An eight-foot-long salt water crocodile was captured alive in Old Man Bay on 30 December and taken to Boatswain’s Beach.
It was the first confirmed sighting of a crocodile in Cayman since 1959.
Questions arose as to where the female crocodile came from, with Cuba and America being most likely.
Although the crocodile was shot with a spear gun during its capture, veterinarians nursed it back to health in a dry-cage at Boatswain’s Beach.
Trial delays revealed
At the Grand Court Opening on 3 January, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie expressed his concern about the backlog of criminal cases from 2006.
Sixty-eight cases were carried over into 2007, the largest backlog ever.
The absence of witnesses and the lateness of scientific evidence and other expert evidence were cited as the reason for many trial adjournments or discontinuations.
Cayman Business Outlook
The 4th annual Fidelity Cayman Business Outlook conference took place on 18 January at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The one-day conference focused on future trends over the next five years.
Overseas speakers included author and US foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum; author and technologist Steven Berlin Johnson; futurist Jim Carroll; and the permanent secretary in Bermuda’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration Robert Horton.
Election date debate
The timing of the next general elections became an issue when Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush called for them in November 2008 during the opening of the West Bay MLA’s office on 18 January.
Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 pushed the elections scheduled for November of that year to May 2005. However, both the Government and Opposition agreed that November elections are more desirable.
While the Opposition wanted to push up the elections – meaning the Government’s term would only be three and a half years – the Government suggested pushing them back until November 2009 – meaning their term would be four and a half years.
The Governor’s office responded to the debate by saying the UK Government would likely support a change back to November if the two political parties could reach a sensible consensus. Failing that, however, the Governor’s office stated the elections would be held four years after the previous ones, which would mean May 2009.
National Heroes Day celebration
A large event in George Town’s Heroes Square on 22 January marked National Heroes Day.
It was first time since the national holiday’s inaugural year – during the Quincentennial Celebration – in 2003 that the holiday was recognised with a ceremony.
In the lead-up to the event, the Cayman Islands Seaman’s Memorial Statue called Tradition was moved from its Fort George location to a permanent location in Heroes Square.
The start of February was marked by some sobering news about fatal car crashes in the Cayman Islands.
A Caymanian Compass review of deadly accidents since January 2005 through February of this year found 22 people had died in road wrecks. Nineteen of them were men, and just three were women.
The average age of the men who died in those accidents was 24.
The review also found that 16 of the 22 people killed in the crashes since January 2005 were 26 years old or younger, six were teenagers.
The general public outcry over the dangers on Cayman Islands’ roads had been getting louder at that time. Government ministers promised a slew of new regulations to curb aggressive driving, but few have been put into effect as this year draws to a close.
On a lighter note, the Earl of Wessex Prince Edward dropped by Cayman for a visit early in the month announcing the creation of a wind farm on the Brac and a new marine base in Newlands.
The Prince stayed the better part of the week of 5 February and managed to get to all three islands on what was described as a ‘whirlwind tour.’
While His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex was in Little Cayman on Sunday, 4 February, earthshaking news was hitting Grand Cayman.
A spat with the planning department over how the building that housed the First Step Academy on Godfrey Nixon Way was being used caused the school to temporarily close, but an agreement was eventually reached and it reopened later in the month.
Meanwhile, shoppers in the Cayman Islands may have gotten some sticker shock as food prices rose sharply. The Compass reported higher demand for the production of ethanol was leading to an increase in the price of corn.
The rise in corn prices affected the cost of everything from eggs to chicken.
Tragedy struck the Cayman Islands Port Authority on 12 February as a security guard at its cargo distribution centre was struck a killed by a forklift. The victim was identified as 43-year-old Samuel Dofredo of the Philippines.
A strange twist in the story occurred when it was learned that Mr. Dofredo had been shot during a March 2006 bank robbery in West Bay. A trial in the robbery case had been scheduled for later in the spring and Mr. Dofredo would have been a witness.
