Archive for August 12th, 2013

Medal holding cop charged with dangerous driving

| 12/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 47-year-old police officer has been charged with dangerous driving after he was involved in a collision on Walkers Road, George Town, in a school zone in an unmarked police car. Detective Inspector Adeniyi Collins Oremule was on duty on 17 April at around 3:00 in the afternoon when he was involved in the smash with another car. Oremule, who is the holder of a Colonial Police Medal (for Meritorious Service) (CPM) in recognition of being an exceptional investigator, appeared in Summary Court Monday to answer charges. CNS has asked the RCIPS for comment in relation to the incident and the consequences for serving officers who commit traffic offences but so far there has been no response.

According to the court documents, Oremule is alleged to have overtaken several cars in slow moving traffic in order to turn right but he did so at the same time as another car further up the traffic line was also making a right turn. The crash occurred during the time when the school zone was in operation and very close to a pedestrian crossing.

Oremule has featured in a number of high profile local criminal cases, including his involvement in the Sandra Catron case and the now infamous unlawful warrant.

According to a press release issued at the time of Oremule’s royal award in the 2012 New Year’s list, he was cited as having regularly "demonstrated outstanding attributes as a public servant who is dedicated to protecting his community above and beyond the norm."

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New cop team focusing on burglaries

| 12/08/2013 | 19 Comments

(CNS): A new specialist squad that has been formed at the George Town Police Station will be focusing on the increase in both daylight and night-time burglaries around Grand Cayman that are causing serious concern for many residents. At apolice meeting on Saturday morning, Detective Sargeant Sean Bryan appealed to the clearly frustrated residents in George Town to help officers to get to grips with the crime. He said that when one burglary is committed in a given neighbourhood, there is a strong likelihood that another will occur in the same area within seven days and he warned residents to be extremely vigilant and report all suspicious people to the police.

It is better for the police to come down and meet and greet with individuals who are around neighbourhoods and find out that there is a perfectly innocent explanation for them being there than to leave a person who is planning on “causing havoc”, said DS Bryan, the new head of the burglary task force.

DS Bryan and his team care passionately about what they do, he said, and they were working really hard to address the problem of break-ins and burglaries. However, he said, they could not do it if the community do not report what is happening or bring their suspicions to the police. He asked the people to forget about what he called the RCIPS’ “own goals” and mistakes and to work with the police to tackle crime.

The meeting was hosted by a local neighbourhood watch coordinator and more than half of the 50 or so people present seemed to have been victims of break-ins, burglaries and even frightening home invasions. Many said that they repeatedly called the police and they were extremely disappointed with the follow up.

One victim, who said he had suffered at the hands of burglars some three times, even had video footage but the officers on the case had not asked to see it. The releasing of known offenders on bail and after conviction caused significant frustrations among the residents.

The residents seemed to be dealing with various levels of crime, with some concerned more about the loss of mangoes from the trees in their South Sound gardens, while others had been victims of serious crime.

Once person described how his home had been invaded by four young men in the middle of the night, even though he and his wife had a dog. He said that while one of the perpetrators had been apprehended and charged, he was released on a three month probation by the court.

He said this crime was not burglary but a home invasion and the criminal justice system needed to recognise that fact. However, the police pointed out that they had no control over what happened once the suspects who they charged reached the court system.

There were the usual calls for more patrols, which the police said they could not promise because, despite the hefty annual budget, they said their resources were limited.

Angelique Howell, the new GT Commander, said the police did not have all the answers as she encouraged people to submit suggestions, patrol their own neighbourhoods and to send photographs of suspicious people or cars in the community into the RCIPS,

The second community meeting for George Town is scheduled for Tuesday, 13 August, in the park in Martin Drive off Shedden Road at 7:30pm.

The RCIPS press office said that further dates would be announced shortly. In the meantime, anyone who wishes to discuss any matters regarding community policing in the George Town area should contact SPC Fran General at Fran.General@rcips.ky or CI Howell at Angelique.Howell@rcips.ky.

