Archive for June 17th, 2013

Court moves on Rivers case

| 17/06/2013 | 122 Comments

mac n tara (232x300).jpg(CNS): The court has moved quickly on the necessary proceedings over the challenge filed against the election of C4C member of the Legislative Assembly, Tara Rivers. According to the cause lists for this week, the Rivers case is listed for a directions hearing on Tuesday afternoon in Grand Court Five. The election petition filed last Wednesday, as revealed by CNS, queries the new education minister’s qualifications to be an elected member on two grounds. John Gordon Hewitt, the husband of Velma Hewitt, the UDP candidate who finished fifth in the West Bay poll, has petitioned the courts stating that Rivers has a US passport and was not resident in Cayman for the seven years prior to the election as required.

So far, Rivers has not commented on her qualification but released a short statement Friday saying she would be defending her election to office and fighting the challenge. The PPM leader and new premier, Alden McLaughlin, who invited Rivers into his Cabinet in the immediate wake of the election, even though she ran on the Coalition for Cayman ticket, also offered his support to his Cabinet colleague.

It is hoped that the issue will be resolved quickly as it is very likely that, should Rivers lose the challenge, a by-election will need to be held in the district because of the significant number of votes achieved by Rivers in the General Election. It is unlikely that Velma Hewitt, who came in fifth, would have been the major recipient of Rivers’ votes if she had not run as the C4C candidate, as they were seen as an anti-UDP vote by many. Had she not participated, a significant portion of her votes may well have gone to one of the other 11 candidates in the West Bay race.

With a very recent precedent set in the Turks and Caicos by former Cayman magistrate Margaret Ramsey Hale, now a judge in that territory, Hewitt’s challenge, if successful, is unlikely to result in the requested automatic return to office of his wife.

The challenge was filed just ahead of the deadline on the three week window of opportunity provided for by the elections law but it was not unexpected. The issue of Rivers being out of the country for a large part of the seven years prior to the election had been queried prior to the national poll but Rivers had made no comment on the issue.

In addition, on Nomination Day Rivers was one of a half dozen or so candidates who refused to sign a voluntary declaration document created by the Elections Office to focus candidates' minds on the various qualification requirements in an effort to reduce the risk of a challenge to any of them.

It is nosecret that Rivers was working in London between 2006 and 2009 as an associate at a law firm. However, she has reportedly claimed that she was also a student at the time and said it was not an issue. The elections law does provide some exemptions to the seven year residency requirement for candidates ahead of qualification, including being off island in order to study. However, it is not clear if that relates to those studying abroad while also holding a full time job overseas.

CNS contacted C4C committee members, who had claimed to scrutinize all of the candidates they had endorsed, to ask if they had satisfied themselves that Rivers did not hold dual nationality and that her absence from the islands was legitimately covered by the law. But the advocacy group, which has positioned itself on a platform of accountability and transparency in government, has not responded.

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CAACI dodges issue of heliport safety

| 17/06/2013 | 13 Comments

helipad_0.JPG(CNS): A statement released by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) on Friday relating to a ruling from Chief Justice Anthony Smellie which questioned the authority's certification of a heliport in George Town because of safety reasons gave very little away. In a ruling issued last month following a legal dispute the chief justice said the aviation authority had not followed its own rules and regulations when it licensed the new downtown helipad belonging to Cayman Islands Helicopters Ltd and ordered them to reassess the certification. However, the authority has made no comment on the findings other than to say people have a right to take legal action and has not said what it plans to do to address the CJ’s order.

In a meaningless statement released on Friday afternoon following the revelations in the local media about the issue, the CAACI said it took safety seriously. However, it did not say what it intended to do about the heliport and the reassessment of the license and the safety question.

The CAACI merely stated that it was a defendant in the legal action, which was filed by Axis International Ltd, the owner of a commercial site near to harbor front heliport. It said it was “disappointed” by the chief justice’s findings when he ruled that the CAACI "did not properly satisfy itself that all the regulatory requirements for certification were complied with and ordered that the Authority reassess the Heliport to decide whether or not the certification should stand.” 

However, there was no indication about the action that the authority plans to take or any details of the appeal which the authority is reportedly pursing with tax payers’ cash.

“While disappointed with the ruling, the CAACI accepts that in a democratic society governed by the rule of law, decisions of government and public authorities may be challenged through the Courts,” it said. “The CAACI reaffirms its commitment to the safety of aviation operations in the Islands and seeks to reassure the public that, as always, it will continue to apply appropriate regulatory standards, along with sound technical and professional judgment in all its regulatory activities, through its highly qualified and competent staff."

But the claim rang a little hollow, given the findings of the chief justice, who pointed to a number of influences over the CAACI’s certification of the heliport, not least commercial ones, which appeared to override safety considerations. The country’s senior judge made it quite clear that the CAACI shifted the goalposts on safety in order to find a way to certify the heliport site, despite the numerous problems listed in his 149 page complex ruling.

See full CAACI statement below.

