Denial of a work permit for Sizzla led to the cancellation of his concert here last Friday.
Kerry Nixon, deputy chief Immigration officer, said a work permit was refused based on the artist’s controversial lyrics and stage performance, which have openly incited acts of violence against certain members of the public. She added that Immigration took into account the fact that he has been banned from performing elsewhere.
The boycott of some Jamaican artists started in November 2004, when a concert featuring Sizzla was cancelled after pressure from the gay rights group Outrage!, which said he advocated killing lesbians and gay men.
Promoter of the concert, Stop Da Violence, disagrees with the decision.
‘The promoters strongly disagree with the decision of the Immigration Department to refuse a work permit to this internationally recognised musician,’ said promoter Hailond Nottage via a press release. ‘Sizzla has performed here before and we don’t understand what the problem is. We had verbal approval from Immigration that a work permit would be granted.’
Not so, said Ms Nixon. She said Immigration had not said to event promoters that a work permit would be granted for Sizzla. Ms Nixon said that the permit was denied on Thursday, 27 July, the day prior to the concert, and that the event was promoted before an application was received.
Reggae artist Sizzla, whose career has recently been marred in controversy from the gay community, has released 25 albums in the last 10 years and is frequently credited with returning dancehall music to its reggae roots.
According to a report from the BBC, the singer served 15 days in prison in 2005 after he consistently swore during a concert in St. Thomas, Jamaica, in January 2005, despite warnings by police.
The promoter’s press release states the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association sanctioned the concert in a letter to immigration.
‘We don’t refuse or allow any artist to perform,’ said CMEA President Mr. Clive Rosting. ‘We are just one of the sources that advise Immigration on artists as we are more likely to know about the artist than immigration.
‘We supplied to Immigration what we knew about Sizzla. If we find or know of anything alarming about an artist we would let Immigration know. It is up to Immigration to follow up and make the decision.’
Ms Nixon said CMEA supported the concert.
‘We did receive a letter from CMEA. Their letter said that they had no objection to the concert, however the CMEA’s decision to sanction an event does not mean we had to approve it,’ she said. ‘I do not know what CMEA’s criteria is, however I had to follow up with my own research.’
The event was planned to feature veteran reggae artist Sugar Minott and was to be in aide of the Stop the Violence campaign and the Bonaventure Boys Home and the Francis Bodden Girls Home.