Lloyd D'Aguilar | Poor apology for an apology
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has delivered what was probably the emptiest of apologies for one of the most barbaric acts of state violence in Jamaica's post-slavery history - the 2010 terrorist acts committed by the country's security forces against residents of west Kingston, including Tivoli Gardens.
Yes, the word 'apology' was used, but what he was apologising for was not clear. He didn't describe or define the nature of the violence committed; he didn't use the word 'terrorism' or 'crimes against humanity'; and he didn't engage in any attribution of responsibility for what happened.
The backdrop to this empty apology was that Andrew Holness was a member of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding's administration that declared the 2010 state of emergency that unleashed the terrorist acts against residents. Clearly, he shares collective responsibility for what happened.
Holness admits that he didn't, at first, support a commission of enquiry because he felt it would be "political" - i.e., that partisan political responsibility would be delved into. He preferred a "truth and reconciliation commission". In other words, he was not interested in a judicial investigation of the facts and prosecution of those responsible for the crimes committed against the residents [citizens of Jamaica]. He was for "reconciliation" - which sounds like the typical state whitewash of its crimes.
The Holness apology has been accompanied by a totally inadequate $200-million compensation package, designed to ease the pain being experienced by the victims, but more so, to give the killing machine a false cloak of humanity. This camouflage is especially needed now for the constitutional violations of the right to freedom of movement, and the right to freedom from arbitrary search of person and private property, that is a major feature of ZOSO.
So let us now examine how insulting is this compensation package.
Immediately after the 2010 terror, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) carried out an assessment of the damage done by the security forces and compiled a list of approximately 2,500 people who had suffered minor, severe and total destruction of property. There was also a separate list for market vendors who suffered. A compassionate grant of $78 million was paid out.
The Compensation Committee, which was set up by the Holness Cabinet to determine compensation, has decided to compensate 438 persons. In other words, more than 2,000 people considered worthy of compensation by the MLSS have been rejected by the Compensation Committee.
On the face of it, the work of the Compensation Committee cannot stand, and must be rejected.
The State will also not compensate many who were injured because the Compensation Committee has chosen to follow the whitewashed logic of the enquiry commissioners. For example:
Marjorie Hinds was not compensated for her injuries which, according to the evidence, could only have been suffered as a result of mortar fired by the JDF into Chang Avenue. The mortar fire resulted in death and destruction of several houses. Majorie Hinds committed the unspeakable crime of claiming, in her testimony, that the "bomb" lifted her off the ground. This supposedly created a credibility problem for lawyers representing the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). [She also received no compensation for the damage done to her house and shop.]
The case of Adina Derby is similar. Adina Derby ran into the streets in her underwear to get help for her son, who had been shot by a security forces sniper. After passing a crouching policeman holding a gun, she was shot in the back and severely injured. She lost her womb. The commission of enquiry refused to accept the probability that she was shot by the policeman she had just passed, choosing instead to speculate that it could have been a "gunman" - shooting from somewhere unknown. She was not compensated for injuries suffered. [She was also not compensated for damage to her house.]
There are many such others who were damaged and not compensated for one reason or another.
Finally, there was never any contemplation of compensating the nearly 5,000 young men who were unconstitutionally detained during the operation.
The implications of the insincerity and incompleteness of the prime minister's apology must cause us to double our effort to bring criminal charges against the three superior commanders of the 2010 massacre - then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, then Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, and then head of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stewart Saunders.