Archive for October 24th, 2013

Open letter to Tara Rivers

Open letter to Tara Rivers

| 24/10/2013 | 37 Comments

It is not your fault that we put you on a pedestal and pinned all our hopes on you, this ‘girl from West Bay’, but it is your fault that you embraced that pedestal, climbed on top of it and reveled in the attention. I have no problem with you enjoying the view from up there and would be happy for you to continue to do so IF you actually did something worthwhile to prove you were worth it. To date, I have to say you have been an absolute,utter and total disappointment.

You have achieved nothing with your new found power except increase your personal wealth at the expense of the public you were hired to serve.

I am appalled that you pulled a ‘sickie’ instead of attending the session on the immigration bill last night and suspect that it was less to do with your being sick and more to do with your wishing to abstain from the vote without having to publicly acknowledge that you were abstaining. How much simpler just to be absent instead of having to have an opinion which might put you in the firing line!

Well, Tara, I have news for you. This is precisely why we hired you in the first place, so that you would stand in the firing line and stand up for your people – have a voice and make it heard. You are not hired to win friends but you are hired to influence people and to stand up for what you believe in. But as of right now, I’m not sure I know what it is you believe in. I do know what our premier and much of the Cabinet believes in and I do know what the opposition leader believes in and I even know what all the backbenchers believe in – all of them have voices and to date have not been afraid to use them.

I don’t always agree with everything everyone says but I appreciate the fact that they’re not afraid to say it. I have lost every shred of respect I had for you and am not only upset with you but upset with myself that I romanticized what I thought you could be – you could have been so much to so many, not least because you’re a woman and a woman from West Bay. You were so ahead of the game, Tara, and perhaps it’s unfair that we pinned so much of our hopes on you, but instead of you realizing what an advantage this was and being grateful for the support, whilst trying to maintain it by being a decent, honest and hardworking member of Cabinet, you seem to have thought that, instead, this offered you some sort of entitlement which excused you from having to do anything. WAKE UP AND START EARNING YOUR SALARY HONESTLY – please!

So many of us want so desperately to support you but as we sit in our various cubicles (those of us fortunate to have jobs) working hard to pay our bills, it’s very difficult to continue tosupport someone who pulls a sickie the day some of the most important legislation (at least since you were elected) is being debated. Today I wanted to stay at home sick but I showed up to work, despite not having to be here to debate groundbreaking legislation that will affect the lives of almost everyone in these Islands.

I have no idea what is wrong with you but I do know that even if you absolutely could not make the debate you could have voiced an opinion or just done something to show that you’re paying attention to what’s going on and that you care. Even if you were just paying lip service, we probably would have bought it – that’s how advantageous a position you previously held.

I sincerely hope you get back to work and prove that I’m wrong to be so utterly disappointed in you. I will happily sit corrected, although have to say with your current track record I doubt very much it will come to that.

Please prove me wrong.

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World Polio Day 2013

World Polio Day 2013

| 24/10/2013 | 1 Comment

Polio is a highly infectious disease which causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. After an international investment of more than US$9 billion and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first human disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.

The message to world leaders is clear: support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.

Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan — although other countries remain at risk for imported cases.

The last cases identified in the Caribbean area were in Haiti/Dominican Republic in 1991. Before a Caribbean vaccination drive, estimated deaths in Latin America/Caribbean in the 1970s totalled around 15,000 cases and 1,750 deaths per annum. Here in the Cayman Islands, the last recorded cases were in 1957 and we have remained polio-free ever since thanks to a vaccination programme for all children which continues today. It is vitally important that all children receive the vaccine to prevent the re-introduction of the disease into the Islands and also to protect those children should they be exposed to the disease in another country.

In an extraordinary gesture of support, every $1 that Rotary raises between now & 2017 will become $3 thanks to being matched 2 for 1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In Cayman, the four Rotary clubs & two Rotaract clubs are working to raise funds for Rotary’s ”End Polio Now” campaign, which features world celebrities, local icons and ordinary persons alike all showing that we are “This Close” to eliminating polio. This World Polio Day October 24th, please join with concerned Rotarians and help to eradicate polio in our lifetime. With global travel nowadays, it can be easily transmitted across national borders, or across the globe, as has already happened with wild outbreaks in several world areas. 

