Thu | Apr 2, 2020

No noise free-for-all - Relaxation of entertainment deadlines must not be exploited, warns Chang

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:21 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang.

The Holness administration has vowed that the temporary two-hour extension of the lock-off times for entertainment events will not become a pathway to public disorder.

The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to temporarily amend the contentious Noise Abatement Act by pushing back the weekday and weekend closing times for events covered by the legislation to 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., respectively.

The bill is expected to be approved by lawmakers in the Upper House today and will, according to Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, take effect shortly thereafter. The extension, which also applies to churches and political events, will end on January 31 next year.

Chang, who was speaking during a Jamaica House press conference on Wednesday, noted that the amendment makes no changes to noise levels set out in the law and warned that there would be swift consequences for breaches of this provision.

“In plain language, if you exceed the sound levels and disturb the residents, despite having permission, the police will have the right to lock you down,” Chang declared, with prominent members of the entertainment industry present.

“If you exceed the decibel levels, they turn you off. If you turn it on back, they take your equipment. I want the entertainers who are here to understand that if the police do so, it is not malice. It’s my guidance.”

The current 2 a.m. lock-off time for entertainment events has been a source of friction between party promoters and the police for years.

Mayor of Kingston, Senator Delroy Williams, noted that the creative industry is regarded by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation as a pillar of the city’s economy but argued that the sector is in need of structuring.

“I really don’t want residents to think that this temporary fix, which will last for two months, is opening the gateway for disorder. Certainly not,” Williams insisted.

ECONOMIC BOOST

Ewan Simpson, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, predicted that the extension would provide an economic boost for players at all levels of the entertainment industry, especially over the Christmas season.

“The truth is that the longer an event is allowed to continue, the greater the economic gain for the promoter,” Simpson reasoned.

He said that the industry is aware of the responsibility it has to reduce noise nuisancses but indicated that the range of grouses will take “some time” to be addressed.

“Some of what is required is for the Government to meet the industry halfway ... . Of course, we are going to have to balance this with the needs of the citizens for peace and quiet,” he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com