2014 in Review: Heroes and Villains

| 02/01/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Derek Haines: Hero of the Year

(CNS): Derek Haines remarkable six marathons in one year to raise money for the local hospice made him undoubtedly the Hero of the Year, but there were many others in the news this year whose heroic efforts made the Cayman Islands a better place. Minister Osbourne Bodden’s foul-mouthed verbal abuse surpassed even McKeeva Bush’s gambling with cash advances via his government credit card to take the Villain of the Year award.

Hero of the Year: Derek Haines. Local veteran marathon runner Derek Haines (65) set himself an incredible goal this year of running six marathons before the year was out to raise CI$1 million for a new purpose-built additional facility for Cayman HospiceCare. In December when he crossed the finish line of the Cayman Islands marathon in three hours, 58 minutes and 25 seconds, he not only made history, he had also made CI$1,030,200, having pounded pavements for over 157 miles in six different countries in less than one year.

Hero: Marco Archer. In January, the Ministry of Finance managed to reduce government’s interest on the lifetime of its loans by more than $6 million by renegotiating the loans it currently has with the lenders. In June Archer was given a free pass by his legislative colleagues when he was told by the opposition benches that they would not be asking any questions on his appropriations in the budget. The committee members across the political divide all agreed that they were prepared to trust him.

Hero: Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick. The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released more reports this year showing that government is falling below standard when it comes to good governance, transparency and accountability, especially how it spends tax payers’ money.

Hero: MLAs Alva Suckoo and Anthony Eden. Al Suckoo and Anthony Eden bucked the Progressive’s stand on the matter and supported the private member’s motion on ‘one man, one vote’ (OMOV) in single member constituencies (SMCs) brought by Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller, which almost passed in the House. Disappointed that his leader appears to be abandoning the PPM’s election promise to introduce equality of voting in time for the 2017 elections, Suckoo said in June that he was taking matters into his own hands and was preparing his own private member’s motion on the issue.

Hero: Dr Devi Shetty (and his staff). Hundreds of people crowded into a massive marquee in front of the new hospital in East End in February to watch the official opening of the Health City Cayman Islands, which will not only make healthcare more affordable in the region but is expected to launch Cayman’s third economic pillar.

Hero: Premier Alden McLaughlin. Even though he shies away from talking to the local media, the Cayman Islands premier represented the country and its financial services sector well when he faced Stephen Sackur in London on BBC’s HARDtalk. Despite initially dismissing the need to introduce a more equitable voting system, saying in January that it was not a priority, the premier made a commitment in September to the country’s voters that they will all have just one vote in single member constituencies when they go to the polls in May 2017. A government motion to this effect was passed by the Legislative Assembly.

Hero: Sandra Catron. Sandra Catron won yet another courtroom victory, even though she has not yet obtained a place to complete her articles. She won a civil case on Friday to recoup the costs of her veterinary and medical bills following one of several attacks by a neighbouring dog on herself and her pet Shih-Poo, Coco.

Hero: Frank Flowers. Over 960 people signed up for the 22nd Annual Flowers sea swim in June, setting a new record for the race, which drew Olympians and elite swimmers from around the world to compete and hundreds to watch the open water spectacle.

Heroes: Students and teachers. Preliminary results for this year’s external exams released in August indicated that the Year 12 students surpassed last year’s record breaking Level 2 pass rate, continuing the year-on-year improvements in standards, and while the final tally is not yet known, Year 11 pass rates have also bettered last year’s. Eighty-five percent of students who graduated from the Brac high school this summer achieved five or more Level 2 passes, and all 85% reached the new goalpost, which is 5+ passes including maths and English. Sixty-four percent, almost two thirds, achieved seven or more Level 2 passes.

Heroes: The Cayman Islands Fire Service. Firefighters spent many hours this year tackling fires at the George Town dump, battling underground fires releasing toxic fumes.

Heroes: The Human Rights Commission (HRC). HRC Chair James Austin-Smith warned that the draft data protection bill that government plans to introduce next year is too complicated and most people will not be able to understand it. Since it will impact the wider community, he said everyone needed to understand just how significant it could be and what could happen if they breach it, unwittingly or otherwise.

