The letter of the law vs the spirit?
ONE?CAN?HARDLY?CHALLENGE LEGALLY the newly enforced requirement of an entertainment licence. After all, the licence was a requirement since 1985, as Acting Chief Town Planner George Browne has made clear.
It’s just that it didn’t seem to be carried out anywhere – given the outcry by promoters in the last week. The sudden application, as it were, put a number of Crop Over fetes in jeopardy.
But the clinical Mr Browne of the Town & Country Development Planning Office doesn’t quite grasp why there would be any shock about the need for entertainment promoters to have a licence as stipulated under the Public Entertainment Act.
As far as he is concerned, “the public entertainment licence is a requirement of value added tax – VAT – under the Public Entertainment Act, Cap 85A, which came into existence on April 1, 1985”.
We make no attempt, like some promoters affected, to bludgeon the Acting Chief Town Planner, or his boss Mr Mark Cummins, or the Town Planning Department for carrying out the law as originally intended, but we do have questions about its timing.
It cannot be fair – least of all, comfortable – for promoters accustomed for years to a modus operandi in respect of public parties and shows to have this stipulation – though legal – thrown in their laps or their faces with obviously no proper notice.
Can it be by whim and fancy that an individual or group could just invoke this regulation in the law related to public entertainment, and let the devil take the hindmost? Surely, we boast superior governance.
It simply is not kosher that promoters should have learnt only in days that they first needed to obtain an entertainment licence prior to staging events.
Mr Browne suggested that the public entertainment licence was a requirement of VAT under the 1985 Public Entertainment Act, though VAT did not come into existence until January 1, 1997. We proffer that it ever fell under the ambit of the Comptroller of Customs.
That as it may be, if we are indeed serious about a controversy-free Crop Over, the Comptroller of Customs or the Minister of Finance might consider a waiver or deferral of these public entertainment licence fees for the period ending August 31, offering continued smoothness of the festival, and affording all sides a comfortable shoo-in to the new system of licensing that is obviously rooted in law.
Let us consider the spirit of it all.