Archive for November 26th, 2012

Political corruption subject of public presentation

| 26/11/2012 | 16 Comments

Professor-Trevor-Munroe.jpg(CNS): A Leading Caribbean Scholar will be presenting a public lecture on Thursday at the UCCI about political corruption in the region. The presentation by Professor Trevor Munroe, one of the Caribbean’s leading public scholars, marks the launch of the university’s Distinguished Public Lecture Series. The opener will see Munroe addressing a subject that is becoming an increasing public concern across the Caribbean, including here in Cayman. Entitled: ‘Political Corruption in the Caribbean – Where to from Here?’, Munroe is expected to offer a riveting and enlightening presentation.

The lecture series is being presented under the patronage of the University Board Chair, Berna Cummings. Officials said the series aims to bring the best thinking and ideas on a range of issues and subject areas affecting the Cayman Islands and the general Caribbean directly to the people. It is hoped that this will help to form synergistic networks among members of the UCCI, the wider community, and various organisations and businesses.

UCCI said the presentations will be penetrating, rigorous, deep, and will present novel interpretations of important issues and themes relevant to the socio-psychology, history, culture, sociality and economics of the Cayman Islands. This first lecture will also serve to kick off preparations for UCCI’s Caribbean Conference slated for March with the theme, “Towards a Corruption-Free Caribbean: Ethics, Values, and Morality.

Since 2011, Professor Munroe has been Executive Director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action Limited, a not for profit NGO dedicated to the building of integrity and the combat of corruption in Jamaica on a non-partisan basis. Prior to this he directed the National Integrity Action Forum a coalition of leaders of public sector anti-corruption agencies, a 2-year project launched in 2009 and supported by USAID. In 2012, Professor Munroe was appointed an individual member of Transparency International, the only such person from the Caribbean, one among 27 in the world.

As a scholar, he was promoted to Professor of Government and Politics at the UWI in 1998 and appointed founding Director of the Centre for Leadership and Governance in 2006. He had previously served as Head of the Mona Campus’ Department of Government. He is the author or co-author of eight (8) books primarily on issues of Caribbean democratic governance. His 1972 book on Jamaican politics remains the authoritative work on Jamaica’s transition to Independence.

Hehas written extensively on issues of corruption and governance, including authoring Transparency International’s National Integrity System country studies of Jamaica, the Caribbean and, most recently, the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Professor Munroe, a Jamaican Rhodes Scholar, who attained his doctorate at Oxford University, after 1st class honours degree at UWI, has received many academic awards, including the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, The Mona Campus Principal’s Award for Research, the Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from Florida International University the first from the English-speaking Caribbean and taken up Fulbright Fellowships at Harvard University in the United States.

He served as a Senator in the Jamaican Parliament between 1998 and 2007, championing integrity building measures and playing an active role on Parliamentary Committees dealing with corruption prevention. For many years, he served on the Executive of Jamaica’s private sector led Think Tank and as a Director of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, having himself co-founded the UAWU, one of Jamaica’s major trade unions. Dr Munroe has special expertise in building labour-management partnerships, having played a lead role in forging the accord between the trade unions and the trans-national corporations in the Bauxite Alumina sector in the late 1990s and led the team responsible for building trust amongst sector participants in the Partnership for Transformation chaired in 2011 by Jamaica’s Prime Minister.

 

Continue Reading

Ryan ‘authors’ Ritz statement

| 26/11/2012 | 107 Comments

busn n Ryan.jpg(CNS): A statement delivered by the premier via government’s new television channel last week about the Ritz Carlton and the outstanding duty owed on it may have been written or approved by the former owner of the Ritz Carlton, Michael Ryan. According to the properties on the Word document posted on CNS below, it was ‘authored’ by Ryan on a computer at Stingray Construction, one of the companies he still owns that was established during the development of the luxury resort. The details of the authorship on the copy of the statement released by the premier’s office were picked up by the opposition leader, who has called on McKeeva Bush to say if he was speaking on Ryan’s behalf or as premier of the Cayman Islands.

