Archive for November 22nd, 2012

Miller warns of class action

| 22/11/2012 | 14 Comments

ezz omov (229x300).jpg(CNS): The independent member of the country’s parliament representing North Side has warned the government that it could face a law suit regarding the massive inequity that exists in Cayman’s political landscape. With the introduction of the Bill of Rights this month and the confirmation that in the next general election George Town electors will be able to cast six votes compared to the single vote given to his constituents and those in the neighbouring district, Ezzard Miller said government could face legal class actions from registered voters for what is clearly political discrimination. Miller stated that multi-member constituencies also fall foul of the main body of the 2009 Constitution, which could also see government in the courts.

Speaking during the debate on Wednesday evening on the motion for the next general election and the additional seats, which was brought by the premier, Miller said it had been a “long, long, long, long time in coming”. The motion was based on a report which was competed in June 2010 and Miller said that, of the three recommendations made, the  government had picked the worst one.

The independent member noted that even the commissioners had said that giving two more seats to George Town would create a worrying unevenness of power for the capital’s voters.It would give them a far greater influence on the make-up of government compared to those people voting in single member constituencies.

“I have tried in several ways to give government the opportunity to implement one man, one vote,” he said. “I moved a motion asking for the appropriate amendments to the Election Law and I was part of a group that started a people-initiated referendum, which was hijacked by government as soon as they discovered we were going to get the votes needed.”

Although 65% of people voted for one man, one vote, it was not enough to pass the government’s threshold. But that, Miller said, does not change the conflicts the government now faces. He pointed out that the additional votes in George Town in particular not only conflict with the constitution itself but also the Bill of Rights

Pointing to Section 92 of the constitution, Miller read that “any person who is registered as an elector in an electoral district is entitled to vote for an elected member,” he said. “I have been unable to find any definition of ‘an’ that is plural. So in the election of 2013, while we may have multiple representatives in the districts, each elector is only entitled to vote for one candidate,” he said.

Miller said that, in order for the election to be constitutional and lawful, the government will have to use the first past the post principle in districts where there are more than one seats and the candidates that get the most votes will win. “But each voter should only be allowed to vote for one,” he added.

Miller said he did not know how government was going to get around this constitutional issue because the only justification for what the MLAs were doing in the parliament that evening — voting for such large multi-member districts — was because people on the government benches believed they have more chance of getting elected if there were more seats.

Alongside the constitutional problem government faces with its decision on how it plans to settle the question of the additional seats, was article 16 of the Bill of Rights, which states that government cannot discriminate against any person on various listed grounds, one of which is political.

Reading from the Bill, he said, “Government shall not treat any person in a discriminatory manner affording different and unjustifiable treatment.” But  with this motion the government was deliberately giving George Town voters six votes, he said, and “committing a discriminatory act against the people I represent, and this will make a very interesting class action suit.” “We still have time up until today as the Elections Office said they are ready to implement one man, one vote,” Miller stated, as he issued a warning about the legal action the government was very likely to face on several fronts.

“This motion which places six representatives in the district of George Town … in my opinion is the most unequal way possible we could have implemented the increase,” he said, adding that he could not support the bill.

“I can serve notice now that whenever the government brings the Election Law I will be filing an amendment to change section 44 to tie in with 92 of the constitution, stating that no person shall cast more than one vote for an elected member,” he said.

However, the independent member warned that if government does not make the change, wherever a law has not been amended to comply with the constitution, that document takes precedence.

He said that “any law not in compliance with constitution and not yet amended shall be read as if it is already amended. As section 92 of the constitution says 'a representative”, Miller said, section 44 of the election law is in contravention and has to be read as if already amended, giving government no option but to allow all voters on election day only one vote.

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Conservationists says CTF released injured turtles

| 22/11/2012 | 77 Comments

WSPA Image- injured baby turtle (434x500).jpg(CNS): Last Sunday the Cayman Turtle Farm set the largest number of young turtles free in one gofor more than a decade, but a conservation organisation said that some of those animals were injured. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which is mounting a campaign to turn the farm into a conservation facility, said it had a representative at the event who took photographs and documented injuries to some of the turtles being released. Organised in conjunction with the Pirate’s Week Committee, the release, which involved participation by members of the public, took place on the shores of the North Sound. (WSPA photo shows turtle with chunk bitten out of rear flipper)

WSPA recently published a damning report about the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) and has been pressing the Farm's management to work with them to phase out the breeding of turtles for meat and instead create a world class facility for conservation of the various endangered turtle species. The Cayman Turtle Farm has in turn denied all of the serious accusations made by WSPA and has stated that it will be carrying out its own independent audit next month.

