Accompong Maroonsleader Colonel RichardCurrie takes a phonecall in the communityon Friday. (Photo:Naphtali Junior)
Almost $1-b conservation project shelved after Maroon colonel's demands

A US$6.2-million ($958-million) project to conserve biodiversity and reduce land degradation in the Cockpit Country has been put on hold, and could be scrapped, based on demands from colonel of the Accompong Maroons Richard Currie.

The Jamaica Observer has confirmed that the money for the project was provided through a partnership involving the Global Environment Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Jamaican Government with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) as the implementing entity.

In a letter to Currie, dated November 4, 2021, NEPA indicated that following consultations with the Accompong Maroon Council, from as far back as 2018, the project was given the green light and would be conducted using an integrated approach.

NEPA sought a 'no objection' nod from Currie, who had been elected head of the Accompong Maroons months earlier.

But, in a response dated November 8, 2021, Currie told NEPA that the project would not be allowed to proceed unless a number of his demands were met.

“We are favourable towards the conservation of our sacred forests however that will not be at the detriment of our inalienable territorial rights, sovereignty and independence. Please be reminded that the Maroons of the Cockpit Country have a Government, duly elected, many members of which are holders of university degrees and are competent as anyone else and able to participate in the steering of any such project,” said Currie.

He also told NEPA that: “For this project to go forward with our consent, we will need two seats minimum on the steering committee and to be named as one of the project implementers.”

Currie further rejected the dispute resolution programme which was suggested for the project as he argued that the Maroons already have their own dispute resolution and arbitration process with a justice department which handles all disputes that arise in its territories.

“Please be reminded that the territorial lands that are known as the Cockpit Country are under direct custodianship of the Accompong Maroons as expressed in the 1738 Treaty which was settled after the war with the British. Therefore, all claims from stakeholders to [the] Cockpit Country should come through the office of the chief, which would be the lawful process,” added Currie even as he indicated to NEPA that he would be willing to discuss the project.

In a subsequent development, the Cabinet indicated that the project might not be the only one to be scrapped in any part of the territory which Currie claims “are under direct custodianship of the Accompong Maroons”.

The Observer has confirmed, as first reported by The Gleaner on Friday, that the Cabinet has instructed all Government departments and agencies not to fund any projects in areas which claim to be sovereign of the Jamaican State.

Government sources on Friday said as long as Currie continues to claim that the Cockpit Country is a sovereign State, no State funds will be spent there.

CURRIE... we are favourable towards the conservation of oursacred forests however that will not be at the detriment of ourinalienable territorial rights
BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large

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