Archive for November 29th, 2012

LA makes first status grants

| 29/11/2012 | 131 Comments

190px-Cayman_passport (190x269).jpg(CNS): Two people have been officially granted the right to be Caymanians by the Legislative Assembly under a provision in the law passed in 2005, which has not previously been used. Harry Chandi and William Maines were given status without having to jump through the usual hoops or pass through the timelines of residency in Cayman normally required. Although Chandi, an Indian-American who owns Magnum Jewellers and introduced the government to Devi Shetty, has not been here long enough to qualify for permanent residency, he was given status following a recommendation by the Caymanian Status & Permanent Residency Board, which was accepted by Cabinet and approved by the Legislature.

Maines, who is from Texas, has been splitting his time between Cayman and the US for at least three decades.

The two status grant awards that were placed before the Legislative Assembly for approval were the first to be granted by Cabinet since the law was changed. Only four grants per year can be made this way and they must now be approved by the country’s parliament in an effort to maintain transparency in the process of making new Caymanians.

The law was changed by the PPM administration in 2005 as a result of the public backlash after the previous UDP administration controversially gave out almost 3,000 status grants in 2003. Those grants were made in an effort to address the major problems the country could have faced regarding the human rights issues affecting people who had been resident in Cayman, in some cases for decades, with no rights.

However, while many people who had been living and working in Cayman for many years were given the right to be Caymanian, other grants were given to wealthy individuals who had only been in Cayman for a short time, which led to concerns about the criteria and the selection process.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who brought the motion for approval, noted that Mains and Chandi were the first two people ever to be granted status with approval from the country’s parliament. The recommendations were made by the status board to Cabinet because of the men’s contribution to the community, Manderson said, as he outlined their charity work and their major investments in the community.

Ezzard Miller registered his strong objection to both the grants, stating that it was misusing the provision in the law for Cabinet grants, which should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. The independent member said the two men appeared to be getting the grants based on the simple fact that they were rich and that neither had done anything that was particularly exceptional, since many people gave to charity.

He said that, as business owners, these were the types of individuals who, once they got status, would compete with local people, and he could not see what was so exceptional about the men, who were wealthy enough to acquire permanent residency and then eventually acquire status through the normal channels.

“No one should be granted Caymanians status just because they are rich,” Miller said, adding that he wanted to see these special grants given to really deserving people for exceptional reasons. Being rich and giving to charity, he said, was not exceptional. He accepted that he would be criticised for his comments but, he said, the right to be Caymanians should not be bought.

The premier took aim at Miller and also railed against the opposition leader, who had raised the issue of the 2003 the status grants. McKeeva Bush said the grants happened because of people who had been here as long as 40 years with no rights. He said that, at the time there were as many as 16,000 people living in Cayman with no residency rights who could have taken government tocourt.  He said people had come and worked for years in Cayman and then they could be kicked out when it suited the country.

“The human rights issues needed to be addressed as people had nowhere to go," Bush declared.

He related an anecdotal account of a Jamaican woman who had worked in social services for 24 years and who had made her life and her home here. Then, one day, she was told she had to leave. But she had nowhere to go to, he said, and she had landed on his doorstep.

“I said then I would make a case out of it," the premier stated as he emphasised the injustices suffered by many who had been in Cayman for decades only to be thrown out.

Bush pointed out that it was always hard working Caribbean people of African descent “that they picked on”. He said he had tried to help them and, as a result, he had had all manner of evil said about him. Bush admitted that some grants were more deserving than others but he accused the opposition members of running around and asking for friends of friends who they wanted to get status to go on the list.

“I’m an easy target but we have to stop being hypocrites. We can’t build this country by ourselves,” he said, as he pointed to the problems in Cayman society for the poorer people before the population grew. He said people had had nothing, they could not get a good education or a scholarship. However, growth and development had led to many benefits for Caymanians, including better housing.

He said that there needed to be a system in place for granting the right to be Caymanian but he wondered where else it was in the world that people had to go to parliament to get permission for foreign nationals to get status.

“Stop blaming foreigners,” he said. “Stop blaming them for buying the businesses, as they can’t buy anything unless people sell them.”