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Premier relieved by ruling

| 12/08/2013 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The premier said he was able to sleep again after the ruling delivered by the chief justice on Friday confirmed the eligibility of the education minister to be elected to her seat in West Bay and therefore to retain her Cabinet post. Speaking at the PPM’s National Council Meeting on Saturday, Alden McLaughlin was clearly delighted that Tara Rivers had been found to qualify and that the government was able to get back to work without the disruption of a by-election. McLaughlin said that while such an outcome would have made no difference to the government majority in the Legislative Assembly, his administration would have lost a “brilliant woman”, as he paid tribute to her cool head during the uncertainty, stating that she “never blinked”. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Rivers herself said that she was never in doubt about her qualification and she had told the premier not to worry, as she thanked him and the PPM government for their support throughout. Although still not a member of the party, Rivers, along with the two other C4C MLAs, all turned up to the Progressive’s National Council Meeting in a show of government solidarity. Rivers was given a very warm welcome by the PPM party faithful and everyone at the meeting.

Before the meeting on Friday evening in the wake of the result, McLaughlin, who was present throughout the delivery of the chief justice’s verdict, was one of the first to congratulate Minister Rivers on the victory and noted that he was “immensely relieved”, admitting that the prospect of a by-election was worrying because of the potential disruption to the government just as it was settling in

“We have a great deal of work ahead of us, not least of which is the budget, which we hope to present in the House, certainly by September,” he said. Although the court case was distracting, he said Rivers had “shown remarkable character in keeping her composure” and carrying on with work.

“As everyone knows now, particularly after the Chief Justice read her outstandingresume in the course of his judgment, Minister Rivers is an absolutely brilliant woman and she is a most able Minster. I have striven from the outset to have an inclusive government. I have always understood that the people of the Cayman Islands wanted something very different from what we had in the course of the past three administrations," he said.

Rivers, as a representative from West Bay, as well as her C4C colleagues, government councillors Winston Connolly and Roy McTaggart, brought diversity, a different perspective and the inclusiveness that he believed the country has called for in its government,"McLaughlin said.

"A by-election with an unpredictable outcome would have been a disruption. While it would not have changed the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly and wouldn’t fundamentally have changed the government because we have a 13-5 majority, it certainly would significantly alter the make-up of our Cabinet and of the LA. Besides, we would have lost one of the brilliant minds on our team."

Commenting on the challenge and result itself, the premier said that the matter had not been clear.

“It was apparent in the chief justice’s masterly analysis, as he went through all of the various cases, that the law on this has been all over the place, varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Our constitution is unique in certain respects, as was acknowledged also by the counsel for the petitioner this evening. I think for the first time, we have real clarity on the provision about passports, the issue of what qualifies as an 'educational establishment' for the purposes of the constitutional provision, as well as residency,” he added as he thanked the CJ for a “really outstanding piece of work” and very careful analysis.

“I think we all ought to be grateful for the tremendous amount of time and effort that was obviously put in to making sure that these issues become clarified going forward,” he said.

Despite the ambiguity of the constitution and the position that had been taken by the Elections Office in the Richard Christian case after he admitted holding an American passport on Nomination Day, Rivers said she was very confident all along that she was qualified.

Thanking the court for “responsibly and sensibly” setting was is now precedent, she said, “This ruling reaffirms that I was rightfully elected and now we can all move forward as a country.” She said it was now time to talk about meaningful employment and livable wages, an education system that works and gender equality.

“That is what I have been focusing on since my election to this honourable office a few short months ago. I will continue to serve the people of these islands to the best of my ability. Cayman is at a crossroads and I believe this PPM-led coalition government will put us on the right course,” she said. “There is much work to do and we will be successful – if we work together. We all deserve a country that provides great opportunities for our people and that is what I will be working towards,” she added.

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Witness fled after seeing fatal shooting

| 12/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A crown witness told the court Wednesday that he had fled the Cayman Islands because he believed that he was under threat as a result of what he saw on the night that Tareek Ricketts allegedly shot Jackson Rainford. Giving evidence via a video link from an undisclosed location, Dale Vernon, who said he was a friend of the man accused of killing Rainford claimed he was at the scene of the shooting and had seen Ricketts there just moments before the victim arrived. Vernon said Ricketts was uneasy when he saw his former lover with Rainford. He told the court, however, that he fled Cayman two weeks after the crime because he believed Ricketts was the angry man who had turned up at his workplace looking for him.

The crown witness explained that he and the defendant were at a friend's house in the same complex as the defendant's ex-girlfriend on the night of the fatal shooting in December last year. Vernon said that Ricketts was already at the apartment complex where Terina Tomlinson, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children, lived when she arrived with Rainford. Vernon described the defendant as “uneasy and bothered” when he saw Tomlinson drive up with their children, Rainford and the victim's brother.

The jury heard that Vernon had then taken the children out of Rainford's car and into Tomlinson's house, and on his way back he heard "popping sounds", which he described as sounding like fireworks or gunshots. When he came back to the front of the residence, he saw his friend who lived there, Edrick Seymour, running and he followed his example before trying to find safety.

