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Editorial: Tivoli enquiry mustn’t overlook easy options

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 1:00 AM

When the commission of enquiry into the West Kingston security operation of 2010 begins its final sitting next month, we will no doubt be told whether anyone, and who, responded to their invitation to the public for written submissions on how to prevent the recurrence of such a deadly event. The public had up to January 8 to submit their ideas and proposals.

The greater focus, we expect, will be on the big ideas like breaking the link between crime and politics, helped to transform the West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens into somewhat of a statelet within the Jamaican State and facilitated the growth of Christopher Coke into a powerful crime boss and power broker, who felt himself beyond the realm of Jamaica's laws. This project, we will be told, must include economic and social intervention in West Kingston and similar communities to liberate people from the mixture of paternalism and fear exercised by the likes of Coke.

It will all make sense as the evidence of May, nearly six years ago, indicated.

When the Government, after a year of dithering, was driven by circumstances to acquiesce to pressure for his arrest ahead of his extradition to the United States, Coke barricaded his Tivoli Gardens redoubt, and his private militia unleashed an offensive on the security forces. More than 70 people died, many, it is claimed, the subject of extrajudicial killings by police and soldiers.

But as it grapples with the big and seemingly daunting issues in the face of Jamaica's economic stringencies and sometimes dysfunctional political culture, David Simmons and his fellow commissioners ought not to overlook the small things that can be achieved without either cultural upheaval and big outlay of capital.

In this regard, we have one small suggestion that requires nothing more than people exercising powers that already exist in law, thereby forcing politicians, who may be wont to wiggle their way out of accountability, to show their hand early.

 

Security chiefs

 

In the Coke case, the security chiefs of the day have suggested that the dawdling of the Golding administration delayed the issuing of an arrest warrant for the West Kingston don, allowing him time to expand his militia and barricade Tivoli Gardens. But while the final authorisation for extradition proceedings rests with the relevant minister, others are not without power to influence events.

Indeed, under Section 9 of Jamaica's Extradition Act, a magistrate can issue a provisional warrant for the arrest of a fugitive, ahead of formal authorisation for the proceedings by the minister, on the basis of information that the fugitive is in, or on his way to, Jamaica. Section 9 (2) of the act says: "A warrant of arrest under this section may be issued upon such information as would, in the opinion of the magistrate, authorise the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of a person accused of committing corresponding offences ... in the jurisdiction of the magistrate."

It would have been interesting to see if then justice minister, Dorothy Lightbourne, or her boss, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, would have had the gumption to overturn the process if the police and the competent authority, the director of public prosecutions, acting on behalf of the requesting state, had sought and achieved Coke's arrest.