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New 'visa' system greets Tivoli Gdns

Published:Tuesday | June 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM
A policeman signs a permit for a resident of Tivoli Gardens, while others wait in a long line for their turn at the community centre yesterday. The permits authorise access to and from the community. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The people of Tivoli Gardens yesterday woke up to a permit system which was introduced, without prior notice, to monitor movement in and out of the troubled community.

The discomfort was evident as long queues of grumbling residents greeted a Gleaner team at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre, where the permits were issued.

No one was spared. Old and young waited impatiently with their identification and tax registration number (TRN) - the requirements for the permit.

Residents also faced a barrage of questions from the security forces administering the process.

"It come in like a quiz class," quipped one woman after a policeman peppered a man, who identified himself as a construction worker, with questions about building blocks.

Frustration

For many, the new permit system has presented a fresh wave of frustration.

The permits must be presented at each checkpoint used by the residents throughout the day. They are also subject to searches, which have invariably become a Tivoli pastime since the army ploughed into the barricaded community after the Labour Day weekend.

A senior police officer sought to appease the peeved residents.

He told The Gleaner that the residents were required to renew the permit each day to prevent criminal duplication.

"Many have been written since morning," he disclosed.

The residents said they were not opposed to other regulations being enforced under the state of emergency.

"We have no problem with a police post. Stay as long as you want. In fact, we welcome it, but give us some dignity," declared an infuriated resident.

"If we have to live with the law and order, so be it, but this a madness," another said.

Some residents also raised concerns about the rules governing the permit - to "facilitate movement within and without the area of operation".

"This permit is valid for the period of public emergency, but may be withdrawn if the holder threatens or is likely to be a threat to public safety and security," the document read.

Some complained that the police team administering the process was breaching the provisions of the permit, which clearly stipulated that it was valid for the entire period of the public emergency instead of a 24-hour period.

Claims of hostage-taking

A female resident on her way home told The Gleaner that she had been waiting in line for her permit, but thought about getting one for her elderly mother.

"She can't manage this (waiting in line), so I am going back for her TRN and ID."

Another woman chimed in: "They said we were under hostage (under Christopher 'Dudus' Coke), but a now we under hostage."

"Instead of coming here every day, why not just show your ID at the checkpoint?" she argued.

She was supported by an angry middle-age man.

"This is communism in every sense of the word."

A representative of the Child Development Agency rescued a group of young students from the long wait by facilitating their exit from the community.

Students of Tivoli Gardens who are practising for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's Schools' Festival Competition have been severely affected by the new system.

A prominent community organiser told The Gleaner that the students - some of whom are not residents of Tivoli Gardens - had been rehearsing during the midday period as the community was under curfew late yesterday afternoon.

However, she said yesterday, the students were hampered by the protracted wait for permits.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com