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Who is running this show?

| 11/06/2014 | 14 Comments

Every morning as I drive into town (usually on the Newlands Bypass and along South Sound), my mood instantly flips from “ok” to “not so ok” once I make the turn onto the bypass. The last couple of days I have actually grown almost irate when I see the ineptness, lack of motivation and pride that are so publicly on display by some of our government departments. In this case, I am speaking about the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) and National Roads Authority (NRA).

Let me explain. Anyone who drives on the Newlands Bypass on a regular basis can observe the ever increasing amount of litter that is tossed along the way — this is where my mood usually flips from “ok” to “not so ok”. We all (well, at least many of us) acknowledge that littering shouldn’t happen in the first instance; however, this is not the topic of my viewpoint.

Last week the NRA began to cut the bush and grass along the Newland Bypass. The result is that whilst the bypass looked bad before (given all the litter tossed around), it looked now like a garbage truck had driven down the road with the back wide open, having lost half of its load on the way to town. Why? Because any garbage and/or litter along the road has now been shredded into a million pieces.

The annoying part is that this is something that could be so very easily avoided — coordinate with DEH; have DEH either walk the road right before the bush/grass gets cut to pick up all garbage or immediately after the cut. Simple! Instead, once the NRA has done their bit, they wash their hands off any responsibility, and for the DEH, the hope seems to be that any breeze may blow the litter somewhere else and so in time there will be less to pick up.

Another issue is the lack of enforcement by the NRA of proper maintenance of the roundabouts which are sponsored and landscaped by various companies. Just look at the state of the roundabout at Grand Harbor and the islets (or whatever they are called) next to the roundabout, which are constantly completely overgrown by bush and at some stage even have three feet tall wild tamarind trees growing in them.

Then there is the issue with the DEH-placed garbage bins. Why is it that at every turn there is an overflowing DEH garbage bin? Whether it is in town after several cruise ships have been in port, the parking lot across from Dairy Queen, the bin at the South Sound Boat Ramp, and the list goes on and on. Surely by now the DEH must know which areas are more frequented and therefore require more regular emptying of the bins. I dare not raise the question why there are no recycling bins placed around town, all public buildings, hotels, vacation rental properties etc.

If someone has the crazy idea to blame the lack of enforcement and coordination on staffing or budget issues, I suggest the NRA and DEH seriously consider utilizing some of those people who have been ordered to do hours and hours of community service, as it would require very little supervision to have someone walk along the roads and beaches to pick up garbage or to empty the garbage bins. If they haven’t been cleaned, no credit is given towards the community service – simple!

I know the issues I have set out above are for many insignificant in comparison to other recent headlines, especially considering that the dump issue and creation of a recycling centre has yet to be resolved; however, nothing screams more “third world country” than overflowing garbage bins and litter lined roads and beaches.

The only conclusion I can come to is that complacency must be one hell of a thing because I know that if I would so openlydemonstrate such a lack of teamwork, lack of motivation at my job and the unwillingness to think outside the box, my boss would have made it very clear to me by now that my performance is less than impressive, and I would have felt the consequences for my inactions a long time ago.

Is it really so hard to try and think of the bigger picture and have some pride in what you are doing? People working at those departments and the people charged with running those departments must be driving on the same roads I do and therefore should be observing the same issues I (and many others) see.

I guess it is just easier not to bother.

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New Customs Tariff Law (2012)

| 20/05/2014 | 68 Comments

Even in the best of times, clearing merchandise through the Cayman Islands Customs was like a bad dream. The newly introduced Customs Tariff Law 2012 has turned that bad dream into a major real-life nightmare. The new tariff codes require 8-digit codes with various import duty rates to be input into Customs entry forms. There are 5,000 different item codes which are contained in a 230 page PDF document.

This means that a small business importer bringing, say, 150 different small items for resale must first find the correct code and import duty rate for each of these items from the list of 5,000 possible codes. This task takes a day or more to categorize the items, then for each item the specific freight on that item must be calculated so as to include the amount of duties to be paid on both the cost of the merchandise and the freight.

Even before full implementation people clearing Customs are now finding out that it takes 4-7 hours waiting in line at Customs to pay import duties that are at best exorbitant. Then hours more are needed for Customs to check that the codes, duty rates, freight on each item and import duty calculations are correct.

