Archive for August 9th, 2013

Rivers is qualified, says CJ

| 09/08/2013 | 270 Comments

CNS) Updated: Chief Justice Anthony Smellie has found that Tara Rivers is and was qualified to be elected to her seat in West Bay. In a lengthy ruling delivered to a packed courtroom on Friday afternoon, the islands' senior judge revealed that the petition challenging the education minister's election to office had failed on both grounds. Smellie said Rivers has a right to a US passport by birth and that it did not represent an allegiance to a foreign power. He also found that her physical absence from the jurisdiction prior to Nomination Day was not an impediment to her residency as she retained her home in West Bay and she was abroad for purposes of study as she was training with a major established law firm.

It took the chief justice over an hour to deliver his decision in the election petition challenging Rivers’ qualification to run, in which he focused, among other issues, on what he believed was the intent of the constitution, particularly where he felt there was ambiguity in its language.

The petition was filed by John Hewitt, the husband of UDP candidate Velma Hewitt, who came in fifth in the district election, thus failing to gain one the four West Bay seats. John Hewitt had argued that Rivers was not qualified on two grounds: she possessed and used an American passport, which was an indication of allegiance to another power, and because she lived overseas for a significant part of the seven years prior to Nomination Day and so did not fulfill the residency requirements set out in the constitution.

Rivers had admitted that she had a US passport and that she was living overseas for part of the seven years prior to Nomination Day but argued that she was still qualified. She claimed that the acquisition and use of her US passport did not show allegiance to a foreign power by her own acknowledgment as she was entitled to the passport by birth. Rivers submitted that the constitution provides for that exception.

She also argued that while she physically lived in London, she maintained her residence in Cayman. In addition, her absence from the islands was necessary because she was furthering her professional education with an established law firm and was, in essence, a student.

In his detailed argument, in which he noted that an interpretation of the intent of a constitution was “seldom straightforward”, the chief justice found that because she maintained her home in West Bay, where she kept her personal possessions, and had frequently returned home she had remained domiciled.

Smellie also found that her absence was for legitimate professional study. He said that Allen and Overy could be interpreted as a place of education because of the extensive professional training she undertook while she was there as an associate. He pointed to the need for those in professional practice to acquire education, experience and training overseas and that he did not conceive that the drafters of the constitution had intended to exclude persons from running for office who were overseas to further their professional education.

Although she was working and earning a salary, he said, she was still a trainee solicitor in English law. The chief justice said he was satisfied that she was residentand that her time away was legitimately provided for in the constitution.

On what he described as “the vexed issue” of allegiance to a foreign power and what justified acknowledgment, the chief justice was swayed by the evidence from the legal expert on American law, Professor David Cole. The US legal expert had argued that because no one needed to swear an oath anymore when applying for and using a passport, it was not an act of allegiance over and above the allegiance that exists by virtue of being born in the country.

Despite the extensive case law of candidates across the Caribbean and Commonwealth being disqualified when they were discovered to be holders of another passport outside of the country in which they had been elected, the chief justice found most of them did not apply to the case before him.

He pointed to the “carve out” in the Cayman constitution, as it had been describe by the attorney general during the trial, which uniquely allows for dual citizenship in Cayman . The CJ again pointed to the intent of legislators in relation to the constitution, and said they had wanted to demonstrate equality for all Caymanians, regardless of where they were born.

He said the constitution does not expressly disqualify those who have a foreign passport by virtue of birth and, given the history in the jurisdiction regarding the challenge to Jim Bodden in the 1970s, had legislators wished to do so they could have spelled it out.

The senior judge told the packed courtroom that nothing in the law had persuaded him that renewing and using an American passport acquired by birth was an act of acknowledgment of allegiance. He said he felt there needed to be something far greater than a mere administrative act of getting a passport to exclude someone from their democratic right to run for office. As a result, he said he was satisfied that Rivers was not by her own act under the acknowledgment of allegiance to another power and was therefore qualified, as he indicated the petition had failed on both grounds.

Acknowledging the importance of the public interest issues that the petition had raised, the CJ said he was not inclined to punish the petitioner by ordering him to pay costs and that the issue would need to be heard.

Although his decision settles the ongoing debate in Cayman about dual citizenship for Caymanians born overseas and lifted that barrier to office, the ruling raises some different issues.

Several candidates have given up citizenships that they held by birth in order to run on the basis of recommendations from the Elections office.  In addition, and more pointedly, the disqualification of Richard Christian from the May ballot on the grounds that he held a US passport which he acquired by birth is now of particular significance. It is clear by this ruling that Christian did qualify, despite receiving a letter based on advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers that he did not.

Check back to CNS over the weekend for reaction to and implications of the decision.

