Rastafarian poet Yasus Afari has explained that his recent refusal to stand in the House of Parliament was based on his own convictions, and "personal conscience" as he sought to protest an oppressive system which is a "continued and sustained insult to us, past, present and future".
Speaking with Loop Jamaica reporter Claude Mills, Yasus said his action was one of "passive, intellectual resistance". He saidno disrespect was intended to local officials and the House of Parliament when he refused to stand during the ceremonial proceedings in Kingston on Tuesday, especiallygiven the spirit of that day's proceedings.
"Unity doesn't have to mean conformity, I try to not be a hypocrite and pretender, in fact, I was trying to be genuine, true to myself and to Parliament. I am not into lies and grandstanding, because often times, the victims are vilified, while the perpetrators are celebrated.
"If someone is victimised, they deserve the support of community. Our people have been gang-raped by the colonial forces of Europe yet still the custodians continue to celebrate and glorify the system that has long raped the people. Why not help the victim? This behaviour only programmes the consciences of the people; why should we worship the pomp and grandeur of the oppressor which keeps its foot on neck of the downtrodden?" the dub poet, whose real name is John Sinclair, argued.
Afari had gone to Parliament tolend support to a colleague, Kabu Ma'at Kheru, as members of Parliament debated expunging the criminal records of local historical figures such as Tacky, Sam Sharpe, Marcus Garvey and Paul Bogle. However, hesat in the gallery and remained seated as the mace was brought into the chamber and prayers articulated. House Speaker Pearnel Charles paused the proceedings to advise that all persons seated in the gallery were supposed to stand or they would be removed from the House. Afari ignored his 'suggestion', remained stoic and the proceedings continued.
"This whole response is a distraction, I understand that different things appeal to different people but this bill was so important, nothing should not detract from it. I want to remind people that the bill that was passed was very important, and the excellent presentations by Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Mike Henry, Robert Montague and Prime Minister Andrew Holness. The Prime Minister spoke from the heart and he expressed unparalleled sentiment that was crucial to the process. The Prime Minister spoke from the heart, and spoke some things that I never heard a Prime Minister express...he drew from the moment," Afari said.
He urged the public to "view whathappened with me within the context of the bill".
"That will help you to better understand my stance, there are people who have been criminalised by system for over 300 years, and to stick to the trappings and symbols and protocols...to maintain servitude to symbols and protocols makes no sense when we have the right to abstain," he concluded.
Yasus Afari is known as the author of the book, 'Overstanding Rastafari'.