Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
THE JAMAICA Defence Force (JDF) has called out the National Reserve after thugs in west Kingston yesterday underscored their stated intention to defend the 'President' when they opened fire on a team of soldiers attempting to enter Denham Town.
The members of the National Reserve have been asked to report for duty at 1800 hours today (6 p.m.) and be prepared to go into action as tension rises in sections of the Corporate Area.
Since Monday, thugs have blocked most of the entrances and exits to Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town in what they claim is an effort to prevent the security forces from getting to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, also called 'President'.
Coke is facing possible extradition to the United States.
The likely instability prompted National Security Minister Dwight Nelson to declare on Tuesday that the security forces are alert and equipped to take on any challenges at this time.
"The security forces are adequately resourced to deal with any form of intimidatory tactics being employed by criminals who are seeking to destabilise the country," Nelson said.
But yesterday, members of a JDF team in an armoured vehicle faced the full force of the criminals as they attempted to enter Denham Town from Hannah Street.
After the JDF team used the armoured vehicle to push through a blockade at the entrance to Denham Town, gunmen opened fire at them.
Residents and our photographer scampered for cover as the high-powered weapons barked metres away from the Kingston Public Hospital.
When the barrage of gunfire ended, the armoured vehicle was seen being hastily driven out of the community with indications that at least one of its massive tyres had been damaged.
It appeared that no one was injured in the shooting, but up to late yesterday there was no official word from the JDF.
The police said while they could confirm that the JDF team was attacked, they were unaware of any injuries.
In the meantime, the blockades remain across several streets in west Kingston.
The police have reported that some of the barricades in west Kingston have been reinforced by barbed wires attached to high voltage Jamaica Public Service electricity distribution lines.
According to the police, liquid petroleum gas cylinders have been inserted into the barricades and law-abiding citizens are being prevented from leaving Tivoli Gardens and have had their cellular phones confiscated by criminals.
Leave dudus alone
But even as the police claimed residents of Tivoli Gardens were being held against their will, some persons in the west Kingston community faced the media yesterday to urge the State to leave 'Dudus', who is wanted in the US to answer gunrunning and drugs charges.
"A Presi we seh, a no Bruce we seh," one woman told The Gleaner.
"We nah give up," shouted another woman as The Gleaner team passed where she was standing on Industrial Terrace close to the main entrance to Tivoli Gardens.
"Leave Dudus alone! Leave him alone because we a go dead fi him inna Garden, and we mek up wi min' fi dead fi him, woman and man and pickney. Him not going anywhere!" shouted another woman.
Elsewhere in downtown Kingston, most stores were open yesterday, but there was a noticeable reduction in the number of street-side vendors and shoppers.
Vehicular traffic was also reduced and policemen and women patrolling the streets appeared on edge with their firearms at the ready.
Last night, the Jamaica Labour Party issued a statement appealing for calm and restraint. The party said it noted with concern, and condemn, incidents that appear to be calculated to create fear and panic.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller is asking the prime minister to use his influence to diffuse the volatile situation in Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas.
About the JDF Reserve
The Third Battalion the Jamaica Regiment, National Reserve (3JR NR), is a military organisation which consists of citizens of the country who combine a military career with a civilian career to support the JDF when called upon.
The Mission of 3JR (NR) is to always be ready to provide service to the country and promote nation building through the development of people. Such is driven by commitment, selflessness, volunteerism and the desire to serve.
In effecting its mission, 3JR (NR) has several roles and responsibilities which are tailored to suit the nation's needs. The unit's basic role, however, has always been to support the regular force in executing its duties.
Source — JDF website