Accompong chief denies he's dictator as tension growsThursday, November 11, 2021
BY JASON CROSS
COLONEL Richard Currie is rejecting claims that he is running Accompong like a dictator amid growing tension over his leadership of the historic Maroon village in the hills of St Elizabeth a mere nine months after his election.
The accusations were made after a resident complained of being stabbed and 'gun-butted' by one of Currie's security men as they shut down a party in the town last weekend, allegedly on orders from Currie.
The man described his ordeal in a voice note sent to the Jamaica Observer alleging that the men, after gun butting him, threatened to kill him and accused him of “violating” the chief. He also said that he called the Maggotty police in St Elizabeth the night of the incident to file a report, but cops hung up when he mentioned Currie's name.
The man claimed that the following morning he travelled to the Black River Police Station to make a report but was sent to the Maggotty police.
When the Observer sought to verify the man's claim with the head of the St Elizabeth police, Superintendent Narda Simms, she refused to speak on the issue, saying, “I don't have time for this right now. I can't deal with this,” before hanging up the phone.
The Observer then called the Black River police about the matter but was referred to their counterparts in Maggotty. However, the phone at that station rang without an answer. The newspaper eventually called the police force's information arm, the Corporate Communications Unit (CCU), which checked the Black River station, but was told there was no report there of the incident. The CCU also tried calling the Maggotty station but got no answer, the Observer was told.
Asked for a response to the allegations, Currie told the Observer that he is investigating the incident at the party.
“An event was going on and in an attempt to bring it to an end there was an incident with a man of unsound mind and that is as much as I have had so far. We are doing our investigations. I understand that a report was made to the police and we have also spoken to the police,” Currie said.
Asked to respond to claims that he collects a fee, even from outsiders, for parties to be held in Accompong and that he gives approval for the parties to run until daylight while denying the same privileges to others who refuse to pay or are not supportive of his leadership, Currie said, “In bringing things to order we put in place a process to manage things happening in the space because it is not a free for all. Things don't go on here all night and as long as they want; that is not how it works. What I have done is put in a system that is no different than what you would have to do if you were keeping an event in the general space,” Currie said.
“At the end of the day, the responsibility for cleaning up the town and doing all the necessary remedies to bring things back to their natural state relies on the chief. Where does that money come from? We don't collect tax. People don't like order, and they don't like to feel like something is inhibiting them from doing what they would want to do without ramifications or repercussions,” he said.
“This town is not a party town. This is a sacred space. We have our elders here who are quite vulnerable and a lot of them have aired their concern. I have been elected as leader to represent all. I have to know who coming in here and what they are doing and I have to give approval or denial,” Currie stated firmly.
However, people in the village say he is displaying authoritarian leadership.
“He is behaving like an ISIS leader with his guys behind him. If anybody criticises Colonel Currie you are identified and intimidated. You feel uncomfortable, unwelcomed, and afraid of possible violent actions. Some people are saying that this is a mini Afghanistan by virtue of how these guys react when you criticise them,” one resident told the Observer, but asked not to be named, claiming that he feared for his safety.
“His actions are unprecedented and deviate greatly from our normal way of life, customs, and discipline. It is totally new. People don't like to follow dictatorial instructions, whether it is in Russia, China, Venezuela, Sudan, or Nicaragua. Over the last 15 years we've had multiple colonels and we've never had this frightening experience,” the resident said.
Another resident said Accompong made the wrong choice for leader.
“He is more like a dictator, an aggressive person. He is like the ruler who says, 'You must.' He is going back to the aggressive times of Captain Cudjoe and dem time deh did heartless and ruthless,” said the resident who initially didn't have a problem being identified, but later asked for anonymity, claiming fear for personal safety.
The maroon also said the push to convince the world that Accompong had sovereignty should cease “because a di Government pay wi teachers. We don't have a hospital. The parents and children are benefiting from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, Food For the Poor houses and every benefit. We don't have a police station or a jail.
“Maroons still vote in the general elections for both parties. Nuff a di people dem weh a behave bad are non-Maroon. Currie hook up with Maroon wannabes and a do him own thing,” the resident alleged.