Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna among these school-age children in Accompong
ACCOMPONG TOWN, St Elizabeth— British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton believes that the long and colourful history of this Maroon community should be marketed to boost tourism and provide viable business opportunities.
He does not, however, believe that it should be done at the expense of losing the unique culture of the area. Speaking on January 6, at the 276th celebration of the signing of the peace treaty with British colonisers — led by Maroon leader Captain Kojo (also spelled Cudjoe) — Fitton said that Maroons should focus on attracting visitors to their rugged mountain communities.
The High Commissioner observed that the theme of the Maroon festival was aimed at ending poverty, promoting education and the safeguarding of culture. As it relates to ending poverty Fitton said “… I think the secret to that is to find another way to become active and to do business.
The business, I think, here is one of attracting people from outside — from other parts of Jamaica , from other parts of the world.” The British envoy, who was visiting Accompong for the first time, said that it was “an area of great beauty” and he looked forward to returning and taking visitors along. Accompong, located in the Cockpit Country of northern St Elizabeth, close to Trelawny’s southern border, is named after the Leeward Maroon leader Accompong, who was brother to Kojo.
The latter is credited for his role in the formalising of a peace treaty with the British which ended decades of guerilla warfare. To the east, the Windward Maroons who fought the British from bases in the Blue Mountains and its environs also subsequently agreed to peace terms. Historians identify Jamaican Maroons as descendants of slaves who were left behind by Spanish colonisers when they fled Jamaica following invasion by the British in 1655, as well as runaway slaves from British plantations.
Some historians suggest that the early Maroons interbred with remnants of the Taino people who occupied Jamaica when the Europeans arrived just over 500 years ago. Maroon communities in Jamaica are led by an elected ‘colonel’ and are said to adhere to traditional practices and are exempted from property taxes. Maroon leaders boast of very low or non-existent crime in their communities. “Outside influence need not be a bad thing providing it doesn’t interrupt what you have of your own and it adds to the learning that you already have,” said Fitton.
He added: “Believe me, the culture of the Trelawny Town Maroons (the Accompong Maroons are so called) has much to offer and I think it’s important that we continue to remember that. If we stop to think for a moment, a society which is so close, which has no need of police and which does not suffer from the evil of crime is a rare thing anywhere in the world. I think you have all the ingredients for perfection here if you keep hold of them (the culture) tightly and you introduce them as best you can to others as you have done to me today.”
Colonel Noel Parthay of the Scott’s Hall Maroons in St Mary, used the occasion to express his dissatisfaction with the treatment of Maroons in the context of what he said were treaty commitments made by the British. He spoke of unfulfilled promises of financial contribution regarding education and the development of infrastructure.
As is usual with the January sixth celebration in Accompong, hundreds of people flocked to the community to witness centuries-old rituals, listen to speeches by Maroon leaders and visitors, and enjoy light entertainment. As usual vendors lined the narrow streets, selling food and a variety of goods ranging from trinkets to clothes.