Archive for February 8th, 2013

UDP member resigns to campaign as own man

UDP member resigns to campaign as own man

| 08/02/2013 | 127 Comments

leslie.jpg(CNS): The latest candidate to declare for GeorgeTown is local entrepreneur Mathew Leslie. A founding member of the YUDP and more latterly a council member of the UDP, Leslie resigned from the political party this week to run on his own ticket. The only endorsement Leslie said he would be seeking is from the people of the capital. Leslie told CNS after announcing his candidacy Friday that he believes the people of Cayman have lost faith in party politics and want a cooperative, coalition government. Joining a growing list of independents who have now declared for George Town, Leslie said this election wasn’t about the "who you running with saga" but “who you running for". He stated, "I’m running for the people of Cayman.” 

Leslie said it was important to move away from party politics so he could be free to think on his own and take on-board ideas regardless of the affiliation or view of those submitting them.

“This election is important to me and I want to concentrate on the people, not the party politics,” Leslie said after his resignation from the UDP. 

Announcing his bid for office in a message on his Facebook page and calling for the support of over 3,000 FB friends illustrates that he already realizes, as one of the younger candidates in the field at only 32, how much social media will provide the forum for campaigning in this election.

Well known for his business involvements, such as The Cayman Islands Brewery (Caybrew) as well as being the CEO of the Titan Group of Companies, Leslie said it was now time for him to move into politics.

He said he believed he should be in government as he had many valuable skills, not least the ability to bring people to the table to cooperate and get things done. Leslie said he brought new blood to politics and someone who could take accountability to the next level.

Describing himself as a “new breed of politician”, he said, “I understand that this position has nothing to do with what you can get for yourself but rather what can you accomplish in the four years that people have appointed you to safeguard the best interest of the Cayman Islands.”

Noting that the cost of living in Cayman has displaced many families and caused hardships, he said he wants to change all of that.  Vowing to work with the other 17 candidates who are elected, Matthew said that the time to come together and work as one team and one purpose was now.

"Cayman has developed into two groups, the lower class and upper class. We need to bring back the middle class into the picture and pull our people less fortunate back up the ladder," he said.  “From unemployment to education and many other issues, these have to be addressed and dealt with to bring the standard of living back up for many who have fallen short during the hard economic times.

"As a Caymanian, I know what it is like to be in difficult situations. I am no stranger to hardships in life and I believe I am in tune with many people who just want the government to understand what they are going through and give them the time of day. The people need not just a voice; they need someone to do the work it takes to get this country in the right direction. Action speaks louder than words. Anyone can claim to be the voice of the people but if you are just going to go on the radio shows and on TV and just talk, you really are not accomplishing anything. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get some real work done," he added.

Unveiling his '10 in 10 Plan' , Leslie descreibes this as a mixture of items and causes that he would accomplish in his first 10 months of office.  He said government should put forward a 'to do' list of items and tackle each one without excuse.

No stranger to community work, Leslie has been involved with many initiatives, including raising record breakingfunds for Kemar Golding when he was shot in the head during a robbery in 2011 that left the island stunned. He also assisted the Rattray family when the members were left homeless after arson destroyed their home. Involved in many programs for kids and young people, Leslie said he is taking a grass roots approach to earn him a seat in parliament. Motivated by the many new registered voters, he hoped he wouldappeal to the younger electors, as well as more experienced voters who are ready for a fresh start in Cayman.

Having launched his website he invited people to log on and leave comments and suggestions and contact him for private meetings to discuss their needs and opinions.

"I want this election to be personal for everyone. So if seeing me personally is going to help you decide on the right choices for your vote then please feel free to contact me," he added.

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Local dengue infections continue to grow

Local dengue infections continue to grow

| 08/02/2013 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Four more people have contracted dengue fever locally, test results from the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre confirmed this week. Public health officials said that since the beginning of this year, 31 cases of dengue have been investigated with eight new cases reported since last week’s regular public service update. Another person has been admitted to hospital and nine test results were returned. The total number of results received by the local health officials since the start of last year is 105. Forty of these have proved positive and 61 negative while four were inconclusive. There are currently a further 20 cases awaiting results. Of the 40 confirmed cases over the last thirteen months, only 12 reported a travel history to endemic countries. The remaining 28 acquired the dengue locally.

Of the 28 local transmissions, 24 patients were were from West Bay, two were living in the capital of George Town and two more in Bodden Town. Since the surge of local cases began, 29 people have been admitted to hospital with dengue fever, which can be extremely serious and even fatal but so far all local patients have made a full recovery.

