2015: a year in review

| 04/01/2016 | 1 Comment
Cayman News Service

Alden McLaughlin, Cayman Islands Premier, in the Legislative Assembly

(CNS): During the first few days of 2015 a Cuban migrant drowned and two men were killed in two car crashes on the Brac in a year that claimed thirty lives on the roads and on the water. Three days into the New Year police began their first murder enquiry after a man was shot outside a West Bay bar and restaurant in the first of three gang killings and several shootings during 2015. But it was FIFA and the Cayman connection, gay rights, economic hardship and crime that captured the headlines throughout the year.

JANUARY: Victor Oliver Yates (22) was shot outside a West Bay bar on 3 January, the first of three young men to be killed in gang-related shootings. The murder happened outside Super C’s in front of dozens of witnesses but another young West Bay man charged with his murder was released ahead of trial because all of the witnesses refused to testify. The second murder victim of the year was David Ebanks (20), who was shot three weeks later on Birch Tree Hill Road near to Undra’s Take Out. No one has been charged with his murder.

Manuel Marino, a Cuban migrant, drowned off the coast of South Sound on 2 January when the makeshift boat that he and three other men were in capsized. Two visitors died snorkelling in East End

On the road, Jose Abel Zelaya (49) of West End, Cayman Brac, was killed on 2 January when he lost control of his car, which ran off the road and collided with a fence before being engulfed in flames. A week later Raoul Muhammed Scott, a 19-year-old resident of the island, also died in a collision with another vehicle. Kate Clayton, a UK national who was working in Cayman for a dive company, was involved in a major collision in North Side and later died as a result of injuries sustained during that crash, although a UK inquest indicated that treatment the young woman received in hospital may have contributed to her death.

Four people were badly injured in two separate hit and runs. In one incident, a local lawyer has been charged with ploughing into two tourists walking along the West Bay Road. In the other, the acting chief fire officer at the time has been charged with knocking down two brothers crossing the road on National Hero’s Day.

A freedom of information request revealed that more than 10,000 people are living in the Cayman Islands with a criminal conviction. Given that 20% of the population has some kind of rap sheet, Cayman is one of the most criminalised places in the world.

A lecture series hosted by students from the Truman Bodden Law School, which began in January with Professor Robert Wintemute of King’s College London, was also to trigger one of the year’s major controversies. 2015 was the year Cayman finally began talking seriously about rights for members of the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community and the issue of same-sex unions.

 

FEBRUARY: While February proved to be a less deadly month than January, it was the beginning of the end for one of Cayman’s oldest offshore banks. The US Securities and Exchange Commission began legal action over allegations that Caledonian was involved in a $75 million penny stock scam, which eventually led the bank to close.

Meanwhile, as concerns about the number of permits in the face of stubbornly high local unemployment began to dominate the headlines, four local private sector financial services firms successfully challenged the release of information by the Department of Immigration in the courts. The DoI had revealed the details of all work permits held by employers in Cayman but the successful legal action stopped the publication, despite demands from the public for transparency regarding permits.

Backbench MLA Alva Suckoo clashed with the local tourism association after a job drive in the sector appeared to be a failure. The politician raised concerns that it was “deliberate attempt to discredit Caymanians and justify using cheap labour”.

Government pressed on with research for the minimum wage and found that more than 30% of the workforce fall into the low-pay bracket. With increasing evidence of growing poverty in Cayman, homelessness also began hitting the headlines as pictures circulated of people sleeping rough in downtown George Town.

Although the carnage on the roads abated, crashes and driving under the influence of alcohol were common and the police began urging residents to call and report drunk drivers. While crime remained a concern, it was revealed that police had almost six hundred outstanding warrants for a catalogue of crimes, from violence to driving with defective lights.

As Cayman continued to lock local young people up for using ganja, Washington DC legalised the possession of small amounts of the drug, as more states relaxed drug laws and Jamaica began preparing in earnest to become the region’s leader in the provision of medical marijuana.

 

MARCH: The beginning of the historic change to Cayman’s political landscape began in March when a new Electoral Boundary Commission was appointed to create single member constituencies (SMCs) in preparation for the promised switch to ‘one man, one vote’ for the 2017 election. Commissioners Lisa Handley, Adrianne Webb and Steve McField eventually divided Cayman into 19 new constituencies, including seven seats in the capital, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly later in the year.

