MSJ: Recognise Rastafari movement on April 18

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah – File photo by Roger Jacob

POLITICAL leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah has called on the Government to declare April 18 a day of recognition for the Rastafarian movement.

Abdulah also called for reparations for the movement by the Government. He further called for reparations for members of the Shouter Baptist faith from the British government.

Speaking at a virtual press conference on April 14, Abdulah recalled that this is the last year (2015–2024) of the International Decade for People of African Descent, as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in a resolution.

The theme is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

“We believe members of the Rastafari Movement have been discriminated against post-independence. This reparation has to come from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago,” Abdulah said.

“Rastafari members are primarily people of African descent, and therefore, this call fits in perfectly the International Decade for People of African Descent. We are not calling for a public holiday but for a day of recognition.”

Abdulah added that just as the Government is providing land for the Spiritual Baptist community, it should also provide land for the support for the commercial activities of members of the Rastafari movement, as represented by the Mansions of Rastafari and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

“Those are legitimate bodies through which the Government can act to provide land and other support for the commercial activities for members of the movement,” Abdulah said.

“For example, they can have commercial developments of things like cannabis oils and other kinds of medication using the medicinal properties of marijuana and other kinds of industrial uses of marijuana so that they benefit. This is one way they can get reparations.”

The MSJ leader said April is a significant month for Trinidad and Tobago.

He recalled that on April 21, 1970, the first state of public emergency was declared under the Dr Eric Williams-led PNM government.

The government responded to demonstrations mainly by people of African descent. That rebellion became known as the February Revolution or the Black Power Revolution.

It began on February 26, 1970, and ended on April 21, 1970.

Abdulah recalled that four years earlier, on April 18, 1966, Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I visited Trinidad and Tobago as part of a trip to the Caribbean including Jamaica.

On reparations for Shouter Baptists, Abdulah cited the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance that prohibited the freedom of worship under the colonial power of the day.

Abdulah reiterated that Britain must give reparations to the Spiritual Baptists for violating their rights to freedom of worship and religion.

Like the Rastafari Movement, Shouter Baptists are essentially people of African descent.

Abdulah acknowledged that while recognition has been given to Shouter Baptist through the public holiday on March 30, it was not enough.

He added, “There must be justice and development. Justice and development can be achieved by way of reparation.”

Abdulah charged that the two main political parties are engaging in politricks, with their only concern being about getting into office.

He said both the government and the Opposition do not care about people’s lives.

“That is what they are about, politricks. They are about their self-interest. We in MSJ on the other hand are not engaged in politricks. We are engaged in important campaigns,” Abdulah said.

Such campaigns relate to issues facing workers and educating workers on their rights.

He charged that too many workers are being exploited nationwide.