Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush filed 11 Parliamentary Questions last week, three of which concern the University College of the Cayman Islands and four that concern the proposed new cargo and cruise berthing facilities.
The Second Meeting of the2008/09 Session of Legislative Assembly starts today and Mr. Bush said he was doubtful about getting answers to his questions during proceedings.
‘I don’t expect to get any [of the Parliamentary Questions] I’ve asked answered; that has been the trend,’ he said, adding that he has many questions, some going back more than a year, that have not been answered by the government in Legislative Assembly.
With regard to his questions about UCCI, Mr. Bush asked who appointed the former president of the university and if a new president had been appointed. Former UCCI president Hassan Syed left his post suddenly in May citing health reasons shortly after the Auditor General’s office discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unsubstantiated financial transactions linked to his office.
Mr. Bush also asked if Mr. Syed had ever been paid personally for work done for other government departments. The Auditor General’s draft report to the UCCI Board of Governors indicated Mr. Syed had charged personal consultancy fees to the Civil Service College for work he did on its behalf.
Besides that incidence of Mr. Syed being paid personally for work done for a government entity other than UCCI, Mr. Bush thinks there might be more.
‘I heard about another one, but I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘That’s why I was asking, really.’
Mr. Bush said he believes there should be more information about the circumstances that led up to Mr. Syed’s departure from Cayman amidst accusations of misappropriating UCCI funds.
‘I am not satisfied with the whole thing and the way questions have been answered and lies have been told in the Legislative Assembly,’ he said. ‘I also want to know who hired [Mr. Syed].’
On the matter of the proposed new plan that would privatise the cruise berthing facility and create a new cargo dock in George Town, Mr. Bush posed several questions, one of which asked what kind of guarantee the Port Authority or Central Government had given to the developer of the projects in return for the use of his land.
Other questions on the subject asked if the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association or any other cruise line companies had been involved in the negotiations for the proposal of the new cruise facility; what the cost would be for the planned new cruise berthing facility and cargo facility, including the land; and whether the Government had looked at any alternative sites, excluding the North Sound, for the development of the cargo dock.
‘I think that putting the cargo dock [where it is proposed to go] is crazy,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘We’re not thinking about the future.’
Under the previous administration led by Mr. Bush, it was proposed to move the cargo docking facilities inland – by digging a deep water channel – near East End.
Mr. Bush said such a move would not only facilitate a safe harbour port away from George Town that could be used year round, but could also be used as a home port for a cruise line.
‘And you could also move the fuel depots,’ he said. ‘The [fuel depot] tanks have to move. We’re outgrowing the space they’re on now, which is in the centre of a residential area. At some time, they have to be moved.’
Good national, long-term planning would dictate that the cargo dock and infrastructure like that be built away from George Town, Mr. Bush said.
‘The government really needed to look at all options.’
At the Cabinet press briefing Thursday, Minister Charles Clifford was asked if the government had considered alternative locations for the cargo dock.
‘One of the reasons we’ve pursued [the current proposed] option is because there was land available to separate the cruise dock from the cargo dock,’ he said.
Mr. Clifford said there had been suggestions to dredge the North Sound or South Sound to accommodate a new cargo dock.
‘That’s not going to happen,’ he said, adding that old seamen had always recognised George Town was the best location for a safe port.
Mr. Clifford made no comment on Mr. Bush’s proposal to move the cargo facility out toward East End.