Law shackles entertainment - Negril business community lashes out against Noise Abatement Act
Adrian Frater, News Editor
UNDER PRESSURE from the Negril business community, the police in that town are defending their decision to rigorously enforce the Noise Abatement Act.
Business operators in Negril are up in arms over what they say is the heavy-handed approach of the police in shutting down entertainment events.
But the police say they are not the ones to blame.
"The law is the law and until or unless the law is changed, I will have a duty and an obligation to enforce it," said Superintendent Egbert Parkins, head of the Negril police.
He was responding to business persons who vented their anger at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum in Negril.
Led by Clive 'Kubba' Pringle, chief executive officer of the MXIII Complex, the business operators argued that entertainment is being stifled in the resort town because of the enforcement of the Noise Abatement Act by the police.
"The heavy-handed approach of the police is killing entertainment in Negril," said Pringle, whose MXIII facility has hosted stellar events such as the annual Bob Marley Birthday Bash over the last 20 years.
"The business I have worked so hard to build over the years is now being ruined because I cannot get a permit to stage any events there," Pringle lamented.
He was supported by Ryan Morrison, president of the Negril Entertainment Association, who argued that the police were causing persons to lose their chance to earn a living.
"Every time an entertainment event is staged in Negril, upwards of 40 persons, including promoters, sound-system operators, the parish council and numerous vendors benefit," said Morrison.
"It can't make good economic sense for one person to just pick up a telephone and call the police and have them just come and shut down an event," Morrison added.
He argued that in some instances, the persons making the calls to the police were not being honest.
"I personally know of cases where people see sound boxes being set up and without any music being played, they call the police complaining about being disturbed by loud music," charged Morrison.
"In cases like those, the police should investigate the callers and penalise them because that is obviously making mischief."
Morrison also expressed some amount of unease with the police being the sole arbiters of determining what constitute a noise nuisance.
He expressed a desire for a standardise form of monitoring.
Morrison said: "I think that matter should be taken out of the hands of the police. I would like to see special decibel meters being used to measure and decide when music is being played above the legally agreed limit."
Chairman of the Westmoreland Parish Council and Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Bertel Moore, added his voice to those chiding the police.
Moore argued that the ban on some venues and events was nonsensical and should be revisited
"I can understand situations that involve loud music going on all night," the mayor said. "However, some of the events really don't constitute a noise nuisance and I believe those should be allowed."
But a defiant Parkins would not bow to the business operators as he argued that the men and women under his command were being unfairly criticised for upholding the law.
"We have been getting numerous complaints about loud music from some of these venues disturbing residents, especially at nights," argued Parkins.
"We have an obligation to ensure that these people enjoy the peace and tranquillity they desire by not allowing the events to go beyond the limits outlined in the law," the superintendent added.
He argued that instead of venting their frustration at the police, promoters and other entertainment stakeholders should be lobbying the Government to change the Noise Abatement Act, which now requires that outdoor events end at midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.