Vernon went on to tell the court that he had fled the jurisdiction after he had heard that an angry man had come to his place of work looking for him. Vernon had concluded that this was Ricketts and he was put in fear of his life. Although he did not know for certain who the person was that came to his work, he assumed that it was because of the shooting. 

However, during cross examination the defence legal team queried the veracity of his claims, as they suggested that phone records put the witness in a different place. They suggested that Vernon had fled Cayman not in fear but because of his own "guilty mind" and his possible involvement in the matter, which he denied.

The trial of Tareek Ricketts for the murder of Jackson Rainford in what the crown claim is a killing motivated by anger and jealously continues in Grand Court One this week.

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Christian alleges official bias

| 12/08/2013 | 63 Comments

(CNS): PNA candidate Richard Christian, who was prevented from running in the May General Election by election officials because he had an American passport, based on advice from the attorney general, has accused them all of bias. The would-be Bodden Town candidate said he believed he was qualified and the decision to eliminate him but not others from the political race showed favouritism, injustice, a violation of the law and double standards in government. Releasing into the public domain the letter he received, which clearly relates the AG’s Chambers' statement that obtaining and using any foreign passport as an adult constituted a voluntary act of acknowledging allegiance, Christian said he is now considering his options and filing a complaint with the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC).

“The actions taken by both the AG’s office and the Election Office was clearly poor judgement and their decisions to be mute on the subject over the past couple of weeks shows the lack of accountability we still have within government,” he said in a formal statement issued Monday. “Despite the outpouring of support for Ms Rivers, the verdict has also left a large number of citizens concerned about the favouritism, injustices, violation of the law and double standards that is happening within government,” added the former Young United Democratic Party (YUDP) leader, who split from the UDP last year.

“As a result, I will be seeking legal advice on what course of action to take. I will be filing a complaint with the Complaints Commissioner to investigate the controversial and discriminating actions taken by the Election and AG office. I will also be writing to the Supervisor of Elections to encourage a new policy or process on how a returning officer can determine a candidate’s eligibility,” he said.

Christian was once a youth leader with the United Democratic Party but after charges against the UDP leader and former premier, McKeeva Bush, were filed, Christian, who was also the chair of the UDP’s Bodden Town Committee, left the party along with the district representatives at the time, Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour. He then put himself forward as a candidate with his colleagues under the new People’s National Alliance. However, as shown by the attached letter, the returning officer in Bodden Town disqualified Christian based on Section 62 of the constitution regarding his US passport, based on advice from the Attorney General.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin has remained silent on this issue, with the exception of a short contribution during the Rivers legal case when he described the exception in the constitution for birthright to other citizenship as a “carve out”. This phrase was picked up by the chief justice in his ruling on Friday declaring that Rivers, despite having and using an American passport, was qualified as the document was not, in fact, an act demonstrating an acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign power.

Christian aired his frustrations in his statement, noting that he was “confused and disappointed that the AG took no position on Ms Rivers’ case, despite the advice from his chambers on my case." He added, "Obviously he did not stand behind the advice that was given from his office to the election office, which ultimately assisted in the returning officer's decision to disqualify me.” 

While Christian offered his congratulations to Rivers on her historic victory on Friday, he said that the chief justice’s ruling in  terms of the US passport confirmed his position that he was a qualified candidate for the district of Bodden Town.

He said he was grateful the issue was resolved but “disappointed that the Election’s Office, with advice from the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers, deprived me of the opportunity to also represent the only place I have known as my home despite my place of birth.”

In the wake of the ruling, the Elections Office issued a short statement that it was glad to see that the petition was resolved and the judgment had settled some of the previously uncertain issues concerning eligibility requirements.

“The Elections Office will be guided by this historic decision in the discharge of its duties in future elections,” the officials said.

See the disqualification letter from the returning officer and statements from both Christian and the Elections Office below.

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Public spending reined in

| 12/08/2013 | 39 Comments

(CNS): Efforts by the new finance minister to rein in civil service spending in the last quarter of the year appear to have had some positive results. Speaking at the Progressive’s National Council Meeting on Saturday evening, Marco Archer revealed that even though new government obtained approval for the $46 million overdraft facility from the UK immediately after being elected, it hasn’t had to use it. He said that a directive from his ministry and the decision to appoint a member of the treasury team to coordinate the end of year spending to manage government cash flow had proved very successful. The person, who was nicknamed "the sheriff", managed to keep a tight hold on the purse strings and help government save more money.

