Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Coral Gardens Rastas will accept $100m gov't offer

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Pamella Williams makes a point to Lewis Brown, treasurer of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society during a press conference held on Monday at the University of the West Indies Western Jamaica Campus in Montego Bay.

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society has refuted claims that it has rejected the $102-million Rastafari Trust Fund announced in Parliament recently by the Government.

"We are willing to accept the money; at no time would we have rejected such an offer," secretary of the organisation, Pamella Williams, told The Gleaner on Monday during a press conference at the UWI Western Jamaica Campus.

Williams, whose organisation represents survivors of the 1963 atrocities against Rastafarians in western Jamaica, said that they learnt about the amount of money allocated through the news media.

The money forms part of their 12-point demands made of the government. Only half of the demands made in 2016 have been met so far. This includes the apology made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on April 4, 2017, in Parliament.

"We have asked for compensation in cash and kind for the survivors and also reparation for the community," pointed out Williams, adding that the group was surprised and disappointed to learn of the Government's decision via the media, even while negotiations were ongoing.

In 2016 when the government agreed to meet the group's demands, only 21 survivors were known to the organisation. However, that number has risen to 34 and seven next of kin.

A social enquiry by the public defender has revealed the new total of 41, as opposed to 21, Williams explained. She noted that the ages of those who were alive ranged from 75 upwards and they were in need of free health coverage.

"Most are stricken with medical challenges," she disclosed

Another overarching concern by the group is the fact that there was already a Rastafari Trust Fund, yet one with the same name was announced by the government.

"We are in the process of setting up our own trust fund, which was recommended by our Member of Parliament Dr Horace Chang," stated Williams, arguing that they would be more than willing to have a government representative on their board for transparency.

A number of members have been waiting to be repatriated, and this is also one area that Williams and her team want the Government to assist with.

"Quite a few African states have offered land to the community," she reported.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com