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$71m in Tivoli damage

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 5:00 AMLivern Barrett

IN THE aftermath of the 2010 police-military operations in west Kingston, an assessment conducted by the Ministry of Labour found $71.8 million in damage to houses, furniture and other personal properties.

A statement submitted to the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry by Collette Roberts-Risden, permanent secretary in the labour ministry, has revealed that 94 houses were "totally destroyed" while 200 were "severely damaged".

In addition, the statement revealed that another 1,505 houses had "minor damage" and that the ministry found damage to furniture and other household effects in 721 houses.

"The grand total was $71,890,000," said commission chairman Sir David Simmons as he read from the document.

However, attorneys for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) immediately took issue with the evidence of the labour ministry.

$250,000 for houses

As an example, attorney-at-law Linton Gordon, who is representing the army, said Roberts-Risden's statement indicated that the ministry disbursed $250,000 for the houses that were "completely destroyed".

"Now I dabble in construction here and there and I would love to build a house with $250,000," Gordon quipped.

"That means they are still there unbuilt or they were magically rebuilt with $250,000. But whatever it is, I believe we should get an explanation," he underscored.

Simmons, however, indicated that the methodology used by the ministry to determine the amount of compensation paid to citizens was also explained in the statement.

"You will have the opportunity, when Mrs Roberts-Risden comes, to cross-examine her on this document. I am just putting this out there," he said.

Gordon suggested that before the permanent secretary is called to testify, the commission should be supplied with a list of persons who got compensation.

Attorney-at-law Deborah Martin, who is representing the JCF, said while she was aware of a statement from "somebody connected to the ministry of labour" listing the figures, she saw no evidence to support a claim that 94 houses were totally destroyed.

"This is the first time we are hearing about 94 houses being totally destroyed," Martin insisted.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds, who was giving evidence at the time, said he too was surprised by the figure.

More than 70 persons and one member of the JDF were killed in the May 2010 operations to capture drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry was established to probe, among other things, the conduct of the security forces during the operation.

The hearings will continue today with Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose giving evidence.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com