Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Devon Dick | Who let the horses out to race?

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2020 | 12:13 AM

Why was horse racing allowed at Caymanas Park after Prime Minister Andrew Holness, by order, declared the whole of Jamaica a disaster area on March 13, 2020? The regulation of the Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 2) Order 2020 Section 8 (1) (a) states ‘all bars, nightclubs and other places of amusement shall remain closed. Isn’t Caymanas Park a place of amusement? In Nova Scotia, Canada, one has to get a Place of Amusement licence to operate a racetrack. Casinos also should close because they are places of amusement.

Furthermore, Section 5 (1) of the act states “... for the period from the 25th day of March 2020 to the 7th day of April 2020, gatherings in any public place shall not exceed 10 persons at a time, and each person at such gathering shall maintain a distance of at least 91.44 centimetres (or 3 feet) from other persons’. At the time of the last horse racing meet the maximum number of persons for a gathering was 20. There are some who claim that since there are no spectators at the racetrack, then Caymanas Park complied with that stipulation. Using that logic, it would mean that Boys and Girls’ Championships could go on without spectators even though 400 athletes would be at the National Stadium complex. Or that football matches could go on without spectators even though 22 players would be on the field. Hell no! For a horse race meet to happen, there has to be more than 20 people on the Caymanas property when jockeys, trainers, owners, stewards, groomsmen and other support staff are counted.

A question of rooms

I know a church that has 14 different rooms. Does it mean that it could have had 280 people on the property for a church service with the aid of technology? Suppose Bad Boy Trevor’s house has five bedrooms, living room, dining room and a kitchen, does it mean that he could have 10 in each room for a party? It is one property and so the maximum would have to be 10 persons. Caymanas Park is one property so for a race meet there should not be more than 20 persons.

There should not be two Jamaicas. There should not be one law for the rich and another for persons who are poor. For there to be success in discovering, containing and coexisting with COVID-19, then everyone should be treated equally and fairly. No business should defy the Disaster Act.

Even if the horse racing organisers are not convinced that the term ‘place of amusement’ applies to them, and that the 20-person guideline applied to spectators only then they should understand the spirit of Jamaica being declared a disaster area.

The Disaster Act does not mention exemptions for security guards, but it is perhaps implied under the exemption for Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force.

In addition, there is no explicit exemption for journalists and media workers, but it is understood. Race ‘horsing’ picked the start by going contrary to the spirit of the declaration.

Perhaps, the act could be tweaked to allow for a tribunal similar to what is in the state of public emergency to allow business leaders to argue their case if they feel the stipulations should not apply to them. This tribunal and court would be open to other persons who might be feeling aggrieved.

When ‘Long Shot Kick the Bucket’ there was weeping and wailing at Caymanas Park. Let us do everything to prevent more weeping and wailing because of COVID-19.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.