No connection was ever made between the cargo centre accident and the pending court case by authorities.
Later in February, Auditor General Dan Duguay criticised the government over an insurance settlement it made in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Mr. Duguay’s evaluation of the settlement concluded that Cayman did not get good value for money. His review stated government received $50 million plus 24 per cent of the issued shares of Cayman General Insurance in the settlement, for a total estimated value of $70 million. The initial claim was originally estimated at $108 million.
Talk of a new constitution for the Cayman Islands closed out the month of February.
For the first time, on 26 February the possibility of a constitutional referendum was mentioned on the front page of the Compass.
Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said the People’s Progressive Movement Party was concerned what would happen if a new constitution negotiated between the UK and Cayman’s government was rejected by the island’s people. Instead, Mr. McLaughlin said the government was considering a referendum before officials went to UK to negotiate.
The referendum is now scheduled to happen in May 2008.
Smoking, building and conservation legislation, liquor licences and Cayman Airways flights were all in the news in March.
A discussion white paper bill was tabled in the Legislative Assembly with a proposal to ban smoking in all public places in the Cayman Islands, including bars, restaurants and parks.
Smokers would have to be farther than 10 feet of any enclosed public place, or place of collective use, to smoke.
The public was to have 60 days to peruse the bill and give feedback.
Liquor store challenge
Members of the Savannah/Newlands community challenged a proposed liquor store being set up in their neighbourhood at a meeting of the Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman.
Representatives of the Church of God Full Gospel Hall in Savannah and the community turned out to object to the application by Jacques Scott Wines and spirits for a variation in licence for the change of location of a package liquor licence from the Red Rabbit store in Red Bay Plaza to Countryside Shopping village in Savannah.
The Red Bay Plaza had to be demolished to make way for a new road.
Members of the Savannah/Newlands community objected on the basis that there were three churches and a school nearby and their district functions do not serve alcohol.
Jacques Scott made the case that there is a demand for a responsible liquor store in the area and the company would be a good neighbour.
The Board’s decision on the matter was deferred pending further deliberations.
New York flight
In March also the national flag carrier announced that it was to begin non-stop flights between Grand Cayman and New York, which would begin in June.
There had been continued calls from members of the tourism private sector for direct air service on such a route, the New York area being the single largest source market for the Cayman Islands tourism industry, with more than 30 per cent of all US air arrival visitors coming from the tri-state area.
In March also, Cayman Islands lawmakers took a major step in ending the days of fly-by-night construction companies.
The Builders Law, which regulates both businesses and individual workers, was approved unanimously by the Legislative Assembly.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the law would not take effect until at least 1 January 2008.
According to the legislation, both businesses and workers would have to register with the government through a newly created 10-member Builders Board, which would award or deny licences based on various qualifications in five categories: general, building, residential, sub-trade or civil contracts.
The Draft National Conservation Bill was tabled in March in the Legislative Assembly as a white discussion paper.
The legislation, which will provide the legal framework within which environmental matters in the Cayman Islands will be managed in the future, would have a period of 60 days for public feedback and discussion.
In March it was announced that Cayman Islands legislators agreed to spend $4 million for an insurance fund being set up to help Caribbean countries access cash quickly in the event of a catastrophe.
Leader of Government business Kurt Tibbetts said $2 million would go for the initial participation fee and another $2 million would represent the annual premium payment to the fund, which is called the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility.
The $2 million premium would provide Cayman with up to $53.3 million in insurance coverage in the event of a hurricane and up to $4.7 million if an earthquake should hit the islands.
The Cayman Island government announced the hosting of the NFL Quarterback Challenge, which took place in May of 2007. Eight top quarterbacks and four wide receivers along with some alumni players visited Cayman in May.
New arrangements were put in place to regularly brief Cabinet Ministers about developments pertaining to matters of law and order. The Governor’s Office issued the statement after Cabinet threatened to withhold budget funding from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service unless it was allowed to send a Cabinet member to the weekly police briefings.
