2008: A look back on a busy year for news

Constitutional review

On Saturday 12 January, the People’s Progressive Movement released a summary of proposals for a new constitution at a public event at Pedro St. James Castle.

enquiry review

Sir Richard Tucker, who presided over the Commission of Enquiry, is escorted to the first day of proceedings by RCIPS Officer Cottrell Ellis.

The 12-page document proposed several changes to the current constitution, including a full-ministerial government and a reduced role for the governor.

Other proposals included a Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution, the establishment of a National Security Council and the changing of the name of Legislative Assembly to Parliament.

A referendum on the proposals was scheduled for May 2008.

Ex-police officer gets 15 months

Former police officer Richard Hanna was sentenced to a term of 15 months imprisonment for theft.

Hanna, 30, was convicted after a jury trial. The Canadian was the community officer for North Side when he received cash or cheques from district residents for the benefit of North Side Primary School students, but kept the money.

Cruise berthing facility announced

Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford announced a project to build a cruise berthing facility for four cruise ships at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal in George Town.

As part of the expansion, he also announced the cargo dock would be relocated out of central George Town.

Rock throwers create havoc

Residents on Kipling Street in Bodden Town were terrorised by people throwing large rocks at their homes.

Children and the elderly were struck, car windscreens smashed and at least eight houses targeted. Police offices turned up but could not put a stop to it.

A man even fired a gun preparing to take matters into his own hands.

Commission of Enquiry begins

A commission of enquiry was ordered by Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack to determine whether Tourism Minister Charles Clifford broke civil service rules and potentially the law, in taking government documents and revealing them to the press.

Mr. Clifford did not deny removing copies of certain records stating they were his within his right to have them.

The files included information about several government projects including the Royal Watler Port, the Turtle Farm expansion, the Boggy Sands project and records relating to Cayman airways.

Newspaper publisher Desmond Seales revealed that the files were the source of several stories printed in his paper and that he had received them from Mr. Clifford.

February

Constitution meetings

Cayman’s constitutional review process dominated February’s front page headlines, as a series of public meetings took place to gain a consensus on what a new constitution should look like.

The Government made clear that the possibility of independence for the Cayman Islands would not be considered in the process.

Among the controversial issues debated in the early review meetings were who would be eligible to vote and stand for election and the possibility of gay marriages being recognised by law here.

Murder and violence

Police launched an investigation into the death of 40-year-old Frederic Bise, a Swiss national whose body was found inside a burning car in West Bay. An arrest was made, but no charges were laid in the mid-February killing. It was the second homicide of the year.

Less than two weeks later, a weekend bloodbath saw one man killed and three more critically injured in unrelated shooting and stabbing incidents outside different nightclubs. The violence had Grand Cayman residents wondering what was happening to their normally peaceful island.

Audits lacking

Government bodies made virtually no inroads on submitting financial records for auditing, despite an October directive from Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts to Chief Financial Officers to get their acts together.

The ongoing delay meant government ministries and portfolios had not had any of their spending checked since the PPM government came to power in 2005.

‘It’s a sad commentary on our accountability,’ said Auditor General Dan Duguay.

Dr. Frank to trial

Former government minister Frank McField was found guilty on charges of assaulting police, threatening violence, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and was fined $2,300 in Summary Court.

He was found not guilty on two charges of obstructing police.

The charges stemmed from an incident at a road block in the early hours of 15 September, 2006.

The court determined McField had threatened to kill the two officers and had kicked one and spat in another’s face.

Following the verdict, McField gave notice that he intended to appeal and announced his candidacy for election in 2009.

Shamrock gridlock

Drivers reached a new level of frustration as a new traffic pattern began on Shamrock Road mid-February, causing gridlock.

The opening of the East-West Arterial Highway, south of Shamrock Road going through the Prospect Point area, caused traffic tie-ups for weeks as construction continued, part of a major project to improve traffic flow that was completed mid-year.