Norman Lee (47), a well-known American comic book artist, went missing while snorkelling in East End. Two other tourists died after dive and snorkel trips. Rowena Scott, a 26-year-old mother, was killed in one of the many road accidents that the police recorded during a year when public opinion suggested the RCIPS was doing a poor job at preventing or tackling crime.

As statistics revealed an increase in crime, the violence impacting the local community was also a concern in government schools as several reports emerged of fights, bullying and assaults among students. A number of parents expressed their concerns to CNS that the management at John Gray High School was not coping with violence and bullying.

In the courts, the four men charged with the broad daylight heist at the Buckingham Square branch of Cayman National Bank in June 2012 were found guilty for the second time by a jury after a six-week retrial. David Tamasa, Rennie Cole, George Mignot and Andre Burton were all re-convicted after they were acquitted by the Court of Appeal in 2014.

As the month drew to a close, Jeffrey Webb was re-elected unopposed as the president of the regional football body, CONCACAF, and the national football team put up a great fight in the World Cup qualifiers. But a major shock was just around the corner for the world of football.

 

APRIL: As the year advanced, the political fallout from the acquittal of Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush in 2014 for corruption over the abuse of his government credit card began to mount after he accused Premier Alden McLaughlin of involvement in a conspiracy to oust him from office and called for a public enquiry. In a back and forth that lasted throughout April and May, claims and counterclaims were made before McLaughlin began legal action against Bush, suing him for damages. This delayed a proposed motion to debate the allegations in parliament, however the legal action has since been stalled as it appears that false documents may have played a part in the whole affair.

Crime was on the rise, with burglars and robbers terrorizing the community, but thanks to the help of the public the police were to make the first of many major drug hauls in 2016. A couple who were walking along the beach in East End stumbled across 23 packages of compressed cocaine, estimated to have a street value of more than $350,000.

Deaths on the water and the roads continued when Robert Cole (31) from Virginia was killed in a jet ski crash off Seven Mile Beach while he was visiting Cayman on a cruise ship. The roads claimed three more victims in April. Kimberly Bush (23), from George Town, was killed in a single vehicle collision in North Side, and cyclist Donnie Ray Connor (58) was killed after he was knocked off his bicycle in a hit and run. Local immigration officer Nicholas Tibbetts (24) was charged with causing the death of Connor and his case continues in the courts. Marcia Donaldson (46), from George Town, was killed when she was hit by a car as she was jogging close to Cayman Crossing on South Sound Road. A 17-year-old boy visiting Cayman from Virginia was very badly injured when he was struck in the head by a local bus as he was crossing the West Bay Road.

Several members of staff were suspended from HMP Northward after the discovery of a covert camera in the office of a member of the management team. It was revealed later in the year that the deputy director at the prison had ordered the camera be placed there. She has since been dismissed but the enquiry into the affair apparently continues, as two members of staff remain on required leave.

 

MAY: Delivering his second full budget, Finance Minister Marco Archer unveiled a spending plan with a surplus of $121 million and the premier boasted of “vast successes and accomplishments” as he delivered his speech supporting the 2015/16 budget.  Government announced plans to introduce a $6 national minimum age and daylight savings time in March 2016.

Austin Harris, the host of “Crosstalk”, a breakfast show on local radio station Rooster, walked away from court without even a slap on the wrist after pleading guilty to an assault on his girlfriend. The magistrate hearing the case angered local anti-domestic violence activists over her decision not to record a conviction against him after Harris claimed he could not remember anything because he was so drunk. A few weeks later, he was fired by the station and replaced by former PPM West Bay political candidate, Woody DaCosta.

Crime continued to plague the community in May and during the Finance Committee debates, the two independent MLAs for North Side and East End called into question the abilities of Police Commissioner David Baines to manage the resources allocated to the RCIPS. However, the top cop remained in his post, despite mounting calls for him to resign.

But the biggest story in May was the arrest of local football hero Jeffrey Webb and the shocking FIFA corruption scandal exposed by US law enforcement agencies. Webb was arrested during a dawn raid in Zürich on the eve of the FIFA presidential elections, along with numerous other football officials. Court documents claimed that Webb had taken millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. More than 30 people have now been indicted in the ongoing football corruption probe. Webb pleaded guilty to several related charges last month and is due to be sentenced in June.