Hurricane hunters visit
A US Air Force Reserve Command WC-130J Hurricane Hunter Hercules aircraft visited Cayman in April. The visit was part of a six-day, six-city tour in the Caribbean region to raise public awareness of the Atlantic Hurricane threat.
The hurricane aircraft is a standard C-130 that has only been modified with various weather gear. It is one of three aircraft in the world that has marked 50 years of continuous use.
The annual Batabano and junior carnival and street parade took place downtown George Town.
A foul odour plaguing Cayman’s heaviest tourist location had visitors turning up their noses to the poo-poo smell.
It was thought at first that the George Town landfill was the culprit but it was later determined that the terrible stench was coming from the Cayman Islands Water Authority’s Industrial Park sewage treatment plant.
A press release from Water Authority said its wastewater treatment plant had experienced a large toxic shock incident over the long weekend, which led to odour control problems at the facility.
Cable & Wireless experienced a major disruption of telecommunication services.
The services affected included mobile, landline, international and access to 811, 411, 611 and ADSL internet.
All customers of C&W were affected, including police, fire and emergency services.
The reason for the disruption was the main interconnection link between C&W and Digicel was down.
Education icon retires
One of Cayman’s icons, Joanna Clarke was honoured with the launch of the Joanna Clarke Award by Don Seymour at the Savannah Primary School. The school was the first recipient of the award and received CI$11,000 to build a new playground.
Tourism on the rise
May struck out on a positive note for the tourism sector, with newly released arrival figures for March suggesting an industry going from strength to strength. Air arrivals were up 11.6 per cent from March 2006, while the 253,348 cruise visitors to these shores was the highest monthly figure ever recorded in the Cayman Islands.
In the courts, the beginning of May saw the conviction of Caymanian Attorney and former Chairman of the National Drug Council Patrick Schmid on drug charges. Schmid was convicted of possessing and importing .0085 of a gram of cocaine salt and .134 of a gram of methamphetamine.
But the case was far from done. Mr. Schmid’s lawyers gave immediate notice of an appeal and in August the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions, ordering a retrial. The presiding judge said the convictions were unsafe and unsatisfactory. She also criticised customs officers involved for not making notes of what happened when Schmidt was first questioned at Owen Roberts International Airport.
With its budget up for scrutiny in Finance Committee, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush criticised the PPM Government for bringing public debt to just under $300 million. Education Minister Alden McLaughlin defended the borrowing, saying a substantial amount of the money will go toward the construction of three new high schools and a new George Town elementary school. Mr. Bush also took a pot shot at the Government’s cost of living approach, telling the LA ‘The PPM Government which came to power with the slogan ‘Government you can trust’ is fast becoming ‘The Government which will lead us all to bust’.’
HSA plans financial independence
Also in Finance Committee was HSA Acting CEO Lizzette Yearwood, who told LA members the authority plans to be financially independent of Government by mid 2009.
Part of that plan involved the introduction of a 10 per cent across-the-board increase in HSA fees, which had not increased since 2002. But the fee increase was delayed, and by years end, hospital fees remained perhaps the only thing in Cayman not to have gone up in the past five years.
A decision by Liquor Licensing Board Chair Mitchell Welds to allow Jacques Scott to open a liquor store in traditionally dry Savannah generated controversy.
Residents held a boisterous public meeting to oppose the store while Jacques Scott took out full page advertisements defending their move, necessitated because Government was evicting them from the Red Bay Plaza to make way for the east-west arterial.
Despite vocal opposition in Savannah, nearly two-thirds of respondents to a later CayCompass poll said they supported the store opening at Countryside Village. The LLB later ratified Mr. Welds’ decision, despite further protest at its quarterly meeting. The store finally opened in October, to much less fanfare.
