Archive for August 14th, 2013

Wealthy patron of local arts dies at age 100

| 14/08/2013 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Helen Harquail, OBE, a wealthy prominent patron of the arts in the Cayman Islands, passed away on Monday at her East End home. Some of Cayman’s best known cultural institutions were as a result of her patronage from financial and land contributions, including the new National Gallery and the local theatre, which was named for her husband. A founding member of the National Trust, Harquail was also a keen protector of the environment. Culture Minister Osbourne Bodden said that she had “contributed to the very definition of who we are as a people” with her donations towards the gallery and the cultural foundation. Photo by David Wolfe

Harquail was a professional skater with the famous Ice Follies (which later became Holiday on Ice), and she and her late husband were avid theatre-goers. Athough almost reclusive in her later years, she still made important contributions to the local arts scene.

In 1997 Harquail donated the four-acre plot on which the National Gallery was built. She also donated a significant sum to the building fund. Almost three decades earlier she had donated eight acres to the Cayman National Cultural Foundation for the FJ Harquail Cultural Centre, which is now home to the Harquail Theatre.

Born in the prairie province of Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1912 she turned 100 years on 1 December.  The Harquails moved to the Cayman Islands in the late 1960s

See government statement below.

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Anti-corruption guru to headline UCCI conference

| 14/08/2013 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a globally renowned economist and Nigeria’s finance and economic minister, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker of the 2014 International Conference on Ethics, Values and Morality that will be hosted by the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) on 19-21 March next year. Well known for her work on the issue of corruption and the need for transparency and accountability in African countries, Okonjo-Iweala's achievements paved the way for her to serve in Nigeria’s government, where she continues to fight corruption, initiate transparency and establish economic reform to make Nigeria more hospitable to foreign investment.

Educated at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Okonjo-Iweala is known for her work at the World Bank, where her career as a development economist spanned 21 years and where she held the post of Vice President, Director and Corporate Secretary.

UCCI President Roy Bodden said that securing Dr Okonjo-Iweala was a real coup for the college, taking the conference to the next level.

“While the University College of the Cayman Islands has developed a reputation for its excellent conferences and the calibre of keynote speakers it attracts this next conference takes us to new heights. It is a tribute to the conference director Dr Livingston Smith, his hard working and dedicated organising committee, the University College and its associates, that the Nigerian finance minister and former World Bank director, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has graciously accepted the University College’s invitation to be next year’s conference keynote speaker,” he said.

“To be able to attract a person of such eminence speaks volumes of the respect accorded to UCCI as an institution of higher learning as such invitations are not accepted without proper due diligence being done. As president, I wish to record my gratitude to the board, the institutions which are partnering with UCCI on this Conference and of course the many sponsors and well-wishers,” the president added.

He said that corporate Cayman and the general public could feel proud that UCCI, which a few years ago was suffering from a ‘crisis of confidence’, was finally demonstrating its resilience and value to Caymanian society.

Prospective presenters are being asked to submit a 250-300 word abstract, a 50-word biography, information on university affiliation, if any, and a photograph, if there is no objection to displaying such on the conference website. The deadline for submission is 31 December but full papers are due on 31 January.

For further information, please visit www.ucciconference.ky or contact Dr Livingston Smith, Conference Director at lsmith@ucci.edu.ky or call 623-0539.

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Storms brew as season moves into busy phase

| 14/08/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Weather experts have warned that conditions in the Atlantic are increasingly likely to spur on storms over the next week as the hurricane season moves into the busy period.  Wind shear that can tear budding storms apart has been decreasing, forecasters from a number of weather service centres have said and warned that the potential for more robust tropical waves, the seeds for hurricanes, is increasing. Four storms have already formed in the Atlantic basin this year and activity in the Atlantic is expected to increase next week. The National Hurricane Centre was closely watching several weather systems Wednesday including one south of Cayman which is the source of the current wet and windy local conditions.

This broad area of low pressure in the north-western Caribbean sea is moving toward the west-northwest at 10 to 15 mph. “Cloudiness and showers associated with this low continue to show signs of organization,” the NHC stated Wednesday as it gave the system a 70% chance of becoming a cyclone during the next five days in line with the centre’s new experimental forecasting. “A tropical depression could form before the disturbance reaches the Yucatan peninsula on Thursday,” experts added.

