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News from Cayman - December 2006

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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News from Cayman - December 2006

Postby gotocayman » Mon Jan 01, 2007 5:16 pm

The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority's Year in Review (1st July 2005 - 30th June 2006) has been published and is downloadable (in Adobe .PDF format) from their Web site at ... wFINAL.pdf

The report records that during the 2005-06 fiscal year the number of active mutual funds regulated by the Authority grew by 20 percent to 7,845 funds at 30 June. Captive insurance licences (held by entities writing non-domestic business only) increased four percent to 737. In the banking sector, while the total number of banking and trust licences declined by six percent (19 licensees) to 296, due mainly to continuing consolidations worldwide, the assets and liabilities of licensees continued to increase. Total international assets booked through banks in the Cayman Islands stood at US$1,413 billion at 30 June this year, a 12 percent increase over the same date last year. Liabilities at 30 June totalled US$1,373 billion, a 10 percent increase over 30 June 2005.

The Authority collected a total of $54 million in licensing fees on behalf of the Government as at 30 June 2006, compared to $47 million for the previous fiscal year. Total income for 2005-06 was $17.5 million and expenses totalled $11.7 million, resulting in a net income of $5.8 million. This compares to a net income of $2.4 million for fiscal year 2004-05.

The Year in Review notes CIMA's cross-border assistance and involvement on regulatory issues, including the processing of over 100 requests for assistance from overseas regulatory authorities and the negotiation of memoranda of understanding and other information exchange agreements with authorities in Canada, Brazil and the USA.

The Immigration Department has opened a new call centre to deal with questions about work permits, residency applications etc. The number to call is (345) 949 8344.

More than 18 months after it was built, Cayman's first modern abattoir has opened near the Department of Agriculture in Lower Valley.

Although the facility has stood since April 2005, structural problems with the interior walls and floors demanded a retrofit which delayed normal operations until September 2006. Since that time the department has successfully processed a number of animals as part of their pre-opening evaluations.

In his remarks at the official opening, Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts acknowledged those farmers who continue to engage in traditional practices of meat processing especially during the "Christmas beef" season. He assured them that government would not outlaw their tradition of slaughtering "under the tree" but this practice could only continue for private consumption. With the abattoir now open to the public, all meats sold through supermarkets and restaurants, must be processed through the new plant and inspected by the Department of Environmental Health.

Mr Tibbetts, an avid chef, welcomed a new era of sanitary and hygienic meat processing. "I believe that given the opportunity to observe the professional operation of this facility, most farmers will understand why it's necessary to aspire to these high standards." "In today's world, consumer confidence is paramount in the sale of food products, particularly meats. This abattoir will ensure a high level of food safety and hygiene and allow us to promote and sell our meat products with a level of confidence and certification never before possible."

Recognizing that the timeline for the abattoir project extends back over twenty years, Mr Tibbetts acknowledged the contributions of Melbourne Watler and his family who donated the land on which the abattoir stands, and former Minister of Agriculture, Gilbert McLean whose administration built the abattoir.

A change in the law now allows for 'Alternative Sentencing'. Alternative Sentencing aims to allow an offender to live as normal a life as possible, while ensuring compliance with a Court Order. The new legislation provides a wider range of options in ensuring that offenders are punished but allows judges and magistrates latitude to take account of individual circumstances in the context of rehabilitation. "We recognize that it is incumbent on Government to ensure that persons who are involved in criminal activities are not simply convicted and warehoused somewhere at Northward without hope," the Attorney General, the Hon. Samuel Bulgin, QC, said.

Alternative sentencing will be less expensive than incarceration of prisoners, the Attorney General said. He noted that it costs $53,000 a year to keep one person in prison for a year. In contrast, the use of electronic monitoring, which will be an important new tool in the alternative sentencing basked, allows an offender to live as nearly as possible a normal life, ensures compliance with an appropriate Court Order, and costs much less.

"We have seen comparisons which state that three months of an electronically monitored curfew are nearly five times cheaper than three months in custody," the Attorney General explained. UK statistics show that, on an average, it costs £1,300 to monitor an offender who has been released from prison on Home Detention Curfew for 90 days compared to £6,500 for the same period in custody.

Amendments to the Prison Law are expected to follow shortly to modify sentences that result in prison time for less serious offences. These changes will allow subjects to be initially imprisoned but will enable an early release, upon the condition that the offenders concerned can be monitored electronically to see if they can comply with the conditions prescribed for the remaining period of the sentence.

In addition to electronic monitoring, a number of other sentencing tools become available to the judiciary with the introduction of the new law. These include:

* Curfew orders - these prescribe the times that the sentenced offender has to remain confined in certain specified places;
* Intermittent sentences -- these are conditional sentences and suspended sentence supervision orders, all of which can enable the sentenced person to spend a part or all of his sentence living in the community;
* Exclusion orders - these can specify places that the offender has to stay away from;
* Community orders - these are the means by which an offender has a chance to make reparation to the community for his or her crimes.

