Rastafarians remain hopeful
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
WEST KINGSTON, Jamaica — Their ramshackle campaign
headquarters has no computer, no fax machine and no typewriter. The telephones
The pitiful lack of resources would appear to bode poorly for Jamaica's largest Rastafarian political party, which is fielding seven candidates for a parliamentary
But don't tell that to some of the dreadlocked candidates who were found one recent afternoon at the Church of Haile Selassie in a grimy section of West
"What we have is moral persuasion," said Junior Anderson, 54, a candidate in Kingston, Jamaica's capital. He's the first vice president of the Imperial Ethiopian
World Federation Incorporated Political Party, the largest Rastafarian party to ever challenge Jamaica's two main parties.
"We don't offer the bread-and-butter politics," Mr. Anderson said.
Neither Mr. Anderson nor five fellow Rastafarians displayed a hint of defeatism, despite widely published polls suggesting they will make little dent in the electoral
support for the People's National Party and opposition Jamaica Labor Party.
The men sat in profoundly meditative moods in a small, poorly lit room furnished with an old couch, refrigerator and small table piled with cans of sardines.
The walls were decorated with Rastafarian symbols and figures, including a majestic lion and photo of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, whom many
Rastafarians consider divine.
"We have gotten a tremendous response, said Leroy Lindsay, 41, a candidate for a district near Kingston. The campaigning Rastafarians said they have not
encountered any violent incidents, such as stone-throwing and shootings, which have marred the campaigns of the two main parties.
"Everybody loves the campaign," he said. "We represent the grass-roots people."
Even so, it's hard to see how the Rastafarians can have much room for optimism about winning a seat in Parliament or appointment to the Senate.
"They don't have a chance," said Clinton Hutton, a lecturer in government at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.
But don't write them off for their lack of political savvy or resources, he said.
Over the past 50 years, Mr. Hutton said, Jamaica's trend-setting Rastafarians have been at the forefront of social change. He said they have helped give Jamaica
a positive identify, one rising above its slave-driven past, and they have traditionally called for more social justice.
"They should be taken seriously, given the fact that Jamaica is in a political crisis," he said. Rastafarians "are deeply against political tribalism," he added, referring
to Kingston's divided communities, which are often locked in bloody battles over political power.
Their effort to change the political system "from the inside out," he said, underscores their progress in gaining social acceptance among Jamaicans. According to
Amanuel Foxe, 65, a high-ranking Rastafarian leader, the campaign is "not just about getting a seat in Parliament. It's about establishing the Rastafarian position."
Mr. Foxe, a Jamaican who lives in Queens, N.Y., is visiting Kingston for the elections. He works as a chaplain in New York's prison system, serving Rastafarian
"We are calling on those people who love justice and hate aggression," Mr. Foxe said.
Among other things, the Rastafarians' political manifesto calls for a variety of social programs to benefit Rastafarians and low-income "grass-roots" Jamaicans:
low-cost housing, affordable medical care and better education.
It also seeks to improve the lot of Rastafarians by enacting laws to end discrimination against them and by securing local and overseas markets for Rastafarian
artwork and crafts.
"We will be in each polling division on October 16, monitoring the election," said Dilpi Champagnie, a Rastafarian priest and candidate for a district near
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