tagged but were believed to have been taken from local waters. Dolphin Discovery is holding on to the six untagged stingrays. 

“The well-being of stingrays affects every single person in the Cayman Islands,” said Harvey, as he pointed to the half a million visitors per year from around the world that come to swim and interact with the rays at the famous natural attraction.  “By signing this petition you are speaking out against the unconscionable acts of harming stingrays, especially when taking them out of their natural habitat,” Harvey added.  “Maintaining the ecological health of these stingray populations for the long-term will require management and conservation programs based on a thorough knowledge of the biology of these animals.”

Harvey was involved in local research work on the Cayman stingray population this year in which anecdotal evidence that the population at the Sand Bar and Stingray city was in decline was confirmed.

The Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) based at Nova Southeastern University conducted a census in January and sampled only 61 rays in the standard three-day research period at the Sandbar, which represents a significant 38% decrease in number of rays compared to the last census in 2008. This summer GHRI returned with the support of the Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff. 

Over three days the team, working with Department of Environment staff and several volunteers, sampled 57 rays, down from 61 in January, and found only 5 males at the Sandbar .

The team spent a day at the original Stingray City and sampled 11 rays, including 2 males. They also sampled 3 rays at Rum Point, including one male, bringing the total to 71 rays sampled. However, the low number of males generally is cause for concern.

“These iconic animals have given so much to benefit the Cayman Islands that it's time the government returned the favour by immediately approving the National Conservation Law,” said Harvey.

Successive governments have continued to stallon the NCL, despite the wide support for its implementation and a critical need for legislation to protect Cayman's threatened natural resources.

The proposed legislation covers the marine environment but also deals with Cayman’s land-based resources, much of which is seriously endangered from a range of threats, in particular the persistent and relentless pace of development. Although successive governments have discussed the implementation of an environmental law for over a decade, none have had the political will to see it through because of strong opposition based on the misguided claim that it would stop all development.

Meanwhile, as the fight continues to protect all of Cayman’s wildlife, the Sandbar received extremely positive coverage in the UK media Monday, when the Daily Mail published a collection of beautiful photographs from the Sandbar and Stingray City by photographer Claudio Gazzaroli. The collection of pictures depicts just how unique and beautiful the attraction is.

Sign the petition here.

See Daily Mail article here.

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Locals face ‘reinforced concrete’ ceiling, says Miller

| 29/10/2012 | 90 Comments

glassceiling72 (271x300).jpg(CNS): The introduction of ten year work permits and the exclusion of a wide range of posts from work permits at all in the insurance industry will create a “reinforced concrete ceiling" for Caymanians, says North Side MLA Ezzard Miller. The glass ceiling that has existed for many years as a result of successive governments' failure to properly enforce existing immigration laws has gradually turned into a concrete one, he said, and the UDP government has now reinforced that concrete with this latest change to the law. The independent member described the amendments to the immigration regulations as yet another move by government to put Caymanians out of work.

Miller said that the offer to the insurance sector for work-permit free posts for secretaries and support staff was an outrage given how many Caymanians are already out of work, underemployed or unable to get promotion. He questioned the logic of giving new firms access to benefits that existing firms do not have and wondered how long before they would depart and come back as a new company to access the benefit.

“We have a saying in Cayman that one fish in the basket is worth a hundred of them in the sea,” he said, as he pointed to the move for government to allow new insurance firms setting up shop access to benefits that those here and paying their dues will not get.

“We are likely to see a surge of overseas workers coming here now, which will make it even harder for Caymanians to get work,” he said.

Miller described the ten year permits as a serious impediment to progression for Caymanians in the financial sector where they already faced many barriers to advancement.

“This turns what was once a glass ceiling into a reinforced concrete one when it comes to the advancement of local people in the country’s main employment sector,” he said. “This is another typical UDP immigration policy to keep Caymanians out of jobs. Every change the government has made to the immigration law since it came to office has made it more difficult for locals to get work or get promoted.”

The latest regulations have now passed through Cabinet and have been published in the local gazette. The publication of the regulations follows the latest immigration law amendment, which is not expected to be the last. Government is still working on the most significant changes to the law, which will address the temporary suspension of term limits, known as the rollover policy, making the suspension long term.

