FREED reggae artiste Buju Banton has been given a resounding vote of confidence by retired Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Jamaica Observer last week, Patterson, who launched the book My Political Journey, which chronicles his life up to when he retired as Jamaica’s sixth prime minister in 2006 following a 13-year unbroken stretch as Jamaica’s number one policymaker, said that Buju Banton had committed the crime, served the time, and should now be encouraged to prepare for life afterwards.

Buju (registered name Mark Anthony Myrie) returned to Jamaica last December 7 after serving almost seven years and five months of a 10-year and one-month sentence in a Georgia, USA prison for cocaine trafficking. The 45-year-old will be hosting his first major concert on March 16, controversially dubbed Long Walk To Freedom — a direct relation to the title of South African great Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom published in December 1994, which highlighted, among other things, Mandela’s early life and his 27 years spent in prison on treason charges.

Put to Patterson that there existed a school of thought that Buju, as a convict, was being glorified by vast sections of the Jamaican landscape, the former president of the People’s National Party, chanted dissimilar sentiments.

“It’s not a question of glorification. He was convicted of a crime, he served his time. He wants to pursue his career in music. People found his message both compelling and alluring. As he himself said It’s not An Easy Road, so he is gone through a difficult part of the road,” Patterson stated.

“Buju has paid his penalty; there is no reason to condemn him in advance of anything he would do in future life. Certainly, when one reads all the evidence of the case it’s very clear that he succumbed to an inducement that he should have avoided. I think he himself would recognise that,” said Patterson, an eminent attorney-at-law who many believe did not show his true worth and potential in the courtroom because of the over 40 years that he spent in active Jamaican politics.

Jamaicans, Patterson thinks, should give the reggae singer the space to reshape his life and career, so that he can again become a positive influence on the Jamaican society.