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Apr 12, 2022

Buju Banton Addresses Gang Members

Jamaican dancehall and reggae artist Buju Banton arrived in Belize on Monday as a special guest of Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow. The internationally acclaimed musician is not in the Jewel to perform, he is simply here for rest and relaxation. He arrived, nonetheless, at a critical time, in the wake of a violent weekend that saw as many as five murders being recorded over a four-day period. With the scourge of gang violence continuing unabated, the Leader of the Opposition reached out to his parliamentary colleague, Kareem Musa, who is the Minister of Home Affairs to convene a discussion with various street figures from across Belize City. This morning, they descended on Old Belize where they met with Banton. Isani Cayetano has our first story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Widely considered one of the most significant and well-regarded artists in Jamaican music, dancehall legend Buju Banton, who is visiting Belize, used his influence as an acclaimed Caribbean voice to reach out to gang members across the city. This morning, dozens of young men from various neighborhoods gathered inside the Jungle Pavilion at Old Belize for a candid discussion on crime and violence.


Buju Banton

Buju Banton, Jamaican Musician

“It was a coming together of the young minds who are basically out there needing guidance, hope, trying to understand, seeking to understand from their perspective what’s going on in their minds. How do they see themselves being a change and the change that they want to see? How do they see themselves being stakeholders in this great country, as opposed to furthering or fostering part of a ruined nation for this great nation?”


What is interesting is the appearance that this most recent attempt involves both major political parties to address the issue of criminality.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs

“I definitely see this as a bipartisan effort [that] this administration has implemented, and you won’t see the dividends now. That’s what I think everybody wants to see answers and solutions now and results now, but this is a work in progress.”


It can be argued, however, that such a dialogue, or meeting of the minds, as it were, has been held repeatedly, to no fruitful outcome.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Shadow Minister, National Security

“I am not a big fan of these meetings. I’ve never supported them in the past because I believe that nothing really comes out of them, but I really wanted to have a say to the influencers today, in the streets, as we believe they are, in the presence of Minister Musa and my party leader, Shyne, that listen, we want to hear some solutions. The presence of a person we all know, Buju Banton, hopefully that would have gotten their attention, but in the presence of all of them, I let them know, from my perspective, that you cannot negotiate with guns in your hands.”


It is a firm position that is being taken by former Minister of National Security Mike Peyrefitte.  It’s also a similar stance being taken by Commissioner of Police Chester Williams who was noticeably absent from the gathering.  But his political boss accepted the invitation and has joined the effort.


Kareem Musa

“I would want to characterize this engagement in several ways; one, no doubt it’s not lost on anybody the power and the influence that somebody like Buju Banton can have, especially on the lives of our young men from Belize City. And so, it certainly was a surreal exchange but at the same time a very real and a very raw exchange.”


Absent the peering lens of video cameras and recording equipment, participants bluntly spoke about the challenges that they are faced with in their respective communities. In Jamaica, young men who are also disenfranchised are facing the same social obstacles.


Buju Banton

“The similarities are stark, you know, poverty is everywhere, hopelessness is everywhere, but we don’t come to dwell on that because I come from poverty and I come from a place of no hope but I rose above these two elements that are manmade, you understand, because you might be poor in material things but you are rich in your spirit which allows the universe to make you happy.”


It is the kind of conversation that, according to William Dawson, emphasizes the need to develop and strengthen the skills and abilities of these young men.


William Dawson

William Dawson, Director, Leadership Intervention Unite

“I can tell you that the conversation was started by Buju, with the guys, with a question. He asked them what the issue is, what is the reason why they are killing each other and many of the guys didn’t seem to be able, as usual, to answer that question. But more so, he did not want to dwell on what the issues are but wanted to know what is their solution to the problem and I think that’s where the conversation got heated and I think the greatest takeaway from all of this is that there needs to be a higher level of capacity building with our guys in terms of leadership.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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