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UK won’t let up on good governance in TCI

| 29/10/2012 | 8 Comments

7-31-2012-10-17-50-AM-8764506 (243x300).jpg(CNS): Despite the introduction of the Turks and Caicos Constitution, which paved the way for a return to democracy for the local people, the UK has made it clear that it will not be taking a back seat. Ric Todd, the territory’s governor, said the administrative arm of government will have a vital role to play in “ensuring transparency and good government” on the islands. He also warned there would there no let-up in the investigation following the findings of the corruption inquiry which triggered off direct rule in 2008.  Meanwhile, the TCI’s business council has started the second phase of its battle against VAT, which was introduced by the UK interim government in the run-up to the elections.

Governor Ric Todd said Monday that significant progress had been made in the corruption investigation following the commission of enquiry. He said that since the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) and a Civil Recovery Programme were set up 13 people, including four former cabinet ministers, had been indicted with serious criminal offences, including bribery, conspiracy to receive bribes, conspiracy to defraud the TCIG, conceal or transfer the proceeds of criminal conduct, and conspiracy to pervert the course of  justice.

“International arrest warrants and Interpol Red Notices have been issued in respect of the former Premier Michael Misick and the developer Kem Cinay.  Collectively, 2,462 acres of Crown land have been recovered and various financial settlements received,” he added.

“There will be no let-up in the prosecution of those who have been indicted and of any further accused who may be charged,” Todd said, adding that the work of the team would continue, directed by the Special Prosecutor Helen Garlick. He promised resources for the Royal Turks & Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF) to improve its capability to investigate serious and organised crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering, bribery and corruption, as the special team is integrated into the local police force.

“In order to assist the RTCIPF and pass on their expertise, over the coming months, the Special Investigation Team will be gradually integrated as a self-contained team within the RTCIPF.  The SIPT will be tasked with supporting the on-going prosecutions, ensuring that the current outstanding corruption investigations are concluded and equally important ensuring that their expertise and the information it has gathered is passed to specialist RTCIPF officers,” he said.  “I have the constitutional authority to ensure that necessary investigations and prosecutions continue and the necessary resources are allocated for this.”

Meanwhile, as the country prepares for elections next month, the business community is not letting up either, as it continues its opposition to VAT.  Business leaders are deeply concerned about the adverse effects the implementation of VAT will have on the islands’ economy and local businesses and have accused Governor Todd of a high handed, arrogant colonial-style attitude and failing to consult business stakeholders.

“The London-imposed interim government is currently in power in Turks and Caicos. However the people will have their own free elections on November 9th and the leaders of both parties have publicly opposed the introduction of VAT.  The TCIBC believe that VAT should be a decision for the newly elected government,” officials from the group stated in a release.

The business community says that the interim government hastily introduced a complex tax that is expensive to implement, expensive to collect and places additional burdens on the business community. Over half of the country’s electorate have signed an anti-VAT petition demanding that the government delay the VAT for more analysis on the impact it will have on the local economy.

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Prestigious UK scholarships up for grabs

| 29/10/2012 | 0 Comments

CU-Cap-and-Gown.jpg.jpg(CNS): Local graduates now have the opportunity to apply for the internationally renowned Chevening Scholarships, a global education award from the UK government. The Scholarships, which are funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations, and awarded to exceptional individuals, operate in over 100 countries worldwide, and now support about 700 students annually. Typically for a one-year Master’s degree, in any subject and at any UK university, they are aimed particularly at high quality candidates who are likely to assume leadership roles in their future careers.

There are no age limits, but candidates who have already demonstrated leadership potential will be particularly welcome.  There is strong competition for the limited number of scholarships that are offered each year, local officials said.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that the scholarship offers a unique opportunity.
“It enables talented individuals to establish social, cultural, academic or commercial partnerships with the UK,” it said. The FCO has also launched a global website, www.chevening.org, making the scholarships more accessible.
Chevening alumni have an excellent record of rising to positions of leadership across a wide range of fields: including politics, business, the media, civil society, religion, and academia. Some work as MPs, leading journalists, or policy advisers to NGOs and think tanks; others occupy senior positions in commercial organisations. Alumni include Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda; Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati and Alvaro Uribe Velez, the former President of Colombia.
Over the past eighteen years, some 25 Caymanians have received Chevening scholarships for postgraduate study in Britain.  Previous scholars have returned to the Cayman Islands to take up employment in a number of Government Departments and elsewhere.  The Chevening programme is administered locally by the Governor’s Office.
Completed applications must be submitted online using the www.chevening.org website by Saturday 1 December 2012.  Late applications will not be accepted.  Please contact Gill Skinner (+1 345 244 2431 or Gillian.Skinner@fco.gov.uk) or Tom Hines (+1 345 244 2434 or Tom.Hines@fco.gov.uk) at the Governor’s Office if you have any questions.

