Wed | Apr 26, 2017

When will the real enquiry begin?

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 3:00 AM

The Tivoli enquiry has completed at least four weeks of hearings, but I'm yet to hear anything I consider remotely relevant.

In my opinion, this is unconnected to the way the commissioners have conducted proceedings. Chairman Simmons has produced an object lesson in how enquiries should be chaired. He exhibits the correct mixture of erudition, common touch and insistence on mutual respect. Tony Harriott's interventions are all intelligent, focused and relevant. By George, THIS is how enquiries are handled. It's not the commissioners' fault that they're stuck with a raft of bogus, politically motivated terms of reference that, if taken seriously, could ensure they'll still be sitting during the next general election.

I suppose it is what it is. But when are we going to hear from somebody who knows something? Tivoli citizens, unnecessarily called as 'witnesses', all did flawless Sergeant Schultz impressions. Bruce Golding didn't know a US plane was assisting operations before he asked for help. Don't get me started on "I don't recall" or Dorothy from Oz, who apparently believes news of jihadist beheadings in Syria are "less disturbing" than local news.

 

Why invade Tivoli?

 

We're sick and tired of the posturing. We want to know WHY. Why was it necessary for a Jamaican army to invade a Jamaican community resulting in so many Jamaican deaths? With apologies to Anthony Carter:

Is it necessary

to have so much soldiers in this small country?

No, no, no, no!

Is it necessary

to shine soldier boots with taxpayers' money?

No, no, no, no!

Well, don't tell me, tell Brucie.

He put them in Tivoli.

Unemployment high and the treasury low

and he buying boots to cover soldier toe.

I snoozed through what may've been intended as a dramatic slide show set to Owen Ellington's original score. Since he didn't claim he was anywhere near Tivoli during operations, I found it deadly dull. The show featured blurred photos of old gas cylinders and ballistic (bullet-proof?) vests. The accompaniment included implications that the cylinders were bombs and the vests were stolen from the Denham Town Police Station. The cylinders were all intact and the vests weren't attached to anybody. So what's the basis for the hyped conclusions?

Ellington admitted he couldn't prove the vests' origin but said he could get proof. Why didn't police present identification/chain of custody evidence immediately? Why were the vests stolen? For a photo shoot? Who found them? In what circumstances? Were they removed from the bodies of dead gunmen? Have police investigations uncovered any suspects in the grand ballistic vests robbery? Has anybody been charged?

I see dem boots, boots, boots and more boots

on the feet of young trigger-happy recruits.

I see dem boots, boots, boots and more boots;

marching, threatening army troops.

This has gone on long enough. All concerned seem paralysed by the sound of ringing cash registers as fees pile up. So far, we've not heard from one policeman/soldier on the ground or in immediate chain of command. Tap-dancing duo Bruce and Dwight's evidence only served to remind me of movies starring Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey. Their incredulous claim that they haven't seen plane surveillance films that Washington Post's Mattathias Schwartz watched using the US Access to Information Act begs the question who's in charge.

Was it necessary to hire

dem soldier jokers to out a fire?

No, no, no, no!

Was it right to give dem weapons

they claim wasn't loaded to shoot Jamaicans?

No no, no, no!

Well don't tell me, tell Bruce G.

He send them to Tivoli

Gun in dey hand, making a stand

to quell a non-existent rebellion.

 

Wasting taxpayers' money

 

Mealy-mouthed assurances that security forces were asked to protect life and limb and then Tom, Dick, Harry and Herro asked to reconnoitre while our PM remained in his office just isn't what's expected of a leader. During Hurricane Gilbert, Edward Seaga was seen walking the Jamaican streets in raincoat and galoshes during the hurricane's worst. In the aftermath, he was hands-on in every recovery strategy. Bruce Golding's hands-off "I-asked-the-Red-Cross" approach just won't cut it.

Tell Bruce, I say, that wouldn't do.

He got to see 'bout me and you

and, most of all, all de children

and stop dem soldiers from marching.

Left, right, left, right

in the Government boots, the Government boots.

Left, right, left, right

in the Government boots, the Government boots.

It's time to stop pussyfooting around the problem and cut to the chase. Stop wasting taxpayers' money on 'witnesses' who weren't there or saw nothing. This enquiry MUST question operational security forces and their immediate commanders. NOW! THIS enquiry must dislodge the truth. NOW! This enquiry MUST ensure a similar Jamaican massacre NEVER recurs. If the Jamaican army can do this without penalty, it's time to dissolve the army.

Can we afford to feed that army

while so many children naked and hungry?

No, no, no, no!

Can we afford to remain passive

while that soldier army growing so massive?

No, no, no, no!

Well, don't tell me, mash Portia heels

She giving them four square meals

Some of them so fat, they could hardly run

But shooting bullseyes with automatic gun.

Anthony Carter (aka Mighty Gabby) was born in Barbados on March 30, 1948 and grew up in Emmerton, a fishing village on Bridgetown's outskirts. He's an unrepentant defender of the original calypso sound and spent his musical career ensuring it survived modern trends like soca and spouge. Gabby said: "Calypso touched my life when I was seven years old. Miss Walcott had the first gramophone in our village. We used to hear merengue, calypso; Lion and Atilla, Houdini, Growling Tiger; all on those 78 records. The only other radio belonged to Miss Charles from St Lucia. She had a shop and she used to treat that radio so special. Everytime she finished using that old RCA Victor, she covered it with a white cloth."

By the mid-1960s, Gabby was a huge star in Barbados. In 1984, frustrated with the idea of a government maintaining an army in such a small, poor country unlikely to be invaded by anyone, he wrote and recorded Government Boots, a scathing critique of the then government of Prime Minister John Michael Geoffrey Manningham 'Tom' Adams (himself a son of Caribbean political legend Grantley Adams). The song also spoofed Tom Adams' 1979 decision to send troops to Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines to quell a short-lived rebellion by a group of youth.

Government Boots was banned from Bajan airwaves, proving that insecurity isn't confined to Jamaican politics. Justin Hinds (from PNP stronghold Steer Town) and the Dominoes' seminal hit, Carry Go Bring Come, suffered the same fate as it was perceived by the government of the day as disrespectful to Prime Minister Bustamante. Aaaah, Bwoy. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Peace and love

P.S. Thanks to Hugh Small, QC, for setting the historical record straight regarding last Sunday's column. It was Avis Henriques' father-in-law, Llewelyn Alexander Henriques, NOT her husband, Leslie Alexander Henriques, who founded L.A. Henriques. Yet again, experience trumps youthful exuberance!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.