Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Mark Wignall | Army must answer for Keith Clarke killing

Published:Sunday | April 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Family and friends of Keith Clarke gather on the street where they were barred by soldiers from going to the house in which he was killed by the security forces on May 27, 2010.
The photo of a child lies amid shattered glass on the floor in the Clarke home.
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It will take an immense amount of effort on your part, but if you just imagine that you, your spouse, and your daughter were peacefully alone at home in a socially safe and salubrious Kirkland Close house, and just after midnight, you hear the terribly fearful sound of men beating down your front door.

Your first resort would be to call 119 and get the police involved. Then you would grab your licensed firearm because your family means the world to you. If your wife is named Claudine and your daughter is Britney, your main objective is to take them under your more-than-proverbial man's wing and shield them from all harm. It would be all about saving Claudine and Britney.

You would be tempted to discharge a few bullets in the hope that the horrors would retreat into nothingness.

Switch mental gears if you can and get inside of the head of the national-security apparatus that turned out to be the men beating down Clarke's front door on May 27, 2010. After the absolute debacle in Tivoli Gardens a few days before where almost 70 people were killed by the security forces, and the objective of their arrest warrant had eluded them, one would assume that authentic intelligence would be driving their efforts to locate Dudus, then the most powerful don in Jamaica.

We would have to convince ourselves that they knew that Clarke's residence was definitely the target of their security operation. But what if all of that was dead wrong?

Could it be likely that the target was indeed in the same geographical area of the extended circle of mansions on a hill, but they missed it by a 100 metres or so, and in a royal cock-up for those priding themselves on intelligence-driven info, ended up at Clarke's house?

While the front door was being pounded on, the lady of the house had already called 119. Also called were close neighbours, who themselves were calling the police. Then when it was obvious to those inside that it wasn't just a ragtag group of marauders outside but it was the security forces, she began to shout, repeatedly, "I am Dr Claudine Clarke, justice of the peace!"

As the door fell in and the soldiers flooded in under lights and disarray, it wasn't long after that that Keith Clarke was brutally sent to his death with the majority of bullet holes entering his back.

"A weh di man dem deh? a weh dem deh?" one soldier was saying. Others echoed it. Think of that. It appears that they were expecting the house to be filled with dangerous gunmen and, Dudus, then the island's most wanted man, was supposed to be among them.

 

Where is INDECOM's report on Keith Clarke's death?

 

One doesn't have to be a betting person to believe that if the two ladies in Keith Clarke's house that night were not women, but men, they, too, would have met the ultimate, grisly end. That it has taken eight years for the case to 'get going' is by no means strange in Jamaican justice.

Keith Clarke's widow and his daughter must now be counted among those who have seen their loved one taken away in violent fashion and must await the leisure of the state in the snail's pace that justice is delivered in Jamaica.

As soon as the court case began, it seemed to have found a brake pressed by a most powerful master cylinder. The previous minister of national security in the PNP administration had since issued, long after the tragedy had occurred, full indemnification of any wrongs by members of the security forces at that particular time when the hunt was on for Dudus.

But let us even accept that just for a moment. Would it not still be important if there was some way by which we could determine exactly what took place? The first order of business would be to determine the quality of the intelligence that took about 100 soldiers and a handful of policemen to Clarke's front door in the wee hours of the morning.

The second would be to determine the extent to which military rules of engagement were in place on that horror-filled morning. Third would be to determine how many soldiers discharged their guns (there had to be many as I lived close and heard a barrage of gunshots for close to an hour) and the individual and aggregate number of shots fired.

One would assume that if Clarke's residence was the correct target, the intelligence network would be aware of his telephone number. Once the batch of vehicles led by a bright helicopter floodlight had made its way up the cul de sac where Clarke lived and they were outside his door, surely a single telephone call would be enough to get him to open his own door and leave with his hands above his head.

At that stage, even if the security forces suspected that armed men were inside, with Clarke and his wife and daughter outside the house, they would then be free to complete their ultimate objective, the very thing that Dudus most feared.

It doesn't seem that INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams is empowered to comment on matters that have not yet been presented to the respective authority structure. His report would either have been forwarded to the DPP, or she would be aware of it.

But to what extent must the public be shut out of a document that is, in essence, a public document? Surely, if it is fit to be presented in a court of our land, which is considered the people's court, the people must have a vested interest in peering into the vitals of such a report.

Can you help us, DPP? How about it Commissioner Williams? Is the report available, and can you provide us with a few bullet points?

 

Parliament in the gutter

 

In one of the greatest displays of political and structural devolution, the global community is witnessing the daily decay in American politics as President Donald Trump, a man with no moral centre, is presiding over a Cabinet whose members are little more than a band of individuals trying to outdo each other in how close they can hew to the rank stupidity of their leader.

Last Tuesday, when eager schoolchildren had made that all-important trip to Gordon House to sit, listen, and learn from those politicians, the floor broke out into near bedlam as a few members of parliament bared their nastier sides and seemingly cared little what the children thought of them.

We were in a state of devolution, led by those who were taking us down. It was more proof that they were fit only as the object of revulsion and ridicule.

For many weeks now, tension has been building on both sides over finding the best fix to the mountain of problems facing, Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH). Health Minister Christopher Tufton, a softie in mannerism, has taken a beating and has handled it well, though not so well as he has fared on solving the sick-building syndrome at CRH.

It appears that Minister Daryl Vaz, not a man to roll over and play dead in political and policy matters, decided to take on the very strident Dr Dayton Campbell of the PNP who has, over the last few weeks, shown that he is more than just a needle spiking the JLP's skin.

Something had to give. But in the display of intemperate words and stances bordering on violence, could they not have looked to the gallery, stared into the eyes of the children, cried shame on themselves, and then shut their big mouths?

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to observemark@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.