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Editorial | Special group should oversee Tivoli report

Published:Friday | June 17, 2016 | 6:00 AM

Anyone who, during the proceedings, either doubted the competence and/or attempted to denigrate the integrity of the commissioners probing the conduct of the 2010 west Kingston security operation to arrest the Tivoli Gardens crime boss, Christopher Coke, should provide them with a full-throated apology.

For even if there may be points of disagreement with their findings, few will deny that the panel - former Barbadian chief justice Sir David Simmons; retired appeal court judge Hazel Harris; and University of the West Indies (UWI) criminologist Professor Anthony Harriott - produced a report that is of deep thought and high quality and delivered with a candour and efficiency for which Jamaica owes them a debt of gratitude.

That debt, this newspaper insists, will be discharged only if Jamaicans - the State, its institutions, the political Opposition and civil-society partners - resolve to seriously engage each other on the findings and establish a framework, with agreed timetables, for their implementation. In that regard, we propose that Prime Minister Andrew Holness urgently establish a small working group, led by the private sector, and involving the other partners, to provide oversight to this project.

 

AIM OF THE ENQUIRY

 

The aim is to ensure that what happened in west Kingston, and Tivoli Gardens, in particular, in May 2010, and the circumstances leading thereto, of politically aligned gangsters appropriating power to produce areas approximating states within a state, never occurs in Jamaica again.

The proximate facts of the west Kingston episode, that to frustrate an effort by the security forces to arrest and serve an extradition warrant on Coke, his private militia fortified Tivoli Gardens and engaged police and soldiers in intense gun battles. There were precursor attacks on police patrols and the government facilities.

Sir David's commission found that 69 civilians were killed in the Tivoli operation, of which it listed at least 15 for whom there was credible evidence of extrajudicial killings, which should be subject to further investigations. Many other people were, the commissioners felt, unwarrantedly injured, abused, detained, or had their property damaged or destroyed. Not entirely, but the commissioners reserved the brunt of its adverse observation for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), several of whose members they recommended never again be involved in internal security operations.

While criminal prosecutions, the compensation of victims and a government apology to the people of west Kingston will clearly help the process of healing and renewal, there are larger, and very urgent, institutional reforms of security and political arrangements if there is to be change that is transformational and lasting.

These, as recommended by the commission, include management accountability in the State's security apparatus such as sanctioning senior police who are derelict in their duties by failing to appropriately supervise their subordinates, or acting in a manner that even if unintentional, leads to the cover-up of misbehaviour. Or, they may be implementing a weapon system that is appropriate for a civilian police force and which improves traceability, and, as this newspaper has long suggested, which enhances civilian oversight of the police force.

But, more important, after decades of dancing in circles, the Government must make genuine and concerted moves to dismantle garrison communities, the zones of political exclusion, for which Tivoli Gardens was the model, that are redoubts for the likes of Christopher Coke.