Bush recommended granting the right to be Caymanian for both men to the Legislative Assembly because they “had done good” for the community.

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BB gun was stolen in East End burglary

| 29/11/2012 | 3 Comments

Crime-Scene.jpg(CNS): The BB gun believed to have been used to shoot at two people in East End, one of whom was injured from the pellet, was stolen from a property in the district during a burglary on the 23 November, police said Thursday. During that break-in two firearms and a quantity of ammunition were stolen and one of those firearms is still missing, a police spokesperson explained. However, during yesterday’s arrest, the police recovered a BB gun and a .22 magnum rifle as well, which was stolen during another burglary on 9 November also in East End. Police recovered these two weapons after two reports of people being hit by BB gun pellets while walking in the district.

The first incident occurred at 6:53pm on Tuesday 27 November, when a woman reported that as she was walking along East Boulevard in East End, she was hit in the back with what she suspects to be a BB pellet.  She told the police that she had seen two males, one of whomappeared have a gun under his arm, as they were leaving the location.  The police attended the area but no one was found and no injuries were sustained in that incident.

The second incident occurred at 8:05pm on Wednesday 28 November on Fiddlers Way off Sea View Road, when a young man and his companion were both walking along the road and heard an explosion described as a gunshot. Shortly afterwards, he felt himself shot in the back. He received a minor injury and reported the matter to the police, who responded and mounted an operation that resulted in the recovery of a BB gun and the arrest of one suspect.

The police said that BB gun was one of two weapons stolen in the 23 November break-in but a second weapon was also found. No charges have yet been made against the man who was arrested and Bodden Town CID is investigating the offences.

Anyone with information on these or any other matter can call DS Mason or the Bodden Town Police Station at 9472220 or CRIME STOPPERS on 800 TIPS (8477).

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Police call off marine search for distressed vessel

| 29/11/2012 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The RCIPS confirmed Thursday evening that it had been involved in a marine search and rescue operation since 10:00 in the morning but that the vessel in question had not been located. A police spokesperson stated that the RCIP Marine Support Unit received a report from the Jamaican Coast Guard on the morning of 29 November that another vessel had made a report to them about a blue canoe drifting some 60 kilometres SE of Cayman Brac with three souls on board. The Cayman police and the Jamaican authorities coordinated the search of the area, with up to five commercial vessels in the area assisting. The RCIPS helicopter Xray 1 also responded and carried out an extensive search of the area.

The boat’s last known location was 19 13.13N and 079 16.44W but it was determined that the vessel that reported the matter to the Jamaican coastguard assisted the boat in distress and it then may have continued on its journey.

“The canoe was not located and the RCIPS called off the search at 3:54 pm this afternoon,” a police spokesperson stated.
 

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IC protects audit office’s need for confidentiality

| 29/11/2012 | 0 Comments

swarbrick (243x300).jpg(CNS): The information commissioner has pointed to the need for the auditor general to be able to assure people that sensitive information they give to him will remain confidential so that he can properly conduct the affairs of his office. In her 26th ruling and her second decision relating to an FOI request regarding the RCIPS internal enquiry, Operation Tempura, Jennifer Dilbert sided with the public authority on this occasion and upheld the partial denial of information. However, while the commissioner pointed to the need to protect free and frank discussion and to prevent prejudice against the audit office, she pointed out, not for the first time, an incorrect application of the legal privilege exemption.

Setting out the background of the hearing, Dilbert said it related to an FOI request about the controversial Operation Tempura police corruption investigation made to the governor’s office and transferred to the Office of the Auditor General, since it related to the report that the OAG conducted into the expenses and spending on the costly enquiry.

The request was for correspondence or any other written records relating to theproduction of the OAG’s report into Operation Tempura from any official who was involved, or attempted to be involved, in the format and contents of the final report.

The OAG’s information manager provided access to 31 documents but some information was redacted based on exemptions under the FOI Law relating to legal privilege, free and frank exchange and the potential prejudice of the effective conduct of public affairs.

The applicant requested an Internal Review, and while the auditor general upheld the majority of the IM’s decisions, he made some limited changes to two of the redacted documents and released a third in full. However, the applicant appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a review of the decision to deny full access to the records.