Related article on CNS:

GT heliport found unsafe

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UK gives credit to Cayman for cooperation

| 17/06/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The Cayman premier was keen to stress that the jurisdiction had not been forced to sign any new agreements during the UK Trip this week and that the UK prime minister have acknowledged the cooperation of Cayman over the years when it comes to issues of tax transparency. He said that Cayman had also agreed to publish its action plan regarding beneficial ownership at the same time as other jurisdictions in the wake of this week’s G8 meeting.  “The UK was informed nearly two months ago – on 25 April – that Cayman would produce the action plan,” Alden McLaughlin said Saturday in the wake of the pre-G8 meeting with David Cameron on Saturday. Read more and comment on CNS Business

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Man hurt in nightclub fight

| 17/06/2013 | 24 Comments

crime-scene-tape.jpg(CNS): A 28-year-old George Town man was injured when he was hit with a bottle during a fight at a West Bay Road nightclub in the early hours of Monday morning. Police said that at 3:32am officers of the Uniform Support Group  of the RCIPS were in the parking lot at the Strand in the vicinity of the Elements nightclub when the man left the club with blood running down his face. As officers tried to help the man and find out what had happened, another fight broke out amongst the crowd of people who had also come out of the club. The officers eventually brought the crowd under control and managed to establish that the man had been wounded when he was hit in the face with a bottle inside the club.

He was taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital by a private vehicle before the ambulance arrived and his injury was not life threatening.

Police officers are now investigating the circumstances of the assault and are asking anyone with information that can assist with this enquiry to call George Town Police Station on 949-4222 or 9497777 or Crime Stoppers at 800(TIPS) 8477

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UK local government’s lavish spending revealed

| 17/06/2013 | 2 Comments

burning_money1.jpg(Daily Mail): Britain's council bosses are lavishing millions in taxpayers' cash on chauffeur-driven cars and jet-setting trips, an investigation has found. The astonishing spending includes five-star jaunts across the globe, the use of luxury chauffeured Bentleys, Jaguars and BMWs, and even private golf lessons for council staff. One local authority used their taxpayer-funded charge cards to buy pedicures. The spending was uncovered by Channel 4's Dispatches 'How Councils Waste Your Money' and comes despite cash-strapped local authorities imposing deep cuts to social care and services.

The investigation found:

More than £30million spent ferrying around town hall top brass in chauffeured cars in five years.
Almost £4million spent on trips abroad to countries including Brazil, Australia and Jamaica.
One council spent £23,000 employing a twinning ambassador to a picturesque French town.
Councillors using payment cards on luxury hotels and lavish meals at celebrity restaurants.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles slammed the high spending at a time of deepening austerity. He said: 'I can pretty much tell you now that money spent on golf lessons by local authorities, or pedicures, is not wisely spent.'

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WestStar stealing channels

| 17/06/2013 | 105 Comments

CM3237919@TV_WATCHING.jpg(CNS): HBO Latin America says WestStar TV is illegally broadcasting its content and has lodged a complaint with Cayman’s regulatory authority. According to lawyers for the cable network company, the local TV station is broadcasting HBO and Cinemax programmes without paying any licencing fees to the company, contrary to US Federal law. While WestStar has been broadcasting HBO channels for some time, the move to get tough on the television company comes a few months after telecommunications firms LIME and Logic both launched their TV services in the Cayman Islands, having signed legal agreements with HBO Latin America, enabling both companies to broadcast all of its channels legitimately.

“WestStar TV Limited is not authorized or licensed by the copyright owners to distribute or rebroadcast HBO and Cinemax programming in the Cayman Islands,” law firm Hampson and Company stated in a release aimed at both the company and subscribers to the TV station.

The channels which the firm says WestStar is illegally broadcasting include HBO rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 17; CineMax rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 35; HBO Plus rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 151; HBO Signature rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 152, MoreMax rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 154; ActionMax rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 155; HBO Family rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 157; and HBO Latino rebroadcast as WestStar’s Channel 178.

“WestStar TV has engaged in an unethical practice of unauthorized interception of US satellite TV transmissions contrary to US Federal law, in breach of the terms of the satellite TV provider (Dish Network), by rebroadcasting and distributing this HBO and Cinemax programming to subscribers in the Cayman Islands for commercial purposes, without the consent of the owners of the copyright in that HBO and Cinemax programming and without payment of any form of licensing fees to HBO Latin America,” the law firm stated.

“HBO Latin America has given WestStar TV notice of the position and every opportunity to cease its interception and rebroadcast of HBO and Cinemax programming, and while WestStar has not denied these unethical activities it has continued to engage in these practices, compelling HBO Latin America to make the position public and refer the matter to the Cayman Islands regulator.”

HBO Latin America, the exclusive distributor and licensee of HBO and Cinemax programming in the Caribbean, said through their lawyers that they had pressed the local regulators, the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA), to take appropriate action against WestStar “with a view to ensuring a level playing field among television providers in the Cayman Islands and avoiding an unfair competitive advantage to WestStar TV, in the interest of all subscribers in the Cayman Islands.”

They said, “HBO Latin America is confident that the local regulatory authority will take appropriate action to address this entirely unsatisfactory situation. HBO Latin America is proud of its licensed and authorized Cayman Islands’ partners, LIME and Logic, who offer world class HBO and Cinemax programming to their subscribers with the authority and license of the copyright owners.”

See Viewpoint: Why is piracy legal in Cayman? (29 January 2010)

Related articles: 

Telecoms firm launches fibre optic TV service (CNS Business, 17 January 2013)

Internet TV arrives in CI (CNS Business, 10 April 2013)

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