Tivoli still waits for helpSunday, June 10, 2012
BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter email@example.com
TWO years after the civic unrest in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, residents of the once-feared community have said they are still waiting for Government agencies to undertake promised social initiatives in their community.
In the aftermath of the 2010 police/military operation aimed at nabbing convicted crime lord and area leader, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, representatives of several Government agencies spent days in the community providing counselling support and identifying measures to resocialise and empower the residents.
But according to the residents, not much has happened since.
"Them come wid them book and collect name and say dem going to work with wi and since that, nothing don't happen," said one 68-year-old woman who was among several residents who had congregated in a section of the community Friday afternoon, as news emerged that their former 'don' had been sentenced in a New York court to 23 years' imprisonment on drug-trafficking charges.
"Nobody nuh business wid we," said another woman, who indicated that the police and soldiers are the only state agents who have remained in the community.
Their plight is compounded by what some critics have said is an apparent dependency syndrome, not uncommon to other inner-city communities that were controlled by dons, whose criminal activities allowed them to finance, feed and provide other largesse to those who live within their fiefdoms.
For many years before Coke's arrest and subsequent extradition, the police claimed he was in charge of a massive drug-running operation and extortion racket which targeted many businesses in the downtown Kingston area, and which provided him with a huge financial base.
"When Mikey (Dudus) was here, things did all right; pickney use to go school, the old people dem did tek care of, and wi never hungry," said some of the residents who spoke with the Sunday Observer.
"If Mikey did deh yah, mi wouldn't have to a eat this (a mini boxed lunch)," complained one woman who sat on a stool outside a cook shop.
Checks by the Sunday Observer with police personnel stationed at the makeshift police post in Tivoli Gardens confirmed the residents' assertions that the promised social intervention had not materialised, a point raised almost two years ago by head of the constabulary's security and safety branch, Senior Superintendent James Forbes.
The police also cited the dependency syndrome as a major problem and highlighted the need for something to be done to fill the void left by Coke.
"They don't know how to do anything for themselves, everything is about what used to happen when the 'big man' (Coke) was here," said one police officer in response to claims by residents that the community had been safer under Coke's control.
Commenting on the residents' attitude, sociologist and member of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), Horace Levy said the problem had its origin in the type of politics practised several years ago by representatives of the country's main political parties.
"One kind of assistance is the handouts, that's what the politicians have tended to do in the past, but that's not what the community people need. They need help with starting their own businesses," said Levy as he bemoaned the slow pace of the community renewal programme that was designed to assist residents of Tivoli Gardens and similar communities not long after the 2010 incursion.
"Quite a good community renewal programme was drafted, but it only got started in Majestic Gardens, and that is starting with some housing, and quite a few agencies are in there. It's been slow in coming, for financial reasons, or due to a lack of appreciation of the need, or a lack of respect for this segment of the population. In other words, it's not a priority for a lot of people. Roads and infrastructure and other things are what gives you fame," said Levy, who has been a prominent player in efforts to stem crime and renew hope in many of the capital city's marginalised communities.
Meanwhile, the police based in Tivoli Gardens have highlighted the need for educational and training opportunities for at-risk youths there.
Speaking with the Sunday Observer, Sergeant Anthea Newell, who is in charge of the police post, called on corporate Jamaica to assist with efforts to provide computers and other items for a literacy and numeracy laboratory in the area.
When contacted, Member of Parliament for West Kingston Desmond McKenzie acknowledged that the state agencies have not done enough for the residents since the 2010 incursion, and named the Social Development Commission as the only entity that did any significant follow-up work in the area.
He said all the talk from the agencies have not led to tangible support. McKenzie added that despite promises, residents whose properties were damaged during the police/military operation have not received any compensation.
McKenzie says he will be highlighting his concerns when he makes his presentation in the upcoming sectoral debate in parliament.
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