Archive for December 21st, 2012

Rankin arrested re-permits

Rankin arrested re-permits

| 21/12/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local businessman and UDP stalwart Mario Rankin said he was arrested Thursday on suspicion of work permit violations, not only by immigration officers but two UK police officers, who appeared to be from the fraud squad. Speaking candidly about his arrest to CNS, Rankin denied any wrongdoing, stating that the immigration department had made the arrest based on allegations that he was employing a dump truck driver without a permit and issues relating to the transition of ownership of a group of local bars. Rankin said he was able to demonstrate the inaccuracy of all the allegations but remained suspicious that the immigration issues were not the real reason for his arrest.

Rankin said he had the necessary paperwork and documents and was able to show the immigration department that he had committed no offences. Explaining to CNS that during the complex transition of ownership of the Brick House, Oar House and Club House bars from former owner Harry Lalli, he had to pay staff who were owed money before the various licences were transferred. 

Rankin said that in order to secure jobs and the viability of the businesses, the bills had to paid from the proceeds of those businesses, which were still in the name of Lalli, but the proceeds had been transferred to his accounts and then out again to pay bills. He said there was precedent for this type of thing at other tourism related businesses, such as at the Marriott.

Having given the authorities the relevant documents, he said he was able to satisfy the questions of the immigration officers. Nevertheless, Rankin told CNS that the two UK police officers, who he said did not appear to be members of the RCIPS, still insisted on a search of his businesses and home. He said that, strangely, given the alleged basis for his arrest, the officers were not interested in the business computers at the Brick House and other bars but were more interested in searching his home and seizing his personal computer.

“I find it strange, having worked myself in enforcement, that immigration would require the assistance of British officers from a fraud squad to investigate alleged work permit violations,” said, Rankin who was previously employed by immigration. “Immigration arrests people every day over these types of allegations but never in the history of the Cayman Islands have they been accompanied by UK police for such an offence.”

Rankin said he was not able to comment on whether his arrest had anything to do with the arrest of McKeeva Bush earlier this month and stated that he had no business interests of any kind with the former premier.

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Where loyalties lie

Where loyalties lie

| 21/12/2012 | 58 Comments

When Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’ who led Britain as prime minister for more a decade, was ousted from power, she felt betrayed by the Tory party which forced her resignation and she left Downing Street in tears. And yet, she went on to serve two more years on the backbench of the House of Commons before retiring from the lower house of parliament in 1992.

Because whatever anyone might think of Thatcher and her politics, her loyalty to her party and to her country was never in doubt. She stepped down because the Conservative Party did not believe that they could win the election with her as leader, and in the UK, as in all established democracies, people vote for the party that they believe will lead the country as a whole to greater prosperity and social cohesion.

Thatcher wasn’t happy but ultimately she put party and country first. Now compare that to McKeeva Bush, who has given his party far greater reason for his removal from the leadership role but is having what can only be described as a hissy fit over it. Desperately trying to retain a stranglehold on political power at the expense of the party is not patriotism, certainly not party loyalty, nor is it putting the people before self, which are all traits that we expect in any true leader.

Anyone who thinks that Bush should have remained in office does not care or just does not understand that the police investigations into his suspected financial irregularities, even before the drama of his arrest, were dragging the Cayman Islands down and the ‘Post-UDP 5’ made the right decision for the country. (See this viewpoint.)

The word “traitors” keeps popping up in the comments to refer to those UDP members who finally mustered the courage to force Bush out of power, but the context isalways traitors to Bush, not traitors to Cayman. So where do the loyalties of Bush and his supporters lie? Certainly not with the party, because party politics – the real kind – does not depend on any one individual; it is an allegiance to a certain set of values and ideas. Blind support for one man (or one woman) is no more or less than a personality cult, which is a destructive force in any society.

Here in the Cayman Islands party politics is still in its infancy and, to be fair, neither party has really been clear about any cohesive social, political or economic philosophy that ties its members together and enables its supporters to feel that they have some idea as to how the party will react to future unpredictable events. In fact, it’s hard to discern exactly where on the political spectrum any politician in Cayman actually hangs his or her hat, once you get past the catch phrases and platitudes.

