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Crawford defends dancehall against anti-gang law

Published:Friday | November 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Damion Crawford, state minister in the Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment. - File

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

JUNIOR MINISTER for Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford has indicated that world record holder and athletic superstar, Usain Bolt, would have been in trouble with the law if "Gaza" was deemed a gang under the proposed anti-gang law.

"If Gaza (termed used to describe Vybz Kartel's musical enterprise) was really a gang, both myself and Usain Bolt would have been charged because Bolt come on the Internet and say 'Gaza mi say', simply because of the artiste he supports. I say Gaza, too," Crawford told a joint select committee of Parliament examining the bill.

Crawford made it clear that "Gaza is not a gang - it is a musical movement".

At the same time, National Security Minister Peter Bunting yesterday admitted that only "a handful" of songs compiled in a book of songs containing violent lyrics and performed by local artistes would breach Clause 15 of the proposed anti-gang law.

The National Intelligence Bureau presented the book containing 105 songs to a joint select committee of Parliament examining the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act 2013, or the anti-gang law.

Crawford, a committee member, said that Clause 15 of the bill was "an attack on lyrics and not an attack on gangs".

He told his colleague lawmakers yesterday that the controversial clause should be thrown out or revised.

Clause 15 of the proposed law seeks to prohibit the use of signs, symbols, graffiti, or songs to promote or facilitate the activities of a criminal organisation.

Crawford argued that the police presented the list of songs as the basis for Clause 15. He said the book focuses on "an examination of dancehall artistes and songs that glorify violence and gangs and contribute to the propagation of anti-informer culture".

However, Bunting explained that legislators were not seeking to pass a law on the basis of what the police presented. He said the police were attempting to show how the songs promoted violence and hatred that was being spewed across the society.