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Phang: 'I never ordered a hit on Omar'

PNP activist also opposes 'Don' stigma

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 21, 2012    

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PROMINENT Arnett Gardens political activist George Phang has moved to underline his strong support for member of parliament for St Andrew South Dr Omar Davies, saying that he would do nothing to harm the veteran politician.

In the meantime, the music producer denied that he had ever given orders to kill Davies.

In March of this year, a former gangster and ex-member of the 'Fatherless Crew' gang in the Wilton Gardens community asserted in a Sunday Observer interview that a certain community leader instructed him to kill Davies.

However, his refusal to carry out the order, he said, earned the wrath of the man who ordered the hit and who, in turn, tried to have the former gangster killed.

The former gangster did not mention a name, but Phang, who is also referred to as 'Pepper', wanted to make it clear that he was not the community leader referred to in the interview.

"Omar? I did nothing like that. It wasn't me," Phang responded.

"One time they said that Omar and me had a problem, but Omar is my brethren. Nothing like that went on. The support that I got from Omar and Portia (Simpson Miller) while I was in hospital was unbelievable. I could not plot to harm Omar.

"I would do nothing to hurt Omar and I would not be in support of anyone doing anything to harm him," Phang insisted.

The hospital reference was in regard to an incident on the night of Thursday, March 13, 2003 when he was shot 19 times in Arnett Gardens while he played dominoes with friends.

Phang spent several weeks receiving treatment at hospitals in Jamaica and Cuba, following the shooting by four men carrying AK47 assault rifles and 9mm pistols.

Phang has been a loyal member of the ruling People's National Party since the 1970s, a time that was characterised by widespread political violence.

Almost 27 years before the 2003 shooting, he picked up four shots when men sprayed the PNP's Arnett Gardens office with bullets weeks before the December general election.

At the same time, Phang has moved to shake off a stigma that he is a community enforcer, otherwise known as a 'Don'.

The racehorse owner said that he had never regarded himself as a 'Don' and did not appreciate being referred to as one.

"I am not really into the 'Don' thing, you know... that no really on my birth certificate," Phang told the Jamaica Observer in an interview toward the end of last week.

"I am a man who loves people, cares for people, and I try to do my best to help people if I can. So I reject this thing of people calling me a 'Don'. I am not into that. It is not on my birth paper and you can't give me a title that I don't want. I don't accept that title at all," said Phang, who manages the Arnett Gardens Football Club.

Phang, through his lawyer, the now ailing Bunny McLean, sued a local afternoon tabloid during the 1980s for calling him a 'Don'.

He was awarded $800,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

He figured prominently in the news two years ago when he was detained shortly after the May 2010 operation by security forces into West Kingston in search of then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. The reasons for his detention are still unclear to him, he said.

"That was clear politics. I don't know why them bring me into that. I am a good person, a law-abiding citizen. I am a man who is visible 24/7 to police and everybody else," he stated.

The police, in public service announcements at the time, named Phang and other men as "persons of interest", in their quest to apprehend Coke, who was later captured, extradited to the United States and is serving 23 years in a federal prison upon conviction of charges on racketeering, conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.

Phang was held at the Central Police Station lock-up in the same cell as Coke's business partner Justin O'Gilvie, before he was released after a week's stay.

"The police and me have a good relationship," Phang told the Sunday Observer from his Lyndhurst Road base. "I was frightened to hear when a man called me and say 'George, me hear them say you are a man of interest.' How did I become a man of interest? Even when the thing was going on, I run a restaurant right here that was supplying cooked food to the police, so it was real frightening to me."

While admitting to knowing Coke's father, Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke very well, Phang maintains that the only time he came in contact with 'Dudus' was when he initiated a peace arrangement between Arnett Gardens and Tivoli Gardens football clubs and the communities in 1999.

Then, he said, Coke facilitated him and a deal was brokered that cooled the tension between both communities.

"I don't want anybody to mix me up with 'Dudus'. I knew Jim very well, but I hardly even knew 'Dudus'," said Phang.

With crime and violence gripping the nation, Phang believes that a conscious decision must be made by the State to provide more economic opportunities for inner-city folk.

"The people of the inner-city want more economic activities," Phang argued. "As one who was born and grew up in the inner-city, people vote for politicians for betterment. In my community the people feel neglected. You have a lot of people not working, not going to school, and you have some places where you wouldn't believe people live.

"If you see some of these places, you would say to yourself, 'people really live in them situations?' The people need help," he said.

"Still, you have some man who don't want to work. Them only want handouts, they come beg you everyday, you give them two times, they come back a third time and that one time you don't give them they say you a this and you a that... and them same one would kill you.

"But there are people who are crying for work. In sections of Arnett Gardens there are young people with seven subjects who can't get a job," he continued.

"So people like that just sit back and say 'wha me really a live for? Me do my schooling, get seven subjects and can't find a job... can't even find food'," said the former student of Central Branch and All Saints primary schools, and Kingston Senior School.

Still, Phang insists that the Government must take a hands-on approach to addressing chronic unemployment, even through dialogue with the citizens.

"They (Government) should have people going into the communities to ask the youth what they can do for them, what they are interested in, because a lot of the youth go out and look work and sometimes when they (employers) hear where they come from they say there is no work available.

"We need more dialogue. The Government must set up a political machinery that can go into these communities and reason with the people, because some of the MPs now are not doing their job; they are not even reasoning with the people," Phang said.

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