March

Chase turns deadly

A vehicle being chased by police crashed into a utility pole on West Bay Road, leaving two men dead and a third man critically injured. Police said they would investigate the incident to determine whether departmental policies were followed.

NFL Challenge cancelled

The NFL Quarterback Challenge was put on ‘indefinite hiatus’, cancelling the event that was to have taken place in the Cayman Islands for the second time. Department of Tourism officials expected to get a full refund for the US$467,000 it paid for the broken deal.

Civilian oversight of police

Constitutional issues continued to dominate the news. Members of the United Democratic Party said an independent civilian authority should be created to make recommendations regarding police matters and police should be required to follow its policy directives.

Subsequently Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts attended an internal briefing of the police command staff and said he would discuss the briefing privately with legislative assembly colleagues. He said he would attend briefings more regularly in the future

Constitution concerns clergy

More than a dozen members of the clergy attended a meeting concerning proposed changes to the Constitution. Their particular concerns were having a Bill of Rights enshrined in the new document and the constitutional establishment of a Human Rights Commission.

Earthquake rattles

An earthquake with a 4.6 magnitude was felt by some residents of Grand Cayman around 1.53am on 11 March. It occurred 65 miles east of George Town.

Academic year added

The Ministry of education announced that, starting in 2009, all students will begin receiving more personalised support along with an extra year of high school. The mandatory school age will be raised by one year, from 16 to 17, under changes to the Education Law.

Legal aid crisis averted

Cabinet approved an emergency request for $250,000 on a Friday so that attorneys representing legally aided clients could be paid. John Furniss, chairman of the Cayman Islands Criminal Defence Bar Association, said attorneys had not been paid since December.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said the attorneys had not been paid because the court’s budget for legal aid had been used up.

Police seek exemption

In a report to the Governor, the Royal Cayman Islands Police requested exemption from a proposed seven-year term limit on residency for government employees.

Pensions insufficient

Mandatory pension requirements will be insufficient to fund retirement, according to a report on the review of the Cayman Islands National Pensions Law.

Superintendent of Pensions Cyril Theriault said the general consensus is that people need about 70 per cent of their annual salary for an adequate retirement. Under current provisions, the annual replacement income would be around 50 per cent.

Matrix deal to be reviewed

The Public Accounts Committee requested that an outside auditor be hired to review the bidding process and eventual award to Matrix International Ltd. The contract, for $1.2 million, was for the removal of scrap metal from the George Town landfill.

Turtles stolen

The Chief Operations Officer at Boatswain’s beach confirmed that a significant number of turtles had been stolen from the site. Guards and patrol dogs were added; cameras, lighting and alarms were also to be installed.

Shocking shake-up

Three top-ranking police officers were placed on required leave by the Governor Stuart Jack. Mr. Jack made the announcement at a press briefing on 27 March and named David George as Acting Commissioner during the ‘temporary removal’ of the officers: Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon and Chief Supt. John Jones.

Reasons were not clear, but the UK Metropolitan Police inspector in charge of the case – Martin Bridger – stressed that none of the three was considered to be under investigation.

Commission of Enquiry report

A Commission of Enquiry held earlier in the year found that Tourism Minister Charles Clifford had no right to remove files from his former office in the Ministry of Tourism in 2004 when he was Principal Secretary.

Mr. Clifford acted in breach of the continuing duty of confidentiality, Sir Richard Tucker said, but he recommended that no legal or disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Clifford.

The report said no damage was caused to the entities concerned: Turtle Farm, Port Authority and government. It also noted there were no clear regulations dealing with how civil servants should handle documents that come into their possession.

April

Lyndon Martin charged

Former Caymanian legislator and journalist Lyndon Martin was charged with burglary, making false accusations, making a false report to police and intending to pervert the administration of public justice.

The burglary charge against Mr. Martin related to a break-in which police said occurred in the personal office of Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales. Investigators said Mr. Martin intended to steal documentation from the office during the alleged burglary.

