Archive for September 3rd, 2014

Alden commits to OMOV

Alden commits to OMOV

| 03/09/2014 | 50 Comments

(CNS): The premier has made a commitment to the country’s voters that they will all have just one vote in single member constituencies when they go to the polls in May 2017. In an official announcement Wednesday, reversing his early U-turn on the PPM’s electoral promise, Alden McLaughlin said that the decision had the full backing of the Progressives and other government members, despite earlier comments about his concerns that he couldn’t carry all of them with him on the issue. He will now bring a motion to the Legislative Assembly next week to set the wheels in motion for the electoral reform, which will begin with a new boundary commission.

Although two previous reports and recommendations from boundary commissions failed to result in any change to the country’s multi-member constituencies and inequitable voting, McLaughlin said that this time the report would lead to an amendment in the law before the next election.

The premier pointed out that the significant increase in the electorate numbers since the 2010 Boundary Commission, a growth of more than 20 percent in registered voters, meant that another commission had to be established to ensure the most equitable boundaries for the new constituencies while at the same time giving due consideration to the historical districts.

McLaughlin pointed out the exceptions and that while equity of voter numbers would suggest that North Side and East End should be one constituency, and the same for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, constitutionally the Sister Islands had the right to two representatives and the historic boundaries of the districts of East End and North Side would not be overturned.

He did make it clear, however, that there will be no exception for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with one man, one vote in single member constituencies so the Boundary Commission will confirm the boundaries of what will become two constituencies across the Sister Islands.

The commission will be tasked to decide all of the boundaries for what are likely to still be 18 constituencies. However, McLaughlin aired his continued concerns about even numbers and said it may be that the new boundary commission will consider whether or not there should be an odd number.

McLaughlin denied that his recent reticence over the implementation of OMOV was an “about face” but said the debate in government and his own party was not a rejection of equitable voting but about the best way to achieve it.

But in the end no voting system is perfect and the idea of ‘at large candidates’, which he said was working well in other small jurisdictions, may still suit Cayman but it would require a change to the constitution and take much longer to implement. Moving to a simple OMOV system in SMCs, he said, could be achieved in much less time.

Based on the timeline of the work of previous Boundary Commissions, McLaughlin was confident that a new report defining the new boundaries and the necessary changes to the elections law would all be made within a year, leaving plenty of time for a public education campaign well before the next election.

He said that there was no doubt that that agitation by the independent opposition members had pushed government to deal with the issue now and his said in the end it was the right thing to do as it should not be a distraction and he was happy to deal with it. Recognising that it might not be high on the list of public concerns, he said it was still important and something he had been trying to get done since 2002 when the PPM was first formed.

“For me those of us that have been around for a while, it will be quite a watershed,” the premier said.

Watch video of press briefing on CNS Business

See the premier’s presentation below and the motion which is being brought to parliament next week.

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Mac asked to leave PAC

Mac asked to leave PAC

| 03/09/2014 | 30 Comments

(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has written to his deputy chair, McKeeva Bush, asking him to resign from the committee as a result of his recent attacks on the auditor general. Roy McTaggart said he believes Bush is conflicted and not in a position to deal objectively with a number of the reports the PAC needs to examine. The opposition leader has not yet responded to the PAC chair in writing but failed to appear at Wednesday’s open hearing at the LA, when the PAC met to examine witnesses in connection with a series of reports by the auditor general on the systemic problems of governance. However, Bush told CNS that he is not the one who is conflicted.

The former premier said he had criticised the auditor because, among other things, he was party to making the Cayman Islands Government pay $55 million more than it will need to over the next 15 years because he had stopped a deal the former premier wanted to pursue to repackage government loans.

“The auditor wrote reports on people and published them without first talking to the person and hearing their version of what he or his colleagues had wanted to write, particularly when he is so wrong and would see how wrong he is if he talked to the person he is criticising who has the information to prove to him the situation,” Bush said. The opposition leader also accused the auditor of bringing bills for PAC to approve his audit work without the documentation to substantiate that work.

“I took him on when I became a member of the PAC,” Bush told CNS via email on Wednesday afternoon. “The more he criticised us, wrongly, I spoke about it publicly. But somebody had to stand up to him and others who are controlled by the governor, when they criticise civil servants, politicians and members of the public.”

Bush stated that he was not conflicted and not the one who should resign, as he pointed to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s position on public accounts committees.

“Roy McTaggart is the one that should resign for conflicts. According to the last CPA meeting in Barbados, the benchmark set by them for Commonwealth parliaments is that the PAC should be chaired by the opposition, not by one who is part of the government. He is in conflict, not me,” Bush insisted.

If Bush refuses to resign, it is not possible for the chair to remove him or any other member of the PAC as it is a committee elected by the entire Legislative Assembly. In order to press the issue McTaggart will require the support of his parliamentary colleagues and it will be down to the members of the LA to support a no confidence motion against Bush’s position on the committee to now remove him from the seat.

Given Bush’s previous outbursts regarding Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, it came as a surprise when the PPM nominated the opposition leader last May during the new government’s first legislative sitting to serve on the committee that would be examining a number of reports that were critical of Bush’s former administration.

