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Coral Gardens Trust for 1963 victims now a reality

The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, embraces  Edward Fray, a survivor of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident after the formal establishment of the Trust for victims which will be administered by the Administrator General of Jamaica.  Also pictured is Isaac Wright, another survivor. The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, embraces Edward Fray, a survivor of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident after the formal establishment of the Trust for victims which will be administered by the Administrator General of Jamaica. Also pictured is Isaac Wright, another survivor. MCGES/Oliver Watt

Kingston, 21 December 2019 – The Trust Fund for victims of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident has now been established.

The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, signed the document on Thursday to officially establish the Rastafari Coral Gardens Trust which will be managed by the Administrator General of Jamaica.

The establishment of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Trust was a commitment given by Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, who in April 2017 offered an Official Apology to victims of the 1963 incident.

Addressing the signing ceremony at her Ministry’s Headquarters, Minister Grange said:

“I come humbly, as representative of this Administration, to take steps to right a wrong.

We acknowledge that for 56 years, you — our Rastafari brothers and sisters — have lived with the physical, psychological and emotional scars of that incident at Coral Gardens and the atrocities you experienced over the years.

We also know that you feel that successive governments have let you down by not sufficiently acknowledging what you have been through.

We are taking steps to change that.”

Minister Grange, who has responsibility for Reparations, said she hoped that the establishment of the Trust would advance the process of making amends for what happened in 1963 and assist in repairing the relationship between Rastafarians in Jamaica and their government.

Keeping to the commitment given by Prime Minister Holness, and in keeping with the recommendation of the Public Defender, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport transferred Twelve Million, Seven Hundred and Eighteen Thousand Dollars to the Administrator General in 2018 for the purpose of setting up the Trust Fund. The Public Defender had proposed a Trust Fund of no less than J$10 million.

On Thursday, Minister Grange formalised the process in the presence of survivors of the Coral Gardens incident, including Brother Edward Fray.

Brother Fray, who’s been a Rastafarian for more than 60 years, said he was happy that the survivors of the Coral Gardens incident were finally getting justice. He prayed that “Jah, Ras Tafari, would bless us all and keep us together as one people; and unite our hearts in truth and in righteousness, in love and in purity.”

Secretary of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society, Sister Pamela Williams, hailed Thursday’s signing ceremony as the culmination of decades of activism by Rastafarian groups for redress.

“We’re very grateful for this moment where we’re signing the document to establish the Trust Fund from which the compensation will be paid to the survivors; it’s a big moment,” said Sister Williams.

Rodje Malcolm, Director of Jamaicans for Justice, which represented the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society in the discussions with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport regarding the establishment of the Trust, described the signing ceremony as “a historic moment of acceptance on the part of the State by the present government that what happened in 1963 and afterwards was a gross violation of human rights that should never have occurred… it took 54 years for a government to say that we accept that we did something wrong.”

Minister Grange said the government was committed to a programme of reconciliation with the Rastafari community. In this regard, she said “the government alongside the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society has identified land that will ultimately be used to house a permanent Elder Care Home for the victims. Additionally, my Ministry is pursuing other provisions for the welfare of the survivors and the Rastafari community in general, in consultation with the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society and Jamaicans for Justice.”

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