The charge of doing an act tending and intending to pervert the administration of public justice related to the making a series of false allegations of crimes against Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis.

Mr. Martin also faced five counts each of falsely accusing another of a crime and of making a false report of the commission of an offence.

Anthony Ennis returns to office

As other top police officers were placed on administrative leave, the original target of the UK Met investigation, Anthony Ennis, returned to office.

Mr. Ennis had been accused of abusing his position by providing Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales confidential RCIPS documents, however, Governor Stuart Jack announced on 27 March that all allegations made against Mr. Ennis relating to the leaking of information and removal of case files had been false, clearing the way for him to return to duty.

Constitutional referendum postponed

Plans to hold a referendum on the government’s constitutional modernisation proposals in May were scrapped, with Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin stating government was looking at dates ‘before September’.

The change was intended to give government more time to discuss some of the more controversial issue.

.More dialogue with stakeholders was also required before such a referendum could take place.

It was also noted that the Elections Office needed sufficient notice in order to prepare for any referendum.

Bill of rights a must

In a letter to the Cayman government, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office revealed that they ‘would not agree to a new Cayman Islands Constitution that did not include an up-to-date human rights chapter’.

The letter, penned by the FCO under-secretary of state Meg Munn, put to rest suggestions that the Bill of Rights could be defined by legislation outside the constitution.

The Cayman Islands Ministers Association as well as Opposition leader McKeeva Bush has long argued that human rights should not be written into the constitution.

The inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the constitution would make it much harder for future governments to change than had it been included in legislation.

Firearms checks queried

What the RCIPS viewed as a routine firearms check developed into a major story when Dennie Warren questioned the authority under which the check was conducted.

‘They looked in the safe, counted the ammunition, and looked at the serial number,’ Mr. Warren said. ‘At no stage could they cite to me the authority under which they were doing (the search).’

According to a letter distributed by the RCIPS to all firearms licence applicants: ‘Before a firearms licence is granted, a police officer will examine the applicant’s storage facilities to ascertain their suitability. To avoid delays, the safe or locker may be fitted before the application is submitted.’

May

Police detain gay kisser

The Royal Cayman Islands Police detained a homosexual male tourist for kissing his partner in public.

The man, 23-year-old Aaron Chandler from Massachusetts, was dancing at the Royal Palms with his partner. While dancing, the two men kissed several times. They were asked to stop kissing by at least two people before an RCIPS officer detained Chandler and took him to the George Town police station. He was released later that evening and charges were never brought.

The incident would polarise the country when director of Tourism Pilar Bush issued a letter of apology to Mr. Chandler while the Minister of Tourism stated the behaviour was offensive.

The news story on caycompass.com was linked to the Perez Hilton website; causing so much internet traffic it crashed the Cayman Free Press website.

Blue iguanas die in attack

A mysterious brutal attack at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park left a total of seven endangered blue iguanas dead. The iguanas were in an enclosed facility run by the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.

The iguanas, five males and two pregnant females, were all in their pens when last checked on Saturday, 3 May. Volunteers going to feed them on Sunday morning, 4 May, unlocked the facility gate and found the iguanas either injured or already dead.

Top cops investigated

Three top ranking Cayman Islands Police commanders, including Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, were notified that they were being investigation for alleged misconduct in a public office.

The allegation against Mr. Kernohan, Deputy Commissioner Rudolph Dixon and Chief Superintendent John Jones related to ‘their roles in the events’ which culminated in an unauthorised entry at the office of Cayman Net News publisher Desmond Seales on 3 September, 2007.

None of the three men were charged with any crimes.

Dixon arrested twice, released twice

Within 48 hours, suspended Cayman Islands Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon was arrested, released from jail, subsequently re-arrest and released again.

In the end, Mr. Dixon was released on police bail following his arrest on undefined allegations of criminality related to an ongoing UK Metropolitan Policy probe within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

Retired RCIPS Inspector Burmon Scott was also arrested in connection with the case, but not charged with any crime.

