Archive for September 10th, 2014

Caribbean ganja tourism up for debate

| 10/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Marijuana tourism is set to be debated at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) next week. Richard Kildare, the deputy chief executive officer of Jamaica’s first medical marijuana company, will lead off debate on the notion or reality of marijuana tourism. Rory Johnston, a PhD student at the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, will present on the ethical and legal implications, as well as the risks associated with medical tourism. “This presentation will provide an overview of the key challenges that medical tourism poses to the operation of equitable health systems,” Johnston said. Read more and comment on CNS Business

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Jury surveyed over Bush bias

| 10/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS) Updated: The pool of jurors from which the men and women who will try former premier McKeeva Bush will be drawn have been given a survey by the presiding judge in order to eliminate any real or perceived bias on the panel. Visiting judge Justice Michael Mettyear explained that Bush’s long career in politics meant most people knew him but it did not entitle him to any special favours. However, it also meant he had the right to a fair trial and to be treated equally. Jurors were given a survey with a selection of questions in order to elicit their political positions, any strong feelings for or against Bush or on the issue of gambling, which the judge said would be a feature of the case.

The judge gave the jurors an hour and a half Wednesday to answer the questions truthfully before he retired to his chambers to consider their answers and if necessary eliminate those who could either be biased or be seen to be biased from the overall list before selecting the jury. He said that the court was relying on jurors to be honest when answering the questions.

The judge made it clear that the goal was to ensure that the jury, once selected, could try the opposition leader based purely on the evidence that would be before them during the anticipated four week trial, which is now expected to open on Monday, and not on any other basis. He explained how important it was for the jury to be seen by the wider public to be unbiased.

Expected at first to begin selecting the jury on Wednesday afternoon, the judge postponed the process until Thursday morning as he indicated more time was needed to analyse the answers that had been given.

Around one hundred people in the current jury pool were given the jury survey, which included eleven questions about their views on the defendant and whether those views could prevent them from trying Bush fairly. It also asked them if they had strong feelings about gambling and in particular the use of slot machines, whether they had contributed to the recent public debate surrounding the use of government credit cards, whether they were members of or if they had ever worked with any political parties or in any government department in which Bush had been minister.

They were asked if they or close family members had worked in numerous other government departments, including the police and the offices of the auditor general and the governor, or if they had worked with some of the local media. The survey also asked about any direct non-political relationships they may have with Bush or his family as well as any relationship with the witnesses in the case.

During his directions to the panel the judge emphasised the need for Bush to have a fair trial given his position and long history of public office. He described it as an “interesting and important case”, which he said was not overly complex but would be detailed.

“We need a jury that can try Mr Bush fairly and solely on the evidence in court,” he said, as he spoke about the need for the jurors to be objective. He explained that it would be inappropriate for anybody with political views adverse or in favour of Bush to serve on the jury.

The jurors were directed to return to the court Thursday at 10am, when it is understood that the panel will be reduced as a result of the questionnaires. A jury will then be randomly selected in the usual way from the reduced pool.

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Arrest for Solomon murder

| 10/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 27-year-old local male was arrested yesterday evening on suspicion of the murder of Solomon David Webster (left), police said. A second male, aged 60 was arrested for aiding and abetting an offender in relation to the murder investigation. Both males are in custody at the George Town Police Station. The arrest on Tuesday 9 September was as a result of a police operation in the West Bay area involving firearms officers, Drugs and Serious Crime Task Force, K9 and Air Support. 24-year-old special Olympian Solomon Webster (left) was shot on Sunday night in Daisy Lane at around 8-30pm and was taken by his family in a private car to the West Bay Clinic. 

He was transferred from the car to an ambulance en-route to the clinic. Webster was then transported to the George Town Hospital, where he later died from a wound in his groin area.

Police said Webster’s murder was not believed to be gang related. 