Also cloudiness and showers associated with a low pressure system located a couple of hundred miles southeast of the Cape Verde Islands also remain well organized. “A tropical depression could form later today or on Thursday,” the NHC forecasters stated as they gave that system an 80 per cent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next five days.

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Giant plastic bottle lost somewhere in Caribbean

| 14/08/2013 | 5 Comments

(CNS): A major publicity stunt set up by a Norwegian soft drinks company appears to have gone awry after the 30-foot plastic drinks bottle, which was released into the Atlantic Ocean mid-March, went missing. Meant to be the largest message in a bottle, which was being tracked by satellite on its journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean to promote the soft drink, it is now another piece of giant plastic junk lost at sea. However, the promoters are hopeful it will wash up somewhere in the region and plan a major celebration when it does.

The giant bottle was released in ocean currents off the shore of Tenerife on 15 March by Solo, a soft drink company based in Norway. The bottle was fitted with tracking equipment that was meant to allow fans and Solo to track it on an online global map. It also has a 360-degree camera that takes pictures every eight hours. But after strong solar storms last week, the satellite lost contact and the company is no longer receiving information about the location of the bottle.

"We are asking people in the area to be vigilant and notify us with any information," said Joakim Sande, CEO of Solo.

Once the bottle has been dragged to the coast and contact has been made with the person who found it, a team will leave Norway for the location to set up a celebration party, Sande said.

The company said that all kinds of security measures have been taken to ensure that the bottle will not be of danger to others at sea. It has AIS, navigation lights and is built in radar reflecting material that "cannot sink", Solo said in a release.

In an effort to promote the drink outside of the borders of Norway, Solo said it wanted to let the ocean currents carry it around the world. Faced with the loss of the satellite, the firm claimed, in an effort to get the promotion back on track, that the "message in a bottle" had become even more authentic.

“It will definitely be interesting to see where it makes landfall," Sande said. "It has been a week since the last relay position. Now we expect to receive responses from ships in transit or someone who has spotted it from the air — or even if someone comes to find a big yellow bottle on their local beach." 

The bottle was expected to cross the Atlantic in 70 days, but it has taken more than 150 days so far and the bottle has still not washed ashore.

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Backbencher to fight for jobs

| 14/08/2013 | 86 Comments

(CNS): Backbench MLA Alva Suckoo, a counsellor in the premier’s ministry, has said that he campaigned to represent the people of Bodden Town and he intends to ensure that the Cabinet listens to the concerns of his constituents over unemployment and how that relates to pending immigration changes. Suckoo said that, given government’s decision on the term limit exemption permit holders (TLEP), he will be pressing his colleagues to put unemployed Caymanians before them and to ensure locals are considered for those jobs. Backing the planned task force, Suckoo said much more needs to be done to address the increasingly serious unemployment issue.

Suckoo told CNS that he has also written to the PPM caucus and Cabinet to amend the law to require all vacancies to be registered with the National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA) and to initiate an unemployment registration drive. Suckoo said the vacancies need to be held by the NWDA in an open database via its website and in printed format so that unemployed locals can easily see where the work is and that the agents can match jobs to registered clients.

He is also calling on the government’s Employment Task Force to identify Caymanians who can be placed in jobs that are currently occupied by Term Limit Exemption Permit holders as he is not convinced that all of the jobs they hold are ones which Caymanians don’t want or don’t qualify for.  Suckoo said government needed to meet with the respective employers to discuss their obligations to hire Caymanians into these positions.

Despite supporting the broader objectives of his party’s immigration reform, which formed part of the campaign, Suckoo has raised some concerns about extending rollover to ten years and the decision to allow more than 1,500 workers to remain on island at a time when his constituents are out of work.

“The spirit of this proposed change was to address the current concerns that only a specific segment of the expat population were getting the opportunity to apply for permanent residence,” he said regarding the plan to eliminate the seven year work permit limit and the proposal to allow everyone who stays here to apply for permanent residency.

“The proposed changes from my point of view were required to level the field and give everyone the same opportunity to apply. I do share the view that any proposed changes must first and foremost help Caymanians, especially when we are faced with so many unemployed Caymanians, and when we consider the level of discrimination towards Caymanians,” he said.

Offering his support to Employment Minister Tara Rivers’ commitment to address the discrimination and unfairness some employers exhibit towards Caymanians, Suckoo was not convinced that the departure of the workers holding TELPs would result in an economic disaster.

