SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Head of the Accompong Maroons Colonel Ferron Williams says his community will participate in Jamaica 50 events organised within St Elizabeth and is now in "dialogue" with government regarding national events.
"We gave them our word from long ago, so we will be giving our support," Williams said yesterday in relation to events being organised by the St Elizabeth planning committee.
Against a backdrop of anger in Accompong at Government's perceived failure to honour "commitments" to reimburse road repairs and other activities, Williams was far less certain about his community's role in national celebrations but suggested there was reason for optimism.
"I can't make a commitment where those (national events) are concerned but the government is now talking to us... we are in dialogue," Williams told the Jamaica Observer by telephone.
Williams said contact had been made by Government officials following an Observer front page story on Monday which highlighted the maroon's anger and a resulting reluctance to participate in celebrations marking Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain.
At a press conference in Black River on Monday, organisers of St Elizabeth parish activities said the annual Accompong Town January 6 celebration would be the final event in the parish's schedule to mark Jamaica 50. They said the Accompong Maroons had also committed to other events.
The January 6 celebrations at Accompong in the Cockpit Country in northern St Elizabeth, just below Trelawny's southern border, marks the signing of a peace treaty between Maroons in western Jamaica and British colonisers in the late 1730s. This followed decades of guerrilla warfare.
Jamaica's Maroons, who are descendants of slaves freed by Spanish colonisers on their expulsion by the British in 1655 as well as runaway slaves, are famed for their ancestors' resistance to the British from hideouts in the Blue Mountains in the island's east, the central highlands and the rugged Cockpit Country in the west.
At Monday's press conference, parish organisers -- including the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), the St Elizabeth Parish Council led by Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher and Member of Parliament for South West St Elizabeth Hugh Buchanan -- said formal parish celebrations will begin with an ecumenical service at the historic St John's Anglican Church in Black River on Sunday, August 29.
Other events will include Jubilee street tours starting on August 1, a range of cultural activities across the parish from January 27 to August 6, and a flag raising ceremony in Black River on August 6 accompanied by marching bands and colourful floats.
The JCDC representative, Casmarie Daley said a "big screen" will also be set up in Santa Cruz on August 5 and 6 to capture the performances of Jamaican athletes at the London Olympics.
"St Elizabeth will be on fire...," said Daley.
Mayor of Black River, Councillor Everton Fisher said a special celebration and banquet in October to honour 50 citizens of St Elizabeth assessed to have made significant contributions to the parish's development would be part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Chairman of the parish's Planning Committee Sandra Emmanuel praised the business community, local politicians and other stakeholders for "partnering" in providing funding and other resources to make the events possible.
Fisher, who is chairman of the St Elizabeth parish council, and member of parliament for South West St Elizabeth, Hugh Buchanan pointed out that "beautification" projects including the bushing of roads and cleaning of verges had been ongoing.
Fisher said the parish council had succeeded in raising $3.5 million to spend in communities across the parishes. Buchanan, who spoke on behalf of other MPs, said they were committed to using between $150,000 and $250,000 from their Constituency Development Fund to support the parish's celebrations.