Editorial

Be not weary in well doing, Mr Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Just to be clear, we are very supportive of reggae artiste Mr Orville “Shaggy” Burrell and the critical philanthropic work he has been doing at the beleaguered Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.

A report in another newspaper recently claimed that, despite handing over a symbolic cheque for $100 million last year, the international superstar's Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation had failed to deliver on a promise to purchase beds for the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital.

The report did not give reasons for the delay, which, in our corruption-prone society, triggered wild speculation about the fate of the funds raised from the 2018 staging of the biennial Shaggy & Friends concert.

Not unexpectedly, Mr Burrell has had to explain himself to officials at Disney, the American mass media and entertainment conglomerate, which was behind his breakthrough participation in The Little Mermaid Live, which was aired on US network television ABC on November 5, three days after the report.

He was also forced to defend his honour and credibility at a press conference at which he disclosed that the money — all $112,205,019.06 — was still in a Scotiabank account as he had always said it was.

Mr Burrell has explained that the foundation's policy is never to hand over money to the hospital. Instead, he and his wife, Rebecca, have always obtained a needs list from the institution, sourced the items, purchased and then imported them into the island.

However, in this instance, they found that the money amassed was not enough to purchase the beds for the ICU and were waiting to raise more funds. They will now make an exception and turn over the funds to the hospital for the construction of a sorely needed ward — a three-storey, 150-bed facility.

Despite this move, we encourage Mr Burrell to remain vigilant regarding how the funds are being spent. The hospital owes him and the nation full disclosure, in the same way that it was being demanded of him and his team.

Let us make it clear that nothing is wrong with people asking questions about funds that are publicly raised. But this should be done without leaving the impression that something untoward has taken place.

So far, no incriminating evidence has been forthcoming, and we hope that the investigative work that should have preceded such apparently spurious claims would now be pursued to unearth who or what was behind this terrible fiasco.

The fallout from such irresponsible acts can be extremely costly, not only to an artiste — who has risen from the sprawling slums of Rae Town, Jamaica to the dizzying heights achieved by Mr Burrell — but also to the resource-starved children's hospital.

Mr Burrell must be feeling hard done by after all the work he has put in to assist the lone paediatric facility on the island. Millions of dollars in equipment has been procured for into the hospital, possibly saving hundreds of lives, thanks to his benevolence.

We are, therefore, heartened by Mr Burrell's pledge, even amidst the turmoil, to donate his earnings from The Little Mermaid Live to his favourite charity. It is clear that his heart is still in the right place — with the children of Jamaica.


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