BRUTE FORCE IN ACCOMPONG TOWN
Maroons accuse Currie of Taliban-style dictatorship but chief defends treaty powers
There is growing agitation in the Accompong Town Maroon enclave in St Elizabeth, where some residents are up in arms over what they describe as the dictatorial style of Chief Richard Currie.
They alleged that persons close to the leader have been using verbal and physical attacks to repel any resistance to orders.
After weeks of simmering tension between loyalists of Currie and others critical of his leadership style, things reportedly came to a head on Saturday night when a man claimed he had been gun-butted and stabbed because he was among a group of people who challenged an order from the chief to bring an end to a party that was in full swing.
The injured man submitted videos and still photographs to The Gleaner, showing wounds to his head, hands, and feet.
According to the man, who asked that his identity not be revealed, he was attacked by men close to the chief.
“They attacked me because they saw me as the weak fence,” said the injured man, adding that a silver gun was used to hit him in the face, with an alleged enforcer threatening to shoot him.
“Mi run go in a wah van and him tek out him knife and stab-stab me up,” added the man, who is being urged by relatives to report the matter to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), but is seemingly concerned about further aggravating the situation as it is not Maroon custom.
Last month, a video emerged on social media showing Currie attempting to shut off another unauthorised part in Accompong, with some residents taking a combative stance as the situation threatened to become confrontational.
A female resident, who said she supported Currie's ascension to the leadership of the Maroon community in February, said that she now regrets supporting him, describing him as a dictator, who is operating contrary to Maroon customs.
“Maroon Town is not Afghanistan, so you and your Taliban-style leadership is not going to work out,” said the woman, who did not reveal her identity out of fear of retribution.
While The Gleaner's efforts to reach Currie were futile, a public notice posted via his Twitter handle noted that Accompong chiefs had “full power to inflict any punishment they think proper for crimes committed by their men among themselves”.
The November 8 tweet added: “It has come to out attention that in the course of their duties, members of our internal security detail were attacked by an individual known to the community to be of unsound mind in their peaceful attempt to bring to an end an event happening in the community. My administration is currently investigating the matter and whether or not excessive force was used.”
Alex Moore –Minnott, the minister of foreign affairs in Currie's administration, told The Gleaner that the man who claimed that he was attacked was a troublemaker.
He said that the matter would have been referred to their public relations officer for a fulsome response. However, up to press time, The Gleaner had not received that response.
Former Colonel Ferron Williams, who Currie succeeded just over eight months ago, said that he is quite disturbed by some of the alleged goings-on, but Currie has spurned all his requests for dialogue.
“The people are not happy with his leadership style and some of the things he has been doing. I have tried to reach out to him many times, but he has not been receptive,” said Williams.
“The residents no longer have a voice in what is taking place in the community. He is behaving like a dictator. Those who criticise him are subjected to verbal and physical attacks, which I understand is what happened on Saturday night,” added the former colonel.
Williams said that he is also deeply concerned about the chief's seemingly antagonistic attitude towards the Government of Jamaica and the police force, which he said is a major departure from the stance of previous Maroon leaders, at least two of whom also served in the JCF.
A few months ago, the Accompong Maroons got into a kerfuffle with police officers who entered their community and tried to destroy a ganja farm. The police were challenged by the Maroons, who declared their actions illegal based on their interpretation of the 1838 treaty with the British government, which gives them sovereignty over their lands.
The JCF defended its action, saying that the cops were on official duty and had a right to enter the Maroon enclave, which is officially part of Jamaica and, therefore, under the jurisdiction of the police.
Currie also made it clear that he did not need that permission of the Jamaican authorities to use any modern weapon to carry out his duties after the Firearm Licensing Authority launched an investigation into the circumstances in which the Maroon chief was seen with what appeared to be a shotgun strapped to his back during the confrontation with the police.
“The members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the members of the Firearm Licensing Authority are not elected by my people. In the Cockpit Country, we believe in democracy and the political freedom of the people,” Currie said in a video.
The matter was one of concern for Williams.
“When I heard about the incident where the police were driven out of Accompong and the chief's tough talk about confronting the Government, it makes me sad because that is not how we used to operate .... . Accompong is still a part of Jamaica and while we have certain rights, we are still a part of the Jamaican society,” said Williams.