That proposed Tivoli apology

That proposed Tivoli apology

Alfred Sangster

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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The Thursday, June 16, 2016 banner headline of the Jamaica Observer reports on a recommendation from the commissioners in the concluded enquiry that the Jamaica Labour Party Government should apologise on a future date in Parliament to residents of Tivoli Gardens for "the deadly May 2010 operation" of the security forces. This, incidentally, is the first of the recommendations in the report.

The major arguments for the apology are that, in seeking to apprehend Christopher "Dudus" Coke:

a. The security forces killed many innocent residents of Tivoli in the process. Many of these were reportedly gunmen in the war. In fact, a latter testimony by the police who followed the army into Tivoli confirmed that they came upon a number of dead bodies (Tivoli soldiers) on the ground in the community.

b. Buildings were allegedly destroyed or damaged.

c. The evidence that there was extrajudicial killing by the security forces is inconclusive.

d. The society, particularly the community of Tivoli, was traumatised by the events — which can be understood.

The security forces repudiate many of the residents’ claims.

Of note, the Jamaican society is deeply divided between those who support the apology and those who do not. For those who oppose the apology, the following is the rationale for that position:

Tivoli Gardens, once labelled as the "mother of all garrisons", has had a series of violent confrontations with the police: 1997, 2001 and 2005. The ongoing relationship with the security forces has been one of animosity. In all the cases of conflict mentioned, Tivoli remained relatively unscathed. The operation of May 24, 2010 was different. In this case Tivoli was invaded and conquered. This was clearly different, and a very traumatic event had occurred in Tivoli’s history and one which obviously affected them seriously and very emotionally.

We must, however, ask this question: What is the nature of the community that defied and made war with the Jamaican security forces? The answers come out in the following facts:

* This is a society which has lived with a culture of freeness in terms of electricity and water. As of now, however, most of the Tivoli residents are connected to the grid, but there has not been any change in the water payment procedures.

* This is the society that barricaded the entrances to Tivoli and only one person admitted knowing who did the barricading which was done by both men and women. It speaks to the tissue of lies and the ‘wall of silence’ of the citizens which has been an obvious part of the overall testimony of the residents.

* This is the society that gave Christopher "Dudus" Coke a home (now a police post) and bowed the knee to his wants and wishes. He was given the title of "Prezzi" (President). He had reportedly accumulated an armoury of weapons to entrench his position. He is now in a jail in the United States.

* This is the society who knew of the reports that Christopher "Dudus" Coke had created his own ‘execution room’ in the Tivoli community.

* When the security forces were going to enter Tivoli Gardens, it is reported that Christopher "Dudus" Coke invited some 300 gunmen from other parts of Kingston and Jamaica to come and help him to ‘defend’ Tivoli. They may have been tipped off about the impending invasion. Most of the gunmen escaped when it was clear that the security forces had taken control of Tivoli. They would have no doubt assisted with Dudus’s escape and been a part of the group that removed weapons from Tivoli Gardens.

* Many of the gunmen inside Tivoli, foreigners or locals, could be seen manning the roofs of the buildings of the enclave.

* These individuals are no doubt part of the causes of crime that we have in Jamaica today.

* On the day before the security forces operation into Tivoli, two police stations were set on fire, no doubt to try to frighten the police.

* Similarly, a group of police officers were attacked on Mountain View Avenue and two killed by the opposing forces. One soldier was also killed and 26 wounded in the Tivoli conflict.

* When the extradition order for Christopher "Dudus" Coke to go to the United States was being processed, some 600 women marched with banners protesting his innocence and saying they were "willing to die for Dudus".

* This is a society which has embraced evil and has not, through this recent trauma, changed its ways. There was a recent attack on the now-established police post, and the Member of Parliament for the area and Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie is quoted as saying after the shooting of residents, including a five-year-old girl, "...Violence won’t end until residents stop shielding their brothers, sisters, boyfriends and their sons..."

These are all facts that the society has accepted and we are asked to support an apology to a society which staged an open, violent opposition and resistance to the State and the law enforcement forces in Jamaica.

There should be no apology to this community; rather, they need to apologise to the Jamaica people, ask God for forgiveness, and make plans to mend their ways.

What also of an apology for the death and injury to security forces personnel?

The prime minister will not be apologising for me.

PS: What is also needed urgently is that the three commissioners who wrote the report should now be required to face a battery of Jamaican attorneys to question them on many of their ‘findings’ in the report. There could be a further probe on items they did not find and the levels of injustice done to many of the members of the security forces.

Dr Alfred Sangster is president emeritus of the University of Technology, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or

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