Hear I Rant Jamaica

Just watch Law and Order

The trial of Mark Myrie, better known to Jamaicans and reggae lovers as Buju Banton, as taken some of the spotlight from the beleaguered government of Bruce Golding.  The trial in Tampa has completely overshadowed the shadow that the prime minister is operating under.

As I write, the jurors have the case under consideration, and their judgment is awaited as to whether Myrie is guilty or innocent as to the charges of conspiracy to obtain and traffic in cocaine.

I would not bet on an innocent finding.  It’s for a good reason why America, with 5% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s incarcerated.  They love to throw people I jail.

Tampa is not regarded as part of the enlightened south, even though it has a higher than national average black population.  American jurors as is in most of the world, tend to give greater credence to the state than to the defendant.   Worse still, Myrie is black, he is foreign and he fits the ‘profile’ of the urban youth.

Americans are not happy about ‘foreigners’ and drugs, and Myrie, irrespective of whether or not he intended to traffic in cocaine, has at least revealed himself to have more than a passing familiarity with the drug.  Because of that, these jurors are not going to argue the difference.

Many Jamaicans has used this case to argue the issue of ‘entrapment’ and I sympathise.  I have argued against it and know that a good portion of those black youth trapped in prison is there due to entrapment.  The same goes for many caught in the net of the ‘war on terror’.

But entrapment is part of the US’s police tactics and no jury is going to rule for Buju’s acquittal simply on that basis.  The best that his supporters can hope for is a hung jury but he is likely not to be bailed, and the retrial will imprison him.  Retrials rarely suit the defendant.

What interests me is the suspension of common-sense on behalf of Buju by many Jamaicans, considering our so-called animosity to criminality.  When one dials back to the Golding/Dudus situation, the general sentiment was that all “criminal fi dead’, especially as it is known that drugs fuel the arming of gunmen and that many gunmen are ‘coked’ up before they go out killing.   Buju is finding sympathy where many ghetto yout’ find contempt and condemnation.

Many of his fans are citing the legal philosophy of ‘Innocent til proven guilty’.  But I don’t see them applying the same doctrine to others, namely politicians and the people of Tivoli.  Can someone tell me the difference?

It is no secret that the drug status of many of our leading entertainers is suspect.  Buju is no exception.  I was at his last concert in Miami and was part of a conversation as to how ‘coke-free’ he was that night.  Nobody thought he wasn’t under some influence greater than ganja.

As to trafficking, when I used to shoot album covers, the ‘entourage’ of a noted ‘gorgon’ openly discussed in my presence, trafficking cocaine to the US under cover of a concert tour.  There is definitely a strong connection between the Jamaican music industry and cocaine trafficking.

Yet many seem to find all kind of weird conspiracies against the ‘innocent’ Buju Banton, he previously without sin.  No matter what anyone says, Banton is on tape tasting cocaine.  One does not test the quality of cocaine if one doesn’t at least use it.  That image is too powerful to explain away.

The homosexual connection is a red herring.  It wasn’t gays who ‘got’ him.  They might hate Banton with reason, but their influence doesn’t run that deep within the judicial system to be able to organize a ‘sting’ against Buju.

What has happened to Buju is a warning to all those entertainers who have been associated with drug trafficking.  There is no ‘wickedness’.  For all its faults, the US government generally doesn’t target people without some reasonable belief in their involvement in criminal activities… unless it’s political or racial.  The system is flawed and many are jailed because of these flaws, but there is usually a good faith basis for initial investigations.

I wonder though, what is the possibility that the trapping of Buju came as one other tactic to pressure Bruce Golding because of his unwise holding up of the extradition of Christopher Coke?  The timing is suspicious because US law enforcement must have had an inkling about Buju’s involvement in cocaine previously.

This arrest and trial most likely is the making of Buju himself, quite likely driven by a history of getting away with it on previous occasions.  I have seen that in drug users and traffickers… the feeling of invincibility.

I like Buju’s music but I feel little sympathy for someone so talented being weak enough to fall prey to drug use.  And the truth is, I find his testimony that he was only trying to one-up the state informant as to his history in drug trafficking to be absolutely unbelievable.

I sit next to a man who boasts he is a drug trafficker and our relationship ends there (perhaps not since I’m a writer and would be curious in the context of journalism).  Buju if he were innocent, should just have shut up.  Cock mout’ does kill cock.

Many of Banton’s fans want too much to believe his testimony, as if his testimony is necessarily the truth.  Really people.  You must have considered that criminal defendants tend to lie.  Just watch Law and Order.

I’m sorry that so many Jamaicans have come rushing wildly to Mark Myrie’s defense because to some respect, it makes us no better than those who are fascinated enough by someone’s celebrity status, to overlook their flaws.  But Buju Banton in America is no Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, and at the end of the day, I suspect that Mark Myrie will be found guilty.

About the author


Writer, photographer, artist. Have been doing all three for some time. More about myself and my art can be found at http://www.louisdavisart.com, and http://www.broward.org/arts/publications/cq/2008/winter08/cq_winter08.htm