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War of words

Councillor calls for calm as Holness hints Currie-led Accompong Maroons could become guerrilla threat

Published:Monday | January 10, 2022 | 12:08 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Richard Currie, chief of the Accompong Maroons.
Richard Currie, chief of the Accompong Maroons.
Scores of Maroons taking part in a Kindah tree ritual in Accompong, St Elizabeth, on Thursday, January 6. The ritual was part of the 284th anniversary celebration of their peace treaty signed with British colonisers.
Scores of Maroons taking part in a Kindah tree ritual in Accompong, St Elizabeth, on Thursday, January 6. The ritual was part of the 284th anniversary celebration of their peace treaty signed with British colonisers.
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WESTERN BUREAU: The local government representative for the sidelined Accompong Maroons has criticised Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ allusion to the separatist group as dangerous, suggesting that the characterisation of the centuries-old enclave...

WESTERN BUREAU:

The local government representative for the sidelined Accompong Maroons has criticised Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ allusion to the separatist group as dangerous, suggesting that the characterisation of the centuries-old enclave as a potential incubator of guerrilla militancy was exaggerated.

His comments were in response to Holness’ declaration on Sunday that “not one inch of Jamaica will come under any other sovereign authority”.

The prime minister confirmed a Gleaner story published last Friday that his government would not engage with, or fund, any Maroons who claimed to have sovereignty within Jamaica’s borders.

“There are some threats that the average citizen looking on might think innocuous or popular and take a liking to it because the discussions that are held in places that should know better does not highlight the threat,” the prime minister said, adding that such rhetoric “was the stuff of how guerrilla wars come and states break down”.

Holness was unequivocal about the inviolability of Jamaica’s sweeping autonomy.

“Jamaica is a unitary, sovereign state. There is no other sovereign authority in Jamaica other than the Government of Jamaica. Let me make this absolutely clear. None,” he said during a Jamaica House press briefing on Sunday.

But Mugabe Kilimanjaro, councillor of the Ipswich division, St Elizabeth, in which the Accompong Town community falls, says that his reading of the political temperature in the Maroon community does not suggest an inclination towards a state within a state.

“They want to rehabilitate the cultural significance of the 284-year treaty and their place in history,” the municipal councillor stated, adding that he understood Holness’ insistence on maintaining the unity of the Jamaican State.

Kilimanjaro sought to de-escalate the tension, saying that the Maroons were not planning any military activity.

He is urging persons who might want to instigate aggression to let calm prevail.

“The impression I got from the prime minister’s statements yesterday (Sunday) was that he would be prepared to authorise action against the Maroon community and the leaders, which in my estimation is very unnecessary,” stated Kilimanjaro.

He criticised the prime minister’s reference to guerrilla activities, pointing out that those sentiments were unwarranted.

“So unless the prime minister knows something that I don’t know, then that reference was inappropriate,” the councillor said.

He argued that the Cabinet instruction to government ministries, departments, and agencies, advising them not to engage with certain Maroon communities was fundamentally and ethically wrong.

“It is not within the authority of the prime minister or any member of government to deprive any registered citizen of Jamaica of any government services once those people are within their legal remit to receive such services,” the councillor said.

Kilimanjaro said that the Cabinet policy would be an implicit acknowledgement that the Maroons were, indeed, sovereign.

“If the Maroons are not independent and are, in fact, Jamaican citizens and are under the jurisdiction of the Jamaican State, then no member of Government has any legal authority to deny these people of any government resources or assistance. Such an approach would be irresponsible,” he argued.

Meanwhile, Currie hit back at Holness during a press briefing on Instagram late Sunday evening, urging the prime minister to respect the legitimacy of the treaty articles and the indigenous rights of his people. Defending the sovereignty of the Maroons, he suggested that a great deception took place to forge Jamaica’s political independence.

He blamed a number of Jamaica Labour Party administrations, including those led by Sir Alexander Bustamante and Edward Seaga, for crippling the Maroon economy.

He cautioned Prime Minister Andrew Holness on his Government’s fiscal vulnerability, owing to the fact that Jamaica has had to depend on external forces for survival.

“Jamaica has an extensive external debt and is constantly begging. So you rely on other sovereign nations. In other words, you are receiving from others. So please consider human and indigenous rights before you end up defunded,” Currie stated.

St Elizabeth North West Member of Parliament J.C. Hutchinson said that he was unaware of the Cabinet directive not to engage with the Maroons. He said he would need to speak to Culture Minister Olivia Grange for further particulars on the mater.

He has, however, not been engaging with the Maroons, he said.

“There are certain people there that I speak with, but I can’t comment on anything else.”

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com