Jamaica: Back to Court for Banton

Jamaican bloggers – nay, regional bloggers – have been following dancehall music icon Buju Banton‘s drug possession court case with great interest. Yesterday, news broke that the jury was evenly divided on what his fate should be. The judge has since declared a mistrial, which means that the singer will head back to court later this year.

On hearing the news, Girl With a Purpose admits that:

…a lot of Jamaicans, including myself, breathed a collective sigh of relief when the hung jury pronouncement was made, but we are still holding our breaths, slightly, until December.

The Wickedest Time says that even Banton himself seemed relieved:

It looks like the jurors can't decide because Buju Banton has to wait until December before he knows whether or not he will be charged in this massive drug case.

One good thing is that he may qualify for bail in the meantime.

Although, no one really knows what the outcome will be.. Buju seemed relieved when he heard about the new trial date!!

Repeating Islands reposts a mainstream media report confirming that the star's U.S. drug trial is the talk of Jamaica, “where islanders are debating his guilt or innocence on street corners, in offices, in letters to the editor and on social networking websites.” There is no doubt the singer has mobilised strong support from his fan base – there is even a website that has been set up to advocate for his freedom. Many conspiracy theories are floating around, including one claiming that Banton was set up by members of the international gay community as payback for his homophobic lyrics in past songs. (Banton signed a pledge a few years ago to desist from singing such songs again).

Banton's music career has had its fair share of controversy, but this latest imbroglio has done little to sway the loyalty of his fans. Annie Paul has been monitoring the Jamaican Twittersphere, which has been “on Buju watch”. Paul reposts some tweeple's opinions, noting that “things have generally been downhill ever since Buju was forced to meet with gay rights groups in San Francisco last October.” She adds:

I’ve never seen anything like this. As Buju Banton’s fate hangs in the balance the entire nation seems to be on tenterhooks. Will he be found guilty or innocent of conspiracy with intent to distribute five kilogrammes of cocaine? Radio stations are playing his songs and he is the trending topic everywhere you go. Last night i was at a surprise party for DJ Sanjay at the Mayfair Hotel and the subject inevitably came up. Everyone wanted him to be found innocent –whether he is or not–

On Twitter the person tweeting as Bruce Golding proclaimed:

@bruceJLP: #FreeBuju #TakeMe

Paul also links to a piece she published by Sarah Manley called “…the full has never been told”, explaining:

It’s full of insights into why Jamaicans feel so passionately about this mercurial, contentious singer.

Non-Jamaican bloggers, however, seem to be more willing/able to call a spade a spade. Barbadian diaspora blogger Jdid writes:

Let me start by saying mi love Buju to the max. Ask anybody he is by far and aways my favorite dancehall/reggae singer.

And so seeing as I have so much respect and admiration for the man's work and find so much of it inspirational (one day things must get better) it is hard for me to say this and nuff people wont agree but say it I shall.

Buju ya deserve jail!

I aint arguing bout whether ya guilty or not or whether its fair for you to be in jail I just saying ya deserve jail. Why? Well ya show a real lack of common sense by getting yaself into this situation.

Ya was complacent and ya should know better. I mean first off ya well know that nuff people dey in America naa like you. Nuff a dem still vex bout Boom Bye Bye and complain ya homophobic and would like nothing better than to be rid of ya so ya shoulda walk easy and know ya place star. If I was you once I land in America I would be acting like a veritable choir boy.

Still, there is no mistaking where his loyalty lies, as Jdid rounds off his post by saying:

But even though I say ya deserve it cuhdear I still hope ya get off though. I mean nuff odda people do worse hat you an walk so dem could gi you a ease too. Free the Banton!

Karel Mc Intosh, editor of Trinidad and Tobago's online magazine Outlish, lists some of the things she's learned from Buju Banton, summing up the situation this way:

Dey shoulda never hurt Buju, but Buju shoulda never hurt himself.

…He's been an inspiration, and a voice not just for Jamaicans, but also for people all over the world, who seek upliftment, peace, and positive vibes. This is why it pains me to see him this way… even if ‘he look for it’.

Let's hearken to the Buju of pre-December 2009, before his arrest. He was all about love, appreciation, and inspiration. Buju encouraged us to love ourselves, and accept nothing less than royal treatment. He taught us to ‘walk like a champion’. He made us believe we could fight oppression, and emerge victorious.

This is the Buju I love.

I'm like a woman who knows her man has done wrong, but still I refuse to disown him. It hurts to see Buju in this mess, albeit a situation he facilitated. However, I cling to his songs, which are so uplifting. I cling to the lyrics ‘I wanna rule my destiny’, ‘Jah Jah put an angel over me’, and ‘I know that the sun will come out tomorrow’. And amidst the clinging, I remember how easy it is to fall.

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