Sat | Aug 19, 2017

West Kingston Enquiry: INDECOM questions JDF advice to former PM

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 2:59 PM

Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has raised questions about the advice former army chief Major General Stewart Saunders gave then Prime Minister Bruce Golding on the planned use of mortars during the May 2010 operations in Tivoli Gardens.

INDECOM boss Terrence Williams also suggested that former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington may have attempted to mislead the west Kingston commission of enquiry about aspects of the operations.

Last February, Golding testified at the enquiry that when Saunders informed him of the planned use of mortars in the operations he indicated that they would be "more bark than bite."

In his submission before the three-member tribunal Thursday, Williams contended that such advice gave the impression that the mortars to be used by the JDF were harmless.

"Based on what we have heard regarding the deadly effect of the mortar I wonder how it is that could have been said to the Prime Minister when this is a deadly weapon," the INDECOM head said.

To support this assertion, Williams said one of the "incontrovertible facts" from the evidence before the commission is that the JDF’s use of mortars during the operation was "well in breach" of the safety distances established by international conventions.

He described the decision to fire mortars into the football field near the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre as most egregious, pointing to the testimony of two international experts that the area, with a 40-metre radius of the explosive, would be considered a deadly zone while persons within a 190-metre radius would be exposed to serious injuries.

"We know that there was those buildings on Seaga Boulevard that face the football field and for which there is no wall, which would have been 60 to 70 metres from the centre of the field. So even if perfectly targetted, they [mortars] risked death and serious injuries," he argued.

Turning to Ellington, Williams reeled off a number of things the retired commissioner said during his testimony, which he described as false.

Among them were claims that the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) had established a position where several bodies were found.

"That is false," he asserted.

"He [Ellington] said there was no allegations of policemen involved in extra-judicial killings, which was false. Because we know that very early in this matter Mr [Earl] Witter [former Public Defender] wrote to him about particular venues where there were EJK [extra-judicial killings] and about the need for forensic examination," Williams said.

At this point commission chairman Sir David Simmons chimed in with a question.

"If we agree with you that the transcripts show that Mr Ellington did make these statements you attribute to him, we are then asked to make an adverse finding against Mr Ellington?" he queried.

"Indeed, Mr chairman," Williams replied.

Simmons then indicated that the former commissioner would have to summoned to re-appear before the commission, as is required under the amended Commission of Enquiry Act.

Attorney for the Office of the Public Defender Lord Anthony Gifford began his submission Thursday and will continue Friday.