Lumi still on track, says Maroon chief

Lumi still on track, says Maroon chief

Time has come for economic freedom, argues Colonel Wallace Sterling

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, January 12, 2020

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Two hundred and eighty-two years after wrestling political freedom from the British, leaders in the Maroon community are adamant that the time has come for them to seek economic freedom as well. And, according to chief of the Windward Maroons, Colonel Wallace Sterling, the newly established lumi currency is a factor in that economic empowerment.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer at the annual Maroon festival held in Accompong, St Elizabeth last Monday, Sterling said despite resistance from the Jamaican Government, plans are still afoot to establish the lumi currency within Maroon communities.

“We want to empower ourselves economically, and the lumi is a part of that empowerment,” said Wallace whose Windward Maroons occupy the eastern end of Jamaica.

He argued that while his ancestors had managed to gain political freedom from the British, sealed with the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1738, the Maroons were never meant to achieve economic freedom.

“Our foreparents fought for us and gained political independence, but there was nothing set out in the treaty to empower them economically. The most profitable commodity at the time when the treaty was signed was sugar cane, and our ancestors were not permitted to grow sugar cane commercially. The treaty, therefore, was not intended to give them any economic power,” Wallace argued.

“Today, persons might think that we have become stagnated, but every people, in their time, have the right to do whatever it is that they think is best for them, and we as the Maroon community today need to look at how we can create opportunities for the generation that is yet to come, to make them independent, both economically and politically,” he added.

Wallace also said that the Maroon secretariat had been in discussions with the Bank of Jamaica since news broke in this newspaper last September that the Maroons had established their own bank, the Central Solar Reserve Bank of Accompong (CSRB), as well as their own currency, the lumi.

In October, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) issued a public advisory stating that the CSRB was “not authorised by Bank of Jamaica to include the word 'bank' in its name, nor is it licensed under the Banking Services Act”.

The central bank also advised that “under the Bank of Jamaica Act, only Bank of Jamaica has the right and authority to issue currency notes and coins in the island of Jamaica. Any such notes and coins purported to be issued by any person or body other than by Bank of Jamaica is not legal tender of the island of Jamaica. The public should therefore be guided accordingly”.

In response, Accompong Maroons Finance Minister Chief Semako I, whose given name is Timothy McPherson, spewed defiance while pouring cold water on the BOJ's statement, saying that the central bank cannot dictate to the Maroons.

“In terms of jurisdiction, the Bank Act of Accompong designates the Central Solar Reserve Bank of Accompong as the monetary authority of Accompong. We are not contesting the monetary authority of the Bank of Jamaica in Jamaica, but they cannot dictate what we do. Our bank Act states clearly that the bank of Accompong is the monetary authority of Accompong,” Semako told the Observer.

A few weeks later, deputy colonel of the Accompong Maroons, Melvin Currie, issued a stern warning to the Government that the group will not be backing down in its roll out of the lumi, despite widespread opposition.

“The Maroon currency is a thing that must come to pass. It must happen. We are a country; we are an independent nation. The Maroon money must become a reality. We the Maroons are the first free nation. We know that every country in the world has its own currency. So why we the Maroons can't have our own currency? We will not back down,” Currie stated, to rousing applause from Maroons in attendance at the annual Nanny Day Celebrations at Moore Town in Portland.

He was backed by Colonel Rudolph Pink of the Scott's Hall Maroons who also stressed that Maroons are “independent people”.

Last Monday, Wallace said that the BOJ's advisory has not stalled his people's objective of establishing the lumi in Maroon communities.

“We have had discussions with the deputy governor of the Bank of Jamaica. We know their position, and they know our position. But whatever we do in the Maroon community through the Maroon secretariat is on behalf of all the Maroon communities, and anything that we can do to empower our people is something that we will do openly,” said Wallace.

“When our ancestors decided they were not going to stay in slavery and decided to fight and go to the hills, not everybody went with them. There were some who stayed on the plantation, knowing that they would get two meals per day, rather than going into the unknown, not knowing where they were going to get their first meal from,” he added.

“So we don't expect that anything that is going to empower our people economically will get a buy-in at once. But we need to do something to make the people of our communities feel independent and proud of themselves so that we don't have to go asking for assistance every time we need to get something done in our community,” he said.

The Windward Maroons chief also sought to dispel the notion that the lumi would subvert the Jamaican dollar as speculations mounted about the legitimacy of a currency backed by solar energy.

In September 2019, Semako I had told the Observer that the lumi, first printed in 2017, is pegged against the US dollar at 10 cents per kilowatt hour with one lumi valued at US$10.

Last Monday, Wallace insisted that the Maroons were not thinking about setting up the lumi to rival the Jamaican dollar. “That is not the point. It is using the money inside Maroon communities. If you come to Accompong on a day like today, visitors can go to a bank, a place of exchange, and buy the lumi to use inside the community. The aim of the lumi is to empower ourselves economically. We are not in any competition with the Government of Jamaica,” Wallace said.

In similar vein, McPherson told the Observer on Monday that the buzz of commercial activities in Accompong during their annual festival had largely become a tourism product, benefiting other people, instead of economically empowering Maroons within Accompong.

“Truth be told, at the moment the vast majority of this commerce benefits the wider island of Jamaica far more than it benefits the Maroons of Accompong. Many of the vendors are themselves guests who have their licences in Jamaica and who pay their taxes in Jamaica and who are collecting Jamaican currency. Consequently, the profits that are being reaped go to the broader Jamaican community, as opposed to the Maroon community,” said McPherson.

“The best part of today's celebration is the cultural engagement and exchange. But the festival is a great money generator for Jamaica at large, and it is seen as a tourism activity where Jamaicans are profiting enormously from it. We will have to fix that going forward because obviously we are not able to account for any of the turnover that is going on right now.”

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