West Kingston residents receive almost $100 million in compensation
Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
The Government has already spent almost $100 million to compensate residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, in west Kingston, whose property and belongings were damaged during the incursion by the security forces last May.
However, that is not the end of the payout and the State could be asked to find several million more.
So far, the State has paid compensation to 2,579 people whose property or furniture was damaged and 59 vendors who lost goods when the Coronation Market was damaged by fire.
In addition, seven houses have been rebuilt and funeral grants provided to the families of 64 people killed during the incursion.
But some persons who submitted claims to the Office of the Public Defender have not yet received any compensation and the State could find itself liable to pay them millions more once the investigations are done.
"Persons were compensated based on the level of damage," Carlene Sinclair, special technical assistant to Prime Minister Bruce Golding, told The Gleaner yesterday.
Golding, who is the member of parliament for West Kingston, was the point man in the distribution of the compensation cheques which were prepared by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security after it completed its assessment of the claims by residents.
Total not available
Sinclair was unable to provide a total of the money spent so far, but she accepted that it could run close to $100 million.
"I can't give you the total figure because the cheques came from the (labour and social security) ministry and I would have to sit and tally all the payments," Sinclair said.
"The compensation ranged from a low of $15,000 to a high of $300,000, depending on the level of damage," she added.
Sinclair argued that because of the nature of the investigation by the public defender, persons who submitted their claims to that office might not have been compensated.
"But there is a duplication also where some people went to the public defender and the Ministry of Labour, so they were expecting to get two compensation cheques but we are trying to ensure that this does not happen."
Sinclair told The Gleaner that efforts were also made to ensure that multiple persons in one house were not compensated for the same damaged item.
"What we found was that four adults were living in one house and all four filed reports on the damage, so you now get everybody living in the house expecting to get a cheque and that was a real challenge," said Sinclair.
To prevent that duplication, the verification of the address of the persons making claims was conducted while the cheques were distributed last August and September.
All bodies identified
It was easier to deal with the funeral grants which ranged form $50,000 to $100,000 as all the bodies had to be identified at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre, but not all the victims were residents of west Kingston.
"We had people from St Mary, Spanish Town, St Thomas, Olympic Gardens but some people just happened to be there innocently visiting girlfriends and others."
Millions of dollars were also spent on medical expenses of persons injured during the incursion.
"There were some medical issues that we had to deal with, X-rays, ultrasound and others, but that money did not come from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. That money came directly from the member of parliament," added Sinclair.
The seven rebuilt houses were recently handed over to the occupants.
The state had given a commitment to compensate residents of west Kingston after a full-scale assault on the area by members of the security forces to capture then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
With criminals barricading every entry and exit, the police and soldiers used heavy artillery as they stormed the community and engaged gunmen in street fights.
At least 73 people were killed during the incursion and several buildings damaged or destroyed.