 

JUNE: As 2015 reached its midway point, crime continued and the police received more than $35 million in their annual spending allocation. The commissioner blamed recruitment problems as he came under fire from politicians. Meanwhile, in the courts a judge threw out murder and firearms charges against Jose “Pito” Sanchez from West Bay over the killing of Special Olympian, Solomon “Solly” Webster, in the district in September 2014 due to insufficient evidence. The defence highlighted poor policing during the investigation.

The wisdom of building a proposed cruise berthing facility began to be questioned in earnest by the community when a report revealed the extensive damage that piers would cause to the marine environment. The publication of the environmental impact assessment triggered the ongoing, heated public debate and polarised campaigns for and against the costly facility.

Blue and Green iguanas also made headlines in June. Stray dogs attacked and killed two endangered blue iguanas at the Botanic Park, including Inky, an adult male believed to be the most photographed blue iguana at the park. Government set aside $200,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to begin a major project to tackle the invasive green iguanas. According to information revealed later in the year, there are well-over 200,000 green iguanas now in Cayman.

As government touted its financial sector credentials and committed to the emerging automatic exchange of information regime, the Cayman Islands found itself on yet another blacklist, which Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton is still battling to get Cayman off.

Tara Rivers, the education and employment minister, dominated the headlines in June with the release of three important draft pieces of legislation. Despite plans to steer the education bill, the labour relations bill and the pension bill through parliament this year, none of the proposed laws that went through extensive public consultations actually made it to the floor of the Legislative Assembly.

The one news story which captured CNS readers’ attentions in June, however, and got Cayman’s commenters out if force was generated by the local newspaper. The premier said an editorial in The Cayman Compass corruption in Cayman was treasonous, afterwhich the owners of the publication, David and Vicky Legge, fled the islands claiming they were in fear of their lives. However, the panic was short-lived and the Legges soon returned home. A boycott on the purchase of adverts by government was lifted a few months later.

 

JULY: As the summer months began, former Cabinet minister and senior civil servant, Charles “Chuckie” Clifford was appointed as the Cayman Islands collector of customs after six rounds of recruitment for a position that had been vacant for three years.

In Cayman’s third murder of the year, 20-year-old Jason Powery was gunned down outside a George Town bar. Two brothers have since been charged with the killing and are due to be tried later this month.

Meanwhile, trouble mounted for Cayman’s former football boss, Jeffrey Webb, who was charged in a local hospital fraud case and Cayman became the second country to seek his extradition from Switzerland. But the US authorities took priority and after several weeks in a Zürich prison, Webb agreed to his extradition to the US. On arrival he pleaded not guilty to a list of racketeering and corruption related offences and was bailed on a $10 million bond, which he paid with luxury goods, including designer watches, his wife’s jewellery, fast cars and property.

A difficult few months for the money transfer industry and expatriate workers began in July when Fidelity Bank pulled its support services from Western Union, which closed its doors without warning. Soon afterwards, JN Money Transfer was also in trouble as Cayman National withdrew their banking services. The problems were eventually resolved in December when both companies were able to secure replacement local banking services.

Government’s deal with Dart Realty and the hospital development in East End were declared unlawful by the Office of the Auditor General in one of its most damning reports. Alastair Swarbrick criticised closed-door deals in which ministers gave away concessions and duties, fees and taxes without public consultation and took aim at the planning authorities over what he called their arbitrary closed-door decisions on development as well as the conflicts of interest that the membership of the board presents.

Julianna O’Connor-Connolly, the former minister for district administration and planning, was also in the OAG’s crosshairs in the same report. The office revealed that she could become the subject of an Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) investigation over her use of public money on Cayman Brac when she directed the purchase of a plot of land in her constituency for the Affordable Housing Initiative with no evidence of need.

Home foreclosures grabbed the headlines in the summer when a group of concerned citizens began accusing the banks, realtors and valuers of collusion and speedy foreclosures that robbed owners not just of their homes but tens of thousands of dollars in equity when people were falling into arrears after just a few months.

The police were in the firing line again as robberies and burglaries continued. Some 30 premises broken into over a two-week period, many of which were committed in broad daylight. But as police urged the people to be more vigilant, they too became victims of a highly controversial burglary.

Police management initially denied that a container located right outside the George Town Police Station, where evidence and drugs was stored, was broken into and described it as an attempted break-in. However, some months later the police admitted that the evidence lock-up was breached and over 50 kilos of drugs had been stolen in what appeared to be an inside job.