The implications of this will be felt by every man, woman and child in the Cayman Islands in more ways than one. While it is true that the average person does not ever have to go to Customs or directly pay import duties, everyone who buys products locally that are imported is paying the total costs that importers pay, plus the profit added by those importers. We can all therefore expect a substantial price increase that will result from the increased labour costs by merchants which this new and improved law will bring.

The present number of employees of the Customs is insufficient to meet the new demands of implementing this law. Unless of course the government expects that the public will be satisfied to wait in line for a few days each time they need to pay customs duties. This means increased labor expenses for Customs and a bigger chunk out of the net amount collected by Customs in order to pay for additional labor expenses.

We all know that government gets substantial funds from collecting import duties for everything consumed by every man woman and child in the Cayman Islands. So, in addition to increased prices locally, the public can also expect that this will be financed by increased taxes (or fees or import duties, since we don’t like the word ‘tax’ and claim to be a tax-free country).

For some small local businesses this Customs Tariff Law 2012 will be the final nail in the coffin. For the general public we have higher prices to pay, since both large businesses and small businesses will need to spend more for the total costs of importing, and therefore pass the higher prices and their profit on to the public.

I don’t recall any politician having this law on their manifesto in any election, so who imposed this law on the people of the Cayman Islands? What are the benefits to the people of the Cayman Islands, or to anyone in the world for that matter? And why do we have to pay the price?

Who in the world will benefit by knowing, for example, how many light bulbs we import and whether they are sealed beam lamp units, whether they are halogen, or exceed 200 watts, whether they are fluorescent, or mercury, whether they are ultraviolet, or other, or even parts for a light bulb? Yes, these 8 examples each have their own 8 digit code and are required to be listed separately on our customs entry forms.

So. Who do we blame for this abomination? The previous government for imposing the law of course, but even more so we must to lay final blame where it belongs: at the foot of the PPM government, for implementing it!

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Tennis club holds first 8 & Under event

| 12/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(TFCI): Last Saturday saw the first Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands “8 & Under Fun Event” held at the Paul Howard Community Courts in West Bay. Eleven children attended the event, sponsored by PwC, with parents watching the games played on the four mini-tennis courts. Coach Noel Watkins of the Cayman Islands Tennis Academy and the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands' Dan Altneu officiated the matches, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the event. Snacks and drinks were donated by Fosters Food Fair. The next event will be a 10 & Under event which will be held in late June. Anyone wishing to join the fun should contact the TFCI at tennisfederationcayman@gmail.com to be added to their newsletter.

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US created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest

| 03/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(BBC): The US created a text-message social network designed to foment unrest in Cuba, according to an investigation by the Associated Press news agency. ZunZuneo, dubbed a "Cuban Twitter", had 40,000 subscribers at its height in a country with limited web access. The project reportedly lasted from 2009-12 when the grant money ran out. The US is said to have concealed its links to the network through a series of shell companies and by funnelling messages through other countries. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in the Cuban capital of Havana says there is a thirst for information on the island, which has no independent media. There has been no official Cuban government reaction to the story.

The scheme was reportedly operated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal international development organisation run under the aegis of the Department of State.

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Hear No Evil, See No Evil

| 02/04/2014 | 33 Comments

Well I would probably be termed a “conspiracy” theorist or just one of the “crazy ones”; but it is high time people begin to wake up and smell the defilement that is taking place in ourearthly air. We in the Cayman Islands supposedly pride ourselves by being a “God-fearing” country and we have made gambling illegal (because this is apparently against righteousness?) and of course there are no adult toy shops, strip joints and anything else that in some way would defile our “God-fearingness”…

It is with this context in mind that I dare to challenge the music that is played on our radio stations (and of course, around the world); with all songs now in some way encouraging the young people to “dance, party, drink and smoke” like they just don’t care, or better yet as if they are going to “die young” as so affectionately stated in the song by famous singer “Ke$ha”; it begs to question, what’s the point of the gambling ban? And as parents trying to establish values and morals into our children, how can having our children hear and sing these songs be responsible parenting?

One can clearly see that the music of our times has absolutely NOTHING to do with we, the peoples’, entertainment. The Bible (and I am in no way a Bible-thumper, but it is truly a wonderful book with many common sense principles) mentions over 1100 times the importance of dance and song. For pete’s sake, John the Baptist was beheaded because a woman danced the king into great delight in order to ‘win’ John’s head! That must have been some great dancing!

