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Elton John World News: Elton Required a Special Permit For Jazz Fest

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Thursday 10 May 2007 @ 15:12 - GMT

Sir Elton had to be granted a special permit to enter Trinidad and Tobago for last month's CL Financial Plymouth Jazz Festival because the pop star is openly gay, the Express has disclosed.

This was based on a recommendation by Chief Immigration Officer Herman Browne.

A storm of controversy, brewed mainly by religious heads who objected to his alternative lifestyle, had followed the announcement that John was scheduled to perform at the jazz fest.

The uproar made headlines around the world and even led to Tobago being parodied on the music video channel VH1.

A group of Tobago-based pastors referred to Section 8 (E) of the Prohibition Class of the Immigration Act, which states that the following should not be allowed on local shores:

"...Prostitutes, homosexuals or persons living on the earnings of prostitutes or homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these and any other immoral purposes..."

At last Friday's Crime Consultation at the Signal Hill Secondary Comprehensive School in Tobago, National Security Minister Martin Joseph disclosed that a "special permit" had been granted to the entertainer.

Browne noted that the permit was issued at his behest.

"It was a recommendation that came from the Chief Immigration Officer. There was a lot of public controversy surrounding the whole thing, so it was just a judgment call on my part," he said.

"I wanted to allay the fears of the promoters so I gave them an advanced assurance. No promoter wants to find out the day before a concert that the singer can't enter the country."

Browne said a special permit can be granted to any person for a purpose.

Elton's permit stated only that the vocalist was to be allowed to enter the country at that time and for the purpose of performing.

It made no reference to his sexual orientation.

Elton actually spent less than four hours in Tobago, two of which were onstage at the jazz festival.

"All's well that ends well," Browne said. "He came, he performed and he left."

Local group Friends for Life, advocates for equal opportunities for all citizens, have criticised what they termed an "archaic" law.

"Sir Elton John came and left and nothing happened to the country besides a great performance," said Luke Sinnette of Friends for Life.

"It's an archaic adoption of a colonial law that does not apply to current times, it's basic discrimination. The country we adopted the law from has changed their laws, so shouldn't we?"

Sinnette said that laws were made to protect people yet they've become a mode of punishment.

''It's unconstitutional. And there should be grounds to challenge it.''

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