My principles are more important than the money or my title. — Muhammad Ali
Spanish American singer Enrique “Ricky” Martín Morales, once widely regarded as the king of Latin pop, had a big hit song called Livin’ la Vida Loca.For us in English that means living the crazy life. It spoke of a woman who was living a crazy life and who captured the heart of a man and pulled him into her mad life until he was worn out and went insane.
I dream of a song that tells the story of someone who’s living la vida principios (living a principled life). In my dream our whole nation of Jamaica would be drawn into the principled life until all were transformed and our island prospered.
Speaking of singing and songs, by the time you read this, Mark Anthony Myrie, AKA Buju Banton, recently released from USA prison, would have done his first concert, controversially dubbed Long Walk To Freedom Tour, at our National Stadium.
Undoubtedly an icon of reggae music, he is loved by thousands, as is evident by the large numbers slated for the concert and the hundreds coming in from around the world to attend. It’s all controversial because his arrest in 2009 and sentence of 10 years in prison was not because of the strong social commentary of his songs. It was not because he stood up for the rights of the poor and unfortunate. His incarceration was not because he led a rebellion in one of our bays. His arrest and imprisonment was because of cocaine.
British newspaper, The Guardian, wrote that Buju Banton had the “most eagerly awaited arrival in Jamaica since Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie touched down in April 1966…” That he was!
This very newspaper, in a news report dated December 7, 2019 and titled ‘Buju arrives in Jamaica’, reported that: “Scores of people…gathered outside the exit of the airport hoping to see the Grammy Award-winning singer…”
However, such welcoming enthusiasm was not shared by all. Minister of National Security Horace Chang cautioned against giving Buju “a hero’s welcome”. So what’s the correct principle that should be applied to Buju’s case. Should he, once again, be the people’s musical hero? Should his concerts be attended en masse? Does he have the moral authority to speak to us again through his music? Should he, once again, be glorified as one of our most significant and highly regarded musicians, like Bob Marley?
Noted editor-at-large of this newspaper H G Helps sat with former prime minister and lawyer P J Patterson. His view on the matter I find agreeable: “It’s not a question of glorification. He was convicted of a crime, he served his time. He wants to pursue his career in music. People found his message both compelling and alluring. As he himself said, ‘It’s not an easy road,’ so he is gone through a difficult part of the road,” Patterson stated. “Buju has paid his penalty; there is no reason to condemn him in advance of anything he would do in future life…” ( Sunday Observer, January 27, 2019)
My agreement with Patterson is not because of political alignment, or because of having similar views on legal matters and justice. It is because of a Bible principle found in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Can you imagine if we all embraced this forgiveness principle in this island nation of ours? There would be less negative family issues, such as divorces or separation, less repercussions from conflict, and perhaps much less crime and violence. Let’s live the principled life by applying the principle of forgiveness to our daily relationships.
The fact is Buju has completed what the just requirements of the law demanded. He served his time! Should he not now be free to move on with his life? I sincerely hope he has learned the vital lessons from his experience and has become a better man for it. Not to allow him to move on would surely be an injustice.
He must be allowed to turn a negative situation into a positive and come out a better, more learned human being.
Chief Justice Sykes’s address
As a nation we should be happy and applaud the efforts of the Government and Chief Justice Bryan Sykes to improve the justice system. His vision is for excellent courts, and the pillars on which that excellence stands are integrity (trial and hearing date certainty), efficiency (decreasing waiting time), and service (culture of service among staff and judges).
A close examination of Justice Sykes’s transformational approach indicates that he intends to make the adage “Justice delayed is justice denied” obsolete. He also intends to guide our court system to be the best in the region in three years, and the best in the world in six years. Let’s pray he sticks to his principles.
There is another side of the justice system I hoped he would have addressed but did not. There’s a common perception that in Jamaican courts the system works against the average working-class citizen and works in favour of the upper echelon. It is not seen as the people’s court for the interest and welfare of the people. It is seen as a tool of oppression as was used by our colonial masters to oppress us. This too must be transformed, Sykes. Maybe we need to move from the archaic concept of it being ‘Her Majesty’s Court’ to the more modern concept of ‘The People’s Court’. For, in principle, isn’t that what it is?
My friend and colleague Dr Myles Monroe, who passed away in 2014, said: “Everything in life is built on principles — plants, seas, birds, all of the natural elements of nature, they all follow and obey certain basic fundamental principles.” You and I would do well to understand that and live our lives accordingly. Let’s endeavour to choose principles that keep us on the road to prosperity.
Copyright © 2019 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.