Cayman poverty marginal

The National Assessment of Living Conditions study indicated only 1.9 per cent of the population in the Cayman Islands, about 1,000 people, live below the poverty line.

The majority of those classified as poor are non-Caymanians, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said in a statement in Legislative Assembly,

Cayman’s 1.9 per cent poverty level compared to 9.3 per cent in the Bahamas in 2001 and 11 per cent in the British Virgin Islands in 2002, he pointed out.

‘In most other Caribbean countries, the average rate is above 10 per cent.’

Grisly killing

Two men were arrested in connection with what police said appeared to be a machete attack on Brian Rankine-Carter.

Detectives were seeking physical evidence that included the 20-year-old Mr Rankine’s clothes, after his nude, mutilated body was found in a George Town parking lot around midnight.

Canadian man 5th homicide

A Canadian national was found beaten to death in his Beach Bay area home.

Royal Cayman Islands Police said 47-year-old Martin Gareau suffered multiple injuries to his head and body, which were caused by both sharp and blunt objects.

Residents in the area said Mr. Gareau lived alone and police said there appeared to have been no forced entry into the home.

Ironwood forest road scrapped

The government abandoned its plan to connect the Linford Pierson Highway to Walkers Road through the area near the George Town Ironwood Forest after environmentalists protested.

Minister Arden McLean said in Finance Committee the Linford Pierson Highway would be only continued to Outpost Street, near the back end of Windsor Park.

CINICO head resigns

The chief executive officer of CINICO resigned less than a month after the auditor general’s office presented a confidential report to the insurance company about a contract awarded to a financially unstable US company.

CEO Gordon Rowell, had previously stated that it was imperative to switch to a US vendor to manage patients’ medical care overseas in order to cut escalating costs that had risen by 80 percent in a single year.

Rowell allegedly failed to report to the CINICO board that the US company CareGuide, which was trading on the Penny Stock Exchange at US 8-cents a share, had lost US$7 million and had significant cash-flow problems, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

June

Street dance video outrage

A video in which several people were shown mimicking sexual acts during a George Town street dance came under review by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The video, called Cayman Dancehall April 2008, appeared on YouTube.

In various graphic displays, several males are seen mimicking sex acts with at least three females.

Several of the participants are later confirmed as minors.

Though everyone shown in the video is fully clothed, the lewd display sparks public debate and legislative action.

A motion was passed in the Legislative Assembly in which the government resolved to establish and enforce a policy that restricted minors from public displays and participation in lewd behaviour, conduct or activities.

Account irregularities revealed at UCCI

After a routine audit of the University College of the Cayman Islands’ accounts, Hassan Syed, former UCCI President came under police investigation with regard to unsubstantiated financial transactions.

The account irregularities were revealed in Finance Committee.

By this point, Mr. Syed had already left UCCI and the Cayman Islands citing health reasons.

UCCI Acting President Brian Chapell later reported that no documents were on file to verify Mr. Syed’s supposed academic credentials and later inquires revealed he did not have a doctorate degree as he had claimed.

Later, it is revealed that Mr. Syed received a salary advance without the approval of the institution’s Board of Governors.

Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said the Board of Governors and the Ministry of Education were misled into thinking more students were attending the university than actually were.

Ousted top cops off island

Two top ranking Royal Cayman Islands Police commanders who were placed on leave earlier in the year following news of an investigation into misconduct in public office were allowed to leave the Cayman Islands for personal reasons.

Governor Stuart Jack’s office said both Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Chief Superintendent John Jones, would be expected to return to Cayman, though no specific return dates are given.

Turtle Farm breaks law

Top officials at Grand Cayman’s Boatswain’s Beach tourist attraction admitted they committed offences under the country’s Water Authority and Electricity Laws by not ensuring that required operating and safety permits had been obtained, according to a report from the Office of the Complaints Commissioner.

July

Mobile polling approved

The Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the Elections Law introducing mobile or advanced polling.

