National Security Minister Wayne Caines has granted Jamaican reggae star, Buju Banton, permission to perform in Bermuda, despite a well-publicised drugs conviction in the United States.
Caines said he had decided to allow the 45-year-old singer, whose real name is Mark Myrie, to visit the island. He last performed here 12 years ago and is scheduled to appear on August 17 at Bermuda’s National Stadium.
Banton was released from a US prison last December after he served eight years of a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to import cocaine.
“As the Minister of National Security, which includes responsibility for police, customs, corrections, fire and immigration, I am keenly aware of the challenges that result from the misuse of drugs.
“As it relates to Mr Myrie’s particular situation, he has served his mandated period of incarceration, and has publicly said that he wishes to use his personal experience of incarceration as a way to uplift, motivate and help others,” Caines said.
Caines said his ministry backed “any type of personal, rehabilitation, redemption and social commitment, particularly as we ourselves engage with at-risk young people on a regular basis”.
He added that Banton has been granted permission to perform in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guyana, the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Bahamas, Suriname, France and Germany.
“Due to Mr Myrie’s conviction and imprisonment in excess of two years, he must receive permission from the minister responsible for immigration to be allowed to perform in Bermuda.
“Ultimately, we believe that if given the opportunity to perform in Bermuda, Mr Myrie’s performance will have an exceedingly positive effect on our community. I believe that Buju Banton is a musical, social and cultural icon whose message of unity, redemption and love make his immigration circumstances rare and exceptional.”
Banton attracted criticism for his song Boom Bye Bye, written when he was 15 and released in 1992, called for the murder of gay men. He has since removed the song from his repertoire and from sites he has control over and apologised for the “pain” it had caused.
Caines said he was “keenly aware of the sensitivities” regarding some of the artist’s music recorded decades ago, but said that the social positives of the singer’s visit outweighed any negatives.
The Royal Gazette newspaper said the news came as the organisers of Unity Festival Bermuda, the promoters of the Banton concert, said it had contacted gay rights group OutBermuda in an attempt to heal divisions in Bermuda.
“We are calling for island-wide harmony for this event and we hope that our patrons come in the spirit of inclusion and love that Buju has made his new mantra,” a spokesman said.
“Violence, hatred, vengeance, and trauma have thrived in our small island for far too long. It’s time to close the wounds of the past and allow healing to happen. With this in mind, the organisers of Unity Festival Bermuda have opened a dialogue with OutBermuda in hopes that redemption for the trespasses of the past is possible within these shores,” the spokesman added.”
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