Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Mark Wignall | Tesha Miller is less than half the problem

Published:Thursday | December 5, 2019 | 3:42 AM
Tesha Miller

One cannot declare if it was one of the seminal moments in the history of Jamaica’s underworld, but it happened during the 1990s.

The thug brigade attached to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) had been taking a long, hard look at how Jewish and ‘Arabs’ (the non-Jewish, Middle East origin) business people operated in Jamaica, and especially in downtown Kingston. In the Middle East, they were at each other’s throats. But in Jamaica they existed like two peas in a pod.

As one man from Tivoli Gardens explained it to me then: “We want business. We tired a di war. We look at di Jew and di Arab dem right beside wi and there is no war. We who doing di war is all black, all Jamaican and wi killing each odder.”

There may have been other elements, but those factors drove the political thug classes operating downtown to divide up the extortion take (called ‘tax’ by the collectors) along various borders with Tivoli and Matthews Lane agreeing on areas of influence.

It has been almost a decade since Dudus has been in the hard embrace of the US penal authorities. Zekes from Matthews Lane has, against his wishes, come into a seeming lifetime membership of Jamaica’s notoriously tough prison system. The men are no longer ‘in the system’, but the extortion continues.

It continues because of an almost simplistic logistical fact. Most owners of downtown businesses are home (uptown) in the nights. The street thugs have formed themselves into crude copies of the pre-2010 criminal models but, they control the nights and what happens with the business districts in the graveyard shift.

Earlier this week, Tesha Miller was found guilty in relation to the 2008 murder of Douglas Chambers who was then chairman of the JUTC. Miller stated during his trial that he was a welder. It was never determined the special class of welding he was best at, but on the streets of Spanish Town and in surrounding areas, he was known as head of the politically affiliated Klansman gang.


Just about all the extortion collections and logistics were under the control of that criminal gang. And like all organised criminality, murder-for-hire was a natural subsidiary.

There could be a chance that Miller is freed on appeal years from now, but it is highly unlikely that the unofficial ‘tax’ man will release his grip on the lucrative public transportation and business class in the old capital any time soon.

The influx of highly resourceful Chinese nationals into the Jamaican medium-sized business community in urban and small-town spaces has given heavily armed organised criminals a steady stream of income. In that reality, there is also another one that must be faced.

When the strong-armed leaders of the thug groupings were active, the tax collection was never without incidents of murder, but the extortion still had a sense of organisation attached to it. With the leaders absent, there will always be four- or five-second-tier personnel fighting for stronghold right at the top. That fight will always result in increased bloodshed.

The witness which sunk Tesha Miller stated that the Chambers’ killing was a contract job. It was almost an impossibility to determine if the hit was on Miller’s own account or he was the second layer, collecting from another person.

That matters little now, seeing that Miller’s pending incarceration cannot bring back the life of Douglas Chambers. We did not bargain for Miller or Dudus or Zekes or murderous times at that time in August 1962 as our young voices sang of independence.

The battle ahead will call for tougher men and women.