Detective Inspector Denis Walkington is appealing for anyone with any information to contact the Incident Room at 649-3057 or George Town Police Station on 949-4222 or the RCIPS’ tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Cops hunting lone gunman

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800M sea swim expected to attract families

| 10/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The annual Fosters Food Fair IGA 800m Sea Swim between public beach and governor’s beach is set for Saturday afternoon and is expected to attract a large number of families. Registration opens at 3-3:45pm and the swim which runs parallel to Seven Mile Beach begins at 4pm. Hosted by the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association’s (CIASA’s) it is now in its 30th year and attracts a wide variety of swimmers of all ages both, competitive and non–competitive. Alongside the swim will be a half mile beach walk. Registration for walkers also takes place at Public Beach starting at 3pm.

All swimmers are provided with swim caps, which must be worn for safety reasons and there are event T-Shirts, trophies for the top three male and female finishers in each age group and Subway sandwiches and refreshments provided at the end of the race.

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Coroner probes suspected suicide of cop

| 10/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A police officer who was believed to have taken his own life after his body was found hanging from a tree in East End had been arrested by anti-corruption cops just days before his suspected suicide for allegedly soliciting sexual favours from a woman at a traffic stop. An inquest which opened on Tuesday began hearing from several police witnesses and will examine statements and other relevant evidence relating to the events that led up to the discovery of Raphael Anthony Williams, (45) but it will not be looking at a still secret independent report undertaken by police from Bermuda. The coroner presiding over the case has dismissed submissions by the lawyer representing Williams’ wife about this document being admitted.

In a statement to CNS several months ago the governor’s office had stated that the currently secret report would become public as a result of the hearing into Williams death. The report was the result of an enquiry directed by David Baines the police commissioner to get an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the arrest, and the subsequent death, of Williams by officers from the Bermuda Police Service.

At the time Baines said it was normal practice in other jurisdictions that such a chain of events would be subject to independent review. “I felt it was important to ensure that the RCIPS also adopts this approach to ensure that all aspects of the arrest and death are reviewed in an open, transparent and independent way,” Baines stated as he announced the probe. “The enquiry team will outline their findings in a report to the Commissioner of the Bermuda Police Service, who will in then make the findings available to Governor Helen Kilpatrick. It is anticipated that the report will be made public shortly thereafter.”

However, the coroner has stated the inquest is not a trial seeking to apportion blame but an enquiry to establish the facts leading up to the deceased’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. The jury’s role is to establish whether the death was accidental, a result of natural causes, or a suicide. If there is insufficient evidence to decide any of those they would return an open verdict. Given that the coroner said the findings of any other report were not relevant to the case.

According to the background of the case and statements from witnesses Williamswas arrested on 9 January this year after a woman driver complained that a police officer had asked for sexual favours in the early hours of the morning during a traffic stop. The evidence given by the female driver led officers from the police professional standards unit and the anti-corruption unit to believe the officer was PC Williams and they set up a controlled call with the complainant.

Shortly after he was arrested at his home in Newlands where he immediately denied the allegations and told the officers from ACU that he had heard of this happening before where police were set up. He volunteered his police phones and note books and continued to deny the allegaitons when he was questioned by the police while accompanied by his attorney Charles Clifford.

He was released on bail immediately after the interview and police stated that he was both cooperative and a low welfare risk while in their custody. However, having been bailed on Friday 10 January, William’s wife reported her husband missing on Saturday. A search by the police helicopter located His car in the East End area on Sunday and his body was found hanging from a tree in the bush in the Colliers area of the district.

The inquest continues this week in courtroom 4

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Last call to Chamber members to shape agenda

| 10/09/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The president of the Chamber of Commerce is urging its members to take an online survey as soon as possible to help direct the organisation's advocacy agenda. Johann Moxam said it was the last chance for the members to make their views on the top issues of the day known so that the Chamber Council can serve the membership and press government to act in the areas that concern them the most. Asking people to be direct about what’s important, the survey is also designed to solicit what members think about the government's first 16 months in office. Moxam said the survey should take less than five minutes to complete and a little more for those wishing to comment on questions.

“This is your last chance to get involved in shaping the Chamber's public advocacy agenda. Your response will be treated confidentially so we encourage you to be frank with your responses,” he said, adding that the survey results will shape the direction of the Council's public advocacy agenda on national issues.