In a press release about Sunday’s event, the CTF said it featured a significantly higher number of turtles being released than in recent years, “largely due to a highly successful nesting season, which saw a record number of eggs laid and an increased hatching rate.”

However, the WSPA raised concerns that the release was a PR stunt to detract from the bad publicity the Farm has received following the publication of its revelations that pointed to numerous shortcomings and major concerns at the CTF. WSPA Central America and the Caribbean Programmes Officer and trained veterinarian, Roberto Vieto, said that what appeared on the surface to be a coup for sea turtle conservation was another example of bad practice.

“The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) had a supporter on the ground during the release, who saw evidence of turtles with visible defects being released,” he stated. “The Cayman Turtle Farm allowed untrained Cayman residents or tourists to freely handle the baby sea turtles; this bad handling practice can be extremely stressful for the animals, plus potentially affect the successful adaptation of the sea turtles in their natural habitat.”

Questioning the huge surge in turtles released this year after several years of modest release, the conservation expert wondered if it was merely a reaction to the bad publicity.

“WSPA believes the recent release is further evidence that the Farm is ignoring our concerns about continuing animal cruelty and bad practice. WSPA is still hoping to engage with the Farm constructively on these issues, but unfortunately the Farm seems unwilling to listen,” Vieto added.

The Turtle Farm acknowledged that many people were involved in the release as it had raffled the chance to release one of 20 of the turtles, with the other 80 being released by lucky spectators chosen on the day itself.  

“Our release programme is dear to our hearts and a central component of our conservation activities as we continue to preserve the Green Sea Turtle population,” said Cayman Turtle Farm Managing Director Tim Adam. “This is a very important event for us, as we are releasing a larger number of turtles than we have in several years.”

He added that the release was the ultimate expression of the Farm’s conservation mission.

“As these baby turtles cross the sand, enter the water and start new lives in the sea, it is an awesome moment that gives us hope for the future — hope that the wild population will continue to grow and flourish with our help. With releases such as this one, the Cayman Turtle Farm is boosting native stocks and helping to rebuild a wildlife population that in the past had become almost completely depleted,” he added.

Both yearlings and advanced hatchlings were released and some were fitted withPassive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) injected under the skin to allow researchers to identify the animals and better understand migration and nesting patterns.

Despite the injuries and defects documented by the observer from the WSPA, the Farm said that, as part of the release, turtles were quarantined and reviewed for any disease or defect and yearlings were prepared by being placed in conditions that replicate the natural habitat beforehand.

The Farm said that people who could not be at Sunday’s event could join the “virtual” turtle release event on the Cayman Turtle Farm’s Research and Conservation Facebook page to view photos and video of the event.

Although the Farm now says the rise in numbers is the beginning of a return to major release in the future, WSPA noted that of the 5,000 green sea turtles at the facility last year less than 1% were released, while over 14% died due to stress, disease and deformity and 15% were slaughtered for meat. Of the 31,000 turtles the farm claims to have released since the 1960s, only a dozen turtles nesting on Cayman's beaches have tags — a 0.04% success rate for conservation after some 40 years.

Related article on CNS: Report slams Turtle Farm

Read more about The World Society for the Protection of Animals

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George Town shares spoils with Cayman International

| 22/11/2012 | 0 Comments

pflplayoffs210112 044 (236x300).jpg(CUC-PFL): Saturday’s action between George Town Primary and Cayman International School (CIS) at the Annex Field nearly produced two four-goal heroes. In the Under 9 matchup, CIS’ Jonathan Rado notched three goals as he guided his team to victory over a lively George Town Primary team who kept battling on until the final whistle. The young CIS striker nearly made it four but missed a penalty in the second half as his team emerged 3-0 winners. On the other side of the ball, George Town’s energetic young forward Isaac Ebanks was a constant menace to the CIS rear-guard but could not find the back of the net.

In the Under 11 game, George Town’s talented midfielder Joshua O’Garro scored four goals as George Town Primary concluded the morning’s activities with a 4-0 win over the Under 11s from CIS.