Mobile polling will allow for critical public servants who are needed elsewhere on election day to vote in advance. The mobile polling stations will also allow bedridden people to vote from their homes.

Jamaicans rescued

Three Jamaican men adrift in a canoe were rescued by a RCIPS marine patrol boat. A fourth man on the boat was found dead on the scene.

Gasoline prices surge

As the price of gasoline tops CI$5 per Imperial gallon, the Planning Department released a price survey on its website. The survey compared gas prices at all stations across Grand Cayman.

Ridley out, McLaughlin in

The government did not renew the appointment of Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chairman Tim Ridley and instead appointed Carlyle McLaughlin Jr. to replace him.

Civil Servants get raise

Despite troubling signs in the economy, Cayman Islands civil servants got a 3.2 per cent cost-of-living pay hike, retroactive 1 July 2007.

Murder in West Bay

Mark Jefferson was found dead in West Bay after being shot to death outside Kelly’s Bar and the Laundromat on Birch Tree Hill Road.

Martin found guilty

Former legislator Lyndon Martin was found guilty of obtaining property by deception and sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

He is given bail pending the outcome of an appeal.

Dolly drenches Cayman

Tropical Storm Dolly forms after passing Grand Cayman, but it still brings heavy rains and flooding of low-lying areas.

US Senate report targets Cayman

A United States Senate report is released which brings up the issue of tax avoidance in the Cayman Islands.

The report singles out operations out of the Ugland House, which provides offices to Cayman’s largest law firm Maples, because of the high number of companies registered there.

August

Port MOU signed

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on by the Cayman Islands Government, the Port Authority and property developer Atlantic Star Ltd. for the redevelopment of port facilities.

The project will include the separation of cargo and cruise facilities, with cargo facilities being moved north of the port and cruise berthing facilities for four ships being built at the existing port site.

Syed charged 50K in jewellery

Former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed charged more than US$50,000 of jewellery on the credit cards he was issued by the university.

The information was included in a report sent from Auditor General Dan Duguay to the UCCI Board of Governors on 17 April of this year. A copy of that report, which was stamped ‘draft for discussion’ was obtained by the Caymanian Compass.

In addition to jewellery, Mr. Syed used his UCCI credit cards to pay for thousands of dollars worth of goods at department stores in Toronto and London, for furniture, spa treatments and even for a week-long stay at a villa in France that he purchased at a Rotary Club auction in May 2007.

Crash kills one, injures another

A woman who was riding as a passenger on a motorcycle died after the vehicle struck a concrete wall in George Town late Sunday night.

The man driving the Kawasaki 750 was hospitalised at press time with serious injuries, but hospital officials listed him in stable condition.

Police commander charged

A suspended Cayman Islands deputy police commissioner was charged in connection with an on-going investigation being conducted by officers from the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Force.

Rudolph Dixon faces two counts of misconduct in a public office and two counts of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.

Royal Palms site listed for sale

The Royal Palms site on Seven Mile Beach was offered for sale for US$80 million (CI$67.5 million), the highest price ever asked for beachfront property of this size on the island.

ERA Kirkconnell Realty this week listed the 3.49 acre property, with its 300 feet of beach, stating that it is the largest beach-front property for sale on the island.

Burglary spree in GT

Five George Town businesses were broken into and police said it appeared there were attempted break-ins at two others businesses around the same time.

All of the businesses affected in the crime spree are located in central George Town either near the intersection of Shedden Road and North Sound Way, or along Industrial Way.

Police said the five businesses that were broken into were Markson’s Furniture, Cayman Free Press, Watler-Hislop, Ace Paint and Decor and Massive Equipment Rental and Sales.

Boatswain’s probe nets no charges

The RCIPS announced no charges would be filed following a nine-month criminal investigation into a failed financing deal made for the Boatswain’s Beach tourist facility’s expansion.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Superintendent Mike Needham said Tuesday that a thorough investigation that included enquiries in Canada and the independent oversight of a United Kingdom Senior Queens Counsel turned up no evidence that anyone involved in the expansion project committed a criminal offence.

