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'West Kgn enquiry report could change approach to garrison politics'

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A University of the West Indies-based think tank has suggested that the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry has a golden opportunity to spark changes in what it describes as the risk-shy policy approach of successive governments to dealing with the issues of garrison politics and public security in Jamaica.

This opportunity, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) is asserting, lies in the recommendations the three-member tribunal is mandated to make in its report to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, arising from its investigation into the conduct of the May 2010 police-military operations in Tivoli Gardens.

The commission, chaired by former Barbados Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, has been hearing evidence since December 2014, and is expected to wrap up its public hearings next month. It then has three months to forward its report to the governor general.




But in a report that examined the potential impact and usefulness of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, CaPRI said in order to take advantage of this opportunity, policy outcome has to be an important consideration for Simmons and his fellow commissioners, Professor Anthony Harriott and retired Appeal Court judge Justice Hazel Harris.

CaPRI said this is important because of public opinion that the cost of the enquiry is too high, and because of the distrust Jamaicans have for politically established institutions to deliver results.

"By their very nature, commissions of enquiry should be able to contribute to paradigmatic shifts in policy, given that they are often used to fill lacunae in policy expertise and must draw on extensive research and evidence-based analysis," the think tank argued.

Charging that the existence of garrison communities and the politicisation of safety-and-security issues contribute to a state legitimacy challenge in Jamaica, the group suggested that the commissioners, in their recommendations, adopt a problem-solving approach that "unpacks the underpinning causes of the security and legitimacy debacle in Jamaica".

"The issues under consideration are critical and ought to be properly investigated. The commission of enquiry has intrinsic value in this regard, and must also serve an instrumental role by making recommendations which seek to achieve certain desired ends, which serve the public interest," the think tank wrote.

"Desirable policy outcomes can only be achieved if the Tivoli Commission makes substantial recommendations which respond to both the immediate problem as well as the root causes of that problem," the report continued.

CaPRI posited the view that there are a number of factors that could ensure that the recommendations made by the Simmons commission do not suffer a similar fate as those made by other commissions of enquiry and reports.

Chief among them, it said, was the public attitude towards some of the issues that led to the creation of the commission. Other reasons, CaPRI said, include the likely impact on the status quo and a change in administration.

"There are some obvious reasons the recommendations produced by the commission should aim to ensure that there is no repeat of the Tivoli crisis. The loss of life and threat to state legitimacy and public safety, and all the associated risks are of utmost importance," the think tank insisted.