A look back at 2004 in Cayman

The year just past was filled with news, from renewed talk of dredging North Sound to the opening of the telecommunications industry to full competition.

There were many, many top news stories in the Cayman Islands in 2004. The biggest, of course, was Hurricane Ivan, which struck 11-12 September.

Following are snippets of just some of the stories that made headlines in 2004:

In January Environmental activist Mr. Billy Adam has dismissed Mr. McKeeva Bush’s statement about dredging in the North Sound, saying it is not good for Cayman and suggests persons should read past research that recommended against such venture.

The Leader of Government Business indicated during a business seminar Wednesday that Government will this year be exploring the feasibility of dredging an undersea canal along the Seven Mile Beach corridor and into the North Sound to make Cayman attractive to super-sized yachts as a tourism development project.

The spring saw the opening of the telecommunications industry to full competition with a call from TeleCayman for number portability and equal access to long distance providers, and news that Digicel’s fixed line service arrives this year.

Opening up of international competition marks the final phase of liberalization of Cayman’s telecommunications industry that began 10 July, 2003, but the most immediate effect on consumers was that Cable and Wireless landline rental goes up by $3 to $12.

Early in the year negotiations between Island Air and the Civil Aviation Authority over airport dues came to a head when the Authority grounded the airline’s Twin Otter aircraft with a lien.

According to Island Air officials, Civil Aviation placed a letter in the aircraft around 7pm Friday, instructing that it not be moved.

Director of Civil Aviation Richard Smith said in an official press release that the action taken is pursuant to the Civil Aviation Law, 1987 section 20. He said this law gives the Authority the power to impose a statutory lien in respect of aircraft for the recovery of unpaid airport dues.

2004 saw preparations being made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, in Frank Sound.

Opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 27 February 1994, the Park has seen many developments to become one of the Cayman Islands’ top tourist attractions, a press release states.

Throughout the year Cuban immigrants arrived on the shores of Cayman Brac. In the spring a group of 10 Cuban men opted to continue on their journey to Honduras rather than be rescued by Cayman officials.

Ritz Carlton was to have opened in December, it was reported in February

The most shocking news of the year came in February when people who live in the community that surrounds Martin Drive were shocked by the murders of Mr. Joseph Alexander Williams and Mr. Chadwick McAlister Bush.

The first murder of Mr. Williams on Thursday night stunned residents in the area that George Towners’ call the East.

The brazen shooting of Mr. Bush in the middle of the day has all but shattered the small community. Many want to leave, and question what’s next.

Ms Rose James wants to relocate from the neighbourhood that she has lived in all her life and is scared about the prospect of a stray bullet hitting one of her loved ones.

‘It has never been this bad. These guys are not from the area. They just come in here, make trouble and leave.’

To lure more tourists to the Cayman Islands and get more exposure, the Department of Tourism teamed up with cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, who was special guest of the Cayman Islands for the year 2004.

It is hoped that the animation ‘mega-star’ will greatly impact visitor arrivals on the island, according to the Department of Tourism.

Opportunities arising from DOT’s new partnership with TV giant cable company Nickelodeon will include the Cayman Islands featuring on more than 15 million cereal boxes and extensive in-theatre promotions coinciding with the forthcoming SpongeBob movie.

In March the Caymanian Bar Association set out reasons for the assertion that 2,850 grants of status by Cabinet last year were made unlawfully and should be quashed.

An application filed in Grand Court asserts that Cabinet acted outside its power to confer status for a ‘special reason’.

It states, among other things: ‘If 2,850 grants of status were made in one meeting of Cabinet or in a small number of brief meetings of Cabinet, and if 1,400 grants were made in one meeting, it is impossible to understand how [the Cabinet] can properly have assessed whether there was a ‘special reason’ in each case’.

‘Special reason’ is explained as ‘particular applicants having some particular unusual factor or individual characteristic’ outside the scope of the section of the Immigration Law that deals with grants of status by the Immigration Board.

Failure to qualify for status under the section that deals with the Immigration Board cannot suffice as a ‘special reason’ for a grant by Cabinet, the CBA reasons in the application.

The argument is that Cabinet could not properly have assessed all relevant factors relating to each of the 2,850 applications it determined ‘in a wholesale manner’.

In June it was estimated that the Cayman Islands Port Authority would have spent an estimated $1.8 million by the end of the year on updating security against terrorist attacks at the Port of George Town.

This is according to the Port Authority Director, Mr. Paul Hurlstone.

On 1 July, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code came into effect worldwide. This new code mandates security changes to the Port of George Town.

‘The objective of the ISPS code is to try to ensure the safety of the maritime industry. It sets standards that those who sign up agree to abide by,’ said Mr. Joseph Woods, Port Facility Security Officer, who was responsible for producing the plan through the help of Mr. Hurlstone. Mr. Woods is a former RCIP Inspector.

In July the Permanent Secretary of Tourism, Environment, Development and Commerce, Mr. Charles E. Clifford, resigned from his post.

In a statement to the media, he states he will pursue a career in law but says he will have more to say in coming days regarding queries about why he resigned.

Lauding his fellow civil servants, Mr. Clifford upholds the ability of the civil service to maintaining ‘the checks and balances that are so necessary in preventing improper influence and corruption.’

In August the Cayman Islands prepared for Hurricane Charley, which passed by with barely a blow. A 6.2 magnitude earthquake occurred some 170 miles southeast of the Cayman Islands, but no one felt a thing here.

These two weather phenom fizzles were just a hint at what was to come.

On September 9 the Cayman Islands National Hurricane Committee issued a Hurricane Alert. It is the public’s signal to begin taking precautions.

It means adverse weather from a hurricane, in this case Hurricane Ivan, could affect the Cayman Islands within two days.

Little did they know…

The headline on the 10 September Caymanian Compass warned ‘Big storm likely.’ It was to be prophetic.

Businesses began shutting down early that day to allow time for employees to get home and get ready.

Stores were filled with people buying hurricane supplies, but the widespread belief was that Hurricane Ivan was going to be more of a threat to the Sister Islands than to Grand Cayman.

Everyone was wrong.

Tourists were evacuated and residents on all three islands hunkered down to await the storm’s passage.

As winds steadily picked up Saturday, 11 September, it became more evident that Hurricane Ivan was headed for the larger of the islands – Grand Cayman.

The storm, which blew wind gusts at an estimated but unconfirmed gusts of 210mph, damaged more than 95 per cent of the buildings on Grand Cayman. The year passed with many people still left homeless, tireless recovery work ongoing and people picking up the pieces of their lives.

Cruise ship tourism was allowed to return to the Cayman Islands in November as workers hurried to get areas cleaned and tour sites opened.

Government passed a price gouging bill in November following widespread rumours of unfair pricing of goods needed just to survive.

The Earl of Wessex arrived in mid-November following complaints that the UK wasn’t doing enough to aid the storm ravaged country of the Cayman Islands.

On 1 December the Caymanian Compass began printing daily newspapers again with its own presses. The paper had been a weekly and then twice weekly product put together in the Cayman Islands and shipped to Jamaica where it was printed by the Jamaica Gleaner.

As the days of December passed, fires broke out at makeshift dumps where trucks hauled hurricane debris to be sorted and removed.

The damage estimate rose to $3 billion and curfew was finally lifted just in time for holiday celebrations.

But another shock was on its way, literally.

On 14 December a strong earthquake jolted Grand Cayman, sending widespread panic to many.

There was little damage.