By Tiffany Taylor, STAR Writer
(JAMAICA STAR) — “I wish coronavirus would stay. It’s the first I’ve ever experienced such peace and quiet in nine years!”
These are the words of Michael Williams, president of the Hope Pastures Citizens’ Association, who is concerned that the re-opening of the entertainment sector could bring disturbance.
“There are families with children that report since COVID-19 this is the first time that they can sleep without earplugs,” Williams said.
He noted that his association has written numerous letters to stop events at Hope Gardens as residents were being terrorised with noise nuisances. “Nothing stopped them until the COVID pandemic,” he said.
The entertainment sector was ordered shut down by the Government in March as part of a move to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, after much lobbying from players in the sector, local government minister Desmond McKenzie announced a phased reopening of the sector, beginning with small outdoor events like round-robins and festivals as of July 21.
Williams, who has been strident in his opposition to events being held at Hope Gardens, said he hopes no permit is granted for the staging of parties at the venue.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic curfews, we welcomed sounds of silence when we could quietly enjoy our own music and for the first time in years, hear the beautiful sounds from the zoo animals or the chirping of the birds. Prior to this we were made sick and forced to bear the booming boisterous noises from the parties that have been allowed at the Hope Zoo and the Royal Hope Botanical Gardens,” Williams said.
“We, the residents of the Hope Gardens, are very upset with the entertainment provisions. Plus the minister was too early in announcing a reopening of the sector,” said Williams, while adding that McKenzie should have specified the zones in which entertainment events should be held.
“There are a lot of places parties can be held instead. They can go out by the road that leads to Port Royal, they can go downtown, there are so many places,” said Williams.
Like Williams, Roger McKenzie, president of the Eastwood Park Citizens’ Association, is not very happy about the announced reopening as he fears that it will lead to a resumption of disturbances in his residential community.
He said that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) has been ignoring the complaints of residents, and has been granting permits for events to be held in the area.
“They need to get the entertainment sector under proper rules and regulations,” he said. McKenzie said that the Government should invest in entertainment centres so the sound system operators, party promoters “and people who enjoy the so-called inner-city culture can go and enjoy themselves without causing any noise and disturbances for those who do not partake in their culture”.
The Eastwood Park Citizens’ Association has long lobbied against the staging of events as well as the presence of certain businesses in the area. McKenzie said that petition was sent to the KSAMC and the police, but it has not been acknowledged.
“I believe that the mindset of the KSAMC, the culture that presides there, is a reflection of where they came from out of society. It reflects a very peasant mindset,” he said.
Meanwhile, Williams said that he is aware of the economic value of the entertainment sector, but argues that parties should not be held in a residential area, and in such close proximity of the zoo.
“There are occasions when parties are held and it is too loud for the animals, and they are unsettled. Parties are being held in Liguanea (and that) is too close,” said Williams.
In May, Entertainment and Culture Minister Olivia Grange said that the sector had taken a $26-billion hit due to the lockdown.
Williams said that the citizens’ association is prepared to go to court to bar the municipal authorities from granting permits for the staging of events at Hope Gardens.