Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maroons, conservationists say no to bauxite, limestone mining

Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor

CONSERVATIONISTS - THIS time joined by the Accompong Maroons - have once again come out against bauxite prospecting in the Cockpit Country, which accounts for a significant percentage of Jamaica's remaining forest cover and invaluable water resources.

"The Maroons are a sovereign people who have exercised sovereignty over Accompong and surrounding lands for over 275 years [and whose] rights are recognised and guaranteed by virtue of a treaty with the British in 1738," said Colonel Ferron Williams, leader of the Accompong Maroons in St Elizabeth, in a June 13 release to the media.

"The act of granting a licence to any entity to prospect over our lands without our permission is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of international human rights law."

Williams said no good could come of mining in the Cockpit Country - home to some 27 of the island's 28 endemic species and the largest butterfly in the Americas, the giant swallowtail.

"We are opposed to the mining, whether for bauxite or limestone - white or yellow. When one takes into consideration the other areas that bauxite has really gone into, what do they have to show for it? Poverty, health hazards and houses that are in a deplorable condition," he said.

Williams' comments follow revelations that a special exclusive prospecting licence - scheduled to expire in November this year - had been granted to bauxite interests in 2005 and renewed annually since then. Commissioner of Mines Clinton Thompson confirmed this on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, conservationists in and outside the Cockpit Country have echoed Williams' sentiments, suggesting that Government had perhaps not acted in good faith.

"If you want us to act in good faith, act in good faith," said Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust, one of several organisations that comprise the Cockpit Country Stakeholders' Group (CCSG).

"Having declared the boundary, do the consultation about land use, what is going to be allowed and what is not going to be allowed. Don't continue to consult and while consulting continue prospecting," she added.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate

Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor

IF the University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Environmental Management has its way, heated debate over the boundary for the culturally and ecologically significant Cockpit Country in Trelawny could cool within months.

"I am looking for opportunities to manage the environment in a very practical way. The Cockpit Country jumps out as one of those areas where we haven't yet made that management decision," said centre director Dr Dale Webber.

It is for this reason that the centre went after funding from the Forestry Conservation Fund to finance a public consultation on a report - commissioned by the Government seven years ago and undertaken by the UWI Department of Geography and Geology - on a boundary for the Cockpit Country.

"We were interested in participating in creating this stakeholder consultation, which is the first step [towards] creating a management plan [and] that must be where we are going - the management of the resources," Webber told The Gleaner.

The consultations, funded to the tune of $3 million and which are to end next month, are intended to help realise consensus on the boundary - a matter that has remained unsettled since 2006 when green lobbyists first raised concerns over the prospect of bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Maroons of Trelawny and Cockpit Country

Maroon autonomy

The Maroons were unconquered, they persisted as free peoples in the heart of Britain's most important and notorious slave colony until long after the abolition of slavery in 1834. The fact that they were never defeated or assimilated into the larger population set them apart from most of the other groups.
Two treaties signed by the Maroons and their British antagonists in 1739 gave legal recognition to de facto ethnic groups that already differed culturally (despite significant areas of overlap) from the rest of the Jamaican population. Two major groups were covered by the treaties: those under the leadership of Cudjoe (Kojo) in the Cockpit Country in the western part of the island, known as the Leeward Maroons; and those affiliated with Quao (Kwau), Nanny, and a variety of other leaders in the Blue Mountains in the east, known as the Windward Maroons. The treaties of 1739 reinforced and institutionalized preexisting cultural differences between the Maroons and the coastal slave population by legally sanctioning the Maroons' existence as semi-autonomous free peoples within a slave colony, and by providing them with bounded territories that came to symbolize their corporate identities as communities of common landowners.

The treaty:

First, That all hostilities shall cease on both sides forever.

Secondly, That the said Captain Cudjoe, the rest of his captains, adherents, and men shall for ever hereafter in a perfect state of freedom and liberty, excepting those who have been taken by them, or fled to them, within two years last past, if such are willing to return to their said masters and owners, with full pardon and indemnity from their said masters or owners for what is past; provided always that, if they are not willing to return, they shall remain in subjection to Captain Cudjoe and in friendship with us, according to the form an tenor of this treaty. 
Thirdly, That they shall enjoy and posses, for themselves and posterity for ever, all the lands situate and lying between Trelawney Town and the Cockpits, to the amount of fifteen hundred acres, bearing northwest from the said Trelawney Town.

Fourthly, That they shall have liberty to plant the said lands with coffee, cocoa, ginger, tobacco, and cotton, and to breed cattle, hogs, goats, or any other flock, and dispose of the produce or increase of the said commodities to the inhabitants of this island; provided always, that when they bring the said commodities to market, they shall apply fist to the customs, or any other magistrate of the respective parishes where they expose their goods to sale, for a license to vend the same.
Fifthly, That Captain Cudjoe, and all the Captain's adherents, and people now in subjection to him, shall all live together within the bounds of Trelawney Town, and that they have liberty to hunt where they shall think fit, except within three miles of any settlement, crawl, or pen; provided always, that in case the hunters of Captain Cudjoe and those of other settlements meet, then the hogs to be equally divided between both parties.