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, which enters the human body through the mouth. The virus multiplies in the gastrointestinal tract, spreads to different parts of the body and then enters the blood stream causing flu like symptoms. A small percentage of the virus may enter mainly the brainstem and spinal cord and causes damage to the nerve cells, resulting in a condition called Paralytic polio, with early symptoms of high fever, headaches, muscle weakness and muscle pains, back and neck pains. Paralysis (loss of muscle function) may occur in chest and abdomen causing difficulties in breathing. Paralysis in one leg is common but some victims suffer from quadriplegia (all four limbs affected). Paralyses in some cases are just temporary, while in a few it is permanent. Not all persons infected by the virus will have polio.

Two polio stories from Cayman Brac

Mr McNeil Hurlston: I was born on the 22nd January 1929 in Spot Bay but I live now in my own house at The Rock. I contracted polio when I was about 8 months old.  I had a high fever but there were no hospitals or doctors on island so my parents and the older folks did the best for me. I walked with a limp because my left leg was affected but I had many friends at school and no one tried to bully me. Of course I was big man and very strong and enjoyed boyhood days like nothing was wrong. (Pictured left with caregiver Lendell Moore Scott)

I left school when I was about 16 years old and did gardener work before going to sea. At the age of about 20 years I became an able-bodied seaman aboard the Kirkconnell Ships. I never missed a good time at every port. After many years at sea, I took-upa security guard post at the Airport in the early 1980’s and held that position for 22 years. I was never sick or absent from my duty and drove to work everyday.

Many people visit me now at home so I don’t feel neglected or alone. I was doing really well a few years ago but now my voice is weak, sight not so good but I can still smile and sing. I have my life partner to care for me and another beautiful caregiver. I am happy. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy and healthy. I know many people had polio, including the 32nd president of the United States Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR), who was paralyzed from the waist down and died at the age of 63. One German doctor who was aboard the ration ship, The Bristish- Man-O-War, told my father that I had infantile paralysis and I if I survive I will live for a long time, and so said so done.

Miss Ianthy Christian: I was born on October 17, 1929. I was about 2 or 3 years old when I began to experience high fever and severe pain in my legs. My first experience was on a bright summer day when my sisters and I went to the Spot Bay seaside to play. I was the smallest so they took special care of me and when I complained of pain they rushed me home. My parents and neighbours did what they knew best and with some medicines from the commissioner and dispenser, Mr Aston Rutty, I got some relief but my left leg was paralyzed. (Pictured left with Brac Rotary President Dhal Seeram)

I was not terribly affected by this disability and I moved quickly and energetically like the other girls. I loved school and had many great friends. I was petite and well dressed at all times and I still maintain these features today. One of my girl friends had polio with paralysis of the same left leg and she got married and left the island. She has many children and grandchildren but I believed she passed away sometime ago.

I had many offers also from nice gentlemen who wanted to marry me and take me abroad to get treatment but I refused because I didn’t want to leave Cayman Brac and my family. I was never married but I am happy to be single. I always have God and my family who love me and give the support I need. My bigger sister, Ms Faith, who is 95 years old, would walk over to see me sometimes.

I am well organized; I have a walker, a wheel chair and other aids to help me move around to do my daily chores. There is more pressure on the good leg so I have to rest as often as is needed to prevent any accidental falls. I eat, sleep and see well and I don’t blame anyone for giving me polio. For me this is normal and I feel I am going to live long and healthy until the Maker says I have to go.

Learn more about the End Polio programme here.

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Police call for witnesses in Connor murder

Police call for witnesses in Connor murder

| 24/10/2013 | 8 Comments

(CNS): As police continue their enquiries in relation to three murders that occurred between 15 September and 11 October, officers heading up the enquiry into the fatal shooting of Anthony ‘Beenie’ Connor are making another appeal for witnesses to come forward. Connor was shot in the car park of the Mango Tree Restaurant on Friday, 11 October, at around 8:45pm, a busy time at the popular local restaurant and bar. Police say that many people have spoken with officers but they believe others who left after the shooting but before police arrived may be able to help. Although police have arrested and released suspects in the killings of Irwin Bush in West Bay, and Earl Hart in Prospect, so far no one has been arrested in connection with the gunning down of Connor.

“A significant number of people have already been spoken to as part of the investigation,” said Detective Inspector Kathy Marshall, who is leading the investigation. “However we are aware that a number of people left the area prior to the arrival of the police that night. We need to speak to those people to ascertain if they have any information which could help us in this case.

“As such I am appealing directly to those people today to come forward and speak to me, or any member of my investigative team. You may think that the information you have is insignificant or trivial, but no matter what you saw or heard please let us know. Your information may be vital to the investigation.”

