The tragic case of Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer

Sunday, March 16, 2014

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IT will take some time to do a thorough dissecting of the case of dancehall entertainer Adidja Palmer, better known by his stage name 'Vybz Kartel' or 'Worl' boss', and his conviction, along with three of his cronies, for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams.

Note should also be taken that there could be an appeal process which may or may not uphold this conviction.

But in the meantime, it behoves us a nation to, at the very least, try to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of a case which, we strongly submit, tells us so much about ourselves and our shortcomings.

In this regard, we wholly endorse the very wise position of the Director of Public Prosecutions Miss Paula Llewellyn that the Kartel conviction is not a victory, but a success for law and order and our justice system; and that this is not a time for gloating by those who worked hard for that result.

Now that Vybz Kartel has been convicted, the stories are fast and thick about alleged acts, real or imagined, committed by the deejay previously. The publication in this newspaper, in its Friday edition, of excerpts of extremely violent lyrics from some of his popular recordings is a chilling suggestion that we have helped, as a society, to create and nurture a Vybz Kartel.

If we care to admit it, the deejay has been somewhat of a phenomenon. Rising from the very bowels of the inner city, he has managed to rule the dancehall and developed a massive following locally and abroad. He turned his entertainment success into what is called "The Gaza Empire", producing other successful artistes.

He has also been involved in commercial activities, including a reality television show, Teacher's Pet; a cake soap; Vybz Rum; a condom; and publication of the book Voice of the Ghetto. With the aid of Dr Carolyn Cooper, he gave a lecture at no less than the University of the West Indies, drawing — like the Pied Piper — students away from their classes.

But Vybz Kartel will probably be best known as a brilliant lyricist. Yet, some of those lyrics, supported by the evidence in court, reveal the schizophrenic nature of the artiste and his extremely destructive side.

Some of those lyrics bring into sharp relief actions and discussions, over many years, by the Broadcasting Commission of the need to set even minimum standards of decency in what is fed to the public, with special reference to the impressionable young minds of our children.

It also makes mockery of the recent brouhaha over provisions in the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, more widely known as the anti-gang legislation — now awaiting signature by the governor general — to ban violent lyrics in songs being aired.

In other words, the Broadcasting Commission was right, and the attempt to address violent lyrics in songs through legislation was also justified. Surely, in the same way that individuals have rights, society, as a national collective, also has rights that must be protected.

The Vybz Kartel case is a tragic one and represents one of the major shortcomings with which we, as a nation, must grapple, as we attempt to create a better space for all of us in this beloved land.

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