George Town Primary stamped their authority early on in the game as Joshua O’Garro went a few customary “mazey” runs only to be stopped in his tracks by CIS skipper Francisco Magno and his troops. With his younger brother Micah orchestrating George Town’s backline, Joshua was free to go forward and go forward he did. Not surprisingly, in the 24th minute, he finally found the back ofthe net and led his team into half time 1-0 up.

The second half began much like the first half had ended as George Town Primary pushed forward for more goals. In the 45th minute, Joshua was upended in the box and converted the penalty to make it 2-0. With fatigue setting in for a majority of the CIS players, young O’Garro took advantage and netted his team’s third in the 49th minute and his and his team’s fourth of the day in the 57th minute.

Other results from Group A were Savannah Primary 2 vs. Truth For Youth 2 (Under 9); Savannah Primary 4 vs. Truth For Youth 0 (Under 11); and Sir John A. Cumber Primary 4 vs. Grace Academy 1 (Under 11). In Group B it was Prospect Primary 1 vs. South Sound Schools 5 (Under 9); Prospect Primary 2 vs. South Sound Schools 1 (Under 11); NorthEast Schools 0 vs. Cayman Prep 4 (Under 9); NorthEast Schools 0 vs. Cayman Prep 4 (Under 11); Red Bay Primary 11 vs. Cayman Brac 0 (Under 11); and Bodden Town Primary 5 vs. Triple C 1 (Under 9).

The 2012/2013 CUC PFL regular season continues this Saturday, November 24 with games being played at various primary school venues around the Island. The feature game will be at the Annex Field where Sir John A. Cumber Primary face George Town Primary.

To view the current 2012/2013 CUC PFL standings, visit CUC’s website at www.cuc-cayman.com. On the home page, go to “About Us”, navigate to “Community Involvement” and click on “Primary Football League”.

 

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Cops charge third man in Spirit courier robbery

| 22/11/2012 | 0 Comments

CS tape_3.jpg(CNS): A teenager from West Bay has now been charged in connection with the Sprint courier robbery that took place outside an insurance firm in George Town last month. The young defendant joins two other men who have already been charged with the crime, one of whom has pleaded not guilty and another, who has no legal representation but told a court recently that he did it to help his sick mother. The daylight armed robbery happened in the car park of BritCay Insurance on Eastern Avenue around lunchtime on 4 October. Police said the teen had been charged with robbery and possession of an unlicensed firearm and was expected to appear in court Friday.

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Coalition for Change or Cliches?

| 22/11/2012 | 43 Comments

We need change. That is perhaps the most over-utilized, though greatly misunderstood understatement of the past three and a half years. Yet it is an honest sentiment, expressed in earnest by a disillusioned, worried and at times even despairing citizenry. Given the circumstances, it should be no surprise that any person or group who proclaims to stand for change and for improvement will perk up eagerly listening ears and even command the attention of a people who wait with baited breath for “they” who will personify this illusive “change”.

It was with such hope that hundreds made their way to the AL Thompson parking lot on Monday night to see and hear for themselves what exactly this Coalition for Cayman was all about and how they proposed change.

Two hours, six speeches, three servings of chicken, one t-shirt and two miniature flags later, there are still many who feel as lost and confused as they were upon arrival.

Taking the Coalition at its word that it is interested in hearing feedback, here are some of the key things that stood out as problematic:

A call for change; a throwback to the status quo. Anyone who is hoping for a crowd knows the age old motto “If you feed them, they will come”. T-shirts and other paraphernalia also provide additional enticement to attend an event. After all, who doesn’t like a “gimme! gimme!”? Yet if we are claiming to want change, why not start it off right from the get-go and do without the trappings altogether? Strip down to your core and stand on the strength of your message. If it is strong, it will not need the window dressing.

More disturbing than the internal debate which being offered a miniature flag evoked (Will accepting this mean agreement with a message that is yet to be delivered and a cause yet to be unveiled? Will a refusal be taken as lack of commitment to my country and people?) was the tradeoff for the t-shirt: sign up for the cause and get a free T.  Following blindly without full understanding of the issues, arguments and other important factors is what has gotten us in this mess, is it not? How then is it not contradictory to ask people to join something that has yet to be explained, much less properly digested and understood? No member or volunteer who was helping out at the booth could satisfactorily explain what were considered “important issues” by the Coalition and many times the “they’ll explain it in the speeches” came up as an answer.