Although the police have refrained from committing themselves to any connections between the three murders or drawn any significance that two of the victims have connections to a spate of gang-related gun violence in September 2011, the shootings are believed to gang related.

Anyone who has information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is urged to call the incident room on 244-3035, the RCIPS tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477(TIPS).

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Immigration bill passes

Immigration bill passes

| 24/10/2013 | 133 Comments

(CNS): Despite concerns and opposition to the legislation, the government has successfully steered its controversial immigration amendment bill through the Legislative Assembly following a 14 hour session that lasted from noon Wednesday to the early morning hours of Thursday. Shortly after 2am, legislators voted in favour of the bill. However, government lost votes from its own benches when Employment Minister Tara Rivers failed to show up to the parliament at all, sending word that she was unwell and unable to attend the critical debate. And veteran PPM backbencher Anthony Eden joined the opposition benches and voted ‘no’ to the government’s change due to his concern that more than 1,500 exemption permit holders will remain on island, entitling them to apply for residency.

Prior to the premier’s presentation of the bill and ahead of the long debate, a petition was presented to parliament with more than 800 signatures by Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side. The petition is now a public document and is understood to have a significant portion of names from West Bay, even though the government’s public meeting there had changed the minds of many in the district where much of the opposition to the law had first emerged.

Acknowledging the opposition and controversies surrounding the amended legislation and the haste with which it was being brought, Premier Alden McLaughlin was still not persuaded to make many significant changes to the legislation.

He noted that the term limit had already been dropped from ten years to nine and that an amendment to the draft legislation would be made to preserve caregiver certificates to those who already had them. He said that much of the opposition had been generated because he had not done a good job at delivering the message about the changes in the first instance but considerable efforts in the last few weeks and won more support.

“Government understand that there are still those that have different views and the petition is an indication,” he said “We know that there was a march, then a demonstration of sorts at the weekend … Although the numbers are not great, there are people who are not comfortable and to those I say government takes your concerns on board," he said.

“We understand that there are real concerns about the state of the economy and unemployment and they colour views about this as they think this will make life easier to employ foreigners. We take the other view. We think it is going to make it more likely that Caymanians will be employed,” McLaughlin told the House, adding that the law introduced severe consequences for those trying to defraud the system.

More than a dozen amendments to the law presented by Miller were all ignored. These included a proposal to make business staffing plans public, force government to also follow the same immigrations regime and changing the tag from work permit holder to guest worker. 

However, government has committed to addressing some of the issues raised by the North Side member, including removing government’s exemption from the work permit regime and limits for expatriate employees.

As he opened the debate, the premier reminded members that the Progressives had campaigned in the run-up to elections on a platform that included a revision of immigration legislation. This was specifically to address the question of the term limit policy, the removal of key employee and the question of permanent residency. He said the PPM view articulated by him on behalf of party on the hustings was that the immigration regime was not working.

“What we didn’t realise at time was that the situation with Term Limit Exemption Permits (TLEP) was so difficult,” he said, as he spoke about the expiration of more than 1,500 permits on 28 October. “Very early in office we realized that some policy decisions and steps had to be taken to address this,” he added, noting that the government had struggled to comprehend why the UDP government would implement a policy which saw every permit expire on the exact same day.

McLaughlin reiterated the message delivered by government of late that all employers must advertise these posts within 45 days of the law being enacted, and he said they would not get work permits if Caymanians were available. Justifying the decision tobring the 1,500 TELPS into the system rather than allowing them to leave over a staggered period, McLaughlin warned about potential law suits that could follow if the TLEPs were simply told to go. He said that legally it would be hard to argue that the time spent on a TLEP could not count as ordinary residency.

Articulating the main thrust of the bill, which was the removal of key employee status, a policy that gave the power to choose who stays here to employers instead of government, McLaughlin spent considerable time stressing the fact that the new PR application system would deter many people from applying. He said only limited numbers would now meet the more stringent criteria.

The premier stated that while TLEPs would now have the same right as anyone who stayed here for eight years to apply for PR, “whether they get it or not, is quite another matter as they will need to meet a significantly more demanding point system,” he added.

Removing the seven year term limit and allowing everyone the opportunity to make a PR application if they chose to stay long enough created a level playing field in the first instance. More importantly, he said, it puts the decision about who stays in Cayman and who goes on to become Caymanian back in the hands of government.

