Min­is­ter Ram­jat­tan needs to pro­ceed with cau­tion on noise nui­sance and take ac­count of pre­vi­ous con­sul­ta­tive ini­tia­tives

Stabroek News - - STABROEK NEWS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, It has be­come rather com­mon­place these days for gov­ern­ment and rul­ing coali­tion of­fi­cials to make state­ments that serve no other pur­pose but to make Guyanese a laugh­ing stock.

“We want to take the profit out of this il­le­gal (noise nui­sance) ac­tiv­ity and that means ... we want to re­voke some of the li­censes of those bars that play loud mu­sic, mu­sic carts or huck­sters walk­ing down the street or cars of peo­ple or prob­a­bly it might be bet­ter to en­force the law by tak­ing away their equip­ment.”

These were the words of the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity, Khem­raj Ram­jat­tan when he ad­dressed re­cently a one-day sem­i­nar on noise man­age­ment.

Ap­par­ently, the Min­is­ter was ad­dress­ing noise nui­sance only in re­spect to loud, con­tin­u­ous and repet­i­tive mu­sic and not noise em­a­nat­ing from a me­chanic/ ma­chine shop, a car wash bay, or a bot­tom house join­ery in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood.

All the talk about “re­vok­ing li­censes of bars,” “tak­ing away equip­ment “and “tak­ing the prof­its out of this il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity“sounds bullish and com­bat­ive for all the wrong rea­sons. Counter-pro­duc­tiv­ity beck­ons.

The Min­is­ter must know that he should pro­ceed with care, cau­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion when is­su­ing gen­eral orders and di­rec­tion to the Guyana Po­lice Force to take ac­tion specif­i­cally in re­spect to noise nui­sance com­plaints whether in the tourism, en­ter­tain­ment, in­dus­trial or any other sec­tor for that mat­ter.

Com­plaints of a vex­a­tious na­ture ought not to be ruled out.

Mr Ram­jat­tan must know that be­fore the po­lice or any other law en­force­ment of­fi­cer pro­ceeds in the di­rec­tion he is sug­gest­ing, a re­port about loud, repet­i­tive and con­tin­u­ous mu­sic must have been lodged by a com­plainant at a nearby po­lice sta­tion.

Un­less a com­plaint is lodged at a po­lice sta­tion in the sta­tion dis­trict where the noise, whether in­dus­trial or mu­si­cal is re­ported, only on that ba­sis will the po­lice be able to act al­beit in a mat­ter cir­cum­scribed by a Mag­is­te­rial Or­der or a per­mit granted by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA).

More­over, as­sum­ing that the po­lice de­cide to act on the com­plaint, on ar­rival at the lo­ca­tion, the po­lice must ask those play­ing the mu­sic to pro­duce the or­der is­sued by the Dis­trict Mag­is­trate grant­ing per­mis­sion to play mu­sic be­tween the hours ap­plied for.

In any event, the po­lice in the con­cerned Sta­tion Dis­trict should have in their pos­ses­sion a copy of the Dis­trict Mag­is­trate’s Or­der lodged with them by the ap­pli­cant.

The mis­taken un­der­stand­ing by many that they must have a piece of pa­per called a ‘Po­lice Pass’ to play mu­sic at a wed­ding house or any other pub­lic func­tion is a non­sense and is wrong in law.

And pro­vided that the per­sons play­ing the mu­sic have in their pos­ses­sion a Mu­sic and Dance Li­cense granted by the Chief Fire Of­fi­cer it will be even more dif­fi­cult for the po­lice to in­ter­vene, much less seize their sound sys­tem, their pri­vate prop­erty thus im­ping­ing on their Con­sti­tu­tional rights.

In the case of noise nui­sance em­a­nat­ing from both in­dus­trial and sound sys­tems suc­cess­ful con­sul­ta­tions were held be­tween the then Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs, the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, the EPA, the Guyana Po­lice Force and the then At­tor­ney Gen­eral re­sult­ing in agree­ment be­ing reached on the roles of the Po­lice, the EPA, the Dis­trict Mag­is­trates as well as the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of Cit­i­zens, NDCs and other or­ga­niz­ers of pub­lic and pri­vate events where loud, con­tin­u­ous and repet­i­tive mu­sic or in­dus­trial noise was an­tic­i­pated.

