Archive for June 14th, 2013

In support of Sweet Pea

| 14/06/2013 | 37 Comments

The private sector pays enormous sums of money to cover their healthcare. I pay 50% of my healthcare, my portion of which amounts to approximately $260 (this is my rate as a fairly healthy non-smoker) and my employer pays the other 50%. Therefore, on an annual basis, the healthcare provider receives over $6,000 from me. This does not include my husband or dependants.

In the past 12 months, I have been to the dentist twice for a regular checkup and cleaning and I have been to my GP once.  This has been my routine for the past 15 years with the exception of perhaps the odd additional appointment to a chiropractor or physiotherapist.

All the while I have been paying enormous sums of money that I’ve certainly not spent. However, I am grateful to know that should anything go horribly wrong I will be covered and I’ve paid healthily towards that coverage. Given the above, I’ve already paid almost $100,000 to the healthcare provider, of which I’ve spent probably under $6,000.

In the meantime, I exercise 3-5 times a week, I eat a fairly healthy diet and am fortunate enough to be able to say that I almost never get a cold.  Some may say I’m lucky. I would disagree and say that my ‘luck’ is a direct result of the choices I make – I am not one of those people who enjoy exercise; I can ALWAYS find something better to do.  I also thoroughly enjoy the odd fast food meal but am very aware that fast food along with my favourite local beef or oxtail (with rice and peas, macaroni cheese and plantain of course) needs to be limited to once or twice a month if I do not want to clog up my arteries and cause myself weight issues ultimately leading to health issues.

There are those people with health issues who may never have been overweight and I am not addressing my comments to those people. However, there are NO overweight people without health issues, although some may simply not be aware of them yet. You cannot abuse the body God blessed you with and expect there to be no consequences.  Eating too much, drinking too much and smoking are all equal abuses, and just because you don’t smoke or drink does not mean you’re not abusing your body when you eat fried chicken with fries every day.

So I agree wholeheartedly with Sweet Pea’s Viewpoint. I take no pleasure in the fact that it is so absolutely and tragically true; I only wish it hadn’t hit the nail on the head so succinctly but sadly, it did.  I don’t think we the people should indirectly be funding healthcare for those persons who clearly don’t do anything to be healthy and there are too many of them.

Those civil servants in a medically acceptable weight range for their age and height, etc, should be offered coverage (perhaps co-pay as the private sector do) whereas those who make poor choices and continue to do so for themselves and their families should be made to contribute more fully and certainly encouraged to make better choices.  I would love to see a healthy civil service and agree that trimming the fat in this way has far more positive long term benefits than removing people from their posts.

It seems the government health care is set up because there are those who are uninsurable by any normal health plan, and so instead of saying ‘ok, we’ll cover you when no-one else will’, why not get to the root of the problem and offer to cover these people on the proviso that they make some healthier choices and perhaps set them some goals. Would that not be a better long term solution than simply pouring money into a hole in the ground encouraging further obesity, further health issues, further heart issues and joint issues down the line?

It’s as if we’re burying our heads in the sand simply because we don’t wish to cause offense. Well I find it VERY offensive that we’re all indirectly paying for other people’s poor life choices when I try to make decent ones for myself. The decent life choices aren’t always the most fun but it’s as good as stealing from the next generation when you’re prepared to simply keep taking government money to pay for healthcare that might not be needed if a little more discipline was the order of the day.

Let’s all try and become part of the solution rather than constantly being part of the problem and then wondering why we’ve got no money left to educate our children.

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Stormchaser Regatta as exciting as ever

| 14/06/2013 | 0 Comments

Derek Peene.jpg(CISC): Four classes of dinghy competed in this year's Stormchaser regatta, which marks the beginning of the hurricane season. Breezy conditions and a high standard of racing resulted in a thrilling two days of action. In the youth Optimist class Derek Peene (left), sailing in his first regatta handled the conditions very well and showed he is one to watch for the future. Monique Hernandez gave reigning youth champ Allena Rankine a run for her money but Rankine proved too strong and ran out the winner taking the Stormchaser trophy for the first time. In the senior division Bytes, Radials and Laser Standards fought it out with more than one "coming together". Shane McDermott was the top Byte sailor taking third place overall. 