The statement concerned the outstanding $6 million in duty missing from government coffers that was owed by the companies Ryan previously owned but which were seized by RC Cayman Holdings, the new owners who bought the hotel at auction. In the statement the premier discussed the current situation at the Ritz Carlton and was critical of the new owners, the sale price and other issues regarding the concessions that they had asked for.

Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin came under attack from the premier in the statement, not least because he has raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly, where he suggested that Bush had missed an opportunity to negotiate with the new owners, who were offering to pay the bad debt even though they were not legally liable.

In the address delivered by Bush on government TV on Thursday, which for some reason appears to have been authored by Ryan, Bush denied missing a chance to negotiate with RC Cayman Holdings, accusing them of undervaluing the hotel at auction and insisting that he would get the duty from them as they were now responsible.

In a statement released Monday evening, McLaughlin said it was critically important that the premier was honest about who wrote the statement and how Ryan’s name and company came to be stamped electronically on the document.

“When the Ritz-Carlton property was being developed in2002 the government, led by Mr Bush, who was then Leader of Government Business, granted various concessions to Michael Ryan, the developer,” McLaughlin stated, explaining why Ryan had been in the position of owing government so much money.

The PPM administration pursued the outstanding debt throughout their tenure and Ryan and his companies paid in quarterly instalments until 31 March 2009. However, after the elections in May 2009, when the UDP took office, the payments stopped and none have been made since.

“On behalf of the people of this country, I now call on the premier to provide a full and frank explanation of his relationship with Michael Ryan and to tell us why his government has not collected any of the outstanding duties payable by Michael Ryan … or his companies.  Further, he must explain why he has compounded the situation by squandering the opportunity afforded by the recent sale of the Ritz-Carlton to recover the outstanding $6M which, had he acted in a timely and competent manner, the country could have obtained,” McLaughlin said.

“The premier must explain how it is that the statement which he made on 22 November … was authored by Michael Ryan and prepared at the offices of Stingray Construction, one of Ryan’s companies,” he added. McLaughlin further stated that Bush’s accusation about him and his relationship with one of RC Holdings' legal representatives, Rick Finlay, of Conyers Dill & Pearman, were unfounded.  

“Because I raised the issue of his mishandling of this issue, which has caused the country to lose $6M, the premier has attacked me and inferred that somehow I am defending RC Holdings and alleged that I have some association with Rick Finlay or Conyers Dill Pearman, who act for RC Holdings," the opposition leader stated.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. I ceased active practice in the firm of Charles Adams, Ritchie and Duckworth, where I was a partner with Rick Finlay, following my election for the first time in 2000, some12 years ago.  I retired from the firm completely in 2004 and have had no association with the firm or Rick Finlay since," McLaughlin said, before demanding that the premier had some explaining to do about his relationship with Ryan.

Related article:

Mac disputes Ritz value

See the opposition leader's statement and Bush's statement authored by Ryan below.

Instructions to see the authorization and properties on the document are as follows:
Click the attached statement entitled “Ritz-Carlton Statement TV mv 21Nov 2012 doc”. Save the statement. Once you’ve saved the statement, without opening it, highlight the name you have given it and right click. When the dropdown box opens, scroll down to the bottom and click “Properties”. When it opensclick “Details”. Scroll down and you will see the “Author” of the statement as “Michael Ryan” and the “Company” as “Stingray Construction”.

Continue Reading

Mac mum on 2013 SPS

| 26/11/2012 | 16 Comments

mac mary miller.jpg(CNS): The premier made no comment regarding what is normally one of government’s major political moments when he laid the Strategic Policy Statement for 2013/14 on the table of the Legislative Assembly on Monday. Although the presentation of the SPS is usually a major televised address from the country’s parliament, this year it was an exceptionally low key affair. McKeeva Bush suddenly produced the document, which came as a surprise to the opposition benches, and, as he presented what is considered a key government document, Bush limited his comments about it to the fact that it was early and complied with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility now contained in the Public Management and Finance Law. 

CNS has not yet obtained a copy of the SPS but government sources say that it contains plans for a phased reduction in the civil service, as well as a cut in benefits for public sector workers and a centralization of procurement. It is understood that operational revenue predictions are down while government earning are up, according to the documents predictions.