“Had this process run its normal course, these individuals would have already been replaced and the impact would have been minimal,” he said. “While I am sensitive to the needs of the employers and to the plight of the TLEP holders, I cannot ignore that we have thousands of Caymanians out of work and registered with the NWDA and that this number is growing increasingly wary of the fact that the jobs seem to be moving away from them.”

Recognising that more needs to be done to educate, train and re-train Caymanians, Suckoo said he wanted to see the government of which he is a part focus on building a skilled, reliable and informed Caymanian workforce, and to enforce the law.

“The drain on social services is very concerning. We are spending millions on social programs that do nothing positive for the economy. Putting the unemployed back to work will positively impact our GDP and this is where we must focus our efforts. I campaigned on reducing unemployment and giving Caymanians a hand up and not a hand out. How can I say on one occasion that I do not believe in hand outs and then sit quietly and not do anything to offer a hand up?” he asked rhetorically.

“We have spent years building two pillar industries and now have to encourage Caymanians to take ownership of these industries,” the Bodden Town MLA said. “Caymanians must become the primary stake-holders in the country. I am therefore going to encourage the government to now turn its attention to education and training and to be guided by the manifesto promises we made so that while we are strengthening the position of Caymanians in the workplace we are not setting them up for failure,” Suckoo added.

He said that previous governments had failed to achieve this, giving rise to the now high level of unemployment and the myth that Caymanians are lazy and uneducated. Aware that he is taking a harder line on the issue than his boss and the PPM Cabinet, Suckoo said he was comfortable expressing his own views.

“I believe my role as a government backbencher is largely representational. I have to be a voice for the electorate to a much greater extent than my colleagues in Cabinet, simply because I am on the ground and they, unfortunately, cannot be in contact with the voters to the extent that I can,” he said. “I have to be the eyes and ears of the government and I have to represent the thoughts and feelings of the electorate when I sit in Caucus.”

The MLA said no one in the PPM expects him to blindly support Cabinet policies without question and this was an example of how a government operates.

“I do not want anyone to assume that there is a rift in the government because of the position I am taking. According to parliamentary tradition, this is how it is supposed to work and is a testament to the voters’ wisdom in choosing their representatives. What I am doing is asking the government to take additional steps to ensure that while we improve the systems that affect the expatriates among us that we also take steps to protect and ensure the rights of Caymanians,” he added as he promised to continue expressing the people’s concerns over the forthcoming immigration changes.

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Ozzie vows dump solution

| 14/08/2013 | 45 Comments

(CNS): The minister with responsibility for environmental health has made a promise that he will address the ever growing problem of Grand Cayman's dump, known as Mount Trashmore. While admitting that the George Town landfill presented a significant challenge to government, Osbourne Bodden is committed to solving the garbage problem on site with a combination of waste-to-energy and recycling. Despite the repeated failure of governments to address the issue over the last fifteen years, Bodden said the project was definitely “do-able”. He said it would be remediated through a process of mining but it could take as long as two decades to clear the giant pile of trash.

“Unless we get started, it won’t ever get done,” Bodden said, as he vowed to start addressing the problem during this administration. “I don't make idle promises,” the minister added, making it clear, once again, that the controversial proposal by Dart to move the dump to Bodden Town was no longer in consideration.

Speaking at the PPM meeting on Saturday, where the minister offered a review and update of what is a very diverse ministry, Bodden said that despite government budget restraints, something had to be done about the aging fleet of garbagetrucks. With the Department of Environmental Health spending more time repairing its trucks than driving them, Bodden said it was a case of diminishing returns.

“We will improve the fleet of garbage collection vehicles as it is an old fleet; some are more than fifteen years old,” he said. “We are now at the point where we are spending more to maintain the existing trucks that it would be to buy new ones, and with the help of the finance minister we are going to get some new vehicles and we will improve the service.”

With collection schedules still badly disrupted, Bodden described the current situation as a “disaster” with so much of the fleet out of action for much of the time.

Despite the major problems he faces with environmental health, Bodden had more positive news from the sports department after a great success for Cayman at the Island Games in Bermuda and the opening of the CONCACAF tournament, which both bode well for the future of sports tourism.

Meanwhile, although there are many complex issues to get to grips with in the ministry’s primary area of health, Bodden said he would continue with the previous minister’s focus on preventative care and customer service, as well as finding ways to cut the tremendously high health costs. Bodden spoke about the massive bad debt of almost $15 million a year that the hospital has to grapple with as an illustration of the difficulties facing government when it comes to healthcare.