The fire storm of the year started burning towards the end of July when the Human Rights Commission warned government to address the issue of same-sex unions before it was found to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and its own constitution. A ruling by the ECHR on 21 July made it clear that member states would all need to provide a legal framework to allow same-sex couples to have their relationships recognised and protected. The topic was to become even more controversial in August and dominated the headlines for the rest of the year.

AUGUST: The month started quietly enough when the Royal Navy brought the governor a brand new, cut-price, white British Jaguar XJ to replace the American Lincoln Town car, which officials said was “beyond its economic life in the fleet”.

But concerns over how much power the Dart Group has in Cayman, ongoing home foreclosures, mounting arguments about the cruise port proposals, political corruption exposed by the auditor general as well as his resignation, unemployment and crime were all overshadowed by controversies over gay marriage.

Debating a private member’s motion asking government to preserve “traditional marriage”, veteran backbencher Anthony Eden condemned members of the LGBT community, describing them as evil. He said Satan was working through educators and others, including the media, who used words to describe “deviant behaviour” in a way to convince people it was acceptable. More than 400 comments were posted on the first story on CNS relating to the issue, which divided the local community and government.

Saddened by the content and tone of the debate, Wayne Panton became the first and only Cabinet member to distance himself from Eden’s speech. He told CNS that he did not want to be associated in any way with much of what was said and publicly offered his support to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the fight to end discrimination. Panton said it was time for Cayman society to respect and embrace all of its people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Eden was accused by the HRC of using parliamentary privilege to deliver hate speech, and students from the law school body defended the lecture series it had organised at the beginning of the year, which Eden had criticized. But Dr Leonardo Raznovich, who delivered one of the presentations, went on to challenge the law regarding same-sex unions after the immigration board refused to allow him to be a dependent on his husband’s permit, even though they are lawfully married in both their native countries of Britain and Argentina.

The Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) hit the headlines when it rejected the nominations of two challengers in the annual elections. Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden withdrew public funding from the association and an audit was suspended as a result of financial irregularities. As CIFA appeared to get sucked into the wider FIFA corruption probe, Webb revealed through lawyers that his house arrest in the US was costing him too much and managed to vary his bail conditions to allow him to move to his luxury Atlanta home.

Three men were convicted by a jury of armed robbery in relation to a hold-up Blackbeard’s liquor store just before Christmas in 2014. Andrew Lopez, Bron Webb and Randy Connor were found guilty on two counts of robbery and one count of possession of an unlicensed firearm because of the gold spray-painted pump-action shotgun used in the heist, in which the robbers used a car owned by Lopez’ mother and took the loot back to his house.

 

SEPTEMBER: A mysterious and mass food poisoning outbreak at a local primary school became one of the problems faced by the education ministry in September. A damning report failed almost every government school in the Cayman Islands and the quality of teaching was blamed for what consultants and school inspectors described as an achievement gap for Cayman students compared to those in the UK and other leading economies.

Growing local poverty also dominated the headlines in September, when Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden said the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) was being “stretched to breaking point”. He said he was very concerned about the mounting social problems, including the homeless and those with mental health issues, and that more public funding was needed to address the problems.

Cayman drivers were still paying close to CI$5 per gallon for fuel, despite the massive fall in oil prices on the world market. George Ebanks organized a march on parliament and a petition to show support for government plans to regulate the sector and put pressure on the bulk fuel importers.

The first person from the private sector to be prosecuted and convicted under the anti-corruption law for bribery was not a major contractor, powerful and influential firm or even a political donor but a 54-year-old Cuban woman married to a Caymanian who works at the craft market. Paula Yates-Rivers was found guilty of trying to bribe a public official with $100 when she made her naturalisation application. She is scheduled to be sentenced in the New Year.

The question of inequity in the criminal justice system was raised when the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions announced it would not pursue charges against the former manager of the Pines Retirement Home, who is suspected of stealing over $300,000 from the non-profit facility. Sue Nicholson was sacked in 2013 and left the country, going to the UK, before an investigation into the missing cash began.

Crime continued to be a major problem as police dealt with more home invasions, robberies and burglaries, including one where two licensed firearms were stolen. They were also busy on the roads again with a number of crashes as well as two more fatal collisions. Matthew Owens (31) from George Town was killed along the Linford Pierson Highway when he was knocked of his motorbike. Jessie Perry (21) was very badly burned in a major car crash along the West Bay Road after the vehicle she was in burst into flames. She died two weeks later as a result of her injuries, becoming the ninth road victim of the year.

