Seamen, veterans wonder about bonus

Cayman’s retired seamen, veterans and indigent may have to forgo a government-issued Christmas bonus this year.

Just four days from Christmas, no one from the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing would confirmed whether ex-gratia payment recipients would get an extra payment this year, which for the past two years has matched their monthly stipend.

The payment, which was expected to top up the $550 handed out in their December cheques, had previously been paid to upwards of 780 former sailors; 900 individuals on poor relief and 350 recipients of ex-servicemen benefits.

Leader of the People’s Progressive Movement Kurt Tibbetts said the bonus was paid in 2007 and 2008 when his party was in charge of government.

‘It was a policy decision the PPM made to give one month’s extra payment at the end of the year just to brighten up people’s lives,’ he said.

The Ministry of Community Affairs Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker did not return calls from the Caymanian Compass on the matter last Thursday. On Friday, Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam declined to comment about the possibility that the Christmas bonus wouldn’t happen this year. He did say a statement on the issue was imminent; however that statement had not been received by press time Monday.

Retired seaman Eugene Christian told the Compass on Thursday that a ministry official had told him that the $1 million originally earmarked for the special ex-gratia payment had been re-allocated. He claimed that the official had informed him that the monies were being diverted to pay for the Cayman Islands clean-up of all three islands, which had been extended through to early January.

Premier McKeeva Bush announced that an additional $1 million was being allotted to a second phase of the PRIDE clean-up in early December.

Mr. Christian said: ‘I feel that they could have had the decency to inform [all those affected]. They could have taken maybe a percentage off the bonus… I would like to know if the cancellation of the bonus included all [those affected] or was it just a select few on the bottom of the totem pole.’

Senior officials from the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association and the Cayman Veterans’ Association declined to comment as their organisations had not received government notification about the status of the payments.