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Were civilians killed after Tivoli secured?

Published:Saturday | October 24, 2015 | 10:00 AMLivern Barrett

A TOP military commander during the May 2010 operations in Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston has testified that despite a fierce firefight with heavily armed thugs, his troops seized control of key sections of the community without civilian casualties.

This disclosure came as Major Marlon Kennedy was grilled before the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry yesterday about claims that several civilians were killed after sections of Tivoli Gardens were already under the control of the security forces.

The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) reports that more than 70 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were killed in the operation aimed at capturing drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Tivoli Gardens resident Lancelot Bailey testified on Monday that he watched as two soldiers used one of his bedspreads to remove the body of a man believed to be mentally ill who was shot to death inside his fourth-floor apartment located on Seaga Boulevard.

Kennedy, who at the time was the commanding officer for Alpha Company of the JDF's Second Battalion, acknowledged that among the tasks they were given was to secure Coke's 'Presidential Click' offices located in the Java section of Tivoli as well as with parts of Rasta City and several high-rise apartments on Seaga Boulevard.

He told the commission that his troops had those areas secured nearly five hours after the operation was launched close to midday on May 24, 2010.

 

MAJOR KENNEDY'S TESTIMONY

 

During a grilling by attorney for the OPD, Lord Anthony Gifford, Kennedy insisted that he was not aware of civilians being killed after the west Kingston community was under the control of the security forces, even as he admitted moving about his area of responsibility that evening.

"I suggest, Major Kennedy, that you know quite well that young men were shot and killed in Belgium [Seaga Boulevard] in those high-rise buildings after the police had entered and you had control." Gifford said.

"No, sir," the JDF officer replied.

The OPD attorney then confronted Kennedy with the witness statement of his Jamaica Constabulary Force counterpart, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Warren Turner. In the statement, Turner asserted that Kennedy told him on May 25 that there were two bodies in separate apartments on Seaga Boulevard.

However, the JDF officer said he could not recall that conversation with Turner.

Gifford also read excerpts from the witness statement - taken weeks after the operations ended - in which Turner reported that Kennedy informed him that "his men [soldiers] made a contact [shooting] in building 27 [on Seaga Boulevard] and that one man was neutralised".

But again the JDF officer said he could not recall that conversation with DSP Turner.

"I really don't remember saying anything to DSP Turner about my men neutralising, killing or making contact with anyone," he insisted.

"You cannot recall or you choose not to tell us?" Gifford demanded.

"I cannot recall saying that to DSP Turner, sir," Kennedy responded.

The hearing is scheduled to resume on Monday.