Archive for October 10th, 2014

FCO dismisses Taylor emails

FCO dismisses Taylor emails

| 10/10/2014 | 122 Comments

(CNS): A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said the comments by the former governor in correspondence to an FCO bureaucrat in 2012 were not relevant to the investigation or verdict in the Bush case. In response to an email enquiry and a number of questions from CNS, the FCO stood by its former man in Cayman, Duncan Taylor, when it stated that the decision to prosecute was a matter for the independent director of public prosecutions. During the Bush trial the court heard extracts from a number of emails Taylor sent to FCO official Tony Bates in London at the time about the progress of the Bush case and the then governor’s eagerness to see him charged with something.

“Governors of the British Overseas Territories take their constitutional roles seriously. Where there is evidence that someone in high office is suspected of wrongdoing, it is right that the Governor ensures the allegations are properly and swiftly investigated by the competent authorities,” the FCO spokesperson stated. “It is right that the allegations against Mr Bush were subject to a full investigation. The decision to prosecute was a matter for the independent Director for Public Prosecutions.

“The former Governor’s comments are not relevant to the outcome of either the investigation or the trial. The verdict is a matter for the courts of the Cayman Islands,” the official added.

During the Bush trial Geoffrey Cox QC, who was leading Bush’s defence team, read from correspondence emails between the governor and local police and civil servants, as well as several email dispatches that Taylor sent to the OT desk back in London.

Cox is now understood to be filing formal questions in the UK parliament regarding the Bush case and the governor’s conduct, which the attorney and Bush have all described as abuse of office.

The comments by the governor about celebrating the demise of Bush, the need to have him charged before the election, his desire to have media coverage of the arrest and charges that would maximise public awareness of the case against him and his criticisms of the DPP for dragging her feet were described as “disgraceful and unconstitutional” by Cox during the trial. The judge also described some of the comments in the emails in his summing up of the case as “unacceptable”.

At the time of the correspondence Bush was understood to be under investigation over several issues relating to corruption. The probes had all started with the discovery of a fax during an unrelated legal case from Bush to former Cayman landowner and developer, Stan Thomas, in October 2004. In it he asked for an outstanding payment of $350,000, which appeared to be linked to a Cabinet re-zoning of Thomas’ land. Bush denied that this was any kind of bung (a payment made to someone to persuade them to do something dishonest) but claimed it was a real estate bill relating to services provided by Windsor Development.

He then became the subject of a probe regarding the illegal importation of dynamite. The explosives imported by Midland Acre were seized by officials because of thefailure of the owners to follow the law, but Bush intervened and sent a memo to the collector of customs asking for the explosives destined for the quarry to be released. Bush, who had responsibility for customs, claimed at the time the correspondence was nothing more than an effort to assist a friend but questions were raised about the request, given Bush’s position.

As a result, the credit card investigation was one of three probes that was initiated by the police against Bush.

In his statement following the verdict on Thursday, Bush said he had been the subject of intense investigation during the last three years and the authorities had found nothing at all criminal, despite probing all of his financial affairs.

He also raised concerns about Cayman becoming a police state at the hands of the FCO, which still has responsibility for internal as well as external security in Cayman, even though the Home Affairs ministry now has had a greater say in police matters and funding since the implementation of the 2009 constitution. 

Bush also linked his case to the arrival of the British naval vessel HMS Argyll in Cayman during his trial.

“Let us be mindful that there is a warship stuck out there and I don’t think it is a coincidence. We must put an end to the police state that we are living in,” he said.

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McLaughlin won’t sell CIG

McLaughlin won’t sell CIG

| 10/10/2014 | 51 Comments

(CNS): The premier gave his first real public indication on Thursday that the PPM administration will not be adopting a large number of the measures which were recommended in the controversial Ernst & Young report. Alden McLaughlin said that the report contained recommendations only and government would not do anything that it believed would not be in the interests of Caymanians to favour one sector of the community. He said the PPM government won’t sell the government building or land assets, nor will it sell Radio Cayman and the Water Authority. McLaughlin announced, however, that the government will be embarking on an RFP to deal with the development of a new sewage system.

Speaking to CNS after his State of the Nation address at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative luncheon, McLaughlin said that government would not be privatizingeducation or health.

The premier, who is a former educationminister, said that he wanted to see more private sector involvement in education but he said that he did not support the idea of wholesale privatization. He also admitted that more research of the charter or grant maintained schools was required, as he acknowledged some of the problems and said that the government wanted to form partnerships rather than a complete takeover.

He said the same issue applied to the Health Services Authority, where he said he did not believe in the complete outsourcing of services. He said government was already doing what EY was recommending but was partnering with private sector health care providers rather than outsourcing.

In his address to the business audience over lunch the premier stated that the EY report was commissioned because government expenditure could not be permitted to grow in the way it has over the last ten years and to help with a more efficient delivery of public service, so government wanted professional advice. McLaughlin said the report has some 55 recommendations, including the sale of government assets, hiving off of various services, the amalgamation of agencies and other recommendations.