Three years after he delivered the first SPS for this administration, in this latest SPS Bush points to the exact same infrastructure projects as the saviour of Cayman’s economy. The George Town cruise berthing facility, the ForCayman Investment Alliance, the expansion of Grand Cayman’s airport, Dr Shetty’s medical city and the Cayman Enterprise zone are all cited as areas that will generate income for government.

It is not clear when, or if, the premier plans to make a televised address on the document or file a motion for the parliament to debate the SPS, as is traditional, but CNS will post the document in full as soon as we are able.

Although the legislature has made very slow progress on its list of business over the last few weeks, the premier adjourned the Legislative Assembly Monday evening with no return date.

Continue Reading

FCIA compliance questioned

| 26/11/2012 | 11 Comments

dart shovels.JPG(CNS): Activists campaigning against the plan to move Grand Cayman’s landfill from George Town to Bodden Town have written open letters to Dart and to Environment Minister Mark Scotland asking how the proposed ForCayman Investment Alliance (FCIA) can be made legally compliant without a public tender process. Since government transposed the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) into law earlier this month, the group opposed to the move has stepped up its campaign against the deal on the basis that they do not believe it can be lawful given the ‘new rules’ that government must follow and the FCO’s move to stop talks on the cruise port facilities deal, which, it said, fell foul of the FFR.

In their letters, the activists state that all major public projects and divestitures of public assets must now be submitted to public tender, and they use the events relating to the George Town cruise berthing project as an example. The UK has said that this project can only proceed subject to public tender. In addition, had the FCO not intervened in the deal between government and China Harbour Engineering Company, it would have been signed behind closed doors, as was revealed by CNS following the admission by the lead negotiator.

The activists say that this shows the importance of the FFR, which also impacts several components of the agreement between Government and DRCL (Dart) because it has not been tendered and involves the swapping of crown land.

“In the interest of an informed public, transparency, good governance and the rule of law,” the activist ask both Dart and the minister how they plan to make the terms of the FCIA agreement legally compliant with the FFR.

“The spirit of the FFR is to ensure our country of good governance of the public finances, fiscal responsibility and best value for money; and that public procurement is undertaken in a transparent and competitive manner,” the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free write in their correspondence.

“The FFR is intended to ensure that all major public development projects are done openly and properly – not secretly behind the people’s back — subject to due process and public scrutiny, and in compliance with international best practice on procurement.”

The letter sent by one of the leaders of the group, Alain Beiner, points to comments made by the UK’s OT minister, Mark Simmonds, in his letter to the premier earlier this month in which he tells Premier McKeeva Bush that there are “serious risks” involved where due process is not followed.

“Respecting due process and the spirit of the FFR would help prevent suspicion, conflicts of interest, confrontation with the UK, and potential accusations of corruption,” Beiner states. “Respecting the goals and guidelines of the FFR would help ensure that our country makes the right decisions. As such, not only is compliance of the FCIA deal with the FFR a legal requirement, but it’s clearly in the best interests of our country.”

The group is opposed to the move of the landfill, which they say is being undertaken in the interests of the developer and not in the interests of the public. The coalition is asking government to go back to its original plans and address the dump on site in George Town.

However, Mark Scotland, the environment minister and also the district representative, has said government cannot afford to carry out its original plan to deal with the dump via waste-to-energy and the offer by Dart to cap and remediate the existing dump and start a new landfill in Bodden Town is the only way that the growing problem of Mount Trashmore can get addressed.

Although the For Cayman Alliance deal’s compatibility with the FFR has been raised frequently over the last few months, neither the governor’s office nor the FCO have commented on whether they believe the deal does or does not meet the new requirements of the amended Public Management and Finance Law, which concerns the FFR.

Continue Reading

Two drivers injured in dump truck smash

| 26/11/2012 | 29 Comments

dump truck.jpeg(CNS): Police have now confirmed that the driver of the large dump truck which was carrying marl was injured this afternoon when the truck he was driving overturned and smashed into a small plumber's store in the Tall Tree area of Savannah. A second man in another vehicle was also hurt police revealed and the store has been extensively damaged.The smash that occurred around 4pm on Monday afternoon caused traffic delays after the truck blocked the Shamrock Road heading west in to George Town, as traffic was diverted around the back of the incident and behind the Texaco Service station.

