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Upstarts on the loose! Tivoli Gardens splinters into little turfs as residents struggle to deal with life after 'Dudus'

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Member of Parliament for West Kingston Desmond McKenzie tries to comfort a weeping Yvonne Matthews whose 12-year-old son was one of the two persons killed in a gang attack earlier this year. - File
Church members show placards as they take part in a peace march through Denham Town and Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston earlier this year. - File

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

A seemingly cowering Tivoli Gardens has telegraphed that its residents have no interest in the commission of enquiry into the incursion to which the community was subjected in May 2010 as members of the security forces attempted to apprehend then strongman Christopher Michael 'Dudus' Coke.

When our news team visited the community last week, all that residents were prepared to say was that they were still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives almost five years after the operation, which left more than 70 persons dead, property destroyed, and families traumatised.

Without the display of defiance, which once characterised the residents of the west Kingston community, several persons declared that they were in no mood to entertain the commission of enquiry, scheduled to start in December, unless something tangible was in it for them.

Indifferent shrugs of shoulders, seemingly burdened by the tough realities of their lives, serve as eloquent testimonies to the mood as residents reflected on a change that had seen more crimes committed in the area in the past three years than had been committed in the previous three decades.

Splintered community

These days, the unified community that once caused fear and trepidation at the very mention of its name, Tivoli Gardens, and by extension, its great ally, Denham Town, is, for good or bad, splintered.

The break-up of the tight-knit community has led to bloody feuds in the community and adjoining communities which have claimed countless lives over a two-year period as heavily armed young men strive to follow in the footsteps of persons such as the late Lester Lloyd Coke, better known as 'Jim Brown', and his son, Dudus, who once ruled the area unchallenged.

For some long-time residents of Tivoli, the biggest change since May 2010 has been the rise of upstart gangsters desperately attempting to fill the leadership void created with the extradition of Dudus.

To the casual eye, Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town look the same, but this is not so as according to the residents, the two communities are now divided into little turfs with no central control or command.

Featured in the new dispensation are criminal gangs such as the New Generations, Strikers, Scare Dem, and the Four Storey gang. There are other aspiring gangs, but these four are the most potent and the ones that have attracted the most police attention.

However, member of parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie has downplayed suggestions that the community is splintered. "The people now have a different mindset," said McKenzie as he underscored that the residents have indicated, in no uncertain terms, that they have no desire to participate in the commission of enquiry, which they believe is intended to demonise them all over again.

McKenzie said his constituents feel that they have been bamboozled in the past as no promise has been fulfilled since the 2010 operation.

Failed by the State

The MP's mood mirrors that of the people of Tivoli Gardens, who believe they have been failed by the State.

However, one business operator, who has operated on the outskirts of Tivoli Gardens for most of the past 30 years, said the splintering that has been reported reflects a decision by residents to move away from the "don"-rules culture.

"This is what accounts for the seeming splintering," said John Thompson, who has been operating in the area since the days of Jim Brown.

"The community has not disintegrated. The people are as strong and resilient as ever. They just need some direction ... as many things are new to them. I tell you the truth, it is the first that I am seeing it this way, and I have been here since 1986," added Thompson.

He noted that the inter-community violence of the last three years has severely affected his business, but he remains committed to the area as he is convinced that Tivoli Gardens has experienced a rebirth.

According to Thompson, he is upbeat and optimistic that the people are seeing things in a different light, and a new day is dawning for the residents of the community.