Members of the Rastafarian community gather on stage for a drumming session during Friday night's 44th anniversary ceremony, in Montego Bay, St. James, to mark the 1963 Coral Gardens uprising. - Photo by Adrian Frater
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Parliamentarian Mike Henry has issued a personal apology to the Rastafarian community for the alleged atrocities meted out to Rastas in the infamous 1963 Coral Gardens uprising, and has offered to join in the lobby for an official apology from Government.
"To the gentlemen who wore their locks with pride, who stood up for what they believe in, who were misunderstood by a system and mistreated by a system, in the name of Rastafari, I apologise," Mr. Henry said, while addressing Friday night's ceremony to mark the 44th anniversary of the incident, in Montego Bay, St. James. "I think what was done was very wrong."
Mr. Henry, who is currently in the forefront of the fight for reparation for the victims of the trans-atlantic slave trade, also gave a commitment to join the Rastas in their quest for an official state apology and for reparation for the injustices they suffered.
Holy Thursday rampage
In The Gleaner's account of the Coral Gardens incident, which was published on April 13, 1963, it was reported that a gang of Rastafarians, armed with machetes and daggers, launched a Holy Thursday rampage that left eight men, including two policemen, dead.
However, survivors of the incident, some of whom spoke on Friday night, said they were wrongfully accused and told heart-wrenching stories of being hunted down like animals, brutally beaten, had their locks hacked off and seeing some of their colleagues killed in a subsequent government crackdown.
"What happen was the result of a land dispute between some comb-some (men with beard but no locks) and landowners in Rose Hall," said Rastafarian Elder Bongo Ashley who was beaten and jailed at the time. "Because the system misunderstood Rastafari, they welcomed the opportunity to try to wipe us out."
In addition to his apology and his promise to support the reparation lobby, Mr. Henry, who also used the opportunity to reject British Prime Minister Tony Blair's apology for the United Kingdom's role in the transatlantic slave trade, saying it should include reparation; also called for ganja to be made a sacrament of Rastafari.
"I maintain that marijuana (ganja) should be made a sacrament of Rastafari," said Mr. Henry, who is the Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon. "If Rastafari was a brown man religion, everybody would have wrapped it up and gone with it already."