Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Questions remain in the Tivoli Commission

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Tivoli Commission is now on an extended break from the taking of evidence. The present witness, former commissioner of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Owen Ellington, has provided a chilling tale. His evidence has also been an insight to the thought-out process prior to the action taken.

Prior to May 2010, there was no community policing in Tivoli Gardens, west Kingston. That statement is indicative of the most damning feature of a garrison - the ability of an enclave, supporting a political party, by their own rules. It matters very little which garrison; the party rules. The former member of parliament and former prime minister appears not to have been perturbed that sections of the state, of which he was the elected head ,operated by rules very different from the established order. Frightening.

The gang which owed allegiance to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke ran a state complete with its own massively armed security and welfare programme, sending its subjects to school and providing for them socially. They also guaranteed a political party a seat in Gordon House, and as the former minister of justice and attorney general, Dorothy Lightbourne, stated, they had the habit of producing prime ministers. What awesome power.

The political directorate displayed a naivete that could only exist in a society where the leaders put party before country and do not bother to follow the laws and accepted rules of the land. However, Tivoli is not a single act. The constituency of the current prime minister has similar characteristics. Do most of the residents of south west St Andrew pay electricity bills, National Housing Trust mortgages, water bills and facilitate the intrusion by the arms of the Government of Jamaica? I expect some future commission will reveal the answer.

The weapons used and people willing to engage the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in defence of Dudus, as revealed in the evidence, is sure to cause concern for the citizens of Jamaica. They included .50-calibre machine guns, which did disable two armoured vehicles from the JDF; hand grenades, machine guns of the 'chiney type'; M-16s; explosives and barricades rigged to release explosions capable of major loss of life; shrapnel and thousands of rounds of ammunition. At the end of it all, some 150 guns were recovered, but even more intriguing is the fact that some 300 armed combatants fought the state. Seventy-six of them were killed. What has happened to the other 224 is the most probative question raised by the commissioner, Sir David Simmons. Where are they? They were not the only combatants. Twenty-four civilians were killed in Spanish Town on May 24, 2010. How many persons did the killing in Spanish Town?


No one left


There is more that is very troubling that is coming out at the inquiry. Not one civilian in Tivoli sought to leave by way of the JUTC buses provided on Industrial Terrace - not an elder, not a child, not an infirmed. Not one. Now, they want more compensation.

The then government of the day took nine months to make a decision on the extradition of Dudus. This provided the window of opportunity for the forces aligned against the state, with the tacit approval of the political party, to plan for their defence. How else can one explain the delay of the extradition process? Nothing in the said process changed between receipt in August 2009 and what was eventually completed by signature in May 2010. The requesting Americans did not provide other supporting evidence. They gave the then Government nothing more to satisfy their objections. What the attorney general saw as a "simple" process to go and arrest Dudus proved to be complex and very deadly.

I am a Kingstonian. Born, schooled and resident of what was an endearing city. The results of the evidence by the former commissioner of the JCF frightened me. To think that west Kingston, which gave rise to Iris King, first female mayor of the city, Steeles' Bakery, coffee strip, sugar bun, Sabina Park, Town Moore, cruise shipping port at Victoria Pier, Boys' Town and Trench Town Culture Yard, could have been so debased. Brought to being an armed, urban war locale for the sake of politics. It is a very sad state of affairs.

Those who trumpet the call for compensation in the aftermath of the events of May 2010 should think on this. There has been evidence that states no female fatalities resulted from the gun battle between the Dudus forces and the security forces. None. Those persons who demonstrated their intent to die for Dudus in their white raiments marched through the streets to the highest court of the land proclaiming their loyalty to Dudus, not Jamaica. They built barricades, sandbagged buildings, facilitated gunmen in their buildings of residence. They refused to leave when beseeched to do so. Now, in the aftermath, they claim they were all victims and acted under threat. We must have evidence to support that. There is no anecdote of a person being forcibly denied exit from Tivoli Gardens. Dudus is alleged to have exited through neighbouring communities. Is he the only one who knew the way out?

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to and