Editorial

Now that Ms Velma Hylton has stepped aside...

Thursday, March 20, 2014    

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On Friday, March 7, 2014, in this space, we urged the Government to hang its ego at the door and give serious thought to reversing Ms Velma Hylton's appointment on the Commission of Enquiry into the May 2010 security forces' operation in West Kingston. It was and still is our belief that what is really at stake is uncovering the truth of what happened in that deadly operation four years ago.

Our position was that: "We understand that the Government cannot give in to every demand by the Opposition. But given the sensibilities over the fact that the events necessitating the inquiry took place under a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration, and in a JLP stronghold, nerves are understandably on edge."

We are therefore pleased to see that good sense and decency has prevailed among the responsible authorities and we commend the Government and Ms Hylton for "swallowing their spit" and doing the right thing.

We whole heartedly agree with Ms Hylton that the proposed Commission of Enquiry is very important to Jamaica "and should not be hampered by politics and petty distractions". That is coming from a highly principled Jamaican whose qualifications and integrity cannot be successfully challenged.

Unfortunately, Ms Hylton's decision to step aside, correct as it is, does not resolve the issue entirely. What she said in her summing up as counsel for the 2001 Enquiry into the killing of 27 civilians in Tivoli Gardens is something that bears serious thought.

At the time, Ms Hylton said she could not understand the logic behind saying that police and soldiers could not return fire if "women and children deliberately put themselves in-between the law and order forces and deliberately go to and fro to enable gunmen behind them to fire at the security forces or to fire at civilians".

In that March 7 editorial, we asked the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party to "recommend to the security forces how it should handle a situation as outlined by Ms Hylton". In other words, let us hear what security forces under fire from criminals being deliberately shielded by adults and children should do, whether they are in Tivoli or Tawes Pen, Arnett Gardens or August Town.

Do we ask the protectors of the State to retreat in the face of criminal attacks? Do we leave a community to continue to believe that it is above being policed by the State?

Memories are still fresh of marauding gunmen setting up barriers in Tivoli Gardens to keep security forces at bay when they sought to capture Christopher 'Dudus' Coke and torching police stations. As they felt emboldened the barriers were being mounted outward from their original positions. Should the security forces have surrendered to those criminals and leave our country to the forces of lawlessness and disorder?

We have heard decisively from Ms Hylton and the Government. The JLP's silence has been deafening.

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