Although the commissioner upheld the auditor’s decision, she pointed out in her ruling that the use of legal privilege in connection with one of the exemptions was wrong. The OAG applied the exemption found in 17(a) to the contents of an email from George McCarthy, who was chief secretary at the time, to Attorney General Sam Bulgin.

Pointing to her comments about the use of this exemption in other hearings, she said that the content of the email was not seeking, formulating or giving of legal advice. Dilbert also found that it had not been demonstrated that litigation privilege was attached to the records.

“I am not convinced that they were created for the dominant purpose of preparing for, advising on, or conducting litigation that is either underway, or was a reasonable prospect at the timethe records were created.”

Nevertheless, the commissioner did find that other exemptions applied and she agreed with the auditor general’s redactions.

In connection with another document, Dilbert pointed out that because a memo from the solicitor general to the auditor general was labelled “confidential and privileged” did not mean to say it was.

"Simply marking a document ‘Confidential and Privileged’ does not mean that legal professional privilege automatically attaches to it,” she said. However, as the redacted part of the memo offered legal advice, professional privilege did attach to that exemption.

Dilbert upheld several other redactions as she agreed with the auditor general’s position that the release of some information could “jeopardize his office’s future operations” and the need for “free and frank discussions” in order for his staff to get the information they need to conduct an audit. The office contended that individuals will not communicate with it in an open manner if they believe the information communicated would become public.

“The FOI Law must … protect the Auditor General’s ability to conduct investigations and obtain the free and frank testimony of relevant public servants, even where this may deny the general public access to the ensuing records via the Office of the Auditor General,” Dilbert found.

The commissioner added in her decision that, given the role of the auditor general, it would not be in the public interest to disclose records that could prejudice the affairs of his office.

“In this case the public interest in allowing the Auditor General to conduct his affairs unhindered outweighs any public interest in the disclosure of the redacted information,” she stated before upholding all of the redactions made.

See the commissioner’s 26th decision here.

See related story here.

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Reluctance over FOI eroding says info boss

| 29/11/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Traditional resistance by government employees in the Cayman Islands over releasing information to the public to divulging information is “slowly eroding,” the information commissioner told a group of accountants recently. Jennifer Dilbert said that information managers were becoming more comfortable providing information to the public under the freedom of information law during a presentation to the bean counters organised by her office as part of the information commissioner’s outreach. There have been over 2,500 FOI requests made to public authorities since the inception of her office in January 2009.

Dilbert provided a brief introduction to the Freedom of Information initiative at Government Finance Professional Development Week, at a conference for public and private sector professional accountants and students.

Outlining the exclusions and exemptions that are allowed in the Freedom of Information Law, including strategic intelligence gathering by security services she noted that in general everyone has the right to most of the information that government gathers and maintains, and the resistance of personnel to divulging information about government was slowly eroding.

Recent statistics from the ICO have revealed that while there is considerable improvement in releasing information a worrying trend by the office is the length of time that it takes authorities to release information and the lengths a limited number of government officials are going to with the introduction of lawyers to stop information being released.
 

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Lakeland Villas become latest watchful neighbours

| 29/11/2012 | 1 Comment

nw sign (214x300).jpg(CNS): Residents of Lakeland Villas have set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in conjunction with the police. PC Odale Mulgrave, the beat officer in the area, has been working with the group since August and, earlier this month, the RCIPS presented the chair with the official Neighbourhood Watch sign.  “The aim of Neighbourhood Watch is simply to prevent crime in the area and therefore maintain safe and confident communities,” said the officer. “We will be working with members of the team to carry out security surveys and provide advice about how we can work together to make the area even safer.”

Mulgrave explained that simple things such as cutting down bushes, improving lighting and consideration of general security can all help. He said the watch will work in partnership with the RCIPS by being its “eyes and ears in the community” quickly identifying and reporting any suspicious activity. “I’m sure the group will be very successful and I would urge anyone in the Cayman Islands who wants to set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme to get in touch with us now – it’s a great way to encourage residents to look out for one another and create some good old fashioned community spirit,” he added.

