(This was a disaster waiting to happen)
—Article by Makhulu
There is only one Jamaica and everybody has to abide by the law.
Talk of a separate state is nonsense and can only lead to anarchy and lawlessness – as if Jamaica doesn’t have enough problems in that area.
Chief of the Accompong Maroons, Richard Currie, projects a bad boy persona, a rebel with a cause. He says he fights for his people.
Now one man is dead and several injured. Why?
Because he remained obstinate and defiant. He was going to hold the festival no matter the cost in open contravention of the government.
He must now examine his conscience and must clearly see his dereliction of duties and responsibilities has led to fatalities. As a leader, he failed to keep his people safe and that’s the bottom line.
Every time a group in society decides to go up against the Government in open defiance it always ends in tears. The Brixton riots in London, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Tivoli Gardens incursion in 2010. It all ends the same – rebels either dead or seriously injured…and for what?
Currie keeps insisting that Accompong is a separate state and he is all too often encouraged by many who should know better. He propagates this fallacy on social media and is hailed as some kind of anti-hero (again the adoration of “bad man ting”, championing the renouncement of law and order).
In the light of the rising COVID-19 infection rate brought about by the new Omicron strain, the Jamaican government like many administrations around the world has put in place measures to contain the spread by reducing mass gatherings. With a positivity rate hovering near 50 per cent, there is a dire need not to overwhelm hospitals and overburden the resources of the state. But all this was lost on Currie. He simply couldn’t care less.
He insisted, “This is a religious duty of Maroons to honour our ancestors and to show the way forward for the born and unborn. This is our way of life.”
In other words, he didn’t give a damn about the Government’s position, the show must go on to honour ancestors.
This put the Government in a tough spot because by allowing this to go ahead, it demonstrates that its authority can be easily flouted. Other organisations and faiths could then say, “you allowed the Maroons to get away with it, why not us?”
It was made clear that to go ahead with this event would constitute a breach of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) but that was of little concern to Currie.
If the police or army had gone it to disband the festival, called on people to return to their homes and Currie had resisted, holding to his guns it could have been a graver disaster.
There was an element of forbearance here which was prudent and Currie rode his luck.
What transpired with the shooting and the police officer could all have been avoided. This was a culmination of Currie’s insistence and intransigence and now there is a grieving community.
Thumbing his nose at the government he now says there were several protocols in place such as armed guards and a lockup for firearms – in other words, a state militia. How deluded can you get?
The festival could have been postponed and held at a more propitious time. Perhaps that would have made better sense.
It could then have taken place with no notable incidents without incurring the ire of the Jamaican government—everyone happy and at peace.
Instead the shepherd has now seen one of his flock unneccarily perish—gone to join their ancestors.
The Government is also culpable here and again demonstrates ineffective communication with state bodies continuing to do their own thing. Andrew Holness must get a firm grip on his administration and keep his ministers in line.
The Cabinet must have signed off on this and arrived at some kind of approach to the situation but now we see the Minister of Sport and Culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange exposing that as not being the case.
She now says the Ministry of National Security didn’t know what was going on insisting her ministry received approval to let it go ahead.
Heads should roll here because this is a fiasco, a demonstration of utter incompetence.
Grange writes: “As Minister of Culture, I wrote to ODPEM and received approval for the ceremonial activities. Today (Thursday) I was in consultation with the Minister of National Security, the Honourable Dr Horace Chang and it would appear that the police were not aware of the approval from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.”
“This is an annual ritual which is among the diverse cultural forms in Jamaica and is not categorised as an entertainment event but recognised as an annual traditional religious and commemorative activity. Because of that, my ministry has worked with the Maroons over the years to give support.”
Looks like Chang and Samuda were not on top of this and it is an almighty mess. No stars here. Greater clarity will be needed, and someone has to set everybody straight. At the same time, why is Grange giving the greenlight to an event which she knows the Government would never sanction?
Right now, there is just too much government bungling and Holness has to let it be known who is boss.
Currie must now exhibit contrition and mull over what his actions have wrought.
The year 2022 has already got off to a bumpy start. Do strap in, wear your seat belt.