It is important to differentiate between asking people to sign up to “learn more” versus signing up to “join” the cause. While many would gladly do the first so as to be kept abreast of developments and possibly gain a better understanding in the process, by now we should all be weary of signing our names on the dotted line as supporters or helpers or members of a group that we do not fully understand.

… add a dash of “God fearing” political mileage. Over the course of the past three and a half years we, Christians and non-Christians alike, have witnessed first-hand how the manipulation of Christianity by the political leadership has made a mockery of Christian faith. We have seen Christianity reduced to the smoke and mirrors that diverts attention to the real crises at hand. We have experienced the slippery slope where political rallies are reminiscent of Sunday service, and appealing to one’s religious beliefs is just another tactic to stir up emotion and evade accountability. That has been the way it is. Change is taking back our faith from the political arena altogether.

Ignoring the baby elephant’s memory. It was not quite four years ago when the very venue that so patriotically declared “Country First” on Monday night was strewn in green and blue, and over the munching of even more free food, the waving of glossy pamphlets, and the excited “Amens” emanating from the crowd, the fervor of those who now make up our government was heard over the speakers as they proclaimed "A Better Way Forward".  Yet, though that very fact was commented upon anonymously on websites like CNS and even whispered among participants conspiratorially, it was ignored outright at the event.

Of course, individuals in a democracy are able to freely change their minds as often as they want, to support anyone whom they choose, or withdraw support for whatever reason is right for them.  However, be not shocked that failing to acknowledge history or to attempt to explain the more visible ‘change(s) of heart’ with broad statements like “disillusionment with the party system” is just not good enough for those who have real doubts and who worry that those who are at the forefront are a mere facelift for the proverbial ‘establishment’.

Speaking of the elephant in the parking lot … Running for office is not an easy thing, especially not here in Cayman. From the potential for being “blacklisted” for expressed views if not elected, to the real taxing effect on one’s family, and numerous other reasons which we don’t fully acknowledge or speak of, putting oneself out there as a candidate takes a lot of courage.

Yes, we understand that Coalition for Cayman will not be “fielding” candidates as such but will instead “endorse” those whom it feels will put “country first” when making decisions. However, and again, it has to be stated that it was a missed opportunity to completely ignore the question that is still on most people’s minds: which of those persons associated with this Coalition intends to run for office?

Playing coy when a decision has been made, as is the perception with several persons identified as members of the Coalition, is doing the potential candidate and the people a disservice. It’s a game. It’s more of the same. It’s exhausting.

Lastly (ironically) deciphering “Country First”. “Country First” is a brilliant slogan, most recently used by US Presidential candidate John McCain in the 2008 US elections. In fact, USA Today reported on it at the time, claiming that “[p]olitically, the Country First theme has the advantage of focusing voters on the country rather than on a party led by an unpopular president.”

“Country First” is strong enough to evoke deep, sentimental meaning for the collective and just vague enough to mean different things to different people. What does it mean to put “Country First” as understood by the Coalition for Cayman?

Those who stand behind the ForCayman Investment Alliance’s proposal see their claim for job creation for hundreds of Caymanians over a “mere road diversion” as putting “Country First”.  The Concerned Citizens group from West Bay believes that fighting to preserve our heritage and stop our government from “selling our country to the highest bidder” is putting “Country First”.
The point is this: we’ve tried cryptic for the past three and a half years and it didn’t take. Don’t play to empty, misguided shows of patriotism.

The one thing that was clear from the meeting was that party politics was blamed as the main (possibly sole) reason for our failings as a nation. That is an over simplification of what is a much more complex problem which has deep historical and cultural roots that we romanticize or overlook altogether.  Love them or hate them, the fact of the matter is that parties are made up of people, and those people make choices. To blame "party politics" for the direction of our country, our inability to hold leaders accountable, and even for the breakdown of communication at the family dinner table is to take away the responsibility from the individuals and cast it into the nameless, faceless collective.

Any individual who freely joins a collective – be it a party, team, coalition, union, organisation, religious group, etc – and who turns over his/her right to think for him/herself, chooses to believe that which he/she is being told without question or thought, and who feels unable or is unwilling to disagree and voice his/her opinion for the sake of unity, personal stake or gain, or reputation is making a choice. 

If we want change, we must stop making excuses and take personal responsibility for all our choices, from accepting that refrigerator/job/scholarship, to toeing the party line and following like sheep, to the tick of the box inside that voting booth.