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EY points to major sell-off

| 10/09/2014 | 177 Comments

(CNS): The premier has released the report by Ernst and Young into the rationalization of government and the potential sale of public services. Announcing the arrival of the completed 260-plus page report, Alden McLaughlin said that government had received it Monday afternoon and had made no decisions on the recommendations contained in it. The report makes far reaching radical recommendations for a sell off of government and if implemented would place significant public services into the hands of the private sector, from education and healthcare to the airport and port. The document recommends the sale and outsourcing of dozens of government assets and services.

Promising that the government would be examining the entire thing very carefully, McLaughlin refused to commit to a single recommendation as he said the decisions would be made by the entire caucus. He said the report was being released to the public in the interests of transparency but the process of deciding what could be achieved would now begin as the PPM government will be examining the findings and looking at what it can support.

Although McLaughlin made no mention of a public consultation process, there is no doubt that the report's recommendations will stir up major public opinion on both sides. While some people will support the myriad sell-off suggestion, others may find the recommendations unpalatable and too great a departure from the accepted roles and responsibilities that government, as the collective representative of the people, should deliver.

The recent public debate that has emerged regarding the privatization of education, which has not won the hearts and minds of the broader public, is a clear indication that if government intends to implement the early priority recommendations in the report it is unlikely to get wide public backing for some of the more radical proposals.

The report is extensive and complex but it suggests the sale of public owned land, the Turtle Farm, Radio Cayman, the stock exchange and the Water Authority, the outsourcing of the entire hospital services and local clinics, privatizing CINICO and an increase in the fees the insured pay, increasing the fares on Cayman Airways to reflect the true costs, moving and selling off the airport, merging of some of CIMA’s services with the General Registry, abolishing the development bank, GIS, the Housing Development Trust and the National Drug Council. Recommendations include the introduction of charter schools with private sector entities running them as well as merging the primary schools on Cayman Brac.

The report also points to centralization of certain government elements, such as finances, HR, procurement, IT, revenue collection. It points to merging the National Gallery, the museum and the CNCF.  The report also talks about merging support staff for the auditor general, the information and complaints commissioners, cutting security jobs and clarifying who does what at District Administration in Cayman Brac, with a view to cutting some of the jobs and centralising the services.

McLaughlin told the press Tuesday that he would not sell off government assets to get cold hard cash in the short term if his government felt it was not in the long term interests of the country but he refused to say where he believed the PPM government might start with the recommendations in the report.

The premier made a commitment, however, to keep the public updated throughout the process and wold announce as soon as any decision would be made about the implementation of any of the reports recommendations.

The deputy governor also assured civil servants that no one would be shown the door tomorrow and everyone in the service would be treated fairly during the transition.

See the full document below.

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Audit follows up on NBF

| 10/09/2014 | 38 Comments

(CNS): With millions of dollars of public money given out to churches, charities, students and other non-governmental organisations under the controversial Nation Building Fund without any proper oversight, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has confirmed it is still following up on what happened to the cash. The office first confirmed it would look at the Fund some three years ago. The NBF was created by the former premier, Mckeeva Bush, and although he insisted there was a committee managing the substantial amounts doled out to applicants, following his exit from office questions were raised about the existence of any genuine oversight, how the public money had been given out and what it had been used for.

The auditor general usually focuses on examining the government’s own books but on this occasion the office had to approach the governor for authorization to contact the people and organisations who received the grants. The public management and finance law allows the public audit office to include non-government entities in its audits if it is in the public interest.
Given the public outcry and the concerns raised about the way the NBF grants were handed out, the audit office stated last year that it would be undertaking a value for money audit examining the entire fund.

“The Office of the Auditor General is continuing its performance audit of all payments made from the Nation Building Fund and how they were administered by government.  The audit includes obtaining information from a sample of recipients about how they used the funds,” a spokesperson from the office told CNS this week as he confirmed that it was not just the churches that were being called to account for the money.