NFL Stars in town
American Football fans in Cayman had some excitement in May, when NFL stars came to town to film the annual NFL Quarterback Challenge in the Cayman Islands for the first time. The event drew large crowds to the Cayman Islands International School, but the real highlight was meant to come in August, when the event was to screen on TV’s across the USA.
But everything went awry just a few months later when one of the events’ stars, superstar quarterback Michael Vick, was arrested – and later convicted – for dog-fighting offences. The controversy caused the NFL to dump the show before it screened, leaving the Cayman Islands Government with little return on the $700,000 it spent hosting the event. Mr. Clifford later said his department was negotiating a partial refund, and the event would go ahead in Cayman in 2008 and 2009.
Sir Turtle row
Meanwhile, Mr. Clifford was trying to put out a fire over rumours Sir Turtle was about to be dumped from Cayman Airways planes, which were being re-branded. Sir Turtle was ultimately moved from the plane’s tail to beside the cockpit door – or to first class as Mr. Clifford later quipped.
June started with two machete attacks, one ending in a charge of murder and the other causing a woman to lose her right hand.
Michael Eliot Ebanks, 40, was struck at a residence off Eastern Avenue sometime before 5.30pm on Friday, 1 June.
Later that night, Marlene Smith had her hand severed and received two other life-threatening wounds. They were inflicted by her former boyfriend, Henricho Everton Swaby, 34.
Initially charged with attempted murder, Swaby pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The court heard that Ms Smith’s hand had been surgically reattached, but she had minimal use of it.
Meanwhile, Windel Wellington Dilbert, 73, was arrested and charged with Mr. Ebanks’ murder. At year’s end he was in custody while the Grand Court awaited a second psychiatric report.
Attorney Sara Collins was selected to take over from Attorney Alden McLaughlin as chairperson of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee.
Mr. McLaughlin, Minister for Education, left the committee to ensure it did not appear politically compromised.
Trailers used as temporary housing after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 are in Cayman to stay, Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor said.
A government-owned Water Authority site in East end is being prepared to safely store 83 trailers so that they can be used if the need arises in the future, he explained.
The trailers were brought in from the US Federal Emergency management Agency with the expectation that they would be shipped back after 24 months. One was destroyed by fire in 2006 and in June 2007, 46 were still occupied.
On 22 June the Legislative Assembly unanimously approved $484 million in government operating and financing expenses for the year 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008.
The budget did not include any new revenue measures, but did include $129 million in new borrowing.
The Ministry of Health and Human Services received almost $84 million. Biggest item was an allocation of $11.25 million to cover projected Health Services Authority losses for the coming year.
Another expenditure that warranted headlines was $2 million for private schools.
A report that examined various human rights surrounding Cuban migrants who arrive in Cayman after fleeing their home country warned that local government may not be following the spirit of the UN convention on refugees, even if it hasn’t violated any specific section of the convention.
Under the Geneva refugee convention, Cuban nationals who are determined to be fleeing persecution in their home country can be granted the right to reside in Cayman. But the report said no Cuban nationals arriving in Cayman by boat have been granted refugee status since 1995.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson called the report fair, but was not sure all of its recommendations could be legally implemented.
The Cayman Islands hosted the 32nd regional conference of the Caribbean, the Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
The theme of the conference was ‘Embracing change in the way we do business: Efficient Government’. But the hot topic was independence after Ottiwell Simmons of Bermuda described his party’s push for separation from the UK.
Other British Overseas Territories contributed to this and related topics while the question of independence for Cayman was inevitably brought up again. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he was determined that the people in Cayman would make informed choices.
The biggest story developing over July was the release of the Auditor General’s report on the debt financing arrangements for the Boatswain’s Beach project.
A 10 July story said the report found there was wanton disregard for the use of public funds – in that as much as $1.6 million in fees had little or no value to the residents of the Cayman Islands.