“We have managed to control spending very well and have not had to draw on the overdraft facility approved by the FCO,” Archer said. “In June we asked the civil service to exercise prudent cash management and not spend their budget allocation just because they had it.”

Archer told the meeting of the party faithful, which was held in the Mary Miller Hall, that he also intended to hold a meeting of the Finance Committee shortly to address the issue of supplementary appropriations over the last four years. He explained that during its tenure, despite numerous changes to the predicted budgets, the UDP administration had never held any open sessions in the Legislative Assembly, as is required under the law, to approve the budget changes.

Archer said it was important in terms of transparency and accountability so that the wider public could see where changes to spending had been made and why.

The new finance minister also confirmed that he plans to bring the substantive budget for 2013/14 to the Legislative Assembly during the last week of September, giving legislators around five weeks to debate and examine the new PPM government’s spending plans for the remainder of the financial year after the interim budget expires on 31 October.

This is a major change to the pattern of the budget delivery over the last few years, when budgets were delivered at the eleventh hour, forcing legislators to sit into the small hours in order to approve the cash spending and where the expected scrutiny by legislators has been lacking as a result of the marathon sessions.

As the government’s hands are tied by the strict parameters laid down now by the UK, the need to ease the massive tax burden on ordinary people will come as a result of efficiencies, Archer said. He explained that these would not just be confined to prudent spending but that government would be concentrating on collecting what it is properly owed and the amount of random duty waivers currently in operation would be addressed.

“It has become something of a free for all,” Archer stated, as he warned that he was working on a policy document to formally direct the circumstances under which duty is waived. “We need to ensure there is discipline in the way we do things. Discretion is good but there needs to be guidance,” the minister added.

Archer said that preliminary predictions for the 2013/14 budget were around $542 million in operating expenditure and government was expected to collect some $640 million to remain in line with the UK requirement to meet the terms of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) and the Public Management and Finance Law. Promising no new significant revenue raising measures on the man in the street, Archer said the government would be doing what it could to improve efficiencies so it could cut fuel bills and try to reduce the pressure on the people.

Painting a picture of continued fiscal discipline, Archer said that once public finances were back on a path to sustainable growth, government would be able to begin reducing other fees.

The C4C member of the PPM government, Roy McTaggart, a counsellor in both Archer’s finance ministry and the financial services ministry, said that the Department of Commerce was looking at ways to reduce work permit fees for small businesses.

Speaking on behalf of Finance Minister Wayne Panton, he pointed to some impressive increases in company registrations in the three months since the new government was elected. He said that figures from the General Registry pointed to a far more robust financial sector at present compared to this time last year, which he said was a good sign that the economy was on the turn.

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Syrian couple transit Cayman for asylum in Jamaica

| 12/08/2013 | 33 Comments

(CNS): A Syrian couple who managed to get through the CaymanIslands on what appear to be forged passports are claiming asylum in Jamaica, the local press is reporting. Jamaica's Ministry of National Security has revealed that Fadi Al Lababidi and Hayat Hejazi arrived in Cayman from the United States early this month before they then flew from this jurisdiction to Jamaica on Syrian passports, both of which carried the same 1 January birth date.  Immigration officials in the neighbouring country were suspicious and the couple were denied permission to land after claiming they had reservations at a Kingston hotel, which proved not to be true.

"The couple told [immigration officers] they came to Jamaica for vacation,” officials told the Sunday Gleaner. “However, checks revealed they did not have a reservation with a hotel, and they had limited funds and no credit or debit card to sustain their stay in Jamaica … The immigration authorities also said there were discrepancies with the issue date of the visa for Ms Hejazi," added the ministry.

The two were refused entry and told that they would be returned to the Caymans Island. Scheduled to leave Jamaica on Monday, 6 August, the couple announced they would not be going back to Syria and wanted to seek asylum.

"The intervention of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was sought, and a representative, along with an interpreter and immigration officials interviewed the couple, who expressed fear for their lives if they are returned to Syria," said the security ministry.

According to the ministry, the couple's itinerary indicated that they "travelled from Syria to Beirut, Moscow, Havana, and Grand Cayman and from there to Kingston. They stated that they did not seek asylum in Lebanon or Russia because they felt these countries were friendly with the Syrian government."

The ministry said arrangements have been made to accommodate the couple while the Refugee Eligibility Committee makes a determination on their claim.

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