The audit office which faces a packed agenda had originally signalled its intention to start the audit on the Nation Building Fund in 2011 

A significant amount of cash was given to churches in what are now the well documented issues surrounding what was described by some as a “political slush fund”.

As a result of the public outcry and controversy that followed when the details of how much had been doled out from public funds was revealed several churches opted to give the money back. The grants had been made at a time when government was forced to make cuts in many areas including civil servants pay.

Bush defended the fund on several occasions and especially his decision to direct that money be given to local religious organisations. The former premier had taken the position that helping the churches and helped young people via various NGOs would build better communities and keep young people out of trouble and out of jail. The former leader took the view that donating government funds to youth development programmes in churches or other charitable organisations was cheaper than paying for young people in prison.

The controversies arose however when it became apparent that there was no clear criteria or policy position governing the allocation of the public money. The implication by Bush’s former Cabinet colleagues, in the post UDP minority administration, was that the decisions over who got what cash were made directly by the former premier.

At least $10million was believed to have been given out from the fund following its creation in the 2009 budget.

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Authorities send 26 refugees back to Cuba

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(CNS): Almost 270 Cuban migrants are estimated by officials to have passed through Cayman this year and government repatriated another 26 refugees today. Government officials said that the Cuban migrants, who were all housed at the Immigration Detention Centre were supervised by Immigration and Prison officials, as they boarded a chartered flight from Owen Roberts International Airport bound for Havana. The group included 25 men and just one woman. Despite the size of the group there are still another 20 refugees including seven women and 13 men at the centre who arrived in local waters last Tuesday, 2 September.

Immigration statistics suggest that around 100 Cubans have now been repatriated since the beginning of the year after being forced to land on Cayman as a result of the state of their vessels, sickness a lack of basic needs or as a result of no longer wishing to continue on what is often an exceptionally perilous journey in dangerous waters on makeshift boats.

Refugees often land in Cayman without enough fuel, food or even water despite being only a short way through their journey which is usually to Honduras. Nevertheless, despite the dangers the migrants often repeat the journey following repatriation.

Recent difficulties with the repatriation programme has seen migrants held longer than usual which has led to unrest, near riots and several escapes from the centre. Government, also exceeded its budget allocation for 2013/14 for dealing with migrants and is expected to have a similar problem in the current budget year as well.

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Cops hunting lone gunman

| 10/09/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The police have now revealed that they are searching for a single gunman in relation to the murder of 24-year-old special Olympian Solomon Webster on Sunday night. The shooter apparently fled from the scene on foot towards the Logwood area of West Bay. The man is described as having a brown complexion, of slim build, and wearing a dark coloured shirt and jean pants. Police also stated that Webster’s murder was not believed to be gang related. An RCIPS spokesperson said Tuesday that Webster was understood to have been shot in Daisy Lane at around 8-30pm and was taken by his family in a private car to the West Bay Clinic.

As a result of the report made regarding the shooting, the police said, he was transferred from the car to an ambulance en-route to the clinic. Webster was then transported to the George Town Hospital, where he later died from a wound in his groin area. An RCIPS spokesperson stated however, that the full extent of his injuries and the cause of death will be established by a post-mortem,

Although Webster was clearly hit in a major artery, police have not yet offered any time-lines regarding the medical attention he received. Footage captured by the local TV station shows that the victim was treated in the car park of the West Bay clinic by paramedics before he was taken to George Town.

An incident room has been established at George Town police station which will be the focus of the murder enquiry headed up by Detective Inspector Denis Walkington, who is appealing to the community for any information to help them find Webster’s killer. Police said that a family liaison officer is in contact with the bereaved family.

Webster, who was just a few days shy of his 25th birthday when he was shot and killed, was also a special Olympian who had won agold medal for his country in bocce at the regional games in Puerto Rico in 2010. ‘

"Sully", as he was known to his friends, was a former Lighthouse School student, and despite being academically challenged and having a stint at Bonaventure, was considered a great local athlete who also competed in shot put and played both football and basketball.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Incident Room at 649-3057 or George Town Police Station on 949-4222 or the RCIPS’ tip-line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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