Emphasising a new enforcement regime and more objective and transparent criteria where people can self assess, the premier said he believed this would deter applicants who have no chance of being granted residency from applying but would help those who have a chance to make sure they can meet the criteria before they go through the process. Spelling out the details of the new regime, including addressing the abuses of the system and particularly appeals, he pointed to a new era of enforcement.

He said that when a few of these abusive employers and applicants were prosecuted, “the message will hit home.” 

Acknowledging that the issue of unemployment was heavily tied to the bill, he said the employment minister was tackling that side of the equation with myriad initiatives to help skilled Caymanians find work and train the unskilled.

However, Tara Rivers was absent from the chamber throughout the day and made no contribution to the debate about her position on the legislation or how she would be helping to ensure that Caymanains would get first refusal on the TLEP jobs. Instead, once again, Winston Connolly, the government back-bencher and counsellor in the employment ministry, stepped up to the plate late in the night to reveal what was happening to deal with that on the absent minister’s behalf.

Check back to CNS for more on the immigration debate, including the view from the opposition benches, over the next few days.

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3rd Malaysian national charged with fraud offences

3rd Malaysian national charged with fraud offences

| 24/10/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police from the Financial Crimes unit have charged a 37-year-old Malaysian national who was arrested last Saturday with one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception, and one count of attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception. It is anticipated that he will appear in court today, Thursday 24 October but the cash cops have not yet stated if they believe the man who is the third Malaysian charged for deception offences this month is part of a fraud ring. In the wake of his arrest officers said it was too early to confirm if he was connected to the two men arrested for jewel and credit card fraud in downtown George Town on 5 October.

This third man was arrested after police received information that he had attempted to obtain high value goods from a number of retail premises in the centre of George Town. Following observations in the Harbour Drive area, he was detained after a short foot chase. In this case police did not say exactly what he had attempted to acquire or how.

The two other men from Malaysia however had a large number of credit cards and jewellery valued at around US $200,000 on them when arrested which was seized by police. The men aged 30 and 50 were also charged with obtaining a money transfer by deception and attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception.


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Search formissing fisherman

Search formissing fisherman

| 24/10/2013 | 31 Comments

(CNS) Updated Thursday: As hopes fade of finding missing sailor Mark Clarke (63) alive, the officer coordinating the extensive air, land and sea search for him has confirmed that the operation has now entered a search and recovery phase. Inspector Ian Yearwood, the RCIPS Marine Commander, said, “We know that Mr Clarke left to go fishing on his own on Monday morning around 7am and it wasn’t unusual for him to spend a few days at sea. It’s now been two days since his sailboat was found on the reef and despite a widespread air, land and sea search no trace of Mr Clarke has been found. We spoke with his family last night and advised them that we believed it was now extremely unlikely that he would be found alive. 

"As such, the police operation has now moved into a search and recovery phase. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time."

Yearwood added, “We would like to thank the members of the public who assisted us with the search which covered an area of 79 miles.”

The Joint Marine Unit, RCIPS Air Operations Unit, DOE, and a number of private boaters took part in the search for Clarke who is an Olympic Sailor and a former memebr of the RCIPS. Shoreline searches are taking place today from Kaibo towards Old Man Bay.

Anyone who saw Mr. Clarke or his sailboat between 7.00am on Monday and 10.00am on Tuesday is asked to contact Sergeant Richard Scott on 325 8092.

Clarke's unmanned sailboat "Badger” was found lodged on the reef Tuesday morning, 22 October. Police said they received a report that the 25’ sailboat was stranded just east of the Cayman Kai channel. When the unit got to the boat they found that no-one was on board.  Enquiries with Clarke's friends and family confirmed that he left from Rackley’s Canal in North Sound to go fishing around 7am Monday but he has not been in contact with them since.

The search resumed at 8.30am Wednesday and throughout the day air, sea and shoreline searches will continued by the Joint Marine Unit, RCIPS Air Operations Unit , uniform officers, members of the Special Constabulary, the Department of the Environment, and one private boat owner volunteered to assist. 

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Witness seeks help for new life

Witness seeks help for new life

| 24/10/2013 | 51 Comments

(CNS): A 49-year-old man who was shot while he was a protected witness in a murder trial says that he has been abandoned by the authorities, despite assisting them to put away a man who was considered a leading player in the criminal underworld. The former witness is now looking for a lawyer willing to help him file suit against government in an effort to try and lead a new life, as he said the police are simply not able to protect those who do the right thing. With no formal witness protection scheme in Cayman and a law that has languished for several years without implementation, the issue remains a major problem for law enforcement.