Motorists are being asked to proceed with caution in the area as the road remains partially blocked as crews work to clear ithe aggregate that spilled from the dump truck when it crashed. There are still no details on how the smash occured.
 

Continue Reading

Cops’ Christmas clampdown aims to keep people alive

| 26/11/2012 | 12 Comments

police road check 1.jpg(CNS): The RCIPS’ annual road safety campaign starts this Friday and police have said that they will be clamping down on drink driving, speeding, cell-phone driving and failing to wear seatbelts over the coming weeks in a bid to reduce deaths and injuries on Cayman’s roads. The ‘Stay Alive’ initiative starts on 30 November and runs into January 2013. The RCIPS said officers will use a combination of education and zero-tolerance enforcement to challenge dangerous driving behaviour and reinforce the ‘don’t drink and drive’ message. Targeted operations will take place throughout the campaign period to detect those who drink and drive, commit traffic offences or use the roads for criminal purposes.

 “We do not want another family in the Cayman Islands losing a loved one as a result of drink driving or dangerous driving on our roads,” said Superintendent Adrian Seales. “Too many people still get behind the wheel of their vehicles after drinking. When they do that they gamble with their own lives and the lives of innocent road users. Our message is quite clear – if you have a drink designate a driver, or take a cab.”

 Seales also reminds motorists who speed that a heftyfine could put a serious dent in their pockets this Christmas.

“Since the introduction of the new Traffic Law speeding fines are incremental. That means that the basic fine increases by $20 for every mile over the speed limit. For example, if you are ticketed for travelling at 50mph in a 25mph limit you will be fined $500. If you are also found to be using your cell-phone and not wearing a seatbelt your fine increases to $800.

 The senior officer warned that those ticketed for speeding in a school zone, while the lights are flashing, can see an increase of $40 on the fine for every mile over the limit

“If you are found to be travelling in excess of double the limit – for example 51 mph in a 25 mph zone – you face six months in jail. That’s how seriously we take road safety in this country,” he warned. “We want everyone in the Cayman Islands to have a safe and enjoyable festive season. So, if you want to play your part in reducing deaths and injuries on the roads, or you want to avoid having to pay hundreds of dollars in fines, join us by playing your part in our ‘Stay Alive’ initiative to make Cayman’s roads safer for everyone.”

Continue Reading

Jeffers’ murder appeal fails

| 26/11/2012 | 0 Comments

raziel (226x300).jpg(CNS): The Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal made by Raziel Jeffers against his conviction for the murder of Marcus Ebanks and the attempted murder of several other young men. The reasons for the judgment which upholds the conviction have not been yet been revealed as the ruling contains references to a confidential police intelligence report. The president of the appeals court explained that the full decision will not be released formally until the crown has made submissions to the judges regarding issues of confidentially and possible applications for a partial redaction. Before they formally closed the appeal, the court said that it would allow Jeffers' lawyer to make an application for them to hear a third ground on the basis of a police report dealing with gunshot residue (GSR).

The appeals court released a copy of the draft ruling to both the crown and defence lawyers in order for them to consult regarding the question of confidentiality and possible future prejudice and to allow the defence counsel to make the new application for appeal.

The judges said that they had not yet seen the report, which was undertaken by the police and disclosed to Jeffers' legal team in October. The report examined levels of GSR contamination at the George Town police station, on police officers and on equipment, which may call into question the validity of GSR presented by the crown as evidence in a number of cases.

The judges had dismissed Jeffers' appeal on both grounds advanced in the summer session by the legal team, which did not deal with GSR. The grounds submitted related to the possible or perceived bias on the part of the trial judge because he had seen an intelligence report which concerned Jeffers, and secondly because evidence that the crown's key witness lied regarding her movements on the day of the shooting was never seen by the court at the trial.

With both of those grounds dismissed, defence counsel Richard Barton was given until Wednesday to make a formal application on the new grounds, which, if successful, will be heard before the end of this appeal session, the president said.

The question of the conviction in this case has also delayed two further murder cases relating to Jeffers. The West Bay man is also accused of the murder of Damion Ming in his own yard in Birch Tree Hill and Marcus Duran, who was collecting cash for 'numbers' in Maliwannis Way, both of whom were shot dead in March 2010 in the district of West Bay.

