News

Tivoli Gardens operation cost downtown businesses $100m

Monday Exchange

BY PATRICK FOSTER Observer writer fosterp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 22, 2010    

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THE unrest sparked by last month's confrontation between the security forces and gunmen loyal to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke has resulted in losses in excess of $100 million to businesses in downtown Kingston, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) President Omar Azan revealed yesterday.

"We did a survey and what came in was $98 million from some of the members, not all so far," Azan told reporters and editors at the weekly Observer Monday Exchange held at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters.

"We had five days lost on production floors [and] clearing containers, there was a backlog on the ports," Azan said.

He added that a further US$250,000 was lost in export business as a result of the assault on Tivoli Gardens to arrest Coke, who is now a fugitive and who is wanted by the United States Government to answer to gun- and drug-trafficking charges.

Azan, who was among business leaders invited to discuss economic issues, said that in addition to production loss, some factories were also damaged during the offensive, citing Seprod as an example.

According to Azan, the stand-off between security forces and thugs in the city's western end left the Seprod building on Marcus Garvey Drive, just a stone's throw away from Tivoli Gardens, riddled with bullets.

Seprod, a major manufacturer and distributor of household products, was closed for almost two weeks after the security forces entered Tivoli on May 24.

"Seprod had bullet holes in every nook and cranny, including trucks and vans, all over the building, even in the back of the managing director's chair," Azan said.

The security forces entered Tivoli after gunmen, determined to prevent Coke's arrest, mounted booby-trapped barricades to all the community's entrances, ignored appeals to remove the blockades, fired on police patrols and torched two police stations in West Kingston.

The night before the security forces' assault on Tivoli, gunmen killed two cops on Mountain View Avenue in an ambush, while gangsters in other sections of the capital shot up their areas and engaged police and soldiers in firefights.

The assault on Tivoli resulted in the deaths of 73 civilians and a soldier and damaged Jamaica's image overseas as a tourist destination as the skirmishes were covered by major media houses across the globe.

Yesterday, Azan said that despite the uncertain business climate and negative international press received by the country, the JMA insisted on the staging of Expo Jamaica 2010 as advertised.

"I got calls from Government ministers telling me to cancel," Azan said, adding that he was adamantly against such a move.

"I told them that Jamaica needed to have this more than ever to show that we are open for business," said Azan. "Expo had to continue as planned, as a postponement would have set the country back even further."

The trade show, held over last weekend, was successful, Azan said.

Azan, who operates a factory downtown, however lamented the impact that continued criminal activity was having on the operations of businesses in the Corporate Area and specifically downtown Kingston.

Crime has, for a long time, dogged businesses operating in Kingston with extortion high on the list of problems.

"We have a lot to contend with in terms of crime," Azan admitted, adding that issues such as having a double shift for workers at night was almost impossible.

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