Letter of the Day: Enquiry not about compensation
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Many of the ideas on the Tivoli Gardens commission of enquiry prompted by its now-disclosed cost are based regrettably on a weak grasp of some basic facts.
1. The enquiry is NOT about compensation for material damage suffered by Tivoli residents. That has been mostly dealt with, as Senator Golding has pointed out.
2. The enquiry is NOT about identifying which policeman killed which Tivoli youth. The forensic evidence (shells, bullet holes, weapons markings) for that is lacking. And many police were masked.
3. For that same reason, coroners' courts, already hundreds of cases behind, would be completely IMPRACTICAL. Dozens of years would be required to bring in coroners' verdicts. These would then have to go to higher courts, where the DPP's record of dealing with police killings is extremely bad. Who is prepared to wait till 2050?
The enquiry IS about BIG issues, which any nation responsible for its citizens has to confront and deal with, even if tardily.
4. The massacre of scores of people over two days requires an accounting. And this would have to include compensation for the pain and death suffered. Justice demands no less.
5. The organisation, deployment and supervision of the security forces in the Tivoli Gardens operation would have to be included in this accounting. The individuals responsible in those regards would have to be taken to task.
6. The existence of Tivoli Gardens as a virtual state within a state, where a don, as The Gleaner aptly put it, "straddled criminality, politics and legitimate enterprise", has to be in the accounting. May 2010 is POTENTIALLY a turning point for Jamaica.
The enquiry into May 2010 must go forward as a full-fledged commission. The seriousness of the issues is too great to be addressed by anything less. That the enquiry will probably take longer than the planned three months is the least we can do, if the future is not to land us with something even worse.
fees and inequality
The cost of the present commission is atrocious but cannot be used to stop it. Such fees are part of the much larger issue of inequality, in which Latin America and the Caribbean lead the world and which have to be dealt with in other ways. In the wider world, the super-rich one per cent now owns almost as much as the rest of the world's population.
The Government showed insensitivity in allowing the donor of the funds for the enquiry to also set the fees at international level and in not, with an earlier budget, assuring Tivoli people of compensation for what they endured.
The Opposition is making a mistake in drifting back into Seaga's refusal to appear before the 2001 commission. The Tivoli garrison was a false step, but one shared by the many other PNP-erected garrisons, even if not as egregiously. Admission of these sins must take place in order to put them behind us. Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party must face up to it.