Maroons double down on stake to sovereignty over lands
WESTERN BUREAU: While legal experts are divided over the authenticity of the Accompong Maroons’ claims to sovereignty based on a 1739 treaty with the British, the leaders of the enclave insist that their claims are not based solely on the...
While legal experts are divided over the authenticity of the Accompong Maroons’ claims to sovereignty based on a 1739 treaty with the British, the leaders of the enclave insist that their claims are not based solely on the provisions of the treaty.
“It is not only about the treaty. This is a misconception that some people have. Many people believe the treaty, as a document, gives us our right ... and that what King George II wrote in the document gave us our right,” said Alex Moore-Minott, minister of foreign affairs and diplomacy for the Maroons. “What people must first understand is that the ability to sign a treaty is prima facie (accepted as correct until proved otherwise) evidence of sovereignty as only independent sovereign nations can conclude treaties.”
Following recent statements by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang and the police, which suggested that the Jamaican Government does not recognise the sovereignty claim by the Maroons, Chief Richard Currie emphasised that the Jamaican Government has no legal jurisdiction over the Maroons.
“ … It is my duty to defend my people, and it should be the duty of any leader to do the same,” said Currie, in declaring himself as the voice of authority for the Maroons. “… It is my fiduciary duty and there is no power on Earth – temporal or spiritual – that can separate me from my duty.”
Renowned attorney-at-law Bert Samuels believes that based on how things have played out during the Spanish and English occupation of Jamaica, indigenous Jamaicans – a status the Maroons are claiming – would have a case to claim sovereignty.
“The Spanish-enslaved Africans have a right to have their treaty recognised. The British had no legal or moral authority to rule over the Maroons. The British stole Jamaica from the Spanish thieves, and I am prepared to argue that the Maroons have a case,” Samuels tweeted yesterday.
However, constitutional lawyer Dr Lloyd Barrett is contending that while the Maroons have certain rights arising from the treaty, they are not a sovereign nation.
“They are not sovereign and they would not be recognised in the international community as sovereign. They are not a separate state. They are a part of the Jamaica State,” Barnett stated in a radio interview.
Arawaks and Tainos
However, in further staking the group’s claim beyond the 1789 treaty, Moore-Minott said that while slaves would have run away from the plantations and joined the Maroons in the Cockpit Country, his ancestors pre-dated those ex-slaves as occupiers of their ancestral lands.
“I am not saying that people did not run away from the plantation system, but there were always people living up in the hills, who we know as Arawaks and Tainos – the first people of the land, our forefathers. So we have bloodline rights to the lands we occupy,” said Moore-Minott.
In speaking to the situation with the Mayan people in Belize, who had a similar case like that of the Maroons adjudicated in their favour in a court case, Moore-Minott said their claim is just as legitimate.
“In the Commonwealth, there is ample evidence recognising the land ownership rights of indigenous people. In Belize, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Mayan people, who are now establishing the borders to their lands as indigenous people,” noted Moore-Minott.