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Chukka rejects notion that like Rick’s Cafe, it is in breach


MONTEGO BAY, St James — Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Jamaica’s largest attraction, with nearly 1,000 employees, says it rejects any notion that it has been violating or operating contrary to the country’s Disaster Risk Management Act.

Chukka’s concern stems from the furore surrounding the highly publicised controversial party at Negril’s Rick’s Caf on Wednesday, May 26, and the fact that some of the said guests visited the company’s (Chukka) Ocean Outpost in Sandy Bay, Hanover, on May 28.

“We are an attraction that does tours in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean,” stated Patrick Dunn, safety, standards and environment manager at Chukka.

“We know that the situation at that entity in Negril has caused a lot of national attention… but that has nothing to do with us. We do pre-book tours where all our guests follow all the protocols and health and safety guidelines outlined by our local health and enforcement agencies.”

Dunn said that the company also welcomed the fact that the police, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and also the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) were on hand for inspection, adding that “we are cognisant that the larger than usual enforcement officers we are seeing here on property has to do with that incident in Negril…but we have nothing to hide.”

He added that while the numbers at the Sandy Bay attraction on Friday were higher than what has been happening since COVID- 19, it wasn’t or should not be considered unusual, noting that “This is the norm as it relates to tours…this is what we do…today is no different in what we do. We follow all the protocols and as you see…our guests also adhere to the rules.”

Dunn said that his company was aware that there were “mischievous persons using social media” to sully the name of Chukka, adding that “we are a part of the resilient corridor and we are and have always been a company that respect the law…and work within the law.

“A visit to any of our properties on any given day will show the true nature of our operations,” he added. “We know how easy it is for persons to want to sensationalise and create mischief…that’s par for the course. We, however, know that the facts are on our side and that we will continue to operate as a tour company and a valuable contributor to the tourism product.”

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie on Thursday revealed that Rick’s Caf has been ordered closed for seven days after hosting Mocha Fest, which has led to Jamaicans accusing the authorities of double standard over the staging of entertainment events in breach of COVID-19 regulations.

“Under the powers available to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management [ODPEM], Rick’s Caf is now closed for seven days. The police and the ODPEM monitoring team will ensure that the closure order is enforced, and the management of Rick’s Caf has been summoned to a meeting with the ministry and ODPEM for Monday,” McKenzie said.

The operators of the establishment have since expressed regret and apologised for hosting the now controversial event.

“It is well known that entertainment activities of this type have been banned by order since March last year when COVID-19 arrived in the country. The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation did not permit this event to occur, and indeed, no municipal corporation has issued permits for events since last year,” McKenzie said, while acknowledging the apology.

The seven-day closure is in addition to the TPDCo withdrawing Rick’s Caf’s COVID-19 compliance certification with immediate effect due to the violation, which McKenzie said “…has caused outrage and evoked feeling of biased and differential application of the law”.

“I want to make it clear that no preferential treatment is being given by the Government,” McKenzie added.

“There are no two Jamaicas. The police are dealing with this incident, which has been captured on video, and I wish to remind everyone that these breaches carry significant fines, which include the maximum $1 million and up to a year in prison on conviction.”

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