Dance has been a HUGE part of every society since humans grew legs, it has also been associated with invoking demons or giving praise, depending of course on the dancer’s preference in worship.

As for song (the influencer of dance), music has been said to “calm the angry beast” or, a song stained with negativity can quite easily do the opposite. Music has been used for everything from assisting in child and adult therapy, calming a fussy infant and in various tests on violent criminals, mind control, satanic rituals, historic witchery and so on – it all of course depends on the music’s message and rhythm and the writers’/singers’/listeners’ purpose for the song.

Love songs are played at romantic dinners to “set the mood”, dance music is played to make people dance and slow, sad music is played at funerals, etc, etc, etc. So if music is a tool to advance and pass on a message to a large crowd, and if it is a tool that has been proven to have the capability of instilling a message, then why is todays music packaged and marketed towards young people with contents containing over-sexuality, suicide, murder, drugs, alcohol, youthful death, Satanism, mind control, demonic possession and the list of negative musical structure goes, on and on and on!

And then of course, repetition of certain lines can invoke particular “power” to what is being said because of how our brains process information. We repeat things to ourselves when we want to remember them, we always seem to remember the chorus of a song but not the rest of it and so on. Religions use music as a way to get a “message” across and a way to bring new followers into their religion – so why would music not be a good way to detract followers AWAY from a religion or spirituality as a whole by putting emphasis on materialism?

Today’s music and music videos are laden with God-defiling messages, with everything from upside down crosses to 8 person orgies in a church complete with a stain glass window of Jesus. The music awards these days take it upon themselves to have whole choirs singing corrupted versions of classical hymns and dressing people for mass while performing on-stage sacrifices to … God? I don’t think so. I know atheists with more respect for religion than what is being shown publicly to millions.

Whether a person is spiritual or religious, we are all taught (or used to be taught) to respect each other, each other’s beliefs and other’s opinions, but I am shocked that any public television station, or worst yet a body of thousands of producers and participants would allow such satanic dramatization to take place on an open stage broadcast to millions around the world. Of course the music industry isn’t the only place, but even the Super Bowl has been turned into a great big tribute to darkness of whatever kind they attempt to portray.

If any of us sat long enough to compare a 1999 music video to a 2013 music video it would be clear as day that the happy, sunny, bright side of publicly broadcast entertainment has become a thing of the past, but what has it been replaced by? Is it necessary for all music these days to be so “dark” and negative? Where are the people who would normally cry out against such sexually explicit scenes on their TV? And what exactly is happening to the young people who are exposed to this stuff?

The moral of the story is, do not make your busy technology-filled lives leave you too occupied to know what your children are hearing, do not be too distracted in traffic to not realize that the song being played on the radio is blazing dangerous messages to your child in the back seat, do NOT be so naïve as to think that music is “just a song, just a beat, just a rhythm” music has been a POWERFUL tool since humans could sing and tap their feet, it has been used for many, many important things, songs are written and chosen ALWAYS with a purpose and ALWAYS to contain meaning…

Just sayin’…

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Problems in our schools

| 17/03/2014 | 45 Comments

Please allow me to air my concerns on a recent article entitled “Teachers in despair over kids”. As a Caymanian parent I have two boy children who have gone through our government schools. One graduated from John Gray High School and has been very successful, recently graduating with a Masters Degree. This particular child was well mannered and in the top 10% while attending, however, my main angst at the time was with the unfairness with which matters were treated.

No matter who the perpetrator was of any misbehavior, a child was not able to retaliate and if he/she did they were treated/punished the same. The victim didn’t have a voice. Unfairness seemed to be the theme.

The other boy went through Red Bay Primary School, and surprisingly he was bullied by his teacher more than he was bullied by his peers! He graduated from primary school in despair and rather despondent. He no longer wanted to attend school because he was treated so badly by this teacher. When I asked him why, didn’t he tell me about what was happening to him for two years. He said that he thought that that was the way school was suppose to be. He was afraid that if he told me that the teacher would react to him in class in a malicious manner, which happened before to him and he had also seen it happen to others in his class. In fact, it was another child who told his parent how badly the teacher was treating his friend, my son, and in turn I was told by the parent.

I decided afterwards to make a report of this issue to someone/anyone in the Education Department. I went up the chain of command only for “the buck” to passed on to another. The only person I did not speak with was the minister of education at that time, as I quickly realized that there was no recourse for me as a parent.

