‘Tek it off yuh mind’

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - OBSERVER CENTRAL | NEWS -

this Cock­pit Coun­try — that’s why it name Coun­try. We hear talk­ing about pro­tec­tion and par­ish man­age­ment, Ma­roon will man­age the Cock­pit Coun­try… We are say­ing to ev­ery­body ‘tek unuh mind off a di Cock­pit Coun­try’.”

Cur­rie said the area rests in the mid­dle of four parishes — St Elizabeth, West­more­land, St James and Trelawny.

Ma­roons are the de­scen­dants of slaves owned by Span­ish colonis­ers who fled Ja­maica on the ar­rival of the Bri­tish in 1655. Also, de­scen­dants of run­away slaves from Bri­tish sugar plan­ta­tions are called Ma­roons.

In ad­di­tion to the Ma­roons, con­ser­va­tion­ists have pub­licly reg­is­tered their dis­con­tent with plans for min­ing in the Cock­pit Coun­try.

In Novem­ber 2017, Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness an­nounced pro­tec­tion for the area in Parliament.

He said the pro­tected area would in­clude ex­ist­ing for­est re­serves, sig­nif­i­cant hy­dro­log­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal fea­tures, and cul­tural and her­itage sites.

Hol­ness also an­nounced that no min­ing would be per­mit­ted in the Cock­pit Coun­try Pro­tected Area, and as such, the Min­ing Act and any ex­ist­ing min­ing li­cences will be amended to close these ar­eas to min­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ja­maica Observer re­port about the an­nounce­ment, the Gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions were prompted by a “Save the Cock­pit Coun­try” pe­ti­tion by Ja­maica En­vi­ron­men­tal Trust (JET), on the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter web­site. It said the pe­ti­tion out­lined that the area was Ja­maica’s largest re­main­ing nat­u­ral for­est, which stores and re­leases fresh wa­ter via al­most 40 rivers, streams, springs, and ponds, and supplies about 40 per cent of western Ja­maica’s wa­ter needs.

In late 2018 JET said that at a stake­hold­ers’ meet­ing with res­i­dents of sev­eral Cock­pit Coun­try com­mu­ni­ties and civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives, there was dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the slow progress in the pro­tec­tion, a year fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment.

Speak­ing at the Accompong cel­e­bra­tion in St Elizabeth, Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner to Ja­maica Asif Ah­mad, like Cur­rie, felt that it was im­por­tant to be aware of the sanc­tity of treaties be­tween sov­er­eign na­tions.

“We should never for­get that when one coun­try gives its bond to an­other, peo­ple are watch­ing, his­tory is watch­ing…,” he said, adding that all as­pects of the past should be re­mem­bered as ef­forts are made for a bet­ter fu­ture.

This year’s event in Accompong was the 281st cel­e­bra­tion of the sign­ing of the peace treaty and as is cus­tom­ary it was also recog­ni­tion of the birth of for­mer Ma­roon leader, Cap­tain Cud­joe.

(Pho­tos: Gre­gory Ben­nett)

Deputy Colonel Melville Cur­rie

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