Sixthly, That the said Captain Cudjoe, and his successors, do use their best endeavors to take, kill, suppress, or destroy, either by themselves, or jointly with any other number of men, commanded on that service by his excellency the Governor, or Commander in Chief for the time being, all rebels wheresoever they be, throughout this island, unless they submit to the same terms of accommodation granted to Captain Cudjoe, and his successors.
Seventhly, That in case this island be invaded by any foreign enemy, the said Captain Cudjoe, and his successors hereinafter named or to be appointed, shall then, upon notice given, immediately repair to any place the Governor for the time being shall appoint, in order to repel the said invaders with his or their utmost force, and to submit to the orders of the Commander in Chief on that occasion.
Eighthly, That if any white man shall do any manner of injury to Captain Cudjoe, his successor, or any of his or their people, they shall apply to any commanding officer or magistrate in the neighbourhood for justice; and in case Captain Cudjoe, or any of his people, shall do any injury to any whiter person, he shall submit himself, or deliver up such offenders to justice.
Ninthly, That if any negroes shall hereafter run away from their masters or owners, and shall fall into Captain Cudjoe's hands, they shall immediately be sent back to the chief magistrate of the next parish where they are taken; and these that bring them are to be satisfied for their trouble, as the legislature shall appoint. [The assembly granted a premium of thirty shillings for each fugitive slave returned to his owner by the Maroons, besides expenses.
Tenthly, That all negroes taken, since the raising of this party by Captain Cudjoe's people, shall immediately be returned.
Eleventhly, That Captain Cudjoe, and his successors, shall wait on his Excellency, or the Commander in Chief for the time being, every year, if thereunto required.
Twelfth, That Captain Cudjoe, during his life, and the captains succeeding him, shall have full power to inflict any punishment they think proper for crimes committed by their men among themselves, death only excepted; in which case, if the Captain thinks they deserve death, he shall be obliged to bring them before any justice of the peace, who shall order proceedings on their trial equal to those of other free negroes.
Thirteenth, That Captain Cudjoe with his people, (Repeat: subjects, peoples.) shall cut, clear, and keep open, large and convenient roads from Trelawney Town to Westmorland and St. James's, and if possible to St. Elizabeth's.
Fourteenth, That two white men, to be nominated by his Excellency, or the Commander and Chief for the time being, shall constantly live and reside with Captain Cudjoe and his successors, in order to maintain a friendly correspondence (Not dominance, correspondence -- see "waiting". These are ambassadors, not governors) with the inhabitants of this island.
Fifteenth, That Captain Cudjoe shall, during his life, be Chief Commander in Trelawney Town; after his decease the command to devolve on his brother, Captain Accompong; and in case of his decease, on his next brother Captain Johnny; and, failing him, Captain Cuffee shall succeed; who is to be succeeded by Captain Quaco; and after all their demises, the Governor, or Commander in Chief for the time being, shall appoint, from time to time, whom he thinks fit for that command.
In testimony, &c. &c.

Attempt at Maroon assimilation

The first formal attempt to encourage the assimilation of the Maroons into the wider population was the so-called Maroon Lands Allotment Act of 1842. This piece of legislation aimed to abrogate the treaties of 1739 and absorb the Maroons into the emergent peasantry by dividing the communally owned Maroon lands and parceling them out to individual owners. The Maroons, however, simply refused to comply, and the colonial government did not force the issue. It soon found that its interests were not, after all, necessarily served by dissolving the Maroon communities.

The greatest challenge to Maroon autonomy, however, came with Jamaica's political independence in 1962. The country's new constitution did not address the question of the political and legal status of the Maroon communities in post-independence Jamaica. The assumption seems to have been that the treaties of 1739, and any vestiges of legal or political autonomy attached to them, would automatically be rendered null and void by the creation of a new, unitary state. But the Maroons continued to insist on the validity of their treaties, which they regarded as sacred charters, and they pointed out that these had been made with the British crown, and not with the ancestors of those who constituted the new government. During the 1960s and 70s, successive governments attempted to further the integration of the Maroons into the larger population by demanding that persons living on Maroon lands pay taxes on the individual plots they occupied. Maroons in the two major communities of Moore Town and Accompong, however, resisted all efforts to divide and tax their communally held "treaty lands." Once again, the Jamaican government did not attempt to force compliance, and, despite occasional conflicts over this question in the ensuing years, the Maroons of these two communities still pay no taxes on their communal lands.

The political and legal status of the Jamaican Maroon communities remains as ambiguous as ever. Plans for a new national park or biodiversity reserve in the Cockpit Country, an area originally occupied by the ancestors of the Accompong Maroons, have for the first time raised the possibility of formal, internationally-monitored discussions between Maroons and the Jamaican government over the question of land. But limited and inconclusive written documentation and a long and complex history of unresolved territorial disputes have made it difficult even to establish the precise boundaries of Maroon lands. Furthermore, while many Maroons are not willing to separate the question of land rights from the larger issue of self-determination, the Jamaican state, for its part, has shown no inclination to give serious consideration to the sensitive topic of Maroon autonomy.