Without a clear political ideology that holds the politicians together there is no ideology for voters to support, and all too often it boils down to family or other ties, blind trust, a new fridge, favours to be returned, or which candidate will get the most money to spend on their district.

The PPM does at least function as a proper party. Kurt Tibbetts stepped down as leader after losing the 2009 election, which one would expect, and the next leader, Alden McLaughlin, was elected by the party members. Honesty and integrity are moral rather than political ideals and establishing openness and transparency are methods of governing, not economics, but if these are the chords that bind, it’s a good start. However, they need to establish what their party is – ‘not McKeeva’ is not good enough.

On the other hand, the UDP, the first and the second version, never did seem like a party so much as a vehicle for Bush to be the leader of the country and it appeared, from the outside as least, that those who joined him did so purely to either get elected or gain a cabinet position (or both). The shattering of the UDP over the ousting of McKeeva Bush supports this idea that the party was always just a means to an end for the ambitions of its politicians. If this is so, where do their loyalties lie?

Discounting for a minute the rampant speculation that personal gain is an essential motive, it seems that the main players of the now polarized UDP owed their allegiance either to Bush, who carried them into office by sheer force of personality, or to the districts that elected them.

A glaring example of district loyalty over country is the Hurricane Hilton on Cayman Brac. A party with an holistic view of the country (which decided it could afford a hurricane shelter) would ask the basic question as to which district was in most need of a shelter. The leader of the country and the rest of Cabinet (including the deputy premier) should want to protect as many of its citizens as possible in the event of natural disaster and place a new shelter where it has the potential to save most lives, and I don’t think anyone would argue that this was the Brac.

Juliana O’Connor Connolly was always the odd one out in the new UDP in that she never did need McKeeva Bush to get re-elected, but (and this is an important 'but') she does need to be a part of whatever political grouping is in power to have a place in Cabinet.

However, the way she has influenced the allocation of funds during the Bush administration – diverting resources, with questionable legality, from Grand Cayman to pave the roads on Cayman Brac, for example  – indicates that her mindset is still district politics, not country or party politics: get what you can for ‘your people’ and to hell with the rules.

Many Brackers don’t have a problem with that, just as many West Bayersfeel entitled to Mac’s largesse. But, just like West Bay, the funds and favours have not resulted in any real lasting improvementin the economy. Those lovely paved car parks didn’t create any new customers for the merchants, and the prices at the shops, the dwindling pay-packets and rising costs for small businesses (which is all of them on the Brac) are enough to make you weep.

It remains to be seen if the ‘Post-UDP 5’ will form a proper party and if they have enough political maturity (not granny wits) to move away from Bush-style politics, an unhealthy mutual dependency between politician and voters, in which love of country – called upon often but practiced rarely – takes a back seat to benefit the few, where secret deals are negotiated behind secret doors, due process is optional and dissent must be stifled.

The ‘Post-UDP 5’ have loyally stood behind Bush in the past, even as he attacked his enemies and vilified the media – or even taken potshots themselves. I wonder, now that they are on the receiving end of his wrath, whether they finally understand that personality-cult politics, which they nurtured, creates an unhealthy atmosphere for society at large. You might enjoy the feeling of power at the time but it brings with it extremes of emotions in the people you govern that will not benefit you or the country in the end.

Neither Juliana nor Alden McLaughlin has the right personality to create a personality cult. This is a good thing. I remain hopeful that enough voters have been horrified by the chaos created by McKeeva Bush’s government that in the next election, if he stands, he will be relegated to an echo chamber of dwindling supporters.

Then, if the two remaining parties – PPM and whatever the ‘Post-UDP 5’ become – are able to set out and explain to the public what it is they stand for, the rest of the country could have an election that is about ideas, not who is loyal/dependent on whom, and a debate on policies rather than puerile insults.

One can always hope.

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Cops arrest suspected West Bay muggers

Cops arrest suspected West Bay muggers

| 21/12/2012 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Police arrested two men yesterday in connection with an early morning street robbery in West Bay. The men, aged 25 and 30, are currently in police custody after their arrest in the district Thursday evening on suspicion of robbery. The two men are accused of holding up a couple at knife point in the early hours of Wednesday, 19 December, in the vicinity of the Four Way Stop in West Bay close to Centennial Towers. The man and woman who were mugged reportedly received minor injuries but police have not stated if anything was taken from them.  Meanwhile, police have also confirmed that the 20-year-old man arrested over the murder of Jackson Rainford in George Town Sunday remains in custody.

