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Gov't triples Rastafari trust fund

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 22, 2019

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PITFOUR, St James — The Government has announced plans to triple the $10 million set aside in a trust fund that was established for members of the Rastafari community who were brutalised by the State during the Coral Gardens incident of 1963.

“The agreement was for $10 million; it is now at $13 million and the Ministry of Culture is looking to increase that to $30 million,” revealed Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, who represented the Government at the 56th Commemoration of the Coral Gardens Atrocities held at the Pitfour Nyahbinghi Centre in Granville, St James on Friday.

“There is the need to give some level of comfort and essentially reparation to our brothers who suffered the Coral Gardens event, one of the most horrific incidents in our history,” he said.

Speaking before of Dr Chang, sociologist Dr Michael Barnett called for the expeditious delivery of the compensation package for the Rastafarian elders who were brutalised by members of the State.

“It is very important that the survivors see some compensation before they depart or transition from this present existence and go to the celestial realm. I think it is important that they are able to see some benefits as soon as possible,” Dr Barnett stated.

“And I am hoping that all parties involved will be very sensitive to this issue, and that we, to the best of our ability on all sides, see what we can do to facilitate this,” Dr Barnett continued.

He emphasised the importance of the elders seeing some benefit soon.

“I, for one, know that many of the elders are suffering from ill-health from the conditions they have had to go through, and the brutality they suffered years ago taking its toll. I would love for them to get benefits now, while they are still alive. So I am hoping, in short, that this is the outcome of this celebration this year,” Barnett said.

Dr Chang assured the gathering that everything is being done to speedily atone for the Coral Gardens incident.

He explained that part of the delay in the delivery of benefits came after members of the Rastafarian community insisted that Rastafari be included in the name of the trust, which was named “just Coral Gardens Trust”.

He noted that, in addition to the trust, Government has settled on a home in Coral Gardens for the Rastafarian “elders” in need of accommodation.

“The agreement is to pay for the rent. As we proceed, we expect that shortly after Easter the brothers who need to be put in a home will settle in there and associated activities will be in place. I will personally follow up with Minister (Olivia) Grange to ensure that it is being put in place,” said Dr Chang, who is also Member of Parliament for St James North Western.

“They are not only deserving of the reparation and the effort to put them in a place comfortably, and I remind my friends it's part of my constituency, I will take commitment to undertake to work with the minister to ensure that it is executed,“ he continued.

The national security minister also revealed that, at the request of members of the Rastafarian community in western Jamaica, “a fine piece of land” has been acquired by Government to cultivate ground provisions.

“The property has been identified from last year and it has been a struggle to get the process in place. I have spoken to the land authority because I am going to ensure that this month, a team from the brothers and sisters get to examine the property in Sundiland and make the arrangement that that property be transferred to the (Rastafarian) community that they can own, as a community, a property and do what they wish to [it], in terms of agricultural farming,” Dr Chang said.

What Rastafarians called “Bad Friday”, stemmed from an incident which triggered widespread beating, humiliation, degradation, and imprisonment on Good Friday in 1963.

This was the response by the security forces after individuals wearing beards typical of Rastafarians, attacked a police station with which they had an issue. Two of the attackers were shot and killed by the police.

Following the Good Friday incident, members of the Rastafarian faith were hunted, beaten and thrown behind bars by the police.


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