Treat tourists like gold, says opposition leader
Published on May 10, 2013
“We need to realize what we are doing and look at our visitors as very important, they need to be welcomed and when they encounter a problem we need to treat them like gold,” said opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, when she was asked at a recent Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) press conference on how she felt about the treatment of two departing American tourists, who just one day apart were each found with a single unfired bullet in their luggage.
One, an 80-year-old retired neurosurgeon from Florida, was held in jail with a man accused of murder, where he was fed spicy grits and hot dogs.
“I will never look at a hot dog the same,” Horace Norrell told an American reporter interviewing him.
After spending the weekend in jail, because no judge would stay late on a Friday to hear his bail application, the senior citizen was reunited with his wife, who waited on him in the TCI. He was released on $4,000 bail and returned to the US.
Just one day earlier, a 60-year-old Texas woman, accompanied by her husband, was also found to have a single bullet in her luggage. In the woman’s case, the court remained open and granted her $4,000 dollars.
Meanwhile, neither the premier nor the minister for border control has addressed the issue, which is threatening the territory’s tourism industry. Americans are up in arms and are contacting their government about the incident. Many are reportedly cancelling planned visits to the TCI, some through fear that a similar fate could befall them and others in protest over the treatment of the two US visitors.
TCI Governor Ric Todd has said only that the law must be followed.
It is widely accepted locally that the bullets were planted in the visitors’ bags, but the identity of the perpetrators and their motive remains a mystery. There is, however, some speculation that this is yet another attempt to hold the TCI’s fragile tourism industry hostage to promote a political agenda.
The local tourism industry was directly attacked on two previous occasions by members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) when they shut down the Providenciales international airport, once by a public demonstration that closed down access to the airport and the second by a strike of airport firefighters orchestrated by current Premier Rufus Ewing.
Meanwhile, the fragility of the territory’s principal source of revenue is illustrated by continuing media reports and commentary in the US – especially in the Herald Tribune in Sarasota, Horace Norrell’s home town in Florida.
On Wednesday, columnist Tom Lyons warned potential Turks and Caicos visitors to beware: “Your stay could be much longer than planned, with accommodations well below par.”
“Who knows what police were thinking as they hauled a 60-year-old Texas woman to jail for alleged possession of a bullet that she said she knew nothing about, but even the dimmest police administrator surely could have smelled a rat the next day when a second tourist was found to have exactly one bullet in his luggage, too. Sherlock Holmes has not even a distant relative in the Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police, it seems,” he continued.
“It is hard to imagine the degree of incompetence required when a police administrator or prosecutor is unable to deduce these must be false charges based on planted items designed to appear like evidence of what would be an absurd crime,” he said.
In accurately describing Governor Todd as an appointed career British diplomat, Lyons wrote, “There is no mention of him being a total twit, so it seemed reasonable at first to expect him to be as outraged as the average reader who encounters this story. After all, publicity over this visitor-targeted scam could seriously harm tourism, which is the Turks and Caicos only major industry if you don’t count the enabling of drug smuggling and money laundering.”
Lyons said that Todd has responded to an onslaught of public questions mainly by expressing his determination not to get involved.
“I don’t normally do travel advisories, but in my places-to-go ranking, Turks and Caicos just took a spot not far above North Korea,” Lyons concluded.