We may not be a large group, but there are a number of us voters who want more than the clichés, more than the slogans, more than dressing. We want real discussions about the issues. We want to challenge the old guard. We want to work towards the cultural changes – for that is what will be required, as uncomfortable as it makes us – which will turn this into a truly *participatory* democracy where our people are *educated* on the issues, *mindful* of their power, and *unafraid* to fulfill their civic duties. 

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Economic predictions revised due to sluggish growth

| 22/11/2012 | 6 Comments

economic_forecasting_0.jpg(CNS): With growth estimated at only 0.8% and 1.2% for the first two quarters of this year as a result of the sluggish economic performance, experts from the ESO have revised government’s macroeconomic outlook for the calendar year 2012 downwards from 1.8% to 1.4%. The half-year  report revealed lower-than expected growth in air arrivals, flat financial services indicators, slower than anticipated implementation of public-private projects, the contraction of government expenditure and higher fees which all created a different reality than that originally expect by government in is annual forecast. The Cayman economy grew by just 1.2% in the first half of 2012 compared to 1.3% growth recorded a year earlier.

“A small increase in GDP primarily reflected the positive, yet small, contributions of construction, transport, storage and communication, hotels & restaurants and bars, and manufacturing that were partly offset by negative contribution of the utility sector,” the office stated in the wake of the publication of the report.

Premier McKeeva Bush who is also finance minister said the economy continued to post moderate growth amidst “lacklustre demand for financial services” and he claimed in the face of “government’s commitment to responsible fiscal governance.”
He said “Although, these are challenging times, the 2012/2013 Budget is focused on supporting wide-ranging stimulus measures to give all businesses the best chance of succeeding.”

The one ray of hope for the economy according to the ESO report was with the start of construction on the first phase of Health City Cayman Islands (Dr Shetty’s proposed hospital), and the expected boost to air arrivals with the introduction of the JetBlue service to Grand Cayman.

The ESO also revised the inflation forecast down to 1.7% from 2.1% because of a fall in the average rate. However, despite the continuing economic slump residents were still facing much higher prices in most areas and the decline in inflation was fuelled mostly by the housing market. When it comes to food and drink, booze, transport, clothing, footwear and utilities prices have all increased.

Unemployment is also now inspected to be higher than government predicted pushing up to 6.3% from the anticipated level of 6.2% as the experts said economic activity is not expected to absorb the anticipated increase in the labour force.

Overall the ESO said that during the first half of 2012 the money supply contracted, average lending fell, bank, trust and company registrations fell, property transfers and values all declined and the consumption and production of utilities also fell. GDP expanded at a rate of 1.2%, the consumer price index increase to 1.4% and imports rose 1.2%. Work permits grew slightly and government’s deficit narrowed slightly while debt also fell below $600million.

See full the ESO’s full report here.
 

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Plans in for Shetty’s hospital

| 22/11/2012 | 82 Comments

shetty ground brkg (222x300)_0.jpg(CNS): The much anticipated hospital development and mega health city proposed by Dr Devi Shetty and his team of investors and local partners has been submitted to the government’s planning department. Plans for the medical tourism project were handed over to planning on Wednesday under a new format called a Planned Area Development (PAD), which was introduced two years ago. This is the first development proposal to submit a PAD for approval of the overall project and the team also submitted construction plans for the first phase of the hospital itself, the group stated in a release.

PADs are projects covering more than 40 acres, with three or more distinct uses, which are master planned as one development.  The aim of this type of plan is to ensure that larger developments are properly thought out from the beginning, avoiding potential problems and incompatibilities later on.

Although the Shetty project is the first to use the PAD system, there are concerns that several developments have been submitted to planning piece-meal which should have used the new more transparent system.

The Shetty project, which will now be listed to appear before the Central Planning Authority in the near future, includes plans for the first phase of Health City Cayman Islands, which will be a 140-bed hospital set to open in late 2013.

The goal of the proposed project is to launch a medical tourism product and bring quality, low-cost healthcare services to the Cayman Islands. What is expected to eventually be a US$2 billion project is being built in phases over a 15-year period on a 200-acre site in the High Rock area of East End.

“The application represents three years of hard work getting this project off the ground,” said Health City Cayman Islands representative Gene Thompson. “We are pleased with the great reception and co-operation we have received from the Premier, Minister of Health, Cayman Islands Government and the relevant departments and look forward to continuing to work together on this ground-breaking project.”

