DPP Llewellyn gives performers legal preservation advice
Patrick 'Tony Rebel' Barrett chose Paula Llewellyn, director of public prosecutions (DPP), as guest speaker at last Thursday's 2019 Rebel Salute launch at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. The prominent litigator is not a moonlighting musician, nor is she engaged with the entertainment fraternity beyond being one of the first to hit a dance floor. Rebel found it necessary to spotlight her perspective in light of dancehall and reggae stars deviating from accepted social norms, then being locked behind bars.
According to the DPP, the festival principal's motivation was ensuring his colleagues understand that no one is above the law. "I say to you, as any politician or public figure would know, with great power comes responsibility. You have to be responsible for the choices that you make. Both the police and myself have a responsibility to you. We have to do our job, cost it what it will," Llewellyn said.
As such, especially considering the incarceration of Ninja Man and Vybz Kartel, and Buju Banton's recent return, Llewellyn pushed the conversation about Rebel Salute's theme, 'The Preservation of Reggae', beyond just recognising Jamaica as reggae music's source. "I would like the preservation of reggae to also include an acknowledgement that with this awesome gift with the awesome power - you must have recognition that responsibility must be intermingled there. That responsibility means you have to be careful, not careless, as a practitioner and exemplar of what being a reggae ambassador is all about," she said.
Llewellyn recalled her first interface with an entertainer and criminal law. "As a young prosecutor, I was assigned to prosecute the Night Nurse man himself, Gregory Isaacs. Here it was ... But I love his music!" she said.
At the time, she didn't know the real interpretation of his intoxicating classic hit song, but she was familiar with the singer. "When he entered the courtroom, I saw the aura of this very talented musician. The split screen we have to have ... One side said, 'Oh my goodness, he's so cool - the way he walks, talks'. The other side, 'This is the evidence; this is what the statements are saying, this is the case that I have to project," Llewellyn said.
Represented by K. Churchill Neita, Isaacs was found not guilty by a jury. "Notwithstanding that, I continued to enjoy his music - to this day. I think he has always been one of Jamaica's greatest talents," she said.
Llewellyn also recalled being approached by a pair of waitresses, who implored her to free Adidjah 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer. Though she explained the situation and they appeared to understand, it prompted the DPP to seriously consider the dilemma a few talented musicians are in - that they misunderstand the power of their influence.
"What we say in the music can be so powerful. Whether you like it or not, as a musician you have the facility to get in to the DNA of everyone and anyone, especially young people. You have great talent. Great power that comes with it - to access and influence so many people. Be careful that you not only nurture your talent, but allow yourself to be mentored by persons who will help you to make the right choices. When you make a wrong choice, the fact that you have an awesome talent cannot necessarily save you. Sometimes it does, but there will come a time when you will drop off the cliff," she said.