Gov’t to review laws affecting Rastas

Gov’t to review laws affecting Rastas

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has undertaken to have the Cabinet review the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and its implications for the Jamaican Rastafari community.

Holness gave the undertaking at a Jamaica House meeting with a delegation from the Rastafari Millennium Council (RMC), who visited him Tuesday on the eve of today’s 50th anniversary of the historic visit to Jamaica of the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in 1966.

The 10-member team of Rastafarians, including reggae star Bunny ‘Wailer Livingstone, former Columbia Records executive Maxine Stowe, and attorney-at-law Hannah Harris Barrington, met Prime Minister Holness, and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange inside the courtesy room at Jamaica House.

Barrington, who was born in England of Jamaican parentage, pleaded for the prime minister’s support of the RMC’s efforts to get parliamentary acknowledgement of the UN 2007 declaration and its implications for the Rastafari community in Jamaica.

Holness admitted that he admired the resistance of Rastafarians to oppression as well as their regard for human rights.

"I admire and indeed support the move to seek to clothe this in some kind of legal framework, to protect the rights of our people. I will take a very close look at what you have presented here in seeking ratification of the UN declaration, and will have the government move as quickly as possible on it, providing that there are no unseen obstacles," the prime minister told the group.

In response to pleas from Stowe for greater protection for the use of Jamaica’s ganja as an international product, and to ensure greater flow of benefits from Jamaican music from the international record companies, Holness confirmed that the new Administration has been looking at the issue of legalisation of ganja, and the use of the drug locally and how the country can fully exploit its benefits.

"We have set up a sub-committee (of the Cabinet) to take a very close and detailed look at the present legislation, which actually promises more than it delivers," Holness said.

He stated that a lot of people were under the impression that the legislation delivers free use and trade of the drug, but that was not the case.

"Indeed, it does not necessarily address the potential for the exploitation of the people who for years have suffered under the old regime and probably will not benefit. So, we are very sensitive to that and that committee is being chaired by Minister (Mike) Henry," he informed the delegation.

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