The young man arrested in connection to the shooting the 23-year-old Jamaican national in a car in Printers Way around 10:30 Sunday night has not been charged with the first killing of 2012 in Cayman.

Rainford was reportedly shot several times by a single gunman while sitting in the passenger seat of a white Honda Civic. A police spokesperson said the gunman made his escape from the scene on foot and the 20-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder shortly after 1:00am Monday.

A murder incident room has been established at George Town police station and a team of 15 officers is currently dedicated to the investigation. DS Bodden urged anyone who may have information to call the murder team directly on 649-3057 or 649-4522. Alternatively, people can call the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Ellio begs cash for Mac

Ellio begs cash for Mac

| 21/12/2012 | 282 Comments

CollectionBox_LocalCharity.jpg(CNS): The general secretary of the UDP called on the party faithful to give money to the former premier of the Cayman Islands on Thursday night, in order to help him fight the legal battles ahead. Ellio Solomon asked people to give cash as he said the UDP leader, McKeeva Bush, was not a wealthy man but was now facing some hefty legal fees as a result of the allegations and investigations against him. Solomon said a committee would be established to manage the fund, claiming that, despite the accusations, Bush was not rich. He said the donations did not need to be large but if people could give even as little as five dollars it would help to raise some of the money he would need to pay his lawyers.

Although there have always been questions regarding Bush’s own personal wealth, he has always denied being rich because he says he uses his money to help many people. Although no longer the premier, Bush will continue to earn a monthly salary in excess of $10,000 until May at least, plus his parliamentary pension. However, given his current circumstances, he will need to fund a defence team himself, because his earnings are too high for him to qualify for legal aid.

Solomon made the call for donations during a public meeting in front of the courthouse in George Town, where he also began his own campaign for re-election in the district.

Attacking his former party colleagues for their part in ousting the former premier from office, the fourth elected member for George Town compared Bush to US presidents (who retain the title 'President' for life) and said he should still be called 'Mr Premier' as he was the first person to holdthe office in Cayman. Miguel Barcelo, the in-coming YUDP president, the youth arm of the party, referred to Bush as the ‘people’s premier’.

Before Bush came to the podium to make his first public speech in Cayman since his arrest and fall from high office, Barcelo, Solomon, Capt Eugene Ebanks and Mike Adam all offered their support for the UDP’s beleaguered leader.

Solomon was the most vociferous against the former 'UDP 5', who, he said, had betrayed the premier. Describing them as "Judases", he said they had drank from the “bitter cup of betrayal” as they let the party and the country down. The general secretary of the UDP accused them of joining in the conspiracy to bring down the premier but they were no longer members of the party. At the May elections the UDP would return to government, Solomon declared, as they would have majority after running four candidates in West Bay, four in Bodden Town and a full six in the capital of George Town.

He continued to criticise his former colleagues and said the UDP had a duty to shake them loose. Although Solomon pulled no punches in his attack on the new cabinet, his main target was the RCIPS, which he accused of being a discredited organisation.

Heavily criticising the police over Operation Tempura and what he said were their false arrests, Solomon questioned why they had never brought the former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan back for questioning as a result of his role in that fiasco. Describing more of the mistakes he said the RCIPS made, he asked why the police were unable to arrest Hassan Sayed, the former president of UCCI, who had used a government credit card to steal some $300,000. Solomon criticised what he called this hypocrisy in the RCIPS which undermined its credibility, as he asked how much longer the people would tolerate the behaviour of the RCIPS bosses.

He said the police were discredited and not accountable to the people, despite the fact that the public paid their wages and paid for the mistakes. Given what he called the tarnished reputation of the organisation, he asked how the people believe the trumped up allegations against the premier and claimed the police were pursuing the agenda of the FCO.

Solomon asked how could it could be fair for a person, whether he was premier or not, to lose his job purely because of suspicion as everyone was innocent until proven guilty.