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Youth sailors in strong showing at local regatta

Youth sailors in strong showing at local regatta

| 08/02/2013 | 0 Comments

M3XMVuUc6-PyJV0vOKOs9oknaImo73NG70a_i91CWkI (251x300).jpg(CISA): Last weekend’s regatta at the Reef Resort was another huge success enjoyed by a record number of sailors. Conditions were perfect and once again the setting with the reef as a backdrop was stunningly beautiful.This regatta has now been running for seven years. It was founded to commemorate the legendary Captain Leroy Watson of East End and has been sponsored throughout by Donald McLean from Health Care Pharmacy. From small beginnings it has steadily grown and this year 37 sailors took part. In the Laser class Rob Jackson blew away Coach Raph taking bullets in all seven races.

Raph did take second with Tomeaka McTaggart in third place and top Radial. This was also a breakthrough regatta for the youth Laser sailors who challenged well against the seniors. Thomas Bishop sailed consistently well to fourth place closely followed by Jesse Jackson in fifth. Shane McDermott also sailed well and but for two early starts could have been challenging for fourth.

In the Optimist class Pablo Bertran and Allena Rankine battled it out for top honours with Pablo taking five of the seven races.In the Optimist Green fleet Will Jackson ran out the winner.

In the Pico double handed division Ben Woodford and Trey Milgate were convincing winners with Will Roberts & Tyler Lawson in second. Sam Bailey & Jade Wilkinson took third place.

Club Manager Rick Caley explained “The event has become a highlight on the racing calendar as families can race together and enjoy a weekend staycation at the Reef Resort who host the regatta. This was especially born out this year where father and son team, Will and Rob Jackson, were both trophy winners”.

Coach Raph was thrilled with the youth racers. “It’s a huge undertaking to transport so many boats out to East End and a lot of work, but the conditions out here are unique and gives everyone a chance to race under different conditions to those back on North Sound. We are indebted to the many volunteers who help out especially Race Officer Peta Adams, Linda Locke at the Reef Resort and Compass Marine who help transport the boats”.

The Cayman Islands Sailing Club runs dinghy racing every first Sunday of the month. If you would like to take part contact


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Education plan revealed in face of failing grades

Education plan revealed in face of failing grades

| 08/02/2013 | 33 Comments

Failing_grade_istock-c.jpg(CNS): The education minister’s announcement on Thursday about the long awaited Strategic Education Plan was tainted by the revelation of school progress test results from an FOI request showing Cayman’s education system still has a long way to go. After almost a decade of reviews, reports, studies, consultations, debates, discussions, documents and plans about improving the system, kids are still leaving school with failing grades. Although there have been improvements in the exam results as children leave the government high school, with half of them leaving this year with five or more passes, the progress tests showed 80% of 11-12 year olds in high school did not meet the minimum expected levels in English and maths.

At Thursday’s press briefing Rolston Anglin berated the local newspaper, the Caymanian Compass, for the way the story was presented, the editorial relating to it, as well as local businessman Woody Foster, who is a member of the local organization that made the FOI request and who described the results as “shocking”.

Anglin said it was unfair of the newspaper to present the results in the way it had and for everyone to think they were education experts. He said these tests were a pilot and new to both staff and students and they were being used as a benchmark for progress and should not be used as a snapshot to measure standards. However, the minister did not deny the accuracy of the results.

The community action group, Literacy is for Everyone, made the FOI request for the results of the tests, which are assessments known as Progress in English and Progress in Maths that were administered to kids aged between six and thirteen across the government system.

The tests revealed some students were as much as four years behind in reading, writing and mathematics and significant numbers of local high school kids fell into the lowest attainment range. Around half of the children graduating from primary school in 2012 had not met the minimum expectations for their age group in English or maths, the results revealed. 

Speaking at Thursday’s press briefing following an earlier briefing at George Town Primary, where the minister had unveiled his five year plan for education less than five months from an election where he could be ousted from office, the minister focused on the bad news.

He said the progress tests were not intended to be used to make sweeping judgements about the government schools, as he pointed to the latest CXC/GCSE results which were the fifth year in a row to see improvements. Those results have leapt from a low of 27% of students passing five of their school leaving exams five years ago to over 49% in 2012.

Continuing to criticise how the figures were published, however, Anglin said the tests were to give parents and teachers an idea of where intervention is required but not measure standards. He did, however, acknowledgethe serious problems with literacy and mathematics among local school children. He said it was not a state secret and there had been many interventions over the years. The publication of the results in this way, he said, was upsetting for parents and children and it did not help in the goal to improve standards.

The ministry, he said, had never shied away from the need to improve teaching practice but he said it had to start at the primary level. Anglin said the authorities know what the community wants.

“We know they want better results and we aim to get them,” he said, but there would be no reactionary change of course for the education plan because of a few comments. The minister said he was confident in his ministerial team, school leaders and teachers. With the greater engagement of parents, he said, things would get even better and the system "will go from good to great" with the new plan.

Cabinet endorsed the plan this week, Anglin said, as he explained his aim of wanting to “bed down a long term vision for education” and develop a system that would allow “transition and to transcend changes in government and politicians.”

