Jamaican dancehall artist, Earlan Bartley, who is better known as Alkaline, landed in Belize yesterday for a concert in Cayo and Dangriga. He's supposed to be the next big headline event for the 20th Night. But, tonight, the concert is in jeopardy because of a late move to pull the venue.
The concert was scheduled to be held at Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio. That's a Catholic run school, and Alkaline's often outrageous, violent and sexually explicit lyrics caught the ear of the Catholic Church in Belize.
Today, a Press Release was sent from the office of Bishop Dorick Wright and the Catholic Diocese of Belize City and Belmopan.
In the release, the Bishop strongly condemned the decision to have such a concert on the grounds of a catholic school, calling it, quote, "...a serious error in judgement." End quote.
He continues on to explain the reasons for his strong disagreement. The statement says, quote.
"A cursory investigation on the internet reveals how shocking (even by today's standards) is this artist's music lyrics and on-stage lewd behavior....He has been banned from performing on some Caribbean islands and should have no place in our Christian Nation of Belize. This concert represents a departure from everything we in the Church hold as good, wholesome and sacred. Sacred Heart College must not promote such rank hedonism." End quote
The Bishop's statement continues, quote, "...It is of the general public's concern and in the best interest of our youth that this said event be opposed by parents. As the Bishop charged with the duty of shepherding the families of our Nation, I am sounding a call to all parents to forbid your children from attending this event. This artist's performance will certainly impact your children's innocence and spiritual wholeness in a very negative way. May the people of San Ignacio and Belize be aware of what is coming to our shores." End Quote
This evening, the Bishop authorized his attorney argue an ex-parte interim injunction to stop the concert from being held at Sacred Heart. It happened just an hour before news time, and 7News was there. Here's what Michel Chebat told us:
Michel Chebat, attorney
"It is an application by the Roman Catholic Church of Belize and the application is geared at preventing Alkaline's concert at the Sacred Heart college grounds. As you all may be aware, in the church's view this artist does not reflect the morals and values of the Catholic Church. It is allege that this gentleman is involve with satanic worship, his lyrics are lewd. I would say to you that somebody like that should not be allowed to even enter into Belize. He is not somebody that we want our youth to be exposed and so thankfully the court has seen that and the court has granted a temporary injunction preventing the concert. We are to return tomorrow morning at 10am for an interparty hearing where the promoters will get an opportunity for the court to hear them if they so wish."
Isani Cayetano, Ch5
"One of the questions is why at a last minute, at the eleventh hour; would the Catholic Church decide to forward this particular request?"
"This has just been brought to the bishop's attention and it is the bishop who has mandated and has instructed me to proceed to obtain the injunction. As you all are aware, the Roman Catholic Church is the proprietor of Sacred Heart College and in that light he is the ultimate authority over that school and he has so exercised his authority today."
"This might be seen or taken as a publicity stunt. Any sort of publicity is good publicity even though it is bad; it might boost ticket sales for the artist. How do you respond to those who say that the church has bought into that game and they have allowed Mr. Alkaline more attention than he wouldn't have got, had you not taken this step?"
"I think your comment is a fair comment. We would hope that people out there who are looking and listening and who have done the research on Alkaline would know exactly what it is that he represents and would stop their children from attending this concert. Certainly we don't want our kids to be exposed to this kind of a person."
This comes as a major blow to the promoters, who've promoting the concert at Sacred Heart for some weeks now. This evening, we got one of those promoters on the phone. He told us that Sacred Heart's management signed contracts, and the Catholic Church shouldn't be allowed to break that written agreement:
Martin Castillo, Promoter
"I'm in process of talking to my lawyer and see what the possibilities are and from there I will make a step whereby we have to meet the demands of the people. We have to meet the demands of what everybody has been waiting for, the baddest artist Alkaline. I am going now to the school party, like I said I've been in Belmopan all day trying to get my working permit whereby I've been granted before my temporary working permit and I've been pushed around. I want the Belizean people know that I've been pushed around for 5 hours for a working permit that I already have the temporary working permit sign for."
"You are talking about working permit for Mr. Alkaline right?"
Martin Castillo, Promoter
"Now that the church has made this move, do you intend to try to fight tomorrow in court to get that venue as was planned?"
Martin Castillo, Promoter
"Like I said I am going to be in process of talking to my lawyer and see what the possibilities are. We have paid, we have talk to the directors, the president the space from the time we did this months ago. They wanted a detail description of what this artist present and we explain to them in copies that we sent to them via email that we have as evidence. The contract was sign doing for the venue on the certain dates that we mention. They had a meeting and we discuss everything with them on the phone via my representative that's been here and they were fine with it. As what have been transpired within the 2-3 days I really have not been checking into it as I just landed yesterday, so that's the thing we are looking into now. Like I said I will proceed with the proper procedures to make this show go on."
Alkaline has faced this sort of tough criticism before when his work permit was revoked on the small Caribbean island of Nevis, which makes up half of St. Kitts and Nevis. Caribbean News reports say that no less than the Prime Minister of that country, Premier Vance Armory, voiced his objection to Alkaline being allowed to perform in St. Kitts and Nevis.
But when Nevis blocked him from performing in July. Eventually, under protest he was granted permission to perform and after that experience, he spoke with an entertainment company, called Mada-road. Here's what he had to say, in July, about resistance to have him perform.
Alkaline and his attorneys have the option to fight the injunction in court tomorrow at 10 a.m., and the promoter told us that he will explore all options.