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'We wish him well' - Private sector says Buju has paid the price

Published:Friday | November 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Buju Banton
Howard Mitchell, president of the PSOJ.
Buju Banton

The powerful Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) says its members will not be putting any barriers in front of reggae superstar Buju Banton when he returns from prison to resume his music career.

Buju Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie, is slated to be released from a United States federal prison on December 8.

The entertainer was convicted for drug trafficking on February 22, 2011 in Tampa, Florida, 12 days after the retrial of his case began. Federal prosecutors required two trials to convict the reggae icon, who was targeted and pursued by an undercover federal informant for more than a year.

"I only want to be associated with my craft," Buju said recently.

"Having survived, I want to share the good news and strength of my music. I just want to continue making music, which I've devoted my life to. I look forward to the opportunity to say a personal thanks to my fans and everyone who supported me," Buju added.

Contacted by The Sunday Gleaner, Howard Mitchell, the president of the PSOJ, said that Buju is "a Jamaican, he has made a mistake, he has served his time, and I don't think the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica would want to take anything from him or do anything (other) than wish him well in his rehabilitation and his constructing a life again".

A convicted drug dealer-turned-informant, Alexander Johnson, was paid US$50,000 after Buju's arrest in December 2009.

In May, ABC News released a previously sealed video that shows Myrie tasting what appears to be cocaine. The clip, which is less than a minute long, shows Myrie looking on as another man cuts open a sealed package.

Buju said in court that had Johnson given him an opportunity to choose whether he wanted to see cocaine at the warehouse on December 8, 2009, he would have decided against it.


'They Tricked Me'


"What they did to me was that they took away my chance to determine whether I wanted to be a part of a drug deal. They tricked me," Buju said.

"I saw my family, my children, everything that I have worked hard for in the past 21 years flash before my face," he said.

Following his conviction, the Til Shiloh singer expressed appreciation to his fans for their support during his ordeal.

"Our life and our destiny are sometimes predestined and no matter where this journey takes me, remember I fought the good fight. It was a great man that said, 'my head is bloody, but unbowed'. I love you all, thank you for your support and continue loving God," Buju said in a statement read by his attorney at the time, David Oscar Markus.

Mitchell, commenting on Buju's crime, said, "In terms of what his error was, it was a grevious error, it appears, and he has paid his dues so we wish him well".

"We don't have a position one way or another regarding his future."

Asked if the association would have adopted the same position if the entertainer were Vybz Kartel, Mitchell said that the principle would be no different. Kartel is currently serving a lifesentence for murder. The sentence and conviction have, however, been appealed. There is no indication of when a verdict is likely to be handed down.

"If his appeal finds him not guilty, then we will have to look at him as not guilty. ... The society has rules. If you break the rules, you pay the price. Once you pay the price, it is unreasonable to take anything from you," Mitchell said.

"Where we may have an issue is with people who flout the law, act in indisciplined ways, damage people and hurt people and get away with it. But as far as Mr Banton is concerned, we believe that he has done his time, he has paid his price. Let us see what he does with his future. We wish him well," Mitchell said.