He said the plan was borne out of wide consultation and listening to stakeholders, and admitted it was built on work from the previous administration as well. Anglin said the national plan started with the 2009 stabilization plan, which he had said at that time was not a stagnation plan. The plan, he added, also commits the authorities to be accountable for implementing the plan.

“If we continue the work that has been started, we will have world class education system for Cayman,” the minister said. "If we wind up being truly committed to education being the number one priority there are no reasons, given the resources and with teacher and parent support, that we can't get to point where 75% of students leaving school getting at least five level two passes,” he added.

See plan here.

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Customers cut CUC profits with cut in usage

Customers cut CUC profits with cut in usage

| 08/02/2013 | 0 Comments

turn down.jpg(CNS Business): Grand Cayman’s power supplier saw a fall in profits last year as a result of cooler weather, energy conservation and increased costs, the firm said. In its unaudited results for last year Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) said its earnings at the end of 2012 were $17.7 million, representing a 13% or $2.7 million decrease from earnings of $20.4 million in 2011. Although its customer base increased, the power firm pointed to number of issues relating to customer behaviour as well as depreciation as the cause of its fall in profits. Richard Hew, President and Chief Executive Officer of the firm, said 2012 was the third year in a row without any appreciable growth in power sales for the company. Read more on CNS Business

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Farm hits back at WSPA over ‘smear campaign’

Farm hits back at WSPA over ‘smear campaign’

| 08/02/2013 | 50 Comments

blind turtle.jpg(CNS): Officials from the Cayman Turtle Farm have hit out at the international animal rights charity, WSPA, and accused them of a sensationalized misleading campaign about the dangers of turtle handling. The CTF categorically denies any risk to visitors from handling turtles, pointing to reports that back up that claim as it debunks the research present by the charity, which it said was undertaken by biased scientists associated with the WSPA. Despite what appeared to be a cordial step forward following visits to Cayman by WSPA members last month, the CTF has made it clear, again, that the campaign will not succeed and it will not be transitioning from a farm to a conservation facility.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals released a study earlier this week, published in an on-line supplement of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Journal, which stated that people interacting with captive turtles were at risk. But Tim Adam, the farm’s MD, vehemently denied the research findings and said there was significant evidence to the contrary.

“These latest allegations are another clear effort by the WSPA to undermine the business of the CTF in WSPA’s ongoing goal to shut down our operations, since their campaign thus far has been unsuccessful in achieving that aim,” he said.

While the campaign has certainly failed to persuade the farm to move from a facility with the primary motivation to slaughter the animals for meat with conservation as a parallel part of the work to a full conservation project, the campaign has attracted significant international attention and raised concerns about the legitimacy of the farm around the world. Furthermore, WSPA succeeded in drawing attention to a significant amount of problems at the farm, in particular animal welfare issues, some of which have now been acknowledged by the CTF and as a result are being addressed.

Nevertheless, the farm still claims that there are only limited issues at the tourist attraction and is adamant that handling turtles is safe. It has denied the WSPA findings, accusing it of funding the research to try and help it achieve the objective of stopping people from handling turtles as well as stopping the trade of meat. WSPA confirmed that the research carried out by Clifford Warwick, a reptile expert from the Emergent Disease Foundation, was funded by the charity. However, the findings were published by the medical journal’s supplement on merit and not because it was paid, as was claimed by the farm.

As the dispute between the CTF and the animal charity continues in the local and international media spotlight, Adam continued to claim that handling turtles was safe and as a “leading facility in turtle research and conservation”, he said it followed safe turtle handling protocols communicated to guests via signs and spoken instructions.

“All turtle handling is supervised, and the established protocols follow the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the safe handling of reptiles,” the managing director added.

He said that in over 40 years of operations at the farm there has never been a single known recorded case of illness or disease transmitted to any visitor, even though there are some 200,000 per year, most of whom handle the animals. Adam also claimed that there had never been any recorded cases of turtle handling causing illness for staff, many of whom had worked there for several years.

“The CTF sees literally hundreds of interactions per day between guests and turtles, with guests of a range of ages,” Adam said, noting it had never seen any cases of disease transmission because of the safety precautions. Nevertheless, the director admitted that the signs and hand washing facilities were only upgraded last year.

Adam pointed to the review the CTF had voluntarily undertaken this December. However, the decision to invite an independent review of the farm came only after the shocking revelations by WSPA, which were documented in pictures alongside the scientific findings.

The CTF continues to criticize the research, even though its own review and previous research that had been kept under wraps dovetailed with some of the WSPA’s findings. .

Speaking specifically about the turtle handling, the farm said the team that conducted the December review, which was made public last month, did not find any risk of turtle handling to the health and safety of CTF guests. 

