EDITORIAL - Look beyond Tivoli, Mr Golding
It took a long time and much pressure - domestically and from the United States - to persuade Prime Minister Bruce Golding to do the right thing by going after the reputed narco-boss Christopher Coke who the Americans want the Jamaican authorities to extradite to stand trial.
Despite the raid by the security forces on Mr Coke's base in Tivoli Gardens, in which at least 73 people were killed, the alleged narcotics smuggler and gunrunner has escaped. Its traumatic consequences notwithstanding, the incursion into the West Kingston enclave has, on the face of it, achieved at least two positive outcomes.
The first of these is the likely heavy and destructive blow that has been dealt to Mr Coke's organisation, the Shower Posse, and other elements of the criminal infrastructure that has long existed in this stronghold of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). This was important, given the open challenge that Mr Coke's organisation posed to the Jamaican state.
When, after nine months of vacillation, Mr Golding announced that he would begin the process to extradite Mr Coke, the response was the massing of criminals inside Tivoli Gardens and the barricading by residents of entrances to the community. Moreover, the security forces were fired on not only from inside Tivoli Gardens, but by Coke's supporters elsewhere in the capital.
The Jamaican state, having regained the advantage cannot relent against the criminal gangsters. Mr Golding, who will no doubt face resistance inside his Cabinet and party, must demonstrate the will to go after the gangs wherever they exist - in the Red Hills Road area, Mountain View Avenue, Montego Bay and elsewhere. Indeed, with his reputation in tatters because of his handling of the Coke affair, ridding Jamaica of the scourge of gangs and their bloody mayhem could prove to be the prime minister's route to redemption.
This brings us to the second potential positive from this sordid matter: its possibility for concentrating Mr Golding's mind and giving him clarity about his future. He must put West Kingston behind him.
On the retirement of Edward Seaga as JLP leader, Mr Golding was warned against inheriting Mr Seaga's West Kingston constituency. That, Mr Golding was told, would demand an embrace of Tivoli Gardens' sense of alienation from the rest of Jamaica and co-existence with a parallel power of gangsterism. Mr Golding ignored the advice.
It must now be clear to the prime minister that he is finished as the parliamentary representative in West Kingston and is perhaps already persona non grata in Tivoli. Mr Seaga made certain of that with his implicit criticism of the police mission into Tivoli Gardens and the post-operation management phase of the exercise.
Complaining about the lack of food and water in the area and his own powerlessness in the circumstances, Mr Seaga publicly advised Tivoli Gardens residents "to contact their member of parliament (Golding)". But for an intent of undermining Mr Golding, Mr Seaga, we believe, might have spoken privately about his concerns to his former party colleagues.
What is curious, though, is Mr Seaga's behaviour before the incursion. He was quiet.
Edward Seaga remains an extremely influential figure in Tivoli Gardens, and is active in community affairs. Why didn't he publicly advise residents against rallying behind Mr Coke and barricading the community, of which he was a key architect and representative for four decades?
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