Consensus needed to solve noise pollution, says PM
Jamaica Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness says in order for Jamaica to get over the issue of public order that there has to be consensus among all stakeholders. He was speaking at the Young Jamaica Area Council One Conference at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew on Saturday (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Saturday said that Jamaica's issue of noise pollution in communities is a public disorder concern which will require consensus among all stakeholders if the country should ever move towards solving this matter.

"The point I am making is that the public order issues have some deep-rooted social and cultural issues which become political issues as well. Because if you talk up about it, a man go write a song bout you and say you a fight poor people — by the way not recognising that the noise pollution is also affecting the poor people," Holness said during his address on Saturday to the Young Jamaica Area Council One Conference at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew.

"There are [people] who bought their houses 50 years ago when those communities were first established. They had pre-existing rights before someone who would come in and set up a little something, bring in the big speaker boxes, and play music that is just vibrating the people's houses — and they can't sleep in peace. And then, when you go to them about it they say a fight you a fight them," Holness said.

Prime Minister Holness was responding to concerns raised by Councillor Kari Douglas (JLP, Trafalgar Division) regarding the issue of "night noise nuisance" across her division. Though Douglas did not specify what communities are being affected by this noise pollution, the councillor stated that the Government needs to find a solution as more business opportunities are being developed in these mixed-use communities.

"PM Holness, there is a big issue in my division. We have a serious night noise nuisance issue and I think what it also tells is that we have to look at how we balance the desires, the lifestyles of our young people with the lifestyles of our senior constituents and our senior members of society," Douglas said on Saturday.

She continued, "What is happening is that the residents had made an investment some 30 or 40 years ago, and the new business owners and the clubs that are emerging have just come along. And honestly, it is not in our Administration; most of them actually emerged prior to this Administration and now are creating a noise nuisance that we and our Administration have to address."

Earlier this year Douglas told the Jamaica Observer her cellphone is regularly flooded with calls and messages from New Kingston residents who either complain about the noise nuisance or impassable streets. At the time, she said the police were moving with alacrity to address the problem and issuing warnings to people who failed to comply.

"Anywhere between 11:00 pm right up to 3:00 am, my phone rings off the hook. Messages come in from New Kingston residents complaining about the nuisance from noise and on-street parking that sometimes causes congestion. There is a police team in place dealing with the enforcement and I am pleased so far that we have been reaping success," she said then.

Moreover, stressing the need for a consensus to be had among stakeholders, Holness stated that the issue of noise pollution should not be seen as a political one, but simply "that noise is a pollutant" which can affect everyone.

"What it means for us as a country, to get over this public order issue that we have, is that there has to be consensus. So I am saying to this generation of young politicians — and it should have been said to my generation as well — democracy is not 'Majority rules'. The hallmark of democracy is that the minority voice can still be heard and given respect too, and so for us to be able to make real progress in our country we need to take some issues out of the political space and have consensus on them," implored Holness.

He continued, "In other words, so that it doesn't become a political auction…who can promise the most, we need to have a similar process of consensus-building around this business of public order. So the entertainment community, the business community, [and] the homeowners, there has to be an understanding that noise is a pollutant. And in the same way you don't want smoke or effluent going into your environment, it is the same way we don't want uncontrolled noise disrupting your peace."

The prime minister further pointed out that enlisting the help of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is also not enough to solve this deeply rooted cultural issue.

"It can't be simply a matter of enforcement because what happens without the consensus is that we are setting up the JCF to become 'Babylon'. All the stakeholders need to agree that there are zones that are prescribed in law as entertainment zones — and not just prescribed in law and left alone, but the Government needs to invest in those spaces," the prime minister argued.

Acknowledging that this social issue has passed through many generations of politicians, Holness noted that there is a fear that tackling it will result in the Government becoming "unpopular".

"I am raising the issue of the social underpinning and the cultural underpinning of the public disorder issues that we have. Unfortunately for us, we have not been strong enough…the governments have not been strong enough to treat with these matters because of the fear that they could become unpopular, that there is a certain element of the society that controls the minds of the youth who could carry this false narrative that somehow the Government is trying to box food out of your mouth; whilst the person who have their little house for how long, they don't have that political organisation to be strong enough, though it is growing and we are seeing them bring pressure on the Government as well," said Holness.

BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON Observer staff reporter claytonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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