Fri | Oct 9, 2015

'A community in distress'

Published:Thursday | May 27, 2010
Businessman Laurence Heffes steps out of a store on West Queen Street which was looted. Businessmen toured the downtown Kingston district yesterday - the first time since Sunday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

There are growing concerns about the conditions facing hundreds of residents still barricaded in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town.

The residents have been unable to leave the community since Sunday when they were blockaded first by criminals and then by the security forces.

Some food was delivered to the communities yesterday by a mission led by Bishop Herro Blair, but from inside Tivoli Gardens, residents claimed this was not sufficient to ease the pangs of hunger.

Other residents claimed they were in need of medical care, even though the Jamaica Defence Force has said it was facilitating treatment for those in need.

Yesterday, journalists were again prevented from entering Tivoli Gardens, with a Gleaner team being turned back by soldiers whenever it went too close to the entrances. The Government has been heavily criticised for a constipated flow of information from the war zone as fears mount about the number of fatalities and the health and safety of civilians.

State authorities have also refused to divulge the nature of the artillery unleashed on Tivoli in the operation amid claims by residents that powerful explosives were used.

Public Defender Earl Witter, president of the Jamaica Red Cross, Dr Jaslin Salmon, and Blair, political ombudsman, who all visited the community on Tuesday, have raised concerns about the conditions the residents face.

A Red Cross team was slated to visit the community with food supplies yesterday but this was delayed and has now been scheduled for today.

But even as the Red Cross yesterday continued its preparation to enter Tivoli, Salmon described the area as "a community in distress".

"We saw many people who are frightened, crying and upset, children who are traumatised," Salmon told the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.

"I did not see bodies lying around the place .... . I did not see any injured persons, except about four persons who had been taken in by the security forces, and those who needed medical care, we intervened on their behalf," added Salmon.

He noted that his team did not tour the entire Tivoli Gardens because shots were still being fired in no-go zones.

"We went into a number of homes in Rasta City and there were a lot of people who were in their homes and too scared to come out, but they did eventually come out, and we talked to them," Salmon added.