Last week we had extended coverage of Norwegian Cruise Line’s proposed cruise destination on Harvest Caye in Southern Belize. Well, the fellows from FECTAB were watching closely. And by fellows, we mean Tom Greenwood, Yohnny Rosado and David Almendarez. You’ve seen them many times on this newscast raging against the Jamaican owned Chukka Tours. Well now, they’re going after Norwegian Cruise Line because they say the Southern Port will take jobs from Belize City. As you might imagine, they had some choice words for the Government officials who hammered out the Memorandum of Understanding with Norwegian. Here’s what they said:…
Tom Greenwood - President , FECTAB
"This MOU is a litany of 'I nuh know weh I di do' - Godwin Hulse, what happened to you my brother? My God you started up as an icon for us and I respect you for that because you have a big mouth like me and you're ready to talk and all of that - Godwin you're a part of this? Michael Singh - I only have one word for you and I can't use it on television - suffice to say that you Michael Singh sitting at the head of this are going to cause damage, you're causing damage to a whole lot of people. FECTAB takes this position - this entire MOU is not right, it's wrong in many places - it has made mistakes. Those mistakes could easily have been corrected by proper consultation - an open thing, and it is just a litany of mistakes being made. The mistakes will cost a lot of us our investments and will cost a lot of us our jobs."
And that’s really what today’s event was about the concern that cruise tourism jobs now concentrated in Belize City will go south with Norwegian’s new port at Harvest Caye where cruise ships can dock at the floating pier:
"Here's a cruise line paying $70,000 to $80,000 a day to tender people up and down and suddenly they're going to have a port where they don't have to tender anybody? Hello - wakey wakey. Where do you think they're going to go? Down that way."
Yohnny Rosado - Cavetubing.com
"There are many phone calls from tour guides and tour operators that they have borrowed money and now they're thinking that these ships are going to Placencia."
"You know something - I get the feeling this cruise tourism village right here is going to be a supermarket within a couple of years and places like Caves Branch that sees 100,000 guests a year is going to be a ghost town."
"Because there will be many Belizeans without a job in Belize City very soon. We are barely making money in the city outside of the Tourism Village and if you look at us, we don't look in any way professional. We look like hustlers, second class, third class tour guides- we look like 'made in China' - you know those stuff, we look fake. So imagine when this cruise line goes to their own island - you think we can get a wet suit and you think we can get a little dorey and say 'hey guys, cavetubing.com is here' - do you think you can sell that product around an island."
"We must plan for the next two years to possibly not see any life out here. We're going to jeopardize something that's been established 12 years in Belize City for something that is going to be enclosed on an island in the South of the country against the wishes of the greater Tourism Industry Association? What do we do folks?"
And today the best idea on what to do was to take direct action:
"Does the government listen to the people? Hell no! Has the past government ever listened to the people? Hell no! Have past governments listened to the people? Hell no! People have got to come together, we need a few thousand, a very large number of thousands to get together in busses, trucks, cars and go to Belmopan and jam up all the streets and everything - they can't arrest 20,000 of us."
"I came here with a different mindset - I came to beg the government to do the right thing."
Someone from the Audience
"I'm sorry but begging does not work - this government needs to be shown a lesson."
"Brother Yohnny is doing the right way - we always have to do things peacefully but I am sick and tired of worrying what I will put on my children's table this evening."
But according to this group, others stand to profit from this project:
David Almendarez - Fantasea Belize
"Because it's some few well connected Belizeans enslaving the masses of us for a few dollars more - we will have foreigners coming into our country and telling us how to use our assets and how to manage our assets and we as a country in 2013 - will accept this. It's horrendous if as a people we accept this - it stinks from the bottom up - it's for a few dollars more and to send a few privilege people to law school. It's time to put an end to this, it doesn't make tourism sense, it doesn't make common sense, and it’s for a few dollars more. And we ask our government, why for a few dollars more?"
And any round condemnation of the Harvest Caye project wouldn’t be complete without some cultural commentary
"And we're already hearing the mutterings and grumblings, especially from the Garinagu - these people are talking about taking sacred ceremonies of a people that are indigenous to the region for thousands of years and turning it into a Disney operation."
"We are creating Belize - better known as Mother Nature's best kept secret - into Universal Studios and into a Disney theme park. You're going to have other people from other countries coming in and dancing as Garifunas, you're going to have people from Mexico coming in and being Mayas, you're going to have Americans painted up as other things and this is the environment that this kind of agreement is creating."
"Can we stop it? That's the important thing - at this point in time an act of God and act of the people, or an act of government."
And while an “act of government” appears unlikely, Greenwood made it clear that he will act if Chukka Tours gets special treatment at the No-hoch Chen Archaeological Park, commonly known as Cave’s Branch. Yes, even though the press conference was about Norwegian Cruise Line, Greenwood did manage to somehow work his arch-nemesis, Chukka Tours into it. It’s not really relevant to tonight’s story but as a performance of pure rage, it is a classic – and one we had to share:…
Tom Greenwood - President , FECTAB
"The next time Caves Branch is flooded and the next time Chukka goes there with people and can access a natural patrimony site while native Belizeans can't take food home - you watch the 'madda rocking chair' that will happen, you watch what will happen. Because I won't put up with that, I won't put up with a Jamaican operator to come here to go somewhere that we put together and we have to stand up and 'boy I wonder what I'm going to take home for my children now' - that will stop!!"