Former Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush defended the financing arrangement as maintaining the highest standards of transparency, saying he had absolutely nothing to hide from his tenure as chairman of the Cayman Turtle Farm board at the time of the financing, claiming he had no knowledge an employee and a close friend were benefiting from the financing proposal.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford, who had been Mr. Bush’s Permanent Secretary, urged more investigation, claiming he had witnessed irregularities during his tenure on the board, but that in his role he was obliged to support Mr. Bush.
On 16 July it was reported that the RCIPS was reviewing the report to determine whether to go ahead with an investigation, after Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts made a request to Governor Stuart Jack to order the probe.
The next day, Mr. Bush fired back, defending several major projects given approval during his administration, while Mr. Clifford then followed up with comments that the problems with the debt financing underscored conflicts of interests in the way the country is run.
Public Accounts Committee Chair MLA Osbourne Bodden then confirmed that it would be reviewing Auditor General reports of a number of controversial projects under Mr. Bush, but would only be able to call witnesses to those not under investigation by police or before the courts.
On July 23, the Auditor General indicated that if the police were not pursuing the matter, his office would conduct another larger review of the Boatswain’s Beach project, this time encompassing the project’s planning and construction.
On 25 July, Mr. Bush called on Minister Clifford to resign or be removed from his position in cabinet if police were to go ahead with the Boatswain’s investigation, and on 27 July the Compass reported the police would rule on an investigation the following week.
Mount Trashmore fire
A spectacular blaze broke out 2 August at the George Town Landfill, sending plumes of heavy smoke hundreds of feet into the air and forcing the dump site to temporarily shut down.
The fire burned for roughly eight hours before being extinguished. It was unknown what caused the towering inferno.
There have been several large, long-lasting fires at the site in the past including a 6 December, 2004 fire that broke out in the same area of the landfill and burned well into the next day.
Man rescued at sea
The crew of Caymanian fishing vessel Bottom Line saved the life of a Dominican man who was found adrift in a 26-foot boat about 180 miles southwest of Grand Cayman.
Percy Evans, 29, had been adrift at sea for nearly two weeks. His two friends died on the journey.
Police said the seaman’s craft lost all power when it was out to sea.
Suffering severe dehydration and malnutrition, Mr. Evans was taken to hospital for treatment, where he fully recovered.
Police praised the crew of Bottom Line, captained by Cawell Bush.
‘They did a fantastic job not only in spotting this man but also reviving him and providing the necessary care to bring him to shore alive,’ commented Police Marine Unit Inspector Brad Ebanks.
In a surprise move, 10 Cuban migrants were let out of the Immigration Detention Centre in George Town on 9 August for a day of recreation – a release authorised by Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson.
Some of the Cubans had been in the detention centre since March awaiting repatriation.
The migrants were allowed to go free during the daytime. Their release stirred up some debate but Mr. Manderson said the temporary release was both humane and necessary.
‘They have never posed any threat to the community,’ he said. ‘It was basically our desire to comply with the spirit of the UN convention and to treat people in a fair manner.’
Rollover for civil servants
Governor Stuart Jack announced a term-limit would be applied for non-Caymanian government workers, a policy similar to the one already in place for the private sector.
He said the seven-year rollover policy for civil servants would mirror the existing one for the private sector as much as possible.
‘Clearly there is an argument for the equity of treatment between private sector and public sector employees,’ he said.
The Governor noted the policy would allow plenty of time for people to make plans.
Like the private sector rollover policy, the government’s rollover policy would have provisions with respect to employees designated key by their employees. Under the Immigration Law, key employees can get work permits for nine years, long enough to apply for permanent residency after eight years.
Market at the Grounds
Cayman’s new farmers’ Market, Market at the Grounds, kicked off 11 August, drawing large crowds to the Stacey Watler Agricultural Pavilion in Lower Valley.
The market sells only locally grown produce and Cayman-made products.
Market at the Grounds runs every Saturday at the site.