According to the release, full site work at the East End facility also began on Wednesday with preliminary work on access roads and temporary construction utilities.

Burns Conolly, the local architect working on the project, said it had been exciting to develop the first PAD application. “These PAD master plans have to be thought out on all levels as they will set the parameters for development on the site for the next 20, 30, or 40 years,” said Conolly. “You have to consider everything, from construction phasing, traffic growth, distribution of utilities, environmental issues, the relationship of each of the uses, to ultimately the quality of the spaces being created. Given that we are looking at 1.5 million square feet of building, with associated parking and services, it has to be done correctly up front.”

The fees for the PAD and planning applications submitted to the Planning Department totalled CI$160,000. The submission, which will be available for the public to review next week, includes a detailed Development Statement addressing the parameters and guidelines of Health City Cayman Islands that covers plans for everything, from management, road networks and services infrastructure to landscaping and open spaces, density, and building design, the team stated in the release.

The long term goal for the project, which is broadly supported throughout the community, includes a 2,000-bed tertiary-care hospital, a medical school facility, and an assisted living community. The multi-specialty hospital will provide services not widely available in the region, such as open-heart and bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart-valve replacement, cancer treatment, and organ transplant.

The project is a joint venture between the Narayana Hrudayalaya Group of India, headed by renowned heart surgeon Dr Devi Shetty, and Ascension Health Alliance of the United States, the country’s largest non-profit healthcare provider.

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Ex-reporter says radio host should come clean

| 22/11/2012 | 73 Comments

540161_10151102991125940_2131989826_n.jpg(CNS): Following the appearance of Austin Harris, the lead host of Rooster’s early morning radio talk-show, on the platform of the new political group, Coalition4Cayman, on Monday night, former TV reporter Kenny Bryan has called on the Crosstalk host to be transparent and declare his intention to run. Bryan has admitted his own interest in running with the PPM in George Town at the May elections and, as a result, resigned from his post as a television reporter for Cayman27. He now says that if Harris does not declare his hand, his credibility will be compromised.

Harris appears to be following in the footsteps of his former co-host, Ellio Solomon, who was accused of using the radio platform as a soap box for his own political ambitions until very close to the 2009 elections, in which he ran as a UDP candidate. With what may have been a distinct advantage for his campaign, Solomon won his seat as the 4th elected member for that district, beating his UDP colleague Jonathan Piercy, who failed to win a seat in the LA, by less than 200 votes.

Over the last three years Harris’ own political ambitions have become increasingly apparent, and as host of the C4C meeting on Monday night it was apparent that Harris will be seeking that new political group's endorsement when he enters the fray.

Bryan told CNS that, given the position that Harris has, he should, at the very least, be transparent about his intentions regarding the elections. The host of Crosstalk not only reports on the news but he interviews politicians regularly to present issues to the public, Bryan noted, and said that listeners deserve to know where the host is coming from and his motivations.

“As a former journalist for the people of the Cayman Islands, I understood what my role was and the level of honesty that was expected of me due to the position I held. In the field of journalism, you are expected to be true, un-biased, fair, and never use the platform or position for personal use or gain,” Bryan stated.

Although Harris is a talk-show host and not a reporter or a journalist, he does attend press briefings. Both he and his co-host, Gilbert McLean, have claimed that they play a similar role to the more conventional media and are responsible for exposing government short-comings and putting the politicians and government on the spot.

However, given Harris’ clear position after his appearance Monday evening, Bryan said his credibility must now come into question. 

“In his position as the host of the well-known talk show on Rooster FM, he has the ability to persuade, influence and even mislead the people of the Cayman Islands. The Rooster show has become a major source of information of what is happening in our country, especially on popular political topics,” Bryan said. “He may now have compromised his role in the media.”

Bryan said the people of the Cayman Islands need clear, clean, unbiased facts and commentary to make an informed decision on how and who to vote for in the next general election.     

“I think it is only right that Mr Harris explain to the people of the Cayman Islands what his position is as it pertains to political involvement with the C4C, if there is any intention by him to support any candidates or if he plans to run himself,” Bryan said, as he challenged the host to be transparent, given the C4C’s claims about integrity and transparency in government.

Bryan pointed out that the owner of Rooster, Randy Merren, is a founding member of the new political group. He said that, although the Hurley's Group has provided quality information for the people of the Cayman Islands for many years, he did not believe it "should be compromised by the actions of Mr Harris".