No one wanted to take responsibility. No one wanted to hear my concern.

So who is to blame for our current situation that is obviously no top secret? It is not just one person. Raising and schooling a child is a concerted effort and involvesmany people, as I see it.

First, it is me the parent. However, I can only teach my child what I know or what I have been taught. There are many parents who need a mentor themselves to understand how to raise a child. However, too often people do not know their own needs and do not know that they should ask for assistance, whether it be from another parent or from someone else in the community of proven standing.

Second, the teacher at school shares this responsibility also. The title: TEACHER says it all … we are all teachers – and we all teach by example. BOTH sides need the support and governance of the Education Department, or system, for this relationship to work.

Third, children learn from each other. If the home life is not one of stability, children are quicker to listen or follow their peers than the parent(s) … and they act out accordingly.

What is playing out in our schools is only a reflection of deeper problems within the fabric of a society which is the home.

We have no one to blame but ourselves: every parent and every Caymanian in our Education Department/system.

We need to stop pointing the finger, calling others racists and blaming “imported” children – truth is we are no better or no different … we just love to blame. Blaming gets us nowhere and when everyone else has left this Island, we still have our own stuff to deal with regarding our children and how they are treated and allowed by grownups to be bullied by grownups and peers.

So, as a Caymanian parent I ask the question, “Who within our government is taking responsibility for our mess in our schools?” It didn’t start today. It has been allowed to grow all these years … everything has a gestation period. Everyone here does affect the matrix of our society, however, we do need to make our “inner and outer” voices match – not say one thing and live another.

We are to blame for our own island’s demise.

Stand up and demand more from our government and from ourselves. I am not asking for a debate here or more finger pointing, but merely for introspection and proactivity of HOW to RESOLVE the obvious “elephant” in Cayman’s own living room.

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UK toddler suffers savage attack by pit bull terrier

| 24/02/2014 | 2 Comments

Cayman Islands(The Telegraph): A judge has demanded “urgent reform” of the Dangerous Dogs Act after hearing how a pit bull terrier maimed a four-year-old girl in the street. Sentencing the dog’s owner to just over two years in jail for the mauling which left the youngster scarred for life, Judge Peter Clarke QC said the case highlighted the need for tougher sentences against those who keep fighting dogs. “This case has demonstrated that the maximum sentence for this kind of offence is in urgent need of reform,” the judge told Blackfriars Crown Court, as the family of victim Carla Cutler looked on. “When a small child can be attacked in this way even without the owner wanting it to happen – given the harm that was caused to Carla I feel I was constrained in this case by the maximum sentence set by Parliament.”

The maximum sentence for being in charge of a dog which causes injury while dangerously out of control in a public place, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, is just two years.

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Education reform

| 09/02/2014 | 20 Comments

Isn't it ironic that in the middle of current education reform the minister is suggesting that there is a need to reform the system? In 2012 the former minister led the development of what was considered strategic reform in education. The development of this plan included all stakeholders, or at least that is what we were led to believe. There are about 6 goals, I believe, which are expected to drive change and ultimate improvements in the system. 

The idea of having a system where education matches the needs of the workforce is also a key factor in this strategic reform. The new government, including the new minister, seemed to have bought into this reformation and publicly communicated their intention to work with it. Now, this is a strategic reform for 2012 to 2017.

To return from the UK after a few days talking with education officials there and then publicly state that the system needs reform is worrying. It is further ironic, given the fact that the current chief officer, who was also a key leader in the development of the 2012 to 2017 strategic reform, was a member of the delegation to UK. Now, if the minister had said that there is a need for us to expedite critical aspects of the 2012 to 2017 plan, then that would be more realistic. I stand corrected if this is actually her intention and would laud her efforts to push it forward.

Let me draw your attention to the 2012 -2017 strategic plan for education: See here.

Take a good look at strategic goal #5. All the objectives are aligned to achieving what the current minister is currently proposing after her recent visit. The problem with the system is that we keep changing our plans every time the government changes. As a result, we don't ever get to evaluate the effectiveness of any initiative.

The next thing is that we keep copying what the UK is doing rather than examining what will work best for our situation. Fact: what we adopted from the UK (curriculum and assessment models) is what they have recently found out and admitted is not working for them and hence they are in the middle of reform.

