Fri | Jun 22, 2018

Mark Wignall | Which politician will hand over his gunmen?

Published:Thursday | June 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM

I never met Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke, the infamous enforcer based in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) garrison of Tivoli Gardens, but I suspect that I would have been repulsed by his company.

While awaiting extradition to the USA in 1992, a mysterious fire (white phosphorous?) took place in his cell and he was burnt to death. Leading his funeral procession was none other than then leader of the opposition, the JLP's Eddie Seaga.

In the late 1970s, a unit of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) awaited in ambush a group of men from Southside who were skilfully lured to the army firing range at Green Bay. As they showed up an army officer opened up on them with a general-purpose machine gun, killing the majority of them. Not long afterwards the minister of national security at the time, the People's National Party's (PNP) Dudley Thompson, told the nation that 'no angels died at Green Bay'.

I am quite sure that Seaga knew that Coke was no angel, but to the West Kingston MP, the man who went on an infamous rampage in Rema in 1984 was a community protector and earthly saviour of the poor JLP people of Tivoli Gardens and environs.

After the Arnett Gardens strongman and enforcer for the PNP's South St Andrew constituency and head of the Black Roses Crew 'Willie Haggart' was assassinated in 2001, his highly publicised funeral was attended by three PNP Cabinet members: Dr Peter Phillips, now the opposition leader, Dr Omar Davies and Dr Karl Blythe.

I am positive that all three men garbed in honour knew that the hothead was no angel but many years later I am not aware that any of them has ever advanced a moral imperative for attending that funeral.

In the late 1990s, after I had completed the fieldwork for a community survey on behalf of the Drug Abuse Secretariat, I became puzzled over a name that cropped up in the findings as a person who young people in the community looked up to and admired. After I had crunched the numbers I met with a well-known policeman in a seedy bar close to the area.

As I gave him the name of the man, he said, "I thought you knew of him. Recently deported but is him now controlling all the movement of cocaine in the area. Yeah, man, real problem him is."

A few months later, I was in the company of the MP for the area and I mentioned the name of the man. "That is my man!" he boasted. "A will mek yu meet him soon."

As the nation struggles with violent criminality, many of us know the nature of the politicians among us. First are those who maintain direct contact with their community's criminal element. Then there are those who use buffers between themselves and the armed wrongdoers. Last are those who pretend the criminal elements do not exist but somehow, at election time, a closer facility for them is found.




We have been told to tell the police what we know, whether it's in the form of placing the info in an envelope marked X and sending it through the postal service or directly going to the nearest police station.

But should the bar for politicians not be set at a level that we should expect to hear from them first? We know that once a murder is committed, especially those which bear the label 'hit job', many in the community have a reasonably fair idea who the culprits are. The MPs and caretakers who are closer to the 'bowels of action' know too.

So, why are we not asking politicians to tell us what they must know? In this great need for active leadership we need to see our politicians stepping up first. In 1995, Eddie Seaga handed over a list of 13 'troublemakers' in the West Kingston constituency to then police commissioner Trevor McMillan. Dudus made the list.

Whether the motivations are power-based or grounded in the search for a greater moral order it is our politicians who who must jump-start the process if they still consider themselves our leaders.

Leaders cannot expect powerless people to uncover the great pretence mission that the politicians have been playing for years. The politicians must lead off now.