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Soldier says Tivoli operation could have been worse

Published:Saturday | June 27, 2015 | 6:00 AMGary Spaulding

Major Garth Ander-son yesterday rejected suggestions that civilians were killed during the May 2010 police-military operations in Tivoli Gardens after legitimate forces secured the area.

But for the professionalism of members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Anderson suggested at yesterday's sitting of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that the death toll in the police-military operation would have been much higher.

Seventy-four persons were reportedly killed in the operation. Anderson said his platoon uncovered six bodies in a section of Tivoli Gardens when it engaged in the clearance of buildings in the area.

"Six bodies were found in sector three. How those persons were killed, I don't know," said Anderson in response to queries from Lord Anthony Gifford, the lawyer representing the Office of the Public Defender.

Asked by Gifford whether some civilians were killed after the area was secured, Anderson responded: "I don't know about that, Sir."

weapons found

Anderson said high-powered rifles, two silencers, and a rifle scope, usually used on sniper rifles, were found in the sector under his watch.

Asserting that there was no indication of a breakdown in discipline, although the circumstances were gruelling, Anderson repeatedly rejected suggestions from Gifford that soldiers involved in the operation treated the clash as a full-blown war.

Asked whether the soldiers were nervous after he gave the final briefing before the operation, Anderson said: "The men were focused."

Asked by Peter Champagnie, one of the attorneys representing the JDF, if the operation was successful, Anderson said: "Not in the context of lives lost."

He said, however, that under the circumstances, including fierce resistance from criminal elements, it could have been worse.

"As a father of a young child, I am happy that no child was killed."

He suggested that the operation was successful in the professionalism and discipline exercised by members of the JDF.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com