Heroes: Responsible divers. Many divers have given up their free time this year to kill lionfish, an invasive species that is potentially devastating local coral reefs. In August alone, divers removed 579 lionfish with a total weight of more than 250 pounds during the third lionfish tournament organized by CULL (Cayman United Lionfish League). Many diving hours have also gone into trying to repair the damage caused by the anchor of a cruise ship in the George Town Harbour.

Hero: Dow Travers. In February as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games opened in the showcase Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Dow Travers carried the flag for the Cayman Islands. Travers (26) competed in the Giant Slalom and the Slalom in the second Winter Olympics of his skiing career.

Villain of the Year: Minister Osbourne Bodden. There were many witnesses, including a young high school intern, to a major altercation between the health minister and his chief officer in the Government Administration Building in which Osbourne Bodden hurled verbal abuse at CO Jennifer Ahearn, including the now infamous slight: “You aren’t even Caymanian, you are like a piece of f%&king driftwood.”

Villain: Premier Alden McLaughlin: Instead of firing Minister Osbourne Bodden for his outrageous behavior, the premier shuffled his own ministries around to separate him from his chief officer. Alden McLaughlin swapped his community affairs ministry with his Cabinet colleague’s health portfolio.

Villain: McKeeva Bush. During the trial of the former Cayman Islands premier, McKeeva Bush, in September thecountry learned that he had spent many hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling on slot machines during overseas business trips while he was the country’s leader. In the early months of 2010, Bush ran up a debt of over $33,000 withdrawing cash on his Cayman Islands Government credit card to play in casinos in the US and the Bahamas, sometimes playing as many as four slot machines simultaneously, according to the Seminole Casino records of his loyalty cards. During a week’s trip to Vegas in February, Bush was gambling hard and withdrew over $12,000 cash on the card and just a few weeks later on a short official trip to the Bahamas and Miami he touched the card for more than $17,000. These amounts were on top of an existing and mounting cash debt already on the card.

The crown prosecutor revealed that Bush took cash advances on his own as well as his government credit cards totalling more than $465,000 over some 45 days of gambling between July 2009 and April 2010 while on overseas trips. During the time in question Bush had a net loss, according to casino records, of more than half that money, losing over $260k to the machines.

Villains: Government behaving badly. Statutory authorities and government companies (SAGCs) cost the Cayman taxpayer over $100 million every year but the auditor general found a complete lack of accountability in most of them, which appear to be failing on the good governance front even more than core government.

The Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) published a report in March revealing that civil servants are extremely reluctant to report wrongdoing in government due to significant fears of reprisals against them and their families and believe that no one is ever punished or held accountable, even when reports are made about wrongdoing.

The Progressives and C4C members voted down a motion to adopt the recommendations made by the complaints commissioner to protect whistleblowers in the civil service. North Side MLA Ezzard Miller brought the motion to the Legislative Assembly Wednesday on behalf of the committee with oversight of the complaints commissioner.

The OCC released a report in June that while things have improved considerably in the civil service complaints system, the failure of public servants to respond in a timely manner, or even at all, is still a major problem for government staff.

Samples of credit card statements given to CNS by a reader show politicians and public sector employees spending extravagantly on the government dollar while at home and overseas and undoubtedly using the public sector cards for personal use, including expensive purchases for jewellery and general shopping in US department stores.

Villains: People who let dogs run wild. A pack of dogs which apparently roams from the Northwest Point Road area in West Bay all the way to Cemetery Beach, viciously attacked Katie O’Neill’s pet cat, mauling the animal and pulling one leg out of her hip socket. Despite an emergency trip to the vet, the cat couldn’t be saved because the injuries had resulted in paralysis from the midsection down, so she had to be euthanised.

Villains: The people responsible (as yet not identified)

The poor positioning of a Carnival cruise ship in the George Town Harbour led to an anchor being dropped on the reef, destroying more than 11,000 square feet of coral. The ship was eventually relocated by the Port Authority but not until after its massive anchor had been dropped on the coral for several hours.

Villains: Voyeur photographers. Graphic images taken at the crime scene of a suspected murder-suicide last weekend which found their way on to local social media circle may have been leaked by fire service staff, police claim.

CNS Note: The “villains” in this review are separate from the actual villains in the “Crime and Punishment” review.

Related articles:

2014 in Review: Crime and Punishment

2014 in Review: Jobs and promotions

2014 in Review: Island health

2014 in Review: sense and cents

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Category: Local News, Politics

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Cayman News Service