In both of the outstanding cases the crown depends heavily on the same key witness who gave evidence against Jeffers in the trial concerning the shooting in Bonaventure Lane in which Ebanks was killed.

As well as the fatal shooting of Ebanks, teenager Adryan Powell was shot multiple times and is now confined to a wheelchair and Marcus' younger brother, Rod Ebanks, was shot in the arm. Two more young men were also shot at by two masked gunmen, who opened fire on the boys as they were sitting outside a house smoking and drinking. These victims included Jose Sanchez, who the crown said was Jeffers' intended target.

The crown contends that Jeffers made a confession to his former girlfriend, who is the mother of one of his children, regarding his part in the Bonaventure Lane shooting as well as Duran and Ming's murders.

Continue Reading

Lawyer to argue exceptional circumstances over gun

| 26/11/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Seymour Ramsey pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm on Friday, but his lawyer is hoping to fight the mandatory minimum sentence of seven years his client now faces following his admission. Giving notice to the court that there are exceptional circumstances surrounding the case, in which his client was found with a gun near Welly’s Cool in George town spot this summer. Ramsey was arrested after police stopped a vehicle in the early hours of the morning in George Town on 6 July and recovered a handgun and bullets from a man who tried to flee. There were two other men with him in the car when police pulled the vehicle over.

Police said at the time that officers had cause to stop the car in North Sound Road and, as it pulled over, a man got out and ran off. He was chased on foot by police who subsequently recovered the firearm and ammunition.

Following Ramsey’s guilty plea, the court remanded him in custody until 18 January, when the circumstances of the case and arguments regarding whether they were exceptional or not will be heard.

Anyone convicted of possession of an unlicensed working firearm after trial faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, those who pleaded guilty face a starting point of seven unless they can demonstrated an exceptional reason why they were in possession of the weapon without a license.

Continue Reading

Bounty to be posted on marine enemy #1

| 26/11/2012 | 33 Comments

lion-fish.jpg(CNS): Lionfish are heading for the governments wanted list after the members of the Legislative Assembly voted to accept a private members motion on exploring the possibility of placing a bounty on the invasive species and fund the initiative from the environmental protection fund. The House was united last week in its support for some kind of major plan to reduce the number of lionfish, which is a serious threat to the local marine eco-system. The environment minister pointed out a number of initiatives underway at present to tackle the problem but said government did need to step up efforts and co-ordinate and promote the taking of these fish.

Ironically, the last time legislators were in such strong agreement on a topic was also over the need to cull an invasive species, when Alden McLaughlin’s private member's motion was accepted to address the green iguana problem. 

This time it was Ezzard Miller’s turn to ask government to explore the idea of a $5 bounty on lionfish to encourage Caymanians to catch more of the fish and join divers and others who have been trained to remove the spinney species.

He said that if the Department of Environment was to give the specialist spearguns to local people as well as volunteer divers, introduce a bounty using the Environmental Protection Fund, which the Department of Agriculture could help recoup by selling the fish to local restaurants, he believed that the country could at least make a serious dent in the population.

“Government needs to encourage the elimination of this dangerous threat,” Miller said. “We know some people are forced to supplement their income by poaching and I believe if we offered $5 per lionfish and did the appropriate training, they could assist in the fight and … stop poaching,” the independent member for North Side stated. “We need to do all we can and not just depend on the volunteers who have been working on the problem … Government needs to get more directly involved and offer an incentive to the people.”

Miller said there was plenty of evidence now that the culling works, and with lionfish destroying the reefs, government needed to take some of the $40 million plus from the EPF and use it for this critical issue

“I don’t have a hard and fast rule on the $5, that’s up to government, but we need to look at how we can get people involved directly in trying to control this invasive species,” Miller told the LA as he asked for support for his motion.

All of the members were in agreement and the environment minister said the lionfish had become “a scourge on the environment”, particularly as they had no natural predators in the region. “It’s a tremendous problem and government agrees we need a solution,” Mark Scotland said.

