Dudus' shadow stalks - Leadership vacuum evident West Kingston residents say
He might be thousands of miles away, serving 23 years in prison on charges of narcotics trafficking, trafficking of firearms, racketeering and assault, but Christopher 'Dudus' Coke continues to cast a shadow over west Kingston which was once his stomping ground.
During his sentencing hearing, stomach-churning allegations of cruelty were levelled against him which helped to convince the judge to give him the maximum possible prison time, but that does not matter to the people who only remember the good done by their once beloved area leader.
The lamentations for Coke may have assumed a more sombre and plaintive tone, but it has not eased, and appears to be no less excruciating than it was more than two years ago when he was extradited in the aftermath of a bloody incursion.
The howls for the State to leave their beloved 'Mike', in the lead up to the May 2010 incursion have been replaced by an aching wail, from the people who looked to him for support in so many areas of their lives.
"Oh God, Dudus, we miss you, we nuh have nobody fe talk up fe we," was the anguished wail of Keisha, a 23-year-old woman, last Wednesday, as she watched orange flames devastate the lives of scores of people she had known for years.
Twenty-five-year-old Crystal, who has called Tivoli Gardens home for all her life, was just as assertive.
"We had no security concerns, as there was no robbery and rape when Dudus was here," she asserted.
According to Crystal, despite the presence of the security forces the area has been plagued with thefts and others offences that "could not happen if Dudus was around".
And it is not only the people from the side of the constituency that supports the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who have expressed a longing for Dudus, the man who reigned supreme in west Kingston for almost 20 years.
Some persons, who reside in communities that straddle both sides of the historically bloody political divide that characterises west Kingston, echoed similar sentiments.
Supported two parties
Twenty-two-year-old Sabrina, of the People's National Party-dominated Hannah Town, said Dudus not only bridged the divide among communities which supported the two major political parties, but provided opportunities for many of her peers who did not back the JLP.
"Some of us could get help to go back to school and he helped others to start their little businesses," she said.
Sabrina claimed that "it was Dudus, and not the police, who (made it possible for) people to walk from Denham Town to Hannah Town and from Hannah Town to Tivoli Gardens. He was responsible for the harmony in west Kingston ... the police couldn't do that."
In recent weeks, Dudus' brother Leighton 'Livity' Coke has been playing a more active role in the community and he is credited with ensuring that peace reigns in the area, but he is no Dudus. A point Livity has repeatedly made.
"The people them come together from the big boss (Livity) come out a jail. It a run better than a few weeks ago. Couple week ago it never did a run so," said Deebo, a businessman who lives in Tivoli Gardens and operates a business on its outskirts.
Deebo was referring to reports, confirmed by the police, that young men in the area had formed themselves into gangs and were on the verge of a battle over turf.
According to Deebo, Livity is determined to remain on the right side of the law and is trying to influence other to do likewise.
"When dem man deh talk youth have to behave them damn self you know, you better go sit down or go to school; that is what he is doing."