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Pinnacle appeal hearing postponed

Friday, February 07, 2014    

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THE Court of Appeal has postponed the hearing of an appeal by the Rastafari Nation Pinnacle Foundation, the Leonard Howell Foundation, Catherine Howell and Ras Howie regarding ownership of the controversial Pinnacle property in St Catherine until March 17.

The appeal will be argued by attorney Nanna Harris-Barrington after Miguel Lorne advised the court that he was withdrawing from the matter when the case was called up on Monday.

Donisha Prendergast, granddaughter of reggae king Bob Marley and a main agitator of the Occupy Pinnacle Movement, told the Jamaica Observer that while Lorne had paid yeoman's service to the cause, conflict of interest, and not any falling out, was the cause for his withdrawal.

"Mr Lorne is a director of the Leonard Howell Foundation and as such he could not represent us as lead counsel. There is no animosity," Prendergast said.

The appellants lost a judgement in September last year when the court ruled that they were not the rightful owners of the land located in the St Jago Hills.

The court ruled that the Richard Lake-owned St Jago Hills Development Company Ltd are the rightful owners of the property, which is regarded worldwide as the birthplace of Rastafari.

The children of the founding father of the Rastafari movement, Leonard Percival Howell, claim that their father bought the land legitimately in the 1940s from one Albert Chang, who is now deceased.

The Howells claim that their father's proof of ownership of the more-than-500-acre property, which stretches from Sligoville Road to the banks of the Rio Cobre near Tredegar Park, was seized and destroyed in the colonial era by police who conspired with other individuals who thought Howell was presumptuous to even conceive of owning land as a black man.

Pinnacle was the first self-sufficient community in Jamaica in the post-emancipation era and attracted lots of disenfranchised blacks, who were marginalised and kept at the bottom of the economic and social ladder.

Howell's preaching of the rejection of the notion of a white God and serving Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as the black messiah earned him the wrath of the colonial masters who charged him with sedition and sent him to prison and the asylum more than 50 times.

Rastas have been agitating for Pinnacle to be declared a national heritage monument and say sacred sites such as the final resting place of Howell's wife, Tethen, have been desecrated by developers.

The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) has since declared a quarter-acre plot a national monument and said that no development will be allowed on another five plots.

Yesterday, Opposition spokesperson on culture, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, said that the move by the JNHT, which happened while she was culture minister in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration, was to "protect the history and legacy of Rastafari at Pinnacle".

Grange, who is scheduled to accompany Opposition Leader Andrew Holness on a tour of the area today, said the JLP Administration had "even explored the purchasing of the lots for the purpose of preservation and development of the legacy of Rastafari". She called on the Government to complete the declaration and acquisition of the lots and questioned whether the delay in doing so was "due to a conflict of interest".

"I am calling on the prime minister to carry through the JLP Administration's decision to declare Lots 198, 199, 200, 201 and 294 and to also acquire them through negotiation or compulsory acquisition," she said.

"Declaring the property a National Heritage Site will protect it, but acquisition would also allow for the development of a Pinnacle Monument and Entrepreneurial Village which would commemorate the significance of the site and could also become a heritage tourism attraction," she added.

— Karyl Walker

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