Maroons want ancestors' 'last resting place' left alone

Maroons want ancestors' 'last resting place' left alone

Associate editor — features

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

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THE Maroons who live in the Blue and John Crow Mountains have sided with the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT) in its opposition to private leases within the eponymous national park.

Three Maroon community councils — Moore Town, Charles Town, and Scotts Hall — recently penned a letter to the Trust explaining their position.

“Our foreparents fought successfully to defend the forested mountains, which were their home, from the expansion by the British plantations deep into these special areas. Today, our communities are in the valleys and hills, but we revere the mountains which were a stronghold for our foreparents.

“These lands where our ancestors shed their blood are now their last resting place and represent freedom and resilience. The UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription celebrates the close relationship between the natural heritage of the area and our Maroon cultural heritage.

“We believe this is an important part of Jamaica's history that should be respected and promoted. The land within the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park should remain protected for the benefit of all Jamaicans to ensure that its flora and fauna can thrive, our mountain streams flow clean, and our air and earth are not polluted or degraded,” the letter said.

The issue of leases in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park came to the fore a few weeks ago when the Jamaica Observer broke the story that then minister with oversight responsibility for environment matters, Daryl Vaz, tendered a bid to the National Land Agency to lease 7.7 acres of land at Holywell for residential purposes, for a term of 25 years and at a rate of $20,000 per year.

Vaz has since withdrawn his bid, and the land agency withdrew the offer to lease.

The JCDT, a non-profit organisation which manages the national park and the UNESCO site within it on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, maintains that private leases in the park are counter to rules governing protected areas and world heritage sites.

“The Maroon communities of the Blue and John Crow Mountains stand in solidarity with the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust in their efforts to stop the leasing of land within the boundary of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and the World Heritage Site within, except for purposes directly related to its management and conservation,” the Maroon councils reiterated.

The letter was dated near the end of June and was signed by leaders of the respective councils — Colonel Wallace Sterling, Colonel Marcia Douglas, and Colonel Lloyd Lattibeaudiere — and other representatives from the communities.

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