Peter Espeut | Lack of transparency does not look good
Many of us will never forget the spectacle of the ‘Orange Funeral’ held at the National Arena in May 2001 for William Augustus Moore, better known as Willie Haggart. According to The Gleaner of May 9, 2001, “Several members of the Prime Minister P.J. Patterson-led Government were among the estimated 5,000 who showed up at the National Arena yesterday to pay their last respects to controversial community leader William ‘Willie Haggart’ Moore.”
According to The Gleaner’s report, Heading the list was Finance Minister and Member of Parliament for South St Andrew Dr Omar Davies; seated next to him in the published photograph were Minister of Transport and Works Dr Peter Phillips, and Minister of Water and Housing Dr Karl Blythe. According to The Gleaner, also present were Member of Parliament Horace ‘Oliver’ Clue of East Rural St Andrew, Paul Burke, the chairman of the People’s National Party Region Three, East Kingston businessman Danhai Williams, Kenneth ‘Skeng Don’ Black of Clarendon, and George Phang of Arnett Gardens.
Willie Haggart was the reputed leader of the ‘Black Roses Crew’. According to The Gleaner, “Shortly after the body was interred and as the mourners made their way out of the Calvary Cemetery, near his hometown in Arnett Gardens, South St Andrew, several volleys of shots were fired by gunslingers to salute their hero.”
This episode is a part of our political history as yet unrepudiated, and many would like us to forget it. But let us have some balance.
According to The Gleaner of March 23, 2010, “Vivian Blake, fabled founder of the notorious Shower Posse, is dead.” The story explained: “The Shower Posse was considered one of the most dangerous gangs in the US during the 1980s. American law enforcement linked them to more than 1,000 murders throughout the country. …”
The Shower Posse had strong ties to the Jamaica Labour Party, which formed the Government from late 1980 to early 1989.
West Kingston enforcer Lester Lloyd ‘Jim Brown’ Coke was reputedly a member of the Shower Posse. He was awaiting extradition to the US to face drug charges when he died mysteriously in his jail cell in February 1992.
After Blake and several members of the Shower Posse were indicted by US Federal authorities in 1988, Blake fled to Jamaica. In 1999, he was extradited from Jamaica to the United States by the P.J. Patterson government to face racketeering and drug-smuggling charges. In 2000, he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 28 years. Blake was released on parole after eight years, and was deported to Jamaica in January 2009.
According to the registered title for the Bengal Mountain property in St Ann, it was purchased in 1989 by Diamond Property Development Ltd, of which Blake’s wife and son – Valerie Williams and Duane Blake – were the directors. Throughout the 1990s, the Blake family tried to get a permit to quarry limestone on the property, but their application did not receive the support of the government of the day.
In 2009, ownership of the property was transferred to Bengal Development Ltd, the directors of which were Duane Blake and Valerie Williams, and that entity renewed their application for a quarry licence; after public criticism, their application was not supported by the government of the day.
Although the Government’s environmental agency denied a quarry permit, in July 2020 the political directorate reversed that decision after an ex parte hearing; according to media reports, no interested parties were allowed to give evidence except those appealing the negative decision.
In 1992, Christopher Michael ‘Dudus’ Coke became the leader of the Shower Posse after the death of his father, the above mentioned Lester Lloyd ‘Jim Brown’ Coke. In 2009, the United States asked the Jamaican government to extradite Coke on drug trafficking and gunrunning charges.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, initially refused to extradite Coke, claiming that the US had used illegal wiretapping to gather evidence. Under pressure, on May 17, 2010, PM Golding relented and the government issued a warrant for Coke’s arrest.
Following the revelation that PM Golding had sanctioned the initiative for the Jamaica Labour Party to hire a US lobbying firm to get the extradition request withdrawn, Jamaican civil society and church groups called for his resignation. He eventually resigned in 2011, opening the way for Andrew Holness to become the party leader and prime minister.
I believe that we need much more transparency in the handling of our nation’s affairs.
Peter Espeut is an environmentalist and development scientist. Send feedback to email@example.com