FOI bill passed
The Cayman Islands’ Legislative Assembly approved a first-of-its-kind Freedom of Information Bill following a politically-charged debate.
The measure is expected to become law in early 2009.
The FOI Law will allow the public to access government records on request. Information managers of government entities will have to review each request made to their department individually.
Information exempt from release will include records relating to the conduct of a criminal investigation, the trial of any person, those that would reveal confidential sources of law enforcement information and those that reveal investigative methods used by police.
The 17 month lag time between the law’s passage and its implementation will allow time for government employee training in how to handle information requests.
National ID card
Lawmakers approved a private member’s motion in support of a national identification card system for the third time in the past two decades.
Supporters said ID cards could have more functions than simply listing a person’s name and age for identification or security purposes. Information about a medical condition such as diabetes or a heart ailment could also be included along with an emergency contact, for instance.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that the government would consider implementing a national ID card system. However, he said it’s not as simple as it might appear.
He said among the issues that would have to be reviewed were which sections of the population should carry such cards, whether they should be mandatory and what penalties should be imposed for non-compliance.
Liquor controls urged
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford wants to ban the practice of transferring liquor licences in the Cayman Islands to better control the spread of businesses that sell alcohol.
Liquor licence moratoriums have been used in the past to slow the proliferation of such facilities, and a moratorium on new licences is still in effect. But Mr. Clifford said such moratoriums haven’t worked as envisioned, and in practice have been lifted in specific cases to allow the sale of alcohol in attractions like Boatswain’s Beach.
‘What has happened as a result of the moratorium is that it has created a black market,’ Mr. Clifford said. ‘We are aware of licences being sold for as much as $200,000.’
Liquor licences are supposed to cost $2,500 a year.
Mr. Clifford said the current process should be changed so that each new applicant is required to have their petition approved by the Liquor Licensing Board.
Groundbreaking ceremonies to mark the first phase for three new high schools were undertaken in one day this month.
All schools will take on a modular design, divided into 250-student academies housed in two-storey pods linked to other campus buildings by covered walkways, gymnasiums, multipurpose playing fields and multi-use global learning centres.
The John Gray campus will be constructed on the existing school site in George Town. It will initially house 1,000 students.
The Beulah Smith Campus in West Bay will surround the existing Jimmy Powell cricket oval, which will be incorporated into the school grounds. Two pods will be built in the first phase with more being added as the need arises.
The new Clifton Hunter Campus in Frank Sound will be built south of the Frank Sound Road fire station. Three pods will be built to house 750 students.
All three schools are expected to be completed before the 2009 school year.
Flu plan launched
The Government has created a contingency plan in the event of an influenza pandemic. The plan predicts that a pandemic could overwhelm some government agencies, necessitate the mass closing of schools, and require restrictions be placed on mass gatherings.
According to the plan, 13,000 Cayman Islands residents could be affected in a short time if an influenza pandemic hit the islands.
In response to the threat, the Health Services Authority is stockpiling an antiviral drug that could treat some of the population, and a new taskforce and committee have been established to coordinate a response.
The contingency plan warns that if such a pandemic were to start, it is inevitable the Cayman Islands will be affected, being a popular tourist destination in a time of rapid international travel.
A woman that had given birth on a Cayman Airways flight bound for Jamaica – who had been advised by doctors that it was too expensive for her to have the baby in Cayman – caused outrage, following its report in the Caymanian Compass, Thursday, 4 October.
The birth caused the plane to make an emergency landing in Montego Bay.
The incident led to a full investigation by the Jamaican Consul, Robert Hamaty, as to the circumstances leading to 19-year-old Shellesha Woodstock giving birth on the flight.
At the same time former Health Minister and Bodden Town MLA Gilbert McClean flagged a number of concerns with the way the Health Services Authority is being run, reported Friday, 5.
On Tuesday, 9 October, it was reported that Caribbean Utilities Company forecasts a need for more generating capacity come 2009.