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DoEH still struggling with garbage issues

| 09/08/2013 | 60 Comments

(CNS): Mechanical problems with trucks and budget cuts continue to plague the Department of Environmental Health’s garbage collection service and, as a result, piles of rubbish outside condos are becoming an increasingly common site. One resident sent a photo taken at Smith Road Villas in George Town to the DoEH director asking why rubbish was allowed to mount on the street. Roydell Carter responded that the delays with garbage collection services for both for the residential and commercial customers are continuing but the trash at the complex in question was expected to be cleared the following day. (Photo by Kerry Horek)

Nevertheless, while the department recently said that the collection services are almost back to normal, technical problems with the equipment, which have been going on since the end of last year, are continuing and the department has no money for new trucks. Carter, who said there had been several press releases about the garbage, admitted that the schedule was not yet back to normal.

“This is due mainly to the high frequency of mechanical breakdowns with the old garbage trucks,” he said, explaining that the DEH and the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services were working to resolve the issues as promptly as possible.

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Gallery shows power of art in rehabilitation

| 09/08/2013 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Thirty pieces of work by students on the Art Haven Programme will make up a new exhibition at the National Gallery which opens this weekend. All of the work that will be showcased was created by inmates and patients at Northward, Fairbanks and Caribbean Haven and demonstrate the importance of artistic outlets as part of the rehabilitation process. The monthly art programme held at the local prisons and drug re-hab centre under the  instruction of Cayman’s leading installation artist, Aston Ebanks, and poet and artist, Joseph Betty.

The students have been working on various themed artwork from landscapes, to still life and illustrations throughout the last year.  Betty said, “It is truly self-fulfilling for me, to have watched and embraced such transformation from negative minds to positive….through the power of arts.”

Art Haven is designed to offer participants a creative outlet and a chance to develop new skills.

“Our Outreach programmes are an integral part of what we do as a charity at the National Gallery,” says NGCI director Natalie Urquhart. “They are designed to strengthen communities by reaching people who cannot visit independently, but who might benefit from engaging in art as part of their wider rehabilitation process.”

The programme is sponsored by State Street Cayman Trust Company, Ltd, long-term supporters of the NGCI. Talking about the exhibition Shirley May Jackson  said, “State Street understands that exposure to the arts can provide a broad range of educational and personal development benefits to individuals and we are impressed with the positive results the National Gallery is accomplishing through their outreach programmes.”

The exhibition will be on display in the Dart Auditorium from August 10th to August 23rd and a there will be a public preview opening event on August 9 from 5-7pm.  Everybody is welcome. The art will be available for purchase. Admission is free.
 

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Civil servant PA completes premier’s office line-up

| 09/08/2013 | 45 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of the news revealed on CNS this week about political appointments to the premier’s office, an official press release about four new staff members has now been issued. Kristy Watler, who is the only civil servant from the group, is now Premier Alden McLaughlin’s personal assistant. She will work alongside the contracted employees Roy Tatum, who has been appointed as senior political advisor, Kenneth Bryan, who is the new political assistant, and Tammie Chisholm, who has taken up the press secretary’s post.  The office said this completed the team that will be working directly with the premier in his new home affairs.

In the release McLaughlin said that while the general election was in May, he wanted to take time to ensure he picked the right people for his team.

“I feel confident that this group will help government in its mission to work for a better tomorrow and get the Cayman Islands back on course,” he said. “They will be strategic in helping civil servants continue to do excellent work for the government; shielding them from political matters. Our goal is to form a seamless, transparent government where those elected can work hand-in-hand with the civil service to restore our country’s reputation and standing, not only with the UK, but here at home and globally,” he added.

While Tatum, Bryan and Chisholm are all political contracted appointees, Kristy Watler is a civil servant who previously worked in the finance ministry. As McLaughlin’s PA, she will aid in maintaining his appointments, calendar, events and travel.

Detailing the political appointments, the office said Tatum will manage the office of the premier and act as liaison between the political realm, the public and the Progressives Party and will maintain regular contact with the premier, ministers and councillors, as well as the civil service. A former senior manager and department head at Butterfield Bank, he is a member of the Progressives Executive team and has been active in local politics for more than a decade.

Kenneth Bryan has been named political assistant to the premier and he will provide administrative, logistical, research and policy support to the senior political advisor and the premier. He will also assist with recommendations on press matters as well as helping the premier maintain contact with constituents. Bryan worked for four years as a television reporter for CITN, before stepping down to become a Progressive candidate in the 2013 election.

Chisholm, who is the new press secretary, will be the spokesperson and media liaison for the premier and work as part of a team responsible for communicating the premier’s message and reactions to local and world events. She is the former editor of The Caymanian Compass, where she worked for 10 years, but she has worked in the media for 33 years. 

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