Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga has broken his silence on the use of mortars in Tivoli Gardens during the May 2010 incursion to capture then community strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
Seaga, who sat down with The Gleaner for a special interview on his time in sports, to be published this weekend, forayed into the use of the explosive device during the operation in Tivoli - an urban west Kingston community - home to thousands of families.
"You really shouldn't be using mortar fire to get a few people," Seaga lamented. "With the number of people we have in our defence force and the ones we can call on in the Island Constabulary Force and the police force, it is quite possible to penetrate and to get your results."
The architect of the Tivoli community, who served as its member of parliament for 40 years, said using mortar fire in the community was unconscionable.
"Mortar fire kills a number of people who are innocent. Over 50 of the people who were killed were innocent people, bystanders, civilians," he said.
Since its revelation earlier this year, the use of mortar rounds has been a source of controversy. At the time of the operation, residents in Tivoli said 'bombs' were being used in the operation. At the time the claim was made by residents in 2010, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Colonel Rocky Meade told journalists that he was unaware of the use of such force.
"I am not sure what persons refer to when they talk about bombs, so I can't speak to that either," Meade had said.
He added that the soldiers were being very careful to protect the rights of persons in the west Kingston operation.
However, a cable obtained under the United States Freedom of Information Act confirmed that mortars were used by the JDF.
After the revelation, the JDF admitted to the use of mortars, but said they were used as a diversionary tactic.
"Mortar rounds were fired into open areas as part of a diversion. At no time were persons or buildings targeted. This diversionary tactic created confusion and disorientation among the entrenched gunmen, and allowed the JDF to use bulldozers to breach the barricades and enter the community," a release stated.
At the end of the operation, which lasted from May 24-25, 73 persons were killed. An investigation has been launched by Public Defender Earl Witter. However, after two years, the report has not been made public.
Coke, the target of the operation, is currently serving 23 years in a US prison after pleading guilty to gun and racketeering charges.