Tivoli Gardens tour reveals little

BY ROSS SHEIL Online Coordinator rsheil@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 27, 2010

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JOURNALISTS this morning completed a limited tour of Tivoli Gardens, our first view inside the community since security forces entered the West Kingston community on Sunday to arrest reputed area don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Soldiers allowed us one hour inside Tivoli. Residents were not allowed to venture far out of their homes. We were not allowed in their homes. We were not allowed into Denham Town.

The closest we came to that neighbouring community was when we saw five young men spreadeagled against a wall on Spanish Town Road as the bus pulled away from the community. Security forces are currently holding more than 500 detainees in the community

As soldiers remained tight-lipped over what they maintain is an "ongoing operation", residents stuck to their story: that an atrocity took place.

"If you come back and I'm not alive it's because I've not been given the freedom of speech…they are not showing you the homes which have bodies and a lot of blood," said a furious Phillip Jackson, standing inside his yard on Bustamante Highway.

The claims of residents are currently impossible to corroborate. As the operation continued after the bloody fighting between security forces and gunmen we have been unable to venture into the community, 'for safety reasons'.

Before today the closest the Observer came to Tivoli was yesterday as we witnessed soldiers overseeing young men clearing a roadblock in Denham Town and then marching them in single file back further inside the security cordon.

Member of Parliament Prime Minister Bruce Golding came in for stern criticism amid accusations that he abandoned the community.

"Bruce Golding wicked, go back to NDM!" shouted one woman in reference to when Golding previously left his now governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for the National Democratic Movement.

"Dem say Dudus hold us hostage but it Bruce. Mi wanna go look for mi son. Mi don't know if 'im dead!" said another woman who threw herself on the ground in front of journalists

Jamaica's third political party, the NDM has called for an investigation into alleged atrocities, as have international human rights group Amnesty International. The latest death toll places the number of civilian dead at 50, including alleged gunmen, and one soldier in the assault.

However, independent observers – Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair and Public Defender Earl Witter – who visited the community earlier this week expressed satisfaction with conditions. Residents today were also quick to praise the conduct of soldiers relative to police.

So far four firearms have been seized, a relatively low number which has raised questions as to the possible disparity between guns found and alleged gunmen.

Residents continue to complain about being held in their houses and prevented from going to work.

"We are human beings," was a universal cry in the community.

    
        
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