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$200M airport deal on table

| 29/10/2012 | 73 Comments

2373.jpg(CNS): A deal to redevelop Owen Roberts International Airport under the coordination of the Canadian government’s procurement agency is still on the table more than a year after the premier announced the possible public-private partnership last August. According to a presentation given by Canadian Commercial Corporation along with its local partner the Paramount Group last week, it will be taking on the $200 million project to double the airport’s capacity via a concession agreement and leasing the airport for as long as 40 years. The CCC says there will be no cost to government and it will return as much as $13 million to the CIAA. However, it is still not clear if the arrangement will pass muster with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility.

If government goes ahead with the proposed deal the corporation will be taking fees from the airport that would have gone to the government owned company. It will use that money to develop what will remain a public owned resource, which makes it subject to UK fiscal supervision.

Furthermore, it is not clear if the decision to work with the Canadian corporation and the various partners involved, including the local partner, will be considered by the FCO as meeting best international l procurement practice. In a presentation last week to local stakeholders, the various partners on the project were revealed but no tendering process has ever taken place.

Although the company has stated that itwill return millions of dollars annually to the Cayman Islands Airport Authority during the 40 year concession, it will be taking landing and other taxes from those using the airport. The corporation and its partners will make their profit mostly from the retail that will form part of the redevelopment and, it said, from doubling traffic to the airport. The $200 million development will include the extension of the runway and an expansion of the terminals.  The proposed deal also includes an up-front payment to the Cayman government of $30 million.

The corporation will be responsible for the project but alongside the Paramount Group, which was described as the “strategic local partner”, the lead developer will be Aecon group inc, the aviation advisor will be Mott MacDonald Limited, the lead architect will be Scott Associates, and the money will come from Scotiabank, with Heenan Blaikie LLP, as the “Co-developer and Legal Advisor”.

The presentation reveals a commitment to employ local sub-contractors and to help civil servants working at the airport to transition into the private sector. The corporation also promises to train local staff and provide employment and engage local businesses to develop the new Airport.

The corporation said it would also work with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) and the Department of Tourism to increase air traffic to Cayman. Under the deal the Canadian government will guarantee contract performance and to pay a yearly concession fee to the CIAA. It will run and maintain the airport to the required service levels and uphold international environmental standards.

The local airport authority will still own the airport, set the performance standards, regulate and monitor the concession and receive a share of the profits. It will also retain responsibility for air traffic control, weather, fire and rescue, security and the airports emergency plan.

Paramount released a statement as well as the CCC’s presentation regarding the talks Thursday, which stated that positive feedback had been received at all meetings held by the Canadian team. Pointing to the doubling of capacity and the cash for government, Paramount said there would be important short term safety upgrades, and the generation of significant employment opportunities and dramatically improved customer service experience, all at no cost to the Cayman Islands public purse.

“Canada, through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, offers the advantage of contracting for the delivery of complex infrastructure projects on a Government-to-Government basis. Simplified acquisition, reduced risk and an enhanced bilateral relationship are key advantages of this approach. Collaborative project definition and planning are the foundation of the project development and implementation process proposed by the Canadian team,” Paramount stated in the release.

See press statement below.

Although Paramount sent the details of the Canadian Commercial Corporation presentation unsolicited to all the media, it has requested that the documents were removed from the CNS website after they were posted with the story this morning. CNS is not sure why this request, which flies in the face of transparency, has been made. However, until we have clarified our position we have removed the documents. CNS has a policy of publishing all documents it receives as we believe this is in the public interest.

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Jamaican dengue outbreak surges in wake of Sandy

| 29/10/2012 | 0 Comments

mosquito_500px.jpg(CNS): As Cayman begins to count a rise in the number of local transmission of Dengue fever Jamaica is dealing with a surge of cases according to local officials. The Jamaican health minisitry is reporting that the number of suspected cases has risen to 2198.  Rainfall from Hurricane Sandy last Wednesday has created new mosquito breeding sites officials say as they warn people to be vigilant before control operations, including spraying and fogging begins again this week. Cayman is also seeing its operations increase after the fifth locally transmitted case was revealed last week. The Cayman Islands public health officials are still waiting on result of a number of other cases sent overseas for testing.

The department said it is waiting on results for a further 20 cases which means there are likely to be more confirmed locally transmitted cases over the coming weeks as a result of the recent rain and the increase in standing water where the Aedes aegypti breeds.

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