Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says a special team will be appointed to meet with elders of the Rastafarian community, to discuss the tragic Coral Gardens incident which took place some 50 years ago.
“As a responsible government, regardless of which party was in power at that time, I know you’re looking to my administration to help to heal some of those wounds of the past,” she said.
Mrs. Simpson Miller was addressing members of the Rastafari community on August 15, during the closing ceremony of the Kingston-leg of the Rastafari Studies Conference and General Assembly 2013, held on the campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
The Prime Minister, who called for a moment of silence for the lives lost at Coral Gardens 50 years ago, said the event “is one of the most unfortunate aspects of our modern history.”
The five-day conference is being held in the 50th year of what is often referred to as the Coral Gardens Incident, which took place in Coral Gardens, St. James, in 1963.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that the Rastafarian movement’s contribution to Jamaican culture is significant.
“Our struggle to understand our identity as a black post-colonial nation has been largely influenced by the contribution of Rastafari. Our nation must be grateful and appreciative of this powerful force in our culture and heritage,” she argued.
She further noted that one of Rastafari’s most powerful creations – reggae music – has taken “wings and penetrated the depths and heights of the world.”
“We are all aware that Rastafari, with its philosophy and promotion of Africa’s redemption and its aspiration for peace and justice, was the foundation of the music and became, therefore, an important part of the image of brand Jamaica,” she said.
In the meantime, Rastafari Millennium Council International Ambassador, Queen Mother Moses, said the movement is calling on the Government to finance the repatriation to Africa of those Jamaicans who desire to go.
“We have the land on the other side of the Atlantic and we have the people who want to go on this side of the Atlantic, so we definitely need our government to help facilitate that process,” she added.
The conference, which began on August 13, saw several panel discussions on topics such as ‘Rastafari and Reparation’, ‘Rastafari and Identity’, Coral Gardens, ‘Rastafari and Human Rights and Religious Rights’ and ‘Theoretical Perspectives on Rastafari’.
Special guests at the five-day event also included Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; Dr. Julius Garvey, son of National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey; and International Reggae Artiste, Bunny Wailer.
The conference, which ended on Friday, August 16, on the western campus of the UWI in Montego Bay, St. James, was held under the theme: ‘Rastafari, Coral Gardens and African Redemption: Challenges and Opportunities Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Coral Gardens Massacre’.