Rastafarian priest not buying promises ahead of general electionSunday, August 30, 2020
BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
At least one voice from among the Rastafarian community in Jamaica is chastising the two major political parties for failing to remove the office of the governor general, as the country approaches another general election.
The issue first appeared on the political agenda of the People's National Party (PNP) in 2011, when then party President Portia Simpson Miller signalled that as Government of the day, it would start the process of removing the British monarch as Jamaica's Head of State.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government, after winning the 2016 General Election, announced plans to make Jamaica a Republic.
Four years later, the two political parties are still at loggerheads about putting the matter to a referendum, with the PNP now vowing again to make good on its promise if elected to Government come September 3.
Priest Dermot Fagan of the Rastafarian School of Vision in St Andrew, however, isn't buying it.
“Whether we vote Labour or PNP we still would be under the governor general. When we say Independence, it means 'set free'. We cannot see ourselves being free while there is a retention of a governor general who still gives a Throne Speech on an annual basis. These are some of the reasons why we as Rastafarians don't hold Independence as being authentic.
“That is why we don't hold the PNP or JLP status because we see that as undermining our cause,” Fagan told the Jamaica Observer in an interview on Friday.
The Rastafarian priest insisted further that for the majority of those in the community, supporting either of the two major political parties would be inconsistent with their faith and hope of repatriation to Africa.
“Apart from some members of the community, I don't know of the Nyabinghi, or the Twelve Tribe, or the School of Vision that I am responsible for, seeing the need to vote. We all don't see the need to vote because we want to go back home eventually.
“I don't see how any Rastafarian would want to be amalgamated with either the JLP or the PNP, and I don't see either a PNP or JLP Government facilitating a repatriation of Rastafarians to Africa,” Fagan insisted, adding that currently, there are about 15 different sects that comprise the Rastafarian community in Jamaica.
“You have some that vote and you have some who are against voting whether for Labour or PNP because we hold our position of repatriation back to Africa,” Fagan stated.
Addressing the issue of detaching from the British monarch in social issues debate on Tuesday, JLP Senator Kamina Johnson Smith insisted that the matter must be brought to a referendum.
“We don't understand what objection the PNP has to a referendum. We believe that a grand referendum on matters which are sensitive, sometimes controversial, matters on which the Jamaican society is divided, should be put to a referendum,” Senator Johnson Smith said, although not indicating whether this would be a priority if the JLP is re-elected to Government.
Meanwhile, the PNP in its 2020 manifesto made several commitments with regard to the Rastafarian community, of which Fagan was welcoming.
These included recognising the Rastafarian faith as indigenous to Jamaica within the first 100 days after election; assigning land for Rastafarian settlements; and allocating space in craft markets for members of the Rastafarian community.
“It's time for growth now and prosperity, so we welcome it. But this doesn't mean that as Rastafarians we are for PNP or JLP.
“It doesn't matter what they do because it all goes back to what we are saying. They say Emancipation and Independence, but we don't see any Emancipation or Independence without redress,” Fagan stated, arguing too that further to right of sacramental use of the marijuana plant, there needs to be more access for Rastafarians to the fledgling cannabis industry in Jamaica.
“Rastafarians have been the vanguards for ganja. We have been incriminated, we have been murdered, we have been incarcerated, all the evil we have suffered. So we are not satisfied really with the sacramental rights. We give thanks for it, but we want full legalisation so that eventually all citizens and subjects under the constitution have that right.
“We would be very proud and glad to get this privilege if this party is elected, or if the Labourites are in power still, we hope that they will consider these things for the Rastafarian community,” Fagan said.