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Officials say proposed dump site was assessed

| 22/11/2012 | 19 Comments

IMG-20121120-00334.jpgCNS): Both a government minister and a representative from the company Dart is employing to develop the new landfill in Bodden Town say an analysis was undertaken to select the site and it wasn’t plucked out of the air. Despite various requests by activists and the media, however, this alleged analysis has never been made public. Nevertheless, Walling Whittaker claimed during a public meeting Monday that the site where Dart is proposing to establish the new facility was selected after a process of elimination and measured against a list of criteria and not just because Dart owns the land. Mark Scotland echoed the sentiments as he faced angry constituents and admitted that while the GT dump problem could be fixed in situ government couldn’t afford to do it.

The meeting which was supposed to be an opportunity for the public to submit their comments regarding the terms of reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is to be carried out on the site, was preceded by a long presentation. This was conducted by Whittaker of Malcolm Point, the local waste-management consultant which has been employed by Dart to take the dump project forward. He said the site had been selected after carrying out a “sound and robust procedure.”

This angered local activists who are campaigning for government to deal with the dump on site or conduct a proper island wide independent assessment about the future of waste-management as they insisted it wasn’t true.

Alain Beiner one of the leaders of the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free accused Whittaker of misleading the public as there was no such process. He and the district activists believe that the selection of the BT site was not based on any research or analysis but because Dart owns that land. They have said it may be convenient to the developer to swap the site for the crown land in George Town  — the home of the current dump  and an immediate neighbour to Camana Bay — but it is not in the best interests of the people.

The point that Dart’s proposal was already rejected by government’s technical committee and the central tenders committee as the least favourable option after an open competitive tender remains one of the coalition’s leading arguements with the government. They say the about face to move the landfill after years of plans to address it at the current location is all about the needs of the developer and not the Caymanian public .

The campaigners were also very angry about the EIA being limited to the proposed Dart site and government’s edict to prevent the inclusion of alternative sites or addressing the country’s waste-management problem at the current dump. Pressing the director of the department of the environment for her thoughts on the limitations of the EIA by government, Gina Ebanks-Petrie stated she was in a difficult position. But the director clearly stated that this was not the normal process when undertaking an EIA as alternatives are usually examined. However, she said a policy decision had been taken by the Cabinet and she had to follow that.

The environment minister who is also a district representative insisted that the site which is in Midland Acres near to two quarries, but also the central wetlands, was an economic arrangement as it was simply too costly for government to undertake the project on the current site. He said historically there were many reports that had said the dump needed to move and the Midland Acre site had been marked as a possible location in various studies.

Despite the limitations being placed by the minster on the EIA regarding the parameters he insisted that proper process was being followed and if the assessment concluded that this was not a safe place to place the landfill then government would not go ahead.
The issue of exactly how much is going to be provided by Dart and how much more of the facility will be built out by government was also a key issue at the meeting which was attended mostly by residents who were opposed or at least extremely concerned about the plan.

Beiner again accused Whittaker of misrepresentation over the plans that were posted around the room. He said the pictures of the facility are not what Dart is planning to develop as the group has confirmed it is merely supply a single lined landfill cell and all other elements of the facility if it is to become a modern waste-management site will still have to be paid for by government. Dart will not be supplying a composting area, any recycling sites, the waste to energy facility or any other specialist waste disposal elements.

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Mac fears LA deadlock

| 22/11/2012 | 32 Comments

P5270066 (249x300).jpg(CNS): Some two and a half years after the Electoral Boundary Commission finished its report the premier finally laid the order to increase the number of MLAs on the floor of the Legislative Assembly Wednesday. Accepting the recommendation to add the seats to George Town and Bodden Town, McKeeva Bush voiced his fears over possible government gridlock. He said he did not believe 18 was the best number as it may be difficult for the next group of elected members to form a government if there are nine on each side. Bush said that with an even number, as had been the case in other parliaments, there was a real risk of failure for future legislators.

The premier acknowledged that nineteen would be too many, given what was already a costly exercise, but the House could have gone to 17, he said, as he dismissed claims regarding the UK’s insistence that there must be a balance in favourof the parliament as a check on the executive. Bush said in the future the legislature would need to return to odd numbers to eliminate the risk of an elected parliament not being able to form a government.