He pointed to future changes, including a major international health care partnership, as well as the donation by the Seafarers Association of a  medical ‘robot’ at the hospital. This will enable patients to receive specialist healthcare from overseas while actually being a patient at the local hospital, which is expected to save a significant amount of public money.

Bodden revealed that he has opened talks with the Cayman’s leading psychiatrist, Dr Mark Lockhart, and asked him to submit recommendations regarding a policy on mental health, as the current situation was a major area of concern.

“We need to find a much more suitable way to deal with our people who need help,” he said, stating that sending them away was wrong. “We need to help them here.”

The new HSA board is now in place but the minister said the details of the new membership have not yet been revealed.

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CJ’s ruling on election petition released to public

| 14/08/2013 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The 57-page judgment delivered by the chief justice last Friday in the unsuccessful election petition challenging the second elected member for West Bay’s right to be returned has been releasedinto the public domain. In the decision, Anthony Smellie found that Tara Rivers was an ordinary resident in Cayman despite being absent while she worked abroad, and that her absence was as a result of study even though she was working full time at a law firm. In addition, although she has and uses an American passport, the country’s top judge ruled that this was not an allegiance to a foreign power becuase in this case US citizenship was acquired as a matter of birth.

The result was a complete change in position from that of the legal department and the Elections Office, which had previously ruled and been of the view that continuing to possess and use any foreign passport was an indication of an acknowledged allegiance to another power and grounds for disqualification.

Full judgment attached.

Related articles on CNS:

Christian alleges official bias

Rivers qualified says CJ

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Thieves should not be jailed, says expert

| 14/08/2013 | 1 Comment

(BBC): In a pamphlet released by the Howard League for Penal Reform, Prof Andrew Ashworth said jail should be reserved for offenders who commit crimes of a violent, sexual or threatening nature. Fines and community sentences would be more effective for others and reduce the prison population in England and Wales by almost 6,000, he said. But the government said it had "no intention" of changing the law. Prof Ashworth, the Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford University, who advised the judiciary on sentencing between 1999 and 2010, said prison should still be considered in cases of robbery, blackmail and burglary.

But for "pure property offences", including theft, handling of stolen goods, criminal damage and fraud, imprisonment was disproportionate, he said.

"We should be reserving our most severe form of punishment for our most serious types of offending. Should someone be sent to prison and deprived of their liberty for an offence that involves no violence, no threats and no sexual assault?" he said.

"Instead, the priority should be to deal with such offences in the community, giving precedence to compensation or reparation for the victim and, where the offence is sufficiently serious, imposing a community sentence."

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Cayman U15s shatter St Maarten defence

| 14/08/2013 | 10 Comments

(CNS) Updated with full first day results: The Cayman Under-15 national squad kicked off their part in the CONCACAF Tournament on Tuesday evening with an impressive 12-0 victory over St Maarten in the Group A match at the Truman Bodden Stadium. Despite the deluge of rain, the teen players never let up as they lapped up the home support and put goal after goal through the St Marteen defence. Several hundred people came out to see the team’s opening game and the young players didn’t disappoint. With a dozen goals in the back of the St. Maarten net, Cayman had the best of the opening games Tuesday and Leighton Thomas Jr was the well deserved Man of the Match with five goals, including one in the first minute.

Earlier in the evening at the same venu, Jamaica had beaten Grenada 4-0, while in the afternoon Bermuda also notched up a good score card with an 8-0 victory over the US Virgin Islands. Over in West Bay at the Ed Bush stadium, Belize beat St Lucia 1-0 and Aruba got the better of the Bahamas with a 4-0 victory.

On the first day of the tournament an amazing 29 goals were scored in five matches, 24 of which were in Group A, half of which were scored by the host team's historic opening match.

The inaugural tournament is an initiative of Caymanian and CONCACAF President Jeff Webb, who has said that there is a need for a concentrated effort to support and grow football at the youth level. The Under-15 Championship, which will be held every two years, is expected to strengthen the love of the game among young players and foster a commitment to the sport that will grow along with them.

“It is important for coaches and players to have competitions for development,” Webb said at the start of the football tournament. “This tournament was conceived to intensify our grassroots efforts while helping to identify and develop talent that will eventually create our future stars.”

The Cayman Islands plays its next match on Thursday against the US Virgin Islands. Kick-off is 7:30pm.

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