Gustav pays a visit

Cayman Islands residents prepared for the worst as Tropical Storm Gustav followed a path that seemingly had it heading straight for Grand Cayman. The storm confounded meteorologists after exiting the coast of Haiti by taking a turn to the south instead of travelling west-northwest as expected.

The change of direction took the storm south of Jamaica instead of north of that island, and on a course for a near direct hit on Grand Cayman.

However, the storm slowed down enough that an upper-level trough pulled the storm north before reaching Grand Cayman. As a result, Gustav came much closer to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, but it caused relatively minor damage.

Gustav went on to cause major damage to Cuba, and in particular the Isle of Pines, a place with long historical links to the Cayman Islands.

September

Hurricane relief for region

Hurricane Ike ravishes parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands and then batters Cuba. Isle of Pines takes its second hit in less than a month.

The Cayman Islands shipped trailer homes brought into provide temporary shelter after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 to the Isle of Pines to aide residents made homeless by the passing of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, while relief materials was also sent to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Police helicopter

Three Cayman Islands Cabinet members blasted Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan for ‘misleading’ them about the capabilities of the helicopter government purchased for exclusive use of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The major difficulties, it was outlined, were that the helicopter did not have certain night flying instruments, making it impossible to use safely over Little Cayman and Cayman Brac where there are few lights at night.

Commissioner Kernohan issued a scathing statement in response blaming Cabinet for delaying the delivery of the already purchased helicopter for the RCIPS and saying he had fully briefed Government on the status and complexities of acquiring the helicopter.

Investigations

Governor Stuart Jack confirmed that he had suspended Grand Court Justice Priya Levers pending an investigation into complaints against the judge.

It was disclosed that nearly $1.67 million had gone to the UK Metropolitan Police team which was in the Cayman Islands since September 2007 looking into allegations of misconduct in a public office at the RCIPS.

Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson was arrested in connection with the ongoing Met investigation. The Grand Court Judge publicly criticised the investigation, vowing to return to the Grand Court bench.

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Gay marriage banned

Cayman Islands lawmakers voted in favour of a ban on same sex marriages following a debate in the Legislative Assembly.

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee acknowledged that it was never consulted by government officials in the drafting of an amendment to the Marriage Law that bans gay marriages in Cayman.

Tobacco Law exempts cigar bars

Cigar bars, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants and hotel bedrooms would all be exempted from smoking prohibitions contained in a revised version of the long awaited Tobacco Bill.

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Cayman Heart Fund expresses concern there would be an increase in the number of venues calling themselves cigar bars in the Cayman Islands under the plan to exempt them from a general ban on indoor smoking.

Constitution negotiations begin

The Constitutional Review discussions got underway between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom amidst an appeal from the Opposition that the talks be held in public.

But head of the UK delegation Ian Hendry said this would not happen.

October

Death shocks Cayman

Horror and disbelief surrounded the murder of Cable & Wireless Corporate Communications Manager Estella Scott-Roberts.

Mrs. Roberts went missing on Friday 10 October and her charred remains were found in her burnt out car on the Saturday morning.

Speculation was rife about the motives behind the terrible killing.

Twenty days after Mrs. Scott-Robert’s disappearance, Larry Prinston Ricketts and Kirkland Henry Cayman appeared in Summary Court facing several charges including murder, abduction and robbery. Kirkland Henry, was charged with an additional count of raping Mrs. Scott-Roberts.

Call for a sex registry

The arrest of two men on suspicion of raping a six-year-old girl brought more disbelief and outrage.

The allegations came shortly after a two-year prison sentence had been given to a man in his 20s for indecently assaulting a boy aged five.

The leniency of the sentence and the arrests caused one local businesswoman, Sandra Catron, to announce plans to establish a privately run sex offenders registry that would name and shame sex offenders.

Plans for a government sex-offenders registry brought by Royal Cayman Islands Police Services in 2006, has not yet come before the Legislative Assembly.

