Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Tivoli enquiry: confronting the past

Published:Tuesday | January 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica has sadly not confronted its past as it relates to the intersection of violence, particularly gun violence and politics. Now, we have been handed another opportunity to explore the uncomfortable alliance in local politics between politicians and criminals whom they have wrapped in decent garb and called 'area leaders'.

But when one looks at the terms of reference of the ongoing commission of enquiry into the May 2010 security operations in West Kingston, there seems to be little scope for examining the deep-rooted problems that created the environment for a community to so brazenly challenge the rule of law and threaten anarchy.

The panel has been asked to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed and to also probe the culpability of those in command of the operations. Not far enough, we say. Not deep enough either. These hidden limitations of the ongoing commission of enquiry aptly summarise the degree to which our political leaders are powerless to cope with the political consequences of garrison politics.

 

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The impact on society in general, and the people of West Kingston in particular, demands that the public understand exactly what happened to cause 70-plus people to lose their lives, others to disappear to without a trace, and for the damage and destruction wrought on people's lives.

But long before the May 2010 incursion, men who had no social power were enabled to have economic power and plenty of firepower. With the huge gains from political contracts, many were able to arm themselves and others. It is these communities where fearless gunmen demand that cowering mothers hand over their little girls to satisfy their sexual desires. How, and when, did this come to be the Jamaican reality? Confronting the past does not merely mean looking back. Rather, it requires a look in two directions: from whence we came and where we aim to go.

Judging from the public utterances of our political leaders, there are deep divisions over whether there should even be an enquiry. There are many who question whether the enormous cost of the enquiry is justified. But Justice Minister Mark Golding is adamant that the enquiry will go on. So though there are some who say we should draw a line under the past and move on, the public will hear about the events of May 2010 when the security forces went in search of fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who was wanted for extradition in relation to gunrunning and other crimes.

We do not need a divided house at this time. What is needed from all who govern and have respect for the rule of law is that a united effort is undertaken to tackle garrison politics and to dismantle every one of them. A way must be found to do this to diminish the chances of history repeating itself, for it is this bloody violence that has spread throughout the island and that has continued to retard our country's progress.

If at the end of the day this enquiry finds a way to acknowledge the evils of the past that created Tivoli and all the other garrisons that now exist, we may find the path to a fresh new start.

The question is this: Will Jamaica ever be ready to confront this past?