Columns

Those two Tivoli Gardens reports

Dr Alfred
Sangster

Monday, August 21, 2017

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There are two reports now making the news on Tivoli Gardens. The first is the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, appointed to enquire into certain events which occurred in West Kingston in May 2010. This report, commissioned by the governor general, was handed in to His Excellency on June 10, 2016 and forwarded to the prime minister and Cabinet for action on June 14. There have been various recommendations for action, but the report has not been formally accepted by the Government. The report is in the public sphere and available for purchase, we call it Tiv1. The report has been sitting quietly for over a year since its formal 'handing in', and we might well say has been forgotten. Few people have read it or even looked at the two massive volumes: volume one is 1,493 pages and volume two is just as voluminous, but not paged.

The second report, from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Review Committee, let us call it JCF1, was released on August 8, 2017 and has sparked a wave of protests from a number of sources.

It is important to give some background to these two reports.

Tiv1 was in the making for one year and 10 months, and essentially reviewed the action of the security forces in the battle for Tivoli and the consequences of that battle. It has a number of recommendations for action. We will take two of these recommendations.

The adverse findings report on a number of JCF and Jamaica Defence Force members recommended that they be barred from future action positions. Many of these officers have responded in published responses in volume two, but they remain legacies of injustice as there was no provision for their cases to be reviewed in the report.

This is where the second report comes in, as this new JCF report specifically addresses the cases of a number of the 'adverse findings', concludes they are invalid, and recommends that the officers be cleared of any wrongdoing. It has created the current storm:

* The public defender has demanded that the report be withdrawn as it challenges the validity of a commission of enquiry that was properly constituted under the laws of Jamaica.

* A media outlet claims that the report is attempting to impeach the findings of the Simmons commission of enquiry (Tiv1).

* Jamaicans for Justice claims that the JCF1 report sends a disturbing message about policing.

What was the report that created the storm?

The JCF committee that produced the report (JCF1) has a membership of nine — four civilians, four police officers, and a police sergeant as the secretary. The constitution of the committee is a veritable small version of the proposed Police Civilian Oversight Authority, which is proposed to replace the controversial Independent Commission of Investigations. This committee reviewed the cases of adverse findings and found that there was not a sound basis for the adverse recommendations, and suggested that the charges be dropped. So the storm has been created and we shall have to wait and see how this controversy pans out.

We turn to the other Tiv1 recommendation. The second is the proposal to give a public apology in Parliament to residents of the Tivoli Gardens community for the harsh treatment meted out to them by the security forces. This has not yet been done. This is the first recommendation of a list of suggestions by the commissioners.

We need to ask some serious questions about the moral and legal authority of this proposal in the commissioners' report (Tiv1). Tivoli was a community that harboured a don man and international criminal (now in jail in the United States). Some 600 residents marched for the fugitive Christopher “Dudus” Coke and claimed he was innocent. It is reported that 300 external gunmen were welcomed to defend the community. Barriers were put up with sophisticated traps to counter the advance of the security forces. The community of Tivoli Gardens fundamentally resisted the application of Jamaican law and order. That an apology should be given to this community in Parliament is a preposterous recommendation. No way! Shame on Jamaica and the prime minister's name.

We shall see how the clearly divided society is going to react to this new controversy of the reports. In the meantime, I tender my strong support for Police Commissioner George Quallo's stand on this first real challenge to the Tivoli Gardens Commission of Enquiry's report. More will come.

Dr Alfred W Sangster is a former president of the University of Technology, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or alfredwsangster@gmail.com.

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