As the month drew to a close and the debate about the port continued to be increasingly polarised, an announcement by the premier that he was pressing ahead with the project regardless of the economic and environmental costs was greeted with stunned silence by a Chamber of Commerce audience during the Annual Legislative Lunch.

 

OCTOBER: Cayman’s roads claimed the tenth victim of the year in October when Rhonda Marie Ebanks-Azan (61) was killed when she was knocked off her bicycle close to Savannah Primary School by a driver in a Ford  F250 truck. Police revealed almost 250 drivers had been arrested for drinking and driving since the start of year — about 150 more than in the entire twelve months of 2014.

Statistics released revealed that the local unemployment rate was climbing and had increased by 1%, putting another 389 Caymanians out of work.

At the Cayman Turtle Farm staffing problems caused headlines, as well as revelations of mass deaths and disease. In October the CTF became a hot topic on social media against the backdrop of a new report which found that less than a third of the population eats turtle meat farmed at the facility, which still sucks up some $9 million of public cash each year.

Public spending was front and centre in October when, after ten years of trying, the first auditable set of consolidated government accounts were given a failing grade by the auditor general. Despite calls for more scrutiny of public spending, government steered an amendment bill through the LA to introduce multi-year budgeting, which several politicians said would cut the scrutiny and transparency on government finances.

The OAG also warned that there was no system in place to indicate exactly how much money government gives away in duty waivers. Stepping temporarily into Alastair Swarbrick’s shoes after the auditor general left, Garnet Harrison said that he was “dismayed” by the poor record keeping relating to waivers that have been granted.

The head of the unit tasked with reforming the way the civil services operates said that one of the biggest challenges was to change the culture in public sector management. Mary Rodrigues, who is heading up Project Future, said the civil service must embrace the concept of business cases and solid project management methodologies for future capital development.

The Legislative Assembly booted Bush out of the Public Accounts Committee just before he filed a lawsuit in the Grand Court against former governor Duncan Taylor, Police Commissioner David Baines and Attorney General Samuel Bulgin in connection with his arrest, charges and subsequent trial over abuse of office allegations regarding the misuse of his government credit card.

McKeeva Bush was acquitted in October 2014 of eleven corruption charges that alleged he used the card in casinos to draw cash for gambling on slot machines.

Political arguments continued in the LA when the opposition leader railed against the historic decision by government to introduce ‘one man, one vote’ in single member constituencies, paving the way for a new dawn in 2017 in local politics.

Controversies regarding the proposed cruise port project continued when Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell denied that his family connections to the Kirk Freeport owners had anything to do with the decision to press on with the port project in the face of concerns and unanswered questions. The premier admitted that there were a number of hurdles to overcome before the dredgers could start work in the capital’s harbour and Environment Minister Wayne Panton voiced his continuing concerns over the proposed plan and the impact of the indirect damage from dredging to local reefs.

While government appeared to be pushing hard to get the port project off the ground, it was only crawling towards a solution for what many see is Cayman’s major environmental threat – Mount Trashmore. At the end of the month government published its National Waste Management Strategy with a heavy focus on the reduction and reuse of rubbishgarbage to dramatically cut what goes into the landfill. However, there was no quick fix on the cards for the 77-foot tall George Town dump.

 

NOVEMBER: The death toll on local roads and in the water increased again in November when a number of tragic collisions saw six people killed on land and sea, despite a documentary by the RCIPS broadcast on TV that aimed to raise road safety awareness. Two men from the United States were killed in a car crash on Cayman Brac and a 21-year-old man from George Town was killed on the West Bay Road. At sea, a woman visiting from Canada died following a dive in East End, and Norwegian billionaire Erik Henriksen died at the George Town hospital after he was thrown from a power boat in the North Sound. A local teenager drowned during a group swimming trip organised by the Bonaventure Boys Home when he got into difficulties in the water behind the South Sound cemetery.

As issues of poverty and local jobs continued to make the headlines, the premier said that while his government did not blame the business community for unemployment among Caymanians, he did not believe that the more than 1,500 Caymanians officially registered as jobless were all unemployable and it was a challenge that his government needed to deal with.

Finance Minister Marco Archer made no provision for any tax or fee reductions over the last 18 months of the PPM administration when he delivered the government’s Strategic Policy Statement in November.

Publishing its programme for reforming the civil service, government revealed there would be no sell-offs or privatisation of government services in the first phase.

