Mon | Aug 21, 2017

More money coming for west Kingston residents

Published:Tuesday | April 25, 2017 | 4:00 AMJovan Johnson
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck

Some residents of west Kingston who received compensation arising from the deadly May 2010 security-force operation are to get more money based on the preliminary report submitted by a state-appointed compensation committee.

But, according to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, there's no settled date yet for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to make his promised apology in Parliament.

The seven-year anniversary of the operation that left one soldier and 69 civilians dead and properties destroyed in a bid to arrest then drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke will be marked on May 24.

"It (committee) has more than 900 files to be dealt with and the interim report gave us an indication of the sums that have been awarded in just about 200 files. To that extent, they are working assiduously on the remaining files," Chuck told The Gleaner. He did not give a total figure for the claims approved so far, but he said they vary from $20,000 to $150,000, and in most cases were granted because the committee felt the earlier awards were too small.

He said the interim report, which speaks to damaged property and not loss of life or injuries, will be submitted to the Cabinet, after which it will be tabled in Parliament. The committee, chaired by retired Court of Appeal president, Justice Seymour Panton, is expected to complete its work by June.

Quite a number of applications have been rejected, Chuck explained, because the compensation that was awarded immediately after the incident was considered "enough". He said there were also duplicated claims as people from the same household submitted documents for the same damaged property.

... Committee costing taxpayers $58 million

The committee set up to oversee compensation for west Kingston residents started its work last October and is costing taxpayers $58 million.

Compensation was one of the recommendations in the 2016 report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. The commission also recommended an official apology and that certain members of the security forces be barred from leading operations in the future.

Regarding the apology, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said he was not sure whether the apology in Parliament is being scheduled for close to May 24, which will fall on a Wednesday. But he said "certainly it will be in the next few months".

Speaking after making a parliamentary apology last month for the 1963 Coral Gardens incident in which the State oversaw the use of violence against members of the Rastafarian community, Holness said he was looking forward to making the apology.

The commission of enquiry accepted that there was a gathering of gunmen in west Kingston to help Coke resist the security forces. But, it questioned aspects of the leadership and force used by the 800 soldiers and 370 cops during the incident.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com