Is the Tivoli enquiry a whitewash? Part 1

Franklin Johnston

Thursday, July 07, 2016

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The Tivoli Commission of Enquiry report of some 200,000 words is commendable as expected of decorated jurists and academics. But it proves The Queen may not be erased by just removing her image. Decolonising symbols is easy; decolonising institutions and psyches, hard.

By re-educating kids from ages one to eight now, we may be okay by 2250; but we are just trying to define "Caribbean man" and values. By the demographics he is brown; Catholic; 80 per cent Latino, 11 per cent francophone, the rest Dutch and West Indian. Maybe we should try to define "Jamaican man" and our own values since we cannot speak for the Caribbean.

That said, a neo-colonial commission is par. Americans whupped the British and made all equal. We did the opposite. Gifted independence, we hug up Mrs Queen’s class system; gratitude or insecurity? The Tivoli Enquiry is redolent of things colonial we say we hate but truly love. We expect answers in plain English (Patois?), serialised for the chattering classes. Past commissions range from "An inquiry concerning trade and commerce of Jamaica" in 1759 to Coke’s extradition in 2010 — visit the National Library.

The credibility of the commission hangs on the answer to the question: Was the State in jeopardy at any time? The validity of what ensued depends on this. Dudus, like Guy Fawkes, makes history. I was not here when Tivoli "buss", but we abroad knew of West Kingston, so give us answer to the people’s questions:

ONE is context: As part criminal haven, West Kingston gave us most prime ministers yet Tivoli’s history is fear and violence and flaunts "I come from Tivoli!" to cow others. A good report must cite history and detail how forces versus Tivoli citizens prepared for war in May 2010.

TWO, what happened? Give us the narrative from start to finish with no attribution of motive. Who were the protagonists? Give blow-by-blow action on the 24th; timelines from first to last shot. Do this for the security forces (forces) and civilians — enemy combatants, collaborators, and some who by doing nothing denied the force’s useful intelligence and facilitated enemies of the State. We need action street maps, graphics of fortifications, booby traps, dead, wounded, etc. If not, we have a report unfit for this technology age, a clone of 1759 formats. Which genius will do "Tivoli Mortal Combat" the video game? Royalties, please!

THREE, what was the nature and level of threat? This is crucial to credibility. The report cites gunmen and Coke’s friends but an expert witness cited places of urban terrorism, insurgency, yet it avoids known labels as enemy combatants — why? For tourism concerns? Or would this label blunt energy to whip forces? Were they crooks after loot or citizen? Were they combatants with big guns seeking power? Terrorists?!

Did Cabinet buy mortars for use in a May 24-type event or for show? The nation and Diaspora were nervous for our brave forces. Hindsight after combat is fine, but what if they were overrun and no mortar used? Tivoli citizens taunted and attacked police stations. They even set booby traps to kill, just like Fallujah — street-by-street combat, snipers, IEDs. If experts in the heat of battle feel mortars will save us, why not? Some may come after and spin for a fee. I man not in dat! Can a judge change a medic’s triage? To face men using all means to kill you while under force orders is like having one hand tied; pray and die. The liberal coterie is not pro-forces or guns, yet courage is not absence of fear and forces taking deadly fire may go crazy or AWOL. Yes, the forces need cleansing, but the extant style of the liberal establishment is to diss them and romanticise others. As they are diminished, our nation flounders with inchoate values and crime flourishes.

FOUR, composition of the commission is flawed. More than 80 per cent of its work is urban combat — manpower, tactics, assets, yet it has no expert. Imagine a health inquiry with no medical expert? A Cockpit Country, one with no environmentalist? The calculus of risk defaults to the expert on the spot. It also has no expert in HR combat trauma, yet human factors analysis is near 100 per cent of issues.

Forces by order of the prime ministers, civilians by choice in the Tivoli theatre are owed a duty of care, as most are like you and me. Some disrespect the forces because of a few, yet "tiefing lawyer" or "quack doctor" brings no such opprobrium on those careers. There is institutional and class bias against the security forces and this report is deluge. More anon!

FIVE, who is to blame? This is core. One side can’t fight so we need lucid analysis of both. Who behaved well, who badly? Which citizen innocent, which forces not? Who kills unlawfully? Who shields citizen? Combatants?

At a human level all are equal, yet the report dilates on citizens and ignores the security forces’ combat stress; yet all are poor, fearful. If cut they bleed, if shot they die; they are sons, moms, dads. The forces protect us, Tivoli civilians are on their own caper. Both equal, morally and in law, so praise, blame each for deciding, advising; all acts and omissions and report names on both sides.

SIX, what apologies and compensation? All security forces and civilians in the theatre of action must be included. Apologies are due to those who exited the area as instructed, and relatives of those unlawfully killed. Also to the security forces who engaged combatants intent on killing them while hobbled by force orders — but that’s the job. Forces must be offered compensation and long-term care for combat trauma, CSR and PTSD — incontinence, insomnia, back pains, drug abuse, nightmare, shaking, and depression. By testimony, Tivoli citizens are squeaky clean or agnostic, "I do not know, I never saw!" To compensate after forensic due diligence may cure collective memory loss and temporary blindness.

SEVEN, can this happen again? The commission’s terms of reference were flawed, but they worked with them and must say if it is a past or future fear. If we reward those who undermine the State; ignore dissimulation, evasion; slam the forces only; watch out in 2025.

Tivoli is quiet not quelled. Irregulars are dispersed not eliminated. Do recommendations decisively and proportionately sanction civilians as they do the forces? Will Tivoli again bask in new wealth? The lesson to all garrisons will be badness is an ATM? Still we can flip the script. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or




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