Stacyann Boxwell, chair of the Lakeland Villas NW, said she was excited to be at the helm of the new scheme. “I hope to get the entire community involved and work on safety initiatives, fundraising activities and community projects geared at maintaining the peace and tranquillity we enjoy in our community,” she added.

Anyone who wants to learn more about how to set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme should contact their local police office.
 

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SPS takes optimistic view

| 29/11/2012 | 31 Comments

clean-tech-invest-blackstone-560x421.jpg(CNS): Despite the continuing international economic turmoil, Cayman’s own economic woes and the government’s cash flow crunch, the government’s strategic policy statement (SPS) submitted to the Legislative Assembly by the premier this week takes a very optimistic position. According to the forecast on which the government’s next three budgets will be based, Cayman could not only be rich beyond its wildest dreams by 2016, with a huge surplus, but cash in the bank, dwindling debt, a slimmed down public sector and be free from UK supervision of its public finances. The SPS does not say how Cayman will get so rich, however, other than through the commencement of the long promised infrastructure projects.

At the close of the 2011/12 financial year government essentially broke even, with a surplus of around $42,000. In a lengthier document than previous years, as a result of the new guidelines provided in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility that now forms part of the Public Management and Finance Law, the statement is less than specific about how government will move from a break even position to a whopping surplus of $145 million in three years.

It also predicts having more than $400 million in the bank, a total debt reduced to $500 million, and to be in full compliance with the six principles of responsible financial management set out in the law and, as a result, free from the need to ask the UK for borrowing.

In the statement the premier says that the forecast will require continued careful management but claimed that the “path is credible, achievable and will place the Cayman Islands in an even stronger financial position”.

The plan does not include any new revenue raising measures or any redundancies in the civil service, which government intends to reduce through attrition, mergers and centralisation but not lay-offs. The government states that such drastic action could run the risk of “economic shock”. Instead, it claims that the reduction in operating costs will come from increased efficiencies and gradual declining public sector costs rather than massive reductions in government spending.

The growth in revenue is expected to come from the development of “key infrastructure projects” such as the Dr Devi Shetty hospital, the cruise berthing facilities, the expansion of the airport, Cayman Enterprise City and the ForCayman Investment Alliance.

“Overall economic growth of the Cayman islands in the next three fiscal years will increasingly rely on private investment in the domestic sectors in light of heightened financial and fiscal uncertainty in the major external markets and the governments commitments in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility,” the SPS reads.

The premier goes on to say that construction will contribute to the recovery of the GDP with the implementation of these major projects. Despite the recent setbacks to a number of the planned projects, the government states, “It is assumed that during the period of this SPS this projects would have commenced and will be mostly in the initial construction phases,” which is expected to stimulate demand for services across the economy.

What the statement does not explain, however, is what happens to the forecasts if the FCIA or the hospital and other projects do not start.

Although government sets out its aims for a reduction in the public sector, it is gradual, and given that so many Caymanians are employed by government, the SPS indicates the need for caution to avoid cutting its wage bill only to increase is social assistancebill. The gradual reduction in the size of government is expected to reach 10% by year three and government points to the need for a growth in the private sector alongside the decrease in the public, as it believes the two are not mutually exclusive but rather mutually dependent.

See below for the complete SPS.

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Cayman Thanksgiving

| 29/11/2012 | 22 Comments

Plans are in full swing for the second annual Cayman Thanksgiving with celebrations on the weekend of 30 November – 2 December 2012. Why Cayman Thanksgiving? Well the easiest answer is “Why not”?  After all, everyone who lives in the Cayman Islands is living in the 95th percentile in standard of living/quality of life in the world.  That does not mean that we live in a perfect paradise, or that we do not have people with genuine needs in our community.  In fact, there seems to be growing numbers of those who are being left behind.

However, no matter how bad things are, we still have so much to be thankful for.  We only have to turn on the news and see what real oppression, suffering and hardship look like.  Which one of us went to bed worrying about being dragged out of our homes and shot, or having our car shelled with mortars or our children’s school bombed?  Sadly, this is the reality for so many.  Famine, epidemics, civil war, out of control unemployment, no access to health, education or social welfare is just an average day for arguably the majority of the people in our world today.