This is pre­cisely why Mr Ram­jat­tan needs to pro­ceed with care, cau­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion lest he directs the po­lice to act fool­hardily and to bring the Force un­nec­es­sar­ily into dis­re­pute.

The Min­is­ter should take a leaf out of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment’s book whereby a ‘name and shame’ cam­paign was launched though no­tices pub­lished in the lo­cal me­dia fol­low­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Com­mu­nity Po­lice Groups and the Guyana Po­lice Force. That cam­paign was highly suc­cess­ful. More­over, the then Min­istry of Home Af­fairs had pub­lished in the lo­cal me­dia, an ad­vi­sory of­fer­ing ad­vice to the gen­eral pub­lic on steps to be taken should they wish to lodge a noise nui­sance com­plaint at a po­lice sta­tion or the EPA.

Many per­sons af­fected in­clud­ing se­nior cit­i­zens, wel­comed pub­li­ca­tion of the ad­vi­sory.

In ad­di­tion, the Min­istry fa­cil­i­tated pas­sage through the Na­tional Assem­bly of an amend­ment of the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle and Road Traf­fic Act to pro­hibit the play­ing of loud mu­sic in mini-buses and other means of pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

An agree­ment was reached be­tween the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs and the Gen­eral Minibus As­so­ci­a­tion in April 2009 stat­ing that `no am­pli­fi­ca­tion of sound is per­mit­ted, whether by way of power amps, tweet­ers, equal­iz­ers, boost­ers or any other means, in minibuses or hire cars’.

Minibus own­ers and taxi driv­ers com­plied much to the sat­is­fac­tion of the trav­el­ing pub­lic.

In re­spect to the in­volve­ment of the EPA to ad­dress in­dus­trial or mu­si­cal noise nui­sance is­sues, it is to be re­called that the EPA is pow­er­less since the agency never showed any in­cli­na­tion to es­tab­lish an en­force­ment arm to ar­rest and pros­e­cute nor to as­sist the po­lice in ar­rest­ing and pros­e­cut­ing al­leged per­pe­tra­tors.

In any event, a num­ber of laws would have to be amended if the GPF is to col­lab­o­rate with the EPA and be as­so­ci­ated with mea­sur­ing deci­bels. In­ter-agency meet­ings were held with a view to har­mo­niz­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions and for­mu­lat­ing draft leg­is­la­tion.

Though some progress was made the con­sul­ta­tions were not con­clu­sive.

As re­gards the is­sue of loud, con­tin­u­ous and repet­i­tive mu­sic be­ing played via mu­sic carts, the now dis­banded Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Law and Or­der (NCLO) held sev­eral rounds of dis­cus­sions on the mat­ter. Con­sul­ta­tions were held be­tween the NCLO and the pro­pri­etors of mu­sic carts at the au­di­to­rium of St. Stanis­laus Col­lege.

Agree­ment was reached to reg­u­lar­ize mu­sic cart ven­dors by hav­ing them be­come li­censed as Huck­sters; that des­ig­nated lo­ca­tions be iden­ti­fied for the op­er­a­tors to vend their goods rather than have them tra­verse the streets and block traf­fic with their carts; that the ven­dors would wear a uni­form and fi­nally, it was agreed to re-de­sign the carts in such a way that they would be out­fit­ted with head­phones for use by cus­tomers when pur­chas­ing cd’s.

Cap­tain Gerry Gou­veia, the Pri­vate Sec­tor Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Com­mis­sion was se­lected as its plenipo­ten­tiary to meet with the mu­sic cart ven­dors to fol­low-up and bring clo­sure to the mat­ter.

Some own­ers of mu­sic carts com­plied while oth­ers re­sisted and had to be en­gaged on an on-go­ing ba­sis.

While de­sirous of ap­pear­ing strong and us­ing the heavy hand of law en­force­ment, the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity should con­sider the above men­tioned ‘softer’ an­tecedents which sug­gest a much more con­sul­ta­tive and in­clu­sive ap­proach with stake­hold­ers to ad­dress noise nui­sance, a mat­ter of pub­lic in­ter­est.

Yours faith­fully, Cle­ment Ro­hee

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