The Rastas that survived the Coral Gardens massacre have been demanding an apology from the JLP for the 1963 incident in St. James. A confrontation between Rastas and police officers started when a property owner shot a Rasta during a dispute over lands. That was what triggered the war between some irate members of the Rasta community and police officers. Some Rastafarians burned a petrol station in retaliation, which initiated a massive crackdown by the police.
Rastas were forced to trim their locs along with their beards to avoid being taken into custody and prosecuted. For an extended time, some were imprisoned, assaulted and sadly, they were innocent of the charges laid against them. They were law abiding citizens that were not involved in the retaliation of what happened to their fellow Rastafarian.
In 2015 a probe into the incident by Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, revealed that a great injustice was committed against members of the Rastafarian community and they suffered “discrimination, denigration and scorn.” The Public Defender recommend that financial, technical and legal resources to be granted for the organisation of a cooperative society exclusively for the Rastafarian community along with the establishment of a trust fund.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the present leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, has decided the time has come for an apology and some form of reparation to be done on behalf of the Rastas that survived the Coral Gardens incident. Mr Holness made a public apology to them in which he said:
Fellow Jamaicans, the Coral Gardens incident was a grave injustice. The Government acknowledges that the machinery of the Jamaican State evolved out of an era when it was considered appropriate to utilise the heavy hand of the State against citizens.
Today, without equivocation, we apologise for what occurred in Coral Gardens.
We express our regret and sorrow for this chapter in our national life that was characterised by brutality, injustice and repression, which was wrong and should never be repeated.
In expressing our regret, as a people and as a community, we have taken a symbolic, yet courageous and pivotal move, which means that we can face the future with renewed hope, with increased resolve, and in a true spirit of reconciliation.
In keeping with our Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which amended our Constitution in 2011, the Government of Jamaica assures this great nation that we will continue to strive to ensure that unjust incidents and discriminatory actions, such as occurred at Coral Gardens, are never allowed to happen again.
An establishment was erected specifically for the development and preservation of the Rastafarian culture by the ministries responsible for culture and tourism.
Additionally, six lots at the prominent Rastas community at Pinnacle, St Catherine are to be declared by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) as a protected heritage site and will be developed as a Rastafarian heritage and cultural centre. The Rastas Coral Gardens Benevolent Society (RCGBS) is to be assisted in accessing resources and benefits for its members that are already available through a number of avenues; and, the public defender is to continue locating survivors and gathering background social information about them and their families, in consultation with the RCGBS and the Member of Parliament for that area.
Also, a trust fund of no less than $10 million for the benefit of survivors of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident, which Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that his Government has agreed to establish.
However, the trust fund has not been accepted by survivors of the Coral Gardens massacre; because they believe it is not sufficient and that fact that it will be controlled by the government. As such, one member of the Rastafarian community had the following to say in an interview with a reporter from TVJ:
Trust, only in Jah I trust everyone else must pay.