Judge Henderson

The saga of the Met Office investigation into alleged misconduct of the police force continued.

The legality of the search warrants used to search the home and office of Justice Alex Henderson in September was debated in court.

On 30 Oct Justice Henderson won his application for warrants to be set aside.

Sir Peter Cresswell, sitting as a judge of the Grand Court of the Cayman Island, stated that the procedures in obtaining the search warrants had, ‘reflected the gravest abuse of process.’

Mr. Cresswell’s written judgment stated Justice of the Peace Carson K. Ebanks had not been given all the information he should have had to be satisfied that in fact, or according to reasonable suspicion, Justice Henderson had committed the offence of Misconduct in Public Office.

Smoking bill passed

On the 16 October the Tobacco Bill got unanimous approval in the Legislative Assembly, before going on to Governor Stuart Jack for his assent.

Minister of Health Anthony Eden, who had championed the bill, said the smoking ban was ‘not about prosecuting people, it’s about the health of the nation.’

Fingerprinting of expats required

Another law passed in October requires all work permit applicants supply their fingerprints as a condition of their employment in the Cayman Islands.

Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden gave short shrift to dissenters.

‘All over the world now, we see this (fingerprinting),’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘It is necessary to combat identity crime. I say ‘get used to it.”

Budget cuts

The Cayman Islands government asked government chief officers to reduce their budgets by six per cent across the board this year following predictions that revenues to government will drop some $15 million below estimates.

The government also announced it would defer hiring for most new positions, including those at government-owned companies and statutory authorities.

Chief Secretary George McCarthy blamed the global financial slowdown for the expected reduction of revenues. He said restrictions on hiring would not include essential personnel such as doctors, nurses and police officers.

November

Hurricane Paloma

Grand Cayman breathed a sigh of relief on 9 November when Hurricane Paloma passed to the east of the island, leaving very little damage.

However, on 10 November, 76 years to the day after the famous Storm of ’32, Hurricane Paloma hit the Sister Islands as a full-force Category 4 hurricane, wreaking devastation in its wake. It has since been dubbed the Brac’s ‘Ivan’.

Many homes were damaged or destroyed, though thankfully there was no loss of life.

Although Little Cayman was also affected, most of the island was able to re-open for business and tourists on 20 November.

Relief efforts on Cayman Brac are expected to last well into 2009.

Despite the fact that Grand Cayman received little damage, the Courtyard Marriott announced it would be closing ‘for an extended period’ due to flood damage caused by Paloma.

Commissioner changes

Commissioner Stuart Kernohan was fired by Governor Stuart Jack the day after the former demanded reinstatement in his position and accused the governor of potential ‘unlawful and irrational’ exercise of power.

Royce Hipgrave, formerly of the Sussex Police in England, was appointed as the acting commissioner to replace Kernohan, but he left Cayman on Thursday 20th November, about 48 hours after arriving, stating only that there was an ‘aspect of the post’ that was unacceptable to him.

James Smith was announced as the new acting police commissioner on 26 November. Mr. Smith had been the deputy chief constable at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary for the two years prior to arrival in Cayman.

Two founding fathers die

Two major figures in the development of Cayman, Sir Vassel Johnson and Warren Conolly, passed away in November 2008.

Warren Conolly was instrumental in developing Cayman’s tourism industry, and in developing the constitution after Jamaica moved away from Britain in 1962.

Mr. Conolly died at the age of 87.

Sir Vassel Johnson was a key figure in Cayman’s financial services industry, and carried the unique title of being the only Caymanian ever to be knighted.

Sir Vassel Johnson was 86 at the time of his death.

Constitution talks

The Cayman Islands government had postponed discussions with the United Kingdom on a new constitution.

The discussions were due to take place in the first week of December.

Local politicians are concerned about the amount of time remaining to finalise the changes to the constitution before the referendum in May.

