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No to night noise!

...whether church or party; uptown or downtown

Linton P
Gordon

Friday, November 08, 2019

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There is much talk these days about night noise and the Noise Abatement Act. Dancehall operators and entertainers, in general, are now holding the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) hostage as part of their demand to “free up noise making”. The operators, if left unbridled, will trample on the rights of all citizens and prevent us from enjoying peace and quiet in our homes.

The Noise Abatement Act is a fairly new piece of legislation. It came into being in 1997. The aim of laws and regulations pertaining to noise, which is a form of nuisance, is to ensure that all citizens coexist and cohabit in their communities and live as neighbours without one denying the other the right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of one's property.

To be fair to the dancehall operators, they are not the only ones who create noise nuisances to the disturbance of other citizens. There are churches that put up huge steel loud speakers and with these the pastor and other elders of the church shout so loudly to God that neighbours to these churches can get no peace while service is going on. These church operators are as guilty as the dancehall operators of denying their neighbour the right to peaceful enjoyment of their property. There are also construction sites where there is loud and continuous banging/explosion and equipment with large engines groaning and growling all day much to the annoyance and disturbance of citizens. There are also neighbours who keep dogs that bark constantly day and night. These are activities that also contribute to the noise nuisance.

Then there are groups of men and women who gather on the public road or in premises where there are rum bars and clubs playing dominoes, now known as “dead man game”. We Jamaicans bang the dominoes on the table and the game is conducted in a loud, boisterous, and jovial way which can disturb neighbours wanting to have a peaceful rest. There are also sports enthusiasts who will play football in the road or at nearby playing fields until late hours shouting, celebrating and enjoying themselves in a noisy way that is very disturbing, especially to senior citizens seeking a peaceful rest.

There are several instances in Jamaica when churches pitch tents in a community to host religious events. These tents are all opened at the sides and so the noise from the loud speakers, the singing, the shouting, and wailing in spirit constitute a cacophony of loud religious sound which assaults the ears of neighbours whether they wish to participate in the shouts and celebrations going on or not.

We must start with the basics and accept that any continuous loud noise that constitutes an annoyance and disturbance to our neighbour is a violation of that neighbour's right to peacefully, quietly and without any loud noise enjoy his/her home and or business place.

It is wrong to deny anyone the right to a peaceful sleep. It is, in my opinion, a greater wrong to deny senior citizens, schoolchildren, and babies the right to a peaceful and restful night by playing loud music in their ears.

Individuals who have to go to work early in the morning should have the right to retire to bed at their convenience and enjoy the length of sleep they need in order to awake the next day full of vim and vigour and ready for a new day of work. Noise producers are selfish, narrow-minded and arrogant in their demand that they should be able to play their music anyhow, anywhere and anytime. They have now resorted to political influence by using such threats as saying they will be telling citizens not to vote if they are not allowed to conduct themselves in a way that, in essence, is illegal.

One operator in Negril declared that outdoor music is a part of our culture. He would be more correct had he stated that tolerance of illegal activities and criminality are part of our culture. And it is this that has spawned the crime wave now sweeping the country.

The Government and the Opposition must firmly support law and order. The minister of national security cannot visit communities and support people having dances on the public road blocking the right of citizens to pass by. This is tolerating illegality and as long as we tolerate such activities we will never be able to maintain law and order in Jamaica.

Politicians must be honest, truthful and firm when dealing with all groups. Tell them it is illegal to take over the public road to host their activities. The rest of us cannot do so or the police will be down our throats. Why should dancehall promoters be allowed to do it? The operators of dancehall events, in using the public road, pay no rent, pay no maintenance cost, have no ablution facilities. They are allowed to make a profit using public property which the rest of us pay taxes for maintaining.

It is true that we have to find a way to ensure that everyone can make a living. In this regard, we have to accept that the pan chicken man, the cane man, and the mobile juice man all make money from dancehall. What we need to accept is that these activities need to be organised in compliance with the law, because to surrender to illegality and to water down the law is to invite lawlessness and oppression to property owners who make sacrifices to purchase their home and wish to have a peaceful and quiet time therein. The promoters of the dancehall events must market their programme to their clientele in ways that they will understand that they cannot turn up at the dance at 2:00 am, because by then it will be over.

Finally, many of the patrons to these dancehall events live in quiet, upscale communities where you dare not hold dancehall sessions. Why do they see persons downtown or in the poorer communities as ones who should not enjoy peace and quiet in their homes? There can be no dancehall events in their upscale communities.

Most of the citizens in the communities where dancehall sessions are held would love to have peace and quiet but are intimidated, and so they keep quiet and grunt and bear it. These citizens need the support and protection of the Government. If having dancehall session on the road of upscale Barbican is not permitted, it should not be allowed anywhere else in Jamaica. That is equality before the law.

The dancehall operators have representatives of both political parties (JLP and PNP) shaking in their boots. Let us see if we can encourage our political representatives to be strong, firm, and to act in the interest of the majority of us. If they wobble and bow down to the dancehall operators, law-abiding, hard-working citizens will not be able to enjoy the quiet comfort of their homes.

Linton P Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.


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