“But they are just that: recommendations,” he said to Chamber audience following a speech by the president of the Chamber Johann Moxam calling for the adoption of the report.

“The decisions about what will be done are for the caucus and ultimately the Cabinet. We believe the report is a useful tool and we thank EY for their good work in its production. But the government is not going to adopt the report wholesale,” he stated. “Some recommendations will be accepted, some will be modified and others will not be accepted. We are still carefully going through the review process and making decisions.”

He pointed out that government was already along the road with a number of the recommendations, such as the airport renovation, the PPP process for the cruise terminal, raising the retirement age of civil servants to 65, the development of a solid waste management system, simplifying financial reports, and a new governance model for education to increase community participation.

“While we do agree on some issues, there are others that we see different approaches as being more palatable,” he added, as he listed what government would not do including selling the Water Authority as he announced plans to develop an RFP for the construction of a national sewerage system.

He also confirmed that it would not sell Radio Cayman.

“Aside from the fact that it is a Cayman institution, Radio Cayman provides a key and trusted service to the Cayman community. Instead of being sold, Radio Cayman and the other government media will be coordinated in order to serve government and the community more effectively,” he added. “While we recognize the need to rationalize Government services, before we make any moves toward privatization, amalgamation or restructuring, this Administration will have to be satisfied that any action Cabinet takes will be in the best interest of the Caymanian people.”

However, the premier did make one concession to the Chamber, which has been pressing for the adoption of the EY report and one of the concerns that Moxam had expressed recently: that the Implementation Unit would not have the nerve to implement Cabinet's recommendations as it was made up of made up of only civil servants. McLaughlin invited the Chamber to nominate one member to serve on the steering committee that will guide the implementation process.

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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day

| 10/10/2014 | 29 Comments

Each year on 10th October, the international community encourages stakeholders to talk about their work on mental health issues. A particular concern worldwide is the need to increase access to mental healthcare. Here in the Cayman Islands, which we so often characterise as paradise, we must understand that we face a similar challenge. Those people whom our community knows to be suffering from mental illness are not outliers, who might have avoided their fate by making different lifestyle choices.

While drug use is indeed a risk factor for mental illness, we must remember that addiction is also an illness, from which persons need considerable support and treatment to recover. It can also be a symptom of mental illness, as persons self-medicate. 

Yet there are many other challenges that we all face in our daily lives, which increase the risk of mental illness. Some less well-known pre-disposing factors include:
• Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one's death or divorce;
• Chronic medical conditions, such as cancer;
• Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or being assaulted;
• Having few healthy relationships; and
• Brain damage as a result of a serious injury, such as a violent blow to the head.

Any these things might impact any of us, or those we love, in a manner that is beyond our control. Were mental illness to result, the best that we could hope for would be prompt access to effective mental healthcare.

This year’s theme focuses on a particular illness— with which our local experts are quite familiar.  In 2010, 110 persons accessing mental health services at the Health Services Authority were found to be “living with schizophrenia”. This represents seven percent of the total figure receiving mental healthcare.

For those who are not aware schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterized by profound disruptions in thinking that affect language, perception, and the sense of self. The 2010 figure was a slight increase over 2006, when 96 patients suffered from schizophrenia.
The World Health Organisation tells us that the disease affects around 26 million people across the world. Despite being treatable, more than half of people with the illness cannot access adequate treatment. Furthermore 90% of people with untreated schizophrenia live in the developing world.

This statistic is especially unfortunate. Although it is a severe mental disorder, which disrupts people’s lives and impedes their functioning, those who suffer from schizophrenia can, with treatment, lead productive lives and be integrated in society.

The Cayman Islands is an extremely small community with limited resources that boasts services on par with the developing world. As such it is paramount that we ensure that we do not become part of the global statistic. 

Government’s duty is to ensure that our citizens and residents who suffer from this and other forms of mental illness have equal access to healthcare and any other essential service they may require. We must also ensure that society employs the same respect for their rights and responsibilities, as it would towards a healthy person. 

For this reason Government launched the Mental Health Commission under the leadership of Dr Marc Lockhart, earlier this year. This group of professionals aims to protect the rights of the persons detained under the Mental Health Law. They will also make recommendations on ways to improve the local mental health system, and engage in advocacy, research and training programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination.

The Commission, Government, service providers, stakeholders and the general public all have a part to play in securing this vision—as those who work in the profession are particularly cognizant.

To this end, the Psychiatric & Behavioural Health Services (PBHS) Unit at the Cayman Islands Hospital has planned a number of activities to raise awareness of mental health concerns.  From panel discussions, to movie screenings, information sessions, a church service and even a tai chi demonstration, PBHS has planned a range of public events to increase awareness of local mental health challenges.

Their goal is to create a society in which regardless of the state of our mental health, we are all assured of access to the best possible care and our continued enjoyment of basic human rights.

This is a worthy vision, that we must all work together to achieve. My Ministry looks forward to continued collaboration with all stakeholders and with the general public to achieve these goals.

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