A referendum on proposed changes to Cayman’s governing document is expected to take place 20 May 2009 in conjunction with the next general elections. The constitution talks were re-scheduled for mid-January 2009.

December

No Paloma insurance pay-off

The government learned that it would not receive insurance money from the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility. Cayman began paying premiums of $2 million into the World Bank-administered emergency cash fund in 2007, along with a $2 million initial participation fee.

Ballpark estimated costs for Paloma’s damage to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were between $15 and $20 million.

According to the CCRIF policy criteria, payouts are based on the weighted average wind speed spread across the three Cayman Islands, and as such wind speeds in Paloma, which skirted Grand Cayman, did not reach the required minimum.

Brac assistance

December saw a large number of fundraising efforts for the Brac hurricane relief effort from schools, businesses and individuals for the Brac donating their time, elbow grease and money to needy Brackers.

The Chamber of Commerce along with Agape Family Worship Centre, the Health Services Authority, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and Cayman National, the Cayman ministers Association also launched a fundraising campaign to issue $100 vouchers to every family, and held a Christmas party on the Brac on December 18 attended by over 1,000 guests.

Civil case makes headlines

A lawsuit filed in February 2006 alleging a conspiracy to defraud Cayman General Insurance Company and the proprietors of Strata Plan 151 was dismissed in Grand Court.

The claim concerned construction work done to the Windsor Village condominiums to repair damage caused by Hurricane Ivan.

The decision led to a counterclaim by the defendants, which they won. Justice Alexander Henderson awarded Hurlstone Ltd $791,716 in damages plus interest against Sagicor General Insurance and the proprietors of the Windsor Village strata plan, totalling more than $943,000.

Dolphins arrive

The arrival of six dolphins on 4 December from Tortola, BVI at Dolphin Discovery next to Boatswain’s Beach, and four others at Dolphin Cove in Morgan’s Harbour on 9 December marked a new era for Cayman tourism.

A Compass poll revealed more than 61 per cent of respondents were not planning on visiting the dolphinariums, and the stories sparked a flurry of letters from both Cayman and abroad both in defence of and critical of the facilities.

Draft constitution leaked

Opposition leader McKeeva Bush attempted to make public a confidential draft of the new constitution by tabling it at the Legislative Assembly, but was prevented from doing so by House Speaker Edna Moyle. Mr. Bush then released the document to the media.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Minister Alden McLaughlin said the release could put the constitutional modernisation negotiations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London in jeopardy, but Mr. Bush made it clear that he felt neither the draft nor the talks should be kept secret.

Met investigation

Governor Stuart Jack admitted the UK Metropolitan Police officers made mistakes in the way they handled the Justice Henderson affair, but insisted that Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger acted in good faith.

Mr. Jack also indicated officers were preparing to wrap up Operation Tempura, which related to an alleged break-in at the offices of Cayman Net News on 3 September 2007.

The Compass reported on 22 December that the Governor Stuart Jack expects a report from the Met team in January, and revealed that the cost of the various arms of the investigation had totalled $2.6 million through mid-November.

Marine tragedy

Ian Hugh Cummings, 36 died after his fishing boat capsized off Bodden Town on 10 December. His fishing partner was able to swim to shore, but after 3 days of searching marred by rough weather, Mr. Cummings’ remains were found on 12 December.

Schools news

The government announced on December 11 that the Beulah Smith High School in West Bay and the new George Town Primary School were put on hold as part of the government’s belt-tightening measures.

Over the following weekend, vandals ransacked classrooms at the newly renovated Cayman Brac High School, destroying all of the computers, phones and other equipment in the computer lab and home economics room.

Passengers stranded

Drama ensued for more than 200 Caymanian and Honduran passengers who were stranded for nearly three weeks after Atlantic Airways failed to operate its scheduled flights.

Arrangements to get the stranded passengers home ran into roadblocks after a dispute between Rollins Air, another charter company, and Cayman Airways. The passengers were flummoxed by Civil Aviation authorities in the two countries who were in disagreement on ground handling arrangements.

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