Man slams witness protection programme for removing him after working to feed family

Staff reporter

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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An uncle now regrets testifying against his nephew, who is now serving a life sentence for a murder committed eight years ago.

The 53-year-old said that he also regrets agreeing to help the prosecution in a murder trial — a move which landed him in the Ministry of National Security's Witness Protection Programme.

Since that time, he told the Jamaica Observer, his life has been “miserable”.

“I'm from the south-west St Andrew area of the former prime minister, where I witnessed a murder in the community in 2010. It was done by my nephew. He tried to use it to intimidate me with his gangster friends, for what reason I don't know, but I wasn't intimidated by him in no shape or form. He went and reported to the three gangs that the community (Payne Land) was divided into and telling them that I calling up him name,” the former participant in the witness protection programme said.

He told the Sunday Observer that a police friend of his encouraged him to report what he had witnessed and at the same time join the programme, because his life would, from that moment, be in danger.

“So I testified and got into the programme because it's not somebody saw and tell me or I heard that he shot the man. I saw him walk up to the [man's] gate, jump the fence — the man was sweeping up his yard — said something to him, the man said back something to him and, while he was saying back something to him he shot him in him head. I saw that; nobody told me. So from then on everything went downhill,” he explained.

Following his testimony, he was relocated to another parish to start anew. However, he told the Sunday Observer that years later he is being “kicked” out of the programme for “supposedly” violating a memorandum of understanding, a part of which prohibits him from visiting Kingston.

“I was driving a truck for [a big company] in Kingston — I couldn't sit in [the parish] and can't feed my children. I delivered goods to nuff parish for a while and when I was to get a police record to go on staff it didn't work out, because I had a few cases for weed and all of that. So, I had to leave that work and get a next job at a hardware store, but after six weeks on the job the lady call me and said she heard that I was a witness in a high-profile murder case and them let me go.

“After that I got a job driving for a lady from Kingston go Highgate in St Mary. Them see mi in Kingston so now trying to kick me out the programme and nuh give mi nothing. The lady weh see mi said she coming to the house to terminate mi by weekend. She said 'yuh need to come out of the Government safe house'. They didn't come that week; they came two weeks after and have me sign a piece of paper and from there on it's just problem. They said that I would go before a tribunal, but all I did was work to survive,” he said.

While admitting that the programme covered his rent and provides $30,000 monthly, the man said that it is not enough to sustain himself, his wife, and children, who are in school.

“The condition there is bad, bad, bad; it is very bad there. So I want to put it out there to the Jamaican people to let them know that they should leave the witness protection programme alone. Don't listen to anybody and join it. Sometimes mi can't find food for my children, sometimes mi can't send them go school. Right now none of them have on a decent pair of shoes or slippers. Them affi wear them school shoes go everywhere.

“The programme is horrible and if they want to kick mi out I want to come out, but Government have to give me something. Mi can't just walk out with mi children and mi long hand them. Mi sorry mi go inna the programme. That programme is a no-no. You don't go in nothing with Government. Government nuh fair, and all along I am in the programme it wasn't easy but I never complain or run out. It's a shame where them carry mi go put mi.

“Mi see them everyday a tell people 'bout report crime and a tell people fi come inna witness protection programme. It not worth it. Right now me is an emotional wreck. Mi never weigh less than 200 pounds. Mi never mawga and dry up suh,” the former mechanic said.

“I just want people to leave the witness protection programme alone. It's not the prime minister or minister a the problem, it's the people who run it,” he said.

Although he insisted that he wished to be named in this story, the Sunday Observer decided not to, nor show his face.

On Friday, the Sunday Observer sought a comment from the head of the witness protection programme, but was told by the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communications Unit to contact the Ministry of National Security directly.

The Sunday Observer was then instructed by the ministry to send an e-mail. The ministry said that it was in receipt of the e-mail and would provide a response shortly.

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