Speaking to CNS during a break from the committee meeting Wednesday, McTaggart expressed his concerns about the latest public comments that the deputy chair had made about the auditor general and the relationship that the PAC has with Swarbrick’s office. The PAC chair said it was not appropriate for Bush to continue to serve on the committee.

“My concerns is over his response to the report about travel and hospitality. He has been quite vocal and critical of the auditor general,” he said, adding that this was wrong as the PAC members are required to be objective. “The auditor general reports to PAC and he is an instrument of good governance. I felt that Mr Bush’s criticisms of the auditor general and his reports demonstrated a lack of objectivity and a clear conflict of interest for him in this role on the committee.”

McTaggart said he felt Bush had taken things “personally” when he responded to the report, which had highlighted a number of serious shortcomings in the way government managed the expenditure by senior civil servants and ministers on entertainment, hospitality, and travel. But that this was not the only report from the auditor’s office that Bush had criticized and that the public were well aware of the direct criticisms the opposition leader has made frequently about Swarbrick.

Bush has made a considerable amount of public comment about the auditor general and referred to him as “the hit-man” of the former governor Duncan Taylor. The opposition leader has also implied that Swarbrick undermined his efforts, not just over the repackaged loan proposals but many of his proposed capital projects. Nor is Swarbrick the first auditor to come in for direct attack from Bush. His predecessor, Dan Duguay, was also a target and labelled “a cowboy” by Bush as a result of a number of his reports which were critical of projects during the 2001 to 2005 Bush led UDP administration.

The PAC met Wednesday morning to begin examining witnesses in relation to five reports from the Office of the Auditor General covering fundamental problems in the governance of the country, in the absence of any of the committee’s opposition members. The reports, which painted a dire picture of basic failures throughout government, were released to the public in January. (See details here)

Captain Eugene Ebanks sent his apologies, as the West Bay member was not on island, while Bush sent a message stating that he would be late if he was able to attend at all, which in the end he did not. As a result, the chair pressed on with the meeting with just the two government members of the committee, Winston Connolly and Joey Hew, who together made the necessary quorum of three.

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Boat full of Cuban migrants hits reef at East End

Boat full of Cuban migrants hits reef at East End

| 03/09/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A boat with 20 Cuban migrants, seven of them women, hit a reef on the East End of Grand Cayman around midnight last night, according to unofficial sources. While the authorities have not yet reported on the incident, CNS understands that one woman on the boat had to be treated for injuries to her feet. Following government policy, the immigration authorities took all the boat people into custody forrepatriation. The process of repatriation is with accordance to the Memorandum of Understading with the Cuban government.

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New election commission

New election commission

| 03/09/2014 | 58 Comments

(CNS): The premier has announced his government’s intention to request a new Boundary Commission to assess the current political landscape ahead of the next election, with the view of introducing 'one man, one vote' in single member constituencies. In what is likely to be a welcome U-turn, Alden McLaughlin has promised that the necessary work and legislative changes will all be done within the year and be in place before May 2017. He said it would be down to the Boundary Commission on the exact details of the new constituencies based on both historical boundaries as well as equal numbers, and there will be no at large candidates. 

Check back to CNS for full details later.

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A failed constitution

A failed constitution

| 03/09/2014 | 48 Comments

The 2009 Constitution was rolled out to much acclaim and educational expense. The public has not been notified of any review or results of review of our unconstitutional laws. It would appear that our overburdened attorney general, who spent almost $1.5 million dollars in the last three years on outside counsel, cannot find time to deal with this pressing task.

By his default our overworked and underfunded court system, which is yet to receive a much promised dedicated modern facility, will have to assume that task. Put another way, it would be easier for our highest law enforcement official to seek change of laws obviously unconstitutional than tie up the courts for days trying to perpetuate a fiction of his creation.

Perhaps the lawyer in his chambers on the government payroll who also has permission by the attorney general to do private outside work could be given the task.

Our esteemed and highly regarded minister of finance would appreciate the cost saving to the government and assistanceto our judiciary if such a review was performed.

These laws include banned publications, inhumane penalties and police laws in breach of human rights.

The most recent ruling of our Grand Court saw a most important decision that required accused persons to be advised of their right to free legal advice when interviewed by the police. As is commonly done, the decision was first heralded as going to appeal then quietly discontinued.

This decision will require substantial increase in the legal aid budget and it is debatable if Minister Archer has been advised of this by the highest law enforcement officer. He has not been advised of potential claims under the Constitution for quashed convictions.

A reasonable guess will see a tripling of legal aid costs to the government depending on the number of police arrests for minor offences.
The Cayman Islands are now required to pick up the tab for recently passed unconstitutional laws while the sinecure government legislative advisor reclines comfortably in the legislature as his retirement portfolio grows and these Islands decline.

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Cayman shaken by minor short earthquake

Cayman shaken by minor short earthquake

| 03/09/2014 | 37 Comments

(CNS): One or two people on Grand Cayman were shaken awake in the early hours of this morning when a short earthquake registering 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded some 22 miles south of George Town. According to the US Geological Society the quake happened at just over six miles down and at about 5am local time. So far CNS has received no reports from readers of broken crockery or sinkholes as a result of the tremor and HMCI confirmed thatit and 911 received a few calls but there was no damage or injuries reported. See USGS details here

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