BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment email@example.com
THE three soldiers implicated in the May 2010 killing of Keith Clarke have been detained, while plans are being made by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to secure legal representation for them, according to Brigadier Rocky Meade, the acting chief of defence staff.
He said all steps are being taken to co-operate with the police to ensure the instructions of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, QC, are carried out.
The DPP ruled on Tuesday that Lance Corporals Greg Tingling and Odel Buckley and Private Arnold Henry be charged with the shooting death of the accountant at his Kirkland Heights, St Andrew home.
The men were members of a joint police/military team that was searching for former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke who was later held and extradited to the US.
"They (the implicated soldiers) have been identified and are in confinement and will be available in keeping with the DPP's instructions," Meade told journalists at Wednesday's weekly Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.
However, Brigadier Meade declined to provide any further details on the DPP's recommendations as the matter is now before the courts.
"Like every citizen of Jamaica the soldiers are entitled to legal representation and we will take every step to ensure they get legal representation," the acting JDF chief said.
Quizzed as to the morale of the soldiers following the DPP's decision which was handed down on Tuesday, Meade said this has not prevented them from carrying out their duties.
"All our soldiers are professional in what we do and they also know that if persons deviate from any procedures we have that there are consequences and so there is no problem with morale; they know there is a process to follow and this is a part of the process," he said
At the same time, Security Minister Peter Bunting, in responding to concerns raised about the slow pace in completing the report on the Tivoli Gardens killings where some 73 persons lost their lives in the search for Coke, asked for further patience on the matter.
"My understanding is that the public defender's report should be concluded by the end of this month, and when that report is developed Cabinet will consider it and determine what are the appropriate steps," Bunting told reporters.
He explained that any investigation in the Tivoli incident would involve multiple participants and a forensic investigation would see tests on hundreds of rounds of ammunition which were discharged and as well as the examination of hundreds of weapons. This in addition to the post mortem on the 73 bodies, which he said would be a massive undertaking. The important thing, Bunting said, was that the matter was being investigated independently.
"The Keith Clarke incident, while it may have been challenging but compared to West Kingston operation, it has been a relatively small operation and we have seen how long that has taken to come to the point where we have a ruling," he said.
Questioned about the pace of the Office of the Public Defender in completing the report, Bunting defended the delay, attributing it to the capacity of that office. The office, he said, was not set up with the staff to undertake that scale of investigation, notwithstanding the fact that it was supplemented by additional forensic pathologists.
"I just think the capacity of the office is going to be limited and so it is not surprising that it has taken this long, especially because of the scale of the operations they are investigating," he said.
He added: "I understand the frustration of the media and the public in wanting to bring some closure to some of these incidents of public concern but I would really advise patience because the more important thing is that the process is allowed to take place without interference."