The premier made it clear that “special interest” would not stop the cruise port project progressing, even though many people believing it is special interest that is driving the costly and controversial proposal. In preparation for a request for a judicial review, a group of activists opposing the project requested a formal timeline from government about when the official decision to develop was made.

The Court of Appeal sent two local public figures to jail. The former deputy chair of the National Housing and Development Trust Board, Edlin Myles, was remanded in custody 18 months after he was convicted of theft over an insurance fraud in 2011 and given six months. Convicted of soliciting a bribe from a Filipino man in exchange for not pursuing a possible theft charge, former police officer Elvis Kelsey Ebanks was also sent to jail to begin serving a three-year term after his appeal against his conviction and prison term also failed.

The trial of the former chair of the HSA, Canover Watson, for fraud and money laundering opened with the crown accusing him of being involved in a “cynical scheme to line his own pocket” with public cash.

But it was Anthony Eden and the issue of gay marriage which dominated November headlines after he took aim at the Human Rights Committee chair and again attacked the concept of equality for same-sex unions and what he described as an agenda to force gay rights on the community.

When the premier announced that he was going to amend immigration regulations to accommodate same-sex legally married couples as dependents on permits, Eden resigned from the PPM and announced that when parliament returns in the New Year he would be sitting as an independent on the opposition benches.

 

DECEMBER: As another hurricane season ended, Cayman emerged unscathed. The month began with a fresh impetus on marine life, as the Department of Environment urged public input on its marine park enhancement programme. But a government deal with a US-based cosmetic company allowing them to harvest coral tips from Cayman waters to use in a beauty product for eyelashes raised a few eyebrows.

But as the year drew to a close, it was the FIFA/CIFA scandals that took centre stage again.

Following revelations that Jeffrey Webb had pleaded guilty to charges against him in the US, it was claimed in the local courts that he had taken cash meant for disaster relief and grassroots football programmes in some of the world’s poorest countries. He was also cited in a civil suit filed by CONCACAF against a sports company that had allegedly given kickbacks to Webb.

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden called for CIFA to clean house as the scandal impacted the local association. Acting President Bruce Blake announced Webb’s formal removal and said that the association was setting up a panel to do an open review of the donations CIFA received for Goal, a grassroots project funded by FIFA.

More lives were lost at sea in December. Gary Kodman (65) from Tennessee died following a dive off the coast off the North West Point, and the body of Westmore Walker (28), a Jamaican living in Cayman, was found by snorkellers some 200 metres off the coast of Tiki Beach — the 15th water-related fatality in 2015.

Although no one was killed on the roads in December, there was no let-up in the amount of crashes and many people badly hurt and several pedestrians were mowed down as they attempted to cross the roads

Meanwhile, the premier led a delegation to London in an effort to fight of the potential imposition by the UK of a public centralized beneficial ownership registry for the offshore sector and economic growth in Cayman was revealed to be much slower than had been anticipated. Government entered into another duty concessions deal worth almost US$22 million with the developers of a proposed golf resort in Frank Sound but there has been no agreement on the construction of the East-West arterial extension linked to the project.

Local unemployment was highlighted when some 700 people turned up looking for work in the Christmas clean-up. Managers were overwhelmed as the numbers far exceeded those anticipated and reflected the issue, which is expected to dominate the political landscape next year.

Although the premier had said categorically that he would not endorse a foreign chief fire officer, the home affairs ministry announced that the post had gone to UK fire service veteran, David Hails, who is the first non-Caymanian to take up the post since the 1950s. The ministry also revealed that the chief immigration officer, Linda Evans, remained on required leave on full pay more than one year after she was suspended over an unresolved disciplinary issue.

As Christmas approached, officials finally confirmed that MLA Roy McTaggart had joined the People’s Progressive Movement. A councillor in the premier’s ministry, the former C4C independent candidate said it was a logical step for him after supporting the government since the election in May. A strategic move for both McTaggart and the PPM, the premier welcomed his decision.

The final surprise of the year was the departure of Alva Suckoo from the PPM, following Anthony Eden to the opposition bench. Suckoo announced his departure on 3o December, triggering what is expected to be one of the longest election campaigns Cayman has ever seen ahead of the introduction of ‘one man, one vote’ in SMCs.

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  1. Anon says:

    It’s very upsetting to constantly see JR’s (Victor Yates) death be referred to as gang violence. Isn’t it just as simple to write that he died an innocent victim at the hands of gangsters?
    JR simply was not IN any gang, the person who killed him still IS.

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