There are mixed views among various stakeholders about the rationale given by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith for his appearance on stage with Jamaican reggae icon Mark “Buju Banton” Myrie at the “I am Legend Concert” on Sunday, 24 hours after police raided Banton’s hotel room.
Griffith’s appearance on stage concert raised some eyebrows in several quarters. Following criticism on social media, Griffith released a statement saying his acceptance of Banton’s offer to appear on stage was to mitigate any negative effects from the raid and prevent a possible rift between Jamaica and T&T.
“To those who do not understand the acceptance of responsibility and patriotism, had I not done this, relations between both countries could have been severely affected; possible boycotts of our products and other private sector sanctions were also on the table,” Griffith said.
“If my actions affected some but it helped bridge the gap between our country and a close ally Jamaica, then I feel sorry for those who I may have hurt, however, I did what was needed to be done. In fact, I did not put myself on stage; Buju requested it.”
Addressing the issue, Charge d’Affaires at the Jamaican High Commission Delita McCallum, who was at the meeting between Banton and Griffith on Saturday night, said that all issues were sorted out.
“The commissioner came and he met with Mr Buju Banton and he made a public statement and I think the matter has been resolved. We don’t have any particular views on the matter. We met as a team and we resolved the issues and we’re confident things have been…normalised,” McCallum said told Guardian Media.
“We resolved it in a diplomatic manner…we were satisfied the matter had been resolved at that moment. We cannot speak to what transpired afterwards.”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also weighed in on the issue as he attended the annual Goat and Crab Races in Tobago, saying he believed Griffith handled the situation well.
But former director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies, Professor Anthony Bryan, said the premise of Griffith’s stage appearance was not entirely accurate as there aren’t any current tensions between the countries.
“There is no reason for any of that to happen. There are no suspended issues of disagreement between the two countries where you could be influenced by the fact that a reggae artiste had his room ransacked by mistake. It does not enter into the sphere of international relations at all,” Bryan said.
Communications and public relations expert Nicole Duke-Westfield, who was at the concert on Sunday and witnessed the CoP’s stage appearance, said she personally believed it to be a PR stunt to benefit both men.
“From my perspective, it seems as if it was a public relations attempt, not just by the Commissioner of Police, but...if I were managing Buju Banton’s reputation and if I were part of his marketing team and my artiste is embarking upon a global tour to re-establish himself around the world…it would certainly be to my benefit if an incident where his room was searched was subsequently put to bed by none other than the then police commissioner of police - the most senior person in the police service.”
However, the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) believes Griffith did the right thing.
In a Whatsapp message, TTMA president Franka Costelloe told Guardian Media: “…given the patriotic and proud nature of Jamaicans, this possible fall out from the raid on Mr Banton’s room is a distinct possibility. In this regard, we are thankful that this misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what transpired has been resolved in an appropriate and timely fashion and both parties have moved on from it.”
Costelloe said Jamaica remains a trading partner for T&T in the region and number one overall for all non-energy products.
“T&T not only views Jamaica as an important trading partner for exports, but we also import a significant amount of goods from Jamaica as well. Further investment flows between both countries are good, with lots of businesses from both countries investing.”
Presently, she said the relationship the countries share is courteous and “we do hope they would remain so and there would be no anti-Trinidad sentiments resulting in the faux pas with Buju Banton.”
TT Chamber of Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria also said he would have to give Griffith his support on the matter
“I know that in the past there have been issues between Trinidad and Jamaica primarily on the movement of people. Now just to be clear, this has happened years ago where some Jamaicans, under the CSME, might have been coming into Trinidad and they might have had some issues and that may have caused some negative publicity,” Faria said.
“However, I saw the commissioner’s statement and if he felt he needed to do it, I will give him the benefit of the doubt because it was based on more than just the trade issue.”