New and innovative concepts that the law proffers to the judiciary now include:

* Restitution Centres - these are special imprisonment domains where the offenders can work and use their prison earnings to compensate their victims;
* Fine Option Programmes - these allow the subject to work, imprisoned or not, with the option of applying the resulting payments to the fine the offender is sentenced to pay; and
* Victim Impact Statements - these are made by either the victim or the prosecution and may be taken into consideration by the court before pronouncing sentence.

Amendments revising the Immigration Law (2006 Revision) came into force on Thursday 21 December.

The 59-page law contains a number of changes to the existing Immigration Law, 2003. The areas of the law that attracted the changes included work-permit term limits, permanent residency, a new category of "key employees" and the ability of the Chief Immigration Officer to grant Caymanian Status to certain categories of applicants.

A number of amendments to the draft bill that was tabled on 13 September in the House resulted from public input to the discussion draft, the Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, said. Amendments also resulted from glitches identified over the past three months as well as improvements considered necessary by the Cabinet Committee on Immigration Review.

Explaining the need for speed in passing the bill into law before the end of 2006, Mr. Tibbetts noted that a number of important amendments that would benefit employers and employees are closely linked to the fixed term work permit provisions and the fact that a large number of persons are rapidly reaching the end of their term limit. With the revised law coming into effect quickly, there would be the opportunity of applying for key employee status. "One of the fundamental intentions behind the amendments to the law is to provide certainty for employers and employees". A delayed implementation of the revised law would run contrary to this intention, Mr. Tibbetts commented.

A copy of the revised law can be downloaded from ... 272006.PDF

The Chief Immigration Officer has decided to grant three Afghan asylum-seekers, who arrived in 2000, exceptional leave to remain in the Cayman Islands, the Chief Secretary, the Hon. George McCarthy, said. The immigration status now granted means the individuals will be free to accept gainful employment, subject to being granted work permits, thereby achieving self-sufficiency. The three men, who have received Afghani passports from the Afghan Consulate in New York, will also be free to leave Cayman using their passports.

Government has so far spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to support the three men. Investigating Immigration officers believed they arrived in Grand Cayman from Cuba by air on 20 August 2000 on fake Pakistani passports. They had claimed at that time they had travelled from Turkey by boat intending to reach Canada where they planned to seek refugee status. They were detained on 22 August 2000 at the house of a local resident. The three sought refugee status in December 2000. In June 2001, they won an appeal to the Grand Court against being kept in custody while their applications were being processed.

In October 2001, the Chief Immigration Officer rejected their applications for refugee status. They appealed this decision to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. One determination of the Tribunal was that the appellants were free to make applications for refugee status which, if received, had to be considered by the Chief Immigration Officer in accordance with the criteria set out under the Immigration Law, which was appealed to the Grand Court.

One of the individuals subsequently sought political asylum in December 2003 under the then Immigration Law, with the other two taking similar action in January 2004 under the Immigration Law (2003) now in force. The Chief Immigration Officer rejected their applications stating there was no basis to apply under these laws. Mr. McCarthy told the House that the three persons have given an undertaking that, if granted exceptional leave to remain, they would not seek any further financial support within three months of the grant. One of them has expressed a strong desire to leave Cayman if and when that becomes possible, he added. The Chief Immigration Officer took a number of factors into consideration before granting the three men leave to remain in the Cayman Islands. The factors considered include: - the current deteriorating political situation in Afghanistan, eliminating any possibility, in the foreseeable future, of repatriating the three Afghans, whose religious sect makes them natural enemies of the Taliban; - the ongoing financial burden to the Cayman Islands Government for the upkeep of the three men; - the ability to leave the Cayman Islands freely on their Afghani passports, raising the possibility of other countries being able to now grant them visas; - no evidence whatsoever to support the speculation that the three individuals may have been, or are, involved in any terrorist organisation; - exceptional leave to remain may be revoked at any stage if the political situation in Afghanistan improves to the extent that the three may be repatriated.

Mr. McCarthy noted that the Chief Immigration Officer also considered other options to the grant of exceptional leave. These included: 1) the grant of full refugee status resulting in the right to remain in the Cayman Islands indefinitely, and 2) leaving them in the situation of temporary admission without the right to work, in the case of which their support would become government's responsibility.

Also tabled in the LA Wednesday morning was a Special Report to the Legislative Assembly by the Complaints Commissioner looking into a complaint made on 2 November 2005 by one of the three asylum seekers regarding his asylum rights. The report, tabled by Education Minister, the Hon. Alden McLaughlin, states the Office of the Complaints Commissioner had examined a complaint by the asylum seeker against the Chief Immigration Officer's refusal to grant asylum and determined the complaint was well founded. The report adds that in view of the Chief Immigration Officer not acting upon the recommendation of the Complaints Commissioner, the matter was being brought to the House as a special report.

The Governor, Stuart Jack, announced that His Royal Highness Prince Edward will be visiting the country in February 2007, his third visit in three years. His visit will will take in all three of the Cayman Islands and will also devote time to realising the potential of Cayman's youth, and protecting Cayman's environmental heritage for future generations. Prince Edward is the third and youngest child of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. He has held the title of Earl of Wessex since 1999 and is currently seventh in the line of succession to the British throne.

