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Abeng to be sounded at Parliament protest

Published:Friday | August 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM
The Abeng

Western Bureau:

The Abeng, the revered horn-like instrument, which the Maroon used to convey secret messages, especially in times of trouble, will be sounded outside the Jamaican Parliament next Tuesday when defenders of the Cockpit Country take their ‘no bauxite mining’ message to the nation’s parliamentarians.

“We have tried over the years to be at peace with the Jamaican government and for the most part, we have had no issues. However, we cannot standby and allow them to destroy the Cockpit Country, which our ancestors fought so hard to preserve,” a Maroon elder told The Gleaner last week.

“I hope the government will not take the blowing of the Abeng before the parliament lightly but will instead get the message loud and clear, no mining in the Cockpit Country.

Members of the Maroon community, especially in Accompong Town, St Elizabeth; and the South Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA), have been quite strident in rejecting the boundaries recognised by the government, arguing that some of the areas outside the government’s so-called ‘protected area’ is, in fact, part of the Cockpit Country.

During a recent stakeholders' meeting at the Rastafari Indigenous Village, in Montego Bay, St James, environmentalist Hugh Dixon, who heads STEA, presented documents showing what is believed to be the real boundaries of the Cockpit Country, which includes an area that is under active consideration for mining.

According to Dixon, the Cockpit Country is a much larger area than the section that the Government has declared as the official Cockpit Country Protected Area in 2017.

“It did not include a large section of the northeast Cockpit Country, which is a bird and ecotourism hotspot and sits over critical underground water resources that feed the Rio Bueno,” said Dixon.

... Politicians labelled 'cowards', 'yes men'

Next Tuesday's march on Parliament is expected to feature members of the Rastafarian community, Maroons from various Maroon villages, residents of communities in St Ann and Trelawny and environmental groups from across the island.

"The consensus from a cultural gathering held at the Rastafari Indigenous Village on August 25, is to stage a ‘NO BAUXITE MINING’ protest demonstration before the House of Parliament in Kingston prior to the stipulated mining start date,” said Dixon.

“The idea is to assemble, drum, chant and sing peacefully while waving our creatively produced placards expressing the sentiment; "NO MINING IN COCKPIT COUNTRY LANDSCAPE."

While both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips have both made recent statements intimating that they are supportive of protecting the Cockpit Country, which is said to produce 40 per cent of the nation’s domestic water and is rich in fauna and flora, which has awesome medicinal potential, their messages have not resonated among those opposed to mining.

In fact, in a recent stinging rebuke, Hugh Dixon, head of the South Trelawny Environmental Agency, described politicians as ‘cowards’ and ‘yes men', who are more worried about not offending their corporate backers than acting in the nation’s best interest.

"All I can say to Jamaicans is, you have no allies or representatives in the Parliament brave enough to stand up and say no bauxite mining in any part of the Cockpit Country landscape. It is we against the legislators and their corporate buddies,” Dixon said.