When the government indicated initially that they will keep the chief officers from the previous administration and when they verbally indicated their support for the 2012 to 2017 strategic plan for education developed by the previous administration, I was impressed and thought that for once we have a government who truly had the people's interest at heart.

I urge the minister to try the 2012 to 2017 plan. Give it a chance. See through its implementation. Evaluate it along the way and then make necessary changes accordingly.

(Originally posted as a comment to Rivers: $20k UK trip yields ‘tremendous information’)

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Supporting the RCIPS

| 16/01/2014 | 34 Comments

As I served for over 40 years in police services I believeI have the experience and background knowledge to offer my congratulations to Police Commissioner Baines for his actions following the alleged robbery on New Years Day. As a senior officer much time is spent on strategic planning with the luxury of having the time for discussion and team input. However, as a serving officer there are times when split second decisions have to be made in order to comply with the oath of office, made to Her Majesty the Queen, that includes a promise to preserve life and protect property.

The incident on the 1st January certainly falls under having to make a split second decision. As this particular case is 'sub judice' I will not repeat the well reported details but here we have an unarmed and off duty police officer about to embark on a social day with family and friends. Suddenly confronted with a situation where allegedly armed criminals are bursting out of a store, and staff and customers have been subjected to a terrifying ordeal. He has to act. There is no time to call for assistance or to hold a briefing.

Commissioner Baines has to resort to urgent and immediate action that will prevent harm to the public, both local and the thousands pouring off a cruise ship. It is highly unlikely that desperados of this nature will respond to a kindly "give it up son, you are under arrest" and if shots were to be fired how many innocents would be injured or killed.

In my opinion he takes the only action appropriate for this very difficult situation and, whilst it is unfortunate that one person is injured, the prevention of further injury or harm to the public fully justifies his courageous actions.

I am in full support of Commissioner Baines, who took charge of  an ailing RCIPS after we had experienced five other commissioners in the previous two years. I am confident that any investigation into his actions on the 1st January will show that his actions were lawful and in the best traditions of the police service.

When I commanded the Drug Task Force (DTF), my team and I were often subjected to criticism from the '9 o'clock army' that had spent a comfortable night in bed and had the benefit of hindsight and time; rather than the operational team that had to make instant decisions in the heat of critical operational engagements that were often highly dangerous. To help build the morale of my team I posted the following anonymous poem in our offices. It is from this poem that the most famous military regiment in the world takes its motto.

'It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or the doer of deeds might have done them better.

Credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who spends his time in a worthy cause. Who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.'

Please support your RCIPS. They do not always get it right but a team works better with support and constructive advice rather than being continually subjected to ill informed blogs and criticism.

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Cayman students impress at martial arts grading

| 12/12/2013 | 0 Comments

(Purple Dragon): Over 90 students of the Purple Dragon martial arts school were recently put through their paces and then honoured with their new grades by Professor Don Jacob, founder of the Purple Dragon martial arts programme, who visited Cayman last month especially for the examinations. The grading process took place over two days at the Purple Dragon dojo (studio) at the Mirco Centre and students from both that location and the programme’s Crewe Road studio were required to showcase their karate skills in front of Professor Jacob. As well as developing his world-famous Don Jitsu Ryu martial arts, Professor Jacob is also a Martial Arts Hall of Famer and martial arts world champion and he visited Cayman in November as part of his worldwide grading tour.

Grading is an important part of a karate student’s development programme as the grading process allows them to progress to the next level of their training, as is indicated by an exchange in their belt colour. In total 92 students were graded during the November tour, with youngsters aged 11 years and under making up the majority (71) of those graded, the remainder were pre-teens, teens and adults. New belts achieved were broken down as follows: Yellow 22, Orange 16, Green 19, Blue 6, Purple 5, Red 3 and Brown 21.

Cayman Islands Purple Dragon Martial Arts instructor, Sensei Floyd Baptiste, said he was impressed by the high levels achieved by all students.

“All students are to be commended for their hard work and perseverance duringthe grading process. In particular, we were really pleased to note that three students actually achieved a ranking higher than the recommended level. Denise Corin, Francine Bryce, Elena Garcia-McLean all moved from White to Green Belt, which is a huge achievement for all three students,” he explained.

In addition, three students achieved the hard-fought elite warrior title. Cherie Branch was graded a Brown belt elite, Francine Bryce a Green Belt elite and Tahiti Seymour a Yellow belt elite, another impressive achievement for the group.

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