FORMER Prime Minister Bruce Golding is clear about one thing in relation to the proposed Commission of Enquiry into the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens operation — he will testify, but will not be ambushed.
Golding stated his position in answer to questions from an audience of mostly Jamaicans at the CIN Caribbean Lecture Series at the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture, in New York City last week.
The former prime minister's caution has its genesis in the cross-examination he underwent from People's National Party (PNP) attorney KD Knight during the 2011 Commission of Enquiry into Jamaica's handling of the US Government's extradition request for former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
It also sought to find out the role played by United States law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which stated officially that it was contracted by the Jamaican Government to lobby the US Government on the extradition matter.
Last week, in his exchange with the audience at the lecture, Golding said the proposed enquiry into the Tivoli operation, which left more than 70 people dead, must be established to ascertain the truth about the operation, rather than becoming another "political circus for 'Star Boy' to perform at my expense. I want to make that very clear."
The 'Star Boy' moniker was given to Knight during the Dudus/Manatt Enquiry.
Golding told the audience that while he had seen the draft terms of reference of the proposed enquiry, he had not yet seen the final document.
He said that it must be borne in mind that a state of emergency was called, and the operation was initiated by the security forces because they were challenged.
"They were challenged and the question of the authority of the State to bring a part of the State within the ambit of law and order was at risk," Golding told the cheering audience.
"Now, what the commission of enquiry must determine is, in carrying out that function, did members of the security forces act outside the law. If they did, they must be held responsible for whatever the consequences are," he said.
The House of Representatives last Tuesday passed amendments to the Commissions of Enquiry Act aimed at discouraging acts that could undermine the effectiveness or integrity of a commission of enquiry or which could disrupt the commission's proceedings.
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson told the House that the Bill sought to reinforce provisions dealing with the conduct of the enquiry and will seek to put some teeth into efforts to undermine the integrity and effectiveness of a commission of enquiry.
Penalties have been increased for offences such as: failure of a witness to attend or produce documents; adverse action by employers against employees, who testify before a commission; refusal to take an oath or answer questions; improper dealing with documents; intimidation and bribery of witnesses; and misbehaviour affecting the commissioner's proceedings.
Fines have moved from $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, to a maximum fine not exceeding $1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
The decision to amend the Act was as a result of the difficulties experienced by the commissioners in the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry in 2001 to obtain evidence. Subsequently, recommendations were made in the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry report in 2002, to address those difficulties.
Approximately 76 civilians were killed in the operation in Tivoli Gardens in Golding's West Kingston constituency, which was aimed at capturing then fugitive Christopher Michael Coke, who was wanted by the US authorities on drug trafficking charges.
Coke was eventually captured and flown to New York on June 24, 2010. He was sentenced to a 23-year maximum prison term and ordered to four years of supervised release and to pay US$1.5 million in forfeiture, according to the US Department of Justice.
Then Prime Minister Bruce Golding testifying at the 2011 Commission of Enquiry into Jamaica's handling of the US Government's extradition request for former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. Last week, Golding said the proposed enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens operation by the security forces in May 2011 must not become "another political circus for 'Star Boy' to perform at my expense".