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Rastas demand reparations

Published:Wednesday | May 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer


THE RASTAFARI Coral Gardens Committee (RCGC) is once again calling on Government to formally apologise to the Rastafarian community and render appropriate levels of compensation for atrocities suffered at the hands of the state in the Coral Gardens intrusion of April 11, 1963.

Acting on behalf of Rastafarians nationwide, the RCGC conducted a public education forum last Thursday at the University of the West Indies Western Jamaica Campus, during which prominent members of the Rastafari movement, along with supporters and well-wishers, revisited the 1963 incident in a bid to highlight what took place and the grounds for reparation.

"The police hunted us like animals and took us all to prison, where we were severely mistreated. We were spat on and brutally beaten and food was purposely withheld from us," lamented Walter Brissette, a Coral Gardens survivor. "It is not good for any human being to be waiting for 51 years for compensation. We need it now, it's time for it now; to have us waiting for so long is very bad."

The forced cutting off of beards and shaving of heads were also among the injustices the Rastafarians claimed they suffered during the incident they have dubbed Bad Friday. However, it was revealed that contrary to many historical accounts, the Rastafarians were victims and not villains.

No Gov't acknowledgement

While noting that time has not healed their wounds, the Rastafarians said what they found most painful was the fact that there has never been any acknowledgement from the Government of Jamaica that a crime was committed against them. They said that although an apology was foremost, they have now moved well beyond that, and are now seeking full reparations from the Government.

Leading the charge for reparations was renowned lawyer, Roy Fairclough, who sat on the four-member panel, which included journalist Adrian Frater, university lecturer Dr Clinton Hutton, and Rastafarian scholar Eddie Wray.

Fairclough likened the Coral Gardens intrusion to the workings of Hitler, noting that Jamaica cannot be a complete and wholesome society without justice for the crimes that were committed against Rastafarians.

"To deprive a person of his freedom, to lock him up is an imprisonment, and to lock him up falsely is false imprisonment, for which the imprisoner is liable to pay monetary compensation," Fairclough said.