The government of Jamaica is attempting to make amends for the 1963 Coral Gardens massacre.
Yesterday, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness, formally apologized to the Rastafarian community for the atrocities committed against them more than 50 years ago, via a statement in Parliament,
Holness called the Coral Gardens incident “A grave injustice” and said that chapter in the country’s history “was characterized by brutality, injustice and repression, which was wrong and should never be repeated.”
Holness further said as an act of restitution, the government has designated 6 lots at Pinnacle in St Catherine to be declared protected heritage sites and be developed as a Rastafari Heritage and Cultural Center. The government will also establish a JA$10 million trust fund for survivors and beneficiaries who suffered loss during the incident.
On April 11 & 12 of 1963, a Rastafarian was shot by another man in the farming community of Coral Gardens over a land dispute. In retaliation, the Rasta community set fire to a gas station, which escalated into 2 days of violence and a state attack on Rastafarians. In the end police arrested, beat and forcibly trimmed more than 150 Rastafarians. 3 Rastafarians, 3 other civilians and 2 policemen died in the melee.
The incident followed several years of similar confrontations between Rastas and police, thus it was deemed the decisive point of deterioration of relations between and the Rastafari movement.
The restitution comes after Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry – who has been mandated to locate survivors, sent reports regarding Coral Gardens to Parliament in December of 2015, asking the state to apologize and offer reparations to Rastafarians.