Coach Raph was full of praise. "He sailed a very steady regatta showing a steady calm and maturity when others were taking too many risks. He just gets better and better."

In the Lasers Chris Delaney and Kelvin Browne were neck and neck sharing the lead throughout the seven races. As Race Officer Peta Adams explained "It was so close that they actually tied one of the races on time. With Chris sailing Radial and Kelvin a full rig they couldn't be sure who was in the lead until the results were calculated at the end." It was Delaney who eventually took the title, also a first time winner in the Stormchaser event.

Club Manager Rick Caley lamented that the Cat Boats didn't come out this year. "We always look forward to having these wonderful boats out on the water with us and although Jerris Miller can hang on to the trophy for another twelve months, we hope they will be out again next year".

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Rivers will fight challenge

| 14/06/2013 | 89 Comments

monday 034.JPG(CNS): Following the revelations on CNS Thursday that Tara Rivers is facing a legal challenge to her election to office at the May poll, the new education minister has said she intends to “vigorously oppose this challenge”. However, she has said very little about the details of the election petition filed in the court Wednesday, just hours ahead of the deadline for the petition. Rivers said she was committed to fulfilling her term and to serving the people according to what she called the “overwhelming desire” of her district and country. The new premier, who invited the C4C candidate into his government after her historic victory in West Bay, also offered his support Friday in a message from London.

Rivers is being challenged on two fronts by John Gordon Hewitt, the husband of Velma Hewitt, the United Democratic Party candidate who was placed fifth in the West Bay poll, missing a seat by several hundred votes. However, Hewitt has filed the petition asking the courts to make his wife the duly elected fourth member for West Bay and remove Rivers from office. He claims that Rivers was not qualified to run as she holds an American passport and because she was not resident in the Cayman Islands for  seven years before the election.

In her latest statement, Rivers makes no comment about the heart of the challenge, stating that it is now a matter for the courts. However, in the past she had claimed that her eligibility was not in question as she was studying during the time that she was living and working in London between 2006 and 2009. According to the elections law, formal study is one of the exemptions provided for in the seven year residency requirement. Rivers has not, however, commented on her situation regarding whether or not she has retained her right to a US passport.

“Unfortunately, as this is now an on-going legal matter before the Courts, I am unable to make any further statement at this time. Your prayers and support are appreciated and I will endeavour to keep you informed as and when I am able. I respectfully ask that each of you remain level-headed and optimistic and allow this to be handled through the appropriate channels, as the law requires,” Rivers, who is a lawyer, said in an official statement released to the press following enquiries from CNS for comment.

Addressing her constituents, Rivers said she was grateful for “the outpouring of support" and the messages conveying the “deep disappointment and shock at the eleventh hour petition filed against my election to the Legislative Assembly”. She added, “I know that many of you are disheartened by this news and feel that this is a campaign to discredit me publicly and distract me from my current responsibilities.” But she saidshe remained focused on carrying out her duties as a minister and MLA.

Meanwhile, offering his support for Rivers in a statement from the UK, Premier Alden McLaughlin said he was aware of the petition challenging the legitimacy of the election of Rivers. Saying it was “disappointing and unfortunate that such a challenge is being made at this late stage", he pointed to the need for the new government to settle in to address the difficult times that Cayman faces without “the distraction and uncertainty created by this petition.”

The premier called for the issue to be addressed expeditiously. “I have spoken to Minister Rivers and she has advised me that she intends to vigorously defend her election.  I have assured her that she continues to enjoy the confidence and support of the government and of me as Premier,” McLaughlin added.

CNS has also contacted Coalition for Cayman, the group which claims it questioned and scrutinized all of the candidates it endorsed, to clarify if this issue was addressed during that process and that they  had satisfied themselves that Rivers was qualified. However, we have not yet received a response.

According to the Elections Office, Rivers was one of a handful of candidates that refused to sign a voluntary declaration form which asked them to state that there were no issues that could prevent them from being qualified.

See both Rivers' and McLaughlin’s statements in full below and see related story and petition here.

