Regional

Political tribalism threatens Maroon unity, says elder

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 27, 2014    

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ACCOMPONG TOWN, St Elizabeth — Maroon oral historian Melville Currie says the actions of political representatives in St Elizabeth pose a threat to the harmony of this Maroon community.

Located in the Cockpit Country of northern St Elizabeth, close to the border of south Trelawny, Accompong Town is home to the descendants of slaves left behind by Spanish colonisers who fled Jamaica because of the British invasion in 1655 as well as runaway slaves from British plantations.

"...We have found things that (are) very disturbing," the elderly Currie said from the platform at the annual January 6 peace treaty anniversary celebration in Accompong.

"One of the things is that over the years, since the political (two-party) system started in Jamaica... we noticed that our young people are being divided into political factions," Currie said.

This year's celebrations marked the 276th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between the Leeward Maroons (of western Jamaica) and the British, which formally ended decades of sporadic warfare.

Currie spoke of a protocol which he claimed required political representatives of the two major political parties, People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to make contact with the Accompong community through the community's "elected" colonel. He complained that the protocol was being breached.

He expressed particular dissatisfaction with JLP member of Parliament representing North West St Elizabeth, William J C Hutchinson, and PNP councillor for the Ipswich Division in NW St Elizabeth, Errol Hummingbird.

"What these two gentlemen (are) doing now is dividing the Maroon people into two factions. We cannot allow that to happen. We nuh inna no division, we a Maroon, we want to stay Maroon. If we don't unite we will fail. We nuh want the two (party) system. We elect a colonel, he is our leader," said Currie.

Colonel Ferron Williams, who will be completing his five-year term as leader in August, with the possibility of re-election, told Observer Central that he heads a 15- member council of men and women which has local authority in Accompong.

Apart from liaising with political representatives, Williams, who is a retired inspector of police, said that his duties involve representing Accompong Town at official functions and helping to administer justice in the area.

He said that although "teeth and tongue" will meet in Maroon villages, residents always try to find amicable ways to settle differences.

Celebration under an ancient mango tree referred to as the 'Kindah' tree (meaning 'one family') formed a significant part of the annual January 6 celebration, which also marks the birth of Captain Kojo (also called Cudjoe) who is credited for having negotiated peace with the British.

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