He said the environmental fund is the appropriate place for the money for such an initiative, but it would have to be done subject to the provisions of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility.However, he said he could notforesee any problems because, left unaddressed, the proliferation of the species could lead to an environmental disaster.

He said government was putting together a request for proposals to invite people to submit a culling programme. He said he was not sure whether government would give $5 or base the bounty on weight but he agreed in principle.

“But what we want to see in any exercise is a structured programme that is monitored," the minister said. "When there has been sustained efforts, we can see it works, so we need to see where and how long takes,” he added, stating that it could not be an open-ended initiative. 

He said government was supporting the motion in general and working towards arriving at a solution. Miller thanked him for that support and said he hoped that the debate would also raise awareness of the threat.

Continue Reading

Info boss strikes blow for transparency

| 26/11/2012 | 14 Comments

_1136210_secrecy300.jpg(CNS): In an exceptionally well researched ruling, the information commissioner has struck a welcome blow for transparency and openness in government and against secrecy. In her latest ruling Jennifer Dilbert has stated that the governor’s office must release documents requested by a witness in the police corruption investigation Operation Tempura that cost the country millions of dollars. The request relates to a complaint filed by the lead investigating officer on the controversial case, Martin Bridger, who claimed the enquiry was shut down early by the authorities. A report by Benjamin Aina, QC, was conducted into the complaint, which was dismissed, but the report was only released to Bridger and has been kept under wraps ever since.

John Evans, a former reporter for Cayman Net News who was closely associated with the discredited investigation, made an FOI request for the report both in the UK and here in the Cayman Islands and was declined on both occasions on a number of grounds, not least because the report was said to contain defamatory material.

In her research Dilbert explored the issue of defamatory material in requests and concluded that very few countries have this exemption in their laws, which led the commissioner to conclude that "the imposition of a categorical ban on the disclosure of any defamatory matter, as section 54(1) appears to do, is contrary to international best practice. 

Going back to the research of the Freedom of Information Working Group, which was tasked with advising Cabinet on the drafting of the FOI Bill, she found the paper accepted by government made no reference to defamation. She said that, in accordance with other sections in the law, records containing defamatory matter can be released and the law provides for protections in relation to such releases, which contradicts the provision in the subsection which appears to ban such disclosure unconditionally.

“If section 54(1) was applied as written, it would have the effect of prohibiting the disclosure by public authorities of any 'defamatory matter' under the FOI Law. This would include any materials that could be construed as being critical of government, of decisions of public authorities, or of actions of public officers,” Dilbert writes in her report.

“I consider this contrary to the objects of the FOI Law itself, as governmental accountability and transparency, free public discourse and public participation in national decision-making, which are defined as fundamental principles of the system of constitutional democracy in the section above, cannot take place under conditions where the general public does not have the right to express and impart information that is critical of government.”

The commissioner also points to the Bill of Rights and the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

“I consider that the categorical ban on the disclosure of defamatory matter in subsection 54(1) of the FOI Law is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, and I am convinced that it significantly and disproportionately undermines the public’s Fundamental Right to Free Expression guaranteed under paragraph 11,” she writes.

Citing the constitution and various examples of case law, the commissioner goes on to dismiss all of the claims by the governor’s office over why the report should remain secret and even suggests the report’s circulation in public may answer some of the many questions that remain about the entire episode.

“I do not lend much credence to the claim that its disclosure would, or would be likely to harm the public offices concerned. The Tempura and Cealt investigations have been discussed in the public forum for several years now, and it is my opinion that further credible information on the matter would help to clarify many outstanding questions, “ Dilbert writes in the ruling.

Dilbert also makes an important point in her ruling about the blanket use of court proceedings as a way not to release documents. She states that it is not enough to just raise the fact that a matter may form part of a legal action not to release records and that the authority should expand on arguments to this effect. In this case, she said, no further evidence as to how the release of the response records would prejudice the effective conduct of the court’s affairs was provided.

As a result, Dilbert has given the governor’s office 45 days to either apply to the courts for judicial review appeal or release the report, which may address the mounting conspiracy theories about Operation Tempura and what exactly the special police investigation team were doing and what, if anything, they ever uncovered.

See full report below.

Continue Reading