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Mac expecting to be charged

Mac expecting to be charged

| 21/12/2012 | 69 Comments

P1010009 (237x300).jpg(CNS): The former Cayman premier said he expected to be charged sometime ahead of the general election in connection with what he claimed were false allegations against him fuelled by a governor who had come to the country to destroy it. McKeeva Bush described some of the allegations against him to a crowd of well over 300 people Thursday night at his first public meeting since his arrest, but vowed he would be exonerated. He said he was accused of theft for books he had bought on the government credit card and dry cleaning bills but skimmed over the matter of a missing $10,000. He also denied being an owner of Midland Acres, the company which imported explosives without the correct paperwork.

In Bush’s first public statements about his arrest and subsequent ousting, he said he had not resigned from the premiership in the wake of his arrest on the advice of his attorneys. He told the audience of supporters that his lawyers had said that it would set a precedent. Had he stepped down at that time, he said, in future whoever the UK did not like they could accuse them of a trumped up crime and get rid of them, even though they were democratically elected.

“I fully expect that I will be charged any time before the elections,” he said. His attorneys have advised him to say nothing further, he added, but he went on to talk about the humiliation of his arrest and the search of his home when nine police officers came to his house at around 7am on Tuesday, 11 December.

He denied that he was arrested because he would not talk to the police when they came, but admitted that, on the advice of his lawyers, he did not answer their questions. He also confirmed that the warrant had been signed by the new judge, Justice Williams, whom the governor “had brought from TCI”.

Bush said the warrant listed books and gifts he had purchased in London on a government credit card that were in his home. He said the books were meant to start a reference library for the office of the premier and the gifts were for staff. However, he also mentioned a missing $10,000, and although he did not elaborate, he said it was being paid back. Bush said less about the memo regarding the importation of explosives by Midland Acres but denied having ownership of that company.

Re-iterating his belief that the arrest was part of a collusion between Governor Duncan Taylor, the commissioner of police and the opposition, he accused Taylor of coming to the Cayman Islands “to destroy what he could destroy” because of the jealousy for what Caymanians had built up.

He said the governor had seen the position of the opposition and used that to achieve his objective to divide and conquer. Bush accused the UK’s representative of refusing to assist with any project that could have wiped out unemployment and created opportunities. “Everything we put on the table he voted against it,” Bush said, adding that with the opposition’s help the governor had done everything he could to discredit him.

He said the collusion was illustrated by how quickly the international media, as well as the local press, was informed about his arrest. Bush said he believed the whole thing was orchestrated to coincide with his planned trip to Jamaica to receive an honorary doctorate and to engineer his removal from office.

Bush listed some of the historic run-ins Cayman has had with the UK, not least the Euro Bank scandal and the revelations that the British had planted spies in the banking sector.

“This little rock is always at risk with them,” Bush said. “I know my phones are bugged but don’t be fooled, I’m not the only one. These things burn me up when I think how much our ancestors fought and worked so hard. We never got anything from them. They should respect this country and its leadership,” he said, stating that it was hard under the circumstance for Cayman to have respect for its British rulers when they had none for Cayman.

"We have laws here," he said, adding that Cayman did not need more of theirs designed to stop the development of business here because they want it there.

He also called on the governor to answer the question of whether the police in the UK would arrest a sitting prime minister on the same trumped up allegations as had been made against him when he had been taken into custody.

Bush also turned his attention on what is now the ‘former UDP 5’ and described the new government as a “sham cabinet which won’t make the lame walk”. The former premier said the government was now unconstitutional as it was in a minority and he would be pursuing that issue as they could not be allowed to “bastardise the constitution” in this way.

Speaking about the process that led to his ousting, he said that in the past he had not criticised them but suggested that Rolston Anglin, in particular, had also been one of those stopping him from doing some things. He also criticised the education minister for comparing his DUI conviction with Bush's own situation and said that they had tried to run him down at Wednesday’s press briefing with innuendo. Bush added that he had created, nurtured and enabled the political careers of the five people who were now sitting in Cabinet.