“Given changes to operating practices where handling is supervised and hand washing is offered and encouraged, the panel had no concern in this regard.”

The farm criticised WSPA’s work in general as well as the latest concerns about the spread of disease. The director said the previous research was conducted undercover and was in incomplete as their investigation was carried out without the cooperation of the CTF and without full access to the farm. The director also criticized the WSPA for not releasing all of its research while the Turtle Farm management had released the latest report in full.

However, previous research had been kept under wraps at the farm and was not released until it became the target of the animal rights group, which began making Freedom of Information requests as well as conducting its own research, all of which was placed in the public domain.

In a lengthy statement refuting the claims by the WSPA research and denying that there was any risk to visitors health, the farm director did not mention the issue of the stress that scientists also say the turtles undergo when they are handled by visitors.

Adam accused WSPA of misrepresentation in order to damage the farm’s reputation and impede its work. While WSPA has denied any desire to impede the conservation work, it freely admits that it wants to stop the farm from slaughtering the more than 7,000 creatures it currently has there for meat.

The CTF continues to claim conservation credentials, based on a combination of the research that is conducted by scientists around the world on turtles there was well as the release programme. Over 150 scientific papers have been published or presented over the lifespan of the farm and some 31,000 turtles have been released into the wild.

Over the same period many more thousands have been slaughtered and eaten.

See the full report here

See related story here

See full statement from turtle farm below.

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TCI government loses majority, by-election due

TCI government loses majority, by-election due

| 08/02/2013 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Following a decision by Justice Margaret Ramsey-Hale in the Turks and Caicos Islands court Thursday, the government has lost its majority and a by-election is on the cards. The former Cayman Islands chief magistrate, who is now a grand court judge in the British territory, ruled that the November election result in the district of Cheshire Hall was void. The seat was taken by Amanda Misick for the ruling Progressive National Party, who until Thursday was a Cabinet minister. Misick has now lost her seat because of a petition against the qualification of a third candidate brought by the opposition party People's Democratic Movement candidate Oral Selver, who lost the seat by only 30 votes to Misick.

His target was Edward Smith, who was representing the Peoples Progressive Party and who poled only 58 votes. However, because Smith remains an American citizen it was found that he was disqualified from standing in the country’s election and should not have been on the ballot. Given that his 58 votes could have gone to Selver, which would have seen him move from second place in the poll to first, giving him, not Misick, the seat and crucially the government to the PNP, the losing candidate filed an election petition to the courts in the wake of the result.

Following Ramsey-Hale's decision that declared the election result void, the governor of TCI, Ric Todd, said he would announce a date for a by-election in Cheshire Hall shortly. In the meantime, Misick had ceased to be a minister and the country’s Assembly had one empty seat, leaving the opposition and government with eight seats each along with the two independent members appointed by the governor.

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Crown loses gun trial over lack of evidence

Crown loses gun trial over lack of evidence

| 08/02/2013 | 4 Comments

IMG_6250 (269x300).jpg(CNS): The crown’s decision to press ahead and try Osbourne Douglas over charges for an unlicensed firearm proved to be a mistake this week after Justice Alex Henderson accepted a no case submission by his attorney on Tuesday. The judge directed a jury to find the George Town man not guilty, stating that the DNA evidence presented by the crown was not sufficient to prove that the defendant had ever possessed the gun. Douglas’s original co-defendant, Roger Moore, had already pleaded guilty to possession of the weapon last week as it had fallen out of his pants leg in front of a police officer during a roadside stop and search last August.

The only evidence linking Douglas to the gun was some questionable DNA and the fact that he was in the car with Moore when the police pulled it over and conducted a search, which led to the loaded gun’s recovery. However, the crown had pressed ahead with the possession case against Douglas, who denied any knowledge that his friend was armed and denied ever being in possession of the weapon.

Douglas’s attorney, Fiona Robertson of Samson McGrath, argued that the DNA was insufficient to convict her client and that, given the circumstances of the incident and the search, when Douglas was accused by police of attempting to grab the gun when it fell out of his friend’s pants leg, there were numerous opportunities for transfer.

Douglas was not charged with possession of the .38 automatic pistol until several weeks after the night of the search and after the weapon was subjected to forensic testing and a match was made with the George Town man.

Following submissions made by Robertson, the judge threw out the case as he said there were many ways that Douglas’s DNA could have made it on to the weapon without him having possession of it. Justice Henderson found that a jury properly directed could not convict on the evidence presented by the crown given its weakness, and he told the jury that, according to the law, they must find Douglas not guilty. The jury complied and acquitted the George Town man. 

Douglas, who has been on remand since his arrest last year, eventually walked free after he was bailed on an outstanding Summary Court matter.

Meanwhile, Moore, who has admitted possession, is now awaiting sentencing and faces a minimum of seven years for his possession of the loaded gun.

Related article:

11th hour plea by gunman

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