Maroons in turmoil ahead of elections for colonel

Maroons in turmoil ahead of elections for colonel

By Sharlene Hendricks
Observer staff reporter

Monday, September 28, 2020

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Not for the first time, the Accompong Maroon Community and affiliate areas has divided itself into hostile factions ahead of elections which are due this year to select a new colonel.

At the centre of the upheaval is a disputed Maroon constitution that was drafted in 2003 by a group that has established itself as the “Full Maroon Council” in strong opposition to the incumbent, Colonel Fearon Williams.

Williams, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, claimed that the group has usurped his authority by conducting their own enumeration process, which he already started in previous weeks.

The colonel said the group has been using intimidatory tactics and sending threats in an effort to undermine him and his council of Maroon leaders.

“We have a group who claim that they are the ones running the election. They are going out in town-criers to the various Maroon communities telling people that enumeration is still going on when I have already undertaken that process.

“It is causing confusion and chaos as I have people calling and asking me what is going on because they already registered to vote.

“Persons from this group are sending threats to me and other candidates, both to physically harm and burn down people's homes. One candidate, because of the level of harassment decided to withdraw from contesting the election,” Colonel Williams alleged.

Williams has reported the matter to the Maggoty and Black River police and said he intends to file a restraining order against a member of the group.

“The next time I go back to Black River police station I will be taking out a warrant against one of them,” said Williams.

By Maroon custom and tradition the election is due every five years and should have been held between May and April this year but had to be pushed back because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to Williams.

The Colonel, 60, who has authority to call the election, has served two consecutive terms since 2009, and will be contesting the upcoming election.

Williams said that registration of voters in Accompong and its nine affiliate areas began on August 24.

These include: Garland and Montego Bay in St James; Accompong, Cedar Spring, Aberdeen, White Hall, Elderslie, Windsor in St Elizabeth and Kingston. Registration of voters in these areas, except for Kingston, has been completed.

Maroon Director of Elections, Kenneth Rowe, told the Observer that voter registration for persons in Kingston had to be put on hold because of logistical problems.

“What we are doing now is enumeration. We have completed most of the enumeration, except for Kingston. There should have been one already but because of a COVID-19 scare at the electoral office it was closed. That has been postponed until they complete their sanitisation process.

“Once we complete that part of the process, it's really just a matter of getting the candidates to look at the additions to the voters list, go through it, make sure there are no issues and then we have them do the final list. Once that is complete, we then declare nomination day and Election Day,” said Rowe, who was appointed by Colonel Williams to oversee the election process.

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) is also providing technical support and resources to the process.

“We have been giving limited support by allowing them to use our office space for their enumeration process and some assistance with their voters list,” Glasspole told the Observer.

But even as plans are afoot to stage the election, candidates who are vying for the position of Colonel, claim that the group which calls itself the full Maroon Council have been actively trying to intimidate persons into not participating in the process started by Colonel Williams.

Meredith Rowe, a former colonel who is among six candidates contesting the upcoming election called for the intervention of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to quell the situation.

“The community is divided. This group is using bullying tactics, and threatening our democratic process. It is on this premise that we need the Jamaican police to assist us. Even to visit the community and give a stern warning.

“We have no system in place that we can deal with these issues. We are appealing to the Jamaica Parliament to intervene at this time, if at all they have any regard for the right of indigenous peoples to govern ourselves at the local level,” Rowe pleaded.

Sheldon Wallace, another contender in the election, explained that the Maroon council headed by Colonel Williams has no input in the drafting of the constitution being used by the group, making it null and void.

“There is group that is planning a coup against the incumbent using a constitution that was never ratified or approved by the people.

“Of course we want to have a constitution, but a constitution cannot be drafted by one group. The same group has been trying to appoint a Colonel who agrees with that constitution since 2003 when it was drafted,” Wallace said.

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