The former premier made it clear that he may be down but he was far from out, although he said he had not yet made a decision on whether he would or would not run for office at the next election. Bush told the party faithful who had come out to support him that he intended to pray about it but he didn’t really feel like running.

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A test of character

A test of character

| 21/12/2012 | 30 Comments

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” – Harry S. Truman. As I reflect on events of the past months, and especially on the events of the past week, the above quote rings especially true in my view. Mr Bush faced a test of character after his arrest and failed miserably when he did not stand down of his own volition.

Admittedly few of us thought he understood that the right thing to do was to stand down, but we hoped nonetheless. He made this failure worse when, after being asked to step down by the colleagues who stood by and defended him over many years, he selfishly refused to listen to their counsel and pleas. Happily they finally realized, even if Mr Bush did not, that it was in the best interest of their party, their government, possibly their political careers, and in the best interest of the country that Mr Bush should leave the post of premier after being arrested.

His refusal to do the right thing by the people of the country left his cabinet and backbench members with two choices. Either to continue to blindly support Mr Bush staying in office and risk further harm to the country’s reputation, or to support the Progressives' (PPM’s) Lack of Confidence motion and thereby join the opposition members in voting down the government — and in so doing to send a message to the world that the parliament and people of the Cayman Islands would not stand by and ignore the arrest of a sitting premier on suspicion of serious offences.

Fortunately for the country, five of the UDP’s elected members finally stopped blindly following Mr Bush. Three, sadly in my opinion, decided that loyalty to Mr Bush came before loyalty to country. These three helped embolden Mr Bush and helped create the events that unfolded in the Legislative Assembly.  I suspect that history may be kinder to the five than it will be to the three.

Few politicians in Cayman’s history have been as divisive as Mr Bush. Indeed in my opinion he has been a destructive political force for too long and with his recent actions he may end up destroying his own party. If Mr Bush had stepped aside he could have done so while still confirming his innocence but stating he was doing this for the country.  

There would have been an orderly transfer of power to the deputypremier, with perhaps Cline Glidden (given his experience) taking a ministry position and Mike Adam remaining in cabinet. Mr Bush’s party would be intact, the country would have been saved the drama, and perhaps Mr Bush and his supporters could seek to claim a high moral ground with his ‘sacrifice’ for country. Instead, the events played out as they did this week and with a new government now being formed with the “UDP 5”. 

Whilst I am happy that the  “UDP 5” finally did the right thing and help the opposition evict Mr Bush from office, I cannot forget that they, and others, helped to prop him up through all these years, despite the many issues that surrounded Mr Bush and his UDP administration. 

The “UDP5” should also not forget the part they played in helping support and embolden Mr Bush and I pray that they think long and hard on the lessons learned. Hopefully, the tone of their first press conference along with a promise to act more transparently, and follow correct process, is an indication that they have learned those lessons. Alas the “UDP 3” have shown that no lessons were learned and, as such, I suspect that their political futures will end in May 2013.

I will end by returning to the theme of character and give Mr McLaughlin his due. I listened to his debate in the LA and again later that night on TV. He continued the approach he took after the arrest. His comments were appropriate and measured and he repeated that he preferred that the UDP had resolved this matter quickly without the Legislative Assembly needing to. 

His tone and approach to this serious matter was statesmanlike in my viewand in the end he and the Progressives played a huge part in assisting this matter to come to a productive end. He has not gloated or rejoiced, or looked to take any huge credit; and this has helped cement in my mind, and I am sure in the minds of many, the character of the man.

Further cementing the view of Mr McLaughlin’s character is the manner in which he has steadily moved forward, putting together a team of quality, capable new candidates with varied backgrounds and good reputations, to compliment the current sitting MLAs. The fact that these individual are also willing to work with him, some choosing the Progressives even after approaches from the UDP and the C4C, is also an indication of the character of the man.

Since taking on the leadership of the Progressives the arrows sent his way have increased but he has stood steadfast and continued moving forward. Those who say they prefer someone more flamboyant than Mr McLaughlin need only look at where Mr Bush’s flamboyancy got us. I will take thoughtful and steady leadership any day over brashness and flamboyancy. 

In my view Mr McLaughlin, and his team of Progressive candidates understand what President Truman meant by “… only one thing endures – Character.”

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