Selecting the Boundary Commission's recommendation, based on population figures, Bush confirmed that the district of George Town would increase to six seats and Bodden Town to four. He indicated that the government was not accepting the recommendations that the George Town-Bodden Town boundary be switched slightly to accommodate the growing numbers, as he said that it was too much of a change for people who have voted in the capital for decades to now be told to vote in Bodden Town.

Facing an increase in the number of votes that they will have at the May 2013 General Election, Bush called on all of the members of the House to educate their constituents. He also asked for the members' support to give the motion smooth passage, enabling government to move to amend the elections law before the end of the given the timetable for the governor to issue the election writs on 12 December.

“I hope my fears and concerns will never become reality, but I worry about it with an even number,” he told the LA as he opened the debate.

The opposition leader said there had been a long process to get to the point where the premier was finally bringing the order, following several attempts to try and increase the number of seats in West Bay. Pointing to the successful referendum in favour of one man, one vote, which had technically failed because of government’s high bar, Alden McLaughlin said that, given the eleventh hour situation, the premier was implementing the worst possible option.

“Of the many arguments put forward over one man, one vote there is but one cardinal principle that can’t be negated, which is the principle of equity. It is simply wrong in principle for George Town to have six votes and East End and North Side one,” he said. People across the country and even the boundary commissioners have agreed that it is unfair and unjust, for voters in the capital to have six times the power to influence the make-up of government merely because of their postcode.  

McLaughlin said he had less concerns regarding gridlock than the premier as the speaker has a casting vote to retain the status quo on a deadlock vote. He said that forming a government would require compromise if there was an even return for both sides and, if not, then the people would have to return to the polls.

“I believe that concern is not well founded as many parliaments around world that have even numbers. We did for 20 years and there was never a situation where the House was paralysed,” he said, adding that the issue of numbers was raised, considered, contemplated and argued extensively during the constitutional talks.

McLaughlin said the additional seats were as a result of the need for a finance minister and to spread the workload of the Cabinet. But to get two ministers and retain parliamentary balance, at least one more backbench seat was required.

“Many believe one of the weaknesses of the Westminster system is that there are few checks and balances on the executive,” the PPM leader said. “Parliament is one of only a few and if the executive is behaving badly the House can, if it has the will, bring the government down.”

With significant concerns about the cost and aware of the pushback from the public, McLaughlin said that the former PPM administration had opted for the least costly option that met the balancing criteria, which was 18 rather than 19 members. Although he said the decision by government to choose this recommendation was far from ideal, given the lateness of the order, there was little choice and members had to support the motion.

The premier launched a scathing attack on McLaughlin as he wound up the debate, in which, with the exception of the independent member from North Side (check back later today to see separate CNS report), no other MLAs spoke. 

He accused McLaughlin of not really wanting one man, one vote because if he did he would have put it into the constitution, for which he got the MBE. Bush also questioned the result of the 2009 referendum saying the “votes came in too quick”.

Bush also taunted the opposition leader over his reluctant role in the one man, one vote campaign, suggesting that he had let the movement down and hung them out to dry. The premier accused the opposition leader of not really wanting OMOV and of making comments during the constitutional talks, which were not recorded on the transcripts but implied he did not want it. Bush said that the opposition leader did not believe he could get elected in a SMC and could only get voted in on the coattails of the former PPM leader, Kurt Tibbetts.

Despite the protestations of the opposition leader that he never made any comments during the constitutional talks about not supporting one man, one vote, and insisting that the premier withdrew the untruthful remarks, the speaker refused to ask the premier to withdraw.

“It’s too late in the day for those two to come here and start a fight,” Bush stated, without any acknowledgement of his part in the delay. He said the order was based on the recommendation of the Boundary Commission, which had done its work according to the constitution. “If you don’t like it then you will have to do the next best thing and go to the public and ask for a majority and then makethe changes,” Bush said.

Although he denied trying to get an extra seat for West Bay, stating that if government had wanted that he could have got it as he had the majority. “But maybe we should have done that as I still have concerns,” Bush added as he pointed out that with six seats George Town members could form the government in collaboration with either just West Bay or Bodden Town, which would see four districts left out of government.

Bush revelled in what he clearly believed was a clever move on his part over the referendum. He said the opposition benches had tried to “play games” and were “running around with a petition”. But he said “I pulled the rug out from under them” with the decision to call the national poll. “They got caught out!” he said, with a certain amount of glee.

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