Kingston, 25 November 2022 – The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has said that there is no tension between the Government and the Rastafari or Maroon communities in Jamaica.
Minister Grange made the statement as she appeared before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The Minister’s appearance before the Committee via video link over the last two days (Thursday and Friday) is part of the regular reporting mechanism on the measures implemented by Jamaica in keeping with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Responding to questions regarding the Government’s relationship with Rastafari and the Maroon communities in light of reports of the cutting of the hair of a Rastafari elder at a hospital, as well as reports of tensions in the Accompong Town community, Minister Grange said that “while there may be individual issues, we continue to enjoy excellent relations with these groups. Certainly as the Minister of Culture responsible for those groups, we engage constantly and have had wonderful outcomes. And we recognise their indigenous culture and we recognise them as Jamaicans.”
Minister Grange made a distinction between ‘indigenous culture’ and ‘indigenous people’.
The Minister also referenced financial and other support given by the Government to Maroon communities including Moore Town, Charles Town, Scott’s Hall and Accompong Town to assist with their festivals and development initiatives.
She also spoke of reparations to members of the Rastafari community who were victims of the Coral Gardens Incident of 1963.
Minister Grange said:
“Jamaica, despite its size and limited resources, has made significant strides in implementing the Convention and in rooting out any hint of racial discrimination within the society. We have sought to address past wrongs and to strengthen our legal and institutional frameworks. We will continue to bolster existing mechanisms for the protection and advancement of the rights of every citizen, at all levels of the Jamaican society, no matter race, colour, creed or class.”
The Minister said Jamaica would continue to monitor the human rights situation in the country and make adjustments where necessary.
“We acknowledge that there is room for improvement, and we are resolved to engage and ensure the full respect of the rights of all Jamaicans. Our beloved Jamaica will remain welcoming to all peoples regardless of skin colour. We strive to foster unity. Out of Many One People is who we are and will continue to be.”
Jamaica’s delegation to the Geneva-based meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination faced broad questions touching on the protection of human rights in a range of areas. The meeting reviewed the multi sectoral 2019 Country Report submitted by the Government of Jamaica.
The delegation included Her Excellency Ambassador Cheryl Spencer, the Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations and her team; Miss Sherise Gayle, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Captain Natalie James, Human Rights Specialist in the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs; and
Mrs Laleta Davis Mattis, Chair of the National Council on Reparation.
They were supported via video link by several government Ministries, Departments and Agencies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Education and Youth, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.