Around 8 p.m. May 14, Graham’s Place, owned by Graham Thompson, was invaded by the Honduran Navy. Two large pangas with no fewer than 30 armed and masked men on board landed on the dock area of his prestigious resort hotel.
At that time of night most of the guests and patrons, as well as the owner and his employees, were in the restaurant and bar area. The masked men told them to stay where they were and demanded the keys to the resort from the owner. According to eye witnesses, these masked men then proceeded to open and ransack every room in the hotel, without the presence of the guests whose property was in the rooms.
This behavior is unacceptable in a country based on law. The men conducting the raid could have easily planted incriminating evidence in the rooms. They pulled out drawers and overturned beds, dug up the yard, checked out the turtle pens , looked in the freezer, in the dog house, in the bird cage. They even dug up the cay next door without ever informing the owner of the reason for the search.
Searches of private property should not take place without a warrant issued by a judge. Raids are normally spearheaded by the National Police, based on evidence of suspected criminal activity sufficient to justify violating the sanctity of one’s domicile or place of business. There were no National Police among those raiding Graham’s Place. Since the searchers apparently came away empty-handed, it is safe to assume their information was based on gossip.
According to Thompson, the raiders did not produce any identification. They wore masks like common criminals. Masks provide anonymity. Maybe this is why they felt they could use torture tactics reminiscent of the 1980s on a couple of boys they caught coming out of the outside restrooms.
Among the patrons of the restaurant were many foreigners who arrived in kayaks and small dingies from other cays and sailing yachts anchored in the area. The Navy personnel demanded they produce identification. I don’t know anyone that goes kayaking with their passport.
Thompson told me he was very disillusioned and angry over the whole affair, because as soon as his guests were permitted to leave the restaurant area, they began to pack their belongings and left the hotel the next morning.
Graham’s Place is the only resort of any substance operating on the island of Bonacca. It is more like a “wait and see” operation. Thompson is optimistic (or at least he was) about the future of Bonacca. He is working and waiting to see tourism become the main business of the island. He has spent his hard-earned cash to build Graham’s Place into a first-class establishment.
Thompson is from Grand Cayman, and we are lucky he adopted our island as his own. He’s involved in every social event and helps out in many charitable and worthy causes. His investments on Grand Cayman have allowed him to put millions into the construction and maintenance of his resort on Bonacca.
The raid on Graham’s Place is a step backward for our almost non-existent tourist industry. It could negatively affect the Conch Festival in July, of which Thompson is a sponsor. Meanwhile, with seven boats setting out to get a six-week jump on the lobster season (and seven more ready to go) and vessels from Roatan setting fish pots on our red snapper grounds, it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel for the island’s economy.