What Bruce Golding must tell us
Much is expected of witness Bruce Golding as he comes to give his testimony this week before the commission of enquiry. It was he who gave the security forces the order to enter Tivoli Gardens. On this seemingly straightforward act, so much is hanging.
Jamaica wants to hear from Golding why he delayed so long to do it and what finally prompted him to take the plunge. The delay led to resistance building up in Tivoli and winning the support of gunmen from outside, possibly (by rumour) for large financial reward. This made the security operation more difficult than it need have been. Did Mr Golding not take this likelihood into account?
Mr Golding had to be aware of Tivoli's above-the-law status, to which so many have for years voiced objection. Did he share that view? Certainly, he had to recognise how Tivoli's status could be affected by a security force operation. The gravity of his decision, its potential impact on the garrison reality of Kingston and Spanish Town, could not have escaped him. Was it part of his calculus, though?
My own guess is that even though evasive action via Manatt-Phelps assistance was undertaken, it was the pressure from civil society, even over US displeasure, that moved him to final action. Leaders in the Church, business and civil society were relentless in their condemnation, even talking of impeachment, to the point that he himself made the offer to party colleagues that he step down. How close to the truth, however, is such an analysis? And why did he prefer an enquiry into Manatt-Phelps rather than something along the lines of the current enquiry?
Closer to the actual Tivoli Gardens operation are the questions about how much Mr Golding knew of how they were organised and were proceeding. Then Public Defender Earl Witter and Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair were promptly in Tivoli on the heels of the police and reporting on first observations. This is public knowledge.
The scene there was not pretty: Reportedly, bodies were being burned, or buried en masse in the cemetery nearby. There must be questions, therefore, about what reports the prime minister received, how much he knew, how close a track he kept on goings-on, or should have, through Commissioner Ellington and Major General Saunders as well. Ultimate responsibility rests with him. As head of the Defence Board, he certainly must have approved the US air surveillance role.
And then there are the Labour Party and constituency issues. The issue for Bruce Golding should not be the possible losses for Jamaica Labour Party from the commission of enquiry. It should go without saying that the Party has everything to gain from the truth - the full truth - emerging, at least in the longer run.
Notwithstanding the JLP failure of having 'created' a gang-led community, that is not now the central issue even if some hard facts ought to, and may, emerge on that score. The central present issue is the murderous behaviour of the security forces; it is the conduct, in particular, of their senior police and army supervising officers. Even if the lawlessly killed, disposed of by burning or burial, were to substantially exceed 76 or 80 in number, the JLP must not hesitate to let it come out.
The JLP's loss of popularity with security forces must not be allowed to interfere with the truth. It is ridiculous to suggest, as an enquiry lawyer did, that Dudus' men killed some of his own runaway people. It is far more likely that most of his defence, in the face of the superior forces of the State, knew instantly they had no option but to get out.
This is the challenge, then, for Bruce Golding. Many people still respect him for having not only considerable intelligence but also some basic integrity. He must not let them down.There can be no hiding from history. None.
Regardless of their views of the intentions and manoeuvrings of the PNP and its ministers to protect their own popularity, the charge on Golding and the JLP is to give Jamaica the legacy - and the benefit - of the whole truth.