The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry

Monday, May 13, 2013

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IT is very long -- all of 248 pages -- and heavy on detail. Those to whom reading is often a bore may find it tedious. Although, to be fair, the public defender's lively and attractive literary style should serve as an antidote.

Regardless, the report from the public defender Mr Earl Witter on the so-called Tivoli incursion during the 2010 Limited State of Emergency should be a 'must-read' for all Jamaicans with a passion and a vision for
their country.

There can be no reasonable excuse. The document is easily accessible on the Internet. Once read, we believe, this compelling report will convince the naysayers of the need for a commission of enquiry into what really happened three years ago in Tivoli Gardens, the wider West Kingston and at the comfortable, upscale home of the late Mr Keith Clarke.

We owe it to the scores who died -- including members of the security forces -- and their loved ones to unravel, as best as possible, how they died and why. We need to seek to find out how many really died and who those people were. We owe it to those relatives and friends of the dead; as well as the injured and their loved ones, some of whose lives have been essentially destroyed, to provide not just material redress but an opportunity -- no matter how minute -- for psychological and emotional healing.

It's not appropriate to dismiss death and injury -- said to have been on a scale more massive than anything seen in Jamaica since the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 -- as merely casualties of war. We can only assume that the statement attributed to elements in the leadership of the People's National Party Youth Organisation flowed from impulsive thoughtlessness -- a trait of the immature.

We would expect that having read and properly considered, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness would by now have come around to the necessity of this enquiry -- no matter the potential political fallout for his party.

For all Jamaicans, the motives and state of mind of soldiers and police on the ground in West Kingston and elsewhere and those who gave the orders from afar, during those fateful days, must be of the greatest concern.

Chilling witness allegations of members of the security forces "swabbing" and "smelling" hands before summarily executing young men must be explored to the fullest extent.

Equally, disturbing suggestions now emanating from the United States must be explored. Talk that the Jamaican prime minister of the day, Mr Bruce Golding, was so distrustful of the army under his ultimate command that he sought help from the US Government to find out what was really happening in West Kingston can't be left unanswered and unexplained.

Finally, it will be incumbent on the Government of Mrs Portia Simpson Miller to prove the cynics wrong. To ensure that as much as possible those appointed to serve on this enquiry and the mandate they are given allow a fair and thorough investigation without the maliciously warped intervention of prejudice and bias. The work of the commissioners must be such that their conclusions echo down the ages to the benefit of those striving to avoid any repeat of West Kingston 2010.

This newspaper expects that in setting up this commission of enquiry, the Government will act with the greater good of the Jamaican people
in mind.

History, we contend, will prove this enquiry right and just.




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