Did you know that the only official outlet for the Cayman flag is the National Museum? In a recent debate in the Legislative Assembly, the Chief Secretary, Hon George McCarthy, explained "The Cayman Islands National Museum is responsible for the sale of Cayman Islands flags." "The flags are sold in various sizes and include the blue ensign, the land flag, and the red ensign, the marine flag. The Government recognises the Cayman Islands flag as a symbol of sovereignty. As such, a single official point of sale was designated for the Cayman Islands flag and the Coat of Arms." Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Alfonso Wright complained that he attended a number of events where the National Anthem was played, but there were no flags. "The flag is an important part of what we are about and we need to see the flag more often," he said. Mr Wright said "I don't think the flag should be grouped as a bulk item, amongst other items, where it is being sold," and said that he would not want to see the flag sold in supermarkets. Mr McCarthy has been tasked with looking at increasing the distribution options for the flags, but he added that he would also ensure that "wherever the flag is displayed it is done with the appropriate dignity."

Since Hurricane Ivan, there have been increased sightings of scorpions on Cayman. As the hurricane and rising waters wrecked their habitiats, they have moved to new homes - often those already inhabited by humans! There are three species of scorpion found on Cayman: heteronebo caymanensis ‚Äď an endemic species unique to Cayman; the most common, centruroides; and isometrus maculatus. There are no records of deaths from scorpion stings in the Cayman Islands, but scorpions should always be treated with respect, as even a non‚Äďfatal sting can be very painful. They like dark nooks and crannies - so give your shoes a shake before putting them on!

It may become more difficult for long-term visitors to drive in Cayman. Speaking at a press briefing, Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean said that many accidents over the years had been caused by foreign drivers, expecially those more used to driving on the right. McLean said "I don't say they drive badly but many of them do not have an understanding of our roads." "You should not be able to immediately transfer your licence when you get here. We can't do it when we go elsewhere. "

Tourism and Commerce Minister Charles Clifford added "It can be somewhat challenging for them (expat drivers) to adapt. We have to be careful about how we approach the situation. We would need legislation that is capable of being enforced." McLean concluded "It was bad enough years ago. It is worse now. On my watch, mechanisms are going to be put in place."

There were three road deaths in the month, bringing the total for the year to 14. A 21-year-old man who was found in a vehicle that was submerged in water in a dyke road off of the Harquail by-pass. The day before, two teenagers were killed in a road accident close to Public Beach on West Bay Road.

14th December was the first National Earthquake Awareness Day. This date was the second anniversary of the of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Grand Cayman in 2004. Director of the office responsible for management of hazards, Dr Barbara Carby, warned that earthquakes can happen here at any time.

"Globally the trend is that we tend to use the anniversary of events to focus on the hazard. There is a threat of future earthquakes occurring due to our location," she said. "The science of earthquake forecasting unfortunately is not as advanced as that for weather systems, so we can't actually predict them." "Each resident of the Islands must take responsibility for his or her situation."

She advised that occupants of buildings including furnishing and equipment that could become dangerous flying or falling objects which can cause injury.

Her advice is that, if an earthquake is felt, the best thing to do is to get under something sturdy such as a desk or table or if that is not possible, a door jamb. "Also, corners are usually reinforced. Stand in a corner, brace yourself against the shaking. After the shaking, go outside to a safe place, away from power lines, buildings, walls, or anything that could fall and injure you."

She also sees a wider protective and preparedness public role in earthquake readiness: "Government will have a plan, similar to the hurricane plan, setting out arrangements for rescue, medical care, control of secondary hazards (such as fires and hazardous material spills), shelter, inspection of buildings, etc."

She said that, especially for earthquakes, there must be plans for demolition of damaged structures which may pose a threat.

Earthquake sensors are to be installed in Cayman over the coming months.

New rules are to be introduced to manage Stingray City and Stingray Sandbar. According to press reports, the Marine Conservation Law has been amended to provide the framework for regulating watersports activities in the Cayman Islands, particularly at the Stingray City and Sandbar sites.Minister of Environment Charles Clifford said "Given the importance of these types of areas to our tourism product and our environment, and by extension, to our quality of life, it is clear that regulation is now required to ensure that our natural environment is preserved and protected, not just for us… but for generations to come." Under the new regulations, likely to be implemented in the first quarter of 2007, Stingray City and the Sandbar will be designated as Wildlife Interaction Zones in the Marine Parks Regulations.

"Among other things, it is proposed that in the Wildlife Interaction Zones, no one be permitted to remove a stingray or any other marine life from the water, or to fish or take any form of marine life by any means." The regulations will also limit the amount and type of food fed to the stingrays, and control wher boats can anchor inside the Wildlife Interaction Zone. All tourist boats entering the Wildlife Interaction Zone will need to be licensed, and the new rules will control the number of boats visiting the attraction at any one time.
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