(CONTRIBUTED IN PART) Neo Makesa
In 1961, the largest landowner in Jamaica was one Sir Francis Moncrieff Kerr-Jarrett, Custos of St James and owner of numerous sugar plantations (pictured in glasses). He continously petitioned the Governor and colonial office to clamp down on the Rastafari who he described as ‘an undesirable sect’.
During the late 1950s, Kerr Jarrett was behind one of the conservative movements under the guise of Moral Rearmament. The colonial special branch police placed Rasta camps under surveillance and used Vagrancy laws to enslave them.
The Rastafari brethren from Maroon Town were prevented from walking alongside the areas of the coast close to the Half Moon Bay Hotel. They always traveled on foot from Railway Lane and Barnet Street up to Salt Spring, through Flower Hill and sometimes to Flanker and White House (a fishing community now blocked by the Sangster airport).
On Holy Thursday April 11, 1963, some brethren claimed the right to walk in this tourist region and sought to defend themselves. A petrol station was torched, a policeman was killed and Sir Alexander Bustamante, Prime Minister, (bottom right) flew to Montego Bay with the Commissioner of Police, the JDF top brass, two Ministers of Government, and several police from the headquarters in Kingston.
Bustamante was about to demonstrate to foreign ‘developers’ that the space around Half Moon Bay Hotel was free from the presence of bearded Rastas. A police manhunt rounded up and killed Rastas then unleashed total repression against all in Western Jamaica.
On Good Friday, a massive army and police presence was around Montego Bay and Bustamante gave the order “Bring in all Rastas, dead or alive.” Canterbury was raided, spaces of the Rastafari ransacked and desecrated. The police and army invaded all working class neighborhoods and arrested and detained all those who were Rastas.
The lock up jail at Barnett Street was so full that they were held in the yard just as the enslaved had been and from time to time hosed down with water. The police and military cut the locks of the Rastafari.
.ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, EH?