Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Maroons get cold shoulder

Government ministries, agencies urged not to fund, support breakaway group

Published:Friday | January 7, 2022 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Scores of Maroons participate in a pork ritual under the Kindah Tree in Accompong, St Elizabeth, on Thursday. The Maroons defied a police order not to gather for their annual festival celebrating the 284th anniversary of their peace treaty signed with Brit
Scores of Maroons participate in a pork ritual under the Kindah Tree in Accompong, St Elizabeth, on Thursday. The Maroons defied a police order not to gather for their annual festival celebrating the 284th anniversary of their peace treaty signed with British colonisers.
Chief Richard Currie’s separatist rhetoric appears to have angered the Government.
Chief Richard Currie’s separatist rhetoric appears to have angered the Government.
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WESTERN BUREAU: Government ministries, departments, and agencies have been urged not to engage with, or fund, secessionist Maroons who are asserting sovereignty from the Jamaican State, a leaked Cabinet Office document has said. Though none of the...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Government ministries, departments, and agencies have been urged not to engage with, or fund, secessionist Maroons who are asserting sovereignty from the Jamaican State, a leaked Cabinet Office document has said.

Though none of the island’s five Maroon groups was named, the recommendation appeared to target the Chief Richard Currie-led Accompong village that claims authority over sections of the Cockpit Country, swathes of biodiverse lands in western and central Jamaica parishes.

The recommendation threatens funding such as sponsorship by the Tourism Enhancement Fund of the Accompong Maroon village in St Elizabeth and comes amid heated conflict fired by Currie’s separatist rhetoric since his election in February 2021.

“There must be no acceptance of, or acquiescence to, any language or suggestion regarding sovereignty or indigenous rights, and no funds must be placed at the disposal of any person or entity claiming such,” said the correspondence.

In instances of doubt or uncertainty, the opinion and advice of the Attorney General’s Chambers must be sought, the document said.

Efforts on Thursday to get a substantive comment from Ambassador Douglas Saunders, the Cabinet secretary, were unsuccessful.

“We spoke, and I have since had sight of your email message below. Unfortunately, it would not have been possible to review and respond thereto in the timeline indicated,” Saunders said in a late-evening response.

The Maroons on Thursday celebrated their 284th anniversary of signing a peace treaty with British colonisers, hosting their annual ceremony in defiance of an order by the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Ministry of Health and Wellness that such activities would breach the Disaster Risk Management Act that governs coronavirus safety protocols.

Maroon territory is not recognised as a sovereign state, constitutional experts and members of the Holness administration have said, arguing that electricity, communication, schools, and lands fall under Jamaica’s national governance.

Currie and loyalists caused Jamaican police to retreat in an August 2021 stand-off over perceived trespass on a marijuana farm. The police had launched a probe into the incident in which Currie appeared to have a firearm.

But Currie has also made enemies in his dominion, drawing criticism that he is a dictator after a man alleged to have been abused by the chief’s supporters last November.

The Maroon leader has denied those claims.

In the meantime, a GoFundMe page set up to assist the Maroon government of the Cockpit Country seems to have hit a snag. Hoping to raise US$1 million since March 6, 2021, the fund has mustered US$10,305 from 148 donors.

The person behind the cause, Anu El, in her appeal, speaks of an indigenous people who still face a serious water infrastructure crisis “that will only slow the growth of our body politic until a plan is supported by the people and implemented by the people”.

The page says that that the Maroon territory provides 40 per cent of all the freshwater supply to the island and posits sustainable development as a means by which self-reliance and autonomy can be achieved.

There are five Maroon communities in Jamaica: Flagstaff, St James; Moore Town and Charles Town in Portland; Scotts Hall in St Mary; and Accompong.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com