The planned eviction of I and I Rastafari family from Pinnacle — the first self-sufficient Rastafari community on the island, located on lands purchased by Leonard P Howell — seems to be manifesting as Babylon would will it. Already set to give away Goat Islands the Government now intends to take Rastafari lands.
So I and I would like to know, while Jamaica works out with its neighbours sanctions against the Dominican Republic for disinheriting Haitians in that country, our own courts do the same to Rastas?
As far as I and I comprehend, the Jamaican State has made the site a national heritage site, and wishes to evict whoever lives on it. Hence this is firstly a case about land title — who “owns” the land?
Many of the revolutions of history were fought on grounds of land and property, the Coral Gardens incident of 1963 had similar issues of land ownership to the dispute and ensuing tragedy. So, for public clarity I and I would like to know whose land is it?
If the Rastafarianism is a recognised religious group in Jamaica, and by this I mean in law — which I believe they are — and seeing that Jamaica has recently adopted its own Bill of Rights, then there is no denying that Rastafari is a legitimate with regard to religious freedom as recognised in Jamaica, Great Britain, the United States, and other countries. I and I believe one of the arguments against this heinous act of the state, is based on freedom of religion.(ie by evicting off the land and interfering with Rastafari’s freedom of religion). Thus this makes the case a constitutional one as well. Does the public defender have anything to say?
I and I cannot be sure what the State intends to do with the site. If the idea is to keep it as State property, as an important part of Jamaican history, it may seem hard to argue against that. After all, the State may argue that they are taking care of the place by doing this, and making sure its historical significance is well known by everyone. This is a controversial notion and forces the question, who have the stakeholders consulted? Could not an initiative that engenders a community and communal heritage trust be set up to navigate the dual existence of a heritage site and the Rastafarian community?
Bearing this in mind, I ask, is it time for some Rastafari agencies and groups, artistes, and lawyers to find a way to take this case to the Privy Council or the Caribbean Court of Justice? There needs to be good advocacy and help in raising international awareness for this undoubted human rights travesty.
I encourage both the Rastafari community, as well as the State, to examine the Saramaka People v Suriname case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In this case, descendants of self-liberated African slaves were held to be “indigenous peoples” and to enjoy the rights recognised to these categories of people under international law. A similar case can be made for the communities at Pinnacle as well. Using that line of argument, if the land if sold no project will be able to start unless the consent of the local communities has been secured by the company. (See the International Finance Corporation Performance Standard number 5 and 7). This is a powerful tool. I hope you understand, this does not change anything with regards to the title to the land, but at least it could prevent the land from being destroyed by logging, mining, tourist resorts, or whatever their plans are.
Yannick Nesta Pessoa