TO SWIM ON OUR OWN BEACHES The activist campaign being waged by Jamaicans to save the beaches where Jamaicans who are not tourists can swim, won a victory this week when the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) announced it would be upgrading Burwood Beach in Trelawny.
Burwood Is one of the few beaches now remaining around the island where Jamaicans have free access to the white sands and beautiful Caribbean sea, as the hunger for tourism development has led to the disappearance of more and more public beaches. In recent years disputes with persons who claimed ownership of Burwood Beach, as well as lack of action by the Trelawny Parish Council, left the beach an unsupervised, barren space for grateful locals to access the sea for various forms of relaxation, so the TEF announcement that it will upgrade the beach with sanitary and parking facilities, gazeebos and play areas was very welcome. Best of all, the TEF upgrade will not include either a fence or an entry fee, so the beach will remain FREE for all.
With SAVE OUR BEACHES activists still fighting to save Winnifred Beach in Portland and Little Dunns River in Ocho Rios from threatened upgrades by the Urban Deveopment Corporation (UDC) that will include fences and fees, the promised action by TEF sets a precedent I hope will be copied by the UDC.
GANJA GROWERS UNITE As I write this column, a preparatory meeting of Jamaica’s ganja growers is taking place in Kingston to formalize the Ganja Future Growers & Producers Association (GFGPA). I am not at the meeting, but have received both an invitation and a copy of the Draft Proposal for setting up the organization. According to it,the formation of this organization has been led by the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Task Force, the National Alliance for the Legalization of Ganja, the Ganja Law Reform Coalition as partners and Community Consultants Ltd. as the Project Manager.
As someone who has been part of organizations campaigning for legalization and decriminalization of ganja since the 1970s, the names of the persons associated with each of these organizations are unfamilar to me, apart from Paul Chang who came on board the Legalize Ganja committees in the 1980s when activists like attorneys Dennis Forsythe and the late Sandra Alcott were among our bold and outspoken ganja warriors. These days the campaign is headed by Paul Burke, one of the most senior and important members of the People’s National Party organization.
Among other names and faces in the forefront of the ganja growers is another leading politician, Delano Sievwright of the Jamaica Labour Party. Utter respectability of the organization is assured by its host, Prof. Archibald McDonald, the head of the University of the West Indies.
Where, you may ask,, is RASTA in all this? So far, the lone Rasta whose name pops up is attorney Miguel Lorne (who seems to pop up in everything these days). He not only is a member of one of the aforementioned organizations, but recently set up a Western Hemp & Ganja Farmers Association (WHGFA) in Negril in association with Ras Iyah V – one of the leading Nyabinghi Rastafari – attended by a large number of Rastas. Presumably, or hopefully, several meetings were held prior to this announcement to organize Rastafari ganja growers into a strong association to campaign for RASTA Ganja Rights.
For after all, was it not RASTA who has suffered for decades for promoting what these nice gray-haired gentlemen are now intending to legalize and commercialize? Surely there is a detailed document, a Position Paper, an Economic Blueprint, a Future Development Plan by and from RASTA that will be accepted as the foundation of the industry RASTA created, established and suffered imprisonment, brutality and worse for. I am really hoping this is so, but I’ve heard of none so far. Perhaps such documents will be introduced today.
The proposal to establish the GFGPA describes a ‘National Council’ of 60 members very similar to the organization of a political party. The island will be divided into 4 ‘Chapters’, each of which will elect a President, VP, and Management committee of between 15-20 persons and send 4 members to the National Council. Composing this National Council, the founding organizations will have 12 seats and their membership will never be renewed and reviewed as will membership by other organizations.
ONLY 7 RASTA MEMBERS The Jamaica Agricultural Society will have 5 members. (Is this assuming that members of the JAS are ganja farmers?) Though listed separately, the small business community will have a total of 12 Council members (Micro, small medium enterprise – 5, agro producers – 3, and Small business – 2 members). Dividing it up still further, “Women Owners” will have 2 members. Out of 60 members on the National Council for legalization, growing, producing and earning from the Rasta Sacrament Ganja, RASTA will have only SEVEN members.
I am hoping the discussion today and tomorrow will see the inequality in the proposal and adjust these numbers to make Rasta have a larger representation out of the 60 members. I am also concerned that the Coalition requires all members to sign a document promising not to plant or grow ganja until the Government legalizes or decriminalizes it. Surely it is RASTA that will be restricted by this promise, as few of the other organizations have been growing ganja as RASTA has. On top of that, the Coalition has invited the Police Force to patrol the meeting to ensure that no one smokes ganja in or near the building. As I said, I am not at the meeting, but I know its outcome will be well-documented because it will undoubtedly form the basis of the next Jamaican election campaign. Watching and listening, with interest.
PINNACLE Like a swan gliding smoothly across the surface while paddling furiously underwater, the Occupy Pinnacle Movement continues to display a calm exterior while battling to keep hold of the reins of the situation they birthed. In a strong letter to the Group’s FB page titled “Crabs Inna Barrel”, son Monty Howell laments the bitter disputes that have ravaged the group’s Facebook page, as well as the lack of political experience of the organizers now trapped in the strategic chess game being played by government. Having appointed three of the PNP’s most loyal and faithful members to handle the matter, the government has placed the matter in a procedural limbo, allegedly awaiting discovery of a clear paper trail from Leonard Howell‘s land purchase to Richard Lake’s title before taking any further action.
Meanwhile, the nexus of the RASTA activists claim for all 500 acres of Pinnacle rests on all involved agreeing about whether the fight is for ownership of the land by descendants of Leonard Howell, or ownership of the land as a heritage for the RASTA Nation at large. If the former is the case, then Howell’s descendants insist they be allowed to continue fighting the battle without help from concerned (or misguided) Rasta activists of all stripes. If the latter, then the claim must be made for RASTA as an ‘indigenous’ national movement with a history deserving of being memorialized and replicated according to internationally accepted positions on Indigenous Cultural Heritage.The conflict between both sides must be welcome news for the developers, still assured that nothing will move their chief asset (and the obstacle to possible satisfactory resolution), the Minister of Youth & Culture.
I am not part of the OCCUPY PINNACLE organization, have attended no meetings nor marched in the streets. As a journalist, I always give support as best I can for all good RASTA works, and OCCUPY PINNACLE has noble objectives that deserve my media support. However, experience has taught me that RASTA business is best approached from a distant perspective by ones such as I, until called for specific purpose. Thus, I wait with interest the outcome of this struggle now taking place, while always eager to update my readers on any news and information I receive and can share.
RASTA IN ENGLAND Sending BigUps and BLESSINGS to Ras Tony Tafari Thomas and Ras Robbie Shilliam, founders of the Rastafari Global Council (RGC) & Rastafari Council of Great Britain (RCGB) who were chief activists in preventing the sale of the Emperor’s House at Bath and converting it into a Rastafari HQ.
The RCG has been offeirng a 12-week Rastafari Community Leadership Training Programme as one of several initiatives to organize and educate Rastafari in Britain to fully participate in and benefit from living in Britain and participating in political decision-making. Their FB page is a fountain of information and discussion on Rasta and African affairs, and is well worth a visit. Unfortunately, the group is not accepting more members on its page, as the Administrators keep a tight rein on posts to avoid sabotage and fifth columnists,while filling the page with positive proposals and knowledge.
I sincerely hope the RGC truly becomes a Global Council for Rastafari. We need such strong examples and leadership, as Rastafari continues to grow as a strong international fellowship of humanity.
SABBATH BLESSINGS & LOVE