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Editorial | Olivia Grange has lost her range

Published:Tuesday | April 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Olivia Grange's stout defence of a club promoter who was charged for breaches of the Noise Abatement Act was as premature as it was ill conceived. But we can't say we are surprised.

Ms Grange, an impresario and entertainment manager of note, has been a lobbyist for, and strong stakeholder in, dancehall music for at least three decades. She has managed some of Jamaica's most popular artistes, among them Shabba Ranks and Mad Cobra.

To Ms Grange's credit, we believe her commitment to dancehall's craft and philosophy to be genuine. However, she can't have it both ways. We have no verdict on the substance of the police action, but deem brash her response to the arrest of Karlyle Lee, because of an apparent failure to produce evidence of a police permit certifying approval of the entertainment event at his Dub Club. Ms Grange could be accused, not unreasonably, of misusing her ministerial sway. For we would not want the police to feel intimidated into inaction and apathy by those walking with political swagger.

Ms Grange, the culture and entertainment minister, said, "It is really unfortunate that something like this happened at the same time as carnival, as it sends the wrong message." But it is Ms Grange who sends the wrong message by pitting bacchanal against dancehall in a hollow appeal to populism. It doesn't fly.




Ms Grange's reference to the notion of two Jamaicas is not a novel idea. Many poor Jamaicans who live on the margins of deprivation find in dancehall a refuge - a metaphorical space of empowerment to challenge and excoriate the Establishment; to affirm selfhood in tough circumstances. Mr Lee's Skyline Drive club, with a decidedly richer crust and far from Kingston's gritty alleys, can hardly claim to fit dancehall's narrative of poverty and victimhood. That's part of the plot the entertainment minister has missed.

In referencing Mr Lee's status as an icon of roots reggae as a basis for his non-prosecution, Ms Grange appears to endorse a philosophy that reputation should have bearing on whether one is subject to the law. Hers is a preference of personality over principle. She just doesn't get it. It is immaterial whether dancehall or carnival promoters, or churches, or community groups infringe the law. The issue is that the police must do their job.