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Jewel heist costs thief eight years in jail

| 14/06/2013 | 15 Comments

mag jewellers.jpg(CNS): As Simon Julio Newball marked his 37th birthday in Grand Court Thursday, he also heard the judge hand down an eight year custodial sentence for his conviction by a 6 juror panel of theft and arson. Though he had denied all of the allegations, Newball was found guilty of stealing jewellery valued at US$308,194 from Magnum Jewellers in George Town along with two other masked men. The three men had entered the store with an axe and committed a smash 'n' grab raid just a few days before Christmas in 2011 during business hours. Newball was also found guilty of arson of the getaway vehicle which was found burnt out by police shortly after the daylight jewel heist took place.

Justice Alexander Henderson had directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict to robbery, which was one of the charges against the George Town man because the judge said there was no evidence to support a guilty verdict.

However, the judge explained that a "lesser included charge" of theft was to be considered instead because no forcewas used by the three people who entered the store against anyone during the heist. Newball was also charged with theft of the vehicle, but again Justice Henderson dismissed that charge on the grounds that there was no evidence to support it.

In summing up the trial for the jury Justice Henderson pointed to the evidence given by a salesman in the store at the time of the heist. He had told the court that at around 11am that day, a Toyota Rav 4 pulled up to the store on Cardinal Avenue. A masked man with an axe then entered the store and smashed the display cases. Then the other men made their way into the store and grabbed a considerable amount of high end jewellery. The prosecution counsel submitted during the sentencing that there was a sense of “professionalism to the offense” because of the obvious planning and attempt to conceal the evidence by torching the stolen getaway vehicle.

During the sentencing hearing however, Newball's defence attorney swayed the judge to run the sentence for the arson offense concurrently with the sentence given for the theft as he said it could be seen as a "classic theft" and an attempt to dispose of evidence.
The court had heard from the police officers who arrested Newball in January after the heist that two rings fell from his pants after he was handcuffed but Newball insisted that he was innocent and that the jewellery had been planted. The crown also had argued that Newball's extensive criminal history was an aggravating feature as he had five previous convictions for burglary along with other minor offenses. Counsel also invited the judge to consider a nine year prison term to act as a deterrent seeing as ten years is the maximum sentencing in the Cayman Islands for theft.

Nick Hoffman who represented Newball during his trial and sentencing agreed that he had a less than impressive record but that there was another side to the man who had spent so much time behind prison bars and that he had grown up without his father.

In his conclusion, Justice Henderson explained that the arson and aggravating criminal history would elevate his sentence substantially and that Newball is a long time abuser of illegal drugs. He stated that "both charges must be reflected in his sentence” he handed down the eight year sentence with time served for the theft and gave Newball two years for the arson which he ordered to run concurrently.

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Alden gets nod for overdraft

| 14/06/2013 | 31 Comments

Mark_Simmonds.jpg(CNS): The Foreign Office minister for overseas territories, Mark Simmonds, has agreed to extend the Cayman government’s short term borrowing in order to help it get through the leanest period of the year and to tide it through its emergency appropriations at the year end. During his meeting with Cayman’s new premier on Thursday in London, Simmonds also said the UK would help Premier Alden McLaughlin’s government in its goal to privatize some elements of the public sectorand said the FCO would provide technical experts who could advise Cayman on public/private funding packages that could provide necessary capital without long-term revenue consequences.

McLaughlin’s first meeting with Simmonds appears to have gone well, with the new premier emphasising the need for the Cayman-UK relationship to be "based on sound reason, trust and mutual respect”, as they sat down to discuss Cayman’s budget, development and the environment.

The premier told Simmonds that the government Intends to put the budget on a more sustainable footing over a four-year term rather than on a year-to-year basis, and explained that, until it could present a full budget in October, an interim continuation budget and renewed overdraft facility was needed, which was agreed. Simmonds said his officials would work out the details with Cayman officials as he emphasised the need to see a reduction in overall debt levels.

Having outlined government’s manifesto commitments and the intention to privatize government-owned business, Simmonds agreed with the premier’s position that this could free up capital for infrastructure projects. The men also spoke about streamlining government operations in order to make it more efficient, with the premier repeating his commitment that there would not be civil service layoffs.

Simmonds reportedly congratulated McLaughlin for his commitment to proper procurement practices for the cruise berthing facility and the government’s goal to pass the long awaited the draft Conservation Bill. According to the government released the OT minister commended him for giving the environment a prominent place on government’s agenda, and welcomed any input that Cayman could give on renewable energy in the overseas territories for the next meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) in November. McLaughlin said he was looking forward to playing a constructive part in that meeting and pointed to growth, jobs and the cost of living as top priorities for the PPM government, which also happen to be topics on Simmonds’ agenda for that JMC.

