Free Port? What is it Good For?

November 1st, 2007
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v5-11-Speaking OutThis spring during a conversation with an old friend on Roatan, the topic of the impending free-port classification of the Bay Islands came up. I asked him to provide me with a copy of the law that was passed by the National Congress granting us free-port status. He obliged, and soon after I found myself reading and rereading this cumbersome rigmarole of a document, trying to figure out what it says.

I graduated from high school on the Honduran mainland, and consider my Spanish comprehension above average, certainly by Honduran standards. Yet I’m not exactly sure what this law says or means. You would think that something as important as this would have been translated to English, or introduced in both languages. The contract surrendering the Bay Islands to Honduras was presented in both languages, why not this?

I think it demonstrates a total lack of respect and sensitivity for our local customs and traditions. And what can we say about our esteemed local representatives that helped to negotiate this deal? Is there any concern on their part for our local rituals and mores? Was their personal interest so great that it completely overshadowed ours? I would argue that their participation could be more appropriately labeled as complicity. Are we suddenly so diminished that we deserve no respect? No consideration? There are many locals, especially the elderly, who cannot read or understand Spanish. What about them? Do they count at all?

I suppose in a larger sense it should come as no surprise, since a popular political strategy here in the Bay Islands, particularly in Roatan, is to demonize your opponents and their supporters, while portraying yourself as a victim who favors quiet acts of kindness over self-promotion. What amazes me is that this strategy of polarization and pursuit of power continues to outperform common sense and decency.

I was taught early on in my academic pursuits that the goal of any type of communication is to have your audience understand what you’re trying to convey. This document seems to have achieved quite the opposite. Perhaps the purpose of this law was really to confuse and bewilder. If that was not the intent, it succeeded anyway. Now, I must plead ignorance. But, did anyone ever try to explain this to the general public? Were there any public forums where the experts that put this together came and explained it or answered everyone’s questions? If this is such a big deal, why not treat it as such?

Who will benefit the most? Will it favor the rich at the expense of the needy? Will the average Bay Islander profit at all? And if so, how? We deserve answers to all these questions. If this has already been done, then I apologize. You see, I have a deep distrust of all government officials. I believe you should always love your country, but never trust your government. In the past whenever the leadership in the capital extended any decree in my favor, it was usually in theirs. Why would this case be any different? There’s an old saying that goes: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

Many of my fellow Bay Islanders have approached me with questions regarding this new law to which I have no answers. Many are intimidated and afraid to speak out publicly, preferring to remain silent. They go along to get along. This should never be happening in a democracy. Certainly not here in the Bay Islands. Willful blindness and misguided obedience can be deadly. And there is no right way to do the wrong thing! If the intent of this law is to provide clarity and transparency, then whoever is in charge, would you please clarify? Pronto! An anxious public is waiting.

In closing let me reacquaint you with one of my favorite quotes: “The people should never be afraid of their government. The government should fear the people.” [/private]

Comments (0)

Comments are closed.