Bunting says PNP vindicated by commission's report
Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting says the recently released report on the commission of enquiry into the May 2010 operation by the security forces to serve an extradition warrant on Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, has vindicated the People's National Party, which at the time refused to support a second extension of the state of emergency.
In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Bunting drew on excerpts from the findings of the commission as he slammed the actions of the then attorney general, Dorothy Lightbourne, who delayed signing the authority to proceed against Coke, for a period of nine months, saying it would be illegal to do so.
Standing by the position not to support a second extension of the state of emergency, Bunting said the Opposition was fully aware that many in the security forces had developed in an environment of hard policing where the human rights of Jamaicans had been abused. In that regard, he said the Opposition decided that it was "unwise to support a second extension of the state of emergency, as was being proposed by the then JLP administration".
"We do not regret taking this course of action, and this report vindicates our decision," Bunting declared.
Describing the events which led to the deaths of at least 69 civilians and a soldier as a "shameful period in our nation's history", Bunting said a high cost was paid in terms of "loss of life, property and reputation".
Pulling select quotes from the report, Bunting said the commission stated that 'it is very probable that Coke was tipped off'.
According to Bunting, the commission highlighted that it was "satisfied that the prime minister's announcement ... that the security forces will be moving swiftly to bring the current situation under control" was a clear hint of an imminent internal-security operation.
The commission also stated that it was "satisfied that the announcement took away the element of surprise from the planned operations of the security forces and allowed the supporters of Coke to mobilise their own forces against the security forces".
"In those circumstances, we think that it was incumbent upon him as prime minister and minister responsible for defence to have communicated with the heads of the security forces prior to his broadcast."
The former national security minister also quoted the commissioners report as saying: "We believe that such fortification of a residential community in a Commonwealth Caribbean state was unprecedented in the history of the region."
Another highlight of the commissioners' report which Bunting emphasised was a criticism of the residents of Tivoli on the question of barricades in the community.
The report had stated: "We, however, are troubled that the vast majority of residents who testified pretended ignorance of the persons who created the barricades, although they admitted seeing 'some' barricades in the area. It seems to us that these witnesses were glued to a code of silence ... . We are of the opinion that, since elements of Coke's vast organisation are still active in Tivoli Gardens and other parts of Jamaica as we were told, these residents may still be living in real fear of reprisals if they divulge information about criminals."