Scott’s Pass, Clarendon: The gate was padlocked- a security guard deciding who goes in, and opening for whomever wishes to come out.
Just a few feet from the gate, a sign is erected, its words read: “ Effective Immediately: this Nyabinghi Center is officially closed due to numerous breaches and illegal activities including theft, encroachment, illegal utility connections and unsolved crimes…”
The story surrounding this sign is that, eight Rastafarians that live on the grounds containing the Nyabinghi Centre in Scott’s Pass, Clarendon were given notices to vacate the property. According to them ten of a twenty-seven acreage property was handed over to them in 1987, by Rita Marley. However, they say the exchange was just a verbal one.
Fast forward to over 33 years later and the group says the notice coming from the Marley family is an unwarranted surprise.
“Anuh Rasta just come and take it and say we want this a piece a place,” a disgruntled Rastafarian that goes by the name of Ras Billie explained “it was Mama Nana Rita.”
Michael Record, one of the eight Rastafarians ordered to leave the premises told CVM Live that the group was only given a week’s notice.
“We were given a notice to leave the premises on May 12,” Record exclaimed “on May 12, fi leave May 19!”
A choir of Rastafarians echoed his sentiment.
How the property came to be
One Rastafarian elder, Ras Dago whose given name is Hugh Scott says he was present when the property was handed over. He added that the property’s assets made the location suitable for the gatherings usually conducted by the Nyabinghi Order.
“I suggested to her [Rita Marley] to build a tabernacle for the Nyabinghi House…Is Rasta a Rasta, so I just reluctantly asked her and she said why not, she would do it,” Ras Dago said.
He went on to describe the property’s assets.
“I was amazed- 27 acres of land, with a hillside, honeycomb rock, steep hill at the back, a kind of plateau level at the foot of the hill…and when you cross the road there is train line and when you cross the train line there is a river.” a smile grew behind his mask.
Ras Dago added that a few months later the groundbreaking of the property was conducted, in which one of Emperor Haile Selassie’s grandsons; Prince Dawit did the ceremonial shovel in ground.
Additionally, the group continued by explaining that through the assistance of Rita Marley, they were able to build a tabernacle that later went on to host great events, which brought the group together.
“People come from all over, even from oversees, like Belize… for celebrations such as the Emperor’s birthday,” Ras Dago explained.
But now, to them, there seems to be some division.
“All a we a Rasta, so the question I want to ask the Marley family, what happen between Rasta and Rasta,” Record stated.
In the meantime, the notices to vacate the property are being countered by five of the eight Rastafarians. Thus, putting the matter before the Supreme Court, where the Rastafarians are opposing the position of Rita Marley’s daughter, Stephanie Marley.
In the Courts
The lawyer representing the group, Hannah Harris Barrington says she believes the eviction is as a result of greed.
“I don’t want it to be said that the Marleys are greedy, I want it to be said that Stephanie who is not a Marley…is greedy and is totally averse to the principles that guided Bob Marley, whose name she has taken but not character,” Barrington stated.
CVM Live made contact with Stephanie Marley’s lawyer, Shanique Scott, in order to sit down for an interview and get a comment, but our invitation was not accepted. Instead, we were told that permission to have word with us was not granted.
On the other hand, Barrington says she is hoping that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of her clients, on the basis of the Squatters Rights.
The Squatters Rights in Jamaica can grant rights to squatters who have occupied a privately owned property for over 12 years. And, in this case the Nyabinghi Rastafarians have had access to the property for 33 years.
“We have the law on our side and that is certain…some of them are squatters, not all of them but some are squatters,” Barrington adds.
Senior Lecturer at the University of West Indies, Mona, in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, Dr. Michael Barnett says the number of years the group has occupied the property is not the real issue.
“The fact of the matter is that it was handed over as a gift but there wasn’t any form of paper work signed, so even though it was a gift it’s still technically the Marley’s property,” he says.
Dr. Barnett is also calling for speedy reconciliation for the strength of the Rastafarian movement.
“I hope it sort itself out one way or the other to the betterment of the movement,” he says.
Dr. Barnett also explained that the issue was an internal one. Therefore, it should not be examined in the way Rastafarian issues of the past have been examined.
“[This] is an internal, Rastafari versus Rastafari situation… [and] that’s an internal issue, the case of Pinnacle and Coral Gardens is the state, the state of Jamaica against the Rastafari community… it was persecution of the state so it’s a different issue,” he noted. The known too well battle of land ownership and the alleged comments of persecution leave the Nyabinghi Rastafarians of Scott’s Pass with an uphill battle to take on, but this matter will have to be settled in the courts.