What outcome can we expect from the enquiry?
Is any good going to come out of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry? Most people, at this stage - or from before it even started - say 'no'. And truly, the signs, up to now, that we will get the result we want are not strong. Gordon Robinson, in his Sunday Gleaner column (March 8) pounced on several negatives. Bruce Golding started rolling the ball in that direction; Owen Ellington added his push.
Golding painted a picture of a prime minister:
1) Delaying the extradition to defend the privacy rights of Jamaican citizens.
2) Unable to anticipate that his public announcement of the directive to arrest 'Dudus' would have provoked a violent defensive action.
3) Unaware of many of the assaults on the state taking place outside Tivoli.
4) Disabled by law from intervening in the security operation inside Tivoli.
The ignorance angle in the hands of Golding, a polished communicator, patient with repetitive questions, was very effective. Chief Commissioner Sir David Simmons was cordial in his thanks to Mr Golding at the end of his testimony. Trying the same line, but clumsily, Dorothy Lightbourne and Dwight Nelson came across looking foolish.
The substance of this plank of Golding's self-defence rests on his credibility. Do you believe him about his motive (privacy rights) for holding out on the extradition? And if principled, how come mere public pressure made him abandon it (instead of instantly resigning)? Do you believe that he really did not expect the announcement of arrest could trigger a violent reaction? Is his claimed ignorance of events around the city to be believed? Is such ignorance on the part of an otherwise alert prime minister credible? You don't have to be a Gordon Robinson sceptic to disbelieve.
The other self-defensive plank was Golding's alleged inability to intervene when his own constituents were phoning to tell him of the massacre of their sons by the security forces. Yes, the law forbids politicians' interference in police operations. This was his stated reason for deferring to the opposed reports when he queried the police and army commanders. Knowing how some police lie about shoot-outs, would you have taken the word of the security over that of the people in Tivoli?
This was a national crisis, another Stony Gut. People were being killed en masse. This was cold-blooded large-scale executions. Are you going to tell me that a prime minister could not insert his prime ministerial authority into that scene? If a civil authority can launch a security operation, surely it can also cry 'halt' if the operation visibly goes off track.
Golding knew what was happening and did nothing that day. He expressed regret, almost tearfully, for the Manatt episode but said not a 'sorry' for the worst moment of all, Monday, May 25, 2010, when he let down the nation and Tivoli Gardens.
Former police commissioner Owen Ellington, for his part, came well prepared with his videos of burning police stations, Tivoli sand bags and barricades, gunmen with their weapons and preparations. Here was another very effective communicator, with a decidedly more difficult wicket to bat on, however.
His testimony of finding police bulletproof vests in the possession of Tivoli gunmen raises questions he may not (really?) have anticipated. Were these items taken from the bodies of dead Tivolites? Did the gas cylinders contain gas? Were they actually wired? Ellington is also still to face the cross examiners and they ought to have armour-piercing questions.
Lawyers cross-examining will still not be enough, though. We had Tivoli people telling of the horrors they were forced to endure. Equally, we need to hear from policemen and soldiers, who took part in the 2010 operation. What were some of them doing? What did the others see? Will not even a few speak out honestly?
The chain of command - security as well as political - has to be exposed for its vicious uncaring assault on our people. It has not happened so far. Only then will we begin to penetrate the thick smog smothering the truth of that horrific event. Only then can we begin to really tear apart the system that made it possible. Commissioners Simmons, Harriott, and silent Harris have a huge task and prospects are bad.
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