Thu | Dec 8, 2016

West Kingston enquiry - a clanging cymbal!

Published:Monday | April 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

It seems that the notion of Jamaica being a country in a stagnant economic situation is, after all, a mere myth. We have developed what I now consider to be a very wasteful habit of convening commissions of enquiry, which never seem to achieve any legitimate or tangible goal in the end.

How on earth can we afford to spend so much money on these ventures which bark but don't ever seem to bite? Is it that the country has some hidden treasury that we, the citizens, don't know about? The current West Kingston commission of enquiry is just a waste of time, money and energy.

While the atrocities meted out against the residents in west Kingston are issues of national and even international importance, a commission of enquiry is not the most practical method to effectively deal with the burning issues facing the residents. Persons suffered financial loss, the tragic loss of loved ones, and were left with the psychological and emotional trauma brought on by the massacre which took place. Sad to say, but the commission cannot in any way correct what has already gone sour.

Even if persons will be compensated for their loss during and after the operation, they might have to wait until they are in the league of persons like Methuselah to collect. Even if the 'truth' does come out, then what? Will anyone be held criminally responsible for their actions? Will the unfortunate perception held by certain uncaring and detached people in the society against the community and residents of Tivoli Gardens actually change? In what ways will the aggrieved residents benefit after the commission is over? Will there be any changes in how police-military operations are carried out?

 

Merely wishing

 

These ideals seem quite unlikely to come to fruition, based on how the Jamaican society has been structured to deal with issues facing inner-city communities. Jamaica has never had a strong history or legacy of successfully holding persons of influence accountable for their actions whenever they have done wrong, especially when such actions are targeted against the poor and disenfranchised. Anyone who actually believes that after the enquiry is over, either politicians or members of the security forces will be brought before the courts to face criminal charges are fooling themselves. Jamaica cannot even proudly boast of its accountability records. I submit that until our democracy graduates to that stage where the rule of law is actually applied in a fair and robust manner, justice will never be seen to be done.

A fatal error that has been made is that the lapse between the events of May 2010 and the start of the commission in December 2014 is too wide. This has resulted in witnesses forgetting important facts that would have been fresh in their minds if this enquiry had been done four years ago. This would have given us an opportunity to get a broader perspective on what actually took place during the limited state of emergency. My particular disgust with these commissions stems from the idea of how politically motivated they really are. Take the Manatt and FINSAC fiascos as examples. There is no need to even get into a detailed analysis of these two political blunders, as the Jamaican people witnessed how they unfolded, and were able to discern the ulterior motives behind those so-called fact-finding ventures.

What did we achieve from them? Absolutely nothing! Why then do we believe that this West Kingston enquiry will be of much difference? Some may speak in public forums about wanting to help the people of Tivoli, but I dare to make a bold statement that their hearts are far from the words they speak. The truth is that the country cannot continue on this path of wasting money on these commissions if we do not benefit from them. The funds allotted could have been used to redevelop the infrastructure of the community, and to channel some of the funds in critical areas such as education, health care and poverty reduction. These are the issues we should be most concerned about. Once again, those who sit on those lofty seats in Parliament have taken a grand opportunity to sell out the people of west Kingston. Well done!

- Steven Jackson is a student of the Norman Manley Law School. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com or Jacksonsteven984@yahoo.com.