When I sit and think about our history in Cayman, what our forefathers persevered through and the changes witnessed by my father’s and grandmother’s generations, there is no logical explanation for the economic miracle we have experienced in Cayman.  Cayman has been truly blessed and we have in turn been a blessing to so many from all around the world who have been able to come here and make a better life for themselves and their families.  That is something to celebrate and to give thanks for. 

Unfortunately many of us in Cayman quickly forget how fortunate we are.  When was the last time you asked someone how they were doing and they responded “Great!” ?   It almost seems that we gravitate towards the negative seeing that it dominates so much of our conversations, thoughts and actions.  It’s been observed somewhat tongue in cheek that basically two things bring people together in this community en masse – protests/demonstrations or funerals.  That is sadly quite indicative of the power of the negative in Cayman.  Sad or bad things get us going and fuel the passion in our lives. 

So the Cayman Thanksgiving proposition is quite simple actually.  Can we not agree in this community that for one day out of the year we won’t complain or row, or blog about our problems, or call in the radio shows to bemoan life’s woe’s?  Instead let’s do what Caymanians have always done best and pull out our pots and pans, cook up some good traditional food using locally grown produce, invite family and friends over, including someone who isn’t from Cayman, and let’s give thanks for life’s many blessings – starting with the passage of Hurricane Season.

That’s what Cayman Thanksgiving is all about. 

There is arguably no nation on earth who has as much to be thankful for as we do here in Cayman.  So it is our hope that from this point onward on the first Sunday in December we will unite – Caymanians, expats, visitors – and celebrate all that’s good in Cayman, starting with giving thanks. 

I invite everyone to learn more about Cayman Thanksgiving and about the plans for this weekend’s celebrations by visiting www.caymanthanksgiving.ky

Let’s give thanks together Cayman!  

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Offshore lawyer found not guilty in assault case

| 29/11/2012 | 0 Comments

MLewis Nov 28 2012 (223x300).jpg(CNS): A senior partner at one of Cayman’s largest offshore legal firms was acquitted by the summary court on Wednesday of an assault charge.  Mark Lewis (53) was arrested and charged with the crime more than one year ago but the details of the incident have remained under wraps after the court imposed a gag order on the entire proceedings including the trial itself. In the wake of the not guilty verdict by Magistrate Valdis Foldats on the one count of ABH his lawyers stated that he had been “entirely vindicated” and he would continue in his role as a partner of Walkers Global as he did throughout the proceedings. 

Lewis would thanked his partners and colleagues at Walkers and the witnesses who made themselves available at trial. He also extended that appreciation to the local community for its overwhelming support and to his legal team, Trevor Burke QC, David McGrath and Ben Tonner of Samson & McGrath.

It has never been made clear why the entire case was held “in camera” but section ten of the criminal procedure code allows for the court to order any case it sees fit to be closed and the public and press barred from the court..

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Cops make arrest in East End BB gun shooting

| 29/11/2012 | 6 Comments

(CNS):  One person has been arrested and a BB gun recovered following an operation in East End, police have confirmed. Following the report of a person receiving an injury to the back from a BB gun shot at around 8pm this evening (Wednesday 28 November) on Fiddlers Way off Sea View Rd, East End, police mounted an operation which resulted in the arrest. An RCIPS spokesperson revealed that police had also received a report yesterday evening at 6:53 pm (Tuesday 27 November) that a woman in East had been hit in the back with what she suspected to be a BB pellet buthad not been injured.

She told police that she saw two males, one of whom was carrying what appeared to be a gun under his arm, as they left the location.  

The RCIP spokesperson explained that a combined team of police officers from the eastern districts, the Uniform Support Group, the Operational Support Unit and the Air Support Unit mounted tonight’s operation in which one suspect was rounded up and arrested on suspicion of possessing the weapon and recovery of what is believed to be the BB gun used in both shootings.

Police are still conducting follow up operations in the area and the matter is under investigation by the Bodden Town CID. Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to call 947 2220.

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