The company’s Annual Report forecast electricity sales increasing eight percent over the next year alone. In total CUC expects to add 1,800 new customers to the 22,768 it had through April 2007.
Tuesday, 9 October, was a significant date in Cayman’s social and juridical development when the official first sitting of the Cayman Islands Drug Rehabilitation Court was held, reported Friday, 12 October in the Caymanian Compass.
Six weeks of work went into the bill passed by the Legislative Assembly last year, to establish a court and set out procedures for dealing with drug offenders.
Probation officers, counsellors, defence attorneys, Crown Counsel, police officers, social service providers and staff from the hospital laboratory met for months to prepare a Drug Rehab Court Operations Manual.
On Thursday, 11 October, the Caymanian Compass reported that government ministries and portfolios are up to two years behind in submitting financial statements for auditing, resulting in the public being denied accountability and transparency in government spending.
On Monday, 22 October, it was reported that leader of the opposition McKeeva Bush had accused the Department of Public Health of covering up cases of dengue fever in Cayman. The department subsequently acknowledged there were imported cases of Dengue Fever. At the year’s end there had been eight confirmed and one presumed case of Dengue Fever, but there was no evidence the disease had spread locally.
Turtle meat restrictions were proposed by Acting Managing Director of Boatswain’s Beach Joey Ebanks, reported Friday, 26 October. At the current rate of release and processing, the turtle farm at Boatswain’s Beach is posed to supply enough for the demand of the market until approximately 2010. But, because of a poor breeding season at the farm this year, and a more immature breeding stock sine Hurricane Michelle, the farm will not be at a full supply in 2011.
The major development in the month of November was Governor Stuart Jack’s decision to launch a commission of enquiry looking into allegations that Tourism Minister Charles Clifford took confidential government documents and distributed them to the media when he resigned as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism.
The decision followed claims by the opposition United Democratic Party that the Minister of Tourism leaked records that were confidential and their release to the press constituted a breach of the civil servant regulations and Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law.
The opposition called on Minister Clifford to resign, however Mr. Clifford brushed off the suggestion, saying the documents that went to the press were personal files and he would not allow the commission of enquiry to distract his from his ministerial responsibilities.
Sir Richard Tucker, a long-serving former Justice of the English High Court was appointed to lead the investigation, with formal hearings scheduled to begin in January 2008.
Tucker will have powers similar to those that exist in the Grand Court, in that he will have the ability to summon witnesses and demand access to various documents.
The governor’s decision to order the commission of enquiry provoked strong criticism from the ruling People’s Progressive Movement with Education Minister Alden McLaughlin claiming the governor had ‘no authority to order the commission of enquiry without at a minimum, consulting with the Cabinet.’
The Governor’s Office responded in turn with a written statement saying that ‘while the governor always endeavours to consult the Cabinet wherever possible, it would not have been appropriate to do so in this case given that one of the subjects of the enquiry is a Cabinet member.’
The volley of words continued with the leaders of the ruling party suggesting that the governor disregarded due process when he launched the enquiry. Mr. McLaughlin argued that ‘the governor can act against the advice of Cabinet, but where that is done he requires approval from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Minister added, ‘in this particular case we weren’t even told what he was about to do.’
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said ‘the decision to appoint the commission raised serious procedural, legal and constitutional issues for Cayman.’ He added that information previously disclosed by Mr. Clifford about debt financing at Boatswain’s Beach and the Affordable Housing Initiative led the Auditor General to findings of maladministration on the part of the previous UDP administration.
Another story that made the headlines in the month of November was the unveiling of the new look for Cayman Airways limited, with the Sir Turtle logo moving from the tail of the aircraft to the door and the tail itself emblazoned with the Cayman Islands coat of arms.
Also in November the University College of the Cayman Islands announced that in January 2008 it will open a satellite campus on Cayman Brac.
