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Source: Paul Williams, Jamaica Gleaner
A tense stand-off exists between Maroon leaders and a group of local community members over the taping of a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary on April 4.
Members of the community, led by Richard Robinson, the co-chair of the Full Council of Maroons, allegedly crashed the taping, destroying video equipment and utensils that were being used on the set to showcase Maroon traditional meat jerking.
A BBC television crew, including Jamaican-born chef Levi Roots, was preparing to film an episode for a series called Caribbean Foods Made Easy. It was to document the traditional method of Maroon meat jerking.
While production was taking place, Robinson and president of the Accompong United Youth and Sports Club got wind of the activities and proceeded to Kinda – the Maroon sacred site, with machete in hand. He halted the proceedings, as he was not interested in a financial ‘negotiation’ that was about to take place.
“The first and most important issue is the desecration of the sacred grounds. Two, it’s a violation of the constitution. Under the constitution, the Kinda grounds, Peace Cave, Old Town, the monument, the library, the community centre are the sole responsibility of the Full Maroon Council,” Robinson argued. “The Full Maroon Council is the people’s council. It put back the power into the hands of the people,” said Robinson in justifying his actions.
Robinson admitted that a cord connected to a camera was severed, and that he dismantled the ‘barbi’ pit and overturned some igloos containing seasoned meat prepared to be jerked. Plastic bottles of fruit juices were also chopped. Yet, he denied chopping the camera and the igloos, as was reported in the media. Nor did he attack the personnel themselves, he claimed.
He said the menu was not in conformity with Maroon traditions, and Deputy Colonel Melville Currie, who accompanied the BBC team to Kinda, should not have single-handedly authorised the filming. More so, many residents, including Robinson himself, were not made aware of the BBC’s visit. Robinson said he was in church when he heard what was happening.
In the meantime, Deputy Colonel Melville Currie and some other senior Maroons are very upset at Robinson’s action. And as such, Currie wants Robinson punished.
When The Sunday Gleaner spoke with him recently, he was in a militant mood because of the “extreme embarrassment” he faced. He was the one who led the BBC team to the site.
In refuting Robinson’s claim that the taping was taking place on sacred Maroon grounds, Currie said the jerking was to be in an area called ‘Guinea Grass’, just below Kinda, and not on Kinda itself. Thus, there is the issue as to which part of the land is sacred grounds and which is not.
While some Maroons are upset with Robinson, he seems to have strong support from many residents who said the filming should not have gone on with or without permission, for monetary gains or not, as it would defile sacred Maroon grounds. Even if permission were granted to the BBC team, Robinson and his supporters said it was done without consultation with and approval of the Full Maroon Council as stipulated by The (2004) constitution of the Trelawny Town Maroons of the Sovereign State of Accompong.
Paragraph three of the constitution’s preamble says, “The colonel shall not have the sole power and/or authority to enter into any agreement on behalf of the Trelawny Town Maroons of the Sovereign State of Accompong without the consent of the Full Council.”
Paragraph four states, “It is customary and traditional that the colonel does not have the right to enter into any transactions or agreement on behalf of the Trelawny Town Maroons of the Sovereign State of Accompong without the approval of the council.”
But, there is another issue at stake, intellectual property rights. In a handwritten statement given to The Sunday Gleaner, Robinson says, “We the holder of traditional knowledge need to put the proper infrastructure in place to protect our cultural heritage and folklore as it relates to legislative efforts to protect intangible cultural creations from disappearance, mutilations, misappropriations or illicit commercial exploitation.”