Dream Entertainment Limited’s Managing Director, Scott Dunn, has come out against the Jamaican government, which he says is being hypocritical as it remains open for tourism while the entertainment industry has grounded to a stand-still and thousands of stakeholders scrape to make ends meet 10 months into the global Coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter, Dunn said he has been forced to move to Florida, where he has hosted parties as that state remains open for business in spite of the pandemic because the economic situation in Jamaica is unbearable. The government has not offered any stimulus support even though two events hosted by his company- Dream Weekend and Carnival- major tourism events that pulls in an estimated $9 billion annual revenue.
The government of Jamaica has not yet put forth a plan forward, although the Prime Minister says his government is hoping to receive vaccines in April that should cover healthcare workers and the elderly who are more at risk.
In his letter, Dunn did not spare the Jamaican government as he says, “I’m not an idiot and I’m general unselfish, I understand the risks large groups would cause in a pandemic but I’m fair and I know hypocrisy when I see it.” He said while the government has enforced rules for no parties being allowed in Jamaica, Jamaican citizens are allowed to fly out of the island- many going to Florida to party and returning to the island. “this group is allowed to leave the airport and join households islandwide as they supposedly quarantine (it’s no secret that only a small percentage of them do)…hotels on the North Coast have hundreds (locals and foreigners) not distanced, not masked- drinking and frolicking- no different from parties our government abhors,” he says.
Dunn also lashed out at an unnamed government Minister who is vocal on illegal gatherings, but yet many illegal parties continue in said Minister’s constituency. He also said it was hypocritical that people jostling in a grocery store were not considered dangerous, but open air parties were.
“Truthfully, the biggest hypocrisy of all, is the assertion that its events that caused our summer spike in cases, whilst the campaigning of thousands of mask less people shaking hands, hugging and shouting (releasing droplets) is somehow guiltless. All this in a country that if I choose to rent the National Stadium or Sabina Park – venues with capacities in the tens of thousands, I would be breaking the law to have 16 people there, even if they social distanced, sanitised and wore masks – even if they all did antigen tests in the car park and received negative results prior to entry,” his letter said.
Dunn accused the government of “killing a multi-billion dollar industry and starving it’s dependents.” He added that the alternative is now for promoters to look to Florida, Atlanta, and Mexico to host events as those locations remain open in spite of the pandemic. Florida and Mexico have reported mass infections, with thousands dying. However, the state has remained open with few limitations, such as no mandatory masks and sanitization in public.
“Every other sector in Jamaica is allowed to operate even at limited capacity with some protocols. The events industry is the only industry closed,” he wrote, adding that “virtual parties” are unprofitable. “On a sad note, in case anyone is asking, absolutely no one is paying for a virtual party, believe me, we’ve tried that as well,” he said.
Jamaica recorded two COVID-19 deaths on Monday and 133 new cases. However, Dunn says the desire is not to disregard health and safety.
“Honestly, we don’t want to run loose and crazy – that’s what the illegal operators are doing already. We want protocols, we want guidelines… whatever it takes to operate, please just tell us. We want to put food on our table like every other person in the labour force. A few days ago, I had to lay off more of my staff (my family). They need their jobs back. We need to reopen the events industry as this cannot continue!” he said.
Dunn pleaded with the government “…if we are not allowed to operate even in a small way or get a reasonable lifeline of relief funds, we, the formal players will all be bankrupt…we will be forced to go to other countries with more inclusive policies to do our events. Brain- drain again, 40+ years later. How sad…allow us to operate ….please….or if not, give us a relief package that actually will allow us to survive.”
Meanwhile, artistes like Tanya Stephens and Ce’Cile echoed Scott’s sentiments, as did the hundreds of comments that flooded the thread as many pleaded with the government to consider measures that will allow them to earn.