In court news during the month, 22 year-old Trevino Tennson Bodden received two life sentences for murdering Brenard Scott and Renold Pearson in East End. The murders took place on the first of November 2001 on Fiddler’s way. Eyewitnesses that testified at the trial said there had been a fight between Bodden and Brenard and Bodden left the scene and returned with a gun and shot Brenard. When Renold approached him, Bodden shot him as well. Brenard, 36, died at the scene. Renold, 48, died at hospital a few hours later. Defence Attorney Queen’s Counsel Howard Hamilton said the verdicts would be appealed.
November also saw the tragic loss of another person in the prime of their life on Cayman’s roads. Shaney Kol, 39, an Australian national was driving on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway when her Honda CRV has struck head on by a Ford van heading in the opposition direction. Police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash but according to eye-witnesses at the scene, it appeared the van was heading north and attempted to pass a car on the two-lane Esterley bypass near the Camana Bay roundabout when it ploughed into the CRV. Shaney Kol’s one-year-old baby was in the back seat of the CRV at the time of the impact and was also injured but survived. Following the death of Shaney, her husband decided to go back to Australia with his two children. The driver of the van was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
An agreement in principle reached between the government and Caribbean Utilities Company was announced in December and was expected to reduce residential electric bills by an average 15 per cent.
The expected savings assume there will be no significant increases in global oil prices, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said while making remarks on the government’s Strategic Policy Statement, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
It was announced in December that voters in the Cayman Islands will go to the polls in May 2008 to vote on a constitutional referendum.
Liquor Licensing Board Inspector Donald Green died in a single vehicle motorcycle crash on 5 December.
A Grand Court jury found former police officer Richard Hanna guilty of 14 counts of theft of money.
His bail was continued to 4 January.
The thefts occurred during the first half of 2006 when Hanna was the police community officer in North Side. He received cash or cheques from district residents for the North Side Primary School or for the benefit of the Year Six students.
A weather system developed off Puerto Rico and threatened the Caribbean with a December hurricane.
Tropical Storm Olga played out before it reached this part of the region, but rains from the system triggered floods and landslides that killed many.
The Cost-U-Less warehouse store opened its doors for business at Governors Square with a promise to do something about the high cost of living in Cayman.
The grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony followed a special invitation-only store preview and reception Wednesday night.
Governors Square developer and Cost-U-Less shareholder Bobby Bodden said the seed for the store was planted with the formation of Cayman Drug Ltd. in 1965, which persevered for 42 years.
A report circulated among the upper echelon of government suggested a Cayman Islands population of 96,000 people as the probable minimum in 20 years.
Principle Policy Advisor Philip Pedley prepared the report, titled ‘Population Scenarios: Past Trends and Future Possibilities’, for the Chief Secretary and The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.
The report, which had not been officially released to the public, first tracks the population growth of the Cayman Islands since its settlement and looks extensively at the tremendous growth over the past 37 years.
Staff members of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority gathered 17 December to mourn the loss of a colleague who was killed in a hit and run accident 15 December.
Police said 55-year-old Quindel Ames was struck in the crosswalk of North West Point Road just outside Boatswain’s Beach. She had been attending a party at Boatswain’s that night which was held to honour the achievements of HSA staff throughout the year.
A West Bay man was arrested in connection with the hit and run.
The 22-year-old suspect was picked up and police said they have also recovered a vehicle believed to be involved in the wreck. It is being examined by Royal Cayman Islands Police scenes of crime specialists.
The Cayman Islands Government and Caribbean Utilities Company signed an Agreement in Principle 20 December as a precursor to signing a formal agreement for Grand Cayman’s electricity provider.
Based on December 2007 fuel costs, residential consumers using less than 2,000 kilowatt hours per month will save 12.2 to 15.9 per cent on their current bills. Smaller commercial enterprises that use between 500 and 5,000 kilowatt hours per month will save between 3.7 and 8.8 per cent of their current bills.