The JMC annually brings together political leaders from the Overseas Territories and UK ministers to work together on common issues.

McLaughlin will meet UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday and attend the ‘Open for Growth’ event on tax, transparency and trade. McLaughlin travelled to the UK with a small delegation, which included Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, since the pre G8 meeting will cover tax information exchange and transparency, and Finance Minister Marco Archer and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson for the budget discussions.

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GT heliport found unsafe

| 14/06/2013 | 37 Comments

cayman-island-helicopters.jpgCNS): The country’s highest judge has ruled in favour of a legal action challenging the reasonableness of a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) to certify the commercial heliport in George Town, owned and used by Cayman Islands Helicopters Ltd (CIHL). Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled that the decision was unreasonable and the pad should not have been certified as it is not in compliance with the various safety standards with which the authority would normally use to assess such a site. In a complex ruling, the CJ points to a catalogue of reasons why the heliport should not have been certified in response to the legal challenge filed by Axis International Ltd, a commercial neighbour of the heliport.

Although the chief justice has not directly overturned the certification, he has ordered the CAACI to reassess the heliport in accordance with the rules and regulations and safety criteria that it should have used in the first place. Although CIHL also uses the airport, the George Town helipad has been used by the helicopter firm since November 2011 from which it takes off and lands its helicopter for customer tours of Grand Cayman, particularly from cruise ship passengers.

In his ruling following the legal dispute, which listed a catalogue of objections and issues relating to safety questions and the nuisance factor of the heliport against both the CAACI and CIHL, Smellie found that the CAACI had failed to meet its duty imposed by the Air Navigations Overseas Territories Order (ANOTO) and the Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements.

At the end of the 149-page ruling, in which the chief justice scrutinizes the details, procedures, regulations, safety questions and much more followed by the CAACI during the process of the certification, as well asthe influences on its decision, he stated, "[T]he certification of the heliport is not in compliance with the ANOTO and the standards of the OTARs.” The judge pointed to his detailed explanations in the ruling and stated, “[T]he heliport may not be considered to be safe for the purposes of the on-going operation of the helicopter in the manner that it is being operated.”

Smellie highlights a catalogue of issues surrounding the certification, starting with the CAACI’s close involvement from the beginning and its misguided indication to the owners of CIHL that the pad was a suitable location and that it could be certified, as well as the commercial interests of the business.

Smellie said, “It is apparent from the evidence that the CAACI allowed itself to become unduly influenced in the process of certification by its willingness to accommodate the commercial objectives of CHIL. Indeed, it may have felt embarrassed and obliged to do so on account of its own early and premature expression of satisfaction as to the suitability of the Heliport site.”

The port is located on North Church Street in the George Town harbour on an ironshore coastline and is very close to the water.

He points to the evidence of the CAACI’s willingness to depart from the “obviously prudent” safety standards imposed by the OTARs as there were a number of issues raised in the case that indicated the location was unsuitable. 

The ruling notes a number of problems but the police also indicated that they would not use the site for its air support unit except in the most dire emergency circumstances, as they too did not believe it was safe.

The ruling found an accumulation of issues which point to the CAACI’s decision being unreasonable and, as a result, ordered the authority to address the issue. Despite finding that the port may not be safe, the judge opted not to order its closure.

“I consider it appropriate, however, that the Court should recognize the on-going remit of the CAACI as the body duly authorised and responsible for ensuring air navigation safety within the Islands. This is not a function that the court should override if there is another appropriate remedy. The CAACI has an on-going ability under Article 122 of ANOTO to monitor and reassess the Heliport and decide whether or not to vary, suspend or revoke certification. Rather than quashing the certificate, the court should allow the CAACI to exercise this function now in light of the clarifications of its responsibility and the issues for its assessments …”

Smellie adds that it should not be obliged to maintain the certification because of the commercial interests, as he declared that the heliport was not in compliance with the standard regulations.

Despite the findings of the CJ and the obvious safety issues raised in the complex and lengthy ruling, other sources have stated that the CAACI is appealing the decision.

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