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Former Red Cross head paints picture of deprivation, suffering and severe hunger in Tivoli

Published:Friday | November 27, 2015 | 11:00 AMGary Spaulding
Residents of Tivoli Gardens at a meeting at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, where then Public Defender Earl Witter addressed them.
In this file photo, a resident of Tivoli Gardens reacts during a media tour of the community after the military-police operation.
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Dr Jaslyn Salmon, former president of the Jamaica Red Cross, yesterday delivered gripping imageries of deprivation, suffering, and severe hunger in western Kingston after the mayhem caused by the May 2010 police-military incursion.

Speaking at yesterday's sitting of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, Salmon said when he visited the area on May 25, 2010, "there was great need for food, psychosocial support, and medication".

While Salmon said he did not observe any instances of abuse during the tour, the situation appeared grim for those who were holed up in homes and for scores of others detained by the security forces.

Salmon also painted a disturbing picture of a visit he, along with then Public Defender Earl Witter and Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair, made to the public morgue.

"There was a huge pile-up of bodies in varying stages of decomposition," he said. "I saw a great mound of bodies that were on top of each other."

Continued Salmon, a retired professor of sociology: "The bodies were piled up in an undignified way, but we understood the nature of the operation."

 

RESIDENTS IN SHOCK

 

But Salmon's initial focus was on the living.

"We saw people holed up and they were venting about how they were treated," he said. "They appeared to be in shock and dismay that they were unable to move around."

He added: "Those who were sick were in desperate need of medication and food."

He said that those who were not ailing lamented that further hardships were inevitable as they were unable to go to work.

The former Red Cross president said it was just as painful for self-employed persons, who said their small businesses were under threat of collapse.

In addition, Salmon said that the people with whom he interfaced, though suffering, expressed fear that loved ones were missing.

Around him, he said, were buildings that had been destroyed, presumably in the mayhem of the previous day, and bloodstains were noticeable in some areas.

After the engagement with residents, Salmon said the group, accompanied by members of the security forces, went to the detention area at the Seprod facility on nearby Marcus Garvey Drive.

He said that there was a large group of men - which he estimated to be approximately 120 in number - huddled in the area.

"The conditions were not conducive," said Salmon. "There was no clear provision for water, and sanitary convenience was non-existent."

He added that the complaints from the young men were numerous.

"The young detainees seemed very angry," he said.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com