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Pinnacle Movement now ready to meet officials

Sunday, February 09, 2014    

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THE Occupy Pinnacle Movement is now ready to accommodate officials of the State to conduct archeological research on sacred sites which some of them claim have been desecrated by developers at the location which is regarded as the birthplace of Rastafari.

Two Fridays ago, representatives of St Jago Hills Development Limited, the St Jago Hills Citizens' Association, a committee established by the Office of the Prime Minister to discuss issues of concern to Rastafari, and the Ministry of Youth & Culture and its agency, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), visited the location to view the sites that were desecrated. But the Rastafarian agitators who had earlier met with the Government did not turn up.

In a release to the media, the ministry bemoaned the absence of the Rastafarians who had initiated the site visit.

However, Donisha Prendergast, a lead agitator of the Occupy Pinnacle Movement and granddaughter of reggae king Bob Marley, explained the absence of the Rastas on that occasion.

"No government official reached out to confirm what time the visit would take place. They have to be prepared to do the proper research and the site is now ready to be observed as we have spent considerable time chopping out the place and locating several sites which are of historical importance not only to Rasta but the entire country. We are trying to organise another meeting to get them to revisit Pinnacle," Prendergast told the Jamaica Observer.

Pinnacle was originally a 500-acre property nestled in the St Jago Hills, St Catherine, which was allegedly bought by one of the first announcers of the Rastafarian faith, Leonard Percival Howell, in the early 1940s. However, most of the property has been parcelled out, as Howell's descendants are having a hard time proving that he had in fact purchased the land and was the

legitimate owner.

On Friday, Rastas were observed clearing brush and Prendergast led a group of them and the Sunday Observer team down several trails to show off a number of ruins and sites that the Occupy Pinnacle Movement says must be preserved as an important part of their culture.

Prendergast also took the news team to the ruins of a bakery and several wells.

The agitators have long claimed that several burial sites, including that of Howell's wife Tethen, have been desecrated by developers and that burning issue was one of the main reasons why government officials went to the site.

Prendergast explained that the builders may have unwittingly desecrated the burial sites.

"There were no headstones. In those days they buried the dead in graves and packed stones on them. There was no way for developers to know that they were building on graves. Some people might be living on top of the remains of Rastafari elders and don't know it," she said.

She explained that Tethen Howell had gone walking in the wide expanse and did not return.

"She had a nine-month-old baby. When she did not return they searched for her but due to the advanced state of decomposition of her body, they had to bury her on the spot," she said.

The JNHT has declared a quarter-acre plot a national monument and has ordered that no development should take place on a further five lots to allow for proper archeological research on the site.

That has rubbed the Rastas the wrong way as they believe Howell's descendants, and the faith, have been robbed of their birthright and view the move by the State of declaring such a small piece of a property, which once stretched from Sligoville Road to the banks of the Rio Cobre in the vicinity of Tredegar Park, as a token gesture.

Prendergast rued the fact that development was still taking place despite the JNHT declaration.

When the Sunday Observer visited on Friday, workmen were seen unloading concrete blocks to continue construction on a site that was metres away from the designated quarter-acre plot where the ruins of Howell's great house, which was torched to the ground by the police in 1954 during a massive raid on the self-sustaining commune, stood.

"This whole advocacy is the greatest history lesson that could happen to us in Black History Month and Reggae Month. It is about a black man who was wealthy and owned land in colonial Jamaica," she said.

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