Montego Bay-based promoters and lawyers have complained to Minister of National Security, Dr. Horace Chang, that the police high command in Montego Bay has been unlawfully targeting Squash, Tommy Lee Sparta and other regional artists, by barring them from performing in the four parishes in Western Jamaica.
The concerns were raised during a meeting staged by the Minister in Montego Bay on Saturday regarding the impending amendment of the Noise Abatement Act.
“I had to remove Tommy Lee; Jerk Fest had to remove Squash and Shane E. Squash didn’t perform on Sumfest,” one promoter told the Minister during the meeting.
“We did not know this until two weeks before the show. That’s a lot of income for us and false advertising and all of that,” he added.
One attorney told the Minister that she represents a “group of young men from St James who have had a particular difficulty performing in this region.” She said promoters have complained that the police have told them that if her clients are billed for any shows in Western Jamaica, they would not be given event permits.
“These men are legitimate performers and we have indicated to the Superintendent that if he has any questions as it relates to the content of their music, that it can be modified. It has now gone now as far as the Superintendent saying to them that they are not to be seen in these four parishes,” she said.
“As you can imagine Minister, these are young men with family members here legitimate business here,” she added. “If we want to see them we have to travel to Kingston because they are legitimately concerned that they will be victimized, oppressed, taken into custody and I would like to know the basis of this treatment.”
In response, Dr. Chang said he was of the view that law enforcement discretion should not have been part of the framework of the Noise Abatement Act. He added that as it is now creating some form of unnecessary pressure, and has the tendency to lead to issues such as favoritism and corruption.
He said if artists are on the police’s wanted list, then it should be made public.
“And as far as I am aware we are one jurisdiction on the island from Negril to Morant Point, so if he is wanted by the police in Montego Bay, he is also wanted in Kingston,” he said.
On the other hand, the Minister said police might have concerns about artists spewing lyrics which incite violence onstage, but that such cases would not warrant a ban, but a warning.
He said that while the State of Emergency currently underway in the West, empowers the police with a credible level of information to ban certain persons from entering certain areas similar to a restraining order by the Courts. Chang pointed out that they can only do so with a variation of the Detention Order by himself as Minister, and that he has not signed any such order in recent times.
“You cannot stop an event because somebody is on the program that you don’t want on it. If they have a case, that is far different than just labeling somebody. The law does not allow any adjustment in the Executive of Government or the police officer to brand somebody as a criminal, without having a case and to stop them from doing their business. If they have a case, then the police should contact the lawyer and ask them to bring the person in for an interview…,” Dr. Chang said.
“If a person has a charge, that’s a different ball game. To tell a person because he is a convict, he can’t perform, we don’t have that in law,” he added.