Senior Rastas boycott visit of Ethiopia Prince in protest against Jamaican Government
Senior members of the Rastafarian community in Jamaica were a no-show at an appreciation ceremony for His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, held at the chamber of the St James Municipal Corporation yesterday, where a symbolic key to the city of Montego Bay was presented to him.
President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, arrived on the island on Thursday night as Jamaica’s special guest for National Heritage Week celebrations, being observed from October 9-17.
But Ras Iyah V, a prominent voice for the Rastafarian community over the years, said they were not engaged by the government in the planned visit of the grandson of the revered late Emperor of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie.
“The fact that Prince Emias is Haile Selassie’s grandson from the Solomonic and Davidic lineage, his visit means a lot to I and I, but in terms of how the government went about inviting him here and wanting Rastafarians to participate in a government-controlled programme, rather than a coordinated one, between Rastafari and the government, that is what I despise,” said Iyah V, former chairman of the Nyahabinghi Administrative Council.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that he and the other elders did not like the way the invitation of his Imperial Highness Prince Ermias was handled, arguing that it was more geared towards Jamaica’s 60th Independence anniversary celebration.
“I stayed away not to show any form of disrespect to Prince Ermias, but to show to the government that as Rastafari, we will not fit into their programme,” Iyah V said.
Yesterday, Councillor Leeroy Williams, Mayor of Montego Bay, presented the key to the City of Montego Bay to His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie on the 56th anniversary of the State visit to Jamaica by his grandfather, the late Emperor of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, in 1966.
“Similar to his grandfather Emperor Haile Selassie, Prince Ermias is a dear friend to the Jamaican people, and is admired and loved by Jamaicans, particularly the Rastafarian community,” said Williams.
“For our great admiration the municipality declares that a symbolic key to the city of Montego Bay be presented to His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie for his outstanding contribution to the education and humanitarian development of the people,” Williams added.
“With this symbolic gesture, may you always feel welcome to our lovely city of Montego Bay.”
Prince Ermias said the honour bestowed on him caught him off guard, even as he expressed thanks to the government and the people of Jamaica, particularly, those residing in the city of Montego Bay.
“It was a surprise and a big moment which I will treasure all my life. Now that I have the key, I hope to come more often,” said Prince Ermias.
Ras Iyah V said in 2016 when Prince Ermias visited the island in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the visit of His Majesty Haile Selassie to Jamaica, that was properly organised.
”It was a coordinated programme where the Rastafarian community and the government sat down and we plan a programme. This is not so this time, it is just an invitation by the government, asking Rastafarians to fit into their programme,” the disappointed Rasta elder argued.
He said the government continues to disrespect the Rastafarian community.
“Rastafari children can now be turned back by school boards for having locks,” said Iyah V. “All of these things that we have achieved over the last 30 years, it is like they want to turn back the clock. We don’t appreciate how the government is dealing with Rastafari.”