Bull Bay quarries reopen - Security forces quell violence but flare-up fears linger
Work has resumed at Caribbean Cement Company quarries in the hills of Bull Bay, even as a major police-military operation in the St Andrew East Rural constituency has failed to nab anyone involved in at least five murders in the community since January.
Contractors at the two quarries laid down their tools in protest early last month after the macabre murder of 63-year-old crusher operator Cumi Daley, also called ‘Benji’, a resident of Tank Well in 11 Miles.
Daley was reportedly awaiting company transportation to work about 7 a.m. when he was ambushed and shot in the head. He died on the spot, leaving his colleagues and neighbours shaking with fear.
“We started back on Tuesday last week. We have been pulling some material from up here,” said the site supervisor, who declined to identify himself for the story. “We just want to see the officers more frequently.
“Cumi was a good person. He was very easy to deal with on a daily basis. I never had any problems with him. He was a genuine person. We try not to think or talk about it too much, because each time we talk or think about it, it tends to break us down,” added the supervisor.
DAILY POLICE PATROLS
The workers said they resumed operations with the reassurance of the police, who have conducted daily patrols in the area.
They said, however, that work usually starts at 7 a.m., hours before the first police patrol turns up in the misty bushes where residents claim heavily armed gangsters have sought refuge from security dragnets.
One service vehicle with four cops oversaw operations at one of the quarries while workmen toiled in the rain last Tuesday.
Last Friday, commanding officer for the Kingston East Division, Superintendent Victor Hamilton, described the operation as a success, despite no arrests of any of the gangsters wanted for recent murders.
However, the police collared five persons wanted for a range of other offences, he said, and have secured critical information about violence producers and other crimes committed in the division.
The operation involved members of the military, as well as police personnel from several divisions.
“We have not gotten to the stage where we can have police full time there (quarries). We still have to be doing displacement,” said Hamilton. “We are in pursuit of the criminals who are causing the problems and we have been successful so far in doing that.
“The unfortunate killing of that employee and the withdrawal of the contractors … of course, they must be concerned,” he said, noting that he recently met with contractors in the area to discuss simmering fears.
“I think we have given the reassurance to the residents from the operation itself, and the continuous deployments in the space, I’m sure, must be reassuring to residents,” he said. “The operation was very successful. We have normalised the area and displaced the criminals, and there are a lot of positives from that.”
Last week, general manager of Caribbean Cement Company, Peter Donkersloot, expressed condolence to Daley’s loved ones and empathised with other residents directly affected by the violence.
“Our main concern has been about the loss of lives and the impact of the violence on the community,” Donkersloot told The Sunday Gleaner. “The situation continues to be monitored and addressed by the authorities, and we are confident in their management of the issues.”
He said that the disruption of work at the quarries did not affect operations at Caribbean Cement, as the company has a significant amount of inventory of raw materials to meet market demands.
Last week, residents of 11 Miles rejoiced at the lull in violence, but had little faith that it would last, especially with the heavy military presence now gone.
They said Daley had no known relatives in the area, and that they could not say when he would be buried.