The following letter was written by JFLAG's Program's Manager to the Observer regarding the Buju Banton judgement
We are alarmed at the recent stories in both the Sunday Observer and Sunday Gleaner of December 13, regarding the arrest in Florida of dancehall artiste Mark Myrie, better known as Buju Banton, on a charge of intent to traffic in cocaine.
Our concern relates to the manner in which the background of the stories pointed to the ongoing challenges between Banton and gay rights groups across the United States which have sought to ban his entry and performance in their country. We find it unfortunate that an article about a brilliant artiste being charged with such a crime could so disingenuously be turned into one about him being victimised by the so-called gay community.
It is important for us to remember that Buju was arrested when the police linked five kilos of cocaine to him. It is this charge that should be at the focus of the story which was reported. We believe that framing the story against the backdrop of gay organisations' protests against him provides the clear basis for insinuating that Banton's most unfortunate experience could in some way be linked to the international gay community. Such a link is not only false, it is irresponsible.
We wish to declare publicly that we support Banton's right to be defended and believe that he is innocent of the charge until proven guilty. We also wish to make what might be deemed a very controversial point: that while some drug use, particularly that of cocaine, has ravaged many black communities across the Americas, adults have the right to decide whether or not they use drugs and should not be criminalised for doing so. At the same time, we are not unmindful that traffickers, pedlars and users have turned brother against brother, and allowed thugs to terrorise our families, kill our police and witnesses to heinous crimes, and dons to corrupt our political and social systems. Perhaps we may need to bring to the centre of this discussion the question of whether and in which circumstances personal choices should be criminalised.
So let's get the story straight. Buju Banton has promoted, through his lyrics, hatred of homosexuals and has called for people who are homosexuals to be murdered. He has never renounced or regretted any these abuses of his privileged position. He did all of this on his own. He is now facing the consequences of actions totally unrelated to gays and lesbians in a community that has long come to recognise that human beings are born in dignity and with rights and obligations to themselves and one another. We hope that common sense and a commitment to truth will triumph over stereotypes and a rush to condemnation.