PRIME Minister Bruce Golding has described the security forces' assault on Tivoli Gardens, that has left 73 civilians dead, as representing more than the attempted arrest of former strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke – who remains at large – but rather the beginning of the end for Jamaica's garrison communities and organised criminal gangs.
Speaking to Parliament this afternoon Golding updated the number of weapons seized in the West Kingston community following the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Corporate Area on Sunday May 23. 47 guns (26 handguns, 21 rifles) and 10,673 rounds of ammunition have now been seized.
"The operation carried out in West Kingston involves more than an effort to execute a warrant of arrest on Christopher Coke. That may have been the catalyst but it is more than that. It is the beginning of a concerted effort to dismantle the aggressive criminal networks that have embedded themselves in communities in many urban areas and even in some rural communities. It is a campaign that will be sustained and intensified. It is a campaign that will target criminal gangs wherever they exist, irrespective of their political alliances or whether they have any such alliances," he said.
He said that there are indications that criminal gangs in Jamaica are now afraid of the law. A number of gunmen from Tivoli Gardens fled the community during the assault while alleged gang members who have since been called in for questioning were reportedly shaken.
"They must not be allowed to return to complacency. This effort must be sustained. It may be a long haul but there must be no letting up," he said of gunmen whose preemptive attack on police stations put security forces on the defensive and prompted the State of Emergency.
He said that it would be necessary to intervene in communities, such as Tivoli, where the don has been removed. Golding said that the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) would be spearheading a multi-agency approach to provide for residents in such communities and wants also to involve the private sector and non-governmental agencies in what he said was a matter of urgency.
"It will require resources far beyond those that are currently available. Yesterday, I also met with representatives of multilateral and bilateral agencies to enlist their support. I was extremely encouraged by their response and the appropriate submissions are being prepared for their consideration," he said.
Turning to address West Kingston itself, where he is the member of Parliament, the prime minister asked for the understanding of residents. He said that for them this was a turning point and an opportunity for the community to re-socialise and re-integrate itself with the wider community.
"The security operation has left the law-abiding citizens of West Kingston traumatised, some of them bitter and angry. I ask them to understand that the efforts that must be made to root out criminal elements that have embedded themselves in these and many other communities will, at times, be traumatic. Gunmen who no longer flee when the security forces approach but confront them with vicious firepower must, themselves, be confronted with the full force of the law. The time for equivocation is over," he said.
The prime minister said that Government deeply regretted the 'significant loss of lives' and assured residents that proper investigations would be carried out. The Public Defender Earl Witter has established an office in Tivoli Gardens to receive complaints and is in the process of engaging independent forensic pathologists to observe the conduct of autopsies as part of his investigations. Golding said Witter had been assured of adequate resources to cover his work and that Cabinet was considering a commission of enquiry.
Security forces are keeping a heavy presence in the area while the operation continues and a permanent police post is to be established.