However, the PPM government has promised to review and implement the justice protection law to create a formal protocol for dealing with sensitive witnesses. With another spike in violent gun-related crime, the matter of witness protection and the complexities associated with it in a small jurisdiction have returned to the top of the authorities’ agenda. During the recent budget debate the premier pointed to plans to review and then implement the relevant law, which would create a formal scheme and programme to deal with witnesses who are at risk.

While government has invested millions of dollars in new crime fighting and evidence technology, cases continue to depend on eye witness testimony. But witnesses remain reluctant to come forward as a result of reprisals and the widespread perception, rightly or wrongly, in the community that people who talk to the police put their lives on the line. As police do their best to encourage witnesses to come forward, the experiences of many who do are rarely pleasant.

Although police management refused to comment on any specific witness case, past or present, a spokesperson confirmed that while the justice protection law has not yet been implemented, the RCIPS currently follows the protocols set out in the draft legislation, which is a public document. This means that witnesses who go into a protection programme must leave the island for good, never to return, and to cut ties with friends and family in Cayman that are not on the programme. Those who break the strict conditions are removed from the protection programme.

However, Fernando Martin, who has decided to break his silence about his treatment, said he was first persuaded to give evidence in the case against two men for the fatal shooting of Joe Williams in 2003 but there was no system in place to send witnesses overseas.

As a result he remained in Cayman in the lead up to the trial and he was re-housed at the Cayman Islander Hotel, as it was known then. But before he made it to the witness box, the protection he was promised failed and he became a victim. Martin received multiple gunshot wounds at the hotel on the night of 17 August when he opened his hotel room door to a gunman.

Despite the injuries, he survived and still took to the witness box for the trial, in which the men were ultimately acquitted.

Following that murdertrial, Martin then agreed to give evidence against the man he said had tried to kill him. Sheldon Brown was one of the RCIPS’ most wanted suspects and officers were keen for Martin to help them send him to jail. As a result, Martin was kept on the witness protection programme, such as it was at the time, which boiled down to government merely paying Martin’s rent and a subsistence allowance.

Brown was ultimately found guilty, and despite his continued denial that he was the gunman, he was convicted and jailed for 22 years in 2006. Thereafter, the police continued to pay for Martin to be housed locally in what was supposed to be in a safe location.

However, with a change in policy in 2010, Martin was sent overseas to Cuba. Martin claims that the local authorities did not deal with the Cuban authorities to enable him to lawfully stay there or work so he was forced to return to address his immigration status, making a further mockery of the protection he said he was meant to receive. Then at some point, he said, the RCIPS pulled the financing for his protection altogether and left him to his fate.

“They told me they were proud of me for coming forward and going through the trials and doing what I did but then they just left me out to hang,” he said. “They don’t care they can’t protect me and I have nowhere to turn.”

Increasingly suffering from the impact of his injuries but unable to find work, not least, he said, because employers have told him he is too much of a liability and an unwanted target on their premises, he is also in need of an operation to help him walk.

Given the various inconsistency in his treatment, Martin believes that now he has been abandoned, if the authorities won’t reconsider relocating him overseas, the only remaining course of redress for him will be through a successful law suit, but he has no money to pay up front legal fees and is hoping a human rights legal expert will consider helping him make a claim.

One local legal defence attorney told CNS that, depending on the circumstances of his overall treatment and the paper trail and evidence the fact that he was shot while in the protection of the authorities is an indication of negligence and liability.

Martin said he believes that the local authorities are not able to protect people locally and that he should be relocated because, in the end, he can only be sure he will be safe overseas. He said he wants to permanently relocate and has somewhere to go but he needs financial assistance to do that and help with medical expenses to deal with his injuries.

While the police have to be very wary when it comes to giving financial assistance to witnesses, as it can be seen as an inducement and undermine cases in court, it is normal for public authorities to assist with the cost of witness relocation. At present, although the police refuse to confirm who is currently under a witness protection programme, CNS is aware of several critical witnesses who are being supported financially for their assistance in murder cases.

For a number of reasons it appears that Martin has been abandoned, and whatever the truth of those reasons, there is no denying that he was instrumental in securing a major conviction. Furthermore, his case demonstrates the inconsistencies surrounding the treatment of witnesses. It also serves to remind government of the need to address how those who put their own lives on the line to help the authorities remove the most dangerous criminals from the streets are treated, regardless of who those individuals are or what their backgrounds may have been.

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